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The Lectionary of the East shewn to be a work of extraordinary antiquity (p. 195).—Proved to be older than any extant MS. of the Gospels, by an appeal to the Fathers (p. 198).—In this Lectionary, (and also in the Lectionary of the West,) the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel have, from the first, occupied a most conspicuous, as well as most honourable place, (p.204.)—Now, this becomes the testimony of ante-Nicene Christendom in their favour (p. 209.)

I HAVE reserved for the last the testimony of The Lectionaries, which has been hitherto all but entirely overlooked327327   The one memorable exception, which I have only lately met with, is supplied by the following remark of the thoughtful and accurate Matthaei, made in a place where it was almost safe to escape attention; viz. in a footnote at the very end of his Nov. Test. (ed. 1803), vol. i. p. 748.—“Haec lectio in Evangeliariis et Synaxariis omnibus ter notatur tribus maxime notabilibus temporibus. Secundum ordinem temporum Ecclesiae Graecae primo legitur κυριακῇ τῶν μυροφόρων, εἰς τὸν ὄρθρον. Secundo, τῷ ὄρθρῳ τῆς ἀναλήψεως. Tertio, ut ἑωθινὸν ἀναστάσιμον γʹ. De hoc loco ergo vetustissimis temporibus nullo modo dubitavit Ecclesia.”—Matthaei had slightly anticipated this in his ed. of 1788, ii. 267.;—passed by without so much as a word of comment, by those who have preceded me in this inquiry. Yet is it, when rightly understood, altogether decisive of the question at issue. And why? Because it is not the testimony rendered by a solitary Father or by a solitary MS.; no, nor even the testimony yielded by a single Church, or by a single family of MSS. But it is the united testimony of all the Churches. It is therefore the evidence borne by a ‘goodly fellowship of Prophets,’ a ‘noble army of Martyrs’ indeed; as well as by MSS. innumerable which have long since perished, but which must of necessity once have been. And so, it comes to us like the voice of many waters: dates, (as I shall show by-and-by,) from a period of altogether immemorial antiquity: is endorsed by the sanction of all the succeeding ages: admits of neither doubt nor evasion. This subject, in order that it may be intelligibly handled, will be 192most conveniently approached by some remarks which shall rehearse the matter from the beginning.

The Christian Church succeeded to the Jewish. The younger society inherited the traditions of the elder, not less as a measure of necessity than as a matter of right; and by a kind of sacred instinct conformed itself from the very beginning in countless particulars to its divinely-appointed model. The same general Order of Service went on unbroken,—conducted by a Priesthood whose spiritual succession was at least as jealously guarded as had been the natural descent from Aaron in the Church of the Circumcision328328   Τὰς τῶν ἱερῶν ἀποστόλων διαδοχάς,—are the first words of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius.. It was found that “the Sacraments of the Jews are [but] types of ours329329   See the heading of 1 Cor. x. in our Authorised Version..” Still were David’s Psalms antiphonally recited, and the voices of “Moses and the Prophets” were heard in the sacred assemblies of God’s people “every Sabbath day.” Canticle succeeded to Canticle; while many a Versicle simply held its ground. The congenial utterances of the chosen race passed readily into the service of the family of the redeemed. Unconsciously perhaps, the very method of the one became adopted by the other: as, for example, the method of beginning a festival from the “Eve” of the preceding Day. The Synagogue-worship became transfigured; but it did not part with one of its characteristic features. Above all, the same three great Festivals were still retained which declare “the rock whence we are hewn and the hole of the pit whence we are digged:” only was it made a question, a controversy rather, whether Easter should or should not be celebrated with the Jews330330   See Bingham’s Origines, Book xx. ch. v. §§ 2, 3, 4..

But it is the faithful handing on to the Christian community of the Lectionary practice of the Synagogue to which the reader’s attention is now exclusively invited. That the Christian Church inherited from the Jewish the practice of reading a first and a second Lesson in its public assemblies, is demonstrable. What the Synagogue practice was in the time of the Apostles is known from Acts xiii. 15, 27. Justin 193Martyr, (A.D. 150) describes the Christian practice in his time as precisely similar331331   Τῇ τοῦ ἡλίου λεγομένῃ ἡμέρᾳ, πάντων κατὰ πόλεις ἤ ἀγροὺς μενόντων ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ συνέλευσις γίνεται, καὶ τὰ ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν ἀποστόλων ἢ τὰ συγγράμματα τῶν προφητῶν ἀναγινώσκεται, μέχρις ἐγχωρεῖ. Then came the Sermon,—then, all stood and prayed,—then followed Holy Communion.—Apol. i. c. 67, (ed. Otto, i. 158.): only that for “the Law,” there is found to have been at once substituted “the Gospel.” He speaks of the writings of “the Apostles” and of “the Prophets.” Chrysostom has the same expression (for the two Lessons) in one of his Homilies332332   ὁ μάτην ἐνταῦθα εἰσελθὼν, εἰπὲ, τὲς προφήτης, ποῖος ἀπόστολος ἢμῖν σήμερον διελέχθη, καὶ περὶ τίνων;—(Opp. ix. p. 697 E. Field’s text.). Cassian (A.D. 400) says that in Egypt, after the Twelve Prayers at Vespers and at Matins, two Lessons were read, one out of the Old Testament and the other out of the New. But on Saturdays and Sundays, and the fifty days of Pentecost, both Lessons were from the New Testament,—one from the Epistles or the Acts of the Apostles; the other, from the Gospels333333   Cassian writes,—“Venerabilis Patrum senatus . . . . decrevit hunc numerum [sc. duodecim Orationum] tam in Vespertinis quam in Nocturnis conventiculis custodiri; quibus lectiones geminas adjungentes, id est, unam Veteris et aliam Novi Testamenti . . . . In die vero Sabbati vel Dominico utrasque de Novo recitant Testamento; id est, unam de Apostolo vel Actibus Apostolorum, et aliam de Evangeliis. Quod etiam totis Quinquagesimae diebus faciunt hi, quibus lectio curae est, seu memoria Scripturarum.”—Instit. lib. ii. c. 6. (ed. 1733, p. 18.). Our own actual practice seems to bear a striking resemblance to that of the Christian Church at the earliest period: for we hear of (1) “Moses and the Prophets,” (which will have been the carrying on of the old synagogue-method, represented by our first and second Lesson,)—(2) a lesson out of the “Epistles or Acts,” together with a lesson out of the “Gospels334334   Constitutiones Apostolicae, lib. ii. c. 57, 69: v. 19: viii. 5..” It is, in fact, universally received that the Eastern Church has, from a period of even Apostolic antiquity, enjoyed a Lectionary,—or established system of Scripture lessons,—of her own. In its conception, this Lectionary is discovered to have been fashioned (as was natural) upon the model of the Lectionary of God’s ancient people, the Jews: for it commences, as theirs did, in the autumn, (in September335335   See Scrivener’s Introduction, p.74, and the reff. in note (k) overleaf.); and 194prescribes two immovable “Lections” for every Saturday (as well as for every Sunday) in the year: differing chiefly in this,—that the prominent place which had been hitherto assigned to “the Law and the Prophets336336   English readers may be referred to Horne’s Introduction, &c. (ed. 1856.) vol. iii. p. 281-2. The learned reader is perhaps aware of the importance of the preface to Van der Hooght’s Hebrew Bible, (ed. 1705) § 35: in connexion with which, see vol. ii. p. 352 b.,” was henceforth enjoyed by the Gospels and the Apostolic writings. “Saturday-Sunday” lections—(σαββατοκυριακαί, for so these Lections were called,)—retain their place in the “Synaxarium” of the East to the present hour. It seems also a singular note of antiquity that the Sabbath and the Sunday succeeding it do as it were cohere, and bear one appellation; so that the week takes its name—not from the Sunday with which it commences337337   Thus, the κυριακή τῆς τυροφάγου is “Quinquagesima Sunday;” but the week of “the cheese-eater” is the week previous., but—from the Sabbath-and-Sunday with which it concludes. To mention only one out of a hundred minute traits of identity which the public Service of the sanctuary retained:—Easter Eve, which from the earliest period to this day has been called “μέγα σάββατον338338   See Suicer’s Thesaurus, vol. ii. 920.,” is discovered to have borne the self-same appellation in the Church of the Circumcision339339   “Apud Rabbinos, שַׁבָּת הַגָּדוֹל Sabbathum Magnum. Sic vocatur Sabbathum proximum ante Pascha.”—Buxtorf, Lexicon Talmud. p. 2323..—If I do not enter more minutely into the structure of the Oriental Lectionary,—(some will perhaps think I have said too much, but the interest of the subject ought to be a sufficient apology,)—it is because further details would be irrelevant to my present purpose; which is only to call attention to the three following facts:

(I.) That the practice in the Christian Church of reading publicly before the congregation certain fixed portions of Holy Writ, according to an established and generally received rule, must have existed from a period long anterior to the date of any known Greek copy of the New Testament Scriptures.

(II.) That although there happens to be extant neither “Synaxarium,” (i.e. Table of Proper Lessons of the Greek 195Church), nor “Evangelistarium,” (i.e. Book containing the Ecclesiastical Lections in extenso), of higher antiquity than the viiith century,—yet that the scheme itself, as exhibited by those monuments,—certainly in every essential particular,—is older than any known Greek MS. which contains it, by at least four, in fact by full five hundred years.

(III.) Lastly,—That in the said Lectionaries of the Greek and of the Syrian Churches, the twelve concluding verses of S. Mark which are the subject of discussion throughout the present pages are observed invariably to occupy the same singularly conspicuous, as well as most honourable place.

I. The first of the foregoing propositions is an established fact. It is at least quite certain that in the ivth century (if not long before) there existed a known Lectionary system, alike in the Church of the East and of the West. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 348,) having to speak about our Lord’s Ascension, remarks that by a providential coincidence, on the previous day, which was Sunday, the event had formed the subject of the appointed lessons340340   Καὶ ἡ μὲν ἀκολουθία τῆς διδασκαλίας [cf. Cyril, p. 4, lines 16-7] τῆς πίστεως προέτρεπεν εἰπεῖν καὶ τὰ περὶ τῆς Ἀναλήψεως· ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τοῦ Θεοῦ χάρις ᾠκονόμησε πληρέστατά σε ἀκοῦσαι, κατὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν ἀσθένειαν, τῇ χθὲς ἡμέρᾳ κατὰ τῆν Κυριακήν· κατ᾽ οἰκονομίαν τῆς θείας χάριτος, ἐν τῇ Συνάξει τῆς τῶν ἀναγνωσμάτων ἀκολουθίας τὰ περὶ τῆς εἰς οὐρανοὺς ἀνόδου τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν περιεχούσης· ἐλέγετο δὲ τὰ λεγόμενα, μάλιστα μὲν διὰ πάντας, καὶ διὰ τὸ τῶν πιστῶν ὁμοῦ πλῆθος· ἐξαιρέτως δὲδιά σε· ζητεῖται δὲ εἰ προσέσχες τοῖς λεγομένοις. Οἶδας γὰρ ὅτι ἡ ἀκολουθία τ8ῆς Πίστεως διδάσκαι σε πιστεύειν εἰς ΤῸΝ ἈΝΑΣΤΑΝΣΑ Τ῀ῌ ΤΡΊΤῌ ΗΜΈΡΑ· ΚΑῚ ἈΝΕΛΘΌΝΤΑ ΕἸΣ ΤΟῪΤ ΟὙΡΑΝΟῪΣ, ΚΑῚ ΚΑΘΊΣΑΝΤΑ ἘΚ ΔΕΘΙ῀ΩΝ ΤΟ῀Υ ΠΑΤΡΌΣ—μάλιστα μὲν οὖν μνημονεύειν σε νομίζω τῆς ἐξηγήσεως. πλὴν ἐν παραδρομῇ καὶ νῦν ὑπομιμνήσκω σε τῶν εἰρημένων. (Cyril. Hier. Cat. xiv. c. 24. Opp. p.217 C, D.)—Of that Sermon of his, Cyril again and again reminds his auditory. Μέμνησο δὲ καὶ τῶν εἰρημένων μοι πολλάκις περὶ τοῦ, ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρὸς καθέζεσθαι τὸν Υἱὸν.—Ibid. D.
   From this it becomes plain why Cyril nowhere quotes S. Mark xvi. 19,—or S. Luke xxiv. 51,—or Acts i. 9. He must needs have enlarged upon those three inevitable places of Scripture, the day before.
; and that he had availed himself of the occasion to discourse largely on the subject.—Chrysostom, preaching at Antioch, makes it plain that, in 196the latter part of the ivth century, the order of the lessons which were publicly read in the Church on Saturdays and Sundays341341   See above, p. 193 and p. 194. was familiarly known to the congregation: for he invites them to sit down, and study attentively beforehand, at home, the Sections (περικοπάς) of the Gospel which they were about to hear in Church342342   Ὥστε δὲ εὐμαθέστερον γενέσθαι τὲν λόγον, δεόμεθα καὶ παρακαλ9ο8ῦμεν, ὅπερ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων γραφῶν πεποιήκαμεν, προλαμβάνειν, τὴν περικοπὴν τῆς γραφῆς ἢν ᭾ν μέλλωμεν ἐξηνεῖσθαι.—In Matth. Hom. i. (Opp. vii. 13 B.)—Κατὰ μίαν σαββάτων, ἢ καὶ κατὰ σάββατον, τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐν ὑμῖν ἀναγνωσΘήσεσθαι τῶν εὐαγγελίων περικοπὴν, ταύτην π9ρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν μετὰ χεῖρας λαμβάνων ἕκαστος οἴκοι καθήμενος ἀναγινωσκέτω.”—In Joann. Hom. ix, (Opp. viii. 62 B.).—Augustine is express in recording that in his time proper lessons were appointed for Festival days343343   It caused him (he says) to interrupt his teaching. “Sed quia nunc interposita est sollemnitas sanctorum dierum, quibus certas ex Evangelio lectiones oportet in Ecclesiâ recitari, quae ita sunt annuae ut aliae esse non possint; ordo ille quem susceperamus necessitate paullulum intermissus est, non amissus.”—(Opp. vol. iii. P. ii. p. 825, Prol.); and that an innovation which he had attempted on Good Friday had given general offence344344   The place will be found quoted below, p. 202, note (o)..—Now by these few notices, to look no further, it is rendered certain that a Lectionary system of some sort must have been in existence at a period long anterior to the date of any copy of the New Testament Scriptures extant. I shall shew by-and-by that the fact is established by the Codices (B, א, A, C, D) themselves.

But we may go back further yet; for not only Eusebius, but Origen and Clemens Alexandrinus, by their habitual use of the technical term for an Ecclesiastical Lection (περικοπή, ἀνάγνωσις, ἀνάγνωσμα,) remind us that the Lectionary practice of the East was already established in their days345345   See Suicer, (1. 247 and 9: ii. 673). He is much more full and satisfactory than Scholz, whose remarks, nevertheless, deserve attention, (Nov. Test. vol. i, Prolegg. p. xxxi.) See also above, p. 45, notes (r) and (s)..

II. The Oriental Lectionary consists of “Synaxarion” and “Eclogadion,” (or Tables of Proper Lessons from the Gospels and Apostolic writings daily throughout the year;) 197together with “Menologion,” (or Calendar of immovable Festivals and Saints’ Days.) That we are thoroughly acquainted with all of these, as exhibited in Codices of the viiith, ixth and xth centuries,—is a familiar fact; in illustration of which it is enough to refer the reader to the works cited at the foot of the page346346   At the beginning of every volume of the first ed. of his Nov. Test. (Riga, 1788) Matthaei has laboriously edited the “Lectiones Ecclesiasticae” of the Greek Church. See also his Appendices,—viz. vol. ii. pp. 272-318 and 322-363. His 2nd ed. (Wittenberg, 1803,) is distinguished by the valuable peculiarity of indicating the Ecclesiastical sections throughout, in the manner of an ancient MS.; and that, with extraordinary fulness and accuracy. His Συναξάρια (i. 723-68 and iii. 1-24) though not intelligible perhaps to ordinary readers, are very important. He derived them from MSS. which he designates “B” and “H,” but which are our “Evstt. 47 and 50,”—uncial Evangelistaria of the viiith century (See Scrivener’s Introd. p. 214.)
   Scholz, at the end of vol. i. of his N. T. p. 453-93, gives in full the “Synaxarium” and “Menologium” of Codd. K and M, (viiith or ixth century.) See also his vol. pp. 456-69. Unfortunately, (as Scrivener recognises, p. 110,) all here is carelessly done,—as usual with this Editor; and therefore to a great extent useless. His slovenliness is extraordinary. The “Gospels of the Passion” (τῶν ἁγίων πάθων), he entitles τῶν ἁγίων πάντων of (p. 472); and so throughout.

   Mr. Scrivener (Introduction, pp. 68-75,) has given by far the most intelligible account of this matter, by exhibiting in English the Lectionary of the Eastern Church, (“gathered chiefly from Evangelist. Arund. 547, Parham 18, Harl. 5598, Burney 22, and Christ’s Coll. Camb.”); and supplying the references to Scripture in the ordinary way. See, by all means, his Introduction, pp. 62-65: also, pp. 211-225.
. But it is no less certain that the scheme of Proper Lessons itself is of much higher antiquity.

1. The proof of this, if it could only be established by an induction of particular instances, would not only be very tedious, but also very difficult indeed. It will be perceived, on reflection, that even when the occasion of a Homily (suppose) is actually recorded, the Scripture references which it contains, apart from the Author’s statement that what he quotes had formed part of that day’s Service, creates scarcely so much as a presumption of the fact: while the correspondence, however striking, between such references to Scripture and the Lectionary as we have it, is of course no proof whatever that we are so far in possession of the Lectionary of the Patristic age. Nay, on famous Festivals, 198the employment of certain passages of Scripture is, in a manner, inevitable347347   x Consider the following:—Ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σταυροῦ τὰ περὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ πάντα ἀναγινώσκομεν. ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ τῷ μεγάλῳ πάλιν, ὅτι παρδδόθη ἡμῶν ὁ Κύροος, ὅτι ἐσταυρώθ9η, ὅτι ἀπέθανε τὸ κατὰ σάρκα, ὅτι ἐτάφη· τίνος οὗν ἕνεκεν καὶ τὰς πράξεις τῶν ἀποστ8άλων οὐ μετὰ τὴν τεντηκοστὴν ἀναγινώσκομεν, ὅτε καὶ ἐγένοντο, καὶ ἀρχὴν ἔλαβον;—Chrys. Opp. iii. 88.
   Again:—εἰ γὰρ τότε ἔρξαντο ποιεῖν τὰ σημεῖα οἱ ἀπὸστολοι, ἤγουν μετὰ τὴν κυρίου ἐνάστασιν, τότε ἤδει καὶ τὸ βιβλίον ἀναγινώσκεσθαι τ9οῦτο. ὥσπερ γὰρ τὰ περὶ τοῦ σταυροῦ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ σταυροῦ ἀναγινώσκομεν, καὶ τὰ ἐν τῷ ἀναστ8άσει δμοίως, καὶ τὰ ἐν ἐκάσ9τῃ ἑορτῷ γεγονότα τῷ αὐτῷ πάλιν ἀναγινώσκομεν, οὕτως ἔδει καὶ τὰ θαώματατὰ ἀποστολικὰ ἐν αῖς ἡμέραις τῶν ἀποστολικῶν σημείων ἀγαγινώσκεσθαι. Ibid. p. 89 D.
, and may on no account be pressed.

2. Thus, when Chrysostom348348   Opp. ii. 454 B, D. and when Epiphanius349349   Opp. ii. 290 B., preaching on Ascension Day, refer to Acts i. 10, 11,—we do not feel ourselves warranted to press the coincidence of such a quotation with the Liturgical section of the day.—So, again, when Chrysostom preaches on Christmas Day, and quotes from S. Matthew ii. 1, 2350350   Opp. ii. 357 E.; or on Whitsunday, and quotes from S. John vii. 38 and Acts ii. 3 and 13;—though both places form part of the Liturgical sections for the day, no proof results therefrom that either chapter was actually used.

3. But we are not reduced to this method. It is discovered that nearly three-fourths of Chrysostom’s Homilies on S. Matthew either begin at the first verse of a known Ecclesiastical Lection; or else at the first ensuing verse after the close of one. Thirteen of those Homilies in succession (the 63rd to the 75th inclusive) begin with the first words of as many known Lections. “Let us attend to this delightful section (περικοπή) which we never cease turning to,”—are the opening words of Chrysostom’s 79th Homily, of which “the text” is S. Matth. xxv. 31, i.e. the beginning of the Gospel for Sexagesima Sunday.—Cyril Of Alexandria’s (so called) “Commentary on S. Luke” is nothing else but a series of short Sermons, for the most part delivered on known Ecclesiastical Lections; which does not seem to have been as yet observed.—Augustine (A.D. 416) says expressly that he had handled S. John’s Gospel in precisely the same way351351   “Meminit sanctitas vestra Evangelium secundum Joannem ex ordine lectionum nos solere tractare.” (Opp. iii. P. ii. 825 Prol.).—All this is significant in a high degree.


4. I proceed, however, to adduce a few distinct proofs that the existing Lectionary of the great Eastern Church,—as it is exhibited by Matthaei, by Scholz, and by Scrivener from MSS. of the viiith century,—and which is contained in Syriac MSS. of the vith and viith—must needs be in the main a work of extraordinary antiquity. And if I do not begin by insisting that at least one century more may be claimed for it by a mere appeal to the Hierosolymitan Version, it is only because I will never knowingly admit what may prove to be untrustworthy materials352352   See Scrivener’s Introduction, p. 246. into my foundations.

(a) “Every one is aware,” (says Chrysostom in a sermon on our Saviour’s Baptism, preached at Antioch, A.D. 387,) “that this is called the Festival of the Epiphany. Two manifestations are thereby intended: concerning both of which you have heard this day S. Paul discourse in his Epistle to Titus353353   Chrysostom Opp. ii. 369 B, C.—Compare Scrivener, ubi supra, p. 75..” Then follows a quotation from ch. ii. 11 to 13,—which proves to be the beginning of the lection for the day in the Greek Menology. In the time of Chrysostom, therefore, Titus ii. 11, 12, 13 formed part of one of the Epiphany lessons,—as it does to this hour in the Eastern Church. What is scarcely less interesting, it is also found to have been part of the Epistle for the Epiphany in the old Gallican Liturgy354354   Ed. Mabillon, p. 116., the affinities of which with the East are well known.

(b) Epiphanius (speaking of the Feasts of the Church) says, that at the Nativity, a Star shewed that the Word had become incarnate: at the “Theophania” (our “Epiphany”) John cried, “Behold the Lamb of God,” &c., and a Voice from Heaven proclaimed Him at His Baptism. Accordingly, S. Matth. ii. 1-12 is found to be the ancient lection for Christmas Day: S. Mark i. 9-11 and S. Matth. iii. 13-17 the lections for Epiphany. On the morrow, was read S. John i. 29-34.

(c) In another of his Homilies, Chrysostom explains with considerable emphasis the reason why the Book of the Acts was read publicly in Church during the interval between Easter and Pentecost; remarking, that it had been the 200liturgical arrangement of a yet earlier age355355   Opp. vol. iii. p. 85 B: 88 A:—τίνος ἕνεκεν οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ πεντηκοστῇ τὸ βιβλίον τῶν πράξεων ἀναγινώσκεσθαι ἐνομοθέτησαν.—τίνος ἕνεκεν τὸ βιβλίον τῶν πράξεων τῶν ἀποστὸλων ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἀναγινώσκεται..—After such an announcement, it becomes a very striking circumstance that Augustine also (A.D. 412) should be found to bear witness to the prevalence of the same liturgical arrangement in the African Church356356   “Anniversariâ sollemnitate post passionem Domini nostis illum librum recitari.Opp. iii. (P. ii.) p. 337 G.. In the old Galilean Lectionary, as might have been expected, the same rule is recognisable. It ought to be needless to add that the same arrangement is observed universally to prevail in the Lectionaries both of the East and of the West to the present hour; although the fact must have been lost sight of by the individuals who recently, under pretence of “making some advantageous alterations” in our Lectionary, have constructed an entirely new one,—vicious in principle and liable to the gravest objections throughout,—whereby this link also which bound the Church of England to the practice of Primitive Christendom, has been unhappily broken; this note of Catholicity also has been effaced357357   I desire to leave in this place the permanent record of my deliberate conviction that the Lectionary which, last year, was hurried with such indecent haste through Convocation,—passed in a half-empty House by the casting vote of the Prolocutor,—and rudely pressed upon the Church’s acceptance by the Legislature in the course of its present session,—is the gravest calamity which has befallen the Church of England for a long time past.
   Let the history of this Lectionary be remembered.

   Appointed (in 1867) for an entirely different purpose, (viz. the Ornaments and Vestments question,) 29 Commissioners (14 Clerical and 15 Lay) found themselves further instructed “to suggest and report whether any and what alterations and amendments may be advantageously made in the selection of Lessons to be read at the time of Divine Service.”

   Thereupon, these individuals,—(the Liturgical attainments of nine-tenths of whom it would be unbecoming in such an one as myself to characterise truthfully,)—at once imposed upon themselves the duty of inventing an entirely new Lectionary for the Church of England.

   So to mutilate the Word of God that it shall henceforth be quite impossible to understand a single Bible story, or discover the sequence of a single connected portion of narrative,—seems to have been the guiding principle of their deliberations. With reckless eclecticism,—entire forgetfulness of the requirements of the poor brother,—strange disregard for Catholic Tradition and the claims of immemorial antiquity;—these Commissioners, (evidently unconscious of their own unfitness for their self-imposed task,) have given us a Lectionary which will recommend itself to none but the lovers of novelty,—the Impatient,—and the enemies of Divine Truth.

   That the blame, the guilt lies at the door of our Bishops, is certain; but the Church has no one but herself to thank for the injury which has been thus deliberately inflicted upon her. She has suffered herself to be robbed of her ancient birthright without resistance; without remonstrance; without (in her corporate capacity) so much as a word of audible dissatisfaction. Can it be right in this way to defraud those who are to come after us of their lawful inheritance? . . . I am amazed and grieved beyond measure at what is taking place. At least, (as on other occasions,) liberavi animam meam.


(d) The purely arbitrary arrangement, (as Mr. Scrivener phrases it), by which the Book of Genesis, instead of the Gospel, is appointed to be read358358   A trace of this remains in the old Gallican Liturgy,—pp. 137-8. on the week days of Lent, is discovered to have been fully recognised in the time of Chrysostom. Accordingly, the two series of Homilies on the Book of Genesis which that Father preached, he preached in Lent359359   Bingham, XIV. iii. 3..

(e) It will be seen in the next chapter that it was from a very remote period the practice of the Eastern Church to introduce into the lesson for Thursday in Holy-week, S. Luke’s account (ch. xxii. 43, 44) of our Lord’s “Agony and bloody Sweat,” immediately after S. Matth. xxvi. 39. That is, no doubt, the reason why Chrysostom,—who has been suspected, (I think unreasonably,) of employing an Evangelistarium instead of a copy of the Gospels in the preparation of his Homilies, is observed to quote those same two verses in that very place in his Homily on S. Matthew360360   Opp. vol. vii. p. 791 B.; which shews that the Lectionary system of the Eastern Church in this respect is at least as old as the ivth century.

(f) The same two verses used to be left out on the Tuesday after Sexagesima (τῇ γ́ τῆς τυροφάγου) for which day S. Luke xxii. 39—xxiii. 1, is the appointed lection. And this explains why Cyril (A.D. 425) in his Homilies on S. Luke, passes them by in silence361361   See Dean Payne Smith’s Translation, p. 863..

But we can carry back the witness to the Lectionary practice of omitting these verses, at least a hundred years; for 201Cod. B, (evidently for that same reason,) also omits them, as was stated above, in p. 79. They are wanting also in the Thebaic version, which is of the iiird century.

(g) It will be found suggested in the next chapter (page 218) that the piercing of our Lord’s side, (S. John xix. 34),—thrust into Codd. B and א immediately after S. Matth. xxvii. 49,—is probably indebted for its place in those two MSS. to the Eastern Lectionary practice. If this suggestion be well founded, a fresh proof is obtained that the Lectionary of the East was fully established in the beginning of the ivth century. But see Appendix (H).

(h) It is a remarkable note of the antiquity of that Oriental Lectionary system with which we are acquainted, that S. Matthew’s account of the Passion (ch. xxvii. 1-61,) should be there appointed to be read alone on the evening of Good Friday. Chrysostom clearly alludes to this practice362362   κατὰ τὴν μεγάλην τοῦ Πάσχα ἑσπέραν ταῦτα τάντα ἀναγινώσκεται.—Chrys. Opp. vii. 818 C.; which Augustine expressly states was also the practice in his own day363363   “Passio autem, quia uno die legitur, non solet legi nisi secundum Matthaeum. Voluerum aliquando ut per singulos annos secundum omnes Evangelistas etiam Passio legeretur. Factum est. Non nudierunt homines quod consueverant, et perturbati sunt.”—Opp. vol. v. p. 980 E.. Traces of the same method are discoverable in the old Galilean Lectionary364364   Ed. Mabillon, pp. 130-5..

(i) Epiphanius, (or the namesake of his who was the author of a well-known Homily on Palm Sunday,) remarks that “yesterday” had been read the history of the rising of Lazarus365365   Epiph. Opp. ii. 152-3.. Now S. John xi. 1-45 is the lection for the antecedent Sabbath, in all the Lectionaries.

(k) In conclusion, I may be allowed so far to anticipate what will be found fully established in the next chapter, as to point out here that since in countless places the text of our oldest Evangelia as well as the readings of the primitive Fathers exhibit unmistakable traces of the corrupting influence of the Lectionary practice, that very fact becomes irrefragable evidence of the antiquity of the Lectionary which is the occasion of it, Not only must it be more 203ancient than Cod. B or Cod. א, (which are referred to the beginning of the ivth century), but it must be older than Origen in the iiird century, or the Vetus Itala and the Syriac in the iind. And thus it is demonstrated, (1st) That fixed Lessons were read in the Churches of the East in the immediately post-Apostolic age; and (2ndly) That, wherever we are able to test it, the Lectionary of that remote period corresponded with the Lectionary which has come down to us in documents of the vith and viith century, and was in fact constructed in precisely the same way.

I am content in fact to dismiss the preceding instances with this general remark:—that a System which is found to have been fully recognised throughout the East and throughout the West in the beginning of the fourth century, must of necessity have been established very long before. It is as when we read of three British Bishops attending the Council at Arles, A.D. 314. The Church (we say) which could send out those three Bishops must have been fully organized at a greatly antecedent period.

4. Let us attend, however, to the great Festivals of the Church. These are declared by Chrysostom (in a Homily delivered at Antioch 20 Dec. A.D. 386) to be the five following:—(1) Nativity: (2) the Theophania: (3) Pascha: (4) Ascension: (6) Pentecost366366   Chrys. Opp. i. 497 C.. Epiphanius, his contemporary, (Bishop of Constantia in the island of Cyprus,) makes the same enumeration367367   Epiph. Opp. ii. 285-6., in a Homily on the Ascension368368   The learned reader will be delighted and instructed too by the perusal of both passages. Chrysostom declares that Christmas-Day is the greatest of Festivals; since all the others are but consequences of the Incarnation.
   Epiphanius remarks with truth that Ascension-Day is the crowning solemnity of all: being to the others what a beautiful head is to the human body.
. In the Apostolical Constitutions, the same five Festivals are enumerated369369   Constt. Apostl. lib. viii. c. 33. After the week of the Passion and the week of (1) the Resurrection,—(2) Ascension-Day is mentioned; (3) Pentecost;—(4) Nativity;—(5) Epiphany. [Note this clear indication that this viiith Book of the Constitutions was written or interpolated at a subsequent date to that commonly assigned to the work.]. Let me state a few Liturgical facts in connexion with each of these.


It is plain that the preceding enumeration could not have been made at any earlier period: for the Epiphany of our Saviour and His Nativity were originally but one Festival370370   Bingham’s Origines, B. xx. c. iv. § 2.. Moreover, the circumstances are well known under which Chrysostom (A. D. 386) announced to his Eastern auditory that in conformity with what had been correctly ascertained at Rome, the ancient Festival was henceforth to be disintegrated371371   Chrys. Opp. ii. 355. (See the Monitum, p. 352.). But this is not material to the present inquiry. We know that, as a matter of fact, “the Epiphanies” (for τὰ ἐπιφανία is the name of the Festival) became in consequence distributed over Dec. 25 and Jan. 5: our Lord’s Baptism being the event chiefly commemorated on the latter anniversary372372   Chrys. Opp. ii. 369 D.,—which used to be chiefly observed in honour of His Birth373373   Epiphanius, Adv. Haer. LI, c. xvi. Opp. i. 439 A.).—Concerning the Lessons for Passion-tide and Easter, as well as concerning those for the Nativity and Epiphany, something has been offered already; to which may be added that Hesychius, in the opening sentences of that “Homily” which has already engaged so much of our attention374374   See above, pp. 58-9 and 67., testifies that the conclusion of S. Mark’s Gospel was in his days, as it has been ever since, one of the lections for Easter. He begins by saying that the Evangelical narratives of the Resurrection were read on the Sunday night; and proceeds to reconcile S. Mark’s with the rest.—Chrysostom once and again adverts to the practice of discontinuing the reading of the Acts after Pentecost375375   Opp. iii. 102 B. See Bingham on this entire subject,—B. xiv, c. iii.,—which is observed to be also the method of the Lectionaries.

III. I speak separately of the Festival of the Ascension, for an obvious reason. It ranked, as we have seen, in the estimation of Primitive Christendom, with the greatest Festivals of the Church. Augustine, in a well-known passage, hints that it may have been of Apostolical origin376376   “Illa quae non scripta, sed tradita custodimus, quae quidem toto terrarum orbe observantur, datur intelligi vel ab ipsis Apostolis, vel plenariis Conciliis quorum in Ecclesia saluberrima authoritas, commendata atque statuta retineri. Sicut quod Domini Passio, et Resurrectio, et Ascensio in coelis, ut Adventus de coelo Spiritus Sancti anniversaria sollemnitate celebrantur.”—Ep. ad Januarium, (Opp. ii. 124 B, C).; so exceedingly 205remote was its institution accounted in the days of the great African Father, as well as so entirely forgotten by that time was its first beginning. I have to chew that in the Great Oriental Lectionary (whether of the Greek or of the Syrian Church) the last Twelve Verses of S. Mark’s Gospel occupy a conspicuous as well as a most honourable place. And this is easily done: for,

(a) The Lesson for Matins on Ascension-Day in the East, in the oldest documents to which we have access, consisted (as now it does) of the last Twelve Verses,—neither more nor less,—of S. Mark’s Gospel. At the Liturgy on Ascension was read S. Luke xxiv. 36-53: but at Matins, S. Mark xvi. 9-20. The witness of the “Synaxaria” is constant to this effect.

(b) The same lection precisely was adopted among the Syrians by the Melchite Churches377377   “Lect. fer. quint., quae etiam Festum Adscensionis Dnī in caelos, ad mat. eadem ac lect. tert. Resurrect.; in Euchar. lect. sext. Resurrect.”—But “Lect. γ Resurrectionis” is “Marc. xvi. 9-20:” “Lect. ς,” “Luc. xxiv. 36-53.”—See Dean Payne Smith’s Catalogus Codd. Syrr. (1864) pp.116, 127.,—(the party, viz. which maintained the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon): and it is found appointed also in the “Evangeliarium Hierosolymitanum378378   See above, p. 34, note (e)..” In the Evangelistarium used in the Jacobite, (i.e. the Monophysite) Churches of Syria, a striking difference of arrangement is discoverable. While S. Luke xxiv. 36-53 was read at Vespers and at Matins on Ascension Day, the last seven verses of S. Mark’s Gospel (ch. xvi. 14-20) were read at the Liturgy379379   R. Payne Smith’s Catal. p. 148.. Strange, that the self-same Gospel should have been adopted at a remote age by some of the Churches of the West380380   Hieronymi Comes, (ed. Pamel. ii. 31.)—But it is not the Gallican. (ed. Mabillon, p. 155.) . . . It strikes me as just possible that a clue may be in this way supplied to the singular phenomenon noted above at p.118, line 22-8., and should survive in our own Book of Common Prayer to this hour!

(c) But S. Mark xvi. 9-20 was not only appointed by the Greek Church to be read upon Ascension Day. Those same twelve verses constitute the third of the xi “Matin Gospels of the Resurrection,” which were universally held in high 206esteem by the Eastern Churches (Greek and Syrian381381   Εὐαγγέλια ἀναστασιμὰ ἑωθινά. See Scrivener’s Introduction, p. 72, and R. P. Smith’s Catal. p. 127. See by all means, Suicer’s Thes. Eccl. i. 1229.), and were read successively on Sundays at Matins throughout the year; as well as daily throughout Easter week.

(d) A rubricated copy of S. Mark’s Gospel in Syriac382382   Dr. Wright’s Catal. p. 70, No. CX. (Addit. 14,464: fol. 61 b.), certainly older than A.D. 683, attests that S. Mark xvi. 9-20 was the “Lection for the great First Day of the week,” (μεγάλη κυριακή, i.e. Easter Day). Other copies almost as ancient383383   Ibid. No. LXX (fol. 92 b), and LXXII (fol. 87 b). add that it was used “at the end of the Service at the dawn.”

(e) Further, these same “Twelve Verses” constituted the Lesson at Matins for the 2nd Sunday after Easter,—a Sunday which by the Greeks is called κυριακή τῶν μυροφόρων, but with the Syrians bore the names of “Joseph and Nicodemus384384   “Quae titulo Josephi et Nicodemi insignitur.” (R. Payne Smith’s Catal. p. 116.)—In the “Synaxarium” of Matthaei (Nov. Test. 1803, i. p. 731) it is styled Κ. τῶν μ. καὶ Ἰωσὴφ τοῦ δικαὶου..” So also in the “Evangeliarium Hierosolymitanum.”

(f) Next, in the Monophysite Churches of Syria, S. Mark xvi. 9-18 (or 9-20385385   Adler’s N. T. Verss. Syrr. p. 71.) was also read at Matins on Easter-Tuesday386386   Dean Payne Smith’s Catal. p. 146.. In the Gallican Church, the third lection for Easter-Monday extended from S. Mark xv. 47 to xvi. 11: for Easter-Tuesday, from xvi. 12 to the end of the Gospel387387   Ed. Mabillon, pp. 144-5.. Augustine says that in Africa also these concluding verses of S. Mark’s Gospel used to be publicly read at Easter tide388388   “Resurrectio Domini nostri I.C. ex more legitur his diebus [Paschalibus] ex omnibus libris sancti Evangelii.” (Opp. v. 977 C)—“Quoniam hoc moris est . . . . Marci Evangelium est quod modo, cum legeretur, audivimus.” “Quid ergo audivimus Marcum dicentem?” And he subjoins a quotation from S. Mark xvi. 12.—Ibid. 997 F, 998 B.. The same verses (beginning with ver. 9) are indicated in the oldest extant Lectionary of the Roman Church389389   Hieron. Comes (ed. Pamel. ii. 27.).

(g) Lastly, it may be stated that S. Mark xvi. 9-20 was with the Greeks the Gospel for the Festival of S. Mary Magdalene (ἡ μυροφόρος), July 22390390   So Scrivener’s Introduction, p. 75.—Little stress, however, is to be laid on Saint’s Day lessons. In Matthaei’s “Menologium” (Nov. Test. 1803, i. p. 765), I find that S. Luke viii. 1-4, or else S. John xx. 11-18 was the appointed Lection. See his note (5) at p. 750..


He knows wondrous little about this department of Sacred Science who can require to be informed that such a weight of public testimony as this to the last Twelve Verses of a Gospel is simply overwhelming. The single discovery that in the age of Augustine [385-430] this portion of S. Mark’s Gospel was unquestionably read at Easter in the Churches of Africa, added to the express testimony of the Author of the 2nd Homily on the Resurrection, and of the oldest Syriac MSS., that they were also read by the Orientals at Easter in the public services of the Church, must be held to be in a manner decisive of the question.

Let the evidence, then, which is borne by Ecclesiastical usage to the genuineness of S. Mark xvi. 9-20, be summed up, and the entire case caused again to pass under review.

(1.) That Lessons from the New Testament were publicly read in the assemblies of the faithful according to a definite scheme, and on an established system, at least as early as the fourth century,—has been shown to be a plain historical fact. Cyril, at Jerusalem,—(and by implication, his namesake at Alexandria,)—Chrysostom, at Antioch and at Constantinople,—Augustine, in Africa,—all four expressly witness to the circumstance. In other words, there is found to have been at least at that time fully established throughout the Churches of Christendom a Lectionary, which seems to have been essentially one and the same in the West391391   Note, (in addition to all that has gone before,) that the Festivals are actually designated by their Greek names in the earliest Latin Service Books: not only “Theophania,” “Epiphania,” “Pascha,” “Pentecostes,” (the second, third and fourth of which appellations survive in the Church of the West, in memoriam, to the present hour;) but “Hypapante,” which was the title bestowed by the Orientals in the time of Justinian, on Candlemas Day, (our Feast of the Purification, or Presentation of Christ in the Temple,) from the “Meeting” of Symeon on that occasion. Friday, or παρασ9κευή, was called “Parasceve” in the West. (Mab. Lit. Gall. p. 129.) So entire was the sympathy of the East with the West in such matters in very early times, that when Rome decided to celebrate the Nativity on the 25th December, Chrysostom (as we have been reminded) publicly announced the fact at Constantinople; and it was determined that in this matter East and West would walk by the same rule. and in the East. That it must have been of even Apostolic antiquity may be inferred from several considerations. But that it dates its beginning from a period anterior to the age of 208Eusebius,—which is the age of Codices B and א,—at least admits of no controversy.

(2.) Next,—Documents of the vith century put us in possession of the great Oriental Lectionary as it is found at that time to have universally prevailed throughout the vast unchanging East. In other words, several of the actual Service Books, in Greek and in Syriac392392   From Professor Wright’s Catalogue of Syriac MSS. in the British Museum (1870) it appears that the oldest Jacobite Lectionary is dated A.D. 824; the oldest Nestorian, A.D. 862; the oldest Malkite, A.D. 1023. The respective numbers of the MSS. are 14,485; 14,492; and 14,488.—See his Catalogue, Part I. pp.146, 178, 194., have survived the accidents of full a thousand years: and rubricated copies of the Gospels carry us back three centuries further. The entire agreement which is observed to prevail among these several documents,—added to the fact that when tested by the allusions incidentally made by Greek Fathers of the ivth century to what was the Ecclesiastical practice of their own time, there are found to emerge countless as well as highly significant notes of correspondence,—warrants us in believing, (in the absence of testimony of any sort to the contrary,) that the Lectionary we speak of differs in no essential respect from that system of Lections with which the Church of the ivth century was universally acquainted.

Nothing scarcely is more forcibly impressed upon us in the course of the present inquiry than the fact, that documents alone are wanting to make that altogether demonstrable which, in default of such evidence, must remain a matter of inevitable inference only. The forms we are pursuing at last disappear from our sight: but it is only the mist of the early morning which shrouds them. We still hear their voices: still track their footsteps: know that others still see them, although we ourselves see them no longer. We are sure that there they still are. Moreover they may yet reappear at any moment. Thus, there exist Syriac MSS. of the Gospels of the viith and even of the vith century, in which the Lessons are rubricated in the text or on the margin. A Syriac MS. (of part of the Old T.) is actually dated A.D. 464393393   It is exhibited in the same glass case with the Cod. Alexandrinus (A.). Should an Evangelium of similar date 209ever come to light of which the rubrication was evidently by the original Scribe, the evidence of the Lectionaries would at once be carried back full three hundred years.

But in fact we stand in need of no such testimony. Acceptable as it would be, it is plain that it would add no strength to the argument whatever. We are already able to plant our footsteps securely in the ivth and even in the iiird. century. It is not enough to insist that inasmuch as the Liturgical method of Christendom was at least fully established in the East and in the West at the close of the ivth century, it therefore must have had its beginning at a far remoter period. Our two oldest Codices (B and א) bear witness throughout to the corrupting influence of a system which was evidently in full operation before the time of Eusebius. And even this is not all. The readings in Origen, and of the earliest versions of the Gospel, (the old Latin, the Syriac, the Egyptian versions,) carry back our evidence on this subject unmistakably to the age immediately succeeding that of the .Apostles. This will be found established in the course of the ensuing Chapter.

Beginning our survey of the problem at the opposite end, we arrive at the same result; with even a deepened conviction that in its essential structure, the Lectionary of the Eastern Church must be of truly primitive antiquity: indeed that many of its leading provisions must date back almost,—nay quite,—to the Apostolic age. From whichever side we approach this question,—whatever test we are able to apply to our premisses,—our conclusion remains still the very same.

(3.) Into this Lectionary then,—so universal in its extent, so consistent in its witness, so Apostolic in its antiquity,—“the Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel according to S. Mark” from the very first are found to have won for themselves not only an entrance, a lodgment, an established place; but, the place of highest honour,—an audience on two of the Church’s chiefest Festivals.

The circumstance is far too important, far too significant to be passed by without a few words of comment.

For it is not here, (be it carefully observed,) as when 210we appeal to some Patristic citation, that the recognition of a phrase, or a verse, or a couple of verses, must be accepted as a proof that the same ancient Father recognised the context also in which those words are found. Not so. All the Twelve Verses in dispute are found in every known copy of the venerable Lectionary of the East. Those same Twelve Verses,—neither more nor less,—are observed to constitute one integral Lection.

But even this is not all. The most important fact seems to be that to these Verses has been assigned a place of the highest possible distinction. It is found that, from the very first, S. Mark xvi. 9-20 has been everywhere, and by all branches of the Church Catholic, claimed for two of the Church’s greatest Festivals,—Easter and Ascension. A more weighty or a more significant circumstance can scarcely be imagined. To suppose that a portion of Scripture singled out for such extraordinary honour by the Church universal is a spurious addition to the Gospel, is purely irrational; is simply monstrous. No unauthorized “fragment,” however “remarkable,” could by possibility have so established itself in the regards of the East and of the West, from the very first. No suspected “addition, placed here in very early times,” would have been tolerated in the Church’s solemn public Service six or seven times a-year. No. It is impossible. Had it been one short clause which we were invited to surrender: a verse: two verses: even three or four:—the plea being that (as in the case of the celebrated pericopa de adulterâ) the Lectionaries knew nothing of them:—the case would have been entirely different. But for any one to seek to persuade us that these Twelve Verses, which exactly constitute one of the Church’s most famous Lections, are every one of them spurious:—that the fatal taint begins with the first verse, and only ends with the last:—this is a demand on our simplicity which, in a less solemn subject, would only provoke a smile. We are constrained to testify astonishment and even some measure of concern. Have the Critics then, (supposing them to be familiar with the evidence which has now been set forth so much in detail;)—Have the Critics then, (we ask) utterly taken leave of their 211senses? or do they really suppose that we have taken leave of ours?

It is time to close this discussion. It was declared at the outset that the witness of the Lectionaries to the genuineness of these Verses, though it has been generally overlooked, is the most important of any: admitting, as it does, of no evasion: being simply, as it is, decisive. I have now fully explained the grounds of that assertion. I have set the Verses, which I undertook to vindicate and establish, on a basis from which it will be found impossible any more to dislodge them. Whatever Griesbach, and Tischendorf, and Tregelles, and the rest, may think about the matter,—the Holy Eastern Church in her corporate capacity, has never been of their opinion. They may doubt. The ante-Nicene Fathers at least never doubted. If “the last Twelve Verses” of S. Mark were deservedly omitted from certain Copies of his Gospel in the ivth century, utterly incredible is it that these same Twelve Verses should have been disseminated, by their authority, throughout Christendom;—read, by their command, in all the Churches;—selected, by their collective judgment, from the whole body of Scripture for the special honour of being listened to once and again at Easter time, as well as on Ascension-Day.

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