« AnteriorContinuar »
passage, commonly printed in all our Bibles, read in our churches as God's Word, which undeniably forms no portion of His Word at all, viz. 1 John v. 7: there are more, which rest upon far weaker evidence than do other forms of the Word, which ought long ago to have been substituted for them. Can we be held blameless, with the knowledge of these things before us, for not having set this matter right ?
20. It has been my desire for many years, that I might contribute, however scantily and imperfectly, towards furnishing the English reader with some means of intelligently dealing with and appreciating these important facts respecting the text of the New Testament. My wish has at length taken shape in this Edition, the first part of which is now offered to the Public. I would wish it to be understood that I put it forth as an experiment, liable to be corrected and improved, if necessary, both in form and in detail. It was my original intention to give an amended version of the sacred text : and I still think that for the completeness and full usefulness of the work, such a version would be necessary. After all possible marginal corrections of inadequate renderings, there are many improvements in minute expression and arrangement, tending to clear up the meaning, which must necessarily be passed over where the Authorized Version is printed as the text.
21. It has been my endeavour, in the notes, to give as much information as I could respecting the general currents of opinion and interpretation, without burdening the reader with long catalogues of names. The introduction of some names has been unavoidable. The German Commentaries of Olshausen and Meyer, for instance, are so valuable, and so rich in original material, that I have often cited them. The latter of these writers, though unhappily not to be trusted where there is any room for the introduction of rationalistic opinions, is, in accurate interpretation of the words and constructions of the sacred text, by far the best of all commentators. Another work has been found very valuable : the Reden Jesu (Discourses of Jesus) of the late venerable Rudolf Stier. Stier was a Christian scholar of the orthodox Evangelical party,—of a simple and fervid spirit,-apt sometimes to find fanciful allusions and connexions, but full of the power of spiritual discernment : and his great work above mentioned has certainly been among the most valuable of modern contributions to the understanding of our Lord's words.
22. The reader will find in my Commentary no sympathy whatever with the rationalistic school. Believing in the Eternal Godhead and Perfect Humanity of our Blessed Lord, and in the agency of the Almighty Spirit in Him, and through Him in His Apostles and servants, I regard His divine miracles as proofs of His mission, and of His authority over nature, as being the Creator of nature. The faith of the centurion (Luke vii. 8), so wonderful in him, is that of all Catholic Christians : that the powers of Nature serve the Son of God, as servants their master.
23. Widely different however from any expression of rationalistic opinion is the carrying out of the enquiry, sometimes forced on us, whether an incident related in the sacred narrative is intended to be miraculous, or not. Such an enquiry might for example naturally occur regarding the rising up of St. Paul after he was stoned at Lystra (Acts xiv. 19, 20). Such an enquiry, I have believed, is fairly open to us in the case of the narrative of the Star of the Wise Men. Was that a miraculous appearance from first to last, or was it some phænomenon in the ordinary course of the celestial revolutions, which the Magi were guided by God to interpret as they did ? I have been led to incline to the latter view. I have no bias leading me that way: I should feel no difficulty whatever in receiving the whole as miraculous, did I think the sacred text required me to do so. Those who do think this, have much to favour their view. But let them concede to a Christian brother the right to enquire into the meaning of the sacred text itself, without binding him to a pre-conception of that meaning : and let them abstain from harsh judgment, where his enquiry has led him to a conclusion different from that to which they themselves have come.
24. In closing this preliminary chapter, I may venture to say, that I hope this work may be found useful to those readers for whom it has been specially designed. It is not in the proper sense of the word, a popular Edition of the New Testament. Some cultivation of mind by an ordinary liberal education will be required for its use: but certainly not more than is possessed by Christian women in the middle ranks of life, and by the majority of the mercantile classes. Should it be found to contribute in any degree towards the diffusion of an intelligent knowledge of the contents of God's Holy Word, I shall be more than rewarded for the labour bestowed on it.
ON THE THREE FIRST GOSPELS GENERALLY.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE THREE FIRST GOSPELS.
1. On examining the four records of our Lord's life on earth, the first thing which demands our notice is the distinctness, in contents and character, of the three first Gospels from the fourth. This difference may be thus shortly described.
2. St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, in relating His ministry, discourses, and miracles, confine themselves exclusively to the events which took place in Galilee, until the last journey to Jerusalem. No incident whatever of His ministry in Judæa is related by any of them?. Had we only their accounts, we could never with any certainty have asserted that He went to Jerusalem during his public life, until His time was come to be delivered up. They do not, it is true, exclude such a supposition, but rather perhaps imply it (see Matt. xxiii. 37; xxvii. 57, and parallels ; also Matt. iv. 12 as compared with iv. 25,—Matt. viii. 10, xvi. 1); it could not however have been gathered from their narrative with any historical precision.
3. If we now turn to the fourth Gospel, we find this deficiency remarkably supplied. The various occasions on which our Lord went up to Jerusalem are specified ; not indeed with any precision of date or sequence, but mainly for the purpose of relating the discourses and miracles by which they were signalized.
4. But the difference in character between the three first Evangelists and the fourth is even more striking. While their employment (with the sole exception, and that almost exclusively in Matthew, of the application of Old Testament prophecies to events in the life of our Lord) is narration without comment, the fourth Evangelist speaks with dogmatic authority, and delivers his historical testimony as from the chair of an Apostle. In no place do they claim the high authority of eyewitnesses ; nay, in the preface to St. Luke's Gospel, while he vindicates his diligent care in tracing down the course of events from the first, he
2 An exception to this apparently occurs, if we adopt the remarkable reading “ Judæa,” Luke iv. 44. But it is hardly to be pressed, especially as it does not imply any journey to the capital.
implicitly disclaims such authority. This claim is, however, advanced in direct terms by St. John (see below, ch. v. § ii. 1). Again, in the character of our Lord's discourses, reported by the Three, we have the same distinctness. While His sayings and parables in their Gospels almost exclusively have reference to His dealings with us, and the nature of His kingdom among men, those related by St. John regard, as well, the deeper subjects of His own essential attributes and covenant purposes; referring indeed often and directly to His relations with His people and the unbelieving world, but usually as illustrating those attributes, and the unfolding of those purposes. That there are exceptions to this (see
Matt. xi. 27 : Luke x. 22) is only to be expected from that merciful condescension by which God, in giving us the Gospel records through the different media of individual minds and apprehensions, has yet furnished us with enough common features in them all, to satisfy us of the unity and truthfulness of their testimony to His blessed Son.
5. Reserving further remarks on the character of St. John's Gospel for their proper place, I further notice that the three, in their narration of our Lord's ministry, proceed in the main upon a common outline. This outline is variously filled up, and variously interrupted; but is still easily to be traced, as running through the middle and largest section of each of their Gospels.
6. Besides this large portion, each Gospel contains some prefatory matter regarding the time before the commencement of the Ministry,— a detailed history of the Passion,-fragmentary notices of the Resurrection, and a conclusion. These will be separately treated of and compared in the following sections, and more at large in the Commentary.
THEIR INDEPENDENCE OF ONE ANOTHER.
1. Having these three accounts of one and the same Life and Ministry of our Lord, it is an important enquiry for us, how far they may be considered as distinct narratives,—how far as borrowed one from another. It is obvious that this enquiry can only, in the absence of any direct historical testimony, be conducted by careful examination of their contents. Such examination however has conducted enquirers to the most various and inconsistent results. Different hypotheses of the mutual interdependence of the three have been made, embracing every possible permutation of their order'. To support these hypotheses,
3 1. That Matthew wrote first-that Mark used his Gospel —and then Luke both these. This is held by Grotius, Mill, Wetstein, Townson, Hug, &c., and Greswell, who
the same phænomena have been curiously and variously interpreted. What, in one writer's view, has been a deficiency in one Evangelist which another has supplied,--has been, in that of a second writer, a condensation on the part of the one Evangelist of the full account of the other ;—while a third writer again has seen in the fuller account the more minute depicting of later tradition.
2. Let us, however, observe the evidence furnished by the Gospels themselves. Each of the sacred Historians is, we may presume, anxious to give his readers an accurate and consistent account of the great events of Redemption. On either of the above hypotheses, two of them respectively sit down to their work with one, or two, of our present narratives before them. We are reduced then to adopt one or other of the following suppositions : Either, (a) they found those other Gospels insufficient, and were anxious to supply what was wanting; or, (b) they believed them to be erroneous, and purposed to correct what was inaccurate ; or, (c) they wished to adapt their contents to a different class of readers, incorporating at the same time whatever additional matter they possessed ; or (d) receiving them as authentic, they borrowed from them such parts as they purposed to relate in common with them.
3. There is but one other supposition, which is plainly out of the range of probability, and which I should not have stated, were it not the only one, on the hypothesis of mutual dependency, which will give any account of, or be consistent with, the various minute discrepancies of arrangement and narration which we find in the Gospels. It is (e) that (see last paragraph) they fraudulently plagiarized from them, slightly disguising the common matter so as to make it appear their own. One man wishing to publish the matter of another's work as his own, may be conceived as altering its arrangement and minutiæ, to destroy its distinctive character. But how utterly inapplicable is any such view to either of our three Evangelists ! And even supposing it for a moment entertained,-how imperfectly and anomalously are the changes made, -and how little would they be likely to answer their purpose !
4. Let us consider the others in order. If (a) was the case, I maintain that no possible arrangement of our Gospels will suit its requirements. Let the reader refer to the last note, and follow me through its divisions. (1), (2), (5), (6) are clearly out of the question, because
advances, and sometimes maintains with considerable ingenuity, the hypothesis of a supplemental relation of the three taken in order. 2. Matthew, Luke, Mark.-So Griesbach, Fritzsche, Meyer, De Wette, and others.
3. Mark, Matthew, Luke.-So Storr and others, and recently, Mr. Smith of Jordanhill.
4. Mark, Luke, Matthew.-So Weisse, Wilke, Hitzig, &c.