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in our copies of the evangelists, with respect to the order of time, may have arisen in part from the transposition of paragraphs and sections in their works; nor is it difficult to account for this kind of disorder. The evangelists. having had no experience in writing books, and, except Luke, perhaps not having at first intended to write the life of their master in so full a manner as they have done, it is not improbable that they might write it, and even suffer it to be copied, in detached parts. Or, when they had completed their first plans, they might, on farther consideration, and more perfect recollection, compose additional parts, and give directions where to insert them in the former copies; which directions may have been mistaken by the persons whose copies have been transmitted to us. Or the writers themselves, when they had made those additions, might not be very attentive to the place in which they inserted them; as nothing that they could imgaine to be of any consequence, depended upon it.
That none of the imperfect books are come down to us is no wonder, as every person, who was possessed of a copy, would be desirous to make it complete, and such copies only would be used by transcribers. Nor is it at all difficult to conceive how a copy, not the most perfect in point of arrangement, might come to be universally followed, when it was recommended by some higher consideration. Even the early versions may have been various with respect to the arrangement of facts at first, and the order of the prevailing, or standard, copies of the original Greek have been afterwards adopted by the transcribers of them. I would also refer my readers for other causes of transposition, to what Vigilius has observed on that subject.
On all these accounts, whether I be censured as a bold and rash critic or not, I think I may have reason and natural probability on my side, when I venture to transpose some parts of the evangelical history as it stands at present, if by this means the facts have a better connexion.
These observations respect the Gospels of Matthew and John only. The irregularities of Mark and Luke may be accounted for without any such hypothesis. It seems highly probable that Luke was never himself acquainted with the order of the occurrences, though he took pains to inquire concerning the truth of the facts, and arranged them in the best manner that he could.
* In the Theol. Repos. I. pp. 47-50. (P.) See Appendix, No. V.
I also pay but little regard to the order of Matthew's Gospel, before the history of his own call to attend upon Jesus and it is remarkable that, before that event, this evangelist has as few notes of time, or other marks of an orderly narrative as Luke. Of this circumstance any person may satisfy himself, who will take the pains to look into his Gospel with that view.
In many cases I am by no means satisfied with the attempts of any of the harmonists, that I have seen, to reconcile the different accounts of what was manifestly the same transaction. There appear to me evident marks of the historians having conceived differently concerning the circumstances of them, and I shall be far from concealing any of the observations I have made of this kind. I have observed before, that such variations are favourable to the credibility of the account. *
In some cases, however, though the stories are told in a very different manner, the inconsistencies are only seeming ones, and when examined more closely will be found to vanish. I would gladly have taken some pains on this subject, but that I find I have been more than sufficiently anticipated by my predecessors in the business of harmonizing. There is more room for being original in observing, or even in acknowledging, the variations and seeming contradictions in the different evangelists.
Notwithstanding all these sources of confusion and disorder in the evangelical history, it seems very possible for a person, who carefully attends to the nature of the events, and who will collect and compare all the notes of time, and other connexions of particular events, that have been preserved by any of them, to reduce the narrative pretty nearly to its proper order.
In order to this, I have made Matthew and John my principal guides, and have not departed from the order of events in either of them, unless when the account of one of them is contrary both to those of Mark and Luke, and also not so probable in itself. But I have made the less difficulty of departing from the order of events in our copies of Matthew and John, where I thought there was reason to suspect that the parts of their narratives may have been transposed; and if this treatment will restore Matthew or John to the order of both Mark and Luke, I cannot but consider it as an argument in favour of the transposition.
See supra, pp. 9, 10, 12.
Observations on the Order of Events before the Mission of the Twelve Apostles.
§ 1. Of the Time when John the Baptist knew Jesus.
It is evident, from John i. 33, that John the Baptist did not know Jesus till he saw the spirit of God descending and remaining upon him, and yet it is equally evident from Matt. iii. 13, 14, that John did know Jesus when he came to his baptism, and before that descent of the spirit which immedidately followed his baptism, mentioned by himself, as well as by Mark and Luke; and yet none of the evangelists speak of any intercourse that they had together before his baptism.
To reconcile this, some have supposed a descent of the spirit upon Jesus seen by John some time before his baptism. But I cannot say that this appears to me to be an easy solution of the difficulty. Besides, one would imagine from the narrative of Matthew, who relates this conversation between Jesus and John, that he came directly from Galilee on purpose that he might be baptized, leaving no room for any intervening acquaintance: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him."
I own I do not see how to reconcile the different accounts of the evangelists relating to this circumstance in any manner that gives me entire satisfaction.* That John knew Jesus by some powerful impression upon his mind when he presented himself to be baptized, which Dr. Doddridge supposes, † appears to me not sufficiently reconcileable with what John himself says, viz. that he did not know him but by a sign from heaven.
§ 2. Of the Time when Jesus cured Peter's Wife's Mother.
I observed before, that, in that part of the evangelical history which precedes the call of Matthew, there are few traces of an orderly connexion of events in his Gospel. Since Mark, therefore, has inserted the notes of time belonging to
↑ Fam. Expos. 1. p. 101. (P.)
• See Appendix, No. VI.
1 Essay IV. Seet. ii. Theol. Repos. II. pp. 112-122.
that part of the history with remarkable particularity, for a person who is not supposed to have been present, I prefer his order, especially where it is the same with that of Luke.
Mark, for example, is so express in saying that Jesus cured Peter's wife's mother on the sabbath after his arrival at Capernaum, and the very same day on which he cured the demoniac in the synagogue, and performed those other astonishing miracles which occasioned his great reputation in those parts, and made it inconvenient to him to continue in the town any longer, that I cannot but adopt his order, in preference to that of Matthew; who mentions those events later in the history, but before the time of his own call to attend Jesus.
§ 3. Of the Time when Jesus visited Nazareth.
Matthew, after mentioning Jesus's leaving Judea to go into Galilee, says, (iv. 13,) “And leaving Nazareth he came and dwelt in Capernaum," which seems to imply that Jesus made, at least, a short stay at Nazareth before his arrival at Capernaum. But it appears to me, that when Jesus left Judea to go into Galilee, after the first passover, he either was not at Nazareth at all, or only just went through it in his way to Cana, from which place it is certain he went to Capernaum.
John makes no mention of Jesus's being at Nazareth, though he is very particular in reciting the events of the first passover, and the several stages and incidents of his progress from Jerusalem to Capernaum at that time, which are omitted by all the other evangelists.
There is a kind of chasm between the 43d and the 44th verse of the fourth chapter of John, which can only be supplied by supposing the evangelist had mentioned, or at least tacitly referred to Jesus's not choosing to call, or at least not choosing to make any stay, at Nazareth at this time.
John iv. 43: "Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee." But he did not go to Nazareth. 44. "For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.'
45. "Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem; for they also went unto the feast."
46. "So Jesus came again into Cana," &c.
The evangelist's mentioning the Galileans receiving Jesus as soon as he came into their country, doth but ill agree with
what Jesus himself observed, in the verse preceding, that a prophet has no honour in his own country, but upon the supposition, that those he first applied to were not his countrymen of Nazareth.
Besides, the nobleman of Capernaum, who is said to have set out to meet our Lord as soon as he heard of his arrival in Galilee, went to Cana; so that it is not probable that he had heard of his being, or at least of his intention, or attempt to make any stay at Nazareth. And the cure of this nobleman's son is expressly said by John (iv. 54) to have been "the second miracle" that Jesus performed after his arrival in Galilee from Judea; meaning, probably, from the time of his being baptized; and that the first miracle was that at Cana, of turning the water into wine.
The miracles related by Mark, (v. 23. &c.,) and which were performed at Capernaum, seem to have been the more immediate occasion of Jesus's great fame in Galilee, and therefore must have been performed soon after his arrival in that country.
It is possible, after all, that by "leaving Nazareth," (καταλιπων Ναζαρετ,) Matthew might mean his having left it, or the family having quitted their habitation there some time before; for the participle being of the aorist tense, it ought to have been rendered and having left Nazareth.
Or it may mean passing by Nazareth, that is, not choosing to call there, he went rather to Capernaum.
Luke, indeed, seems to have imagined that Jesus preached a sabbath in Nazareth, when they attempted his life, before his going to Capernaum; but it is much more probable, from the accounts of both Matthew and Mark, that the time when Jesus was rejected by the people of Nazareth was some time after he had been at Capernaum; and, upon the whole, it appears to me to have been just before the mission of the twelve, and not long before his leaving Galilee to go to the feast of pentecost.
Besides, Luke's own account, compared with itself only, has not the marks of perfect consistency; for, according to him, our Lord says to the people of Nazareth, (iv. 23,) "Ye will surely say,-Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thine own country." If this could have been said before he had been at Capernaum, it must have been by way of prophecy concerning what he was to do there, and what they would say to him afterwards, which I think is not an easy interpretation. The mention that Luke makes (iv. 31, 32,) of his arrival at Capernaum, after