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it in the language in which it was originally composed. It was written by Matthew, according to the best testimony, at Jerusalem, on purpose for the Jewish converts, and in that modern dialect or species of Hebrew which was the common language, at that time, of Palestine. The Gospel in that language has been lost, it is supposed, irretrievably. That which we have, is a translation of it into Greek, made very soon after the original was composed. There is no reason to challenge its exact faithfulness to the original; and some have even supposed that Matthew himself was the author of this Greek rendering of his own Hebrew Gospel. The predominant opinion is, however, that the name of the translator, and the Gospel which he translated, are alike unknown and undiscoverable. Though we may be allowed to regret that we cannot look on the very words which this excellent apostle used in narrating, for our exceeding benefit, the life and actions of his Master, yet our faith ought not to be in the least disturbed by the loss, while there remains. to us a translation of his history, so manifestly ancient, complete, and true.
I am well aware that there are great names to be brought against the commonly received opinions of the priority of Matthew's Gospel, and its
having been originally written in Hebrew. There are also great names in favor of those opinions. And I confess I am somewhat surprised that the name of Lardner stands in the former class. Irenæus, on whose authority, as being the most ancient, he justly relies, expressly says that the Gospel was written in Hebrew; and though he seems to assign the latest of the three dates to its composition, he evidently means to leave the impression that it was written before the other Gospels. I will now give the passage from Ire
who wrote about the year 178— precisely as it is given in Lardner's own immortal work.
“ Matthew then among the Jews wrote a gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding for establishing] the church there. And after their exit (that is, death, or departure] Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing, the things that had been preached by Peter. And Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned upon his breast, likewise published a gospel, whilst he dwelt at Ephesus, in Asia.”.
And the next authority cited by Lardner, is that of Origen, who says, about the year 230, “that according to the tradition received by him, the first gospel was written by Matthew, once a publican, afterwards a disciple of Jesus Christ; who delivered it to the Jewish believers, composed in the Hebrew language." To the same purpose is the testimony of Eusebius, the third cited authority.
Although Dr. Lardner's arguments against the Hebrew original of Matthew's Gospel, are learned and ingenious, they cannot convince me in opposition to such authorities. And let it be observed, that the date assigned by Irenæus to its composition, is not a fixed and certain date, because the period of the preaching of Peter and Paul at Rome is not a fixed or certain year. But the priority of the Gospel is a fixed and certain fact, according to that father, and so is the language in which it was written.
Matthew is said to have carried the religion of Jesus into Parthia and Ethiopia, and to have suffered martyrdom at Naddaber, in the latter country, but by what death is uncertain. We are told also that his remains were brought to Bithynia, and from thence to Salernum, in the kingdom of Naples, where they were discovered in the year 1080, and where a church was built for them by duke Robert, in the pontificate of
Gregory VII. We can readily believe that relics were thus found and honored, which were declared, and by many supposed, to be the body of the apostle ; but that they really were so, we are at perfect liberty to question and to deny.
Matthew's festival is on the 21st of September.
JAMES THE LESS.
Next to his own name, Matthew writes that of “ James, the son of Alpheus;" who is also called, in the Gospel of Mark, “ James the Less," or the younger, to distinguish him from the other apostle of the same name, James the brother of John, who was older than he; or it may be that he was of small stature, and therefore named " the less."
His mother's name was Mary. She was one of the Marys who were present at the crucifixion of our Saviour; and appears to have been the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark she is called “ Mary, the mother of James the Less and of Joses.” In a parallel passage of John's Gospel, she is mentioned as follows. “ There stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.” From these passages the inference is justly drawn, that James the Less was the first cousin of Jesus.