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been most exactly aware who wrote the gospels, and it will be perceived that these circumstances afford weighty evidence of their genuineness, particularly as there is not to be found in a single ancient writer, the faintest trace of any doubt in regard to it; for the heretics, who, as we have remarked, disputed the gospels in part, did not deny their genuineness, (they rather fully admitted it, but only their obligatory authority. Now, as very active intercourse was maintained among the Christians of the ancient church, partly by constant epistolary communications, and partly by frequent personal visits, nothing is more natural than the supposition, that the Christians of Jerusalem very soon transmitted the gospel of Matthew which was composed in the midst of them, to Rome, Ephesus, Alexandria, and other places, and that on the other hand, those of Rome, and Ephesus also, transmitted the writings composed among them, to the other churches. In every church there were archives, in which were deposited important documents. Into these archives of t!e church, the gospels were put, and as only these four gospels were composed or vouched for by apostles, the collection of gospels took its rise, not in this or that place, but in every quarter simultaneously. This statement of the matter is, in the first place, strictly in accordance with the circumstances of the ancient church, and also the only one capable of explaining satisfactorily the existence of the collection in every body's hands, while no one knew how and whence it originated. As, moreover, we find no other gospel but these in general use, it is clearly evident that only these four were of apostolic origin. It is true we find in circulation in individual churches, gospels which appear to have differed from our own; e. g. the church at Rhosus in Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor, made use of a gospel of Peter, and in Alexandria, one called the gospel of the Ægyptians was current. It is possible, however, that either these two writings were the same, or at least, were very nearly allied, and also bore close affinity to our Mark; and in that case, their use is as easily accounted for as the use of Matthew and Luke, by the Ebionite and Marcionite sects, in recensions somewhat altered from the original.
From this cursory view of the evidence in favor of the genuineness of the gospels, we cannot but admit that no work can be adduced, out of the whole range of ancient literature, which has so many, and so decisive ancient testimonies in its behalf, as they. It is, therefore, properly, a mere labored effort to try to maintain and demonstrate the spuriousness of the gospels. Since, however, this attempt is made, it is a reasonable inquiry, Whence is derived any occasion for doubt, when every thing without exception is in favor of their genuineness ? We cannot but say, that no thorough, serious-minded scholar would ever have denied the genuineness of the gospels, had not the question in regard to their genuineness been conjoined with another investigation of extreme difficulty and intricacy. In the ardent endeavor to get rid of this difficulty, scholars have been seduced into the invention of hypotheses irreconcilable with the genuineness of the gospels. They should, on the contrary, have set out invariably with the admission of their genuineness, as an irrefragable fact, and then have employed only such modes of solving the difficulty above alluded to as were based on the supposition of their genuineness. The difficulty is this. On close comparison of the first three gospels we discover a very striking coincidence between them. This is exhibited, not merely in the facts and the style, but also in the order of narration, in the transitions from one narrative to another, and in the use of uncommon expressions, and other things of the same character. Further; the coincidence is interrupted by just as striking a dissimilarity, in such a manner that it is in the highest degree difficult to explain how this coincidence and this dissimilarity, as it is exhibited in the gospels, can have originated. This is a purely learned investigation, which should have been quietly prosecuted as such, without allowing it to influence the question respecting the genuineness of the gospels. Such has been its influence, however, that some scholars suppose a so-called Protevangelion, or original gospel, which the apostles, before they left Jerusalem and scattered themselves abroad over the whole earth, prepared to serve as a guide to them in their discourses. This writing is supposed to have contained the principal events of the life of our Lord; and it was carried into all lands by the apostles. Now in these different countries, it is said by the defenders of this hypothesis, additions were gradually made to this original gospel. These were at first short, and thus originated the gospels of the Jewish Christians, the Marcionites and others; afterwards they became longer, and in this way at last our gospels were produced. Now as it cannot be stated by whom these additions were made, this view is really equivalent to making our gospels spurious, for, according to it, only the little portions of them which existed in the brief original gospel is of apostolic authority. But, setting aside the fact that this hypothesis must be false, for this very reason, because it
the genuineness of the gospels, which can be demonstrated by historical proof, this theory has been, moreover, of late utterly discarded on other grounds. In the first place, no ancient Christian writer exhibits any acquaintance with such an original gospel; and is it conceivable that the knowledge of so remarkable a work should have been totally lost? Then, too, the idea that a guide was composed by the apostles for themselves, in order to preserve unity in doctrine, is not at all suited to the apostolic times. In them the Holy Spirit operated with its primitive freshness and power. This Spirit, which guided into all truth, was the means of preserving unity among the apostles. Not an individual of those witnesses to the truth needed any external written guide. Besides, this supposition solves the difficulty in question respecting the coincidence between the gospels only in a very meagre and forced manner, while there is a much simpler way of reaching the same result far more satisfactorily. We must suppose more than one source of this characteristic of the first three gospels. Sometimes one evangelist was certainly made use of by another. This remark is applicable particularly to Mark, who undoubtedly was acquainted with and made use of both Matthew and Luke. Moreover, there existed short accounts of particular parts of the gospel history, such as narratives of particular cases of healing, relations of journeys, and the like. Now when two evangelists made use of the same brief account, there naturally resulted a resemblance in their history. Still, as each was independent in his use of these accounts, some variations also occurred. Finally; much of the similarity between them arose from oral narratives. It is easy to believe that certain portions of the evangelical history, e. g. particular cures, parables, and discourses of our Lord should have been repeated constantly in the very same way, because the form of the narrative imprinted itself with very great exactness on every one's memory. In this manner the songs of Homer and Ossian were long transmitted from mouth to mouth. Uniformity in the oral mode of narration is not sufficient of itself alone to explain the relation between the gospels, because in prose it is impossible (in poetry it is much easier) to imprint on the memory minute traits and unimportant forms of expression with so much exactness as would be necessary to account for the mutual affinity of the gospels; and, moreover, could their similarity be
thus explained, the variations between them would only stand out in more troublesome relief. But that which cannot be effected by a single hypothesis, can be by that in conjunction with others. Here we may see the solution of a problem which has so long occupied the attention of theologians. But, whatever opinion may be entertained on this point, the investigation of it must always be kept aloof from the question of the genuineness of the gospels, which should first be established or denied on historical grounds. Thus will the collection of the gospels be secure from all danger.
The individual Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Of the four gospels, that of Matthew holds the first place in the canon. The author of this first gospel, besides the name of Matthew, bore also that of Levi (Matt. 9: 9. Mark 2: 14), and was the son of a certain Alpheus, of whom we know nothing further. Of the history of Matthew very little is known in addition to the accounts in the New Testament. After our Saviour called him from his station as receiver of customs, he followed him with fidelity, and was one of the twelve whom Jesus sent forth. His labors as an apostle, however, seem to have been wholly confined to Palestine ; for, what is related of Matthew's travels in foreign countries is very doubtful, resting only on the authority of later ecclesiastical writers. But the information respecting him which is of most importance to our purpose is given with perfect unanimity by the oldest ecclesiastical writers, who declare that Matthew wrote a gospel. It is true that they likewise subjoin, equally without exception, that Matthew wrote in Hebrew at Jerusalem and for believing Jews; and that this account must be correct, we know from the fact, that the Jewish Christians in Palestine, who spoke Hebrew, all made use of a gospel which they referred to Matthew. This Hebrew gospel did, indeed, differ from our Greek gospel of Matthew, for it contained many things wanting in our gospel; but still it was in general so exactly like the latter, that a father of the fourth century, the celebrated Jerome, felt himself entitled to treat of the Hebrew gospel expressly as Matthew's. It is a singular circumstance, however, that, while all the fathers of the church declare Matthew to have written in Hebrew, they all, notwithstanding, make use of the Greek text as of genuine apostolic origin without remarking what relation the Hebrew Matthew bore to our Greek gospel ; for that the oldest fathers of the church did not possess Matthew's gospel in any other form than that in which we now have it, is fully settled. That we have no definite information on this point is undoubtedly owing to accidental causes ; but, since it is so, that we want any certain account, we can only resort to conjecture concerning the mutual relation of the Greek and Hebrew Matthew. Existing statements and indications, however, enable us to form conjectures which, it is in the highest degree probable, are essentially correct. The idea that some unknown individual translated the Hebrew gospel of Matthew, and that this translation is our canonical gospel is contradicted by the circumstance of the universal diffusion of this same Greek Matthew, which makes it absolutely necessary to suppose that the translation was executed by some one of acknowledged influence in the church, indeed of apostolic authority. In any other case, would not objections to this gospel have been urged in some quarter or other, particularly in the country where Matthew himself labored, and where his writings were familiarly known ? There is not, however, the slightest trace of any such opposition to it. Besides; our Greek Matthew is of such a peculiar character that it is impossible for us to regard it as a mere version. Does a man, who is translating an important work from one language into another, allow himself to make alterations in the book he is translating, to change the ideas it presents ? Something of the kind must be supposed to have been done in the Greek gospel of Matthew with relation to the Hebrew. This is beyond denial if it be considered merely how the quotations from the Old Testament are treated. These do not coincide either with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament or with the version in common use at the time of the apostles, viz. the Septuagint (which was executed by some learned Jews at Alexandria several centuries before the birth of Christ ;) but rather exhibited an independent text of their own. Now, as sometimes the argument is wholly based on this independent character of the text in the citations froni the books of the Old Testament, and cannot have occurred at all with a Hebrew gospel of Matthew, it is clear that our Greek Matthew must be something else than a mere version.