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ed to adhere to chronological arrangement, because he says in his preface that he meant to “ write in order." But this phrase is no authority for the opinion: it may be, and has been by judicious interpreters, supposed to refer to the previous accounts which are before mentioned by him, and to mean only that he would digest those accounts into one continued narrative, which was so far in order as the facts before contained in separate tracts were in this history connected. But if this phrase did prove that it was Luke's intention to place his events according to their dates, his arrangement would still be of less authority than that of Matthew or of John, if the same intention was manifest in them. We should not hesitate, if there should be a difference between them, whether to take as our guides eye-witnesses and apostles, or one who probably was not present at any of the events which he relates, and perhaps never saw our Saviour. But the arrangements of Mark and Luke, even when differing from those of Matthew and John, are of some value, as we shall see. John and the other Evangelists have very little in common, but it is from those of his facts, which are also noticed by the other historians, especially by Matthew, that the places of the remainder are to be determined, as far as they can be determined.
We have seen that Matthew and John are the best authori. ties in chronology, but these two authorities disagree with respect to the position of some of the few facts recorded by both, so that we are now compelled to choose between them
-whose arrangement we will follow. Both cannot be right, unless for the sake of reconciling them, we admit the notion, that similar events, accompanied by similar circumstances, and having a similar connexion with other events, occured more than once. In opposition to Le Clerc and other learned men, we are inclined to give the preference to Matthew. It is true that there is nothing internal, of consequence, to disprove the
correctness of the order of John ; but when it is compared with that of Matthew, there are several reasons why we should allow it less authority. Matthew commences with an account of the birth of our Saviour, and continues his narrative to the fourteenth chapter, not with very great minute. ness, but with an apparent attention to the order of events ; and from the fourteenth chapter to the end, the connexion of the history is uninterrupted. The facts recorded after the fourteenth chapter then, we believe to be placed in their proper relative places, because it was evidently intended; those before that chapter, we suppose to be in proper order, because there is no proof of the contrary, and it would be analogous to the latter part. We are confirmed in our opinion, "_by the nature of John's Gospel, which is universally al“ lowed to have been intended by the Apostle as supplemen
tary to one or more of the preceding narratives, and which “ consists of sections, or parts which have no mutual connex“ion or dependence, except their common subject :*-and by “the fact, that John has assigned specific dates to his sections ; « and that therefore, upon the opinion of the early Chris“ tian writers respecting the duration of our Lord's ministry,
no difficulty occurs from the order of those sections, unless “ it can be proved that John intended to write in the order of 6 time ; but this opinion has no countenance from the nature 6 of his Gospel, and is inconsistent with the order of events « in Matthew's Gospel, which in the latter part of the Gos
pel coincides with that of Mark, and (though less obviously) 66 with that of Luke.”+ These sections are so marked, that their dates would read
• " The first section comprehends chap. i-iv. inclusive; the second, chap. v; the third, chap. vi ; the fourth, chap. vii.-X. 21 ; the fifth, chap. x. 22.-xi. 54 ; the sixth, chap. xi. 55-xxi. For the dates of these sections see chap. ii. 13. chap. v. 1. chap. vi. 4. chap. vii. 2. chap. X. 22. chap xi. 55”
Carpenter. pp. 82, 83.
ily be known to those who were familiar with the duration of the ministry, as no doubt the early Christians were. As, " And the Jews' passover was at hand.” ii. 13. “ When he " was in Jerusalem, at the passover." ii. 23. « Now the Jews' « feast of Tabernacles was at hand.” vii. 2. 5 And it was at “ Jerusalem the feast of dedication, and it was winter." 22. This is somewhat as though speaking of the actions of Moses, we might first mention some things that occured in the wilderness, then his deeds while in Egypt, or when he abode in Æthiopia. The times in which he was in these places we well know; and if we are to add any thing to former accounts, it is of but little consequence whether the disconnected events be placed in exact order. Thus we may suppose that John, as he wrote to supply deficiencies, might have thought that the general periods were known, and that the particular dates of his events would be sufficiently designated by the notes which he made. That the events he relates are not as they now stand in chronological order, we proceed concisely to show, from the places of two of them. The first is the clearing of the temple, which, as we have already mentioned, is related in connexion with his first mention of a passover after the baptism; whereas it is placed by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, at the passover when Jesus was crucified. The authority of Matthew, supported by Mark and Luke, (whose support at least proves the common opinion of those times,) may be sufficient to decide the question ; but we observe in confirmation, that the assumption of so great authority, and the performance of so odious an action, at so early a period, would not have been consistent with the concealment, or cautious disclosure of his character, at other times observed by our Lord. Such an event must have excited much attention. Notwithstanding, some time afterward, Herod first heard of the fame of Jesus,* and his brethren, as though he were unknown there, bid him go into Judea
Matthew, xiv. 1.
to perform his works.* We think the conclusion irresistible, that the account of the clearing of the temple given by John, does not bear correct chronological relation to his accounts of other events. Dr. Carpenter however supposes that the temple was cleared twice. We regret that he has given his sanction to this opinion,
The other instance of incorrect arrangement which we will give, is the feeding of the five thousand. Immediately before the account of this miracle John says,
« The passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh,”'t and in subsequent chapters mentions a feast of Tabernacles, and a feast of Dedication, from which, according to John's arrangement, it follows, that the passover here spoken of could not have been that at which he was crucified. But Matthew has placed this event in the fourteenth chapter, in the beginning of that uninterrupted narrative, which we have before mentioned, extending to the end of his Gospel. Now a little more than a month is sufficient for all the events recorded in this portion, and as no long period of leisure is alluded to by Matthew, we conclude that the passover was nigh, when the five thousand were fed; that this passover was the last of the ministry; and that the arrangement of John is again faulty, as this account should properly have been given after what related to the feasts of Tabernacles and Dedication.
From what we have now observed, as well as for other reasons, we have concluded that Matthew is the only tolerably accurate guide, as to the order of the events of our Saviour's ministry. We shall make use of this conclusion hereafter.
Another important subject which has received much attention, is the duration of our Saviour's ministry. It has been very variously limited. Before the time of Eusebius, who
• John, vii. 3. For other arguments, see Priestley's Disser. tations, connected with his harmony, sect. 15.
† John vi. 4.
lived in the fourth century, it was the opinion of the fathers, we believe with the single exception of Irenæus, that the ministry lasted only one whole year and part of another, or contained but two passovers. Irenæus extended it to twenty years.* With Eusebius began an opinion that it lasted more than three years, or contained four passovers, which has long been that most generally adopted. Another supposition, which has been maintained by some respectable authorities, on whose account we would treat it with more respect than of itself it deserves, has been, that the period of the ministry contained five passovers.
Sir Isaac Newton, supposing both Matthew and John to have written in chronological order, deduced this opinion from their accounts, and endeavoured to establish it by astronomical calculations. But Mann defends his opinion, that the ministry contained less than two years, by astronomical calculations also ;t and the whole question is so difficult, embarrassed, and uncertain, that the argument founded on it, on either side, is of very little value. Macknight, supposing
• " Irenæus indeed, who lived in the second century, is an exception to the rule; but his opinion on the subject was so absurd that it is hardly worth mentioning. For in zeal against the Gnostics, who, as well as the fathers of the three first centuries, believed that Christ's ministry lasted about a year, he goes so far as to extend it to nearly twenty years : in proof of which he appeals to John viii, 57. where cer. tain Jews say to Christ- Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ? Hence Irenæus argues that Christ was really not far from fifty at that time, and consequently that nearly twenty years had elapsed from the time of his baptism.” Marsh's Michaelis. Vol. ii. p. 2. ch. 2. s. 7. note 9.
† Newton on Daniel, ch. 11.
“ Difficillima et abstrusisima illa de passionis dominicæ tempore disputatio tota ex anni Judaici forma, quæ per illa tempora apud He. bræos usitata fuit, pendere videatur.” Petavius, as quoted by Mann, Diss. ii. chap. 19.- -For a refutation of Newton's hypothesis, See Bo