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THE LORD ? If there be one fact rather than another of which the Apostles were witnesses, it was this :--and in the concurrent narrative of all four Evangelists it stands related beyond all cavil or question. Yet, of all the events which they have described, none is so variously put forth in detail, or with so many minor discrepancies. And this was just what might have been expected, on the principles above laid down. The great fact that the Lord was risen,-set forth by the ocular witness of the Apostles, who had seen Him,- became from that day first in importance in the delivery of their testimony. The precise order of His appearances would naturally, from the overwhelming nature of their present emotions, be a matter of minor consequence, and perhaps not even of accurate enquiry till some time had passed. Then, with the utmost desire on the part of the women and Apostles to collect the events in their exact order of time, some confusion would be apparent in the history, and some discrepancies in versions of it which were the results of separate and independent enquiries; the traces of which pervade our present accounts. But what fair-judging student of the Gospels ever made these variations or discrepancies a ground for doubting the veracity of the Evangelists as to the fact of the Resurrection, or the principal details of the Lord's appearances after it ?
17. It will be well to state the bearing of the opinions advanced in this section on two terms in common use, viz. verbal and plenary inspiration.
18. With regard to verbal inspiration, I take the sense of it, as explained by its most strenuous advocates, to be, that every word and phrase of the Scriptures is absolutely and separately true,-and, whether narrative or discourse, took place, or was said, in every most exact particular as set down. Much might be said of the à priori unworthiness of such a theory, as applied to a Gospel whose character is the freedom of the Spirit, not the bondage of the letter : but it belongs more to my present work to try it by applying it to the Gospels as we have them. And I do not hesitate to say that, being thus applied, its effect will be to destroy altogether the credibility of our Evangelists. Hardly a single instance of parallelism between them arises, where they do not relate the same thing indeed in substance, but expressed in terms which if literally taken are incompatible with each other. To cite only one obvious instance. The Title over the Cross was written in Greek, and, being reported in Greek by the Evangelists, must represent not the Latin or Hebrew forms, but the Greek form, of the inscription. According, then, to the verbal-inspiration theory, each Evangelist has recorded the exact words of the inscription; not the general sense, but the inscription itself,—not a letter less or more. This is absolutely necessary to the theory. Its advocates must not be allowed, with convenient inconsistency, to take refuge in a common-sense view of the matter wherever their theory fails them, and still to uphold it in the maino. And how it will here apply, the following comparison will shew :
Matthew, This is JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
John, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. Of course it must be understood, that I regard the above variations in the form of the inscription as in fact no discrepancies at all. They entirely prevent our saying with perfect precision what was the form of the inscription : but they leave us the spirit and substance of it. In all such cases I hold with the great Augustine, whose words I have cited in my note on Matt. xiv., when treating of the varying reports of the words spoken by the Apostles to our Lord during the storm on the lake of Galilee,--and cannot forbear citing here again : “ THE SENSE OF THE DISCIPLES WAKING THE LORD AND SEEKING TO BE SAVED, IS ONE AND THE SAME : NOR IS IT WORTH WHILE TO ENQUIRE, WHICH OF THESE THREE WAS REALLY SAID TO CHRIST. FOR WHETHER THEY SAID ANY ONE OF THESE THREE, OR OTHER WORDS, WHICH NO ONE OF THE EVANGELISTS HAS MENTIONED, BUT OF SIMILAR IMPORT AS TO THE TRUTH OF THE SENSE, WHAT MATTERS IT ?”
19. Another objection to the theory is, that if it be so, the Christian world is left in uncertainty what her Scriptures are, as long as the sacred text is full of various readings. Some one manuscript must be pointed out to us, which carries the weight of verbal inspiration, or some text whose authority shall be undoubted, must be promulgated. But manifestly neither of these things can ever happen. To the latest age, the reading of some important passages will be matter of doubt in the Church : and, which is equally subversive of the theory, though not of equal importance in itself, there is hardly a sentence in the whole of the Gospels in which there are not varieties of diction in our principal MSS., baffling all attempts to decide which was its original form.
20. The fact is, that this theory uniformly gives way before intelligent study of the Scriptures themselves; and is only held, consistently and thoroughly, by those who have never undertaken that study. When put forth by those who have, it is never carried fairly through ; but while broadly asserted, is in detail abandoned.
6 This has been done, as far as I have seen, in all remarks of verbal-inspirationists on this part of my Introduction to the Greek Testament. A most curious idea has been propounded on the example above given, viz. that by forcing into accord the words of the title in Mark and Luke, and believing it to represent a translation from the Latin inscription, we may suppose those in Matthew and John to have been, the one the original Greek, the other a translation from the Hebrew (!).
21. If I understand plenary inspiration rightly, I hold it to the utmost, as entirely consistent with the opinions expressed in this section. The inspiration of the sacred writers I believe to have consisted in the fulness of the influence of the Holy Spirit specially raising them to, and enabling them for, their work,-in a manner which distinguishes them from all other writers in the world, and their work from all other works. The men were full of the Holy Ghost the books are the pouring out of that fulness through the men,--the conservation of the treasure in earthen vessels. The treasure is ours, in all its richness : but it is ours as only it can be ours, --in the imperfections of human speech, in the limitations of human thought, in the variety incident first to individual character, and then to manifold transcription and the lapse of ages.
22. Two things, in concluding this section, I would earnestly impress on my readers. First, that we must take our views of inspiration not, as is too often done, from à priori considerations, but ENTIRELY FROM THE EVIDENCE FURNISHED BY THE SCRIPTURES THEMSELVES: and secondly, that the MEN were INSPIRED; the books are the RESULTS OF THAT INSPIRATION. This latter consideration, if all that it implies be duly weighed, will furnish us with the key to the whole question.
IMPRACTICABILITY, OF CONSTRUCTING A FORMAL HARMONY OF THE
1. From very early times attempts have been made to combine the narratives of our Three Gospels into one continuous history. As might have been expected, however, from the characteristics of those Gospels above detailed, such Harmonies could not be constructed without doing considerable violence to the arrangement of some one or more of the three, and an arbitrary adoption of the order of some one, to which then the others have been fitted and conformed. An examination of any of the current Harmonies will satisfy the student that this has been the case.
2. Now, on the supposition that the Three Gospels had arisen one out of the other, with a design such as any of those which have been previously discussed (with the exception of e) in § ii. 2, 3, such a Harmony not only ought to be possible, but should arise naturally out of the several narratives, without any forcing or alteration of arrangement. Nay, on the supplementary theory of Greswell and others, the last written Gospel should itself be such a History as the Harmonizers are in search of. Now not only is this not the case, but their Harmonies contain the most violent and considerable transpositions :—they are obliged to have recourse to the most arbitrary hypotheses of repetition of events and discourses,-and, after all, their Harmonies, while some difficulties would be evaded by their adoption, entail upon us others even more weighty and inexplicable.
3. Taking, however, the view of the origin of the Gospels above advocated, the question of the practicability of Harmonizing is simply reduced to one of matter of fact :-how far the three Evangelists, in relating the events of a history which was itself one and the same, have presented us with the same side of the narrative of those events, or with fragments which will admit of being pieced into one another.
4. And there is no doubt that, as far as the main features of the Evangelic history are concerned, a harmonious whole is presented to us by the combined narrative. The great events of our Lord's ministry, His baptism, His temptation, His teaching by discourses and miracles, His selection of the Twelve, His transfiguration, His announcement of His sufferings, death, and resurrection, His last journey to Jerusalem, His betrayal, His passion, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection,these are common to all; and, as far as they are concerned, their narratives naturally fall into accordance and harmony. But when we come to range their texts side by side, to supply clause with clause, and endeavour to construct a complete History of details out of them, we at once find ourselves involved in the difficulties above enumerated. And the inference which an unbiassed mind will thence draw is, that as the Evangelists wrote with no such design of being pieced together into a complete History, but delivered the apostolic testimony as they had received it, modified by individual character and oral transmission, and arranged carefully according to the best of their knowledge, so we should thus simply and reverentially receive their records, without setting them at variance with each other by compelling them in all cases to say the same things of the same events.
5. If the Evangelists have delivered to us truly and faithfully the apostolic narratives, and if the Apostles spoke as the Holy Spirit enabled them, and brought events and sayings to their recollection, then we may be sure that if we knew the real process of the transactions themselves, that knowledge would enable us to give an account of the diversities of narration and arrangement which the Gospels now present to us. But without such knowledge, all attempts to accomplish this analysis in minute detail must be merely conjectural : and must tend to weaken the Evangelic testimony, rather than to strengthen it.
6. The only genuine Harmony of the Gospels will be furnished by the unity and consistency of the Christian's belief in their record, as true to the great events which it relates, and his enlightened and intelligent appreciation of the careful diligence of the Evangelists in
arranging the important matter before them. If in that arrangement he finds variations, and consequently inaccuracies, on one side or the other, he will be content to acknowledge the analogy which pervades all the divine dealings with mankind, and to observe that God, who works, in the communication of His other gifts, through the medium of secondary agents—has been pleased to impart to us this, the record of His most precious Gift, also by human agency and teaching. He will acknowledge also, in this, the peculiar mercy and condescension of Him who has adapted to universal human reception the record of eternal life by His Son, by means of the very variety of individual recollections and modified reports. And thus he will arrive at the true Harmonistic view of Scripture; just as in the great and discordant world he does not seek peace by setting one thing against another and finding logical solution for all, but by holy and peaceful trust in that Almighty Father, who doeth all things well. So that the argument so happily applied by Butler to the nature of the Revelation contained in the Scriptures, may with equal justice be applied to the books themselves in which the record of that Revelation is found,—that “He who believes the Scriptures to have proceeded from Him who is the Author of nature, may well expect to find the same sort of difficulties in them as are found in the constitution of nature.'
OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
1. The author of this Gospel has been universally believed to be, the APOSTLE MATTHEW. With this belief the contents of the Gospel are not inconsistent; and we find it current in the very earliest ages (see testimonies in the next section).
2. Of the Apostle Matthew we know very little for certain. He was the son of Alphæus (Mark ii. 14), and therefore probably the brother of James the less. His calling, from being a publican to be one of the Twelve, is narrated by all three Evangelists. By St. Mark and St. Luke he is called Levi; in this Gospel, Matthew. Such change of name after becoming a follower of the Lord, was by no means uncommon ; and the appearance of the apostolic, not the original name, in the Gospel proceed