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ORIGIN OF THE FOUR GOSPELS.
THE life of Jesus has become the center of the religious controversies which agitate our age. The importance of this fact is great. At its foundation lies the confession that Christianity is not grounded so much on the doctrines of Him from whom it receives its name as upon his person. Every acceptation of the word Christianity which is antagonistic to this confession, disowns the real character of the term, and rests on a misconception. The person of Jesus is the corner-stone on which the church bases its foundations; to it the doctrine of Jesus and of his disciples always and with the utmost distinctness points; with the person of Jesus Christianity stands or falls. To rob this person of his greatness,—24of that greatness which the entire church ascribes to him under the name Son of God,—and yet to think to retain the Christian faith and the Christian church, is a futile attempt, a vain mockery. Even the morality which some might hope to rescue from the general shipwreck of faith is weakened by the unavoidable and remorseless contradictions which arise; for if the morality is sound, it must be a good tree growing from a diseased root. The life of Jesus is the most momentous of all questions which the church has to encounter,—the one which is decisive whether it shall or shall not live.
Whence do we derive our knowledge of the life of Jesus? Almost exclusively from our four Gospels, in which the divine person of Jesus, the center of the Christian belief, and the main object too of all attacks upon it, is presented in essentially the same light as in the Epistles of Paul, unquestionably the oldest of all the apostolical documents. All else that we know of him is confined to a few expressions and acts, and, with unimportant exceptions, 25is in direct connection with, and dependence on, the Gospels. By far the most of these sources are to be found in apocryphal, i.e. not genuine, untrustworthy fragments, not bearing the true names of their authors, and aiming with more or less skill to supplement and complete the gospel narrative; others, partly of Jewish and partly of heathen origin, avow at the very outset the intention of assailing the Gospels. Finally, we possess in two classic writers of the first and the two following centuries, Tacitus and Pliny, a few incidental expressions which have a lasting interest: the first88Tacit. Annal. xv. 44. testifying that Christ, the founder of the religion which had gained so strong a hold even in Nero's time, had been punished with death by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; while Pliny asserts99Pliny's Epist. x. 97. in a communication to Trajan that the Christians, already a numerous body in Bithynia, were in the habit of singing songs of praise to Christ as to a God.1010The statement of Suetonius (Claud. 25), that Claudius (about 52 after Christ) banished the Jews from Rome because, incited by Christ, they made a perpetual uproar, ought hardly to be cited here. Our Gospels therefore, if not the only authorities relative to the life of Jesus, are by all odds the most 26important ones, and the only direct sources that are in existence. If then the life of Jesus is only made known to us by the Gospels, if we are directed to these books for the solution of all our questions about the birth, the activities, the conversation, character, and fortunes of Jesus, we have of course no less weighty an inquiry before us than this, Whence spring our Gospels? For upon the origin of these books hinge their trustworthiness and all their value.
So much depending upon this first step, very many are the investigations which have been made in these modern times into the origin of the Gospels. It has been a question with what justice the names of those prominent members of the twelve, Matthew and John, and the names of the helpers and followers, Mark and Luke, have been assigned to the four Gospels. Just so far as the authorship of these documents has been admitted as due to those revered men, the Gospels have been accepted as authentic and trustworthy records of the life of the Lord. Their names have been regarded 27as a satisfactory guaranty that, in the writings with which they were coupled, truth only could be sought, that in them truth only was wished, and that in them truth was authentically recorded. There is indeed another way of testing the reliability of the Gospels. After the rise of the rationalizing or rationalistic spirit, and when the attempt was made to set the reason of man above everything which had previously borne the name of Divine Revelation, hands were laid at once on the biblical miracles, and it was claimed that they must be explained by the light of the imperfect culture of that time, and the incorrect appreciation of the Old Testament. Out of this grew the theory of accommodation, as it was called, which asserted that Jesus made his words chime in with the expectations of his age, and that he gave himself out to be a more important personage than he really was. This theory of the rise of the Gospels has culminated in the piece of botchwork which issued from the Paris press in 1863. The author of that book, not troubling himself with any speculations respecting 28the share which the apostles may have had in delineating the gospel portraits, but following his own self-imposed theories about miracles and revelation, has displayed boundless recklessness and given way to the most unbridled phantasies respecting the gospel history, caricaturing both it and its hero. He has written a book which has much more the character of a shameless calumny of Jesus than of an honest investigation into his career. Can we apply the term historical inquiry to an attempt to show1111Renan, p. xxvii. On est tenté de croire que Jean . . . fut froissé de voir qu’on ne lui accordait pas dans l’histoire du Christ une assez grande place; qu’alors il commença à dicter une foule de choses qu’il savait mieux que les autres, avec l’intention de montrer que, dans beaucoup de cas où on ne parlait que de Pierre, il avait figuré avec et avant lui. that John wrote the fourth Gospel out of a spirit of self-love, not without jealousy of Peter,1212Page xxvii. N’excluant pas une certaine rivalité de l’auteur avec Pierre. and full of hatred to Judas Iscariot?1313Page xxvii. Sa haine contre Judas, haine antérieure peut-être a la trahison. Can we dignify by so high a term as scientific investigation such a theory as his respecting the cause of the sympathy felt for Jesus by the wife of Pilate, that she saw the "gentle Galilean," the "fine-looking young man," from a window of the palace that looked out on the temple-court, and that in consequence the thought that his blood was to be spilled rested like a mountain load upon her soul?1414Page 403. Selon une tradition Jésus auralit trouvé un appui dans la propre femme du procurateur. Celle-ci avait pu entrevoir le doux Galiléen de quelque fenêtre du palais, donnant sur les cours du temple. Peut-être le revitelle en songe, et le sang de ce beau jeune homme, qui allait être versé, lui donna-t-il le cauchemar. To cite one or two more examples of his 29mode of dealing with the Gospels, what shall we say of his manner of treating the raising of Lazarus, where he endeavors to show that Jesus, whose role was becoming more and more difficult every day, practiced an involuntary piece of deception upon the people and the credulous sisters of Lazarus? His theory is that the latter, while still sick, caused himself to be laid out for burial, and deposited in the family vault; that Jesus, wishing to see his friend once more, caused the tomb to be opened, and on seeing Lazarus come forth was himself led to believe that the dead man had come to life again,—the power of resuscitating him, meanwhile, being ascribed by the witnesses to the wonderful gifts of Jesus.1515Page 361. Peut-être Lazare, pâle encore de sa maladie, se fit-il entourer de bandelettes comme un mort et enfermer dans son tombeau de famille. . . . L’emotion qu’éprouva Jésus près du tombeau de son ami, qu’il croyait mort, put être prise par les assistants pour ce trouble, ce frémissement qui accompagnaient les miracles; l’opinion populaire voulant que la vertu divine fût dans l’homme comme un principe épileptique et convulsif. Jésus . . . désira voir encore une fois celui qu’il avait aimé, et, la pierre ayant été écartée, Lazare sortit avec ses bandelettes et la tête entourée d’un suaire . . . Intimement persuadés que Jésus était thaumaturge, Lazare et ses deux sœurs purent aider un de ses miracles a s’exécuter . . . . L’état de leur conscience etait celui des stigmatisées, des convulsionnaires, des possédées de couvent. . . . Quant à Jesus, il n’était pas plus maître que Saint Bernard, que saint François d’Assise de modérer l’avidité de la foule et de ses propres disciples pour le merveilleux. La mort, d’ailleurs, allait dans quelques jours lui rendre sa liberté divine, et l’arracher aux fatales nécessités d’un rôle qui chaque jour devenait plus exigeant, plus difficile à soutenir. Or what shall we say of a theory of the conflict in Gethsemane,1616Matt. xxvi. 36, et sq.; Mark xiv. 32, et sq.; Luke xxii. 40, et sq. which seeks to throw light on the Saviour's grief by such words as these: "Perhaps his thoughts were running back to the clear springs of Galilee where he had often found refreshment, to the vine-stock and the fig-tree beneath whose shade he had rested, to the young maidens who it may be had responded to his love. Did he curse 30his hard fate, which denied him all the old joys of his life? Did he lament his high call, and weep, a sacrifice on the altar of his own greatness, that he had not continued to be a simple Nazarene artisan?"1717Page 378, et sq. What shall we think of the supposition that the dreary landscape of Judæa—with Jerusalem, the sacred center of the Jewish faith and worship—drove the thoughts of the Galilean to the luxuriance of his own country's hills, and added to his grief?1818Page 209. La profonde sécheresse de la nature aux environs de Jérusalem devait ajouter an déplaisir de Jésus. What shall we say of his exclamation, that if a better understanding of Christianity is to prevail among men, and the apocryphal shrines which now claim veneration are to be superseded by authentic ones, the temple, the great church for all Christians, is to be built upon the hill of Nazareth,— the soil beneath which are sleeping the carpenter Joseph and thousands of Nazarenes?1919Page 28. Si jamais le monde resté chrétien, mais arrivé à une notion meilleure de ce qui constitue le respect des origines, veut remplacer par d’authentiques lieux saints les sanctuaires apocryphes et mesquins où s’attachait la piété des âges grossiers, c’est sur cette hauteur de Nazareth qu’il bâtira son temple. Là, au point d’apparition du christianisme et au centre d’action de son fondateur, devrait s’élever la grande église où tous les chrétiens pourraient prier. Là aussi, sur cette terre où dorment le charpentier Joseph et des milliers de Nazaréens oubliés. What shall we say to the crudest of all Renan's vagaries, the investing with the crown of immortality and the glittering halo of a saint the head of that Jew dying on the cross, at the outset a mere kindly poetical enthusiast, and at last an idolizing fanatic, 31involved irretrievably with the dominant party, and rushing willingly into the arms of death?2020Page 426. Sa tête s’inclina sur sa poitrine, et il expira. Repose maintenant dans ta gloire, noble initiateur. Ton œuvre est achevée; ta divinité est fondée. Ne crains plus de voir crouler par une faute l’édifice de tes efforts. Page 67. Toute l’historie du christianisme naissant est devenue de la sorte une délicieuse pastorale. Un Messie aux repas de noces, la courtisane et le bon Zachée appelés à ses festins, les fondateurs du royaume du ciel comme un cortége de paranymphes. Page 219. Le charmant docteur, qui pardonnait à tous pourvu qu’on l’aimât, ne pouvait trouver beaucoup d’écho dans ce sanctuaire des vaines disputes et des sacrifices vieillis. Page 222. L’orgueil du sang lui paraît l’ennemi capital qu’il faut combattre. Jésus, en d’autres termes, n'est plus juif. Il est révolutionnaire au plus haut degré; il appelle tous les hommes â un culte fondé sur leur seule qualité d’enfants de Dieu. Page 316. Parfois on est tenté de croire que, voyant dans sa propre mort un moyen de fonder son royaume, il conçut de propos délibéré le dessein de se faire tuer. D’autres fois la mort se présente à lui comme un sacrifice, destiné à apaiser son Père et à sauver les hommes. Un goût singulier de persécution et de supplices le pénétrait. Son sang lui paraissait comme l’eau d’un second baptême dont il devait être baigné, et il semblait possédé d’une hâte étrange d’aller au-devant de ce baptême qui seul pouvait étancher sa soif.
Surely it requires no further citations to justify the expression of a condemnation of Renan's book: these few instances are sufficient to put the reader in possession of materials adequate to enable him to judge of the character of the work. That, in spite of its frivolous pretenses to science, in spite of its fantastic caricatures of history, it has found such favor and endorsement in Germany, only shows how widely are diffused, even in Germany, the lack of sound criticism, and of acquaintance with biblical history, as well as the depraved taste of an age which is sunk in unbelief.
In this matter, German science and scholarship have subjected themselves to a severe reproach. Not only is the prevalent rationalism, which places our common human reason above a divine revelation, and so sets aside the supernatural claims of the Gospels, a product of this French book, but German zeal is aroused, as well, to supply what is lacking of scientific accuracy in Renan's work, and to make his 32results more trustworthy. And so we have one of the frightful spectacles of our time,—French levity and German learning reaching brotherly hands to each other over the fresh grave of the Saviour. Unbelief, it would seem, gives even more strength than belief.
In those quarters where regard is paid to historical authority, one of the points brought into the foreground in the attacks upon the authenticity of the Gospels, is the lack of early evidence that they were in existence at the opening of the Christian era. Nor can any one deny that this objection, if it can be maintained, is entitled to much weight. If it is as late as the year 150, or still later, that we receive the first tidings about John's Gospel, who. would not find it hard to believe that it was written by the beloved disciple of the Lord a half century before? If there is not in our possession evidence in support of the other Gospels dating from that time, or from the years just preceding it, who can deny that it does not raise doubts respecting their authenticity? It is true, we must take into account the paucity of the literature 33which comes down to us from the earlier epoch of the church; and besides, many a good book might have been written without verbally incorporating or directly using our Gospels; especially at a time when those who had been eye-witnesses had not been long dead; when the life of the churches was directly sustained by the spirit of the Gospels; and when the written letter had not begun to be dominant over the living evangel. If these considerations diminish the importance which might be attached to the absence of biblical quotations in the primitive Christian literature, yet it is clear, on the other hand, that if such quotations are really to be found there, the manifest acquaintance which they might show that men had with the Gospels in the first half of the second century must be of the greatest weight in establishing their age, their apostolical origin, and their genuineness. And therefore it is a sacred duty that those who would subject the authenticity of our Gospels to a thorough scrutiny, should make one of their chief duties a most careful investigation into the most ancient 34sources of testimony respecting the existence and the recognized credibility of the records of Jesus' life.
It seems to me that this duty has been by no means faithfully enough most for the first three so-called synoptical Gospels, and still less for that of John, whose want of authenticity has been inscribed in flaming letters upon the banners of the negative school. The writer of these lines imposes upon himself the task of trying to throw some light upon the authority of the evangelical documents, although in preparing the work not for special students, but cultivated Christians generally, it may not be possible to enter so exhaustively into the subject as under other circumstances might be desirable.
We can make as our starting-point the unquestioned fact that in the last decades of the second century our four Gospels were known and acknowledged in all portions of the church. Irenæus, from 177 on, Bishop of Lyons, where the first Christian church of Gaul was established, wrote a great work in the last decades 35of the second century, directed at the earliest heresies, the Gnostic, and on every page made use of the Gospels, providing himself from them with materials to overthrow a system which was threatening to destroy the doctrines of the church. The number of passages where he has recourse to the Gospels is about four hundred, and about eighty of these contain quotations from John. From the closing decade of the second century on, the able and learned Tertullian lived and labored at Carthage, in Africa, and in his numerous writings there exist hundreds of citations from the text of the Gospels, which he made use of as his most decisive authorities. The same is true of Clemens, the celebrated teacher in the school of catechumens at Alexandria, about the end of the second century. Nor must I fail to allude to a catalogue, generally known by the name of its discoverer, the Italian scholar, Muratori, of all the books which were regarded as canonical in the very earliest times. This work was probably prepared at Rome, and shortly after the time of the Roman bishop Pius, i. e. somewhere 36where between 160 and 170. In this catalogue of the books thus reckoned as comprising the New Testament, the four Gospels are at the head.2121That this was the true date when this catalogue was proposed, is rendered more certain by the circumstance that the author indicates the episcopate of Pius, which is generally computed to have extended from 142 to 157, by the words temporibus nostris and nuperrime, i. e. "in our time," and "very recently." And even when he follows his own conjectures, or those which were then general, respecting any matter, as, for example, his ascribing the "Shepherds," an apocalyptic book of edification, to Hermas the brother of Pius the Roman bishop, his chronological statements must still be conceded not to have lost any validity. It is true, the first few lines which relate to Matthew and Mark have been lost; but, at the close of the still extant words respecting the latter, the Gospel of Luke is spoken of as the third, and that of John as the fourth; enabling us to see that even in the very earliest days the order was followed with which we are so familiar.
I have thus summoned witnesses from Gaul, from proconsular Africa (the present Algiers), from Alexandria, and from Rome. Two others can be cited fitly here, although one of them goes back to a remoter date: I mean the two oldest translations from the Greek text used by the apostles themselves. One of these is the Syriac version, and bears the name Peshito; the other is the Latin version, known under the title Itala: both of them give the four Gospels the first place. The canonical acceptance of all four must unquestionably have been general, as we see that they were transferred openly, and 37as a whole, into the language of the newly-converted Christians, the Latins and Syrians. The Syriac translation, which takes us to the neighborhood of the Euphrates, is almost universally assigned to the end of the second century; and, although positive proofs are wanting in support of this date, yet we are not without good grounds for accepting it. The Latin version, on the contrary, had begun to gain general recognition even before the end of the second century; for both Tertullian, in his quotations from Irenæus, and the Latin translator of Irenæus's great work against heresy, writing about the end of the second century, make use of the text of the Itala. This, of course, implies that the Latin translation was made some years before the close of the second century. I shall have occasion subsequently to allude again to the striking fact that it was necessary to translate the Gospels into Latin and Syriac as early as the second half of the second century, and that the number of documents was limited to the four with which we are now familiar.
Looking a little more closely into the testimony 38of the two great Fathers, Irenæus and Tertullian, we have to ask, Can their evidence be so limited in its application as to only prove that the four Gospels were fully accepted in their day? Irenæus not merely invests these documents with entire authority in the citations which he makes to overthrow the Gnostic heretics; it even appears in his work that the Gospels, or rather, to use his own expression, the fourfoldness of the Gospel, has been conformed to the analogy of the four quarters of the globe, the four chief winds, the four faces of the cherubim. He asserts that the four Gospels are the four pillars of which the church rests as it covers the whole earth, and in this number four he recognizes a special token of the Creator's wisdom.2222See Iren. adv. hæres. iii. 11: 8. Is such a representation compatible with the fact that at the time of Irenæus the four Gospels first began to be accepted? or that an attempt was then being made to append a fourth and newer one to the three older ones then current? Is it not much more credible that the acceptance of all the four was then of so long standing and so thoroughly complete, 39that the Bishop of Lyons could allude to the fourfoldness of the Gospel as a thing universally recognized, and in consequence of this very recognition speak of it as a thing which harmonizes with great and unchanging cosmical relations? Irenæus died in the second year after the close of the second century, but in his youth he had sat at the feet of the venerable Polycarp, who had been a disciple of John the evangelist, and had been acquainted with many eyewitnesses of Jesus' life. In mentioning this fact Irenæus2323See Iren. adv. hær. iii. 3: 4; and particularly his letter to Florinus in Euseb. Hist. Eccl. v. 20 (Iren. opp. ed. Stieren i. 822). alludes very tenderly to the statement of his revered teacher Polycarp, that all that he had heard from the lips of John and other disciples of Jesus coincided fully with the written account. Yet let us hear his own words as given in a letter to Florinus: "I saw you while I was yet a youth in Lower Asia with Polycarp, when you were living in scenes of princely splendor, and when you were striving to gain the approval of Polycarp. What took place then is fresher in my memory than what has occurred more recently. What we took in our youth grows up as it were with us, and 40is incorporated in us. And so I can even now bring back to mind just the place where the good Polycarp used to sit when he talked to us, how he looked as he came in and as he went out, how he lived, how he used to speak to the people, how he used to allude to his intercourse with John and repeat the words of others who had seen the Lord, how he used to recount what he had heard from their own lips about the miracles and the teachings of the Lord,—and all in full accordance with the written narrative."2424In the Latin translation the passage runs: "Vidi enim te, quum adhuc puer (παῖς) essem, in inferiore Asia apud Polycarpum quum in imperatoria aula splendide ageres et illi (παρ᾽ αὐτῷ) te probare conareris. Nam ea quæ tunc gesta sunt melius memoria teneo, quam quæ nuper acciderunt (quippe quae pueri discimus, simul cum animo ipso coalescunt eique penitus inhærent) adeo ut et locum dicere possim in quo sedens beatus Polycarpus disserebat, processus quoque eius et ingressus vitæque modum et corporis speciem, sermones denique quos ad multitudinem habebat; et familiarem consuetudinem quæ illi cum Iohanne ac reliquis qui dominum, viderant intercessit, ut narrabat, et qualiter dicta eorum commemorabat: quæque de domino ex ipsis audiverat de miraculis illius etiam ac de doctrina, quæ ab iis qui verbum vitæ ipsi conspexerant acceperat Polycarpus, qualiter referebat, cuncta Scripturis consona." The attempt to make these closing words apply to the Old Testament, and not to the Gospels, is a most impotent attempt to take away all point whatever from what Irenæus is saying.
Thus writes Irenæus respecting his intercourse with Polycarp and respecting the communications of Polycarp. The date of the young Irenæus's intercourse with the aged saint must be set approximately at about the year 150. Irenæus died in 202, according to old accounts a martyr, while Polycarp perished at the stake in 165, "1 after having," to use his own expression, served the Lord eighty-six years." And is it to be believed that Irenæus never heard from his teacher, whose communications respecting John he expressly refers to, one word regarding 41the Gospel of John? Indisputably, one part of Polycarp's testimony relative to John's Gospel carries us back to John himself. For Polycarp's evidence respecting the work of his teacher must be based upon the testimony of his teacher himself. The case becomes all the more clear the more closely we look into it on the adversaries' side, and range ourselves with those who deny the validity of John's Gospel. According to this view, Polycarp, although saying so much to Irenæus regarding John, did not drop a word regarding the Gospel of John. But supposing he did not, is it credible that Irenæus fully accepted that Gospel, that work which seemed to be the noblest gift of John to Christianity, the report of an eye-witness respecting the life, death, and resurrection of the Saviour of the world, as a Gospel which ran directly counter to the testimony of the three other evangelists? Would not the very circumstance that Polycarp made no mention of it have convinced Irenæus of its want of authenticity? And yet it is asserted that in order to meet and overthrow false teachers, and the 42men who falsified the canon, he did not hesitate to reckon the Gospel of John as strictly embraced among the sacred books.
This on which I am now laying stress is nothing new; it has long stood recorded on the pages of Irenæus, and has long been read there. But it has not had its due weight; else how could it have been so lightly passed over? For my own part I must completely justify the assigning of much greater weight, on the part of correct and thorough investigators, to the testimony of Polycarp and Irenæus respecting the Gospel of John, than to all the difficulties and all the objections urged by skeptical scholars.
And is the case not similar with Tertullian and his testimony respecting the Gospel? This man, who had been transformed from a worldly heathen lawyer into a powerful advocate of divine truth, enters so critically into the question of the origin and relative value of the four Gospels as expressly to subordinate Mark and Luke to Matthew and John, on the ground that the former were mere helpers and companions of the apostles, while the latter were selected 43by the Lord himself and invested with full authority.2525See adv. Marcion, iv. 2. Constituimus inprimis evangelicum instrumentum apostolos auctores habere, quibus hoc munus evangelii promuigandi ab ipso domino sit compositum; si et apostolicos, non tamen solos sed cum apostolis et post apostolos. Denique nobis fidem ex apostolis Iohannes et Matthæus insinuant, ex apostolicis Lucas et Marcus instaurant. The same author propounds also an inexpugnable canon of historical criticism, a test of the truth of the early Christian documents, and especially those of apostolic origin, in that he makes the value of testimony dependent on the epoch of the witness, and demands that what was held as true in his day should be judged in the light of its prior acceptance. If it had been accepted before, it was fair to suppose that it had been equally accepted in the time of the apostles; its authenticity must therefore have been admitted by the apostolical church, founded as it was by the apostles themselves.2626See adv. Marcion, iv. 5. In summa si constat id verius quod prius, id prius quod et ab initio, ab initio quod ab apostolis, pariter utique constabit id esse ab apostolis traditum quod apud ecclesias apostolorum fuerit sacrosanctum. And is it to be believed that this acute man was capable of being deceived in his acceptance of the Gospels and in his defense of them by any thin web of sophistry or touch of charlatanism? The passages just referred to are taken from his celebrated reply to Marcion, who in a wanton and heretical spirit had impugned the authenticity of the Gospels. Three of the four he had wholly excluded, and of the fourth he retained only just so much as it pleased 44 him to do. In replying to him, Tertullian expressly bases his argument on the ground that at the time when the apostolical church was founded all the four Gospels were accredited. Has such a statement no weight in the mouth of a man like Tertullian? When he wrote, scarcely a hundred years had elapsed since the death of John. At that date the testimony, appealed to by him, of the church at Ephesus, in which John had labored so long and amid which he had died, must have been full and decisive respecting the genuineness or spuriousness of John's Gospel. Nor was it a matter of any difficulty to ascertain what was the judgment which this church passed on the Gospel. And we must not overlook the fact that we have not to do, in this matter, with a scholar who is contenting himself with merely learned investigations, but with a man full of earnestness respecting his faith, and taking very seriously the question of human salvation. The Christian documents which asserted a connection between themselves and the origin of the new faith, the documents at which all the worldly wisdom of 45the time in which Tertullian himself was reared took offense,—were they likely to be accepted by him without inquiry, and in a blind credulity? And inasmuch as he expressly assures us that he bases his acceptation of all the four Gospels on the credit of the apostolical church,2727See the document already referred to: Eadem auctoritas ecclesiarum ceteris quoque patrocinabitur evangeliis, quæ proinde per illas et secundum illas habemus, Johannis dico [before this he says, habemus et Johanni alumnas ecclesias] et Matthæi; licet et Marcus quod edidit Petri affirmetur, cuius interpres Marcus. Nam et Lucæ digestum Paulo adscribere solent; capit magistrorum videri quæ discipuli promulgarint. is it not an unworthy suspicion, the doubting that he made thorough inquiry into the capacity of the apostolical church to pass an authentic judgment on the Christian documents?
I insist therefore, to sum up the matter, that the testimony of
Irenæus and Tertullian
respecting the four Gospels is not to be taken as an isolated, unrelated fact,
but that it must be considered as a valid result of all the historical evidence
which was at their command. And how far we are justified in this, is shown not
only by the authorities already adduced, the author of the Muratori list of
New Testament books, the African translator of the Gospels into Latin, the originator
of the Itala, but by all the other witnesses who lived prior to the time of Irenæus
and Tertullian. Many of my readers are acquainted with the 46so-called
Harmonies of the Gospels,—the works in
which the four sacred narratives are co-ordinated into a single one. In this way
an effort has been made to draw from the Gospels alone a closely followed and faithful
portrait of our Lord's life, those points which one narrator has brought more prominently
into view than the others being employed as supplementary to the other accounts,
and a complete picture being the result. In these works the narrative of John has
been drawn upon to supply the incidents occurring in the last three years of Jesus'
life, and to follow his course step by step. Harmonies of this kind were prepared
as early as the year 170 by two men whose names are known to us: one of them was
Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch in Syria; the other was Tatian, a disciple of Justin
the great theologian and martyr.2828
Theophilus was appointed bishop of Antioch, according to the statement
Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. iv. 19 and 20), about the eighth year of Marcus Aurelius's
reign, i. e., about 168, at the same time that Soter was bishop of Rome. The third
book of his able Apology to Autolycus he wrote, according to his own statement,
in the year 181; the first two books in the year 180. It is extremely probable that
the compilation from the Gospels was intended to serve in helping him discharge
his official duties,—at the outset, at least, of his term of service.
Tatian himself tells us (Orat. ad Græc. 19) that when in Rome together with Justin he shared the persecution experienced by the cynic philosopher Crescens. After Justin had fallen as a martyr, Tatian left Rome; in Syria, where he lived subsequently, he embraced the Gnostic heresies; at the time when Irenæus was preparing his work aimed against this school, i. e. about 177, Tatian does not appear to have been living. Comp. Iren. adv. hær. 1: 28. Tatian can not have written his celebrated apologetic work, Addresses to the Heathen, before his teacher's death (166), but he may have done so soon after. In all probability, however, he had prepared the Diatessaron still earlier. True, both of those works are lost; but Jerome speaks in the fourth century of the one prepared by Theophilus as still existing, describing it as a combination of the four Gospels in one continuous narrative;2929See epist. 151 ad Algasiam quæst. 5. Theophilus . . . qui quatuor evangelistarum in unum opus dicta compingens ingenii sui nobis monimenta reliquit, hæc super hac parabola [the one respecting the Unjust Steward] in suis commentariis locutus est. respecting the second we have the testimony of 47Eusebius3030See Euseb. Histor. Eccles. iv. 29. and Theodoret,3131See Theodoret. hæret. fab. i. 20. the latter of whom speaks with intimate knowledge. Tatian himself alludes to his work as "the Gospel made up of four, the Diatessaron." Both of these men wrote other works which are still extant. In 180 and 181 Theophilus indited the three books to Autolycus, a learned heathen who had assailed Christianity. In this work are extracts from Matthew, Luke, and John. It is especially noteworthy that he cites the latter (ii. 22), alluding explicitly to the name of the author. His words are, "This is taught by the Holy Scriptures and all inspired men, among whom is John, who says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,' and then follows, 'and the Word was God: all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made."' This makes it certain that the Harmony of Theophilus embraced the Gospel of John.3232Jerome, in the passage already cited, as well as elsewhere (in his Catalogus de Viris Illustribus), alludes to Theophilus as the author of a commentary on the Gospel (a term applied, according to the usage of that time, to the four Gospels co-ordinated into a single narrative), and even makes use of it in explaining the parable of the Unjust Steward; it is very probable, therefore, that this commentary was bound up with the Gospels. The same is true of Tatian: for in his Addresses to the Heathen, a work filled with learning, and very decided in its tone, written probably between 166 and 170, there are several passages 48quoted from John's Gospel, such as this: "The Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. . . . . The Life was the Light of men. . . . . All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." From this it would seem certain that his Harmony, like that of Theophilus, although it may have taken some liberties with the order of the narrative, included the Gospel of John: and this chimes admirably with the statement of Bishop Bar Salibi, that the Diatessaron of Tatian, accompanied by a commentary by Ephraim, and thus discriminated from the Diatessaron of Ammonius, began with the words, "In the beginning was the Word."
These Harmonies last mentioned, one of which must with much probability be ascribed to a date within the first sixty years of the second century, have far more worth than what would be gathered from single scattered extracts, for their preparation points back conclusively to a time when the four Gospels were already accepted as a perfect record, and when the necessity had begun to be felt of deducing a higher 49unity and a more harmonious completeness from them than the diversity of the various books and the apparent discrepancies had rendered apparent. If these efforts are to be assigned to a date as early as the second decade subsequently to the middle of the second century, it makes the inference a necessary one that the use and recognition of the four Gospels must be assigned to a much earlier date.
Similar testimony we owe to a cotemporary of the two men just named, Claudius Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, whose epoch is assigned by Eusebius (iv. 26) to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. For in a fragment preserved in the Chronicon Paschale he declares that if the Quartodecimanians (so called from holding like the Jews that the fourteenth of Nisan was the day for celebrating the paschal sacrifice) appeal justly to Matthew in support of the view that Jesus partook of the last supper with his disciples at the precise time of celebrating the paschal offering, there must be an antagonism among the writers of the several Gospels. Now as in this contest Matthew, Mark, and Luke 50must be ranged on the one side, and John on the other, the words of Apollinaris indicate that all the Gospels were conceded in his day to have equal value. To this may be added that in one passage still extant in the same Chronicon there is undeniable reference to John's allusion (xix. 34) to the piercing of Jesus' side.
According to Eusebius, the choice of Dionysius as Bishop of Corinth occurred in the year 170. The same historian has preserved for us (Euseb. iv. 23) some fragments of letters and other documents from the pen of Dionysius. To one church he sent in the epistolary form expositions of Scripture; and to the Romans he wrote, after animadverting severely upon the efforts to discredit the genuineness of his own letters, that it was not at all strange that men sought to discredit the Gospels, since these too were documents whose value was so great that their authenticity should be indisputable. The expression, Holy Scriptures, might not necessarily refer to the New Testament; but the word which Dionysius employs—writings respecting 51the Lord,—the same term which Clemens of Alexandria uses (Strom. vii. 1)—has the same signification with the expression New Testament, and relates evidently to the books which were then accepted as constituting the New Testament canon.
The Apology written by Athenagoras of Athens, in the year 177, contains several quotations from Matthew and Luke; it displays also unmistakable marks of being influenced by John's Gospel; as, for example, in the passages which speak of the Logos as the Word of God, and which allude to the Son of God who is in the Father as the Father is in the Son. It contains the very expression found in the first chapter of John, third verse, "All things were made by him," and in the seventeenth chapter, twenty-first verse, "as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee."
I have taken these witnesses to the credibility of our Gospels from the epoch prior to Irenæus and Tertullian, and just at the threshold of the Irenæan period, the second and third decade after the middle of the second century. 52There are, however, left to us other witnesses much earlier, and, like those just quoted, men who speak to us right from the very bosom of the church.3333Hegesippus wrote a history of the church, coming down to Eleutheros, bishop of Rome, who is generally thought to have been in office from 177 to 193. Eusebius has made extensive use of this work (iv. 8 and 22) in preparing his own history, and gives its author great credit for the reliability of all his statements, and for his doctrinal soundness (iv. 21). In addition to the fragments which Eusebius has preserved, we possess another statement respecting Hegesippus, taken by Photius from Stephanus Gobarus, a monophysite living at the close of the sixth century, and incorporated in his Bibliotheca, No. 232, Bekker's edition, p. 288. In the fragments of Stephanus Gobarus, we read, in connection with the quotation, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," that Hegesippus declared that this was a vain and meaningless saying, and that all such passages are in contradiction to the sacred scripture and to the words of the Lord, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see, and the ears that hear the things that ye hear." From this passage in Stephanus Gobarus it is not clear against whom or against what false doctrine Hegesippus's animadversion was directed. It is most probable that he aimed chiefly at a docetic error respecting the per son of Christ. As Paul quoted the words cited above, from 1 Cor. ii. 9, either from Isaiah lxiv. 3 and 4, or, as Origen supposed, from an apocryphal book known by the name of Elias, it became the belief of certain theologians that Hegesippus intended to reject the Epistles of Paul, and to condemn the validity of his doctrine. Nor did they hesitate to go further, and grant that, admitting that the passage in Corinthians was a free quotation from Isaiah, they should have to reject that as well. They even went so far as to bring Eusebius under suspicion, and to hint that he had willfully perverted ecclesiastical history.
Between the apostolic epoch and that which followed there intervene the so-called apostolic Fathers; for as direct disciples of the apostles they must be reckoned as in immediate connection with the apostolic age. If in the little which these men have left us we do not find anything which can be construed as definite testimony as to the authenticity of the Gospels, still we are not to conclude from their silence that the Gospels were not in existence before their time. But should there be in their writings a constant use of the Old Testament, and not the slightest use of the New, in spite of the fact that the latter lay so much nearer to hand,3434The apocalyptic, ethical work, known as the "Shepherd," had quotations neither from the Old nor from the New Testament; there is no lack of references in it, however. the probability must be accepted as great that at that time the Gospels were not accepted as of equal weight with the Old Testament.
And this appears to have been the case with the epistle of the Roman Clement, written in the second or third decade before the close of 53the first century, and about a decade after the destruction of Jerusalem. At that time no canon of the Gospels was in existence. It is indeed unquestionable that in his epistle, rich in quotations from the Old Testament, Clement refers here and there to passages3535See, for example, chap. 35: "While we put away from us all injustice and wickedness, avarice, contention, cunning and deceit, slander and calumny, blasphemy, pride and self-seeking, ambition and vanity: for they who do such things are displeasing to God, and not alone they who do them, but they that have pleasure in them who do them." Comp. Rom. i. 29, et seq. in the Pauline Epistles, which have indeed chronologically priority over the Gospels, though not in any other sense.3636In chap. 46: "Woe to that man: it were better for him if he had not been born, than that he should offend one of my chosen ones: it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of my little ones." These words are cited expressly on the "saying of our Lord;" they disclose, however, much more clearly the very phrase taken from his lips and repeated in the apostle's tradition, than the use of the similar passages in Matt. xxvi. 24; xviii. 6; and Luke xvii. 2.
It is otherwise with those other constituents of this literature to whose discussion we now come,—the epistles of Ignatius and that of Polycarp. The first of these have reached us various in extent and variously edited. Three extant only in Latin are manifestly later additions to the older literature; and so too are five others, written in Greek, Latin, and Armenian, their authenticity being disowned by the fact that Eusebius makes no allusion to them. There are besides seven epistles, which are extant in a longer and a shorter form: of the longer one, there is also an ancient Latin version; of the shorter, a Latin version and Syriac, and Armenian ones as well. With this is to 54be joined the fact that twenty years ago a Syriac version of three of these seven epistles was discovered, more brief than the short Greek text. After the debate respecting the longer and the shorter epistles had been decisively settled in favor of the shorter, the question arose whether the three extant in the Syriac translation are not to be preferred to these seven shorter ones. When several scholars declared themselves in favor of this, others defended the earlier origin of the seven Greek epistles, insisting that the three in Syriac were a mere extract, intended for devotional uses. We hold this to be the more correct view. Similar occurrences are not unknown in the apocryphal writings of the New Testament. An extraordinary proof in this case is afforded by the circumstance that these seven epistles are not only recognized by Eusebius (iii. 36), but are alluded to in the letter of Polycarp. In order to escape the force of this testimony, the most decisive passage in the latter epistle, defended as it is by Eusebius himself, must be set aside as unauthentic. Besides this, the assigning of 55superior value to the three Syriac letters is invalidated by the fragmentary character of many passages; one is so manifestly an excerpt from the Greek text that it must be admitted that one section has been lost through the carelessness of the copyist. We claim the right, therefore, of holding to the authenticity of the seven epistles ascribed by Eusebius and Polycarp to Ignatius, and written while he was on the way from Antioch, through Smyrna and Troas, to his martyrdom at Rome. Examining them with reference to our present theme, we find several allusions to Matthew and John. Take this passage (letter to the Romans, chap. 6): "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" taken literally from Matt. xvi. In like manner, the passage in his epistle to the people of Smyrna, in which he asserts of Jesus that he was baptized by John in order that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him," reminds one of Matt. iii. 15: "for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." In the letter to the Romans (chap. 7), he writes, "I want the bread of God, the bread 56of heaven, the bread of life, which is the body of Jesus Christ the Son of God; . . . and I want the draught of God, the blood of Jesus, which is imperishable love and eternal life." Compare this with the sixth chapter of John, verse 41: "I am the bread which came down from heaven;" verse 48: "I am that bread of life;" verse 51: "And the bread that I will give is my flesh;" verse 54: "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life." To the Philadelphians he writes (chap. 7), "What if some wished to lead me astray after the flesh? but the Spirit is not enticed; he is from God; he knows wherever he cometh and whither he goeth, and he brings to punishment that which is hidden." These verses have as their basis John iii. 6 to 8,3737"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. . . . The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." while the last clause grows out of the twentieth3838"For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." verse. Were these allusions of Ignatius to Matthew and John a mere isolated phenomenon, and one which would be adverse to other points in this discussion on which no doubts rest, they would not have decisive weight. But so far from militating against other points of evidence, they 57are in full agreement with them, particularly in view of the fact that at the time when the letters were written, between 107, the date generally assigned, and 115, they contain references to two of the most important of the four Gospels.
The letter of Polycarp to the Philippians connects itself most closely with those of Ignatius. According to his own testimony, it was written very soon after the martyrdom of Ignatius; that is, between 107 and 115. It contains very brief quotations from Matthew, as, for example, in chap. 2: "Think on the Lord how he said, Judge not, that ye be not judged [Matt. vii. 1]. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you [similar to Matt. vi. 14]. Be merciful, that you may obtain mercy [compare with Matt. v. 7]. And with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again [a literal quotation from Matt. vii. 2]. And blessed are the poor, and they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" [taken almost verbatim from Matt. v. 3 and 10]. Further, chap. 7: "We will implore 58the Omniscient God not to lead us into temptation, remembering the words of the Lord, The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" [compare Matt. vi. 13 and xxvi. 41]. Special weight must be ascribed to that passage in Polycarp's letter which clearly manifests the use of the First Epistle of John. Polycarp writes, chap. 7: "For every one who does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is antichrist:" in John (iv. 3) the passage runs, "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist." The importance of this use by Polycarp of the Epistle of John is based upon this, that—although the heroes of doubt bring into suspicion even that which is really indisputable—the Epistle and the Gospel of John are shown, by their essential unity of incident and language, to have necessarily had the same author; and thus the use of the Epistle argues the use of the Gospel as well. I have shown above, from Polycarp's intimate relation to John, how valuable is his testimony: it has such great weight as scarcely to allow a 59word to be uttered in disavowal of the writings which he confirms. The unworthy skill of modern scholars has not shrunk, however, from setting aside the fact of Polycarp's testimony and unnerving its strength. A writer of much acuteness says, "We are not compelled to regard the words of Polycarp as an actual quotation from John, for that may have been a sentence which had come into circulation in the church, and may have been committed to paper by John just as well as by Polycarp, without compelling the latter to learn it from the former." Before this conjecture had been bruited, a fellow-believer had fallen upon another way out of the difficulty: "Can the thing not be reversed? May not the author of the Johannean Gospel, which is as little genuine as so much else that has for two thousand years received the reverent homage of Christendom,—may not this false John have cited as well from Polycarp?" It requires a great deal of courage to give utterance to such an idle fancy; yet there are men of learning who are not lacking in this courage. But the universal and radical 60medicament which must be relied on at the last admits in this iIstanc3 of a double application. If the Gospel of John can be thrown overboard so easily, the Epistle of Polycarp can not so readily be disposed of. Polycarp, then, did not write the epistle. Yet the disciple of Polycarp, Irenæus, believed and gave his witness to just the contrary. But there are never lacking specious grounds for a false position; and the professors of the nineteenth century have the art of putting out of sight even an Irenæus and his fellows.
The attack on the authenticity of Polycarp's epistle is all the more worth refuting, because, if successful, it does away no less with the genuineness of Ignatius's epistles, all the more troublesome if they are to be accepted in the limits which Polycarp and Eusebius assigned to them. On this account the latest outbreaks of critical presumption and audacity have been directed against the whole Polycarp-Ignatius literature. What one of these critical heroes does not venture, another does. One goes to work more in '^root and branch" fashion, another 61more artistically. The one contents himself with rejecting on his own authority all those passages ill Polycarp's letter which allude to the person and epistles of Ignatius, imputing them to a forger known to have lived long before Eusebius's time; the other, on the contrary, casts away the whole letter. In like manner, the one satisfies himself with regarding the three shortest Syrian epistles of Ignatius as genuine; the other holds it more advisable to assert that not a single one of the collective letters of Ignatius is genuine. Such dealings as this would soon convert the temple of God into a common ruin.
For my own part,
I do not hesitate to advance further in the period of Polycarp. Justin the Martyr,
even before his violent death in Rome in 166 made his memory dear to the church,
had attained to great celebrity through his writings. Three of his works are still
extant in the complete form, and their authenticity is undisputed,—the two apologies
and the dialogue with the Jew Tryphon. Eusebius displays perfect familiarity with
the two which 62were written to defend Christianity against
attacks of high pagan authorities, and speaks of them as two separate works, one
of which was dedicated to the Emperor Antoninus, the other to Marcus Aurelius. Jerome
repeats the statement of Eusebius, and most scholars3939So, for example, Niedner's History of the Christian Church, p. 206: "The first, the greater, at the
time of Antoninus Pius, in 138 or 139; the second, the smaller, under Marcus Aurelius,
soon after 161." The same statement is made by Neander (Gen. Hist. of the Christ.
Rel. and Chur., 3d ed. i. 1, p. 364, et sq.): "Since in the superscription he does
not speak of M. Aurelius as Cæsar, it is probable that it was written before his
promotion to the imperial dignity, which took place in 139." Thereupon he alludes
to the "greater difficulty" which the determination of the time when the shorter Apology was written cost him, and states
that he could
come to no decision respecting it. down to the present day
have coincided with him. The first work must be assigned to the year 138 or 139,
the other to the year 161, the first year of the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Respecting
the first, however, it should be said that it was in 139 that Marcus Aurelius (Berissimus)
was named as Cæsar, yet the inscription does not address him with the imperial
title. Very recently there have been new views taken respecting this matter, and
there has been unjustified evidence4040The passage (i. 46) runs, "In
order that it may not be said in senseless perversion of what I have stated respecting
Christ's being born under Quirinus 150 years ago, his teaching what may be called
his system under Pontius Pilate, and the inference which might be drawn that all
men born before his time were free from guilt, I will meet this matter at the very
outset." Every one can see in these round numbers, and in this mode of expression,
how little the writer meant to assign a definite date to the composition of the
Apology. Still, the year 147 is the one which, according to our ordinary computation,
is assigned as the date when it was written. That in the Apology of Marcion the
subject is alluded to as one occupying the public mind, has no vital relation to
the time which we have specified, although to the statement of Irenæus that Marcion
was in Rome with Cerdo at the time of Hyginus (generally set between 137 and 141),
must be added that of the Arabic biographers of Mani, according to which Marcion
came into notice in the first year of Antoninus Pius, 138: for the year 139 can
not be coupled with this event. That Justin cites in the Apology his work against
Marcion ("and the Marcionites" does not appear in in the
title), is said without truth. For in i. 26 he alludes to his work "Against all
Heresies," not to that "Against Marcion;" the latter is cited by Irenæus, iv. 6: 2, after a citation of the first-named
work of Jerome in the catalogue. One circumstance opposed to this is not to be overlooked.
If, with the pushing back of the first Apology to the year 147, the connection of
the second and the first be insisted on, and the latter is regarded as a mere appendix
to the former, the assigning of so early a date to the former becomes the more improbable
from the fact that Justin alludes in the same to the persecutions of Crescens following
him even to his death. This seems to me to give more decisive evidence against the
connection of the two, than the existing reference in the second to what is said
in the first does for that connection. brought forward to support the assigning
of the year 1474141If the freedom be taken to
come from this date down to 150, there is an equal right to go back several years
before 147. to the production of the first of the two works in question:
some, moreover, have felt themselves justified in taking a position not warranted
by Eusebius and Jerome, and in regarding the second apology as no independent production,
but a mere appendix to the first. Neither the 63one view nor the other appears to me to be thoroughly
grounded. Still, the value of Justin's testimony is very little affected by the
question whether he wrote a few years prior or subsequently to the year 140. Yet
the fact that these two works of Justin's were written prior to the middle of
second century makes the question one of great interest whether he discussed our
Gospels in them. It is a topic which has been treated in our time by many persons,
and with great variance of opinion. What is the essential result gained from these
investigations? That Justin often quotes from our own Matthew, is indisputable.4242By way of illustration, we may cite the passage which
is given three times in the Dialogue (chaps. 76, 120 and 140), "They shall come
from the east and from the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven with
Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into
outer darkness." This coincides literally with Matt. viii. 11
and 12, excepting that in the latter we have the reading "many shall
come." In like manner in the Dialogue (chap. 107) we have, "It is written in the
Memorabilia, that your country folk asked him and said, 'Show us a sign.' And he
answered them, 'An evil and an adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there
shall no sign be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonas."' This reply of the
Lord coincides literally with Matt. xii. 40, with the mere use of "them" for "it."
That in various passages he follows Mark and Luke, is extremely probable.4343Respecting Luke xxii. 44, it runs, for instance, that Justin alludes
in the Dialogue (chap. 103) to the sweat which ran down in great drops while Jesus
was on the mount of Olives, and, indeed, it is stated with express reference to
the "Memorabilia composed by his apostles and their companions." Twice (chaps. 76
and 100) he cites as a saying of the Lord: "The Son of man must suffer many things,
and be rejected by the scribes and Pharisees (chap. 100, 'by the Pharisees and scribes'),
and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." This agrees more closely with
Mark viii. 31 and Luke ix. 21, than with
Matthew xvi. 21; only in Justin the reading
is the "Pharisees" instead of the "elders and high priest" (as in Matt., Mark, and
Luke), and in like manner "be crucified" instead of "be slain." Yet
this fact has been invalidated by the efforts of some to show that Justin did not
use our Gospels as his basis, but writings very like them in character, perhaps
the Gospel of the Hebrews, or, according to some, the Gospel of Peter, which was
derived from the latter, but which, with the exception of a few passages,4444Among these is Theodoret's
Hæret. Fab. ii. 2, according to which that which
is said everywhere else respecting the Gospel of the Hebrews is asserted to have
been in use among the Nazaræans. Eusebius reports (Hist. Eccl. vi. 12) the judgment
of Serapion, bishop of Antioch, regarding this matter. The latter found the most
of it conformable to the true faith, but detected here and there something superadded
even in the sense of the Docetes, which he ascribed to the influence of that community
in Rhossus in Cilicia, where he found the book in use. Origen, in his comment on
Matt. xiii. 54, et sq., states that, like the work of James, this reports the "brethren of Jesus" to be children of Joseph by a former marriage. has
remained entirely unknown to us to the present time. One support for this 64view is found in the fact that some quotations of
Justin are also found in the pseudo-Clementine homilies, having there the same or
similar differences from the readings in the canonical text.4545A few examples may illustrate the character of the argument between Justin and the
Clementine Homilies. Both Justin and the psuedo-Clement concur in this: "Let your
yea be yea and your nay nay; whatever is more than this cometh of evil." In Matthew,
however, it stands thus: "But let your communication be yea, yea, and nay, nay;
for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil." The first of these forms coincides,
however, almost literally with that which is found in James v. 12, "But let [ἤτω,
Justin and the pseudo-Clement ἔστω] your yea be yea, and your nay, nay." Further,
we have in Justin, i. Apol. chap. 16, "Not all who say unto me, Lord, Lord, shall come into the kingdom of heaven, but they
that do the will of my
Father who is in heaven. For he who heareth me and doeth what I say, he heareth
him that sent me." In the Homilies (8: 7) it runs, "Jesus said to one who often
called him Lord but did none of his commandments, 'Why callest thou me Lord, Lord,
and doest not what I say?"' Herewith compare Matt. vii. 21, " Not every one that
saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth
the will of my Father which is in heaven." In like manner, Luke x. 16, "He that
heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth
me despiseth him that sent me." For the last clause the Cambridge Codex, with three
old Latin manuscripts, offers the reading, "But he who heareth me, heareth him who
sent me." Another well accredited reading of the greatest antiquity adds to the
standard version the words, "And he that heareth me, heareth him that sent me."
They take out, however, from Justin (and the Homilies) the phrase, "and doeth what
I say," in order to show a reference to some other source. Two other examples which
illustrate this matter will be found in the following note. The supposition is,
perhaps, an admissible one, that Justin, at the very earliest times, drew that Gospel
of the Hebrews, which contained such repeated references to Matthew, into the circle
of his evangelical quotations in one of his first works; for we have Eusebius's
authority, in the first half of the fourth century, for the fact that at his time
this Gospel was reckoned by several authorities as belonging to the canon. On the
other hand, it is a manifest and groundless exercise of arbitrary authority to hold
that such of his quotations as harmonize more or less closely with our received
text are taken from a source respecting which we are left to conjecture alone. Such
a view is all the more inadmissible from the fact that free extracts from our Gospels
are fully in accordance with the character of the times in which they fall; and
this is the same epoch, the first half of the second century, to which 65we trace the main origin of the diverse materials
which enter into the canon, and more especially the Gospels. With equal freedom
Justin makes his quotations from the Old Testament, even if he may not be proved
to take his text exclusively from the standard Septuagint. And the fact is not to
be overlooked, that the passages quoted by Justin from the Gospels can not be judged
by the documents comprising the New Testament text which has come down to us, and
which forms the substance of our usual editions; it is clear that many of our most
widely diffused readings have proceeded from earlier or more recent corruptions
in the primitive text; the Gospels especially were subject to arbitrary changes
within the very first ten years after they had been committed to writing.4646
is very doubtful whether from the way in which Justin cites Matt. xi. 27, and especially
in view of the transposition, we are right in forming conclusions as to a source
different from the Gospel of the church, in spite of the
close resemblance between the Homilies and Justin's citation. The passage runs in
Matthew, "No one knoweth (ἐπιγινώσκει, several very
ancient authorities γινώσκει,
but Clemens of Alexandria often, Origen often, Irenæus often, and Didymus, ἔγνω,
'knew') the Son but the Father; neither knoweth (as before) any man the Father save
the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (but Clemens of Alex. often,
Origen often, Irenæus twice, and Tertullian, "and to whom"—Irenæus "and to them
to whom " the Son may reveal him). In Justin (Dial. 100, 1st Apol. 63) we have "No one knoweth (twice 'knew') the Father save
the Son, nor the Son save the Father,
and those to whom the Son shall reveal him." In the Homilies xvii. 4, xviii. 4 and
13, "No one knows the Father save the Son, as also no one knoweth the Son (οἶδεν,
xviii. 3, 'nor knoweth any one the Son) save the Father and they to whom the Son
will reveal him.' Epiphanius has this transposition (in the fourth century) seven
times in eleven citations, and twice does it occur even in Irenæus, who in a third
place still has a reading which is peculiar to the Gnostics. We may notice the other
details of this verse, in which very early changes of the text are unmistakable,
without having to say, This is the canonical, this the heretical text. Compare in
this passage my Greek Testament, eighth edition, first part.
So in Matt. xxv. 41: "Depart (πορεύεσθε) from me, ye accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Justin (Dial. 76) and the pseudo-Clemens have, "Depart (ὑπάγετε) into outer darkness which the Father has prepared for the devil (pseudo-Clemens 'Satan') and his angels." Here not only has the Sinaitic Codex the same expression ὑπάγετε, but the Cambridge, which is allied to it, together with the oldest Latin witnesses, and Irenæus and Tertullian as well, have also, "which my Father has prepared for the devil and his angels."
So, too, from the passage in the Homilies xviii. 17, "Enter through the strait and narrow way, through which you will pass into life," there has been an attempt to draw an inference in favor of an extra-canonical source; but several of the oldest witnesses to the text, among them the Sinaitic Codex, lead to the supposition that Matt. vii. 13 and 14 was read at the most remote period as follows: "for broad and wide is the way," "for strait and narrow is the way," instead of "for wide is the gate and broad is the way," "for strait is the gate and narrow is the way."
My discussion thus far of the extracts which Justin makes from the Gospels relates solely to those which he draws from the synoptic ones, the first three. Despite the prevailing skepticism in this matter, it is as good as certain that Justin made use of those three Gospels: but 66all the more obstinate is the assertion that he had no acquaintance with John's Gospel. But what in fact is his relation to John? In. my opinion there are most cogent reasons for believing that John was read and used by Justin. The delineation of the person of Christ, characteristic of John, as, for example, in the opening of the Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," and in verse fourteen, "And the Word became flesh," as well as the general designation of Jesus as the Logos or Word of God,4747Throughout the whole Gospel of John this exclusively Johannean designation does not appear again; it is found only in the Apocalypse xix. 13, and as the "Word of life" at the beginning of the Epistle of John. Is it to be expected that Justin, if he did indeed draw from John, would use this term exclusively or with marked signs of preference? appears unmistakably in not a few passages in Justin, such, for instance, as "And Jesus Christ was begotten in a manner wholly peculiar to himself as the Son of God, while he is also the Word (Logos) of the same." "The primeval force (δύναμις) after the Father of All and God the Lord, is the Son, the Word (Logos); and I shall show how he through the incarnation (σαρκοποιηθεὶς) became man." "The Word (Logos) of God is the Son of the same." "As they have not confessed all that belongs to the Logos, which is Christ, they have 67often uttered what is at variance with itself." "Through the Word (Logos) of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour became flesh (σαρκοποιηθεὶς)." To these passages, taken from the brief second Apology, I add the following, taken from the first (chap. 33): "By the expressions the Holy Ghost and the Power of God in Luke i. 35 [the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee], we are to understand the Logos, which is the' first begotten of God." In the "Dialogue," chap. 105, we find that "the same was begotten by the Father of All after a peculiar manner as the Word (Logos) and Power (δύναμις), becoming flesh through the instrumentality of the Virgin Mary, as we learn from the memorials which I have already displayed." In order to invalidate the proof found here that Justin wrote not independently of John, critics have made an effort to point out the differences between the conceptions of Logos which they both maintained, and to show that Justin had a superficial and merely external view of it. But is it to be supposed that those who first accepted 68the doctrines of John were able to fathom and exhaust them all? On the contrary, does not the fact that Justin was not able to penetrate to the depths of John's theology show that in his very allusions to it, without fully comprehending it, he was not independent of it? It seems to me that the internal connection between both meets the opponents of the authenticity of John's Gospel in no more convincing manner than in showing how the doctrines of John may be culled from the words of Justin.4848Comp. Volkmar, Ursprung unserer Evangelien, p. 95: "Justin contains the root of that which is. cited in the Gospel of John, the beholder of the Lamb (Rev. v. 12; i. 5), or rather, Justin himself appears as one of the sources in favor of the later transformations of this latest Gospel." "Much more clearly does the most exact trial reveal this: that the one who tells of the Logos follows him who teaches regarding the Logos, the post-John follows the martyr substantially in all things; and it is beyond all doubt that Justin at least never saw this new Gospel. So far as the formula is concerned, it is not only wholly possible, but even probable, yes, the one thing probable, that the one who tells of the Logos was not only really but was also recorded to have been in the school of Justin, the teacher of the Logos."
There are not wanting passages in John's Gospel, moreover, which may be found specifically reproduced in Justin. In the "Dialogue," chap. 88, he writes of John the Baptist, "The people believed that he was the Christ; but he said to them, I am not Christ, but the voice of a preacher." This is in direct connection with the words of John i. 20 and 23; for the first words in the reply of the Baptist have been reported by no other evangelist than John.
Twice can Justin's expressions only be explained by supposing him to have been familiar 69with the account in John ix. of the man who had been born blind. He speaks expressly of the miraculous healings effected by Jesus, and says in the first Apology (chap. 22) that the Saviour restored to health one who was born lame, palsied, and blind.4949The word πηρὸς has definitively and preferably the signification "blind," as the explanations in Hesychius and Suidas show; so too the whole passage, belonging here, Constitut. v. 7: 17, where the blind man of John's Gospel as well as of Justin is called ὁ ἐκ γενετῆς πηπὸς. In like manner in the "Dialogue" (chap. 69) he declares that Jesus healed those who were blind, deaf, and lame from their birth,5050In both passages Justin has the literal expression of John ix. 1, ἐκ γενετῆς, which is almost never elsewhere used in reference to miraculous accounts of the Gospels. Justin, too, in his Apology, puts it in immediate connection with the blind, after naming the lame and the palsied. The same seems to be true, too, of the passage in the Dialogue, although the expression is capable of being connected with the deaf and the lame. giving to one sound limbs, to another hearing, to a third restored sight. What a trick of art is it to take the words "I was born blind,"5151The emphatic expression of John and Justin, ἐκ γενετῆς, does not appear here, but ἐγεννήθην. spoken by the man who was a defender of Christ, and who corresponds to the blind man of Jericho, and to make them refer to an unknown source used by Justin, an ostensibly lost authority of the. narrative which he gives elsewhere! To what end is this? To no other than to discredit the Gospel of John, and to deny that it was before Justin when he wrote.
The words of Zechariah xii. 10 Justin quotes (first Apology, 52; also "Dialogue," 14 and 33) precisely in the language of John xix. 37, " they shall look on him whom they pierced." 70The text of the Seventy, which Jerome expressly confirms, has an entirely different translation5252That the translation of John found a place in some of our manuscripts of the Septuagint, is no less than an evidence in favor of a primitive translation followed by Justin and John, and at variance with the text of the Seventy. Naturally Tertullian (de resurr. carn. 26) as well as Theodotus (excerpt. 62) follow John's Gospel; whereas another passage of Tertullian (de carn. Christ. 24, also adv. Marc. 3, 7, and adv. Iud. 14, both as far as "tribus ad tribum") attaches itself rather to the Apocalypse i. 7. The seventh chapter of the Epistle of Barnabas must also be brought into connection with the same passages of John. of this passage; yet there is one of the older versions given us by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, which coincides with the language of John and Justin. There is nothing more improbable than that John and Justin were here independent of each other, and followed a translation of the Hebrew text which is unknown to us. Is the acceptance of this theory, one of the most untenable of positions, taken to avoid the manifest connection between the words of Justin and those of John?
To close this part of our discussion, we find in Justin's first Apology, chap. 61, Christ has said, "Unless ye are born again, ye can not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is manifest to every one that those who have been born once can not enter again into their mother's womb." This passage has been the theme of much controversy; but I am fully of the opinion that Justin had in view the passage in John iii. 3 to 5, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again,5353The form retained in our translation, "be born again," which is in accordance with the Vulgate, is literally justified by, and is significantly recommended in the answer of Nicodemus. So, too, the explanation of the new birth made by Jesus, in the fifth verse, to Nicodemus, is much more closely allied with being "born again" than with being born "from above." Many commentators, however, ancient as well as modern, prefer the expression "from above." If, however, this reading is to be taken in the sense as if the expression of Justin did not conform to that of John, and therefore discloses another origin than John's Gospel, it is singularly thought possible to decide how Justin was obliged to understand John's expression. But see the next note. he can not see the kingdom 71of God.5454In order to deny the connection of the Justinian quotation with the passage from John, it has been asserted that the expression used in the first, the "kingdom of heaven" (βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), is not Johannean. But the same expression is so strongly authenticated in the following fifth verse, by the Sinaitic Codex, by the Docetes in Hippolytus, by a newly discovered fragment of Irenæus (in Harvey, p. 498), by the apostolical constitutions, and by Origen (in the Interpres), that it must be regarded as in the original. (Accepted in 1864 in my synopsis.) I must remark in addition, that the fragment of Irenæus has ἀναγεννηθῇ (born again) instead of John's γεννηθῇ: it shows how much it lay at heart with Justin and others to give the idea of John's γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν (born anew) by ἀναγεννηθῆτε (born again). Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he can not enter into the kingdom of God" [kingdom of heaven according to the Sinaitic Codex and other ancient authorities.] Now what means is there of escaping the inference which the parallelism in these two passages gives rise to? Those who have attempted to do this have quoted Matt. xviii. 3, " Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," and have given utterance to the suspicion that in some lost Gospel, perhaps that of the Hebrews, to which reference has already been made, this passage was recorded just as Justin has given it, his authority therefor being not John, but some previous writer.5555For this view is claimed the similarity, also, which the quotation in the pseudo-Clementines, xi. 26, has with that of Justin: "for thus says the prophet, 'Verily I say unto you, except ye be born again with living water in the name of the Father, ye can not come into the kingdom of heaven."' The significance of this similarity is to be inferred from what has been expressed in the previous notes. That the earlier expressly denied dependence on John's Gospel is to be discerned in the newly discovered close of his Homilies, may be seen further on. Compare what is said under the head "Naasenians." In order therefore to avoid what lies directly in our path, we are compelled to have recourse to, some unknown higher authority. The second 72part of Justin's expression gives all the less reason for appealing from John to Matthew, that the fifth verse in the passage in John (standing in direct connection with the third), "he can not enter into the kingdom of heaven" [Himmelreich], is the apparent basis of Justin's expression, "ye can not enter into the kingdom of heaven." The phrase "kingdom of God" was completely overshadowed by the more usual one, kingdom of heaven.5656John uses the expression "kingdom of God" only in iii. 3; it is often met, on the contrary, in Luke, both in the Gospel and the Acts; often, too, in Mark, and several times in Matthew. Decisive too of the personal use of John by Justin is that expression of the latter relative to the entering again into the mother's womb and being born, derived from John iii. 4. To suppose such a coincidence of thought and language to have been accidental, is a feat of trickery which can deceive no one capable of forming an independent judgment.
To this result, which confirms the authenticity of the first three Gospels as much as it does the fourth, I must add two points more, which still strengthen my conclusions. One of these is, that Justin is in the habit of alluding to the "Memorabilia of the Apostles, known as 73Gospels," without specifically mentioning the names of the authors. Yet while doing this he makes particular mention of the fact that the writers were apostles5757See Dialogue, chap. 103. In the Latin version the passage runs, "in commentariis quos ab eius apostolis et eorum sectatoribus scriptos dico." and companions of Jesus, and by speaking of their combined writings as the "Gospel" he leads us to the undoubting conviction that it was invested with full canonical authority: and such an investiture naturally allows the names of the writers to fall into the background and to be unnoticed, while their writings might have general acceptance. In the second place, we have to' notice that Justin, even in his first Apology (chap. 67), asserts that in the Christian congregations the "Memorabilia of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets" were read every Sunday. Here then is an instance of the Gospels and the prophetical books being placed on the same plane, the first being exalted to the same canonicity which the latter had enjoyed from the first. It is an error or a self-deception to deny that Justin's words do not warrant the acceptance of those books as canonical, on the ground that there were writings 74read in the church which were not accepted as a part of the canon. There were such books indeed, but they formed a class subordinate to the canon, and pre-supposing the formation of it. Of course there was not at the outset an immediate recognition of the equality of the Christian records with the hallowed books of the Old Testament; but after the church had enlarged the canon by admitting those sacred writings which had sprung from a common source, and had given them equal honor with those previously accepted, there came into view certain books which had more or less claim to recognition as canonical: and thus it came about that some were admitted to the prerogative of being read in the churches, without sharing the same honor which was given to those accepted as fully canonical. At a later period the church found it to be for its interest to assign to these books, to which usage gave a kind of half-canonical character, a rank equal to the highest. That this does not apply in the least to the earliest formation of the Christian canon is shown by the 75Muratori Fragment which speaks of the Apocalypse of John and of Peter. We accept these, but the last named is not admitted by some of our scholars to the honor of being publicly read in church. This doubt expresses distinctly the want of full canonical authority which led to the rejection of the writing in question. Later usage can not do away with this; and just as little can the fact that in some instances the direct relation of a paper to a single congregation became a source of advantage to the common church, as is testified by Dionysius of Corinth (Euseb., Hist. Eccl. iv. 23) in the case of the letters of Clemens and Soter to the Corinthians. In the Muratori Fragment already referred to, it is stated, toward the end of the Shepherd of Hermas, that he was to be recommended for private use, but not for public worship, and that he was to be included neither in the number of prophets nor apostles.
The manner in which Justin expresses himself in the passage quoted above (first Apology, chap. 67) makes it impossible, in my opinion, to doubt that in his time the Gospels were accepted 76as of canonical authority. We possess in fact a much earlier testimony of this equality in one of the generally accepted seven short letters, in that to Smyrna, the seventh chapter, where are the words, "It behooves us to give heed to the prophets, and especially to the Gospel, in which the passion and the resurrection are fully portrayed." Here too, as the reader observes, there is a manifest coupling of the prophets and the authors of the Gospels, i. e. the books which in their full extent and defined limits form the Gospel, and a proof that both were in common use in the church.5858In the same sense the passage in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Philadelphians appears to have authoritative weight: "while I curse myself before the Gospel, as the body of Jesus, and before the apostles as the elders of the church. But the prophets we will love because they have prophesied of the Gospel and have hoped and waited for the Lord." By the expression the "Gospel as the body of Jesus," in its connection with the apostles and prophets, is probably to be meant the written Gospel in the hands of the church.
These are proofs from the first quarter (whether the year be taken as 107 or 115) and from the second quarter (139, or, as some suppose, ten years earlier) of the second century, that at that time the Gospels were held as of equal validity with the prophets, and were admitted to canonical authority, a place being assigned them directly after the prophetical books. What is not told us in detail respecting the various Gospels may be inferred from many other testimonies. I have already shown, from 77various passages of Justin Martyr's undisputed writings, that our Gospels, without the exception of the fourth, that of John, were admitted to form one Gospel, and to be invested with canonical authority. Is it possible, therefore, for the opinion to be justified that at Justin's time other Gospels than ours were in use as having had a sacred origin, in spite of the fact that, decades after Justin, these, and no others, were in repute through the whole Christian church? Does it not contravene all that we know of the origin of the canon, that at the outset, and even in the age of Justin, only Matthew, Mark, and Luke were regarded as canonical, and that John was subsequently smuggled in?
According to the views of many, Justin was the author of the Letter to Diognetus; but those who assign to this an earlier date, and consider it the work of an older cotemporary of Justin's, are more correct. Although this short apologetic epistle contains no definite quotation from any one of the Gospels, it contains many allusions to evangelical passages, and especially 78to John. The words of the sixth chapter, "Christians live in the world, but are not of the world;" those of the tenth, "for God has loved men, for whom he created the world; . . . . to whom he has sent his only-begotten Son," contain almost unmistakable references to John xvii. 11, "these are in the world;" 14, "the world hateth them, for they are not of the world; " 16, "they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" and to John iii. 16, "for God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son."
But before advancing further we must come back to the Gospel of the Hebrews, whose use in connection with our synoptic Gospels is rendered probable by the language of Justin, by the pseudo-Clementine, and even by Tatian's Diatessaron, or Harmony of the Gospels, and testified by Eusebius (iv. 22: 3) of Hegesippus. Does not this bring into great uncertainty the character of the earlier Gospel canon? It certainly appears to do so if the Gospel of the Hebrews is admitted to a place side by side with the synoptic Gospels, and be regarded 79as an independent production. Against such a view there are a variety of considerations to be urged. I have already mentioned that the authorship of this Gospel was ascribed to Matthew. We shall see, further on, that at a very early period, in its original Hebrew form, it was held to be the work of Matthew, and that Greek editions, with many changes in the text, were in use among the judaizing Christians. This has led to the result that the passages of the Gospel of the Hebrews which have been transmitted to us from antiquity, and more especially those which have recently been brought to light5959See my Notitia editionis cod. Sin. cum catalogo codicum, etc., p. 58 et sq. The MS. of the Gospels indicated under No. 2, in my collection of Greek MSS. dating probably from the ninth century, contains in three passages of Matthew the parallels of the Hebrews' Gospel (called τὸ ἰουδαϊκόν). At Matt. iv. 5, we have "to Jerusalem," not "into the holy city." At xvi. 17 is the reading υἱὲ ἰωάντου (son of John), not βαριωνᾶ (son of Jona). At xviii. 22, in the Hebrews' Gospel, after the words "seventy times seven," the addition, "for in the prophets, too, after that they were anointed with the Holy Ghost, was sin found" (literally the "word of sin," λόγος ἁμαρτίας). This remarkable passage was given by Jerome in the Latin form. At xxvi. 74, it is asserted that instead of the words "then he began to curse and to swear," the Hebrews' Gospel reads, "and he denied and swore and cursed." Such a parallelizing of special passages as we find here would be irrational, yes, impossible, had the Hebrews' Gospel not the same character, the same tone, and in the main the same language, with that of Matthew. And if some of the patristic quotations from it do not seem to give special support to this view, it is not to be forgotten that these citations must be made where there are deviations from Matthew's reading, and that they are represented to us as such. by the writer of these pages, manifest a striking parallelism with our Gospel of Matthew. All these circumstances lead to the conviction that at the beginning, and probably during the first half of. the second century, the Gospel of Matthew and that of the Hebrews were regarded not as essentially different productions, but as different editions of the same document, and that by degrees greater light was diffused regarding the variations in them. Thus Irenæus states of the Ebionites, in two passages (i. 26: 802; iii. 11: 7), that they made use of the Gospel of Matthew; while Eusebius (iii. 27), probably referring to the first of these passages, corrects Irenæus's statement, and puts the Gospel of the Hebrews in the place of that of Matthew. Yet it happened, near the end of the fourth century, that the most learned theologian and most experienced critic of his age, Jerome, while in possession of the Gospel of the Hebrews in the Syro-Chaldaic dialect of the country, and full of the recollections of an older tradition, believed that it was the original text of Matthew fallen into his hands. After becoming more fully acquainted with it, and after translating it into Latin and Greek, he acknowledged that many believed that it was the work of Matthew himself.
Thus far we have been concerned almost exclusively with the writings of men in whom the church, from the second century, in which they lived, onward, recognized venerated pillars of the faith. Yet at the same epoch there was a rich literature, which, in conjunction with what was ecclesiastical, put forth a rank growth, 81which elevated far above the simple Christian doctrine a system of speculations evolved from the schools of heathen and Jewish philosophy: I refer to the heretical views which became current, and which may be also known as the doctrines of the Errorists. Even from this literature we derive convincing proofs that by the middle, or even before the middle of the second century, our Gospels had attained the highest degree of consideration. This is interesting not more for the light which it throws upon the earlier history of heresy than for that which it sheds upon the age and the origin of our Gospels. In calling upon these errorists to give evidence respecting the Gospels, we have no less an authority than Irenæus, that Bishop of Lyons of whom I have elsewhere spoken in detail. Irenæus himself utters the expression, "So firmly are our Gospels grounded, that even the errorists are compelled to acknowledge their credibility, and each one of them must begin with them in order to lay the foundations of his own system."6060See adv. hær. iii. 11: 7. "Tanta est autem circa evangelia hæc firmitas, ut et ipsi hæretici testimonium reddant eis, et ex ipsis egrediens unusquisque eorum conetur suam confirmare doctrinam." This is a judgment passed by the second half of the second century 82on the character of the first half. And this first half of the second century is just the period to which the opponents of the genuineness of our Gospels are accustomed to appeal. Now, are we to suppose that a man like Irenæus, who lived only a few decades after the period to which I am referring, was not better acquainted with the facts than the scholars and professors of the nineteenth century? The more the respect due to the true progress of science in our age, the less is owed to those scholars who employ their knowledge and acumen for the purpose of thrusting at truth. The accuracy of what Irenæus testified to can be substantiated even today with facts; and our tread is all the more secure if we do not withhold our belief. What the earliest Fathers have testified respecting the primitive errorists (and to the hints of the former we owe the larger share of our knowledge about the latter), shows us, in the most convincing manner, how radically separate they were from the Gospels, and from the books which were considered holy by the church. Irenæus himself is one of the chief preservers 83of these indications; after him comes a work (discovered only twenty years ago) of a disciple of Irenæus, Hippolytus by name, a man who lived so nearly contemporaneously with those errorists as to warrant being received as equally good authority as Irenæus regarding them.
One of the boldest and most gifted thinkers among those errorists was Valentinus,6161Irenæus iii. 4:.3 (and following him Eusebius iv. 11) makes him come to Rome at the time of Hippolytus, between 137 and 141. who came from Egypt to Rome about the year 140, and resided there for the twenty years succeeding. He undertook the task of writing a complete history of those "supernal transactions which took place in the realm of the divine primeval Powers and supernatural Being before the sending of the only-begotten of the Father," hoping to be able to determine the better from the character of these events the nature and mission of the Son of God. In carrying out this stupendous design, he did not overlook the bumble task of culling from John's Gospel a great number of conceptions and expressions, such as the Only-Begotten, the Word, Light, Life, Fullness, Truth, Grace, Saviour, Comforter, 84and of using them for his purpose. There is in this such an undeniable connection between the Gospel of John and the edifice of Valentine's construction that only two explanations of it are possible. Either Valentine made use of John or John of Valentine. The latter alternative, according to my previously stated views of the second century, must be regarded as pure nonsense, and closer investigation into the matter confirms this. If science, hostile to the church, is able to reconcile itself to this fact, it passes judgment on itself. Irenæus states explicitly that the sect of Valentine made the fullest use of the Gospel of John;6262See adv. hær. iii. 11: 7. Hi autem qui a Valentino sunt, eo (sc. evangelio) quod est secundum Johannem plenissime utentes ad ostensionem conjugationum suarum, ex ipso detegentur nihil recte dicentes, quemadmodum ostendimus in primo libro. and he gives the most explicit demonstration that the first chapter of John was drawn upon for one of the main features of the Valentinian system, the doctrine of the first Ogdoade.6363See adv. hær. i. 8: 5. Adhuc autem Johannem discipulum domini docent primam Ogdoadem et omnium generationem signifi casse ipsis dictionibus, etc. The statement of Irenæus confirms that of Hippolytus, for he cites expressions of John which Valentine had quoted. This is the most clearly the case with John x. 8; for Hippolytus writes, "Whereas the prophets and the law, according to Valentine's belief, were filled with a subordinate 85and foolish Spirit, Valentine says, 'The words of the Saviour are, "All who came before me are thieves and murderers."'"6464See Philosophum. vi. 35. Literally the passage runs: Therefore all the prophets, and the law spoken of as Demiurgos, a foolish god, sunk in folly and ignorance (ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ τοῦ δημιουργοῦ . . . μωροὶ οὐδὲν εἰδότες). On this account, according to Valentine, the Saviour says, "All that before me," etc. And as the Johannean, so were the other Gospels used by Valentine. According to the statement of Irenæus, he considered (i. 7: 4) the subordinate Spirit already mentioned, which he termed Demiurgos and Taskmaster, to be represented by the centurion of Capernaum (Matt. viii. 9; Luke vii. 8); in the dead and resuscitated twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus he recognized an image of his "sub-wisdom" (Achamoth), the mother of the Taskmaster (i. 8: 2); in like manner in the history of the woman who had suffered for twelve years from an issue of blood, and was healed by the Lord (Matt. ix. 20), he recognized the pains and restoration of his twelfth primeval spirit (Æon) i. 3: 3; and the expression of Jesus recorded in Matt. v. 18 he applied to the ten æons hinted at in the numerical value of the Iota, the smallest letter.
What do they who deny the high antiquity of John's Gospel say to this? They assert that all that pertains to John was not brought out 86by Valentine himself, but by his disciples. In fact, the expression is much more frequent in Irenæus "they say"—the followers of Valentine—than "he says," meaning Valentine himself. But who is wise enough to discriminate between what the master said and what the disciples added, without echoing their master in the least?6565Appeal is made especially to i. 8: 1-4, and 8: 5; yet in the former of these only the three first Gospels are referred to, in the latter only the last; moreover, they are alluded to only by Ptolemy, whose name is given in the Latin text ("Et Ptolemæus quidem ita;" in the Greek text these words are lacking) at the end of the account. At 8: 1-4, however, Irenæus refers to the Valentinians, not to Valentine. Can it be said, however, that 1-4 is the master with his pupils, and that in the fifth section only the pupil is meant? We must here touch once more upon the passage of Irenæus (iii. 11: 7) where he expresses himself respecting the relation of the heretics to the Gospels. After the sentence, "So securely are our Gospels founded, that even the errorists give testimony for them, and every one of these begins at the Gospels when he wants to try the foundations of his own system," he goes on to say, "For the errorists make exclusive use of the Gospel of Matthew, and are convinced from his pages alone of their error respecting the Lord. Marcion, however, avails himself of the mutilated Gospel according to Luke, and the very part which he retains makes his blasphemy against the only God apparent. Those who separate Jesus from Christ, and insist that it was Christ 87alone, and not Jesus, who suffered, assign a preference to the Gospel according to Mark. If they read it with real love of truth, they can be cured of their error; but they who cleave to Valentine make the fullest use of John's Gospel for the confirmation of their doctrine of Æons; and from this it can be seen that they teach nothing correctly, as we have shown in our first book." Does this representation of Irenæus accord with the view that the use of the Gospel according to John began with the disciples of Valentine, and not with Valentine himself? Irenæus declares the use of the Johannean Gospel to have been a characteristic feature of Valentine's school; and those names and conceptions already alluded to, which pervaded the whole system, testify convincingly to this: yet was all this a mere affix to the system? So much respecting Irenæus. In Hippolytus the expression is even more definite regarding Valentine. If now it is indisputable that the author does not always discriminate closely between the sect and the founder of the sect, have we an example of this in the case 88now under consideration? In those instances. where, in the course of a consecutive delineation, we are called upon to consider now the founder and then the sect, is it not more logical to conclude that the founder and the sect are to be taken as inseparably connected?
From one disciple of Valentine's, Ptolemaus by name, we receive a learned epistle, directed to "Flora." In it, in conjunction with several quotations from Matthew, is one from the first chapter of John: "All things were made by him (the Word), and without him was not anything made that was made, says the apostle." The method employed to rob such quotations of their force is to make the errorists who use these words as modern as possible; if it be possible to trace them back only to the close of the second century, the proofs drawn from them do not accomplish anything more than to substantiate what is already known, that at that time, as the opponents of the church gladly concede, the church in its ignorance had fallen into the use of the canon of four Gospels. But how recent was Ptolemaus's time? 89In all the most ancient sources he appears as one of the most distinguished and most influential disciples of Valentine's. As the epoch of the latter was about the year 140, do we go too far in setting the time of Ptolemaus at about 160 at the latest? Irenæus (in the second book) and Hippolytus name him in connection with Herakleon; and, in like manner, Pseudo-Tertullian (in the affix to De prescripitionibus hærticorum) and Philastrius place him directly after Valentine. Irenæus in all probability wrote the first and second books of his great work before the year 180, and in both he concerns himself very much with Ptolemaus.
Here, however, we must bring in the testimony of Herakleon, the other very eminent disciple of Valentine. Herakleon wrote all entire commentary on the Gospel of John; his work is known to us through the many fragments which Origen has woven into his own commentary on the same Gospel. From these fragments it is plain that Herakleon's object was carried out with consummate skill, to base the assertions of his school on John: in this he 90took the course which we have already remarked in Valentine. Wholly absorbed in his own ideas, he found them reflected in a certain double sense of Scripture which he traced particularly in John. In the passage, for example, iii. 12, "after that, he withdrew to Capernaum," he held that there is an allusion to the domain of material and worldly things to which the Saviour condescended. The want of susceptibility in this domain of sense he thought to be indicated by the fact that John has given us no account of what Jesus said or did while in Capernaum. The Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob was to him the representative of all souls which feel themselves drawn to what is divine; the water of Jacob's well, which could not satisfy all spiritual necessities, was the transitory Judaic economy. The man whom the woman is required to summon is her spiritual complement, her pleroma, her angel tarrying in the higher world of spirits. The water which was offered to her indicates the divine life which was poured forth by the Saviour; the jar of the woman portrays her susceptibility 91for this divine life. Is not this commentary the most striking proof of the high authority which the Gospel of John must have had even then in the church, when the very errorists who had turned away from the church so willingly sought the confirmation of their own ideas in it? And does not this show at a glance the absurdity of the theory which derives John's Gospel from the school of Valentine? But the question recurs, How old is Herakleon? It is one which has been urged with consummate skill against our ancient sacred literature; and the answer has been given with incredible thoughtlessness, that he was the cotemporary of Origen and of Hippolytus. Unquestionably the oppressive weight of the matter under discussion has been experienced, and hence has arisen the blindness to the evidences of antiquity which are still in existence.6666Compare, with reference to this, the Preface.
Irenæus mentions Herakleon in connection with Ptolemaus6767"Si autem non prolatum est sed a se generatum est, et simile est et fraternum et eiusdem honoris id quod est vacuum ei patri, qui prædictus est a Valentino; antiquius autem et multo ante exsistens et honorificentius reliquis æonibus ipsius Ptolemæi et Heracleonis, et reliquis omnibus qui eadem opinantur." in a way which shows him to have been a well-known representative of the school of Valentine. This acceptation of his words is all the more fully justified by the fact 92that he makes no further allusion to Herakleon. Clemens reminds us in the fourth book of his Stromata, written soon after the death of Commodus (193), of an interpretation given by Herakleon to Luke xii. 8, and terms him at the same time the most distinguished member6868Ὁ τῆς Οὐαλεντίνου σχολῆς δοκιμώτατος is the expression of Clemens. of Valentine's school. Origen states, at the commencement of his citations from Herakleon, that he was held to be a friend of Valentine's.6969Τὸν Οὐαλεντίνου λεγόμενον εἶναι γνώριμον Ἡρακλέωνα. Hippolytus alludes to him in vi. 29 in the following words: "Valentinus and Herakleon and Ptolemaus and the whole school of these disciples of Pythagoras and Plato." Epiphanius says (Hær. 41), "Cerdo (the same who, according to Irenæus, iii. 4: 3, was with Valentine in Rome) follows these (the Ophites, Kainites, Sethians) and Herakleon." According to this evidence, Herakleon can not be assigned to a date more modern than 150 or 160. The expression which Origen has used of his relations to Valentine must, according to the usages of speech, be understood as applicable to a personal relation.7070Comp. Orig. contr. Cels. 5. ὁ Μαρκίωνος γνώριμος Ἀπελλῆς, αἱρέσεώς τινος γενόμενος πατήρ, and the Tert. de carn. Chr. 1. "Apelles discipulus et postea desertor ipsius" (id est, Marcionis); Psuedo-Tertull. de præscr. hæret. LI. "Apelles discipulus Marcionis qui . . . postea . . . a Marcione segregatus est." Comp. also Hippol. Philosoph. vii. 12. Epiphanius has certainly erred (an occurrence not often met in him) in 93letting Cerdo, whose epoch must be set at about 140, follow Herakleon; but we have not the slightest right to suppose that he has made a mistake equal to the entire length of a man's life, and even more.7171But is the real meaning of Κέρδων διαδέχεται Ἡρακλέωνα, Cerdo follows Herakleon? Is it not rather, Cerdo follows in my work on Herakleon? If any one should happen to be pleased with this burlesque style of exposition, he will scarcely be able to persuade others of its excellence. Another discovery on the same side deserves equal credit. Hippolytus alludes to a contention between the two wings of the Valentinian school in these words: "The adherents of the Italiotic faction, to which Herakleon and Ptolemy belong, say thus; the adherents of the oriental faction, to which Axionikus and Bardesanes belong, thus." "Over this," he goes on to say, "they, and any body else who likes to, may quarrel." From this the inference is to be drawn not only that this "they" relates specifically to the above-mentioned heads of factions, but the word ζητείτωσαν, "may quarrel," indicates that these persons were still living and contending at the time of Hippolytus. Who could doubt after applying this test that Marcion and Tertullian were contemporaries, since the latter writes, de carne Chr.: "On such grounds hast thou probably ventured to put out of the way so many original writings respecting Christ, Marcion, in order to disprove his existence in the flesh. On what authority hast thou done this? I ask. If thou art a prophet, then prophesy; if an apostle, preach openly; if a follower of the apostles, hold fast to them; and if thou art a Christian, believe what is transmitted to us. But if thou art none of these, I might rightly say, then die, for thou art already dead; for thou canst not be a Christian if thou hast not the faith which makes one such." And on this account we may rejoice in the fact that a Gnostic partisan write a complete commentary on the Gospel of. John soon after the middle of the second century.
Had this Gospel then freshly appeared, and was it so flattering to the representatives of the Valentinian Gnosis that these gave it a cordial welcome? Assuredly it was no light task for them to draw out of the simple words of John their own profound system. And it is not a little remarkable that the church thoroughly shared in the fancies of the errorists who had wandered so far out of the way. In addition to this, there were those who knew that John had duly died at Ephesus without leaving behind any such legacy as a Gospel, and that such a work as it was could not have lain hid till that late day in a corner. If the reader was not able to come to an understanding with himself 94in this wondrous thought-structure, he only confirmed this fact, that the commentary of Herakleon is one of the strongest proofs that then, when. it was written, the Gospel of John had long been revered as one of the hallowed writings of the church, so that it seemed to Herakleon a thing of special importance to show that this apostolic document, if it should be rightly interpreted, must be used to confirm the system of Valentine.
While dealing with
Valentine, or, according to the order of time, before reaching Valentine, we encounter
Basilides, the period of whose activity occurs, according to Eusebius, at the epoch
of Hadrian. With all his exhaustive speculations on the Primeval, and the secret,
incomprehensible and lofty forces which spring from it with living impulse, with
all his meditations on the principles of light and darkness, life and death, his
method of grasping the subject of faith allied him by a close bond with the adherents
of time church, who stood on a lower platform, so far as profession is concerned,
than was the case with Valentine. 95One of his chief productions appears to be a commentary in twenty-four
books on the Gospel. Eusebius (iv. 7) infers the existence of this work from
the statements of a cotemporaneous opponent of Basilides, Agrippa Castor by name.
Fragments from his book appear to have been preserved by Clemens, Origen, Epiphanius,
and the so-called Archelaus Disputation. Has this work any relation to the subject
now under review? It certainly appears to have. For the expression quoted by
Eusebius from Agrippa Castor, that Basilides wrote twenty-four books7272See Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iv. 7: φησὶν (Agrippa Castor) αὐτὸν εἰς μὲν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τέσσαρα
πρὸς τοῖς εἴκοσι συντάξαι βιβλία. Even if nothing. more
definite is to be determined respecting the book of Basilides, it is a fact of weight
that Agrippa Castor had already made use of the same expression, from which we
learn with certainty that some centuries later he indicated the collective character
of our Gospels. "on the
Gospel," almost compels us to turn our thoughts to those Gospels which, according
to that earliest form of speech which comes to light even in Justin and Irenæus,
were designated as "the Gospel," even although the Gospel of the Hebrews, passing
under the name of Matthew, was the substitute for our Matthew. That this view
of the work of Basilides, on the skeptical side, is simply ludicrous, may be seen
at a glance. Still it is in harmony with what we gather from the letters of Ignatius,
from Polycarp, and from Justin, 96respecting the place which the Gospels held
in the first half of the second century. The fragments which have been alluded
to do not invalidate this view, but rather confirm it. So, too, what Clemens cites
(Strom. 3: 1) as from Basilides is closely connected with Matt. xix. 11, 12;7373When the apostles were asking whether it is better
not to marry, the story is that the Lord answered: "Not all can understand this,
for there are eunuchs who are so from their birth, others are compelled to be so,
and others still have made themselves eunuchs for the everlasting kingdom's sake."
The last words are supplemented by what is found in Clemens. In like manner the
same expression is cited by the Nikolaites in Epiphanius 25:6. Another extract found
in Clemens "from the 23d book of the Exegetica of Basilides," contains no passage
to be compared with this, nor does that in the Archelaus-disputation. the
quotation from Basilides, found in Epiphanius (Hær. 24: 5), is in direct alliance
with Matt. vii. 6;7474On this account he says, "Do not throw your pearls before swine, nor give that
which is holy to the dogs." that found in Origen in the commentary (lib. v. cap. 5) to
the Epistle to the Romans begins with the words from Romans vii. 9; his words are,
"For the apostle has said, 'Once I lived without the law.'" From this we infer
the general connection of Basilides with our New Testament.7575
That Jerome (in the pref. to Matt.
and likewise in his translation of the first Homily of Origen on Luke, according
to Jerome, also, Ambrosius on Luke) mentions an original Gospel of Basilides, probably
rests only upon the acceptance of the 24 books of the Gospel as of a Gospel in a certain sense apocryphal; we must therefore
consider the secret communications of Matthew, which according to Hippolytus were
extolled by Basilides and his followers, as that Gospel of Basilides.
See vii. 25. "As it is written, 'And the creation itself groaneth and travaileth together, waiting for the manifestation of the children of God."' (Rom. viii. 22 and 19.) "That is the . . . wisdom of which he says the Scripture asserts, 'Not with words which human wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth."' 1 Cor. ii. 13. Reference is made to the same in Eph. iii. 3 and 5, and 2 Cor. xii. 4.
To this must be added what we learn through the Philosophumena of Hippolytus concerning Basilides. This work contains a detailed account of him, having direct quotations from Paul7676See vii. 26. "That is it, he says, which is written: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, . . . and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee."' The allusion to Matthew is in vii. 22, and relates to the account of the star seen by the wise men. and Luke,7777See vii. 20. "Basilides, therefore, and Isodorus, Basilides' own son and disciple, assert that Matthias transmitted to them certain secret communications which he had received from the Saviour as a special charge. We shall see how openly Basilides as well as Isodorus and their whole crowd of followers calumniate not only Matthias but the Saviour also." This is at the commencement of his representation of Basilides, and his school. And just so often as he has occasion, in what follows, to mention Basilides, he is to be understood as alluded to in the same strain as at the outset. an allusion to Matthew, and two passages from John. In vii. 22, we read, "And that is what is said in the Gospels, 'he was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."' John i. 9. 97In this passage the expression "in the Gospels" is entitled to its due weight: it presupposes the existence of the evangelical canon hinted at in the other forms of quotation, such as "the Scripture says," and "it is written." Furthermore, in vii. 27, we find the expression "That everything has its time" is amply confirmed by the words of the Saviour, when he says, "My hour is not yet come." John ii. 4. Does not this bring into perplexity those who are so certain that at the time of Basilides not a word of John's Gospel was written? But no; there is a ready way out of this difficulty. That to which the words, "in the Gospel it is said," give a happy indication, is made to mean, (because, forsooth, no trace of a collection of Gospels can be traced back to that epoch,) that Hippolytus is not dealing with the genuine Basilides, but with a Basilidian document which was the product of his own time. Without entering upon an investigation of that discrimination which Hippolytus, who is so familiar with all that pertains to the ancient heretics, has made between his Basilides and the one yet 98more ancient, we must at least grant that he has made distinct and explicit7878See Theodoret. Quæst. xlix. in libr. iv. Regum: "On this account I believe that the Ophites are called Naassenians." The only mention of the Ophites in Hippolytus is viii. 20: Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔτεραί τινες αἱρέσεις ὀνομάζονται Καϊνῶν, Ὀφιτῶν ἢ Νοαχαϊτῶν (Νοαχιτῶν?) καὶ ἑτέρων τοιούτων οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον ἥγημαι τὰ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν λεγόμενα ἢ γινόμενα ἐκθέσθαι, etc. From this there can scarcely any inference be drawn, except that to Hippolytus the name of Ophites seemed quite secondary compared with that of Naassenians. reference to the older Basilides, and that he is not satisfied with his reader's accepting any other. Are we to suppose that it was a simple matter for the man who had been the disciple of Irenæus, and had died in the year 235, to err so singularly, while in the latest years of his life he was preparing a work drawn from first sources, as to ascribe to Basilides at the time of Hadrian what had been added during his own time by the followers of Basilides? Are we able to determine with certainty when the old system left off and the new began? And if we deny them both, and dare give credence to Hippolytus, we must admit that he has done us a great service in showing conclusively that Basilides and his school recognized the Gospels as books of ecclesiastical authority long before the middle of the second century, and expressly made use of the Gospel of John for his ends.
We come to the same result if we trace the relations of other Gnostic sects, the Naasenians and the Perates for example. The first derive 99their name from the Hebrew word naas, a snake, corresponding to the Greek Ophites. While the last name was long used by Irenæus and others, that of Naasenians began to be made current (aside from reference of Theodoret)7979The same division of the sentence is followed by many of our oldest textual documents, namely, the oldest patristic extracts. through the Philosophumena of Hippolytus. That the Naasenians were nothing but a fraction of the Ophites is not at all substantiated by the efforts made to support this hypothesis, and is wholly disproved by the statement of Hippolytus, who put the Naasenians and the Perates at the head of the Gnostics, giving them precedence before Simon Magus, the Valentinians, and Basilides, but, as he states expressly (v. 6), assigning them priority over all the other Gnostics. But while we place the opinion of Hippolytus above the doubts which negative criticism has raised, we yet reckon among the most valuable comments on the Gospels the following excerpts made by Hippolytus from the writings of the Naasenians living in the first half of the second century. In v. 8 he has this: "For all things, he asserts, (the writer of the Naasenian document) have been made by the same hand, 100and without that hand is nothing made. And what is made in him8080We do not add to the above all the peculiar Gnostic explanations appended to the passages in the original. is Life."8181In connection with these extracts we must call particular attention to the fact that they quite often unite a free transposition of the text with a strictly close repetition of the words. They reveal in this a striking similarity to the citations of Justin. The same kind of quotations from Matthew and the other synoptic Gospels compel us to draw an immediate inference as to an extra-canonical source. Does not the analogy with these Gnostic and almost contemporaneous extracts from John show how little such a hasty conclusion as to the Justinian citation is justified? Or are we, in the case of the quotation given above from John vi. 53, to draw a conclusion as to that extra-canonical source, because, in entire analogy with Justin's quotation from John vi. 51, the concluding words, "ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven," are given instead of John's "you have no life in you"? In another passage: "That it is which we have learned of the Saviour, 'Except ye drink my blood and eat my flesh, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (John vi. 53); Except ye drink the cup which I drink (Mark x. 38; Matt. xx. 22); Whither I go ye can not come.'" John viii. 21. Soon after he says, "His voice we have heard indeed, but his form have we not seen." John iii. 8; v. 37. In the same connection we find, "Touching this our Saviour says, 'No man can come to me except my heavenly Father draw him.'" John vi. 44. Again, v. 9, "For, says he, God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in spirit." Cf. John iv. 21, 24. Soon after we meet the words, "But if thou knewest who it is that asks thee, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." Connected with these passages, so evidently from John, there are others from Matthew (vii. 6, 13,14; 101iii. 10; xiii. 3, et sq.), and from Paul's Epistles (1 Cor. ii. 13, 14; 2 Cor. xii. 2, et sq.)
We ought not to refrain from adding to these Naasenian citations from John and found in Hippolytus, what is given to us in the writings of the Ophites, in that pseudo-Tertullianic document (Append. to Text de præscr. hæret.) which those who lean to the Philosophumena believe to be drawn from a writing still more ancient. The quotation from John stands in the closest relation to that glorification of the serpent from which the sect of Naasenians derives its name; and all the more forcibly are we compelled to assign to the founder of the sect, and not to some later effort from it, the application of the passage from John. In the pseudo-Tertullian (chap. 47 of the document de præscr. hær.) it is expressly stated, "To these must be added those heresiarchs who are called Ophites, i. e., Serpent-men. These pay such honors to the serpent that they place it even before Christ. For to the serpent, they say, we owe the beginning of our knowledge of good and evil. When Moses comprehended 102the greatness and power of the serpent, he elevated one of brass, and all who looked upon it were made whole. Besides this, they assert that even Christ hints at the sacredness of the serpent, when he says, 'And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.'" John iii. 14. We meet the same passage, as I shall presently show, in the literature of the Perates. For just as from the writings of the Naasenians many passages were selected by Hippolytus, so were many also taken from those of the Perates, especially such as were originally derived from the Gospel of John. I need cite but two of these, Art. v. 12. "For the Son of man is not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved." John iii. 17; v. 16. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man also be lifted up." John iii. 14.8282With reference to this, see a previous note. Tertullian adv. Marcion, i. 19, writes: Cum igitur sub Antonino primus Marcion hunc deum induxerit. . . . The determination of dates in Marcion's works is a matter presenting the gravest difficulties. Although the "invaluit sub Aniceto" of Irenæus iii. 4: 3 is not to be applied to his appearance at Rome, yet there is a contradiction still remaining involving a statement of Clemens (Strom. vii. 17), who places Marcion before Basilides and Valentine. As the latter position appears to be sustained by the recent striking discovery of a memorandum of Philastrius (hær. 45, qui, i. e. Marcion, devictus atque fugatus a beato Johanne evangelista), . . . so the same appears to be corroborated by the recent exhuming of the unquestionably ante-Jerome prologue to John, of which I shall have occasion to speak when I come to the Papias problem. Manifestly we have to deal with a primitive tradition running hack to a time antedating Marcion's earliest activity and his removal to Rome.
I have as yet made no mention of Marcion, a man whose nature and activities were strangely divided between the faith of the church and the Gnostic heresy. It is the more necessary for me 103to allude to him because use has been made of his writings in a way entirely at variance with my own convictions. He was born at Sinope, on the Black Sea, the celebrated Pontine capital of that time, in the early part of the second century. Subsequently to the year 128 he appears to have inculcated his peculiar doctrines at Rome; and, making it his special purpose to sever Judaism from Christianity, he undertook to eliminate from the apostolic writings everything which favored the former. In consequence of a statement which has come down to us from antiquity, that this writer made a collection of sacred writings (which may have taken place before the middle of the second century, between 130 and 140),8383See Iren. iii. 2 and 12, where the assertion is made by the heresiarchs with specific reference to Marcion: Dicentes se . . . sinceram invenisse veritatem. Apostolos enim admiscuisse ea quæ sunt legalia Salvatoris verbis. (iii. 2: 2.) Et apostolos quidem adhuc quæ sunt Judæorum sentientes annuntiasse evangelium, se autem sinceriores et prudentiores apostolis esse. Unde et Marcion et qui ab eo sunt ad intercidendas conversi sunt scripturas, quasdam quidem in totum non cognoscentes, secundum Lucam autem evangelium et epistolas Pauli decurtantes, hæc sola legitima esse dicant quæ ipsi minoraveruint. (iii. 12: 12.) Similar words in Tert. adv. Marc. iv. 3. Sed enim Marcion nactus epistolam Pauli ad Galatas, etiam ipsos apostolos suggilantis ut non recto pede incedentes ad veritatem evangelii, simul et accusantis pseudapostolos quosdam pervertentes evangelium Christi, connititur ad destruendum statum eorum evangeliorum, quæ propria et sub apostolorum nomine edantur vel etiam apostolicorum, ut scilicet fidem quam illis adimit suo conferat. and that he admitted into this collection only the Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul's Epistles, making such changes, moreover, in the text of them all as compelled them to suit his ideas, many scholars have supposed that this was the very first collection of sacred writings made by the church, and that the Gospel which he admitted into his collection was not Luke's, but was the as 104model which was followed when the one which we possess and call Luke's Gospel was written, and that he had no acquaintance with our other Gospels, including that ascribed to John.
All three of these positions we hold to be utterly untenable. The first of them, which gives to Marcion the priority in making a collection of New Testament Scriptures for the use of the church, rests upon a complete ignoring of the development of the canon; the elements of this development, as my own researches reveal them, I shall take occasion to sum up and present on a future page. It also rests upon an ignoring of the point of view which Marcion took in relation to the church. Taking his stand upon the ground of Paul's expressions in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians respecting those departures from the purity of the faith which were beginning to be manifested among the apostles themselves, he believed himself called, in the Pauline sense of the word, to the task of purging the Christian faith of Jewish elements.8484See Iren. iii. 1:1 (also Euseb. Hist. Eccl. v. 8): Et Lucas autem, sectator Pauli, quod ab illo prædicabatur evangelium in libro condidit. Tert. adv. Marc. iv. 5. Nam et Lucæ digestum Paulo adscribere solent. In like manner Orig. in Euseb. Hist. Eccl. vi. 25; Eus. iii. 4 and Hier. de viris illustrib. cap. 7: in all these three passages the assertion is distinctly made that it was then understood that Paul indicated Luke's Gospel when he spoke of his Gospel. Rom. ii. 16. Here belongs also Ps.-Orig. Dial. contr. Marcionit., sect. i. (Or. opp. ed. Delarue, vol. i. p. 808), where, to the question of the Orthodox man who asks, "Who wrote the Gospel of which thou sayest that it is the only one?" the Marcionite replies, "Christ," and to the second question, "Did the Lord himself write 'I was crucified and rose again on the third day'?" the answer is, "That was added by the apostle Paul." In executing this undertaking nothing was more effective than 105the laying of a correcting hand, upon those writings which even then were accepted as the valid standards of belief among the adherents of Christianity. The correctness of this mode of procedure, employed even by the oldest fathers of the church, was confirmed in a striking manner in his dealing with the Pauline Gospels. It is confirmed, moreover, by his treatment of Luke's Gospel, of which I shall have occasion to speak further on. And does it not harmonize entirely with his purpose, that he excluded other New Testament writings from his canon? It is possible that in one or another of the excluded documents the same anti-judaical spirit would have led to like results; yet it is perfectly conceivable, and is not open to our criticism, that in his devotion to Paul he contented himself with accepting ten of his Epistles and that Gospel, whose author, owing to his being a companion and helper of Paul, owed a great deal to the influence exerted upon him by Paul, so that his work might almost be called the Gospel according to Paul.8585See A. Ritschl (Prof. at Gottingen) in the Jahrb. f. deutsch. Theol. 1866, 2. p. 355: so is he (i. e. Prof. Tischendorf) unable naturally to convince himself that in a remote province like Pontus there could not be without a degree of personal fault a more limited acquaintance with Christian books than in other provinces of the church.
Very recently8686Had the Gospel of John appeared in Gottingen or in some other celebrated University-city of Germany, I should have been more able to take this charge home to myself. the statement has been made 106with consummate naïveté, that Marcion, sojourning in a remote province like Pontus, enjoyed a limited accessibility to Christian books, and that in making his collection he accumulated the greatest amount of materials that his scanty advantages allowed. The distance of that province, which at the time of Pliny comprised a very large population of Jews as well as of Christians, from the two centers of Christian Asia Minor, Ephesus and Antioch, is not greater than from Naples to Milan; and who in all the world, except a short-sighted professor, would draw the inference that a scholar, living in Pontus, during the fourth decade of the second century, making a collection of the Christian sacred books, was not acquainted with all our Gospels? The Epistles to the Corinthians and to the Romans were diffused and accepted; and yet we are to believe that the Gospel of John had not found its way from Ephesus to Sinope!8787See Iren. i. 27:2: Et super hæc id, quod est secundum Lucam evangelium circumcidens etc. III. 12:12: Unde et Marcion et qui ab eo sunt . . . secundum Lucam autem evangelium et epistolas Pauli decurtantes. Tertull. adv. Marcion, iv. 2: Ex iis quos habemus Lucam videtur Marcion elegisse quem cæderet. Porro Lucas non apostolus sed apostolicus. . . Ibid, iv. 4: Quod ergo pertinet ad evangelium interim Lucæ, quatenus communio eius inter nos et Marcionem de veritate disceptat, adeo antiquius est quod est secundum nos. . . Si enim id evangelium quod Lucæ refertur, penes nos (viderimus an et penes Marcionem) ipsum est quod Marcion per antitheses suas arguit, ut interpolatum a protectoribus Judaismi . . . utique non potuisset arguere nisi quod invenerat. Epiph. hær. xlii. 11. Finally, the theory which rests on the remoteness of Pontus loses all its force in helping us solve the question under discussion, from the fact that 107after Marcion went to Rome, and took a high position there, he did not modify at all what he had done in forming his collection of sacred writings. At Rome he would assuredly have been able to supply the lack of materials from which he is alleged to have suffered at Pontus; but we do not learn that he made any addition to his canon after coming to Rome.
The second of the positions mentioned above, that the gospel of Marcion served as a model for that which we now accept as Luke's—a position which bears the clearest evidence from the outset of being the result of reckless ignorance—has been surrendered in our own time by its own defenders. Still it is asserted by some scholars that our Gospel according to Luke, like that of Marcion, is a modified form of one still older but subsequently lost; that that of Marcion consequently did not spring from Luke's, but that they both originated in a common source, to which Marcion remained true. Going in this direction one step further, they succeeded in finding in Marcion the oldest of all the Gospel Codices. This view, entirely apart 108from the last mentioned bold act of an intoxicated fancy, is in opposition to what Irenæus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius say8888See Tertull. adv. Marc. iv. 2: Marcion evangelio scilicet suo nullum adscribit auctorem. . . . regarding Marcion's gospel, which they possessed; in consequence, however, of the ignorance prevailing respecting Marcion's labors, and in consequence also of some indemonstrable hypotheses, it has gained a certain appearance of truth and consequent acceptance. The efforts to strike out the subsequent additions from our Gospel of Luke for the purpose of restoring the supposed older original, suffer from that arbitrariness which modern hypercriticism has assumed in all discussion of the origin of the Gospels. The fact that Marcion gave no name8989See a previous note. to his Gospel is made to give support to the claim that it is the only true Gospel, and is entitled to no influence in directing our researches respecting this Gospel.
We come to the third position, a refutation of which will throw light upon both of the others. Marcion is asserted to have not possessed the other Gospels, including that of John. If Marcion found the other Gospels in their main 109form, just as we possess them now, in the possession of the church of his time, the view of the priority of his collection over the primitive canon of the church falls to the ground; and equally frail is the hypothesis respecting the parallelism between the Gospel according to Marcion and our Luke, together with the consequences drawn therefrom respecting the authority of our canon in its present form; and so there is gained no insignificant proof of the high antiquity and the genuineness of the Gospel according to John.
What grounds have we for believing that Marcion was acquainted with our Gospels? All that Irenæus and Tertullian still more explicitly have told us in reference to this matter makes it certain. For where Irenæus (i. 27, 2) writes concerning Marcion, that in opposition to his pupils he held his trustworthiness greater than that of the apostles, who transmitted the Gospel (qui evangelium tradiderunt), inasmuch as he did not give the (whole) Gospel, but a part of the Gospel (non evangelium, sed particulam evangelii), the meaning is, 110according to Irenæus's use of language else. where (i. 27, 2), that Marcion gave his disciples only one of the Gospels, namely, that of Luke. That by the expressions "evangelium" and "particulam evangelii" we are to understand the Gospels, and not the Sermon on the Mount, is shown by another passage of his work (iii. 12, 12), where, in reference to Marcion and other heresiarchs, we read, "The apostles have spread the Gospel abroad filled with Jewish prejudices (adhuc quæ sunt Judæorum sentientes): and these are even more fair and wise than the apostles." Irenæus then goes on to say, "On this account Marcion and his adherents have made it their aim to diminish the extent of the sacred books (ad intercidendas scripturas conversi sunt), some of which they lave entirely rejected, while they have reduced the size of Luke's Gospel and Paul's Epistles, insisting that the scriptures which they have retained and revised are the only ones which are to be accepted." These statements of Irenæus have no twofold meaning, and are not susceptible of two interpretations. He evidently presupposes 111a familiar knowledge on the part of the reader of what he means by the "reducing of the sacred books," and by a "non-recognition" of some of them: and in order to understand what he means we have only to take his own point of view.
Tertullian's admissions are much more to the purpose, although in his case we have to bear in mind that he is not writing for critical scholars, who are accustomed to avail themselves of every lack in a complete chain of evidence to help support their own views. After citing (adv. Marc. iv. 3) Marcion's misuse of the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians (see a previous page), he says: "Connititur ad destruendum statum eorum evangeliorum quæ propria et sub apostolorum nomine eduntur vel etiam apostolicorum, ut scilicet fidem quam illis adimit suo conferat." Among the Gospels which he designates as those "which bear the name of apostles, or men of apostolic character," are to be understood the four which we possess, unless we purposely misinterpret Tertullian's words. Shortly before (iv. 2), he had in the 112most definite language9090See adv. Marc. iv. 5: Cur non hæc quoque (cætera evangelia) Marcion attigit, aut emendanda si adulterata, aut agnoscenda si integra? Nam et competit ut, si qui evangelium pervertebant, eorum magis curarent perversionem quorum sciebant auctoritatem receptiorem. Likewise, De carne Chr. 2: Rescindendo quod retro credidisti, sicut et ipse confiteris in quadam epistola. Directly before this we have, however, Tot originalia instrumenta Christi, Marcion, delere ausus es. designated the Gospels as books which had been written by actual apostles, such as Matthew and John, as well as by men of apostolic dignity, such as Mark and Luke. In order to escape the force of this striking testimony of Tertullian, without accusing him of ignorance or falsification, an unfortunate attempt has been made to get rid of the difficulty by asserting that apocryphal Gospels are here meant, bearing unauthenticated names of apostles. Whoever listens for an instant to such a plea—and how one can is hardly to be imagined—must hold as not genuine the closing words of Tertullian, "and expressly to ascribe to his own testimony the credibility which he denies to theirs [the apostolic evangelists]." Tertullian repeats, moreover, respecting the passages from Matthew's Gospel, "Marcion has stricken this from the Gospel." Comp. adv. Marc. ii. 17; iv. 7. In the passage quoted on a previous page, de carne Chr. 2, the words, "tot originalia instrumenta Christi, Marcion, delere ausus es," are used in direct relation to the first chapters of Matthew and Luke. Adv. 113Marcion iv. 5 he complains of Marcion on the ground that instead of availing himself of Luke (a Gospel at second hand), he did not at once take up those whose authority (as the work of actual apostles) he knew to be higher.9191See De carne Chr. 2, in the previous note; see also adv. Marc. iv. 4. De carn. Christ. 3, he says, "If thou hadst not purposely rejected or changed the reading of the writings which are opposed to thy system, the Gospel of John would surely have convinced thee in this matter." We find attention called finally to an epistle of Marcion, from the contents of which Tertullian establishes conclusively the fact that Marcion once accepted what he subsequently rejected.9292See adv. Marc. iv. 4. Quid si nec epistolam agnoverint?
From all this it is established with the utmost certainty that Tertullian subjected Marcion to weighty reproaches for rejecting the Gospels (including John, once expressly named) which he had once accepted, and which Tertullian, in common with the church, continued to hold. Au epistle of Marcion which he thought might possibly be disavowed by the followers of Marcion9393See Ritschl in Jahrb. für deutsche Theol. i. a. 1. "The African was, however, great in his malicious perversion of the assertions of his heretical opponents, and whoever has followed the course of his onslaught upon Marcion must know how much he had to draw from Tertullian's expression, in order to establish the historical fact which he wanted to make good. If Marcion complained of the depravatio evangelii and gave himself out as the emendator evangelii, he meant by evangelium the regula fidei, Christianity as a common belief; which he wanted to purify from the Judaic additions made by the anti-Pauline school. And since Marcion. did not defend the Gospel canon which was known to Tertullian, the latter drew the inference that he was opposing the value of this collection on the ground of being a reformer of it. served to show him what was the character of the man. The question naturally comes 114up, Is Tertullian entitled to credibility in this affair?
It is now difficult to set aside the claims of those who have enacted the history of the primitive Christian church, on a basis of anti-ecclesiastical prejudices and fancies. Polemical zeal, united with a certain passionate force of conviction, sometimes carried the great African polemic too far, and made him unjust to the heretical opponents whom he had to confute. But is this general fact enough to warrant us in crying out that here he is making false inferences? Men have even the hardihood to say—for shamelessness is now an extinct idea—that what Tertullian states with all correctness must be set to the account of "malicious persecution."9494See adv. Marc. iv. 4: Emendator sane evangelii (this is consequently Tertullian's own statement, from which there is an effort to prove his misunderstanding of the matter) a Tiberianis usque ad Antoniana tempora everti Marcion solus et primus obvenit, exspectatus tam diu a Christo, pœnitente iam quod apostolos præmisisse properasset sine præsidio Marcionis; nisi quod humanæ temeritatis, non divinæ auctoritatis negotium est hæresis, quæ sic semper emendat evangelia dum vitiat. That what Tertullian advances finds powerful support in Irenæus is plain; but when the clearest and most evident matters are made to assume an obscure appearance, how much easier to bring under suspicion the passages from Irenæus, which hint at more than they openly express. Is anything plainer than that the reform9595Τὸν μὲν παράκλητον Μοντανὸν αυχοῦντες. which Marcion endeavored to 115carry into the Gospels aimed specifically at correcting the canonical writings of the New Testament? Did Tertullian need the help of schoolmasters more than we do, to know that "evangelium" has other meanings than a written record? And is the accusation brought against Marcion, that he rejected the apostolic records, which were well known to him, and which even bore the authenticated names of apostles, and that he made arbitrary changes in Luke as well as in the Pauline Epistles, anything else than empty inference? And why is this attempt made? Is not the object to get rid of the truth, to undermine and destroy the force of one of the most important means of substantiating the primitive authority of our Gospels, more especially that of John? Those readers who are not specially engaged in prosecuting learned researches need nothing more than what has already been given to qualify them for passing judgment on this matter. Such readers ought to use every occasion to ascertain what the character of the learning is, 116which those professors sustain who make it their task to decry the authenticity of the Gospels.
One of the most interesting phenomena in the church, and one of lasting influence, was Montanism. Its aim was to stem the violent tide of Gnosticism, which was swamping the simple older faith with philosophic speculation, and sought to benefit men by giving them a deep inward and direct apprehension of divine truth. Taking a stand not only against foreign speculations but equally against the traditional deadness of an external ecclesiasticism, it, like Gnosticism, at length shot above the church through its exaltation of a fanatical spirit of prophecy, above the tranquil and orderly development of Christianity through doctrines of the new birth and spiritual illumination.
If, following the object which I have in view, we ask what place Montanism took in relation to the writings of the New Testament, the greatest difficulty in the way of finding an answer lies in the fact that we are scarcely in a position to make a general discrimination between the form which had been given at the end 117of the second century by means of Tertullian's reformatory character, to the theological system then existing, and that which it had assumed at the outset ill Syria. The account given by Eusebius, although drawn from fragments dating from the comparatively recent time of Marcus Aurelius (161 to 180), and that of Epiphanius, which aimed more distinctively at a confutation of opponents, are of a very incomplete character. The little which Irenæus has respecting this matter is hinted at in such various fashion that one hint only darkens the meaning of another. The scanty allusions in the Philosophumena of Hippolytus give rise to the suspicion that they relate rather to Tertullian's epoch than to the beginning of Montanism in the year 150.
The distinctive question which meets us here is this: Has Montanism from the very first appropriated to itself, independently of John's Gospel, that prophetic spirit which was poured out, as is averred, on Montanus, his female companions, and his followers, and which stood in intimate connection with the Paraclete which 118was promised by the Saviour to his disciples (John xiv. 16, 26)? The wanton character of Phrygian fanaticism leads us to suspect that the letter of Scripture was held in no regard; and the extracts quoted in Eusebius (v. 16 to 19), as well as the document of Epiphanius, contain nothing which can give us any light in this matter. It is quite otherwise with what Eusebius, and, long before him, Irenæus and Hippolytus record.9696Alii vero ut donum spiritus frustrentur, quod in novissimis temporibus secundum placitum patris, effusum est in humanum genus, illam speciem (the account of the "quadriforme evangelium." went before, to whose four "species" there is a subsequent reference) non admittunt quae est secundum Johannis evangelium, in qua paracletum se missurum dominus promisit; sed simul et evangelium et propheticum repellunt spiritum. Infelices vere qui pseudoprophetas (a better reading assuredly than pseudoprophetæ) quidem esse volunt, propheticam vero gratiam repellunt ab ecclesia; similia patientes his, qui propter eos qui in hypocrisi veniunt etiam a fratrum communicatione se abstinent. In Irenæus (iii. 11, 9) we read: "But others, in order to do away with the gift of the Spirit, which, according to the counsel of the Father, is poured out on all flesh, do not accept that promise made in the Gospel of John, that the Lord will send down the Paraclete, casting away not only this prophetic gift, but the Gospel as well which records its sending. It is truly their misfortune that, while granting that there are false prophets, they yet deny to the church the true and real gift of prophecy; it is with them as with those who, because there are hypocrites in the church, withhold themselves from all fraternal converse with the brethren."9797Otherwise the Montanists and their most decided followers must have met in their rejection of the Gospel of John. There is not only no support for this view, involving as it does the grossest contradictions, but it contradicts as well what Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Eusebius have recorded respecting the connection of the Paraclete with the Montanist prophetic spirit. And had the Montanists thrown away the Gospel of John at the outset, how would it be clear that in Tertullian, the reformer of Montanism, we find (without the least trace of a contrast to the earlier Montanism) the Gospel of John standing in the closest connection with Montanism? Besides, all which is expressed in the passage of Irenæus applies just as appositely to the opponents of Montanism, as it is inapposite and incomprehensible when it is made to refer to the Montanists. The reference of this passage 119to the Montanists we hold in common with Lucke and others as not at all made out;9898Neander (Hist. of the Christian Church, 1856, 3d ed.) remarks in allusion to the Irenæus passage, which he understands just as I do: "Irenæus, from whom we receive our first knowledge respecting this party [the Alogians], assuredly says too much when he states that they rejected the Gospel of John in consequence of the passage relating to the Paraclete. That passage alone certainly could not have led to this, for they only made use of it, as was the case with others, to limit it to the apostles, in order to take away the support from beneath the Montanists. But since they, if those words of Christ were brought against them with a Montanist interpretation, stigmatized the whole document which contained them as not genuine, the inference was a quick one that, in consequence of a kind of legerdemain only too common in theological discussion, they had in consequence of this passage rejected the whole Gospel." but we regard the argument as conclusive, that the opponents of the Montanists, wittily called by Epiphanius, in a double use of language, Alogians, are meant. Epiphanius also bears evidence that the Alogians rejected the Gospel and the Apocalypse of John. But if it is a real characteristic of the opponents of Montanism, that they rejected John's Gospel, it is entirely probable that this was the result of the connection between the prophetic Spirit of the Montanists and the Paraclete of that Gospel It is not credible that the Alogians first brought this connection into view; according to the words of Irenæus, previously cited, it is certain that he was already of the opinion that the Alogians had rejected this Gospel simply because of this connection, and because it seemed to be drawn from John. Irenæus may be incorrect in his supposition that this was the only or the main ground for the Alogians' rejection9999Adv. Prax. 13, he says Nos paracleti, non hominum discipuli. Comp. further De resurrect. carn. 63 (per novam prophetiam de paracleto inundantem), and many other passages. of this Gospel; but Epiphanius bears witness that they could not account for the want of accordance 120between John's and the synoptic Gospels. To me, however, it seems to be necessarily inferred from the statements of Irenæus that he presupposes that the Montanists themselves brought their prophetical Spirit into harmony with the Paraclete of John's Gospel, and therefore made use of the latter document. Lastly, we have a statement of Hippolytus hinted at; it is found in the Philosoph. viii. 19, and runs as follows: "The Phrygian heresiarchs have been infatuated by Priscilla and Maximilla, whom they hold to be prophetesses because they aver that the Paraclete has entered into them."
How then lies the matter? The short extracts given by Eusebius from the writings of early opponents contain nothing in reference to the connection between the Montanists' prophetical Spirit and the Paraclete of John; no more do the refutations of Epiphanius; but Irenæus, Hippolytus, Tertullian,100100Irenæus states (iii. 3: 4) that the story was repeated after Polycarp that John once encountered Cerinth while bathing, but instantly left the bath with these words, "Let us get out; the bath might come to pieces with such an enemy to truth in it as Cerinth is." That two hundred years later Epiphanius attributed this anecdote to "Ebion" has no weight when set over against the authority of Irenæus. For the statement of Epiphanius (hær. 28: 2) that Cerinth once had communication with Peter, and that he was one of those who criticised his relations with the Gentile centurion Cornelius, there is no earlier voucher. and Eusebius are united in averring that this connection did exist; and the fact that the Alogians rejected the Gospel of John, according to the statement of Irenæus, assuredly harmonizes with the 121honor which was paid by the Montanists to this Gospel.
Yet there has been the same effort to pervert the relation of Montanism to John's Gospel as in the system of Valentine; at least the suspicion has been bruited that that Gospel could only have emanated from the same circle of theological ideas and be the result of the same movement which gave rise to Montanism. What a chaotic confusion of thoughts is there in such a charge as this! what a senseless opposition to John's credibility is betrayed in the effort to pervert and falsify the evidences which go to establish his authenticity! Let us suppose for a minute that John's Gospel sprang into existence like Montanism about the year 150. De spite the fact that the lateness of its appearance must make it seem like the work of a pious fraud, and that in its whole structure and in its details it was unlike the earlier Gospels, the church, no less than those who opposed the church, and especially the Montanists, accepted it with full confidence. To one little sect alone did it fall to raise difficulties between the older 122Gospel and the more recent one, and in consequence to reject the latter, and yet without gaining either credit or prominence by the act. And is it true that there is clear accordance between the Montanist doctrine and that of John's Gospel? Not in the least. Aside from the fact that the points where they harmonize relate almost exclusively to the idea of the Paraclete (an idea which appears in the Gospel without any full development, while in Montanism we are directed rather to the catholicizing notions entertained by Tertullian than to those held earlier), the divergence between Montanism and John's Gospel is as great as that between an ecclesiastic prototype and a heretical copy.
In addition to this, the opponents of Montanism already named give noticeable testimony against this and similar depreciations of John's Gospel in the middle of the second century, at the time of the Montanist movement. They knew nothing about the story of the Gospel of John being a new thing first ushered into being in their time; they ascribed both the Gospel 123and the Apocalypse as unworthy of the church (Epiph. hær: 51, 3) to Corinth, a cotemporary of John.101101According to 2: 27, Celsus suffers his Jews to be told that Christians changed and corrupted the "Gospel" for polemic ends. The very opponents of the book, therefore, did not doubt about its age, nor bring it under suspicion; they always ascribed it to the epoch in which John lived. Does not this show that the church had long used that Gospel, and that on that account there was no opening for objections to it on the ground of age? It is to be noticed at the same time that the same heretics consider the Gospel and the Apocalypse as coherent productions, and that they acted as one man in disowning John, and in claiming Corinth as the author. The authorship of the Apocalypse, expressly stated by Justin to be the production of John, has not been doubted even by the Tübingen critics to be the work of John. From the acts of the anti-Montanists, however, it is to be inferred that the conviction and usage of the church agreed in ascribing both writings, the Gospel and the Apocalypse, to John. .
In this way, as the reader can perceive, even the heretics of the first half of the second century 124and the beginning of the second half do good service in helping us ascertain the truth regarding the antiquity of our Gospels. We hold it impossible, without resorting to sophistry and falsification, to do away with the testimony which these heretics bear to the credibility of our Gospels, and especially to that of John.
We now advance a step beyond the church to the territory where we encounter the armed opponents of Christianity, the men to whom the whole preaching of the cross was folly and an offense. At that very time when the Gnostic errorists were throwing the church into such confusion, it happened that one of these opponents, Celsus by name, wrote a book full of mockery and scorn at Christianity. This production perished long ago; but so far from doing any harm to Christianity, it proved to be a great gain, for it impelled Origen to write his powerful and learned defense of Christianity. From Origen's work we draw enough to make us certain that in his attacks on the Christian faith Celsus made ample use of our Gospels, and that he drew from them the materials 125which he needed in making his attacks. In what he says respecting the appearance of angels at the resurrection of Jesus he probably refers to all four of the Gospels; for he says that according to some there were two angels, according to others, four at the grave (5, 56). Origen supposed that the first referred to Luke and John, the last to Matthew and Mark. Proceeding in a different and more definite way to work, he drew into the circle of his criticism various passages from the synoptical Gospels, especially Matthew's, and also some from that of John. Among those from the synoptical Gospels may be mentioned the account of the wise men from the East (whom he calls Chaldeans), the story of the slaughter of the children by Herod (1, 58), the flight into Egypt at the bidding of the angel (1, 66), the appearance of the dove at the baptism (1, 40), the son of the Virgin (1, 40), the direction which Jesus gives to his disciples (Matt. x. 23), "when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another " (1, 65), the grief at Gethsemane (2, 24), the thirst on the cross (2, 37), the saying of Jesus that it 126is easier to go through the eye of a needle, etc.—which he supposes to be a motto of Plato in a changed form (6, 16),—the command of Jesus (Matt. v. 39; Luke vi. 29), "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," which he also supposes to be a modified Platonism. Examples of a reference to John are, his statement (1, 67) that the Jews in the temple demanded a sign of Jesus (John ii. 18), that he accepts John's expression "Logos" to designate Jesus as the Word of God (2, 31), that he ridicules (2, 36) the statement that at the crucifixion blood issued from Jesus' side (John xix. 34), and that he asserts (2, 59) that after his resurrection Jesus displayed his pierced hands as the token of what he had endured (John xx. 27). It can not be claimed, in view of this, that Celsus drew all these assertions from living Christian tradition; for he himself is the very one to lay stress upon the fact that he drew upon the writings of the Christians. His words were, as cited literally by Origen (2, 74), from his own writings: "And this we have drawn from your own books; we want no further 127evidence, and you are impaled on your own sword." Origen remarks appositely that Celsus has indeed brought forward much that was not in the Gospels, especially some blasphemous reports about Mary, and some idle stories about the infancy of Christ; these may be found alluded to in the first book which Origen wrote contra Celsum102102Mary, poor, living by the work of her own hands, is said to have been driven away by her husband, a carpenter, in consequence of an adulterous connection with a soldier named Panthera; and the story is that Jesus hired himself in Egypt in consequence of his poverty, and learned secret arts there. (1, 28 and 32). But in the course of his work Celsus carried out his idea103103See Origen 2: 13, where the Jew of Celsus says, "I might bring forward many things which were written of Jesus, and which are strictly true, though differing from the writings of the disciples; yet I will leave this on one side." of adhering closely to the "writings of the disciples of Jesus." And plainly this was done out of respect to the fact that these writings, and these alone, had authority in the church.
The question here arises, What relation to the witness which Celsus bears to the authority of our Gospels is sustained by that criticism which does not accept that authority, so far especially as John is concerned? As that evidence can not be impugned, unbelieving scholars bring into use again here that modernizing system which crops into view in Herakleon, to the perfect shame of him who first made it current. As in Herakleon, so here, the story runs, Celsus 128was the cotemporary of Origen. But when was that important fact ascertained? Drawing from Origen himself, Dr. Volkmar104104See Der Ursprung unserer Evangelien, p. 80. says, "Has not Origen declared at the close of his work (8, 76) that the same Celsus announced that he would publish a work of more positive character, and that we must wait to see whether he would accomplish the undertaking? Origen (254) may have written his book against Celsus about the middle of the first half of the third century. Nothing is plainer than that Celsus, if he were alive at that time and giving men to understand that a new work might be expected from his pen, has no importance to us in helping us settle this matter. But even here we have to deal with nothing but a piece of wretched trickery, with real poverty of resources on the part of the critics whom I complain of. For the statement borrowed from the close of the work against Celsus rests upon gross ignorance or upon purposed deception. The words of Origen to his patron Ambrosius, who had stimulated him to write the whole Apology, run after this wise: "Know that Celsus promised 129[unquestionably in his book directed against Christianity, and opposed by Origen] to write still another work in which" . . . . "If now he has not written this, in spite of his promise105105Εἰ μὲν οὖν οὐκ ἔγραψεν. it is enough for us to answer him with these eight books. But if he has done this, and completed106106Εἰ δὲ κἀκεῖνον ἀρξάμενος συνετέλεσε. his later work, do you hunt it up and send it to me, that I may answer it," etc. The difficulty to account for is in the words, "we must wait to see whether he would accomplish the undertaking." But at the outset, in the very first book, Origen says, "I do not know of a single Christian whose faith is in peril of being endangered by Celsus, a man no longer among the living, but who has been a long time numbered among the dead." They forgot, of course, to cut out this passage with the scissors which had been so effectually applied to Polycarp. In that same first book Origen says, "We have learned that there have been two men bearing the name of Celsus, the first under Nero, the second [i. e. ours] under Hadrian and later." It is not impossible that Origen erred in identifying his Celsus with the 130Epicurean who lived "under Hadrian and later;" but it is impossible to make the Celsus of whom Origen thus speaks, his cotemporary. Could Origen have made Celsus in his first book to be "under Hadrian and later" (117 to 138), and in the eighth have said of the same man, " we must wait to see [about 225] whether he will accomplish his undertaking? " So long therefore as we get no more reliable information respecting Celsus, we must remain content with believing that he wrote his work about the middle of the second century, perhaps between 150 and 160;107107That there is an allusion to the Marcionites does not do violence to this determination of the date; still, mention is made of the heresy of Marcion as early as the first Apology of Justin. and that his testimony in favor of the synoptic and Johannean Gospels dates from that period,—a fact of very great weight in enabling us to determine the early existence of the evangelical canon.
With this result, however, we by no means reach the limits of the history of Apologies for the Gospels. In order to complete this department of our subject, we now enter upon a peculiar branch of the literature of the same age with that with which we have been dealing,—a branch which, after long neglect, is in our 131day claiming new and respectful attention; viz., the New Testament apocryphal literature. This holds a certain position midway between the literature of the church and that of the heresiarchs: at any rate. many of its features served the ends of the former through the use of the latter. It is necessary, however, that I should instruct the reader what the theologians understand by the term "apocrypha." The apocryphal writings of the New Testament—for it is of these only that I speak—are writings which aimed to take their place on the same footing with the writings of the New Testament, but which were rejected by the church. They bore on the face of them the names of apostles, or of other eminent men; but these names have been misappropriated by unknown writers for the purpose of recommending what they wrote. The Apocrypha were written, partly in order to develop in arbitrary fashion what their authors had drawn from Scripture, partly to incorporate unauthenticated accounts of the Saviour, Mary, Joseph, and the apostles, and partly to give point and efficacy to heretical 132opinions directed against Holy Writ. The church was warranted, therefore, in excluding them from her accepted writings. It is true that they have been revered as authentic by many from the earliest times; and on this account they have a varied interest108108In 1851 appeared in the Hague a prize essay written by me in 1849: De evangelior. apocryph. origine et usu. I hope to publish a revised edition of it for the use of learned readers. to readers. I have indicated elsewhere in what sense I propose to use them: they only support and strengthen our evidence of the very early origin of our Gospels. We are, of course, independent of the question how old the apocrypha are; and this has left an opening into which opponents have pressed, hoping to cut us off on this side. But we have come to the result that the two portions of the apocryphal Gospels which are extant now, known as the Protevangel of James and the Acts of Pilate, must have been written within the three first decades of the second century, and that the main substance of those works (though marred by many changes in the text) is now in our possession.
The chief, if not the only, evidence for the age of both of these writings is found in Justin. And first with regard to the Protevangel of 133James. In Justin's Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon, and in his first Apology, we find in the statements respecting the birth of Jesus and the annunciation traces of a knowledge, and of the influence, of the book of James. Justin relates in the Dialogue (cap. 78) that the birth of Jesus occurred in a cavern near the village, there being no room at the inn. This statement, which confirms the account of Luke instead of contradicting it, is contained in the book of James, and is woven into the substance of the whole history of the event. Still, it is not to be overlooked that Justin appropriates only this single fragment respecting the birth in the cave, and in the rest follows Luke rather than the pseudo-James. The statement respecting the want of room in Bethlehem coheres strictly with the narrative of Luke, but is not in accord with that of the. pseudo-James. Similarly, the annunciation is plainly hinted in the first Apology, although with a free following of Luke, with the mere difference that the words, "For he shall save his people from their sins," are connected with 134the words directed to Mary, "And thou shalt call his name Jesus." In Luke they are wanting altogether, and in Matthew they belong to the message announced to Joseph. And have we not a recognition of what is apocryphal in Justin, since, at the close of his exposition, he appeals to those who have declared everything respecting our Saviour Jesus Christ? But no, that can not be said; for the whole account of Justin, as already remarked, corresponds strictly to Luke, and not to the Protevangel, only with this difference, that the passage indicated varies from the Protevangel, Matthew giving the words as announced to Joseph, and Justin as addressed to Mary. This feature must, in my opinion, be ascribed to the perusal of the Protevangel; and in the recollection of Justin it connected itself with Luke's account without his own consciousness of the fact. It is unmistakable that the whole quotation was made from memory.109109Those who care to go further into this matter I must beg to see in the original Greek how the passage runs in Justin, in Luke (i. 30 et sq.), and in the Protevangel (see my elaborately annotated Evang. Apocr. 1853, p. 21 et sq. Protevang. chap. xi.). In the Dialogue (chap. 100), the annunciation made to Mary is cited, and the words spring from Luke, and not from the Protevangel.110110Justin has it: The Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that which shall be born of thee is holy, the Son of God. Luke says: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. The pseudo-James has it thus: For the power of the Lord shall overshadow thee; therefore shall the holy thing which is born of thee be called the Son of the Highest. At the same time, there is 135a single extract bearing relation to the mental state of Mary, which seems to have sprung from a recollection of a passage in the Protevangel; only Justin has connected it with the reply of Mary to the address of the angel, while the Protevangel joins it to a priestly blessing which she received just on the point of setting out to visit Elizabeth.111111In Justin it runs: Πίστιν δὲ καὶ χαρὰν λαβοῦσα . . . ἀπεκρίνατο. In the pseudo-James: Χαρὰν δε λαβοῦσα Μαριὰμ ἀπίει πρὸς Ἐλισάβετ.
But is there no objection urged against our endeavor to substantiate an acquaintance of Justin with the Protevangel? Certainly there are lost writings which are brought into requisition. Out of one of these it is supposed that Justin can just as well have drawn as that the Protevangel be derived from it. The Gnostic γέννα Μαριας (de generatione Mariæ), and still more the Gospel of Peter,112112See Hilgenfeld: Kritische Untersuchungen über die Evangelien Justins, p. 159 et sq. have been thought to be that ancient work freshly brought to light. And this brings us into renewed contact with an old acquaintance, with that same faculty of making new discoveries of which I have already had occasion to speak. In order to escape the force of a work lying plainly before our eyes, the inferences from which are unmistakable, 136it is held in the light of a copy of a perished work, of which we have received from the past little but the title and a few meager extracts, which render it impossible to set solid facts over against the play of fancy. Yet let us look into this matter as closely as we can. Epiphanius113113See Epiph. hæres. xxvi. 12. has given the first impulse toward bringing the Gnostic production already mentioned into relation with the Protevangel, in citing something of what he calls the "shocking" statements of the work; namely, that there appeared to Zacharias in the temple the vision of a man wearing the form of an ass. Upon which Zacharias went up to him and tried to say, Woe to you! whom are you worshiping? but could not utter the words, the man seen in the vision having struck him dumb. But when his mouth was opened, and he had communicated to others what he had seen, ho was instantly put to death. This fragment from the lost book is enough, I should think, to identify its source. And is there that in it which enables us to determine that it was the basis of the Protevangel? The last has nothing 137in common with the first, excepting the slaughter of Zacharias, but wholly on another ground, and under altogether different conditions. But there is help at hand against accumulating difficulties respecting the connection of both writings. The way is to conjure up and thrust into prominence a work which claims to have given rise to that of James. From the Gnostic book relating to Mary sprang this Gnostic-tinged—now unfortunately lost—primitive foundation of the pseudo-James; and from this again the work of our catholicizing James.114114Would one accept a closer relation between the Protevangelium and the Gnostic book of Mary, there would be a certain probability in giving the heretical Gnostic production such a dependence upon the half-Catholic book of James as is manifested in the many instances of extra-ecclesiastical literature depending upon that of the church. The hints given by Augustine in the twenty-third book against Faustus would also have weight in this regard, while those too of the Gnostic work called De generatione Mariæ have similar value. Mary was represented in this as a daughter of a priest Joachim of the tribe of Levi. This ingenious solution may not have quite satisfied even him who hit upon it, and hence he thought out and gave preference to another combination. In the passage where Origen alludes to the work of James, he mentions the Gospel of Peter; for he says the brothers of Jesus were regarded by some, who followed the tradition of the Gospel of Peter, or that of James's work, as if they had been the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage.115115See Orig. opp. ed. Delarue, iii. 463 (comm. in Matt. tom. x. 17). Now, according to this new combination, the question is asked, Can not the Gospel of Peter, 138or the early history given in it, be the basis of the Protevangel? The primitive history in the Gospel of Peter rests exclusively upon the passage of Origen relating to the brothers of Jesus as the sons of Joseph by an earlier marriage. With reference to this, we read without going further. That there was such a primitive history, can, according to the statement of Origen, be regarded as beyond doubt. From the same passage of Origen, the conclusion is drawn that "in the Protevangel of James the primitive history of the Gospel of Peter is contained." But do the words of Origen, "while they followed the tradition of the Gospel of Peter, or that of the work of James," warrant the inference in the least that the latter coincides and gives support to the primitive history of the Gospel of Peter? But who is able to impose a check upon the unbridled fanaticism of theorists?116116For a full characterization of this matter, the passage from Hilgenfeld may have so much appositeness as to admit of its being quoted. "It is certainly true that the present form of the Protevangel, while alluding to John and his parents without describing his birth more closely, is incomplete, and indicates more than it tells; but since the Gnostics in their Γέννα Μαρίας gave an account of the dumbness which came upon Zacharias, the suspicion is not risked that the primitive draft of the Gospel contained an account of those antecedent events. The suspicion may not be ventured; it is entirely without support. For the story of Zacharias's dumbness stands in the Gnostic production completely isolated; it has not the slightest analogy either with Luke or with the Protevangel. If the latter points to something beyond itself, it is at any rate clear that our canonical Gospels, including that of Luke, stand in the background. On the other hand, there is a close connection established with the Gnostic primitive form of the Protogospel: "the same is manifestly received only in a revision, worked over after the canonical Gospels mainly, causing it thereby to lose, as it would seem, many of its peculiarities." But may not then the Book of James have a like close connection with the canonical Gospels, taking into account the agreement with them of its whole nature and purport? Further on, we read: "The admission that Justin made use of such an ancient Protevangel may be allowed if it be held as probable that such a production, bearing among the Gnostics the title Γέννα Μαρίας, contained a genealogy of Mary." After further remarks there follows: "All the more attractive therefore is another trace to which Origen leads us. In the passage where he alludes to the Gospel of Peter and the Protogospel of James, he speaks of them both as bearing the same testimony. But how would this be if both Gospels should prove to be closely related? How if in the Protogospel of James the preliminary history of Peter's Gospel—for there can scarcely be a doubt that there was such a preliminary history—were accepted? Is not this more than building on the sand?" That we are now in possession of nearly fifty Greek manuscripts, comprising, among other things, a Syrian copy of the work under discussion, dating from the sixth century, and that no one of the evidences of its antiquity, from 139Origen down, is contradictory to the text of these manuscripts, gives us assuredly a good right to hold fast to the conviction that this was the writing so familiar to the ancients,117117The first reference to Justin appears, as Hilgenfeld was the first to remark, in the document addressed to the congregations at Lyons and Vienna about the year 177. Allusion is made there (Eus. Hist. Eccl. v. 1: 3, et sq.) to the martyrdom of Zacharias. Tertullian in the Scorpiacum contr. Gnosticos, chap. 8, refers to the same thing, only with more definite and positive language. Clemens Alexandr. alludes to the circumstances connected with the midwives. Strom. vii. page 889 in Potter. Origen is the first who mentions the work as the book of James. and so much used by them. Is not that the most untenable of hypotheses, that our work was derived from one which was used by the ancients where it coincides with our own, but of which not a trace remains? And what other end does this hypothesis subserve than this, to set aside the inferences which are drawn from the book of James, and applied not only to the Christian literature of the second century, but more especially to the history of the Gospel cause? I trust it will not impel those who do riot share these views, to regard hypotheses which have such a basis to rest upon as something else than they really are. In opposition to them, I am still justified in insisting that the undeniable connection between Justin and several passages of the so-called Proto-Gospel presupposes his acquaintance with this very production. The book of James stands, in its whole tendency, in such a relation to our 140canonical Gospels, that the latter must have been diffused a long time, and must have been accepted a long time before the former was discovered. The allusions of Matthew and Luke to the virgin mother of the Lord were unable to prevent the belief in a real son of Joseph and Mary,—an idea consonant with the taste of the Judaized Christian heresiarchs: the mention of the brothers of Jesus in the synoptic Gospels appeared to bear evidence against Matthew and Luke; learned Jews brought against the Christians the charge of arbitrarily changing the meaning of Isaiah, and making him support the notion of a virgin mother: Jewish hostility even went so far as to assert that Jesus was the illegitimate son of one Panthera, and heathen skeptics quoted Greek fables about sons being born from virgins, in order to discredit the evangelical account. In such a time as was the first half of the second century, nothing could promise a better support to the Gospel narrative than a production like the one named after James, furnished with irrefragable historic testimony as to the lofty destiny of 141Mary from her birth, as to her motherhood while a virgin, and as to a relationship of Mary to Joseph exalted far above the usual relations of marriage.118118We pass over the story of the death of Zacharias in the Protevangel to Matt. xxiii. 36. If this can be so understood as if affording an historical basis for the passage in Matthew, it would strengthen the proof of the antiquity of the Gospels which we derive from the document of James. Now, if this work of James falls within the first three decades of the second century, the composition of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, to which the reference of James's work limits itself, can not be set later than the last decades of the previous century.
It is the same with the second apocryphal work brought under review above, the so-called Acts of Pilate, only with the difference that they refer as much to John as to the synoptical Gospels. Justin, in like manner as before, is the most ancient voucher for this work, which is said to have been written under Pilate's jurisdiction, and, by reason of its specification of wonderful occurrences before, during, and after the crucifixion, to have borne strong evidence to the divinity of Christ. Justin saw as little reason as Tertullian and others for believing that it was a work of pious deception from a Christian hand. On the contrary, Justin appeals twice to it in his first Apology in order 142to confirm the accounts of the occurrences which took place at the crucifixion in accordance with prophecy, and of the miraculous healings effected by Christ, also the subject of prophetic announcement. He cites specifically (chap. 35) from Isaiah lxv. 2, and lviii. 2: "I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good." . . . "They ask of me the ordinances of justice: they take delight in approaching to God. Further, from the twenty-second Psalm: "They pierced my hands and my feet. . . . They parted my garments upon them, and cast lots upon my vesture." With reference to this, he remarks that Christ fulfilled this; that he did stretch forth his hands when the Jews crucified him,—the men who contended against him, and denied that he was the Christ. "Then," he says further, "as the prophet foretold, they dragged him to the judgment-seat, set him upon it, and said, 'Judge us.' The expression, however, 'they pierced,' etc., refers to the nails with which they fastened his hands and his feet to the cross. And after they 143had crucified him they threw lots for his clothing, and they who had taken part in the act of crucifixion divided it among themselves." To this he adds: "And you can learn from the Acts, composed119119A third reference must be accepted in the thirty-eighth chapter, where he in like manner cites Is. lxv. 2, and 1. 6: "I gave my back to the smiters and exposed my cheeks to blows:" see also the words already cited of the xxii. Psalm, "They cast lots," etc., in conjunction with Psalm iii. 5, "I laid me down and slept; I awaked," etc., and Ps. xxii. 8. He makes this close to the prophecies: "and this was all done by the Jews to Christ, as you can learn" (here we have this express declaration) "from the Acts compiled under Pontius Pilate." during the governorship of Pontius Pilate, that these things really happened." Still more explicit is the testimony of Tertullian. It may be found in the Apologeticus (chap. 2), where he says that out of envy Jesus was surrendered to Pilate by the Jewish ceremonial lawyers, and by him, after he had yielded to the cries of the people, given over for crucifixion; that while hanging on the cross he gave up the ghost with a loud cry, and so anticipated the executioner's duty; that at that same hour the day was interrupted by a sudden darkness; that a guard of soldiers was set at the grave for the purpose of preventing his disciples stealing his body, since he ad predicted his resurrection, but that on the third day the ground was suddenly shaken, and the stone rolled away from before the sepulcher; that in the grave nothing was found but the articles used in his burial; that the report was 144spread abroad by those who stood outside, that the disciples had taken the body away; that Jesus spent forty days with them in Galilee, teaching them what their mission should be, and that, after giving them their instructions as to what they should preach, he was raised in a cloud to heaven. Tertullian closes this account with the words, All this was reported to the emperor at that time, Tiberius, by Pilate, his conscience having compelled even him to become a Christian."
The document now in our possession corresponds with this evidence of Justin and Tertullian. Even in the title it agrees with the account of Justin, although, instead of the word acta, which he used, and which is manifestly much more Latin than Greek, a Greek expression is employed, which can be shown to have been used to indicate genuine Acts.120120Instead of ἄκτα we have the specific word ὑπομνήματα. The same title, prepared too for the official report of Pilate, appears in the Præsidial Acts relative to the martyrs Tarachus, Probus and Andronikus. See my Evv. apocr. p. lxii. In the same sense it is used in a homily inscribed to Chrysostom (Chrys. opp. tom. v. p. 942) and in the Martyrium Ignatii, chap. iii. But with this we must reconcile the expression ὑπομνηματικαὶ ἐφημερὶδες, which Philo uses (de legat. ad Cajum 25) in reference to the reports which were sent by Alexander to the emperor of Rome. The oldest Latin title, found in Gregory of Tours, is the Gesta Pilati. The details recounted by Justin and Tertullian are all found in our text of the Acts of Pilate, with this variation, that nothing corresponds to what is joined to the declaration of the prophet, "They dragged him to the seat of judgment, 145and set him upon it, and said," etc.: besides this, the casting lots for the vesture is expressed simply by the allusion to the division of the clothes. We must give even closer scrutiny to one point. Justin alludes to the miracles which were performed in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, on the lame, the dumb, the blind, the dead, and on lepers. In fact, in our Acts of Pilate there are made to appear before the Roman governor a palsied man who had suffered for thirty-eight years, and was brought ill a bed by young men, and healed on the Sabbath day;121121The thirty-eight years and the healing on the Sabbath are taken from John's narrative, v. 2; that about the man who was carried by, from Matthew ix. a blind man cured by the laying on of hands; a cripple who had been restored; a leper who had been cleansed; the woman whose issue of blood had been stanched; and a witness of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Of that which Tertullian cites, we will adduce merely the passage found in no one of our Gospels, that Jesus passed forty days after his resurrection in company with his disciples in Galilee. This is indicated in our Acts of Pilate, at the end of the fifteenth chapter, where the risen man is represented as saying to Joseph, 146"For forty days go not out of thy house; for behold, I go to my brethren in Galilee."
Every one will perceive how strongly the argument that our Acts of Pilate are the same which Justin and Tertullian read is buttressed by these unexpected coincidences. The assertion recently made122122>See Weitzel: Die christliche Passahfeier der drei ersten Jahrhunderte, p. 248 et sq. requires consequently no labored contradiction that the allusions to both men have grown out of their mere suspicion that there was such a record as the Acts of Pilate, or out of the circulation of a mere story about such a record, while the real work was written as the consequence of these allusions at the close of the third century. What an uncommon fancy it requires in the two men to coincide so perfectly in a single production as is the case in the Acts to which I am now referring! And are we to imagine that they referred with such emphasis as they employed to the mere creations of their fancy?
The question has been raised with more justice, whether the production in our possession may not have been a copy or free revision of the old and primitive one. The modern change 147in the title has given support to this conjecture, for it has occasioned the work to be commonly spoken of as the Gospel of Nicodemus. But this title is borne neither by any Greek manuscript, the Coptic-Sahidian papyrus, nor the Latin manuscripts, with the exception of a few of the most recent.123123>On scientific grounds it is not to be excused if one in learned investigations follows in the old rut and speaks of the Gospel of Nicodemus. Compare my re-establishing of the old title and the investigation respecting it in the Prolegomenon of the Evangelia apocrypha, p. liv. et sq. It corresponds best with what was said above respecting the use of the word ὑπομνήματα, if we say the "Acts of Pilate." The Latin designation, Gesta Pilati, also answers well to this. It may be traced only subsequently to the twelfth century, although at a very early period, in one of the two prefaces attached to the work, Nicodemus is mentioned in one place as a Hebrew author, and in another as a Greek translator. But aside from the title, the handwriting displays great variation, and the two prefaces alluded to above show clearly the work of two hands. Notwithstanding this, however, there are decisive grounds for holding that our Acts of Pilate contain in its main substance the document drawn from Justin. and Tertullian. The first of this to be noticed is, that the Greek text, as given in the version most widely circulated in the manuscripts, is surprisingly corroborated by two documents of the rarest character, and first used by myself,—a Coptic-Sahidian papyrus 148manuscript, and a Latin palimpsest,—both probably dating from the fifth century. Such a documentary confirmation of their text is possessed by scarcely ten works of the collective Greek classic literature. Both of these ancient writings make it in the highest degree probable that the Egyptian and Latin translations which they contain were executed still earlier. But could a work which was held in great consideration in Justin's and Tertullian's time, and down to the commencement of the fourth century, and which strenuously124124>See Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ix. 5 and 7. insists that the Emperor Maximin caused other blasphemous Acts of Pilate to be published and zealously circulated, manifestly for the purpose of displacing and discrediting the older Christian Acts,—could such a work suddenly change its whole form, and from the fifth century, to which in so extraordinary a manner translators wholly different in character point back with such wonderful concurrence, continue in the new form? Contrary as this is to all historical criticism, there is in the contents of the work, in the singular manner in which isolated and independent 149details125125Comp. with reference to this my paper: Pilati circa Christum indicio quid lucis afferatur ex actis Pilati. Lipsiæ, 1855. are shown to be related to the canonical books, no less than in the accordance with the earliest quotations found in Justin and Tertullian,126126Of later writers Epiphanius admits (hæres. L. Quartodec. i.) that appeal was made to the Acts of Pilate in order to establish the time of Jesus' death, it being given there as the twenty-fifth of March. He adds, however, that he had found copies where the eighteenth was assigned as the date. The first date is found also in our texts. a guaranty of the greatest antiquity. There are in the contents, also, matters of such a nature that we must confess that they are to be traced back to the primitive edition; as, for example, the narrative in the first chapter of the bringing forward of the accused. But the whole character of the work in our possession. does not deny in toto that which we must infer from the statements of Justin and Tertullian. It is incorrect, moreover, to draw a conclusion from Justin's designation of the Acta which is not warranted by the whole character of the work. The Acta, the ὑπομνήματα, are specified in Justin's account, not less than in the manuscripts which we possess, as being written under Pontius Pilate; and that can signify nothing else than that they were an official production, composed under the direct sanction of the Roman Governor. Their transmission to the Emperor must be imagined as accompanied by a letter of the same character with 150that which has been brought down to us in the Greek and Latin edition,127127See the two ἀναφοραὶ Πιλάτου in our Evv. apocr. pp. 413-425. and yet not at all similar in purport to the notable Acts of Pilate. It is by no means necessary for us to assert that the production in our hands has (with the exception of the preface already alluded to) remained free from interpolations; for the distinguishing characteristic which it bears is the weaving in of much from the synoptic Gospels, and still more from John, relative to the last sufferings of Jesus.128128It will gratify the wish of the reader if I insert here a portion of the text of the work itself. We select for this purpose the whole of the third chapter, tinged as it is with the coloring of John: "And full of rage Pilate came forth from the hall of judgment (the Prætorium) and said to them, 'I take the sun to witness that I find no fault in this man.' But the Jews answered and said to the governor, 'If this man had not been a malefactor, we should not have delivered him over to you.' Pilate answered, 'Take him away and judge him after your law.' The Jews answered, 'It is not permitted to us to put ally one to death.' Pilate said, 'Did God order you not to put any one to death and not me as well?' Pilate went again into the judgment hall and called Jesus to him privately, and asked him, 'Art thou the king of the Jews?' Jesus answered him, 'Speakest thou that of thyself, or have others told it thee?' Pilate answered Jesus, 'Am I a Jew? Thy people and the high priest have delivered thee over to me: what hast thou done?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world; for if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants have fought that I should not be delivered over to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not thence.' Then spoke Pilate unto unto him, 'Thou art a king, then.' Jesus answered him, 'Thou sayest that I am a king. For this cause was I born and am come into the world, that every one who is out of the truth may hear my voice.' Pilate asked, 'What is truth?' Jesus answered, 'The truth is from heaven.' Pilate asked again, 'Is there no truth on the earth?' Jesus answered, 'Thou seest how those who speak the truth are brought to judgment of those who have power on the earth."' At the close of the fourth chapter we have: "But when Pilate saw the throng of Jews around him he perceived that many of the Jews were weeping, and said, 'Not all the people wish him to die.' Then answered the elders, 'We, the whole people, have come, that he might be sentenced to death.' Pilate answers them, 'Wherefore should he die?' The Jews reply,' Because he said he was God's son and a king.'" Is it not stated in Justin that the Acts of Pilate reveal the fulfillment of the prophecy respecting the resurrection from the dead, as it is given in chapter eight of the work in our hands, in the testimony concerning the raising of Lazarus? Is it probable that, in order to set John aside, we are to believe that in Justin's edition there was recorded one of the two other resurrections, of which we have traces preserved for us?
It would lead us to the denial of an unquestionable fact should we not admit the claims of our Acts of Pilate, in their connection with the work of the same name known to Justin, to 151serve as testimony to the authority of the Johannean as well as the synoptic Gospels, dating from a period prior to Justin, in spite of their frequent use of those Gospels. What importance this fact has in enabling us to determine the age of our Gospels, and especially that of John, is at once apparent; it weighs far more than any verbal extracts made from John in the epoch of Justin. If the apocryphal Acts of Pilate must, for the reason that Justin cites them in his first Apology to the Roman Emperor, be ascribed to the first decades of the second century, they show, by their use of and dependence upon the Gospel of John, that the latter dates from a period even earlier. This theory throws no light into the impenetrable darkness, but, among the many beams which come down from the period directly after the age of the apostles, and which illumine the most important question of Christianity, this is one of the most luminous.
We might also cite Thomas's Gospel of the Infancy for our purpose. Irenæus and Hippolytus129129Compare respecting this my Evangelia Apocrypha in the Prolegg. i. p. xxxix. et sq. both show that it was used by the Marcosians 152and the Naasenians; it was therefore unquestionably one of the first results of the productive heresy of that age, and must be ascribed to the middle of the second century. Its text we possess only in fragments, which are at issue130130See the same work. often among themselves, and which consequently makes it difficult to ascertain the connection of scattered passages with those of the Gospels. The work seems, however, to bear witness in one respect to the results of my researches, and not in the not unimportant fact that at the time when this book appeared, in the middle of the second century, the Gospel canon ordinarily accepted was already formed, and the story of the years of Jesus' childhood filled up a break in the account of his life. This left a district open to historical research, and one which heresy knew well how to prize. Besides this there confronts us one fact more, which admits of application to the three more or less perfectly personal evidences of the Christian Apocraphy. The wide divergence found in these, in respect to form as well as substance, to language as well as spirit, to delineation as well 153as conception, bears witness to a sacred origin of our canonical Gospels, to which the apocryphal writings are related as the last subjoined appendices.
I might allude here in a single word to the pseudo-Clementine literature, whose main work, the Homilies, is certainly to be ascribed to the middle of the second century. The establishment of this date does not lead to the necessity of drawing any such inferences respecting the history of the canon as we drew in the case of the book of James and the Acts of Pilate. Still it is very instructive that the transition of the Gospel of John into this Judaic-Christian tendency record,131131Comp. Hilgenfeld: Kritische Untersuchungen über die Evv. Justins, der Clementinischen Homilien und Marcions, 1850 (therefore before 1853), p. 387 et sq. Here an effort is ascribed to the fourth Evangelist to subordinate Peter to the beloved disciple, and on this account the fourth Evangelist's independence of Peter's Gospel is admitted, but afterwards every proof favoring the use of the Gospel of John is denied to the connection of the homilies with him. (Page 346 had thus decided with respect to the expression, Horn. 3: 52, "My sheep hear my voice": "It is a question whether the Gospel of John or one still older contained this passage.") "Against such a use," it goes on literally to say, "stands the glaring difference in the tendency of both writers, so that in presupposing an acquaintance with this Gospel one must admit a polemic objective view. Let one imagine an attack made upon the divinity of Christ, and satisfy himself how such an author could dispose of John i. 1; x. 33, et sq.; xx. 28. While, in John x. 36, Jesus declares himself substantially as the Son of God, so that his own assertion is an expression of his divinity, the author of the Homilies takes the same expression, 16:15, to be a decisive statement of the difference between Jesus and the Deity. The Lord never declared himself to be God, but the Son of God. How was it possible, after using the fourth Gospel, to expressly limit the time of the intercourse of Jesus and the disciples to a single year, and not, as later teachers have accepted, the time of his public career? How could he besides, while declaring Peter to be the first fruits and cherished disciple of Christ, so markedly leave out the Johannean portraiture, and among the expressions used by Jesus regarding the devil (xix. 2), which he doubtless collects as completely as was possible, how could he omit such an expression as John viii. 44? The result of our investigation is in a word this, that even in Clementine's Homilies the Gospel of Peter, in contradistinction to Justin and some farther continuations, is used; with him Matthew, perhaps Luke also, but certainly not the Gospel of John." which was not at all disputed till the year 1853, has been shown to be utterly untenable by the discovery by Dressel, at Rome, of the concluding portions of it where (xix. 22) John's narrative of the man who was born blind is made use of beyond all doubt.
The elucidation already given respecting the Acts of Pilate and the book of James had already brought us to the opening first decades of the second century, and compelled us to confess 154that there was 1inquestionably use made, at that period, of our Gospels. No one of the remaining results of our investigations into the ecclesiastical and heretical literature of the second century stood in antagonism with this fact. Not only the apocryphal writings already named bring us back to that epoch, but a work of great repute in the Christian literature, one which from even the close of the second century to the opening of the fourth was assigned by such men as Clemens Alexandrinus132132With the utmost probability Celsus made use (about 150) of the epistle of Barnabas. That he specifically speaks of the apostles as πονηρότατοι, Origen infers (contr. Cels. i. 63) from the use of the epistle. to Holy Writ. It forms a part of the so-called apostolical Fathers, regarding which we have already spoken in our discussion of the epistles of Ignatius and that of Polycarp. If it really bore rightly the name of Barnabas, the companion of Paul, it would, in spite of certain unsatisfactory details, be correctly entitled to a place among the sacred books of the New Testament. Slight as is the ecclesiastical or scientific recognition granted to this claim of authorship, yet the assertion is made with confidence, that the epistle beating the name of Barnabas is one of the earliest written records which have 155come down to us from the epoch directly subsequent to the life of the apostles. If the expressions (in the sixteenth chapter) conjoined with the word of prophecy regarding the rebuilding of the City and the Temple are in accordance with historical fact, we are brought back from the conflicting statements respecting the closing decades of the first century and the opening decades of the second, to the first year of Hadrian's reign. In its aim and general character the epistle bears the closest resemblance, among the books of the New Testament, to the Epistle to the Hebrews; it is directed against such Christian converts from Judaism, who, while accepting the new covenant, sought to cling to the old, and hence felt that they must share with the former fellow-believers in the grief over the fall of the Jewish Temple. In opposition to them, the epistle, basing itself largely upon Old Testament prophecy and authority, arrays the proof that the new covenant brought in by Christ had completely done away with the older one, and that the latter had merely been, with its temple and whole service, 156an incomplete and temporary type of the new covenant.
Within the last two centuries scholars have busied themselves much with this document, but unfortunately there are lacking in all the Greek manuscripts of it, the first five chapters; only an old Latin translation, greatly incomplete,133133The text however is not to be judged from what is published, nor is that of Dr. Hilgenfeld, who has contented himself with unscientifically repeating it just as it was left in the edition of two hundred years ago. supplies the deficiency. And exactly in those chapters which are found only in the Latin copy is there a passage which has excited great curiosity. "Let us be on our guard," thus it reads in the fourth chapter, " that we be not be found to be, as it is written, many called but few chosen." "Adtendamus ergo ne forte, sicut scriptum est, multi vocati, pauci electi inveniamur." The expression, "as it is written," will be readily recognized by the reader as a familiar one in the New Testament. It is the phrase which always designates the difference between all passages of Holy Writ and all others, and was invariably used by the apostles, as well as by the Saviour, in citing the Old Testament. If it were ever applied to a passage outside of the canon, it only followed that 157the passage in question had been drawn by frequent use into the circle of canonical writings, just as, for example, Jude cites from the prophet Enoch. It could be publicly transferred to the writings of the apostles, when the latter were placed on the same basis with the Old Testament. As soon as passages of the Gospels were cited in connection with the phrase, "as it is written," it was assumed that they had become canonical. We had occasion on a former page to allude to this matter, while referring to Justin's arranging the Gospels and the Prophecies side by side, and to the epistles of Ignatius; the same formula was also encountered in the New Testament quotations of the Naasenians. The words which have been cited in the Epistle of Barnabas in connection with the same formula are in the Gospel of Matthew, xxii. 14, and xx. 16. If our inference is correct, at the time when the Epistle of Barnabas was written, this Gospel was regarded as canonical.
But the Epistle of Barnabas extends back to the highest Christian antiquity. And is it possible, 158some ask, that at so remote a period the passage from Matthew should be marked by the characteristics of canonization? The doubt conveyed in this question has been materially strengthened by the circumstance that the passage has hitherto existed only in a Latin form. It was possible to say, therefore, that this significant phrase was added by a translator living long subsequently. Dr. Credner, in 1832, wrote these literal words: "The form of citation, sicut Scriptum est, applied to a book of the New Testament, was wholly without usage in that time, and not an instance of it can be found." The portion of the Epistle of Barnabas which, contains the passage under discussion does not exist at present in the original Greek, but only in a Latin translation. It was an easy matter, therefore, for the translator to subjoin the current formula of quotation; and from internal evidence we must accordingly lay claim to the correctness of the text in the passage under consideration, till some one shall show satisfactory proof to the contrary. In order to decide the question respecting the antiquity 159of the formula, it was necessary to consult the original Greek text. It was destined not to be withheld from the Christian world. After lying many hundreds of years among the old parchments at the Convent of St. Catherine in the wilderness of Sinai, it came to light in a happy hour; for with the Sinaitic Bible, the whole of the Epistle of Barnabas was discovered in the original Greek. And what is the decision which it gives respecting the subject under discussion? It decides that the writer of the epistle himself placed the important Christian-classic expression, "as it is written," before the quotation from Matthew, and that it was not the work of the translator.
After this important fact was established, a new question arose, namely, whether important inferences could be drawn unconditionally from this phrase. Could not the formula, "as it is written," be accepted as referring to any book? How little ground there is for this I have already shown in my explanations of the use to be made of this formula; and we have no right to weaken its force in the present instance. 160But are we also compelled to recognize its relation to the passage from Matthew? What would be more evident, if we are to escape the assaults of unsound and partisan criticism? A writer of this class has brought forward a notion which once brought down the scorn of Credner134134See Beiträge i. a. 1.: "These words do not suit if they be made with Orelli (Selecta pp. eccl. capita, etc.) to refer to the apocryphal fourth book of Ezra which Barnabas elsewhere cites." One would draw the inference from this which Volkmar insists should be deduced from Credner's words, quite in antagonism to what Credner himself asserts. upon it, namely, that the quotation of Barnabas's Epistle is to be referred to the fourth book of Ezra, quoted elsewhere in the Epistle.135135See Volkmar: Index lectt. in liter. univ. Turic. 1864, page 16. Scriptum est apud Esdram Prophetam iv. Esd. viii. 3: "multi creati, pauci autem salvati." Hoc auctor confudit cum dicto Christi apud Matth. xix. 30, (?) Christiano illo interpretamento dicti Esdrani. Quod ed. mea Esdræ Prophetæ, 1863, p. 290, post J. C. de Orelli et C. A. Crednerum (how do the words of Credner himself, cited in the previous note, agree with this?) quorum meritum plerisque in memoriam revocandum erat, demonstravit, omnibus qui hucusque de ea re ex ed. nea iudicarunt, persuasit. . . . There, in the eighth chapter, it is expressly stated according to the Latin and Ethiopian text, "nam multi creati sunt (in the Ethiop., besides, in eo, i. e. mundo) pauci autem salvabuntur,"—for many have been born, but few shall be saved. In spite of the applause which this136136See D. F. Strauss, Das Leben Jesu, p. 55. has received in a certain quarter, it only shows to what wanton fancies the opposition brought against the age of our evangelical canon leads men. The visible absurdity of referring a citation, taken word for word from Matthew, to a passage in a book of Ezra, written twenty years earlier137137Volkmar (Der Ursprung unserer Evv. p. 161) assigns the date of this work to "97, harvest time." and having quite a different meaning, is carried so far that the expression of the Saviour in Matthew is degraded into a 161mere "Christian interpretation" of the passage in Ezra.138138The statement given above of the heathen scoffer Celsus merits unquestionable pre-eminence over this discovery; for according to him the expression, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," is but another form of Plato's "It is impossible that he who is extraordinarily rich should be extraordinarily good." See Origen contr. Cels. 6: 16. As for other matters, however, the crafty trickery of Volkmar does not derive any reflected credit from Renan, as it was said to do in the earlier editions of this work; it should have the claim allowed it of having anticipated Renan, since the latter work appeared in 1863, whereas Volkmar's preface to "Esdra Propheta" is dated October, 1862. Honor to whom honor is due. That Matthew is referred to elsewhere in the Epistle is supposed not to have its weight in strengthening the citation from him accompanied by the canonical formula, but to prove, on the contrary, that Barnabas, with all Iis acquaintance with Matthew, did not hold his work to be a sacred book.139139So Volkmar i. a. 1. p. 161. "118-119 Alexandrine epistle named after Barnabas, with a knowledge of the Gospel of Matt. as a new work with the most ample use of Matthew, but with the sayings of Christ taken only from the hallowed Old Testament." It is forgotten that quite often we meet in the later Fathers, in connection with direct and express quotations, the same weaving in of a biblical clause that we have in Barnabas; and in these cases the reader is pre-supposed to have that familiarity with Scripture which will enable him to determine what it is which is thus woven in, without its being definitely pointed out with words or signs of quotation. Thus, for example, in chapter five of Barnabas's Epistle, we have the expression, "He chose for his disciples, to go forth and announce his gospel, men full of sin and unrighteousness, in order to show that he had not come to call the righteous, but sinners; and therefore he revealed himself as the Son of God." What reader of these words could fail 162to see in them the reflection of what our Saviour says in Matt. ix. 13, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"?140140A later affix with Matt. than with Barnabas is "to repentance." We have, moreover, in the twelfth chapter, "Since it is a thing in the e future141141By this I seek to render literally ἐπεὶ οὖν μέλλουσιν λέγειν. that men shall say that Christ is David's son, therefore David himself, comprehending in advance the error which sinners will make, says, 'The Lord says unto my Lord, sit thou here on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.'" Could Barnabas write this without presupposing that his readers would have Matt. xxii. 41, et sq. in mind? And in this presupposition is not the recognition of the authority of the then extant Gospel of Matthew taken for granted? And if in the same twelfth chapter of Matthew it is shown how Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness in typification of the Saviour, "who should suffer (die) and yet himself give life to others," it is directly obvious that Barnabas was making use of the truth hinted at in John iii. 14, even if the phrase, taken word by word, fails to show this. It is possible indeed that the writer of this 163Epistle wrote independently in this case, as in many others; and yet we are justified in assuming the very great probability that he had the passage of John in mind: still, in assuming this, it by no means follows that his Epistle is written in the same tone as that of John's, and was a reflex of it. The disproportionate number of express quotations from the Old Testament found in Barnabas is in direct relation with the whole character of his Epistle: and no inference can be drawn from it, which invalidates the canonization142142Not less than in Barnabas does it become clear in Justin that he makes the brazen serpent of John's Gospel the type of the cross. Even Justin's expression, Dial. 91, appeared to have flowed from a recollection of John: Προσφεύγουσι τῷ τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον υἱὸν αὐτοῦ πέμψαντι εἰς τὸν κόσμον, for John iii. 17, οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θέος τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν κόσμον, is closely connected with iii. 14. Naturally, with Barnabas there is the same process of divination applied that we find earlier among the Clementines. So Volkmar i. a. 1. p. 67: The author "seems not to depend at all upon the Sap. Sal. 16: 5, which had already prefigured the typical character of the serpent. But least of all upon the Logos Gospel (John iii. 14), for his special comparison of the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness with the lifting up of Christ (on the cross and thus to the heaven) is wanting here: and how could one who in this connection read 'in order that every one who should, believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' discard such a saying as the above? No one of us (!) could do it." In the same fashion Volkmar shows in his Append. to Credner's Gesch. des Neutest. Kanons (1860, p. 372) that Tertullian had not been acquainted with the first Epistle of Peter, or, if he could not deny to Tertullian acquaintance with the work Adv. Gnosticos, asserts that it was only subsequently to 207 that he was familiar with it. He writes, "What apt proofs it (the epistle) offers to the opponent of the Gnosis de resurr. carn. . . . the Montanist moralist even, de pudicit . . . or de habitu mulier. . . . How was he able to pass over Peter in the letter, when going through the entire list of prophets and apostles? An Epistola Petri has no place in his Instrumentum Apostolorum, as he draws it up in both its chief forms." Pity that that whole course of acute reasoning finds its answer in the fact (as Dr. Aberle has already shown in the Theol. Quartalschrift, 1864, 1) that its first propounder has overlooked. Tertullian's complete work, De oratione, where (Semler, p. 15, chap. xiv.) express reference is made to the "præscriptio Petri," in 1 Pet. iii. of the Gospels.
Does, then, the fact indicated by the Epistle of Barnabas, that the Gospel of Matthew was reckoned a part of Holy Writ prior to the year 120, come into hazardous conflict with the results already gained by us in our study of the second century? It is needless to try to answer such a question. There is only downright gain to our side, and that of a new and important link in the chain of proofs supporting the very earliest acceptance of the credibility of the Gospels; a new barrier erected against the idle vagaries of conjecture which have hitherto 164been allowed to float around and hide the history of the New Testament canon.
But are we compelled to limit to Matthew the authenticity thus granted to his canonical value? By no means. All our studies respecting the history of the canon lead to this result, that the attempt was not made in the infancy of the church to raise any one of the Gospels, taken exclusively, to the rank of canonical writings. For we saw, in the first half of the second century, now Matthew, now John, now Luke, or one taken in connection with another, come into the foreground; and this shows conclusively that at that epoch no one was credited while another was discredited. The small compass, too, of the literature which has come down to us from that time, and the character of the Gospels, taken separately,—Matthew, for example, being incomparably better adapted for quotation than Mark,—lead to the inference that the one bears witness to the equal worth of the other. And we learned, too, from Justin's use of the Acts of Pilate about the year 140, that the Gospel of 165John, so much used, not only in those Acts which were written some few decades before Justin's Apology, but also in connection with the synoptic Gospels, must be assigned to the opening of the second century, Justin himself having often made use of John, and still more frequently of Matthew. Is not this alone satisfactory proof that if, at the time when the Epistle of Barnabas was written, Matthew had attained to canonical authority, John too must have had the same? Basilides used John and Luke at the time of Hadrian; Valentin, about 140, John, Matthew, and Luke; and are there not safe inferences to be drawn thence that these writers are in close alliance?
To this must be added the fact that we so early and so repeatedly find, as, for example, in Justin and Agrippa Castor, the separate Gospels united in one whole, and that, in view of the collective and grand character thus given to this whole, the name and individuality of each writer are thrown into the background, but that, on the other hand, Justin refers occasionally to the discrimination made, at a later day, 166by Tertullian, in the character of the four Evangelists, according to which some were the real disciples of the Lord, and the others apostolical companions. And how are we to understand otherwise that soon after the middle of the second century Harmonies of the Four Gospels were prepared, and that in Irenæus——not to lose sight of him—the four are unitedly subjected to comment, without the least hint of there being superior or inferior value on the part of the separate Gospels? Is there the faintest indication that, in the course of the second century, the church, while discussing many issues which are reported to us, took up and passed its judgment upon the Gospel canon,—a fundamental matter; while, before the close of that century, the same canon meets us everywhere as having been long accepted?
But when, then, are we to consider that the canon passed into general acceptance? Everything compels us to assign it to the close of the first century, or to the opening years of the second. That was the time when, with the death of the aged143143Irenæus says (hær. iii. 3: 4 and ii. 22: 5) that he lived in Trajan's day, 98 to 117. Eusebius (in the Chronicon) sets his death at the year 100, and Jerome (de viris illustrib. and elsewhere) 68 years after the death of Christ. The Chronic. Pasch. has 72 years after the ascension of Christ. John, all the revered men 167who had stood in personal relations with Jesus, and Paul too, the great apostle to the Gentiles, had passed away, and could no longer give their direct authority in all ecclesiastical matters to the young church; the time when the church was outgrowing its old home, and stretching wider and wider out, convulsed within by various movements, and pressed upon without by hostile assaults,—then it was that men began to consecrate and regard with hallowing veneration the writings which the founders of the church had left behind them, gather them up as imperishable bequests, as well-authenticated evidences of the life and teachings of the Saviour, the most precious types of what men's faith and practice should be. The fit time had evidently come to put these writings on the same basis as that of the old covenant. The complete separation of the church from the synagogue had taken place: subsequently to the destruction of Jerusalem and of its temple (about the year 70), the church had been thrown more decidedly upon itself, and lad become more independent; and it was a significant 168sign of this independence to ascribe to the writings which recorded the life of the Saviour and the deeds of his followers the same sanctity which had long invested the sacred documents of the synagogue, on which Christianity was based.
Do we ask in what way this has taken place? It certainly is not a question which needs much time to enable us to answer it. If men like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John left on record statements respecting the life of our Lord, who would not have recognized them at once as a precious bequest to the church, and gratefully accepted them? Did it require more than their honored names to insure for their writings the greatest veneration by the whole church? And had not these men all stood in close enough personal relations with the church to insure the latter against receiving any works which should be unauthentic, and palmed off by trickery? And of no Gospel is this more true than of John's. Suppose that it did proceed from the midst of his Asia Minor congregations, and pass into the possession of wider 169circles; could the least suspicion of a want of genuineness fasten to it? But in case it did not proceed from his own congregations, would the latter not have detected the imposition at once? It was impossible to bring them to accept an unauthentic word of their own bishop; certainly not by deception. But we have the bishop who followed John at Ephesus as one of the witnesses to the authenticity of his Gospel. For if Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus in the last quarter of the second century, in a letter addressed to Victor of Rome (Eus. Hist. Eccl. v. 24), alludes to the apostle buried in Ephesus, and characterized him with the same expression which is used in John xiii. 23 and 25, "who leaned on the Lord's bosom,"—there is beyond all doubt a confirmation of the Gospel. As to the rest, that John was the last who wrote is evidenced not only by the very ancient tradition that he was the one whose name was always mentioned after the others, as we have seen to be the case in the hints drawn from Muratori, in Irenæus, and in the oldest Greek manuscripts,144144The change of arrangement in several of our oldest Itala manuscripts (Matthew, John, Luke, Mark) does not rest on a chronological basis, but, according to Tertullian, upon the connection, first of the two men who were apostles, then of those who were helpers of the apostles. but Clemens Alexandrinus 170and Eusebius give distinct expression to it in what they have communicated to us respecting the circumstances which gave rise to that Gospel. In the first of these latter writers (see Eus. vi. 14), the wish of friends is represented as prompting the more spiritual-minded disciple to add a fourth Gospel to the other three, for the purpose of recording more distinctly the workings of Jesus' spirit. According to the latter (iii. 24), while confessing the truth and authentic value of the first three Gospels, he is represented as omitting what relates more exclusively to the public activity of Jesus, and giving a needful compliment to the evangelical narrative.
Since, then, the writings left behind by the apostles stand at the very outset in the personal authority of the writers, this authority of course only grew in magnitude after the decease of the persons who have personally been the representatives of the spirit of the Gospel. Out of the vital development of the church grew the primitive canon of the New Testament, and took its place side by side with the Old. 171It would be easy to admit that such a canon, in accordance with its evangelical character (not to speak here of its other features), would naturally fall within the time which has been assigned, viz., the close of the first century: this, however, we should not be able to settle definitely145145This is in accord with the statement of Eusebius iii. 37: 2, that already at Trajan's time (98 to 117) a part of the missionary activity inspired by Christianity consisted in the diffusion of the written gospel narratives (καὶ τὴν τῶν θείων εὐαγγελίων παραδιδόναι γραφήν). unless the history and literature of the whole second proved such a cogent argument in its favor.
There is yet one thing more to add to what has already been said respecting the oldest Christian literature. It is the evidence which Papias gives, and which, more than any other, has beet misused by the opponents of our Gospels. The want of positive knowledge which rests upon this man, as well as upon his testimony, makes him not a fit subject to be taken either independently or in antagonism with other witnesses.
From Eusebius (iii. 39) we learn, confirmed as it is by Irenæus (v. 33: 4), that Papias composed a work in five books, which he called an Exposition of the sayings of our Lord.146146Λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις. Rufin, following the ancient usage, translates λόγια by oracula. It is extremely probable that the book of Papias, true to the chiliastic standpoint of the man, was largely devoted to the prophecies of the Lord. Christian usage, however, gave the word a larger significance, so that the sayings of the Lord and of the apostles, although not having the precise character of prophecy, are yet called by that name, and the Holy Writ was designated as θεῖα λόγια. Papias makes use of the same expression in conveying a notion of the contents of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, where the narrower conception conveyed in the word "prophecy" does not do justice to the meaning. While he was collecting the materials for this 172work he believed that his task was not so much to cull what was to be found in written records as in unwritten tradition; and, according to his own assurance, he drew especially from those oral accounts which could be traced back to the apostles. These are his own words regarding his book: "I shall arrange with assiduity whatever I may gather from the presbyters (elders), and retain in memory, while aiming to ascertain the truth of the same by means of personal investigation. For I did not find my pleasure, as most do, in those who have much to tell, but in those who teach the truth; not in those who bring forward what is strange, and out of the usual course (τὰ, ἀλλοτρίας ἐντολάς), but in those who surrender themselves absolutely to the truth,147147Τὰς παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου τῇ πίστει δεδομένας καὶ ἀπ᾽ αὐτῆς παραγινομένας τῆς ἀληθείας. and claim lineage with what is true. Whenever, therefore, I fell in with those who used to be on intimate terms with the presbyters, I made special inquiries as to what Andrew, or Peter, or Philip, or Thomas, or James, or John, or Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord, or as to what Aristion and John the presbyter, disciples also, have 173to say.148148Τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀνέκρινον λόγους, τι Ἀνδρέας ἢ τί Πέτρος εἶπεν . . . ἅ τε Ἀριστίων καί ὁ πρεσβύτ. Ἰωάνν. οἱ τοῦ κυρ. μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν.. For I believed that the books (τὰ ἐκ τῶν βιβλίων) would not be of so much service to me in giving exhaustive information as the living word of men (quantum ex hominum adhuc superstitum voce)."
This passage of Papias is obscure in various ways, and on this account I have endeavored to translate it literally. The first and most important point to settle is, who the elders or "presbyters" were. Papias alludes to them as his vouchers, whom he used in part directly, in part indirectly. Are the apostles themselves to be regarded as covered by the expression? It is supposed by many that they are; but this notion is absolutely denied and rendered untenable by Eusebius. For, after stating that Irenæus designates Papias as a "hearer of John and companion of Polycarp," he qualifies his words by saying, "But Papias has by no means represented him in the preface of his book as one who himself heard and saw the holy apostles: he teaches, on the contrary, that he had received the matters of faith (τὰ τῆς πίστεως) from those who had had personal acquaintance with 174them (παρὰ τῶν ἐκείνοις γνωρίμων). In like manner, he says, a little farther on in the same chapter (iii. 39: 4), Papias insists that he received the words of the apostles from their own followers, and says that he himself drew from the lips149149Τοὺς μὲν τῶν ἀππ. λόγους παρὰ τῶν αὐτοῖς παρηκολουθηκότων ὁμολογεῖ παρειληψέν αι, Ἀριστίωνος δὲ καὶ τοῦ πρεσβυτ. Ἰω. αὐτήκοον ἑαυτόν φησι γενέσθαι. of Aristion and the presbyter John; adding this, that Papias often mentions these by name when giving in his book the communications which they made. It is not only incredible that Eusebius erred in this, it was, indeed, scarcely possible for him to do so. For, as he had the whole work of Papias before him, and was making selections for his own purposes, it could scarcely escape him, if Papias, in one case or another, appealed to the direct communication of an apostle, clear as it was to him that he had known Aristion and the presbyter John. And how wholly differently would he have brought forward in his preface his vouchers, had they been the apostles! he surely would not have written, as he has, words which are capable of a double interpretation, if he had been referring directly to them. In the whole passage, however, the presbyters are set in contrast 171with the apostles; and yet the clause, ''the disciples of the Lord," subjoined to the names Aristion and John the presbyter, makes the meaning of this expression obscure; at least rendering a double interpretation of it possible. And is it credible that Papias should say that he would confirm with his own declarations the statement of the apostles? Respecting the words of the presbyters, he could say this with the more justice, because, as his own words and the declaration of Eusebius show, he was able to use of these only Aristion and John; but in the case of the others, he had to rely on what was communicated indirectly. Irenæus brings evidence confirmatory of this way of interpreting the term "presbyters;" for he derives the tradition of the "wanton luxury of the kingdom of a thousand years" expressly from the mouth of "the presbyters who had seen John, the disciple of the Lord," and confirms this by appealing directly to the writings of Papias. Granting in this way that he was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp, it is perfectly clear that the presbyters in 176Irenæus have the same signification as in Papias, and that they are not for an instant to be confounded with the apostles.150150To understand who these presbyters were, it is not necessary to understand that they were personally connected with the immediate companions of the apostles, as Irenæus (iv. 27: 1) shows: Quemadmodum audivi a quodam presbytero (later it runs: inquit ille senior) qui audierat ab his qui apostolos viderant et ab his qui didicerant. But Irenæus (v. 36: 2) refers to the "presbyters " without any additional designation. This inference respecting Papias which is found in Irenæus rests in the greatest probability on no other ground than the statement of Papias himself, carefully drawn up by Eusebius, but carelessly used by Irenæus; but that he confounded the apostle John, as his manner of speaking would indicate, is consistent with the fact that, as can be shown, the personality of the presbyter John, who likewise lived and died at Ephesus, was forgotten at a very early day.151151As witness to his existence, Dionysius of Alexandria (232, superintendent of the Alexandrine School of Catechumens) quotes in Euseb. vii. 25: 6 the mere fact that there were two monuments at Ephesus inscribed with the name of John, and Eusebius busies himself (iii. 29) more closely with attempting to give more weight to the testimony of Papias to the existence of the second John; in support of which he brings forward, evidently following the lead of Dionysius, the existence of the two Johannean monuments at Ephesus. We ought not to overlook the chronological difficulty connected with the supposition that Papias, who, according to the oldest testimony, suffered martyrdom about the same time as Polycarp, i. e. 165, was not able to collect the materials for his work among surviving apostles (παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων). How little the contents, so far as we know them, correspond to what we should expect from a work written by a disciple of the apostles, who is recording 177what he learned from their own lips, may be judged from what we will proceed to give.
Eusebius cites explicitly from the contents of that work of Papias, that the daughters of Philip informed him at Hierapolis of the resurrection of a dead man immediately subsequently to their father's time, and that Justus Barsabbas had drunken a goblet of poison without experiencing any injury. (Both of these accounts might be brought into relation with expressions of our Lord, as in fulfillment of them.) In addition, Papias asserted (we give the accounts in Eusebius iii. 39: 5 literally) that he had learned many things through oral tradition, as well as some unknown (ξένας, strange) parables and teachings of the Lord, and other things, which were all too fabulous" (μυθικώτερα). To this class Eusebius assigns the doctrine of a kingdom of a thousand years' duration, which was to appear sensible on the earth after the resurrection of the dead. The representation of this kingdom was not given by Eusebius, but by Irenæus. It runs as follows: "Then shall come the days in which vinestocks shall appear, 178each one putting forth ten thousand branches, each branch ten thousand shoots, each shoot ten thousand clusters of grapes, and each cluster twenty-five measures of wine; and if one of the saints should try to take hold of one of the clusters, another of the latter will cry, I am better; lay hold of me, and praise the Lord by me. In like manner, an ear of corn will bring forth ten thousand ears, and each ear ten thousand grains," etc. This representation is made by Papias, as Irenæus testifies, to refer to the "elders," and, through them, even to John. Eusebius remarks, in reference to it, that Papias, a man of very inconsiderable mental parts, as his whole book shows, gathered his notions from misapprehended expressions of the apostles. He then goes on to say that there are other sayings of the Lord, dating from Aristion and John the presbyter, recorded in the book of Papias; but he refers those who may be interested in them to the work itself. To this he adds that he will subjoin to what has been already cited what he has learned respecting Mark. This runs, "And this says the presbyter: 179"Mark, the interpreter of Peter, wrote carefully down all that he recollected, but not according to (τάξει) the order of Christ's speaking or working; for he neither heard Christ, nor was a direct follower of him, but of Peter, as already intimated, who always held his discourses as circumstances made it expedient, but do not seek to arrange the sayings of the Lord in any regular order. Mark accomplished all that he purposed in writing what he had to record just as he remembered it. There was one thing, however, which he did keep in mind; that was, not to omit anything that he had heard, or to falsify anything which he undertook to set down." To this statement of Papias, which, judging by its tone, possibly only refers in its first part to the presbyter, Eusebius subjoins a second statement respecting Matthew, as follows: "This is what Papias records respecting Mark; but of Matthew he says, 'Matthew recorded in the Hebrew language the sayings of the Lord, but he translated every one of them as best he could." In these words much is obscure: especially doubtful 180is it whether we have rightfully translated "sayings of the Lord;"152152In the last passage we have τὰ λόγια without any further designation; he refers however to what goes before, where we haveτῶν κυριακῶν λογίων. at least the casual words of Mark, "what Christ spoke and did," would seem to make it probable that both acts and words were comprehended under the single word "sayings." But do these expressions of the presbyter and of Papias—and this is the main question—relate to the two Gospels in our possession bearing the names of Matthew and Mark? And if the expression, "sayings of the Lord," is to remain unmolested, it does not follow that a historical clothing of these sayings is to be excluded, since neither Eusebius nor any other theologian of Christian antiquity supposed that the words of Papias stood in antagonism with the two Gospels. If in our time the inference has been drawn from the words of Papias, that our Gospel according to Mark is to be regarded only in a secondary sense as the work of Mark, and is to be regarded as a subsequent revision of a work once written by Mark, but which was lost sight of at a very early date, the idea would show itself to be a manifest freak of fancy. It would have 181no other mission than to open to the freest play of conjecture all our investigations respecting the origin and the mutual relations of our three synoptical Gospels.
True as this is of Mark, it is no less true of Matthew. The statement of Papias has its point in this, that it ascribes only a Hebrew text to Matthew even. If this statement have a satisfactory basis, even if we accept the other, viz., that every one translated it as well as he could, it leaves a broad margin between the primitive Hebrew and our Greek Matthew. That Hebrew text, like the primitive Mark, must have been lost at a very early date, as not a single one of the church Fathers saw or used it. This gives rise to one of the most intricate of questions, the discussion of which, however, would not be in place here. We, on our side, are fully satisfied in the matter, being convinced that the acceptance by Papias of a primitive Hebrew text of Matthew (a view which may not have been limited to him, and may have been repeated by others) rested entirely upon a misunderstanding. I will briefly indicate of what 182character it was, and whence it arose. The Judo-Christian struggles which sprung into being during the lifetime of the apostle Paul come more and more markedly into the foreground. There were two parties specially prominent: that of the Nazaræans was more moderate than the one more closely allied to philosophical speculation, the Ebionites. Both made use of a Gospel which bore the name of Matthew, the former in the Hebrew language, the latter in the Greek, the same document to which reference was made on a preceding page as the Gospel of the Hebrews. That they did not hesitate to make modifications according to their own taste, in the text as they originally received it, is clear from the standpoint which they occupied, that of being the only sect characterized by strong self-will. And what we have really learned of this Gospel shows, as already stated, not only the great similarity to our Matthew, but also arbitrary deviations which have been made from him in some instances. When it was said later—I mean in the course of the second century—that the Nazaræans, a race 183dating from the very emergence of Christianity, possessed Matthew in the Hebrew, what was more natural than for one and another to assume, wholly in accordance with the claims of the Judo-Christian heretics, that Matthew himself wrote in Hebrew, and that the Greek text, the one which was circulated not only in the church, but among other Judo-Christians, was a translation? No one knew, no one made inquiries how divergent the two versions were; and not only were such investigations foreign to the character of the times, but the exclusiveness of the Nazaræans especially drew them away from such researches, making their home, as they did, apart, in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea.
Jerome gives us the benefit of his support in this explanation of the statement of Papias. Jerome, who was especially skilled in Hebrew, gained the temporary use of a Hebrew Gospel of the Nazaræans, and at once proclaimed that that was the primitive text of Matthew. Going deeper into the matter, however, he simply said that many held this Hebrew text to be the 184original from Matthew's own hand; he translated it, moreover, into Greek and Latin, and made some comments upon it. From these, as well as from some fragments preserved by the Fathers of the church, it may be shown that the view represented by many scholars of late, and in a certain sense shared with Papias, that the so-called Hebrew Gospel is older than Matthew, must be received in its very opposite form; that that Hebrew book is a perversion of our Greek Matthew, whose record bears the marks in the whole of its diction, and especially in the form of its Old Testament quotations, of being no translation, but an original. That same independence of our Matthew is to be marked in the Greek version of the Hebrew Gospel current among the Ebionites, only with this distinction, that here the heretical character may, in consequence of the various hands which executed it, have assumed a more decided character. Being in Greek, it was better known in the church than the Hebrew version; and in the very earliest epoch it was held to be another text of Matthew. This agrees with what Papias wrote 185respecting the various versions of Matthew, among which he reckoned the Greek Matthew then held by the church.
There is still more to be said of Papias and his work. In relation to his efforts to obtain materials he wrote that he believed that less was needed in consequence of what was already written in books. To what books did he refer? May it not have been our own Gospels? The expression used would make this not impossible, but the whole character of the book would render it in the highest degree improbable; for he made no secret of his object of preparing, on the ground of what was then, about A. D. 130 or 140,153153Eusebius speaks of Papias even at the time of Trajan. related regarding the Saviour, a kind of supplement to the Gospels, and he may or may not have directed special reference to the prophetical allusions to the Lord. The Gospels, therefore, he could not have used as sources, and as affording materials for his collections. The books referred to by him must be understood as rather relating to unauthentic and more or less apocryphal records of the Lord's career, of which there were so many from the 186earliest date. These he set over against the oral communications which he had received, whose authenticity, as it could be traced through the elders back to the apostles themselves, like the evangelical writings, seemed to be unquestionable.
From that part of Papias's work which Eusebius thought was worth preserving, I have already cited the story of the resurrection from the dead which the daughters of Philip asserted that they had heard of their father, and also the account of Justus Barsabbas and the poison. In a third passage, where the Gospel of the Hebrews gives its corroborative evidence, he repeats the story of a woman who had been accused before Jesus of sin. In like manner it was stated in his book, as we learn of Catenen and Œkumenius, that Judas the betrayer was of such monstrous corpulence that he was crushed by a carriage in a narrow street, and that his bowels gushed out in consequence. Regarding the further contents of the book, Eusebius informs us, as already remarked, that, in addition to a few matters altogether 187fabulous, it contained a few parables and sayings of our Lord, hitherto unknown but utterly unworthy of being recorded; and no ecclesiastical writer has done so, excepting in the case of Irenæus's strange account of the kingdom which should last a thousand years. In addition to this, Anastasius Sinaita has called attention to the fact that Papias has made the days of creation and paradise refer to Christ and the church; and Andrew the Cappadocian, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, quoted a remark of Papias respecting the angels who had been unfaithful to their trust in the government of the world. The latter writer, as does Arethas also, cites the authority of Papias in support of the credibility (Arethas uses the word "inspiration") of the Apocalypse.154154The memorandum in a Latin Oxford codex of the fourteenth century, respecting the four Marys, on whose margin is written the word Papias, is unquestionably to be referred to a Papias of the middle ages, if there is any meaning to be ascribed to marginal words. In such excerpts, particularly as they are given in the Catenas and similar works, the addition of the author's name is a matter of the greatest untrustworthiness.
In view of all that has been said above, is Papias's book one which can be accepted as throwing important light upon the history of our Gospels? The judgment of Eusebius respecting the man, that he was of limited understanding, is justified not only by the details which are brought into view, but confirmed by 188the fact that his alleged contributions to our evangelical literature have been utterly disregarded by the church. What would not a single parable of the Lord be worth if its authenticity could be substantiated! But no one has taken the slightest notice of all that has been recorded by Papias; the fabulous character which Eusebius charges upon the book—a man himself characterized by extreme critical acumen—has adhered to the whole work, and it is very unfair to trace this charge to a prepossession in favor of the Chiliasts. The question which has been raised we must answer in the negative, in view not only of the character of the man but also of the tendency of his book, although the passage referring to Matthew and Mark shows that that sort of matter was not absolutely excluded. However much to be wished, however important it is to see light thrown upon that very early Christian literature of which we find indications in the preface to Luke, in order to enable us to see the origin and the mutual relation of our synoptic Gospels cleared up, yet there is no use to be made 189of Papias's statements so far as they stand alone and in contradiction to the sufficiently authenticated facts of his time. If he has nevertheless become a torch-bearer of critical theology in our time, and a leader under whose guidance we can be content to see the first two Gospels divided up into what are called their authentic and unauthentic constituent parts, there is little result gained thereby other than the rearing of an undeserved memorial to the bishop of Hierapolis.
Papias is the most acceptable and important ally of the opponents of John's Gospel. And why? Papias is silent respecting this Gospel. Strauss and Renan, with their followers,155155So e. g. Zeller: "The silence of Papias will always afford conclusive evidence against the authenticity of the Gospel of John." Theol. Jahrb. 1847, p. 199. Hilgenfeld: "Had Papias said the least thing respecting a Gospel of John, Eusebius could not possibly have overlooked it, and as he examined into the works transmitted by John, he could not have kept silence had there existed a written Gospel from his hand. Die Evangelien, p. 344. Strauss: "The silence of Papias respecting John as the author of this Gospel is the more weighty in that he not only expressly assures us that he has carefully looked into what was left behind by John, but that, as the bishop of Asia Minor and an acquaintance of Polycarp, the disciple of John, he would consequently know something more definitely respecting the apostle, who spent his later years in Ephesus." Leben Jesu, p. 62. Renan: "Papias, qui avait recueilli avec passion les récits oraux de cet Aristion et de ce Presbyteros Joannes, ne dit pas un mot d’une Vie de Jésus écrite par Jean. Si une telle mention se fût trouvée dans son ouvrage, Eusèbe, qui relève chez lui tout ce qui sert à l’histoire littéraire du siècle apostolique, en eût sans aucun doute fait la remarque." Vie de Jesus, 3d éd. 1863, p. xxiv. Volkmar: "We may therefore certainly presuppose that had Eusebius found a trace of the use of the anti-chiliastic Gospel of Papias he would all the more eagerly have brought it out;" and this opinion is preceded by the remark that "Papias edited his collection and interpretation of the Lord's prophecies about the year 167 of our era." Ursprung uns. Evv. p. 59. make great account of this silence as opposed to the belief in the authenticity of John's Gospel, and evidently consider it something which can not be surmounted. I fear that my readers would not find it so after what has been said above respecting the value of Papias's book. Does it not betray—I ask the reader himself—complete ignorance of what Papias has said regarding his own undertaking, to quote him as 190evidence against the Gospel of John? His remarks respecting Mark and Matthew make no difference in the character of his whole book. It is insisted, however, that Papias can not, from his silence, have known anything about the Gospel of John, still less have acknowledged its authenticity. Naturally here was supposed to be nothing less than decisive evidence against the genuineness of this Gospel yet Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis, belonged even to the neighborhood of Ephesus, whence John's Gospel must have gone forth into the world, and his work can scarcely have been written prior to the middle of the second century. A more groundless and trivial demand can hardly be made than to grant that the silence of Papias respecting the Gospel of John constitutes a strong argument against its genuineness. For, in the first place, to give evidence respecting this Gospel formed no part whatever of the plan of Papias; and in the second place, from the fact that Eusebius has cited nothing from Papias's book respecting it, no inference can justly be drawn that there was nothing 191in that book which related to John's Gospel. The remarks respecting Mark and Matthew are not cited by Eusebius in confirmation of the genuineness of their Gospels, but simply in consequence of certain facts which they touch upon. In the case of John—and this is the only inference which can be rationally drawn from the silence of Eusebius—there were no circumstances which made it necessary to cite what related to him.
Since, however, the opponents of John's Gospel have made so much account of the silence of Eusebius in this matter, I can not refrain from laying before the reader the great error into which they have fallen. They completely overlook the purpose which Eusebius had in view in writing. Respecting his object he expresses himself plainly enough (iii. 3: 2), where he says that he wanted to trace in the ecclesiastical writers what portion of the Antilegomena of the New Testament they had made use of, and what they have said about the Homologoumena, as well as what does not fall under this head.156156Ὁποίαις κέχρηνται τῶν ἀντιλεγομένων, τίνα τε περὶ τῶν ἐνδιαθήκων καὶ ὁμολογουμένων γραφῶν καὶ ὅσα περὶ τῶν μὴ τοιούτων αὐτοῖς εἴρηται. Every one can see that this does not mean that 192he meant to inquire which writings, both of the Antileogomena as well as the Homologoumena, they had used. In the case of the Antilegomena, or New Testament writings of doubtful authority, the object is to indicate the use of passages cited, and in this way to make clear that this or that document was recognized. A similar effort is not made by him in the case of the Homologoumena, or writings invariably recognized as authentic, but he seeks as earnestly as in the case of the other class, to collect ancient references to them, and what was anciently known respecting them. That this construction of his purpose is the only correct one, Eusebius shows not only in the case of Papias, but of all other writers who happen to come under his notice. He never says respecting any one of the Gospels, This one or that one has made use of it: this is much oftener the case in the allusion to the Catholic Epistles,157157That 1 John and 1 Peter can not be taken out of this category Eusebius himself declares, vi. 14, when he speaks of Clement. (See text immediately following.) From the representation of Cosmas Indicopleustes in the seventh book of his Topographia Christiana we learn in like manner that the authenticity of all the catholic epistles was contended against. than to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. But when he cites what he finds in the older writers relative to the Gospels, he brings forward all that refers to their origin, the time when they were 193written, and the occasion which gave them birth. This is the ease with Irenæus, of whom Eusebius writes (v. 8) the following: "Matthew wrote his Gospel among the Hebrews, in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and strengthening the church. After their death, Mark, the disciple aid interpreter of Peter, wrote, recording what Peter had preached. Luke, the companion of Paul, took down the Gospel as it was announced by the latter, and subsequently John, the disciple who lay on the Lord's breast, wrote his Gospel during his sojourn at Ephesus." Very instructive, moreover, are the extracts from Clement. Eusebius says (vi. 14) that Clement briefly treats in his Hypotyposa all the biblical writings, not passing over the Antilegomena. "I mean," he goes on to say literally, "the Epistle of Jude, the other Catholic Epistles, that of Barnabas, and the Revelation ascribed to Peter." He allows the Epistle to the Hebrews to have been written by Paul, but in the Hebrew language. After further remarks respecting this Epistle, Eusebius goes on to say: "But in 194the same treatise Clement communicates a tradition of the following import respecting the true order of the Gospels; those were first written which contain a genealogical record. Mark's Gospel, moreover, had the following origin: When Peter was publicly preaching in Rome, and, filled with the Spirit, was announcing the Gospel, Mark was urged by many who were present, to put on record the statements of Peter, since he had long been Peter's companion and could remember the substance of his discourses; and when in accordance with this request he wrote his Gospel, he communicated it to those who had asked for it. Peter on his part, when he learned what Mark was doing, neither took ground against it, nor urged him to continue in it. And John, when he saw that that physical, active side of the Saviour had been fully delineated in the first three Gospels, gratified the wish of friends that he should portray Jesus on the spiritual sides This is what Clemens communicates." We add to this what Eusebius (vi. 35) has taken, of, similar purport, from Origen: that from tradition 195he had gathered that one of the four Gospels which had universal credence in God's church on earth, the one bearing the name of Matthew, at first a collector of customs and then an apostle of Jesus, was the one first written; and that it was composed in the Hebrew tongue and dedicated to believers who had come out from Judaism. The second in the order of the writing was Mark's, who had followed Peter's lead, and whom Peter himself recognizes in his catholic epistle as his son,—"My son Mark greeteth you." The third was Luke's, defended by Paul, and prepared for the use of those who were converted from heathendom. All these were followed by the one which bears the name of John.
Now does not a glance show that all these passages from Irenæus, Clemens and Origen were not quoted by Eusebius for the purpose of proving the genuineness of the Gospels, and just as little what Papias has to say about Mark and Matthew, but that they were recorded merely as interesting facts relative to the distinctive 196history of each one of the evangelical records?
But we have the most striking confirmation of our view in extracts from writers still older, whose clear and distinct testimony to our Gospels and other Homologoumena, such as the Pauline Epistles, are passed over by Eusebius in accordance with his general design, while he records what seemed to him to support the Antilegomena. Here Papias himself is at the head; at any rate Eusebius remarks expressly respecting him at the end of his treatise, that he had used proof texts from the First Epistle of John, and also from that Of Peter.158158The statement of Andrew in the sixth book that Papias bore witness to the trustworthiness (τὸ ἀξιόπιστον) of the Apocalypse neither coincides with the assertion that Eusebius overlooked the testimony borne to the Johannean Apocalypse by Papias, nor, still less, with the suspicion uttered by Volkmar (p. 59) that Eusebius passed over this evidence "on account of his partisan feeling against the Apocalypse." It is decisive against this suspicion that Eusebius has mentioned Justin and Theophilus as credible witnesses for the Apocalypse. Further he says (iv. 18: 3) of Justin, that he had borne in mind the Apocalypse of John, and expressly allowed that it was written by the apostle; but of the quotations from the Gospels found in him, he does not have a syllable. From Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians he draws the statement (iv. 14) that he was indebted for many proof texts to the First Epistle of Peter; but of the far more numerous Pauline, citations, taken from the majority of Paul's 197Epistles, he says nothing.159159Hilgenfeld sought to take away the force of this proof, and wrote in his journal, 1865, pt. 3, p. 335: "Manifestly it is quite a different thing if Eusebius does not hold, in regard to the epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the testimony in behalf of the epistle of Paul to this community, an epistle which is unquestionably Pauline in its origin; and merely remarks, though expressly, the use of the first epistle of Peter, which, although a subject of dispute, unquestionably belonged to the much contested catholic epistles." In more prudent fashion, however, Hilgenfeld mentions to his readers the epistle to the Philippians merely, to whom Polycarp himself writes, and does not mention that the extracts are taken from many other Pauline letters. Of Clemens Romanus he remarks that he had taken many ideas from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and often in the original words, while he passes in silence over all quotations from the Pauline Epistles. From the three books of Theophilus to Autolycus, and from the one directed against the heresy of Hermogenes, he cites (iv. 14) nothing further than that in the latter he makes use of passages in the Apocalypse of John; and yet Theophilus often and unmistakably uses the Pauline Epistles (e. g. Rom. ii. 6, et seq. ad Autolyc. i. 14; Rom. xiii. 7, et sq. ad Autolyc. iii. 14); he even (and this is the most pertinent to our needs) cites the Gospel of John under that very appellation.
With all this, do we not apprehend the aim of what Eusebius records? And may we not steer clear of the long-continued perversion160160As lately as 1865, Hilgenfeld wrote: "How can the inference be drawn otherwise than that Eusebius searched carefully in Papias also for all evidences of New Testament writings, and failed to communicate anything respecting the canonical fourfoldness of the Gospels, and especially respecting the Gospel of John, only because he found no evidence? " "Who does not see that the fourfoldness of the canonical gospels had no existence at the time of Papias?" of his purpose? On our part, we are of the firm conviction that it needs only an upright determination to discern the truth as it is in order to see the complete worthlessness of this famous Papias argument against the Gospel of John.198
The absurdity of the argument that the unfortunate Bishop of Hierapolis, shortly before the middle of the second century, knew nothing of the writings of Luke and the Epistles of Paul, because, judging by Eusebius's silence, he made no mention of them, has been long perceived; but very recently it has been set aside161161See Volkmar i. a. 1. p. 61: "It is an entire distortion of the case for Tischendorf to try to trouble me with the ' absurdity' of the notion that Papias knew nothing of Luke as well: he may just as well have been acquainted with Luke's Gospel as with John's, but may have looked down upon both as too free, Paul-like, anti-Judaic-Christian and anti-chiliastic." "Although he does not defend himself exactly so in respect to the Gospel of Luke, the reason is that it was not enough held in common regard as Luco-Pauline, and he did not need his millenary traditions to defend himself against such a non-authority. What follows, therefore, from this nearer examination of the Papias contexts in relation to the Gospel of the Spirit's Parusia? Either he really did not become acquainted with it in his own Hierapolis, or he did not discover it with the superscription 'according to John,' and certainly not having canonical authority to be disowned by his silence. His testimony remains therefore unchanged; it must be taken without evasion. Papias's silence respecting Luke and John does not bear direct witness indeed for the non-existence of their Gospels, but for their non-apostolical authority; or rather that both Gospels were without apostolical authority with the larger number of contemporaries for whom Papias gathered and expounded his chiliastic traditions." by those who are the rudest opponents of ecclesiasticism, on the ground that the bishop may have been silent about things which he knew, but which seemed too trivial to mention. Still less trouble has it caused this party that, according to Eusebius's express testimony, Papias made use of the First Epistle of John. In the place, some pages back, where we had. occasion to refer to Polycarp's use of this same Epistle, it was said that the evidence in favor of this Epistle is equally applicable to the Gospels; but we asserted that not only had the identity of authorship in these two treatises been called into question, but that there has been a hasty impulse to cast the Epistle itself overboard. Thus Papias's silence was to bring the Gospel into utter disrepute, while, with his distinct 199testimony, he could not shield the Epistle from the attacks of overbearing critics.
In view of such proceedings, it is a genuine satisfaction to know that there has recently been brought to light a work printed long ago, but quite forgotten, in which Papias and his book give direct testimony in behalf of the Gospel, which is assaulted under the protection of his name. It is a prologue to the Gospel of John in a Latin manuscript of the Vatican (leaf 244), which, by a note in an old hand, is traced back to the possession of the Bohemian, Duke Wenceslaus (iste liber creditur fuisse Divi Venceslai Ducis Boemiæ), and which, according to the appearances of the writing, dates from the ninth century. It is now designated Vat. Alex. No. 14.162162During my recent visit to Rome (March, 1866), Cardinal Pitra, the learned Benedictine, called my attention to this manuscript; yet Cardinal Jos. Mar. Thomasius had already given place to the prologue accompanying it in his collections (Opp. omnia, tom. i. Rome, 1747, p. 344), where Dr. Aberle of Tubingen had noticed it, and learnedly discussed it in the first number of his Quarterly, 1864, pp. 1-47. The prologue discloses that it was composed prior to the time of Jerome, and begins with the words, "Evangelium iohannis manifestatum et datum est ecclesiis ab iohanne adhuc in corpore constituto, sicut papias nomine hierapolitanus discipulus iohannis carus in exotericis id est in extremis quinque libris retulit." There can be 200no stronger testimony than this that Papias did give evidence in behalf of John's Gospel. The further purport of the prologue is, with all its brevity, rich in surprising facts. That it sprang from the work of Papias seems, however, on more grounds than one, to be doubtful; and on this account the credibility of the other matters which it communicates can not be put on the same footing with the first.163163It is further stated: Disscripsit vero evangelium dictante lohanne recte. That the writer of this prologue wanted that this should be understood of John, the prologue prefixed to the Greek Catena text to John, and edited by Corderius, proves, which runs thus: ὑπαγόρευσε (sic)τὸ εὐαγγ. τῷ ἑαυτοῦ μαθητῇ Παπίᾳ εὐβιώτῷ τῷ Ἱεραπολίτῃ. It is clear that this traditional statement is not to be reconciled with Eusebius. Directly subsequently in the prologue it runs: Verum Marcion hereticus cum ab eo (codex abe) fuisset improbatus, eo quod contraria sentiebat, abiectus est a Iohanne. Is vero scripta aut epistolas ad eum pertulerat a fratribus qui in ponto fuerunt. It has already been stated that this tradition respecting Marcion is not an isolated one.
Before leaving Papias, however, we must revert to one source of evidence in favor of John's Gospel, which Irenæus (v. 36: 2) cites even from the lips of the presbyters, those high authorities of Papias: "And on this account they say that the Lord used the expression, 'In my Father's house are many mansions'" (John xiv. 2). As the presbyters put this expression164164III. 36: 1 is Presbyteri; directly after: Dicunt presbyteri apostolorum discipuli; and shortly before, in connection with the account of the reign of a thousand years: Presbyteri qui Johannem discipulum domini viderunt. in connection with the degrees of elevation granted to the just in the City of God, in Paradise, in Heaven, according as they bring their thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold from the harvest, so nothing is more probable than that Irenæus borrowed this whole expression of the presbyter, together with the portraiture already referred 201to of the kingdom of a thousand years, from the work of Papias. Whether it comes from that source, however, or not, on every ground the authority of the presbyters stands higher than that of Papias; it takes us back unquestionably to the close of the apostolical period. In what way, and with what machinery, the noted men with whom unbelief becomes an art, and whose very efforts to propagate it are labored at with artistic ingenuity, will be able to set aside this evidence in support of John's Gospel, and, together with the testimony of the presbyters, that of Papias in the Latin prologue to John, is not apparent to me; yet I do not doubt that the skill which has defied all efforts to baffle it as yet, will be able to meet and overcome even this obstacle.
And lastly, we have to trace the bearings of New Testament textual criticism on the question under discussion. This is the science which has to do with the primitive documents of the sacred text, the direct bearer of saving truth. Investigation into these primitive documents ought to throw light upon the history of 202the sacred text; i.e. we ought to learn from them what in all times Christendom has united in finding recorded in the books which contain the New Testament; this, e.g., what Columba, the pious and learned Irish monk of the sixth century; what Ambrose at Milan, and Augustine in Africa, in the fourth century; what Cyprian and Tertullian, in the third and second centuries, found recorded in their Latin copies of the New Testament: in like manner, what Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople, in the tenth; Cyril, the Bishop of Jerusalem, in the fifth; Athanasius and Origen of Alexandria, in the fourth and third centuries, found on record in the Greek copies of their time. The final and highest object of these investigations consists in this, however,—to trace with exactness those expressions and words which the holy apostles either wrote with their own hand or dictated to others. If the New Testament is the most important and most hallowed book in the world, we must certainly lay the greatest value on all efforts to possess the text in which it was originally written in its most perfect 203state, without omissions, without additions, and without changes. Should it be impossible to attain this result, still the task would at any rate be ours to approximate as closely as possible to the primitive form of the text.
The question will at once recur to many readers, Do our ordinary editions of the Bible not contain the genuine and true text? The German Protestant, with his Luther's Bible in his hand, would ask this question; so would the Catholic, with his Latin Vulgate, or his German or French translation of it; so would the Englishman, with his Authorized Version; so too would the Russian, with his Sclavonic text. The answer to this question, viewed from what side we will, is not light. Every one of these translations has again its own more or less rich text-history, and there is no one which has not enough of the original to insure the degree of faith necessary to salvation. But if the effort be made to see how closely each follows the original, how truly each has preserved the text as it was given by the apostles, it must be compared with the original text, 204from which, directly or indirectly, all have flowed. We know that the Greek is the original text of the New Testament. And how is it with the genuineness of this text?
When the discovery of printing, in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, was applied to the publication of the Greek New Testament, Erasmus, at Bâle, and Cardinal Ximenes, at Alcala, took as the basis of the work such manuscripts as were at their command. Their editions were repeated elsewhere, often with slight modification of the original text, according to other manuscripts. The learned Parisian printer, Robert Stephens, introduced some such modifications; the Elzevir followed, the work of a Leyden printer; and soon the force of usage became so powerful that the theologians accepted the text as it was established by the Erasmus, Elzevir, and Robert Etienne editions as a kind of authorized general edition. In the mean time, scholars had begun to trace new sources,—Greek manuscripts written in the first century, as well as manuscripts prepared for the translations effected in the first five centuries 205 into Latin, Gothic, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian; to these may be added the textual readings which are found recorded in the works of the church Fathers of the second century. From this there issued at last the result that, under the hand of the various transcribers, learned as well as unlearned, the New Testament text has assumed extraordinary diversity in its readings. And, although this diversity is, in thousands of passages, limited to merely grammatical forms, having no relation to the sense, there is no lack of places which involve more important matters, and which are of historical and dogmatic value. After this had gone on so far that the whole of Christendom was interested in the highest degree in the matter, earnest men, with whom it was a sacred duty to ascertain what is truth rather than to conform with established usage, conceived that it was their especial task to reform the ordinary text by incorporating upon it the results of examining the ancient but later discovered manuscripts. Still, it is only in the most recent period that men have dared to lay aside the 206ordinary text, which had no scientific guaranty of authenticity, and to bring into exclusive use the text of the earliest documents. For it needs no proof that the oldest documents, those which run back to within a few centuries of the first composition, must be truer to the original than those which were written a thousand years or more subsequently to the first composition. In giving the preference to the most ancient documents, however, there is the rigid duty of examining them most carefully in respect to their intrinsic character and their mutual relations. With this is to be coupled the fact that our various most ancient manuscripts give the text with a great diversity of readings, through which cause their use is made much more difficult in establishing the original text given by the apostles. All the more necessary was it, therefore, to seek the oldest and most trustworthy of them all. In order to do this, Richard Bentley considered it important to give the preference to that text which shows the closest accordance with the oldest Greek documents and the Latin text of the fourth century. In 207accordance with Bentley's judgment, Carl Lachmann undertook, with very few aids, the restoration of the text which was generally diffused in the fourth century; for there seems to be no possibility of reaching any documentary evidence which goes back of that age. There is no doubt that the earliest Latin translation of the Gospels—to limit ourselves to this—was written soon after the middle of the second century; for, as I have had occasion to remark above, the Latin translator of Irenæus, before the close of the second century, and Tertullian in the last decade of the same century, appear to have been in undisputed dependence upon it. This oldest translation we possess165165It has had a great many stadia to run through from its ancient use down to the present use by the Romish Church. After going through several hands in the third and fourth centuries, and after repeatedly undergoing revisions in accord with the Greek text, Jerome formed his text from it, not without reference moreover to Greek authorities which were allied to it. The use of the Romish Church gradually made this the Vulgate. It had, however, experienced many modifications, when the Roman Curia, towards the end of the sixteenth century, took advantage of the general diffusion of manuscripts to execute an official revision of the Vulgate, and it is this which now is authorized in the Roman Catholic Church. at the present time,—certainly in its main body; for our oldest documents, reaching back to the fifth century, and which bear relation to the text which was prepared in North Africa, the home of Tertullian, find a frequent confirmation of their readings in the two witnesses already mentioned, the translators of Irenæus and Tertullian. And on this account, in behalf of those texts which men have not recorded in 208their writings, it must be admitted that they correspond to the very earliest edition, or are very nearly allied to it. By the discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript we have advanced yet' farther; for this text, which, on palæographical grounds, has been assigned by competent scholars to the middle of the fourth century, stands in such surprising alliance with the oldest Latin translation that it is really to be regarded as coincident with the text which, soon after the middle of the second century, served the first Latin translator, the preserver of the so-called Itala, as a foundation. And that this text was not an isolated one is manifest from the fact that the oldest Syrian text, contained in a manuscript of the fifth century, lately discovered in the Nitrian desert, as well as Origen and others of the earliest Fathers, stands in specially close connection with it. The Syrian text just mentioned possesses on its side a power of carrying conviction quite analogous to the Itala, and manifesting it in that double way which I have endeavored to set forth; for the latest investigations leave no doubt that the Peshito, which 209 is universally ascribed to the close of the second century, presupposes the existence of the Nitrian text, so that the latter must have arisen about the middle of the second century.
What now follows from all these considerations in the way of answering the question which has been raised? Two things we have to make use of and apply in the most emphatic manner. At the very outset of this work I have indicated it as a noteworthy fact, that soon after the middle, and even about the middle, of the second century, the four Gospels underwent an undoubted common translation, and appeared in a Latin as well as in a Syriac version. These translations not only prove the same thing which the harmonistic treatment of the Gospels by Tatian of Syria and by Theophilus at almost the same epoch proves; they prove at the same time much more, namely, that as the Gospels of Luke and John were in existence at that time in the same form in which we have them now, so were those of Matthew and Mark. If isolated citations from the oldest epoch allow the suspicion that instead of our Matthew, the 210 nearly related and only subsequently discriminated Gospel of the Hebrews was perhaps used, or that even our Mark had then taken that primitive form which is indicated in the recent investigations of Papias's account, yet the oldest Latin texts of these Gospels completely exclude this suspicion, at least so far as. the middle of the second century is concerned. They give thoughtful investigators as little ground for believing that these texts might shortly before have been developed by unknown hands from a previous form, and now in an unskillful fashion, after the change which has been wrought upon them by the Latin Church, are held to be the original draft. Even here the Nitrian text stands by the side of the Itala in confirmation of it, omitting, however, the Gospel of Mark, with the exception of the last four verses. It is well known that the discoverer and editor of this text uttered his conviction, and strengthened it with plausible proofs, that in the case of the Gospel of Matthew this text may have sprung from the original Hebrew form. In opposition to 211 this decidedly erroneous impression, the agreement of the same Syrian text with our oldest Greek and Latin documents confirms in the most striking manner our conclusion in relation to the Greek text of Matthew, as well as the conclusion that in the middle of the second century there was no other text of Matthew than the one which we possess. And so far as Mark is concerned, this Syrian translator bears witness in support of the closing verses already employed by Irenæus, which, according to decisive critical authority, are not genuine, but which were appended to the accepted text of Mark's Gospel.166166It is an interesting memorial of the negative school of criticism at the present day, that its representatives, in part at least, take particular pleasure in basing their defense upon just those weighty scripture passages respecting whose want of authenticity the criticism which adheres closely to documentary evidence, as gained from the most recent discoveries, leaves no doubt at all. Among such passages may be reckoned the close of Mark's Gospel, the narrative respecting the adulteress in John, and the story of the descent of the angel into the pool of Bethesda in the fourth verse of the fifth chapter of the same Gospel. Certainly there can be no doubt that it far better subserves the ends opposed to apologetics to leave such apocryphal passages as these in both the Gospels mentioned, than by their omission to seem to give advantage to those who claim the apostolical origin of those Gospels. That that alliance between legitimism and its most determined opponents repeats itself on a political field, argues a wicked misunderstanding on the part of scholars of reputed orthodoxy.
But I have yet another matter of textual criticism to take note of, which in my judgment affords evidence that our collective Gospels are to be traced back at least to the beginning of the second or the end of the first century. As on the one side the text of the Sinaitic manuscript, together with the oldest Itala text, is to be assigned specifically to the use of the second century, so on the other side it is easy to establish that that same text, in spite of all 212its superiority over other documents, had assumed even their differences in many respects from the primitive purity of the reading, and that it even then presupposed a complete text-history. We are not directed in this exclusively to the Codex Sinaiticus and one or another of the Itala manuscripts, together with Irenæus and Tertullian: but we can accept all these documents, which we must assign, partly from necessity and partly with the greatest probability, to the second century; the fact is undeniable that there was even then a rich text-history. We mean by this that even prior to the second half of the second century, while copy after copy of our Gospels was made, not only are there many errors of transcribers to be found, but the phraseology and the sense in particular places are changed, and larger or smaller additions are made from apocryphal and oral sources. With all this, such changes are not excluded which were the result of putting together separate parallel passages, and these testify in a striking manner to the early union of our Gospels in a single canon. If this 213is really the case, there is an important stadium of the textual history of our four Gospels prior to the middle of the second century, prior to the time when canonical authority, together with the more settled ecclesiastical order, made arbitrary changes in the sacred text more and more difficult,—this I shall take occasion to show fully at another time,—and for the lapse of this history we must assume at least a half century. According to this, must not—I dare not say the origin of the Gospels, but—the establishment of the evangelical canon be set at the close of the first century? And is not this result all the more certain from the coincidence with it of all the historical factors of the second century, which we have reviewed without any reserve?
There will be those, it is not to be doubted, who will accuse us of one-sidedness and want pf thoroughness. And in truth we have passed over some things whose examination would have been in accordance with my purpose to pass in review all the oldest documents which could throw light upon the Gospels or illuminate 214their primitive recognition. If we have omitted anything, it is only because the inferences to be drawn from them touch too closely, as it has seemed to us,—perhaps wrongly,—upon the domain of hypothesis to give really solid results to our investigation. But in what we have passed over there is nothing which is antagonistic to what has been already advanced. We allude, e. g., to the earliest traces of a canonic indication and collection of apostolic writings, including the earliest appendices to the New Testament, and contained in a portion of the New Testament itself as the church established it in the fourth century. This is certainly the most recent portion, viz., the Second Epistle of Peter; where, (iii. 16), reference is made not only to the collection of the Pauline Epistles, but of other New Testament writings;167167Τὰς λοιπὰς γραφὰς in this connection must be referred to other New Testament Scriptures. If those of the Old Testament were meant, the Pauline epistles would here be clearly placed upon the same footing with the Old Testament. also the closing verses of John's Gospel, of which verse twenty-fourth is held with the most correctness as the oldest testimony from the hand of a presbyter of Ephesus in favor of John's authorship.168168Verse 25, against whose genuineness most serious objections have long been expressed, has now in the primitive Codex Sinaiticus the most weighty authority against itself. (It has been an error that down to this time Cod. 63 has been cited in the same sense.) The Testaments of the twelve patriarchs,169169For the purpose of superseding Grabe's extremely imperfect edition of this important work, I have long been making the requisite preparations in the English and French libraries. It was my good fortune to discover in 1844 an entirely unknown manuscript bearing on this matter, in the island of Patmos. too, contain undeniable 215traces of an acquaintance with the books of the New Testament, the Gospels as well as the Pauline Epistles and the Apocalypse; they confirm, therefore, the existence of a collection of the books of the New Testament at the time when they were written, and this time can scarcely be set later than the close of the first or the opening of the second century.170170We can understand the remark of I. Nitzsch in 1810 (de Testam. xii. Patriarch. etc. Comm. critica, p. 17), that the author of this Testament could not have lived in the first century, since he alluded to almost all the books of the New Testament. "Si ante casum Hierosolymorum floruisset, hunc non tam diserte indicasset; sin omnino sæculo primo, non cognovisset ad quos fere omnes allusit Novi Testamenti libros." But so far as definite details are concerned, such as can be drawn into active service by those who are most determined in their opposition to John's Gospel, we can discover nothing but misunderstanding and unjustified conclusions. It is a misunderstanding, for example, to bring the celebration in Asia Minor of the feast of the Passover into antagonism with the Gospel of John; for the festival as it is celebrated there, which builds simply upon the example of John, is erroneously understood as if it related to the Last Supper, while it really commemorates the death of Jesus the true paschal Lamb (1 Cor. v. 7), the historic basis being given for it in John's Gospel. But when men bring the relation of John's to the synoptic Gospels as 216 the ground for suspicion respecting the apostolic origin of the former, and cite the peculiarity of John's diction, as well as that of the Apocalypse, the universal character of his Gospel compared with Gal. ii. 9, and its dogmatic character, especially in relation to the person of Christ, as brought into contrast with the history of the Christian doctrine, they profess to know more than it is granted to man to know, and use what is naturally hypothetical and uncertain to throw doubts over what is clear and fixed. Against tactics which rely upon the appearance of knowledge and cunningly shaped hypotheses, and which are shrewdly devised to entrap the simple, there is need of summoning the aid of definite and ascertained facts.
We can only call it a welcome occurrence that through the radical character of the two most distinguished modern biographers of Jesus, the Tubingen fantasy-builder and the Parisian caricaturist, the contrasts between belief and disbelief in the Gospels and the Lord have been made thoroughly apparent. It is 217only clear vision which leads to the gift of sure decision. Never before have theologians joined in with the Christian church and the whole world of culture in demanding so appositely as now, How is it down at the foundations, respecting our evangelical belief in the Lord? Nothing is easier than to deceive those who are not in a position which enables them to answer in a scientific manner this greatest question of Christendom; nothing easier than to mislead them under a pretense of learned and honest investigation. Yet the character of this age grants all license to thorough and honorable inquiry in matters where, in former ages less intelligent than ours, faith, and a faith too that often enough was blind, had unquestioned sway. It is just from this that many who have not been able to enter deeply into this class of studies have come to believe that if we look at the matter thoroughly and scientifically there is a great deal of doubt about the facts of Jesus' life. And scarcely anything has had more factitious influence in inducing this incredulity than the often-repeated statement that 218the ancient history of the Christian church gives the most conclusive testimony against the genuineness of our Gospels, especially that of John, in which the divine-human character of the Saviour of the world stands forth to the offense and confusion of an unchristian age more manifestly than in the synoptic Gospels. In the course of this investigation we have been brought to exactly the opposite view. To awaken doubts respecting the genuineness of our Gospels, and John's especially, in thy minds of the lettered as well as the unlettered, to cause many to deny them even, is the work of, that skeptical spirit which has attained to almost undisputed pre-eminence during the past hundred years. And yet there are few instances in the collective literature of antiquity of so general and commanding assent being given to works of a historical character as to our four Gospels.
Against that kind of unbelief which has taken root in the modern frivolous school of religious literature, in that earth-born emancipation of the human spirit which will allow of 219no subjugation by the Spirit of God, science has no weapons. It is their unbelief which has incorporated itself into Renan's book: therein lies its power, its secret of success; there is no need of learned inquiry respecting it: the parti-colored rags which it has borrowed of science only partially conceal the naked limbs. It is quite otherwise with the learned arguments which have been brought against the life of Jesus, and the historic attacks which have been made upon the authenticity of the evangelical sources. Here we have to protest with the utmost decisiveness, but on the ground of rigid scientific investigation. The victory of God in behalf of right belongs to truth alone. It is only a petty littleness of belief that can believe that the sacred interests of truth are imperiled by the use of those dishonored weapons which are so much in vogue in the present age. But whoever stands in the interest of that truth which is to enter into victory must display his faith in the result by no timid counting of costs, but by the constant exercise of his best knowledge and most conscientious endeavors.220221
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