Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

had been an eyewitness, events which took place one hundred and fifty-two years before, - a longer interval than that which separated Irenæus and Tertullian from the ministry of Jesus. Yet no facts, to such an extent as those in the life of Christ, were fitted to impress themselves on the mind, to be treasured up and handed down by oral tradition and by writing with scrupulous fidelity and exactness. And if they did not take place, there are no spurious stories which it would be more difficult within so short a period to get up and impose on men as facts, and to make the foundation of teachings, efforts, and a moral revolution like that which then took place.

The writers whose testimony we have given, and all the more intelligent members of the Christian cornmunities in which they lived, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, must have known whether they were testifying to a truth or a falsehood, and under such circumstances it was impossible that they could attempt so gross and monstrous an imposition as their assertions must indicate unless they were true.

We have now before us testimony of a decisive character, given previous to the close of the second century, that the Gospels were then, and from the times of the Apostles had been, received in all Christian churches as the genuine writings of the men whose names they now bear, and there is not one word of testimony from any ancient writer in opposition to this. But this is not all. Among the scanty fragments of writings which have come down to us as of unquestionable genuineness from a yet earlier age, there are testimonies which go to confirm the evidence already given. Justin Martyr, born about A. D. 100, in two or three of his works which remain to us, gives a brief sketch of our Saviour's lise, which, in matter and words, corresponds remarkably with the accounts we have, though he adds one or two circumstances which at that early period might have come to him in other ways. He quotes, as from “the Memoirs by Peter," a passage found only in the Gospel of Mark, and speaks of “those Memoirs which I affirm to have been composed by Apostles of Christ and their companions.” He does not, however, mention the paines of the writers. But Eusebius, in bis Ecclesiastical History, III. 39, has preserved a passage from Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, in Syria, between 110 and 120, in which he says : “ Matthew wrote the oracles (i. e. of Jesus) in Hebrew, and every one interpreted them as he was able.” “ Of Mark,” we quote from an article in our own pages,* “ Papias writes more at length, and more specifically, and grounds his statements on the authority of an earlier witness, namely, the Presbyter John. The purport of what he states on this head is well known, - that Mark, Peter's interpreter (épurveuths Tiétpov), not having been a hearer or a follower of the Lord, but only of the Apostle, set down in order what he remembered of the sayings and doings of Christ, according to Peter's preaching, who, it is remarked, did not relate things in their order, but according as the occasion of their preaching demanded; and it is added, that Mark was careful neither to omit nor falsify any thing of what he heard." The precise weight of the testimony of Papias to the genuiness of the Gospels is this. Near the close of the second century, froin A. D. 175 onwards, we have abundant testimony that the four Gospels were written by those to whom we now ascribe them. About A. D. 140 Justin Martyr describes these memoirs as drawn up by " Apostles and their companions," without mentioning the writers' names. At a period thirty years earlier, Papias says, on the authority of John the Presbyter, a contemporary of the Apostles, " that Matthew compiled the sacred sayings or oracles of Christ, and that Mark, the interpreter or translator of Peter, prepared from Peter an account of the sayings and doings of Christ.” Justin Martyr describes the relation of the writers to Jesus without giving their names; Papias mentions the names of two of the writers; and both the description and the names agree with the later and fuller accounts which have come to us, and thus carry us back by an unbroken series of witnesses to the very age of the Apostles. The iudirect and incidental way in which the testimony is given, makes it, like the separate links of a chain of circumstantial evidence, free from all suspicion, and therefore the more certain in the results to which it conducts us.t

* Christian Examiner, Fourth Series, Vol. XIX. pp. 373, 374. + The writer in the Christian Examiner, from whom we have quoted,

We have thus brought the evidence back to the age of the Apostles. The Epistles of Paul confirm the authenticity of the Gospels, by bringing us within the sphere of a life, events, and habits of feeling and of thought, which in a great measure presuppose, even where they do not directly allude to, facts such as are given in the Gospels. But " The Acts of the Apostles," on evidence entirely independent of historical testimony, in its connection with the Epistles of Paul (as shown by Dr. Paley in his Horæ Paulinæ), and on evidence drawn from the events described (as shown by Mr. Smith, in his very elaborate treatise on the voyage and shipwreck of St. Paul), is proved to have been the work of a contemporary writer, and the author of that book, in language not to be misunderstood, speaks of himself as the author of the third Gospel. So that here we have the testimony of an author who undoubtedly belonged to the age of the Apostles, and was their companion and fellow-laborer, to the genuineness of the Gospel of Luke; that is, to the fact that it was written by a companion of the Apostles.

An able and ingenious writer has said, “ that the integ

says (as above, p. 374): “It will remain to be shown, that the Papian testimony bas any thing to do with that second book (the Gospel of Mark). And in fact, all historical means of identifying those noies of Peter's preaching and our second Gospel absolutely fail us." From the introduction to Smith's “ Dissertation on the Origin and Connection of the Gospels," pp. Isx, and lxxi., we copy the following decisive statement to prove that The Mark of Papias was ihe author of our second Gospel, only premising that Irenæus (111.3) speaks of bimself as a hearer of Polycarp, and (V. 33) he speaks of Papias as “ an ancient man, a bearer of John and companion (étaipos) of Polycarp"; a contemporary, therefore, of his own, though an older man. “Whai,” says Mr. Smith, “ are the facts of the case tending to show that this Mark of Papias is the Evangelist Mark? Irenæus tells us, that Mark's Gospel began and ended precisely as our present Gospel does. Therefore it was the same. Irenæus and Papias were contemporaries, for both of them knew Polycarp. Was the Mark of Papias different from the Mark of Irenæus ? Had the critic, instead of reasoning upon the extract from Papias as it is usually quoted, taken the trouble of looking into Eusebius, who has preserved it, he would have seen that it was · Mark who wrote the Gospel' that Papias alluded to. This is expressly stated by Eusebius, and it is a point upon which he could not be niistaken, with the work of Papias before him lepi Mapsou Toũ củaYYNov Y6YpasTos εκτέθειται διά τούτων και τούτο ο πρεσβύτερος έλεγε Μάρκος μεν ερμενευτής Πέτρου γενόμενος όσα έμνημόνευσεν ακριβώς έγραψεν, ου NÉVTOL Tátel, k. T.1. -He (Papias) mentions a tradition concerning Mark, who wrote the Gospel, in these words : “ The Presbyter (John) also said this, Mark being the translator of Peter, what he recorded he wrote with accuracy, but not in exact order,"? &c. - Hist. Ecc., III. 39.".

rity of the records of the Christian faith is substantiated by evidence in a tenfold proportion more various, copious, and conclusive, than that which can be adduced in sup. port of any other ancient writings." * But no one doubts that Horace wrote the Epistles and Satires attributed to hin, or that Tacitus wrote the History and Annals that have come to us as his works. The genuineness of these writings is established by evidence so strong, that no scholar would dare to call it in question; and if any one should, he would be considered either very ignorant or entirely wanting in common sense. But the evidence of the Gospels is tenfold greater than that by which the genuineness of these writings is sustained. Till, therefore, every classical work which claims to have come down to us from antiquity is cast aside as spurious, we have no right to call in question the genuineness of the Gospels. But the importance of the subject, and perhaps the very variety and extent of the proofs, have blinded the judgment of men, and filled them with doubts, without any regard to the evidence in the case. As there are religious zealots and fanatics who adopt religious views without reason or against it, so there are zealots and fanatics out of the pale of Christianity, who, in the face of what they would consider overwhelming evidence in any other similar matter, without reason or against its plainest deductions, reject any thing and every thing that might be thought to confirm the authority of our religion. And this practice has been so long persisted in by the enemies of Christianity, and has so left its mark indirectly on the works of those who in opposition to them have written in its defence, that, with most men who look into the subject, there seems to be a sort of impression that they have a right here to be dissatisfied with an amount of proof which in all similar cases would remove every shadow of doubt from their minds. But that which is enough to satisfy the mind in the one case ought to be enough to satisfy it in the other. It is unreasonable to demand more; though, as we have already seen, the amount of evidence for the Gospels is tenfold stronger than the most sceptical inquirer asks in order to establish the genuineness of the ancient classics.

* History of the Transmission of Ancient Books, by Isaac Taylor, The momentous consequences involved in these inquiries make us fearful, where we should otherwise have neither fear nor doubt. But the consequences involved do not affect the nature or certainty of the proof. There are persons who, when they go to the top of a very high tower, cannot free themselves from the impression that it must break down under them. You may prove to them by undoubted statements of fact, that it is capable of sustaining ten thousand times their weight. They assent to what you say; but, while they stand there so far above the earth, they cannot feel secure. We have had this feeling of distrust, and have been entirely unable to get rid of it, sometimes when standing on the top of a perpendicular and exceedingly lofty precipice, though we knew all the while that the rock, whose strength seemed about to give way under us, was sufficient to support the weight of a whole mountain. Many persons have a feel. ing not unlike this in examining the evidences of our religion. They see how strong they are, how more than sufficient they would be in any other similar inquiries; and yet, because consequences of such vast magnitude and importance depend on the result, they distrust the calm decision of their own judgment, and fear in regard to the validity of conclusions which rest on the most perfect and legitimate processes of reasoning. The brain swims and the mind is unsettled by the thought of the elevation to which they have been raised by the most substantial proofs; and, from the lofty summit of Christian promise which they have reached, they fear lest the whole fabric beneath them should give way, though, as they ascended step by step, they saw it in every part built up and buttressed round, with a mountain-like firmness and solidity. We must divest ourselves of these feelings. We must study the evidences of Christianity and of its written documents as we should the evidence of other and less important matters of history, not satisfied with less nor demanding a great deal more, to remove every shadow of doubt from our minds. The consequences involved in the inquiry have nothing to do with the amount of evidence necessary to establish a fact beyond every reasonable suspicion. “ The evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures," says Isaac Taylor, in the same book which we

pp. 4, 5.

« ZurückWeiter »