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§ 203. Choice of the Seventy. (Luke, x.)—Import of the NumberSeventy.”

The prospect of the spread of the Gospel among all nations, after his own sufferings should have prepared its way, lay before him as he left Capernaum never to return; and he said to his disciples, in view of so vast a work, in which, as yet, there were so few labourers, “The harvest, truly, is great, but the labourers are few; pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” He then chose a number of his followers as his special and devoted organs for proclaiming the kingdom, and sent them before to announce and explain his coming, and prepare the minds of the people, that the short time of his visits among them might be more successfully employed.

Some definite number of disciples had to be selected, and he chose (as in the selection of the Twelve, p. 116) a number at that time in common currency. The round number seventy may have had general reference either to the seventy elders, or to the seventy members of the Great Sanhedrim; or it may have had special reference to the opinion prevalent among the Jewish theologians that there were seventy languages and nations upon the face of the earth. If this last were the case, it was an instance of formal accommodation. Without confirming this opinion, Christ might have employed seventy to indicate symbolically that his organs were not to reach the Jewish people only, but all the nations of the earth.549549   The fact that Luke alone mentions the choice of the Seventy is no reason for questioning the account. We attach no importance to the narratives in regard to the Sevent3 current in the first centuries (as in the account (mixed up with legends) of the conversion of King Abgarus, written in Syriac, and kept in the archives at Edessa (Eus., Eccl. Hist., i., 13); and in the fifth book of the Hypotyposes of Clement of Alexandria (Eus., i., 12), which also contains evident falsehoods) as confirmatory of Luke’s statement. But its perfect aptness in the historical connexion, and the entire and characteristic coherency of every thing spoken by Christ, according to Luke, with the circumstances (so superior to the collocation in Matthew), strengthen the argument in its favour. How appropriate is the language of Luke, x., 2, in view of the approaching new developement of the kingdom of God; whereas in Matthew (ix., 37, 38) the same words are connected with the account of the preaching in Galilee and the choice of the Twelve Apostles. So, in Matt., x., the continuation of Christ’s discourse to the Seventy (as given in Luke, x.) is connected with the Twelve, with many passages that must have been addressed to the Apostles at a later and more hostile period. In Luke, the instructions to the Seventy are distinguished from those to the Twelve in this, that the former contain allusions to the difficulties in which the missionaries would be involved; but no definite references to the subsequent mission of the disciples to the heathen. The rebukes of Chorazim, Capernaum, etc., suit exactly to the time when Christ was taking his final leave of the neighbourhood which had been the centre of his labours, and so Luke assigns them; but in Matt., xi., they are given in connexion with the reply to John Baptist’s messengers.
   It is clear that Christ called upon others than the Twelve to join themselves closely to him; and we find that, after he left the earth, others did belong to the narrower circle of the disciples. All this indicates that such a circle was formed by himself; for the whole number of disciples must have amounted not only to 120 (Acts, i., 15), but to 500 (1 Cor., xv., 6).

   But it may be said [as it has been] that this story of the definite number seventy was invented at a later period. Even if this were so, it would not discredit Luke’s statement, so precisely fitting to the history, of the way in which the circle was formed. But there is no reason to doubt that Christ, who was accustomed to adopt and use existing forms, should not have appropriated such a one as this in forming the, second narrower circle of disciples.

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