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Burnet wrote, that it had been read by Bishop Burnet as the work of Lord Clarendon, and was regarded by him as an authentic account of the transactions which it relates ; and it will be a proof of these points a thousand years hence, or as long as the books exist."
We have the very same evidence of the priority of St Matthew's Gospel, in Greek, to St Luke's, that we have of Clarendon's to Burnet, or Napier's to Alison. But it can be shown that Luke must have written his Gospel in Judea, before he “sailed into Italy” with St Paul, in the first year of the governorship of Festus. It follows, therefore, that St Matthew's must have been written at a still earlier period.
Independent altogether of the mass of original and important matter contained in the writings of St Luke, and which forms, as already shown, the largest portion of his Gospel, his writings would be invaluable as evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the two preceding Gospels; for it will be seen that his testimony as to St Mark's Gospel, although different in its nature, is not less conclusive than that which he bears to St Matthew. It does not indeed show, as in the case of St Matthew, that Mark's Gospel existed in Greek, as we now have it, when St Luke wrote his Gospel—but it shows that the original, of which the second Gospel must be a translation, existed not only then, but that it must have been written at a still earlier date; in fact, that part of it must have been written in Galilee, whilst our Lord and his disciples still inhabited it.
But however valuable the testimony of one evangelist may be to the authenticity of the others, we must not, in our researches after truth, allow our fears or wishes to interfere with our conclusions; we must not avail ourselves of their evidence, if it can be shown that they were ignorant of the writings of their predecessors, or even if strong probable reasons can be adduced for supposing that they were.
Dr Lardner, in his History of the Apostles and Evangelists, contends that the authors of the Gospels made no use of the works of their predecessors; and as Mr Horne, in his Introduction to the Scriptures, adopts his arguments, and gives them in a more condensed form, I shall briefly notice them, as stated in that work.
“I. It does not appear that any of the learned ancient Christian writers had a suspicion that either of the first three evangelists had seen the other Gospels before he wrote his own."—(2d edit. iv. 311.)
Answer. Augustine, the earliest writer on the subject of the agreement of the Gospels, says expressly, “that they did not write as if they were ignorant of the works of those who preceded them;
”* and, in particular, that Mark followed Matthew.t “II. It is not suitable to the character of any of the evangelists that they should abridge or transcribe another historian.”
A matter of opinion in which I cannot coincide, and which is at variance with Luke's declaration, that he wrote from the information of others.
“III. It is evident, from the nature and design of the first three Gospels, that the evangelists had not seen any authentic written history of Jesus Christ.”
I shall state the argument in Mr Horne's own words. He admits that John was acquainted with the other Gospels, but says with regard to Mark and Luke,
“ There is no certain evidence either that St Mark knew that St Matthew had written, or that St Luke knew that the two evangelists had written Gospels before him. If St Mark had seen the work of Matthew, it is likely he would have remained satisfied with it as being the work of an apostle of Christ—that is, an eyewitness, which he was not. Nor would St Luke, who, from the beginning of his Gospel, appears to have been acquainted with several memoirs of the sayings and actions of Christ, have omitted to say that one or more of them was written by an apostle, as Matthew was.”—(2d edit. iv. 312.)
* “ Et quamvis singuli suum quendam narrandi ordinem tenuisse videantur, non tamen unusquisque eorum velut alterius precedentis ignarus voluisse scribere reperitur, vel ignorata prætermisisse quæ scripsisse alius invenitur.”—De Cons. Evangelist. i. c. 1.
+ " Marcus eum (Matthæum) subsecutus."— 16.
This is but slender ground to prove a negative. I do not admit the correctness of the inferences; but, without stopping to controvert them, would merely remark, that because we think it is not likely Mark would have written a Gospel if he had known of Matthew's, therefore “it is evident he did not;" and, as I understand the preface, Luke did say that some of the memoirs of the sayings and actions of Christ, with which he was acquainted, were written by apostles such as Matthew was.
"IV. The seeming contradictions which exist in the three first Gospels, are an additional evidence that the evangelists did not write by concert, or after having seen each other's Gospels.”
“V. In some of the histories recorded by all these three evangelists, there are small varieties and differences which plainly show the same thing.”
Answer. When Luke makes use of any of the preceding Gospels, he does not differ from them. The so-called differences occur in cases taken from independent sources.
“ VI. There are some very remarkable things related in St Matthew's Gospel, of which neither St Mark nor St Luke has taken any
notice. “ VII. All the first three evangelists have several things peculiar to themselves, which show that they did not borrow from each other, and that they were all well acquainted with the things of which they undertook to write a history.”
To these two last objections, which are in effect the same, I answer—that it is no proof that a historian is ignorant of the existence of a previous history, because he does not include the whole of it in his own. We may not be able to explain why he should select one portion and omit another, nor is it reasonable to expect that we should. With regard to the Gospels, I would merely observe that selection is the rule of them all; and when St John, at the end of his Gospel, tells us that “there were many other things which Jesus did, which if they should be written every one, the world itself would not contain them,” it is but saying, in the language of oriental hyperbole, that for all practical purposes it was impossible to record them all. It is only necessary to read
the Gospels, to see that this was truly the case, when Mark tells us of the great multitudes from all the adjoining countries who thronged around our Lord with their sick, iïi. 7, and when Matthew tells us that on this occasion he healed them all, xii. 15, we must admit that it was impossible to detail all the miraculous cures. Bishop Marsh, who maintains the same views, thus expresses himself :
“ All the arguments are reducible to this principle, that if one evangelist had used the Gospel of the other, the contents of his own Gospel would in many places have been very different from what they really are—namely, that apparent contradictions would have been avoided, and that remarkable facts, circumstances, determinations of time, &c., observable in the one, would not have been omitted in the other.” *
The answer to this is, that it is founding an argument upon the opinion of the critic as to the manner in which the evangelists ought to have made use of the labours of their predecessors, if they had been acquainted with them ; it is opposing a negative argument to a positive one, and, to be of any value, we must have proof that the important “determinations of time,” &c., are omissions on the part of one evangelist, and not additions by the other. Let us, therefore, follow in detail Bishop Marsh's objections to the supposition in question. He goes on to say :
“But since the supposition that one evangelist copied from another has been adopted by so many critics, in consequence of the verbal harmony of the evangelists, it cannot be tried by a fairer test than the phenomena of that very harmony which it is assumed to explain. For if these are such as cannot be explained by it, the chief reason for our adopting it ceases to exist ; and if they are likewise incompatible with it, we must conclude that the supposition is false.”
Bishop Marsh, in the first place, combats the supposition that St Mark made use of the Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke in the composition of his own Gospel : he observes that they sometimes agree in words, and sometimes only in matter. I am not called upon to answer the difficulties in this case, because I agree with the author that Mark did not derive any of the matter of his Gospel from Matthew or Luke; but he adds
* Dissertation on the Oriyin of the Three First Gospels, p. 154..
“If, instead of supposing that St Mark copied from St Luke, we suppose, as was formerly imagined, that St Luke copied from St Mark, we are exposed to the same difficulties as before.” *
Let us see what these difficulties are. There is but one stated, namely, that with one short exception the instances of verbal agreement occur only in cases where one or both of the other evangelists agree with St Matthew. This would, no doubt, be conclusive against the supposition that Luke made use of a Greek version of Mark, or vice versd, but is perfectly easily explained upon the supposition that the Gospel of Mark is translated from a Hebrew original previously used by him.
The argument against the possibility of St Luke having made use of the Gospel of St Mark is thus stated :
“Further, since neither St Mark copied from St Luke, nor St Luke from St Mark, St Luke cannot have copied from St Matthew, because St Luke has in no instance a verbal agreement with St Matthew throughout all (i. e., where all the three agree), except where St Mark likewise agrees verbally with St Matthew.”
I admit neither premises nor conclusion. There are cases where Luke agrees verbally with Matthew, but not with Mark;t but even if there had been no cases of such agreement in the Parallel Passages, it would have proved no more than that Luke had adopted the same rule in making use of the original of the second Gospel, which Mark had in translating it, by availing himself of the translation of Matthew.
The next argument adduced by this author is founded on a statement quite as loose and inaccurate as the preceding, and is, moreover, according to his own admission, “not incompatible with the supposition” which he is attempting to refute.
He says “ But there is another phenomenon in the verbal agreement and disagreement between St Matthew and St Mark, which, though not absolutely incompatible with the supposition that St Matthew made use of St Mark's Gospel,
sy to be reconciled to it, and at any rate cannot be explained by it. This phenomenon is, that though St Matthew and St Mark have in so
is not very
* Dissertation on the Origin of the Three First Gospels, p. 158.