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Observations of ancient Christian Writers, leading to the true time, when the gospels were written.

1. Says Irenæus, as formerly · quoted, · For 5 we have not received the knowledge of the way • of our salvation from any others, than those,' by whom the gospel has been brought to us : • which gospel they first preached, and afterwards by the will of God committed to writing, that • for time to come it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith. Nor may any say, that • they preached before they had a complete knowledge of the doctrine of the gospel. For after that our Lord rose from the dead, and they (the apostles] were endowed from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things. They then went forth to all the ends of the earth, declaring to men the blessing of heavenly peace, having all of them, and every one alike, the gospel of God.'

He then proceeds to speak of the gospels of the four evangelists severally, and the times and occasions of writing them. All which will be taken down by us hereafter in proper places. Here is sufficient to induce us to think, that the written gospels, or histories of Jesus Christ, were not published till some good while after our Lord's ascension. For the apostles first preached, he says, before they wrote.

2. Says Eusebius in a long passage formerly quoted : • Those admirable and truly divine . men, the apostles of Christ, neither knew, nor attempted, to deliver the doctrine of their • Master with the artifice and eloquence of words.... Nor were they greatly concerned about the • writing of books, being engaged in a more excellent ministry, which is above all human power.

Insomuch, that Paul, the most able of all in the furniture both of words and thoughts, has left ' nothing in writing, beside a few epistles....Nor were the rest of our Saviour's followers unac

quainted with these things, as the seventy disciples, and many others, besides the twelve • apostles. Nevertheless of all the disciples of our Lord, Matthew and John only have left us * any memoirs: who too, as we have been informed, were compelled to write by a kind of • necessity.' And what follows.

3. This passage should be compared with another of Origen: and they who please may also consult our remarks upon what has been now transcribed from Eusebius. Which may be of use to caution us, not to be too precipitate in giving a very early date to the gospels, as if they were written immediately after our Lord's ascension : when there is reason to think, they were not written, till after numerous converts had been made, who expressed their desires to have written histories of what they had heard, for refreshing their memories. 4. Says Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia, in the latter part of the fourth century, about the

After the Lord's ascension to heaven the disciples stayed a good while at Jeru. salem, visiting the cities in its neighbourhood, preaching chiefly to the Jews: until the great Paul, called by the divine grace was appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles openly. • And in process of time Divine Providence, not allowing them to be confined to any one part • of the earth, made way for conducting them to remote countries: Peter went to Rome, the • others elsewhere. John in particular took up his abode at Ephesus, visiting, however, at seasons, • the several parts of Asia....

About this time the other evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, * published their gospels, which were soon spread all over the world, and were received by alí

year 394.

a See Vol. i. p. 365.

Non enim per alios dispositionem salutis nostræ cognovimus, quam per eos, per quos evangelium pervenit ad nos: quod quidem tunc præconiaverunt, postea vero per Dei voluntatem in scripturis nobis tradiderunt, fundamentum & columnam fidei nostræ futurum. Nec enim fas est dicere, quoniam ante prædicaverunt, quam perfectam haberent agnitionem, sicut quidam audent dicere, gloriantes, emendatores se esse Apostolorum. Postea enim quam surrexit Dominus noster a


mortuis, & induti sunt supervenientis Spiritûs Sancti virtutem
ex alto, de omnibus adimpleti sunt, & habuerant perfectam
agnitionem, exierunt in fines terræ, ea quæ a Deo nobis bona
sunt evangelizantes, & cælestem pacem hominibus annun.
liantes; qui quidem & omnes pariter & singuli eorum
habentes evangelium Dei. .. Iren. Adv. Hær. 1. 3. cap. 1.
c Vol. ii.

d See Vol. i. p.

• Vol. ii. p. 376, 377.
' Ib. p. 529.


• the faithful in general with great regard.'......He proceeds to say, that nevertheless, the • Christians in Asia, having brought those gospels to him, earnestly entreated him to write a • farther account of such things as were needful to be known, and had been omitted by the rest: « with which request he complied.'

This remarkable passage, upon which divers observations were made, when it was first quoted, may dispose us to think, that all the four gospels were written about the same time, and that none of them were published till after, or about the sixtieth year of our Lord's nativity.

5. By divers ancient Christian writers it is said, that · Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, at the desire of the brethren of Rome, wrote a short gospel, according to what he had heard related by Peter. So Jerom beside others, as before quoted in his book of illustrious Men.

St. Peter, I reckon, did not come to Rome before the reign of Nero, probably, not till the second time that Paul was in that city, in the year 63, or 64. And yet, at this time, the Christians at Rome desired Mark to give them in writing an account of Peter's preaching, for refreshing their memories concerning

what the apostle had said of Christ, and his doctrine. The consequence is manifest. They had not then any written gospel in their hands; nor did they know that there was one. • The truth is,' says Mr. Jones, if St. Mark, or any one else, had • had St. Matthew's gospel, at Rome, there would have been no need of St. Mark's writing.'

These are general observations in the ancients, or deduced from them, which may be of no small use to lead us to the true time of writing the first three gospels.


That the first three Gospels were published before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened

in the year of the Christian epoch LXX.

ONCERNING this I transcribe below d a very good argument of Le Clerc from his dissertation upon the four evangelists.

The Jewish war began, according to Josephus, in the month of May, in the 66th year of the Christian epoch, and ended in September, in the year 70, in the desolation of the city of Jerusalem, and the temple. And I think, it may be shewn to be very probable, that the first three gospels were written before the year 66, when the final troubles and calamities of the Jewish people were coming on.

This must appear to have a great deal of probability from the predictions therein recorded concerning the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the city of Jerusalem, the ruin of the Jewish state and people in Judea, together with divers circumstances of these events, and many troubles and calamities preceding them. These predictions are recorded in the histories of our Saviour's ministry, which we call gospels, without any the least hint, either express and designed, or accidentally dropped from the writers, that those predictions had been fulfilled and verified, or--that the things spoken of had happened. Those prophecies are recorded in Matt. xxiii. 34-39, and xxiv. Mark xiii. Luke xxi. St. Luke has also elsewhere recorded the affectionate concern, which our Lord expressed in the view and prospect of those impending evils, ch. xiii. 34, 35, and xix. 41-44. These things are also referred to, and spoken of, in divers other discourses, some plain, some parabolical, or otherwise figurative: as Matt. xxi. 33–46. xxii. 1-7. Mark xii. 1-12. Luke xiii. 1-9. xx. 9–20. xxi. 5–13. In none of all which places does there appear any intimation that the things spoken of were come to pass, and in recording the presages

• See Vol. i. p. 339.394-398. Vol. ii. p. 418. 626. Evangelistæ memorati, verbulo saltem monuissent, prædic • Vol. ii. p. 551, 552.

tionem fuisse eventu confirmatam. Quod tantum abest ut • Vindication of the former part of St. Matthew's gospel, faciant, ut Matthæus et Marcus bac admonitione, avayıwop. 64. ch. vi.

Xwv YOSITW, qui legit, intelligat, quam subjiciunt præsagiis Quinetiam, si ex Veterum nonnullorum testimoniis antea Jerosolymitanæ cladis, admonere videantur Christianos in adductis, de re judicemus, affirmabimus, Matthæum, Marcum, Judæà viventes, ut diligenter futura illa præsagia attendant, et Lucam, ante ultima Neronis tempora, quibus occisi sunt quo possint vitæ suæ consulere. Vide Matt. xxiv. 15. Petrus et Paulus, Evangelia scripsisse. Quod non levi argu- Marc. xiii. 14. et ad ea loca interpretes. Cleric. Diss. iii, de mento confirmari potest, ducto ex Matt. cap. xxiv. Marc. xiii. quatuor Evangeliis. num. vii. p. 541. Luc. xxi. ubi narratur Jerosolymæ excidii prædictio, quasi • Vid. Joseph. Antiq. Jud. I. 20. cap. xi. n, c. &c. B. i. 1. 6. rei etiamnum futuræ, eo tempore, quo Evangelia ab iis scribebantur. Si enim eam prædicationein post eventum scripsissent

cap. x.


of this final and total overthrow of the Jewish nation, the historians have inserted warnings and admonitions, proper to excite the attention of readers, and induce those who lived in Judea, to take care of their own safety without delay. Matt. xxiv. 15—18. “ When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house. Neither let him which is in the field, return back to take his clothes.” And what follows. And to the like purpose in Mark xiii. 14-16. When these discourses were recorded, the things spoken of had not yet come to pass. There were men living to whom these admonitions might be useful for securing their safety;

Moreover, though these predictions must have been recorded, before they were accomplished, I think the fulfilment was then near at hand, and not far off. This seems to be implied in that expression: “Let him that readeth, understand.” And indeed it must have been difficult and hazardous to publish such things in writing. How offensive these sayings must have been to the Jewish people, and perhaps to some others likewise, is easy to conceive from the nature of the things spoken of; and it may be confirmed by divers instances. When our Lord had spoken the parable of the vineyard, let out to husbandmen, recorded in Luke xx. 9-18, it is added by the evangelist, ver. 19, 20. “ And the chief priests, and the scribes, the same hour sought to lay hands on him, but they feared the people; for they perceived, that he had spoken this parable against them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” And among the odious charges brought against our Saviour by false witnesses, this was one, “ that he said: I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days,” Matt. xxvi. 61. With this he was reproached likewise, when hanging on the cross, ch. xxvii. 40. The like offensive charges were brought against Stephen. Acts vi. 14. “ We have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” And, possibly, he did say somewhat not very different. So likewise St. Matthew, and the other apostles, might repeat in the hearing of

many what Christ had said to them, and in part to others also, concerning the overthrow of the temple, and the Jewish state: yea, very probably, they had often repeated these things to attentive hearers. But speaking and writing are different: and I apprehend it could not have been safe, nor prudent, to record these predictions (many of which are very plain, and all intelligible) soon after our Lord's ascension.

These prophecies therefore of our Lord, as recorded in the first three gospels, afford at once an argument, that they were written and published before the destruction of Jerusalem: and that they were not published many years before it, or however, not many years before the commencement of the war at the time above-mentioned.


An argument shewing the true time of writing the Gospels, taken from the Acts, and the beginning

of St. Luke's gospel. None

ONE can suppose that the book of the Acts of the apostles was composed before the year 62, or 63, as the history is there brought down to the period of St. Paul's two years' imprisonment at Rome.

' And, very probably, the gospel, to which St. Luke refers at the beginning of that book, had not been written long before. This I suppose to be now the common opinion of learned men. And for giving the greatest satisfaction to all my readers, I shall transcribe below at large the sentiments of several to this purpose, such as that of the late · Mr. Jones, and Estius, Mill, * Dodwell, and · Basnage; though the thing appears to me very obvious: and if so, we have gained very nearly the date of one of the four gospels.

Grotius supposeth, that' when Paul left Rome, he went into Spain: and that at the same time Luke went into Greece, and there wrote both his gospel and the Acts. Jerom supposeth, that the book of the Acts was written at Rome. But that makes no difference in point of time; since he allows, that it reaches to the end of St. Paul's two years' imprisonment at Rome.

This one consideration, so far as I am able to judge, overthrows the opinion, that St. Luke's gospel was written about fifteen years after our Lord's ascension. Yea, it evidently shows, that it was not written till the year 60, or afterwards.

And the beginning of St. Luke's gospel affords an argument, that the other two gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were not written sooner: for this evangelist knew nothing of them. Consequently, they were not then written and published, or, but lately; every word of his introduction shews this: let us observe it.

“ Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us...... It seemed good unto me also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus: that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”

When St. Luke says, that many had undertaken to write histories of our Saviour, he cannot mean Matthew alone, nor Matthew and Mark only, for they are not many. He must intend them, and others, or some different from them: which last will appear most likely, if we consider what there follows.

Of those many he says, they had taken in hand, undertaken, or attempted. St. Luke would not have spoken thus of Matthew, or Mark. Indeed, we may suppose, that those narrations, to which St. Luke refers, were not false and fabulous, nor heretical: but they were defective.

Grotius says, the word is of a middle meaning; and that it does not necessarily imply, that the writers, here intended, had failed to perform what they undertook.

Nevertheless the ancient Christians, to several of whom the Greek language was natural, understood the word differently. And their judgments must be of value in this case. Origen's observations upon St. Luke's introduction may be seen, Vol. i. p. 552, 553, where he says, St. · Luke's expression, “ taken in hand,” implies a tacit accusation of those, who, without the gift • of the Holy Ghost, took upon them to write gospels. For Matthew, and Mark, and Luke,

a 'Hence we see near to what time this history of the e Non multum vero interjectum fuisse temporis inter ActoActs was written: viz. either in the year 62, or not long rum Apostolicorum et evangelii confectionem, conjectura ex after; it being altogether probable, that St. Luke would præfatione ad Theophilum duci potest. Primum quidem

not defer writing long after his departure from St. Paul; librum confeci'... : Actuum ergo liber continuatio est, seri• which seems to have been now, when the apostle was set at esque evangelii.... Multum vero abiisse temporis antequam liberty from his confinement at Rome.... That he wrote a priore libro omnibus numeris expleto ad posteriorem tran• both the gospel and the Acts in the same year, seems very siret Lucas, nullâ ratione cogimur ad credendum, &c. Basnag. probable; as it is certain, that one of them is only to be Ann. 60. num. xxviii.

looked upon as the second part, or continuation of the other.' | Librum autem et hunc, et qui de Actibus Apostolorum, Jones' New and Full Method, &c. Part. iv. ch. xvi. vol. iii. scriptum arbitror, non multo postquam Paulus Romá abiit in p. 158. See him also ch. si. p. 115.

Hispaniam. Nam in id tempus desinit Actuum liber, qui si • Deinde, nec satis constat, Evangelium Lucæ jam tum serius scriptus esset, in ulteriora etiam tempora narrationem editum fuisse, quando Paulus banc epistolam scripsit. Nam protenderet. Puto autem, Româ iisse Lucam in Achaiam, Acta quidem Apostolica scripsisse videtur statim post Evange- atque ibi ab eo conscriptos quos habemus libros. Grot. Pr. in lium, tamquam ejusdem voluminis libros primum et secun- Evang. Lucæ. 8 See Vol. ii. p. 552. dum. Scripsit autem Acta post biennium Pauli Romæ com- h Quod istos ait Lucas, non satis commode præstitisse ; morantis, id est, multis annis post hanc epistolam. Quare minime tamen, opinor, fabulosas, imo etiam impias narracirca idem tempus Evangelium ab eo scriptum fuisse, credi- tiones intelligens, tandem ecclesiæ, sub Nicodemi,.. Thomæ, bile est. Est. ad 2 Cor. viii. 18. c Voluminis hujus D. Lucæ partem posteriorem, seu novou

Ægyptiorum nominibus impudentissime obtrusas. Nec tamen

hic recte colligunt, Lucam post Matthæum et Marcum hanc DEUTEpoy quod attinet, librum dico Actuum Apostolorum, haud suam historiam edidisse. Bez. in Luc. cap. i. ver. 1. dubium est.... quin is scriptus sit statim post noyou TpWTOY, ETTEYEspnray, aggressi sunt.' Bene notavit vir eruditissive evangelium. Mill. Prol. num. 121.

simus, vocem esse mediam: neque enim ex ea colligi posse, 4 Sunt enim Acta δευτερος ejusdem operis λογος, cujus non præstitum ab illis scriptoribus quod aggressi sunt. Grot. KPWTOY Moyoy ipse suum agnoscit evangelium. Act. i.d. Dodw. in loc. Diss. Iren, i. num, xxxix.


and John, did not take in hand to write: but being full of the Holy Ghost, wrote gospels.' In which words, and afterwards, continually, he distinguisheth the four evangelists from the writers, referred to by St. Luke. To the like purpose Ambrose, who either copied, or closely imitated Origen. And, says Eusebius, · Luke at the beginning assigns the reason of his writing, • declaring, that whereas many others had rashly undertaken to compose relations of the things • which were most firmly believed, he therefore thought himself obliged, in order to divert us from “the uncertain relations of others, to deliver in his gospel a certain account of those things, of • which he was fully assured. Which passage was transcribed by us formerly. And Epiphanius, whom I now place below, plainly affixed a disadvantageous meaning to this word.

Beausobre readily allows, that we ought to follow the ancients in their interpretation of this word, and to suppose that St. Luke here speaks of some attempts, and essays, that had not been well executed.

This may be sufficient to satisfy us, that St. Luke does not speak of any of our evangelists, Mr.' Dodwell was of the same opinion.

But we may have yet farther assurance of it by observing what St. Luke says of himself, and his own design ; which is to this purpose, • That it had seemed good to him to send to Theophilus • in writing a distinct and particular history of Jesus Christ ; that he might better know, and be . more fully confirmed in the truth of those things, in which he had been instructed by word of • mouth.'

In my opinion this implies a supposition, that Theophilus had not yet in his hands any good written history of the words and works of Jesus Christ.

Consequently St. Luke at the year 62, and possibly somewhat later, did not know of St. Matthew's and St. Mark's gospels : and therefore we must suppose that they were not yet written and published, or however but lately. For if they had been published several years, St. Luke, who had accompanied Paul in Greece, Asia, Palestine and Rome, could not have been unacquainted with them. This argument appears to me valid : at least I cannot discern where it fails.

It has long seemed to me a clear and obvious argument, that the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were not written till the year 60, or afterwards. For if they had been written sooner, they would by this time have been in the hands of St. Luke and Theophilus, and all the faithful in general: and St. Luke could not have expressed himself, as he does in this introduction ; nor indeed would he have written any gospel at all.



1. His History. II. Testimonies of ancient Writers to his gospel. III. Remarks upon them, for

discerning the T'ime of this Gospel. IV. Characters of Time in the Gospel itself: V. The Language in which it was written.

Ι 1. Matthews called also. Levi, son of Alpheus, was a publican, or * toll-gatherer under the Romans. He was, undoubtedly, a native of Galilee, as the rest of Christ's apostles were: but of what city in that country, or of which tribe of the people of Israel, is not known. * See Vol. ii. p. 494.

autrement. Origène de même, dans sa préface sur S. Luc. 5 ... δηλων ως αρα πολλων και αλλων προπετεςερον επιτη- et après lui la plupart des interprètes Grecs. Quand il s'agit δευκοτων διηγησιν ποιησασθαι, ων αυτος πεπληροφορητο λογων, de la signification des termes Grecs, et que les auteurs Grecs, *. 1. Euseb. 1. 3. c. 24. p. 96. C.

qui les expliquent, n'ont aucun intérêt à leur donner des sens • Vol. ii. p. 369.

forcés, ces derniers semblent dignes de créance. Beaus. Reφασκων, επειδησέρ πολλοι επεχείρησαν να τινας marques sur Luc. ch. i. p. 100. επιχειρητας δειξη φημι δε τις περι Κηρινθον, και Μηρινθον, και Ut plane alios fuisse necesse sit evangelicæ historiæ scripτες αλλες. . H. 51. num. vii. p. 428.

tores a Lucâ visos, a nostris, quos habemus, Evangelistis. Diss. . Ce mot Grec, Emeralproav, est certainment très équi- Iren: i. num. xxxix. voque, et peut fort bien signifier des tentatives malheureuses, 8 The history of our Lord's calling this disciple is in Matt. des efforts qui ont mal réussi.' St. Epiphane ne l'a pas entendu ix: 9-13. Mark ii. 13-16, Luke v. 27-32.


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