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to the apocryphal Gospels, so far as it concerns our subject, is thus summed up by Mr. Norton: : “They were obscure writings, very little regarded or known by any Christians, catholic or heretical. We find in Justin Martyr and Tertullian nothing concerning them ; in Irenæus, two titles, one purporting to be that of a book, which most probably was not extant, and the other likewise perhaps originating in mistake, but supposed to belong to a Valentinian Gospel, which there is no evidence that the Valentinians ever ap. pealed to. Clement gives some extracts from a Gospel, which he found quoted by the Encratites or ascetics. Serapion men. tions the Gospel of Peter, as in the hands of persons belong. ing to a parish in his diocese, called Rhossus, and as used by some of the Docetæ. Origen once refers to the same book. And the author of the Homilies on Luke adds three other titles of books of which he gives no account. These are all the notices of apocryphal Gospels to be found in all the writers of Christian antiquity before the end of the third century. Had they been works of any notoriety, works possessing any intrinsic or accidental importance, we should have had page after page of controversy, discussion, and explanation concerning them.”*
But how was the Scripture canon established ? This is a question which really has nothing to do with the subject before us. But, as it has been often treated in a way to throw discredit upon all the books which it adopts, we will answer the question in the words of one whose competency to speak on any subject connected with the history of Christianity during the first three centuries no one will undertake to dispute. Chevalier Bunsen, in the second volume of “ Hippolytus and his Age” (p. 148), says : -“ Scripture was constituted as canonical by the Church. The decision of the Church was founded on good evidence, which we have sufficient materials to examine and appreciate. An impartial examination shows that, where we have uncertainties and doubts, the ancient Church had them likewise, and that the ancient traditional evidence is not only in itself better than the systematical opinions of the inen of the fourth century, but also agrees with the result of sober and independent criticism.” We do not receive the Gospels on the authority of the Church because it adopted them into its canon, but on the authority of the evidence which
* Genuineness of the Gospels, Vol. III. pp. 264 - 266 (2d edit.). VOL. LVI. -4Th . VOL. XXI. NO. I
s from the
doubts wheloubts which
has come down to us from the earliest times. The fact, however, that the Church had doubts where we have them because of a deficiency of evidence, — doubts which never extended to any one of the Gospels, — shows the honesty with which their decision was made. If they have handed down to us their doubts respecting the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Second Epistle of Peter, Jude, and the Apocalypse, it leaves us to infer that every proper inquiry was made, and that they had good and sufficient reasons for believing in the genuineness of the books respecting which they had no doubts. But this is aside from our argument.
Within the present century, theories almost without number inconsistent with the genuineness of the Gospels have been brought forward, each standing its brief day, to be destroyed by some more youthful successor, which soon falls into the decrepitude of a premature and sickly old age, and is succeeded in turn by some newer creation of learned and ephemeral ingenuity. Of the two latest theories that have come to our knowledge (for that of Strauss, we are told, is already imbecile with age in the land of its birth), some account has been given in our pages, that the readers of the Examiner might not be whol. ly ignorant of what is going on in the theological world.
For an abstract of the views and arguments of the Tübingen critics, we would refer to two articles, one in No. CLXVII., the other in No. CLXIX. of the Examiner, respectively entitled “ The Christ of the Jews," and 6 The Christ of the Gentiles." We can only give the slightest summary in this place. The Gospel according to the Hebrews, we are told (No. CLXVII. p. 170), was "not an apocryphal book," but “was exclusively used by the Ebionite Christians till the middle of the second century, after which period it fell into disrepute, as containing the opinions of heretics. While it fourished, we have no certain proof that any other Gospels existed ; on their appearance, it slowly retired from view." The Gospel of Matthew grew out of this, and was almost wholly a Jewish conception of Christ. " The Gospel of Luke contains a doctrine substantially the same with Matthew's” (p. 173), “ but on the whole the impression is more consistently and thoroughly Jewish” (p. 174). 6The Christ of the second Gospel is the Jewish Nessiah, though faintly sketched. The strong Hebrew traits of
NO. CLX two artics of the
Matthew's Christ are almost obliterated. He is baptized; is once called the Son of David, but by a blind man; is confessed by Peter to be the Christ; and is hailed as such by the people, who cry, · Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, which cometh in the name of the Lord.' These incidents present to us the shadowy form of the old Jewish Christ, as it is changing almost imperceptibly into another shape. He is losing his identity, but still is no other than himself, though not wholly himself. The human outline is yet distinct, though its edges are slightly blurred and hazy, as if the figure were softening, melting into the angelic.” (p. 175.) The First Epistle of Peter and the Apocalypse make a great advance on this. And the Tübingen critics take especial pains to say that these diverse Christologies are by no means different aspects of the same historical personage. “ It is not one identical character,” but “ each writer describes a personage of his own." " The Christ of Matthew would not satisfy Mark; the Christ of Mark would be too unsubstantial for Peter.” (p. 182.) “ Paul's Christ was an ideal, not an historical person.” (No. CLXIX. p. 3.) The Christ of John, the Logos made Aesh, the body no essential part of his person, the history every now and then vanishing into the apparent, Jesus all but entirely free from the infirmities ascribed to him in the other Gospels, indicates a far more advanced state of speculation. “A hundred and fifty years after the death of Christ were necessary to transform him into the Logos.” (p. 31.)
Such, in its briefest form, is the theory of the Gospels proposed by the Tubingen critics. With respect to it, we would say, first of all, that there is no external historical evidence that goes to confirm it. The whole voice of Christian antiquity is against it. In the second place, the Christ of Matthew and of Luke was not, as here represented, the Christ expected by the Hebrews, but a violent shock to all their ideas. From the opening words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, with which in Matthew his ministry begins, down to his ignominious death upon the cross, bis whole life and teachings would only have been a succession of shocks and disappointments to those who, in accordance with the prevailing Jewish notions, were looking to their Messiah as a temporal prince and saviour. In the third place, we cannot ourselves, nor do we believe that any careful and unbiassed reader of the Gospels will find in them the broadly marked distinctions which are here set forth. “ The Christ of Matthew," it is said, “would not satisfy Mark.” Yet, of the six hundred and seventy-eight verses in Mark, about five hundred, and many of them with a remarkable verbal agreement, are found in Matthew. Three hundred and eight verses from Mark, and, beside these, one hundred and twenty from Matthew, are to be found in Luke, so that very few passages remain which are peculiar to Mark. His distinguished peculiarity, so far as we have observed, is the putting in of little, incidental circumstances, which a practised writer of history would omit, but which an honest, unlettered eyewitness is likely to retain. There is, perhaps, less sharpness of outline in his narratives, but more minuteness in unimportant details, than in either of the other Evangelists. But it is the same Christ who appears bore us in them all, and we cannot possibly so read the first three Gospels as to make it appear otherwise. The difference which we find in Matthew, between the Jesus who throws himself in agony on the ground at Gethsemane and the Jesus who with more than kingly majesty says to the high-priest, “ Hereafter shall ye see the son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven," or the Jesus who said to his disciples, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” is far greater than the distance which separates these latter passages from the highest attributes that are assigned to him either by Paul or by John. In the first three Gospels we have mostly simple statements of facts, and reports of the sayings of Jesus. The language is purely transparent, hardly colored in any case by the peculiarity of the writer's own mind or habits of thought. The writer himself does not appear. No compositions can be more entirely objective, or place the acts and words of another before us more entirely in their own light. We can imagine Peter in his discourses repeating word for word whole chapters which we find in Mark. It is the style of easy and circumstantial narrative which he would naturally use at the time, in giving an account of what he had heard and seen. The fourth Gospel, on the contrary, is colored throughout by the writer's own mind. The young disciple whom Jesus loved has become an aged Apostle, living in the serene atmosphere of the Divine love and the higher regions of spiritual thought, till his whole soul is steeped, and all his modes of expression are penetrated by them. The feelings with which he now looked to Jesus were not those with which he had regarded him when on earth, but those which had grown up in his mind and made a part of his daily life as he looked reverently up to him from his earthly labors and trials, or meditated on the still, unfathomed depths of meaning which lay in his words and his mission to the earth. For this reason, as well as because they had been omitted by the previous Evangelists, he dwells much on what might be called the more mystical and spiritual portions of our Saviour's life and teachings. The tone of the narrative and of the incidental remarks that accompany it is marked by his own individuality. But often when he describes events, as the healing of the blind man, the raising of Lazarus, the last supper, and the transactions on the day of the crucifixion or the morning of the resurrection, there is a circumstantial minuteness and precision which exceed any thing that is to be found in the other writers. They are the details of an eyewitness, and would give the impression, either that they had fixed themselves in the mind of the writer as extraordinary events do in the youthful mind, so that the slightest particular of act or expression can never be altered or effaced by any number of succeeding years, or that he had early in life committed them and the most remarkable and extended discourses of our Saviour to writing, and made use of these early notes in preparing his Gospel. If there ever was a composition, through all its varieties of statement, perfectly homogeneous, bearing the impress of one mind, it is the Gospel of St. John; and, taking into account the great length of his life, the cares and responsibilities which had rested upon him, the persecutions to which he had been exposed, the theological speculations which even then had begun to agitate the Church and were carried on around him, his deep religious insight and long habits of meditation on the serene and heavenly instructions of his now glorified Saviour, we can easily see how, with the saine historical