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all the Evangelists to have written in chronological order, has likewise extended the duration of the ministry so as to include five passovers. But we have already expressed our opinion that his fundamental principle is altogether untenable.*
Bengel, in 1736, adopting an opinion which had been maintained by Apollonarius Laodiceus and Epiphanius,f placed the period at a little more than two years; while Mann, in 1733, revived the ancient opinion of its short continuance. Dr. Priestley, as it was natural for a man of his activity of mind to object to the protracted period which had by some been assigned to our Lord's ministry, adopted Mann's principle, with some difference of application, and defended it against Archbishop Newcome, who constructed a harmony on the plan of Le Clerc, whose opinion was the common one, of the three years' duration of the ministry.
Our Lord's ministry continued then, either about three years, or between two and three, or a little more than one. The first opinion, that it continued about three years, or contained four passovers, has for its foundation four
in John's gospel, “ And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” ii. 13. “ After this there was a feast
chart, Hierozoicon, lib. ii. cap. 50. Opp. vol. ii, coll. 558-571. as referred to by Le Clerc in his Harmony, Diss. i.
*" Macknight,” says Marsh, " instead of diminishing, has increased the number to five, the reason of which I have not been able to discover, unless the term copty used in John vii. 2. though St. John has expressly explained it by onnotnyla, gave rise to the conjecture.”
Macknight has however stated the ground of his opinion, as may be seen in a note to the seventy fourth section of the Paraph. and Comm. upon his harmony. † Apoll. Laod. ap. Hieron. in Daniel. c. 9.
Ephiphan. Hær. li. n. 22. as quoted by Macknight in the preliminary observations to his har. mony, Obs. 5.
of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem," v. 1. « And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh,” vi. 4. “ And the Jews' passover was nigh,” xi. 55. As in the second of these passages no express mention is made of a passover, there is no certain ground for the supposition that a passover was alluded to, and those who maintain the second opinion have supposed that it does not refer to a passover, but to some other feast. The third opinion appears to us most probable, and the arguments which we shall state in its favor will include the objections to the two other opinions.
An objection thought by many to be entirely decisive against our opinion must first however be noticed. It is drawn from the express mention of a passover in John, vi. 4. a passover which is clearly distinct from the first, because a feast mentioned John v. 1. intervenes, and cannot, say the objectors, mean the last, because a feast of Tabernacles and a feast of Dedication are mentioned between the sixth chapter and the history of the last, which is given toward the close of the gospel. Mann, and after him Dr. Priestley, endeavoured to remove the difficulty by placing the sixth chapter before the fifth, (which transposition they supported by very plausible arguments, and expunging the word passover in the fourth verse of the sixth chapter, and supposing the feast referred to to be the same mentioned in chapter v. 1. which they thought to be the feast of Pentecost. The omission of this word was also thought necessary by G. J. Vossius. They considered it as an exposition of the verse, at first written in the margin by some scribe, and afterwards introduced into the text, Could this alteration of the text be supported, and the transposition also be admitted as a correction of the error of a copyist, the objection would indeed be removed, even from the minds of those who adhere to the arrangement of John. Bishop Pearce would avoid the necessity of the transposition, by supposingthe whole verse, vi. 4. to be an interpolation. But to both these propositions for altering the sacred text we make but one reply, with which every friend to its purity must be satisfied; which is, that they are supported by no authority of manuscripts, versions, or quotations by the fathers. We were therefore much better pleased with the new and ingenious solution proposed by Dr. Carpenter. With those who adopt his opinion, as before quoted and explained, respecting the mode in which St. John's Gospel is written, the objection we are considering is of no force. We have already concluded that the passover referred to must be the last.f Dr. Carpenter supposes that the true chronological place for the narrative of the events recorded in the sixth chapter, excepting the two first verses, is between the fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth verses of the eleventh chapter. ... Having then removed this principal, and almost solitary objection to Dr. Carpenter's hypothesis of the duration of the ministry, the same hypothesis which those Christains who lived nearest the time of our Saviour adopted, and which in modern times Mann revived, and Priestley more fully defended, we proceed to mention some of the arguments in its favor. 1. Mr. Mann founded his opinion upon the interpretation of the prophecy of the seventy weeks ; but this argument cannot here be fully explained, and is perhaps of doubtful force. 2. He says, “ The passage in Isaiah lxi. 1, 2, which our Lord read in the synagogue at Nazareth, and which he notified to be then fulfilled, viz. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,' was anciently thought to signify, that Christ was to preach but one year, distinguished by that appellation.” But, as Dr. Priestley acutely remarks,“ the interpretation is so very singular and unnatural, that it could never have suggested the opinion ; but the opinion once previously fixed, viz. that Christ preached only one year, might very easily have led such interpreters of the scriptures as the fathers were to that explanation of the text, and nothing but a corresponding opinion generally received could have made such an interpretation supportable. It could never have stood its ground against a contrary opinion."* The argument from the opinion of the fathers, proved not only by these remarks, but by many other facts, we think very strong; for it would be remarkable, if those who lived nearest the time of Christ should be detected in an error of such a nature, by others who lived several centuries after. 3. Luke has dated the commencement of the preaching of John the Baptist, which may be considered as the beginning of his history, with remarkable accuracy. And if there be no means of ascertaining the times of the other events which he mentions by their connexion with this, then this minuteness must appear useless ; as the times of the most important facts are left undecided. This is thought to be an internal argument of some weight in favor of the hypothesis of the short duration of the ministry;
* « There does not seem to be any reason for the Evangelist's in. serting this verse, nothing in the chapter having any relation to the feast of the passover, or to any other of the Jewish feasts. G. J. Vos. sius, and W. Mann, (in de Anno Emortuali Christi, p. 173,) are of opinion that the word tarxa, passover, ) is an interpolation ; and I think that the whole verse is sa; because in chap. v. 1. mention is made of a feast, (probably the feast of Pentecost,) and in chap. vii. 2. of the feast of Tabernacles, between which two no feast appointed by the law of Moses intervened. It does not appear from the Evangelists' account, that Jesus was present at the feast of the Passover here mentioned ; and yet it seems probable that he who fulfilled all righteousness would not have been absent from a feast of the passover, which, (as is here said,) was then nigh at hand." See Bishop Pearce's Comment. in lo
| See p. 44.
« as it is acknowledged,” says Dr. Priestley," that had no other gospel than that of Luke been extant, it must have been taken for granted, that the whole history, from the commencement of the preaching of John to the death of Christ, was comprehended within the space of less than two years, no mention of passovers or other marks of time indicating the contrary." 4. Such phrases are never used by any of the Evangelists, as after one year, or after two years, as would be natural if so long intervals existed between events, although the lapse of days is frequently noticed. 5. After the death of the Baptist, Herod first heard of the fame of Jesus.* Would this be credible, if Christ had been publicly preaching for a year before the death of John, as those who think the ministry lasted three years suppose ?-6.
« There were three national festivals instituted by Mo“ ses, at which every Jew was under a general obligation to 66 attend ;-—the Passover, towards the end of March; the Pen“ tecost, about the middle of May; and the feast of Taberna“cles, towards the end of September. There was another s considerable festival, called the Feast of Dedication, which 6 was celebrated about the beginning of December; but this 6 was not instituted by Moses, and was not obligatory upon
any Jew. Upon the opinion of the early Christian writers, 6 we must suppose the following festivals to have occurred « during the ministry of Jesus,-the Passover, the Pente
cost, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Dedication, and a 56 second Passover. Now if we admit that the festival mention6 ed in John v. was the Pentecost, and there appears no internal “ evidence to the contrary, each of these festivals is distinctly I noticed by John, and our Lord attended at each of them. This « furnishes a strong presumption in favor of the ancient opin“ion; and it is increased by considering the state of the case “ upon the prevalent though less ancient opinion, that the min
* Matth. xiv. 1.