Part 6 out of 7
Dr. Keim, in the elaborate monograph mentioned above, decides that
Celsus made use of the fourth Gospel. He remarks upon it as
curious, that more traces should indeed be found 'both in Celsus
and his contemporary Tatian of John than of his two nearest
predecessors' [Endnote 307:2]. Of the instances given by Dr. Keim,
the first (i. 41, the sign seen by the Baptist) depends on a
somewhat doubtful reading ([Greek: para to Ioannae], which should
be perhaps [Greek: para to Iordanae]); the second, the demand for
a sign localised specially in the temple (i. 67; of. John x. 23,
24), seems fairly to hold good. 'The destination of Jesus alike
for good and evil' (iv. 7, 'that those who received it, having
been good, should be saved; while those who received it not,
having been shown to be bad, should be punished') is indeed an
idea peculiarly Johannean and creates a _presumption_ of the
use of the Gospel; we ought not perhaps to say more. I can hardly
consider the simple allusions to 'flight' ([Greek: pheugein], ii.
9; [Greek: taede kakeise apodedrakenai], i. 62) as necessarily
references to the retreat to Ephraim in John xi. 54. So too the
expression 'bound' in ii. 9, and the 'conflict with Satan' in vi.
42, ii. 47, seem too vague to be used as proof. Still Volkmar too
declares it to be 'notorious' that Celsus was acquainted with the
fourth Gospel, alleging i. 67 (as above), ii. 31 (an allusion to
the Logos), ii. 36 (a satirical allusion to the issue of blood and
water), which passages really seem on the whole to justify the
assertion, though not in a quite unqualified form.
We ought not to omit to mention that there is a second fragment
by Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis, besides that to which we
have already alluded, and preserved like it in the Paschal
Chronicle, which confirms unequivocally the conclusion that he
knew and used the fourth Gospel. Amongst other titles that are
applied to the crucified Saviour, he is spoken of as 'having been
pierced in His sacred side,' as 'having poured out of His side
those two cleansing streams, water and blood, word and spirit'
[Endnote 308:1]. This incident is recorded only in the fourth
In like manner when Athenagoras says 'The Father and the Son being
one' ([Greek: henos ontos tou Patros kai tou Uiou]), it is
probable that he is alluding to John x. 30, 'I and my Father are
one,' not to mention an alleged, but perhaps somewhat more
doubtful, reference to John xvii. 3 [Endnote 308:2].
But the most decisive witness before we come to Irenaeus is the
Muratorian Canon. Here we have the fourth Gospel definitely
assigned to its author, and finally established in its place
amongst the canonical or authoritative books. It is true that the
account of the way in which the Gospel came to be composed is
mixed up with legendary matter. According to it the Gospel was
written in obedience to a dream sent to Andrew the Apostle, after
he and his fellow disciples and bishops had fasted for three days
at the request of John. In this dream it was revealed that John
should write the narrative subject to the revision of the rest. So
the Gospel is the work of an eyewitness, and, though it and the
other Gospels differ in the objects of their teaching, all are
inspired by the same Spirit.
There may perhaps in this be some kernel of historical fact, as
the sort of joint authorship or revision to which it points seems
to find some support in the concluding verses of the Gospel ('we
know that his witness is true'). However this may be, the evidence
of the fragment is of more real importance and value, as showing
the estimation in which at this date the Gospel was held. It
corresponds very much to what is now implied in the word
'canonical,' and indeed the Muratorian fragment presents us with a
tentative or provisional Canon, which was later to be amended,
completed, and ratified. So far as the Gospels were concerned, it
had already reached its final shape. It included the same four
which now stand in our Bibles, and the opposition that they met
with was so slight, and so little serious, that Eusebius could
class them all among the Homologoumena or books that were
ON THE STATE OF THE CANON IN THE LAST QUARTER OF THE SECOND CENTURY.
I should not be very much surprised if the general reader who may
have followed our enquiry so far should experience at this point a
certain feeling of disappointment. If he did not know beforehand
something of the subject-matter that was to be enquired into, he
might not unnaturally be led to expect round assertions, and
plain, pointblank, decisive evidence. Such evidence has not been
offered to him for the simple reason that it does not exist. In
its stead we have collected a great number of inferences of very
various degrees of cogency, from the possible and hypothetical, up
to strong and very strong probability. Most of our time has been
taken up in weighing and testing these details, and in the
endeavour to assign to each as nearly as possible its just value.
It could not be thought strange if some minds were impatient of
such minutiae; and where this objection was not felt, it would
still be very pardonable to complain that the evidence was at best
inferential and probable.
An inference in which there are two or three steps may be often
quite as strong as that in which there is only one, and
probabilities may mount up to a high degree of what is called
moral or practical certainty. I cannot but think that many of
those which have been already obtained are of this character. I
cannot but regard it as morally or practically certain that
Marcion used our third Gospel; as morally or practically certain
that all four Gospels were used in the Clementine Homilies; as
morally or practically certain that the existence of three at
least out of our four Gospels is implied in the writings of
Justin; as probable in a lower degree that the four were used by
Basilides; as not really disputable (apart from the presumption
afforded by earlier writers) that they were widely used in the
interval which separates the writings of Justin from those of
All of these seem to me to be tolerably clear propositions. But
outside these there seems to be a considerable amount of
convergent evidence, the separate items of which are less
convincing, but which yet derive a certain force from the mere
fact that they are convergent. In the Apostolic Fathers, for
example, there are instances of various kinds, some stronger and
some weaker; but the important point to notice is that they
confirm each other. Every new case adds to the total weight of the
evidence, and helps to determine the bearing of those which seem
It cannot be too much borne in mind that the evidence with which
we have been dealing is cumulative; and as in all other cases of
cumulative evidence the subtraction of any single item is of less
importance than the addition of a new one. Supposing it to be
shown that some of the allusions which are thought to be taken
from our Gospels were merely accidental coincidences of language,
this would not materially affect the part of the evidence which
could not be so explained. Supposing even that some of these
allusions could be definitely referred to an apocryphal source,
the possibility would be somewhat, but not so very much, increased
that other instances which bear resemblance to our Gospels were
also in their origin apocryphal. But on the other hand, if a
single instance of the use of a canonical Gospel really holds
good, it is proof of the existence of that Gospel, and every new
instance renders the conclusion more probable, and makes it more
and more difficult to account for the phenomena in any other way.
The author of 'Supernatural Religion' seems to have overlooked
this. He does not seem to have considered the mutual support which
the different instances taken together lend to each other. He
summons them up one by one, and if any sort of possibility can be
shown of accounting for them in any other way than by the use of
our Gospels he dismisses them altogether. He makes no allowance
for any residual weight they may have. He does not ask which is
the more probable hypothesis. If the authentication of a document
is incomplete, if the reference of a passage is not certain, he
treats it as if it did not exist. He forgets the old story of the
faggots, which, weak singly, become strong when combined. His
scales will not admit of any evidence short of the highest.
Fractional quantities find no place in his reckoning. If there is
any flaw, if there is any possible loophole for escape, he does
not make the due deduction and accept the evidence with that
deduction, but he ignores it entirely, and goes on to the next
item just as if he were leaving nothing behind him.
This is really part and parcel of what was pointed out at the
outset as the fundamental mistake of his method. It is much too
forensic. It takes as its model, not the proper canons of
historical enquiry, but the procedure of English law. Yet the
inappropriateness of such a method is seen as soon as we consider
its object and origin. The rules of evidence current in our law
courts were constructed specially with a view to the protection of
the accused, and upon the assumption that it is better nine guilty
persons should escape, than that one innocent person should be
condemned. Clearly such rules will be inapplicable to the
historical question which of two hypotheses is most likely to be
true. The author forgets that the negative hypothesis is just as
much a hypothesis as the positive, and needs to be defended in
precisely the same manner. Either the Gospels were used, or they
were not used. In order to prove the second side of this
alternative, it is necessary to show not merely that it is
_possible_ that they were not used, but that the theory is
the _more probable_ of the two, and accounts better for the
facts. But the author of 'Supernatural Religion' hardly professes
or attempts to do this. If he comes across a quotation apparently
taken from our Gospels he is at once ready with his reply, 'But it
may be taken from a lost Gospel.' Granted; it may. But the extant
Gospel is there, and the quotation referable to it; the lost
Gospel is an unknown entity which may contain anything or nothing.
If we admit that the possibility of quotation from a lost Gospel
impairs the certainty of the reference to an extant Gospel, it is
still quite another thing to argue that it is the more probable
explanation and an explanation that the critic ought to accept. In
very few cases, I believe, has the author so much as attempted to
We might then take a stand here, and on the strength of what can
be satisfactorily proved, as well as of what can be probably
inferred, claim to have sufficiently established the use and
antiquity of the Gospels. This is, I think, quite a necessary
conclusion from the data hitherto collected.
But there is a further objection to be made to the procedure in
'Supernatural Religion.' If the object were to obtain clear and
simple and universally appreciable evidence, I do not hesitate to
say that the enquiry ends just where it ought to have begun.
Through the faulty method that he has employed the author forgets
that he has a hypothesis to make good and to carry through. He
forgets that he has to account on the negative theory, just as we
account on the positive, for a definite state of things. It may
sound paradoxical, but there is really no great boldness in the
paradox, when we affirm that at least the high antiquity of the
Gospels could be proved, even if not one jot or tittle of the
evidence that we have been discussing had existed. Supposing that
all those fragmentary remains of the primitive Christian
literature that we have been ransacking so minutely had been swept
away, supposing that the causes that have handed it down to us in
such a mutilated and impaired condition had done their work still
more effectually, and that for the first eighty years of the
second century there was no Christian literature extant at all;
still I maintain that, in order to explain the phenomena that we
find after that date, we should have to recur to the same
assumptions that our previous enquiry would seem to have
established for us.
Hitherto we have had to grope our way with difficulty and care;
but from this date onwards all ambiguity and uncertainty
disappears. It is like emerging out of twilight into the broad
blaze of day. There is really a greater disproportion than we
might expect between the evidence of the end of the century and
that which leads up to it. From Justin to Irenaeus the Christian
writings are fragmentary and few, but with Irenaeus a whole body
of literature seems suddenly to start into being. Irenaeus is
succeeded closely by Clement of Alexandria, Clement by Tertullian,
Tertullian by Hippolytus and Origen, and the testimony which these
writers bear to the Gospel is marvellously abundant and unanimous.
I calculate roughly that Irenaeus quotes directly 193 verses of
the first Gospel and 73 of the fourth. Clement of Alexandria and
Tertullian must have quoted considerably more, while in the extant
writings of Origen the greater part of the New Testament is
actually quoted [Endnote 315:1].
But more than this; by the time of Irenaeus the canon of the four
Gospels, as we understand the word now, was practically formed. We
have already seen that this was the case in the fragment of
Muratori. Irenaeus is still more explicit. In the famous passage
[Endnote 315:2] which is so often quoted as an instance of the
weak-mindedness of the Fathers, he lays it down as a necessity of
things that the Gospels should be four in number, neither less nor
'For as there are four quarters of the world in which we live, as
there are also four universal winds, and as the Church is
scattered over all the earth, and the Gospel is the pillar and
base of the Church and the breath (or spirit) of life, it is
likely that it should have four pillars breathing immortality on
every side and kindling afresh the life of men. Whence it is
evident that the Word, the architect of all things, who sitteth
upon the cherubim and holdeth all things together, having been
made manifest unto men, gave to us the Gospel in a fourfold shape,
but held together by one Spirit. As David, entreating for His
presence, saith: Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim show thyself.
For the Cherubim are of fourfold visage, and their visages are
symbols of the economy of the Son of man.... And the Gospels
therefore agree with them over which presideth Jesus Christ. That
which is according to John declares His generation from the Father
sovereign and glorious, saying thus: In the beginning was the
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And, All
things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made....
But the Gospel according to Luke, as having a sacerdotal
character, begins with Zacharias the priest offering incense unto
God.... But Matthew records His human generation, saying, The book
of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of
Abraham.... Mark took his beginning from the prophetic Spirit
coming down as it were from on high among men. The beginning, he
says, of the Gospel according as it is written in Esaias the
Irenaeus also makes mention of the origin of the Gospels, claiming
for their authors the gift of Divine inspiration [Endnote 316:1]:--
'For after that our Lord rose from the dead and they were endowed
with the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon them from on high,
they were fully informed concerning all things, and had a perfect
knowledge: they went out to the ends of the earth, preaching the
Gospel of those good things that God hath given to us and
proclaiming heavenly peace to men, having indeed both all in equal
measure and each one singly the Gospel of God. So then Matthew
among the Jews put forth a written Gospel in their own tongue
while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and
founding the Church. After their decease (or 'departure'), Mark,
the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself too has handed down
to us in writing the subjects of Peter's preaching. And Luke, the
companion of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by him.
Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon
His breast, likewise published his Gospel while he dwelt at
Ephesus in Asia.'
We have not now to determine the exact value of these traditions;
what we have rather to notice is the fact that the Gospels are at
this time definitely assigned to their reputed authors, and that
they are already regarded as containing a special knowledge
divinely imparted. It is evident that Irenaeus would not for a
moment think of classing any other Gospel by the side of the now
strictly canonical four.
Clement of Alexandria, who, Eusebius says, 'was illustrious for
his writings,' in the year 194 gives a somewhat similar, but not
quite identical, account of the composition of the second Gospel
[Endnote 317:1]. He differs from Irenaeus in making St. Peter
cognisant of the work of his follower. Neither is he quite
consistent with himself; in one place he makes St. Peter
'authorise the Gospel to be read in the churches;' in another he
says that the Apostle 'neither forbade nor encouraged it' [Endnote
317:2]. These statements have both of them been preserved for us
by Eusebius, who also alleges, upon the authority of Clement, that
the 'Gospels containing the genealogies were written first.'
'John,' he says, 'who came last, observing that the natural
details had been set forth clearly in the Gospels, at the instance
of his friends and with the inspiration of the Spirit ([Greek:
pneumati theophoraethenta]), wrote a spiritual Gospel' [Endnote
Clement draws a distinct line between the canonical and
uncanonical Gospels. In quoting an apocryphal saying supposed to
have been given in answer to Salome, he says, expressly: 'We do
not find this saying in the four Gospels that have been handed
down to us, but in that according to the Egyptians' [Endnote
Tertullian is still more exclusive. He not only regards the four
Gospels as inspired and authoritative, but he makes no use of any
extra-canonical Gospel. The Gospels indeed held for him precisely
the same position that they do with orthodox Christians now. He
says respecting the Gospels: 'In the first place we lay it down
that the evangelical document (evangelicum instrumentum [Endnote
318:1]) has for its authors the Apostles, to whom this office of
preaching the Gospel was committed by the Lord Himself. If it has
also Apostolic men, yet not these alone but in company with
Apostles and after Apostles. For the preaching of disciples might
have been suspected of a desire for notoriety if it were not
supported by the authority of Masters, nay of Christ, who made the
Apostles Masters. In fine, of the Apostles, John and Matthew first
implant in us faith, Luke and Mark renew it, starting from the
same principles, so far as relates to the one God the Creator and
His Christ born of the virgin, to fulfil the law and the prophets'
[Endnote 318:2]. He grounds the authority of the Gospels upon the
fact that they proceed either from Apostles or from those who held
close relation to Apostles, like Mark, 'the interpreter of Peter,'
and Luke, the companion of Paul [Endnote 318:3]. In another
passage he expressly asserts their authenticity [Endnote 318:4],
and he claimed to use them and them alone as his weapons in the
conflict with heresy [Endnote 318:5].
No less decided is the assertion of Origen, who writes: 'As I have
learnt from tradition concerning the four Gospels, which alone are
undisputed in the Church of God under heaven, that the first in
order of the scripture is that according to Matthew, who was once
a publican but afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ ... The
second is that according to Mark, who wrote as Peter suggested to
him ... The third is that according to Luke, the Gospel commended
by Paul ... Last of all that according to John' [Endnote 319:1].
And again in his commentary upon the Preface to St. Luke's Gospel
he expressly guards against the possibility that it might be
thought to have reference to the other (Canonical) Gospels: 'In
this word of Luke's "_have taken in hand_" there is a latent
accusation of those who without the grace of the Holy Spirit have
rushed to the composing of Gospels. Matthew, indeed, and Mark, and
John, and Luke, have not "_taken in hand_" to write, but
_have written_ Gospels, being full of the Holy Spirit ... The
Church has four Gospels; the Heresies have many' [Endnote 319:2].
But besides the Fathers, and without going beyond the bounds of
the second century, there is other evidence of the most distinct
and important kind for the existence of a canon of the Gospels.
Among the various translations of the New Testament one certainly,
two very probably, and three perhaps probably, were made in the
course of the second century.
The old Latin (as distinct from Jerome's revised) version of the
Gospels and with them of a considerable portion of the New Testament
was, I think it may be said, undoubtedly used by Tertullian and by
the Latin translator of Irenaeus, who appears to be quoted by
Tertullian, and in that case could not be placed later than 200 A.D.
[Endnote 320:1] On this point I shall quote authorities that will
hardly be questioned. And first that of a writer who is accustomed to
weigh, with the accuracy of true science, every word that he puts
down, and who upon this subject is giving the result of a most minute
and careful investigation. Speaking of the Latin translation of the
New Testament as found in Tertullian he says: 'Although single
portions of this, especially passages which are translated in several
different ways, may be due to Tertullian himself, still it cannot be
doubted that in by far the majority of cases he has followed the text
of a version received in his time by the Africans and specially the
Carthaginian Christians, and made perhaps long before his time, and
that consequently his quotations represent the form of the earliest
Latinized Scriptures accepted in those regions' [Endnote 320:2].
Again: 'In the first place we may conclude from the writings of
Tertullian, that remarkable Carthaginian presbyter at the close of
the second century, that in his time there existed several, perhaps
many, Latin translations of the Bible ... Tertullian himself
frequently quotes in his writings one and the same passage of
Scripture in entirely different forms, which indeed in many cases
may be explained by his quoting freely from memory, but certainly
not seldom has its ground in the diversity of the translations used
at the time' [Endnote 321:1]. On this last point, the unity of the
Old Latin version, there is a difference of opinion among scholars,
but none as to its date. Thus Dr. Tregelles writes: 'The expressions
of Tertullian have been rightly rested on as showing that he knew
and recognised _one translation_, and that this version was in several
places (in his opinion) opposed to what was found "in Graeco authentico."
This version must have been made a sufficiently long time before the
age when Tertullian wrote, and before the Latin translator of Irenaeus,
for it to have got into general circulation. This leads us back _towards_
the middle of the second century at the latest: how much _earlier_
the version may have been we have no proof; for we are already led
back into the time when no records tell us anything respecting the
North African Church' [Endnote 321:2]. Dr. Tregelles, it should be
remembered, is speaking as a text critic, of which branch of science
his works are one of the noblest monuments, and not directly of the
history of the Canon. His usual opponent in text critical matters,
but an equally exact and trustworthy writer, Dr. Scrivener, agrees
with him here both as to the unity of the version and as to its date
from the middle of the century [Endnote 321:3]. Dr. Westcott too
writes in his well-known and valuable article on the Vulgate in
Smith's Dictionary [Endnote 321:4]: 'Tertullian distinctly recognises
the general currency of a Latin Version of the New Testament, though
not necessarily of every book at present included in the Canon, which
even in his time had been able to mould the popular language. This
was characterised by a "rudeness" and "simplicity," which seems to
point to the nature of its origin.' I do not suppose that the currency
at the end of the second century of a Latin version, containing the
four Gospels and no others, will be questioned [Endnote 322:1].
With regard to the Syriac version there is perhaps a somewhat
greater room to doubt, though Dr. Tregelles begins his account of
this version by saying: 'It may stand as an admitted fact that a
version of the New Testament in Syriac existed in the second
century' [Endnote 322:2]. Dr. Scrivener also says [Endnote 322:3]:
'The universal belief of later ages, and the very nature of the
case, seem to render it unquestionable that the Syrian Church was
possessed of a translation both of the Old and New Testament,
which it used habitually, and for public worship exclusively, from
the second century of our era downwards: as early as A.D. 170
[Greek: ho Syros] is cited by Melito on Genesis xxii. 13.' The
external evidence, however, does not seem to be quite strong
enough to bear out any very positive assertion. The appeal to the
Syriac by Melito [Endnote 322:4] is pretty conclusive as to the
existence of a Syriac Old Testament, which, being of Christian
origin, would probably be accompanied by a translation of the New.
But on the other hand, the language of Eusebius respecting
Hegesippus ([Greek: ek te tou kath' Hebraious euangeliou kai tou
Syriakou ... tina tithaesin]) seems to be rightly interpreted by
Routh as having reference not to any '_version_ of the Gospel,
but to a separate Syro-Hebraic (?) Gospel' like that according to
the Hebrews. In any case the Syriac Scriptures 'were familiarly
used and claimed as his national version by Ephraem of Edessa'
(299-378 A.D.) as well as by Aphraates in writings dating A.D. 337
and 344 [Endnote 323:1].
A nearer approximation of date would be obtained by determining the
age of the version represented by the celebrated Curetonian
fragments. There is a strong tendency among critics, which seems
rapidly approaching to a consensus, to regard this as bearing the
same relation to the Peshito that the Old Latin does to Jerome's
Vulgate, that of an older unrevised to a later revised version. The
strength of the tendency in this direction may be seen by the very
cautious and qualified opinion expressed in the second edition of his
Introduction by Dr. Scrivener, who had previously taken a decidedly
antagonistic view, and also by the fact that Mr. M'Clellan, who is
usually an ally of Dr. Scrivener, here appears on the side of his
opponents [Endnote 323:2]. All the writers who have hitherto been
mentioned place either the Curetonian Syriac or the Peshito in the
second century, and the majority, as we have seen, the Curetonian.
Dr. Tregelles, on a comparative examination of the text, affirms that
'the Curetonian Syriac presents such a text as we might have
concluded would be current in the second century' [Endnote 323:3].
English text criticism is probably on the whole in advance of
Continental; but it may be noted that Bleek (who however was
imperfectly acquainted with the Curetonian form of the text) yet
asserts that the Syriac version 'belongs without doubt to the second
century A.D.' [Endnote 324:1] Reuss [Endnote 324:2] places it at the
beginning, Hilgenfeld towards the end [Endnote 324:3], of the third
The question as to the age of the version is not necessarily
identical with that as to the age of the particular form of it
preserved in Cureton's fragments. This would hold the same sort of
relation to the original text of the version that (e.g.) a, or b,
or c--any primitive codex of the version--holds to the original
text of the Old Latin. It also appears that the translation into
Syriac of the different Gospels, conspicuously of St. Matthew's,
was made by different hands and at different times [Endnote
324:4]. Bearing these considerations in mind, we should still be
glad to know what answer those who assign the Curetonian text to
the second century make to the observation that it contains the
reading [Greek: Baethabara] in John i. 28 which is generally
assumed to be not older than Origen [Endnote 324:5]. On the other
hand, the Curetonian, like the Old Latin, still has in John vii. 8
[Greek: ouk] for [Greek: oupo]--a change which, according to Dr.
Scrivener [Endnote 324:6], 'from the end of the third century
downwards was very generally and widely diffused.' This whole set
of questions needs perhaps a more exhaustive discussion than it
has obtained hitherto [Endnote 324:7].
The third version that may be mentioned is the Egyptian. In regard
to this Dr. Lightfoot says [Endnote 325:1], that 'we should
probably not be exaggerating if we placed one or both of the
principal Egyptian versions, the Memphitic and the Thebaic, or at
least parts of them, before the close of the second century.' In
support of this statement he quotes Schwartz, the principal
authority on the subject, 'who will not be suspected of any
theological bias.' The historical notices on which the conclusion
is founded are given in Scrivener's 'Introduction.' If we are to
put a separate estimate upon these, it would be perhaps that the
version was made in the second century somewhat more probably than
not; it was certainly not made later than the first half of the
third [Endnote 325:2].
Putting this version however on one side, the facts that have to
be explained are these. Towards the end of the second century we
find the four Gospels in general circulation and invested with
full canonical authority, in Gaul, at Rome, in the province of
Africa, at Alexandria, and in Syria. Now if we think merely of the
time that would be taken in the transcription and dissemination of
MSS., and of the struggle that works such as the Gospels would
have to go through before they could obtain recognition, and still
more an exclusive recognition, this alone would tend to overthrow
any such theory as that one of the Gospels, the fourth, was not
composed before 150 A.D., or indeed anywhere near that date.
But this is not by any means all. It is merely the first step in a
process that, quite independently of the other external evidence,
thrusts the composition of the Gospels backwards and backwards to
a date certainly as early as that which is claimed for them.
Let us define a little more closely the chronological bearings of
the subject. There is a decidedly preponderant probability that
the Muratorian fragment was not written much later than 170 A.D.
Irenaeus, as we have seen, was writing in the decade 180-190 A.D.
But his evidence is surely valid for an earlier date than this. He
is usually supposed to have been born about the year 140 A.D.
[Endnote 326:1], and the way in which he describes his relations
to Polycarp will not admit of a date many years later. But his
strong sense of the continuity of Church doctrine and the
exceptional veneration that he accords to the Gospels seem alone
to exclude the supposition that any of them should have been
composed in his own lifetime. He is fond of quoting the
'Presbyters,' who connected his own age with that, if not of the
Apostles, yet of Apostolic men. Pothinus, bishop of Lyons, whom he
succeeded, was more than ninety years old at the time of his
martyrdom in the persecution of A.D. 177 [Endnote 326:2], and
would thus in his boyhood be contemporary with the closing years
of the last Evangelist. Irenaeus also had before him a number of
writings--some, e.g. the works of the Marcosians, in addition to
those that have been discussed in the course of this work--in
which our Gospels are largely quoted, and which, to say the least,
were earlier than his own time of writing.
Clement of Alexandria began to flourish, ([Greek: egnorizeto])
[Endnote 327:1], in the reign of Commodus (180-190 A.D.), and had
obtained a still wider celebrity as head of the Catechetical
School of Alexandria in the time of Severus [Endnote 327:2] (193-
211). The opinions therefore to which he gives expression in his
works of this date were no doubt formed at a earlier period. He
too appeals to the tradition of which he had been himself a
recipient. He speaks of his teachers, 'those blessed and truly
memorable men,' one in Greece, another in Magna Graecia, a third
in Coele-Syria, a fourth in Egypt, a fifth in Assyria, a sixth in
Palestine, to whom the doctrine of the Apostles had been handed
down from father to son [Endnote 327:3].
Tertullian is still bolder. In his controversy with Marcion he
confidently claims as on his side the tradition of the Apostolic
Churches. By it is guaranteed the Gospel of St. Luke which he is
defending, and not only that, but the other Gospels [Endnote
327:4]. In one passage Tertullian even goes so far as to send his
readers to the Churches of Corinth, Philippi, &c. for the very
autographs ('authenticae literae') of St. Paul's Epistles [Endnote
327:5]. But this is merely a characteristic flourish of rhetoric.
All for which the statements of Tertullian may safely be said to
vouch is, that the Gospels had held their 'prerogative' position
within his memory and that of most members of the Church to which
But the evidence of the Fathers is most decisive when it is
unconscious. That the Gospels as used by the Christian writers at
the end of the first century, so far from being of recent
composition, had already a long history behind them, is nothing
less than certain. At this date they exhibit a text which bears
the marks of frequent transcription and advanced corruption.
'Origen's,' says Dr. Scrivener [Endnote 328:1], 'is the highest
name among the critics and expositors of the early Church; he is
perpetually engaged in the discussion of various readings of the
New Testament, and employs language in describing the then state
of the text, which would be deemed strong if applied even to its
present condition with the changes which sixteen more centuries
must needs have produced ... Respecting the sacred autographs,
their fate or their continued existence, he seems to have had no
information, and to have entertained no curiosity: they had simply
passed by and were out of his reach. Had it not been for the
diversities of copies in all the Gospels on other points (he
writes) he should not have ventured to object to the authenticity
of a certain passage (Matt. xix. 19) on internal grounds: "But
now," saith he, "great in truth has become the diversity of
copies, be it from the negligence of certain scribes, or from the
evil daring of some who correct what is written, or from those who
in correcting add or take away what they think fit."' This is
respecting the MSS. of one region only, and now for another
[Endnote 328:2]: 'It is no less true to fact than paradoxical in
sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has
ever been subjected, originated within a hundred years after it
was composed; that Irenaeus and the African Fathers and the whole
Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church, used far inferior
manuscripts to those employed by Stunica, or Erasmus, or Stephens
thirteen centuries later, when moulding the Textus Receptus.'
Possibly this is an exaggeration, but no one will maintain that it
is a very large exaggeration of the facts.
I proceed to give a few examples which serve to bring out the
antiquity of the text. And first from Irenaeus.
There is a very remarkable passage in the work Against Heresies
[Endnote 329:1], bearing not indeed directly upon the Gospels, but
upon another book of the New Testament, and yet throwing so much
light upon the condition of the text in Irenaeus' time that it may
be well to refer to it here. In discussing the signification of
the number of the beast in Rev. xiii. 18, Irenaeus already found
himself confronted by a variety of reading: some MSS. with which
he was acquainted read 616 ([Greek: chis']) for 666 ([Greek: chxs']).
Irenaeus himself was not in doubt that the latter was the
true reading. He says that it was found in all the 'good and
ancient copies,' and that it was further attested by 'those who
had seen John face to face.' He thinks that the error was due to
the copyists, who had substituted by mistake the letter [Greek: i]
for [Greek: x]. He adds his belief that God would pardon those who
had done this without any evil motive.
Here we have opened out a kind of vista extending back almost to
the person of St. John himself. There is already a multiplicity of
MSS., and of these some are set apart 'as good and ancient'
([Greek: en pasi tois spoudaiois kai archaiois antigraphois]). The
method by which the correct reading had to be determined was as
much historical as it is with us at the present day.
A not dissimilar state of things is indicated somewhat less explicitly
in regard to the first Gospel. In the text of Matt. i. 18 all the Greek
MSS., with one exception, read, [Greek: tou de Iaesou Christou hae
genesis outos aen], B alone has [Greek: tou de Christou Iaesou]. The
Greek of D is wanting at this point, but the Latin, d, reads with the
best codices of the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and the Curetonian Syriac,
'Christi autem generatio sic erat' (or an equivalent). Now Irenaeus
quotes this passage three times. In the first passage [Endnote 330:1]
the original Greek text of Irenaeus has been preserved in a quotation of
Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (the context also by Anastasius
Sinaita, but these words appear to be omitted); and the reading of
Germanus corresponds to that of the great mass of MSS. This however is
almost certainly false, as the ancient Latin translation of Irenaeus has
'Christi autem generatio,' and it was extremely natural for a copyist to
substitute the generally received text, especially in a combination of
words that was so familiar. Irenaeus leaves no doubt as to his own
reading on the next occasion when he quotes the passage, as he does
twice over. Here he says expressly: 'Ceterum, potuerat dicere Matthaeus:
_Jesu vero generatio sic erat_; sed praevidens Spiritus sanctus
depravatores, et praemuniens contra fraudulentiam eorum, per Matthaeum
ait: _Christi autem generatio sic erat_' [Endnote 330:2]. Irenaeus
founds an argument upon this directed against the heretics who supposed
that the Christus and Jesus were not identical, but that Jesus was the
son of Mary, upon whom the aeon Christus afterwards descended. In
opposition to these Irenaeus maintains that the Christus and Jesus are
one and the same person.
There is a division of opinion among modern critics as to which of
the two readings is to be admitted into the text; Griesbach,
Lachmann, Tischendorf (eighth edition), and Scrivener support the
reading of the MSS.; Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, and M'Clellan
prefer that of Irenaeus. The presence of this reading in the Old
Latin and Curetonian Syriac proves its wide diffusion. At the same
time it is clear that Irenaeus himself was aware of the presence
of the other reading in some copies which he regarded as bearing
the marks of heretical depravation.
It is unfortunate that fuller illustration cannot be given from
Irenaeus, but the number of the quotations from the Gospels of
which the Greek text still remains is not large, and where we have
only the Latin interpretation we cannot be sure that the actual
text of Irenaeus is before us. Much uncertainty is thus raised.
For instance, a doubt is expressed by the editors of Irenaeus
whether the words 'without a cause' ([Greek: eikae]--sine caussa)
in the quotation of Matt. v. 22 [Endnote 331:1] belong to the
original text or not. Probably they did so, as they are found in
the Old Latin and Curetonian Syriac and in Western authorities
generally. They are wanting however in B, in Origen, and 'in the
true copies' according to Jerome, &c. The words are expunged from
the sacred text by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, and
M'Clellan. There is a less weight of authority for their
retention. In any case the double reading was certainly current at
the end of the second century, as the words are found in Irenaeus
and omitted by Tertullian.
The elaborately varied readings of Matt. xi. 25-27 and Matt. xix.
16, 17 there can be little doubt are taken from the canonical
text. They are both indeed found in a passage (Adv. Haer. i. 20.
2, 3) where Irenaeus is quoting the heretical Marcosians; and
various approximations are met with, as we have seen, under
ambiguous circumstances in Justin, the Clementine Homilies, and
Marcion. But similar approximations are also found in Irenaeus
himself (speaking in his own person), in Clement of Alexandria,
Origen, and Epiphanius, who are undoubtedly quoting from our
Gospels; so that the presence of the variations at that early date
is proved, though in the first case they receive none, and in the
second very limited, support from the extant MSS. [Endnote 332:1]
A variety of reading that was in the first instance accidental
seemed to afford a handle either to the orthodox or to heretical
parties, and each for a time maintained its own; but with the
victory of the orthodox cause the heretical reading gave way, and
was finally suppressed before the time at which the extant MSS.
These are really conspicuous instances of the confusion of text
already existing, but I forbear to press them because, though I do
not doubt myself the correctness of the account that has been
given of them, still there is just the ambiguity alluded to, and I
do not wish to seem to assume the truth of any particular view.
For minor variations the text of Irenaeus cannot be used
satisfactorily, because it is always doubtful whether the Latin
version has correctly reproduced the original. And even in those
comparatively small portions where the Greek is still preserved,
it has come down to us through the medium of other writers, and we
have just had an instance how easily the distinctive features of
the text might be obliterated.
Neither of these elements of uncertainty exists in the case of
Tertullian; and therefore, as the text of his New Testament
quotations has been edited in a very exact and careful form, I
shall illustrate what has been said respecting the corruptions
introduced in the second century chiefly from him. The following
may be taken as a few of the instances in which the existence of a
variety of reading can be verified by a comparison of Tertullian's
text with that of the MSS. The brackets (as before) indicate
Matt. iii. 8. Dignos poenitentiae fructus (_Pudic_. 10).
[Greek: Karpous axious taes metanoias] Textus Receptus, L, U, 33,
a, g'2, m, Syrr. Crt. and Pst., etc. [Greek: Karpon axion t. met].
B, C (D), [Greek: D], 1, etc.; Vulg., b, c, d, f, ff'1, Syr. Hcl.,
Memph., Theb., Iren., Orig., etc. [Tertullian himself has the
singular in _Hermog._ 12, so that he seems to have had both
readings in his copies.]
Matt. v. 4, 5. The received order 'beati lugentes' and 'beati
mites' is followed in _Pat_. 11 [Roensch p. 589 and Tisch.,
correcting Treg.], So [Hebrew: Aleph symbol], B, C, rel., b, f,
Syrr. Pst. and Hcl., Memph., Arm., Aeth. Order inverted in D, 33,
Vulg., a, c, ff'1, g'1.2, h, k, l, Syr. Crt., Clem., Orig., Eus.,
Matt. v. 16. 'Luceant opera vestra' for 'luceat lux vestra,' Tert.
(bis). So Hil., Ambr., Aug., Celest. [see above, p. 134] against
all MSS. and versions.
Matt. v. 28. Qui viderit ad concupiscentiam, etc. This verse is
cited six times by Tertullian, and Roensch says (p. 590) that 'in
these six citations almost every variant of the Greek text is
Matt. v. 48. Qui est in caelis: [Greek: ho en tois ouranois],
Textus Receptus, with [Greek: Delta symbol], E'2, rel., b, c, d,
g'1, h, Syrr. Crt. and Pst., Clem., [Greek: ho ouranios], [Hebrew:
Aleph symbol], B, D'2, Z, and i, 33, Vulg., a, f, etc.
Matt. vi. 10. Fiat voluntas tua in caelis et in terra, omitting
'sicut.' So D, a, b, c, Aug. (expressly, 'some codices').
Matt. xi. ii. Nemo major inter natos feminarum Joanne baptizatore.
'The form of this citation, which neither corresponds with Matt.
xi. 11 nor with Luke vii. 28, coincides almost exactly with the
words which in both the Greek and Latin text of the Codex Bezae
form the conclusion of Luke vii. 26, [Greek: [hoti] oudeis meizon
en gennaetois gunaikon [prophaetaes] Ioannou tou baptistou]'
(Roensch, p. 608).
Matt. xiii. 15. Sanem: [Greek: iasomai], K, U, X, [Greek: Delta],
I; Latt. (exc. d), Syr. Crt.; [Greek: iasomai], B, C, D, [Hebrew:
Aleph symbol], rel.
Matt. xv. 26. Non est (only), so Eus. in Ps. 83; [Greek: exestin],
D, a, b, c, ff, g'1, 1, Syr. Crt., Orig., Hil.; [Greek: ouk estin
kalon], B, C, [Hebrew aleph], rel., Vulg., c, f, g'2, k, Orig.
There are of course few quotations that can be distinctly
identified as taken from St. Mark, but among these may be
Mark i. 24. Scimus: [Greek: oidamen se], [Hebrew aleph], L,
[Greek: Delta], Memph., Iren., Orig., Eus.; [Greek: oida se tis
ei], A, B, C, D, rel., Latt., Syrr.
Mark ix. 7. Hunc audite: [Greek: autou akouete], A, X, rel., b, f,
Syrr.; [Greek: akouete autou], [Hebrew: aleph] B, C, D, L, a, c,
ff'1, etc. [This may be however from Matt. xvii. 5, where
Tertullian's reading has somewhat stronger support.]
The variations in quotations from St. Luke have been perhaps
sufficiently illustrated in the chapter on Marcion. We may
therefore omit this Gospel and pass to St. John. A very remarkable
reading meets us at the outset.
John i. 13. Non ex sanguine nec ex voluntate carnis nec ex
voluntate viri, sed ex deo natus est. The Greek of all the MSS.
and Versions, with the single exception of b of the Old Latin, is
[Greek: oi egennaethaesan]. A sentence is thus applied to Christ
that was originally intended to be applied to the Christian.
Tertullian (_De Carne Christ._ 19, 24), though he also had the
right reading before him, boldly accuses the Valentinians of a
falsification, and lays stress upon the reading which he adopts as
proof of the veritable birth of Christ from a virgin. The same
text is found in b (Codex Veronensis) of the Old Latin, Pseudo-
Athanasius, the Latin translator of Origen's commentary on St.
Matthew, in Augustine, and three times in Irenaeus. The same codex
has, like Tertullian, the singular ex sanguine for the plural
[Greek: ex ahimaton]: so Eusebius and Hilary.
John iii. 36. Manebit (=[Greek: menei], for [Greek: menei]). So b,
e, g, Syr. Pst., Memph., Aeth., Iren., Cypr.; against a, c, d, f,
ff, Syrr. Crt. and Hcl., etc.
John v. 3, 4. The famous paragraph which describes the moving of
the waters of the pool of Bethesda was found in Tertullian's MS.
It is also found in the mass of MSS., in the Old Latin and
Vulgate, in Syrr. Pst. and Jer., and in some MSS. of Memph. It is
omitted in [Hebrew: Aleph symbol], B, C, D (v. 4), f, l, Syr.
Crt., Theb., Memph. (most MSS.). Tertullian gives the name of the
pool as Bethsaida with B, Vulg., c, Syr. Hcl., Memph. Most of the
authorities read [Greek: baethesda]. [Greek: baethzatha,
baezatha], Berzeta, Belzatha, and Betzeta are also found.
John v. 43. Recepistis, perf. for pres. ([Greek: lambanete]). So
a, b, Iren., Vigil., Ambr., Jer.
John vi. 39. Non perdam ex eo quicquam. Here 'quicquam' is an
addition (=[Greek: maeden]), found in D, a, b, ff, Syr. Crt.
John vi. 51. Et panis quem ego dedero pro salute mundi, caro mea
est. This almost exactly corresponds with the reading of [Hebrew:
Aleph], [Greek: ho artos hon ego doso huper taes tou kosmou zoaes,
hae sarx mou estin]. Similarly, but with inversion of the last two
clauses ([Greek: hae sarx mou estin huper taes tou kosmou zoaes]),
B, C, D and T, 33, Vulg., a, b, c, e, m, Syr. Crt., Theb., Aeth.,
Orig., Cypr. The received text is [Greek: kai ho artos [de] dae
ego doso, hae sarx mou estin aen ego doso huper taes tou kosmou
zoaes], after E, G, H, K, M, S, etc.
John xii. 30. Venit (= [Greek: aelthen] for [Greek: gegonen]),
with D (Tregelles), [also a, b, l, n (?), Vulg. (_fuld_.),
Hil., Victorin.; Roensch].
The instances that have been here given are all, or nearly all,
false readings on the part of Tertullian. It is, of course, only
as such that they are in point for the present enquiry. Some few
of those mentioned have been admitted into the text by certain
modern editors. Thus, on Matt. v. 4, 5 Tertullian's reading finds
support in Westcott and Hort: and M'Clellan, against Tischendorf
and Tregelles. [This instance perhaps should not be pressed. I
leave it standing, because it shows interesting relations between
Tertullian and the various forms of the Old Latin.] The passage
omitted in John v. 3, 4 is argued for strenuously by Mr. M'Clellan,
with more hesitation by Dr. Scrivener, and in 'Supernatural Religion'
(sixth edition), against Tregelles, Tischendorf, Milligan, Lightfoot,
Westcott and Hort. In the same passage Bethsaida is read by Lachmann
(margin) and by Westcott and Hort. In John vi. 51 the reading of
Tertullian and the Sinaitic Codex is defended by Tischendorf; the
approximate reading of B, C, D, &c. is admitted by Lachmann, Tregelles,
Milligan, Westcott and Hort, and the received text has an apologist
in Mr. M'Clellan (with Tholuck and Wordsworth). On these points then
it should be borne in mind that Tertullian _may_ present the true
reading; on all the others he is pretty certainly wrong.
Let us now proceed to analyse roughly these erroneous (in three
cases _doubtfully_ erroneous) readings. We shall find [Endnote 336:1]
_Agrees with_ _Differs from_
x (Codex Sinaiticus) in Mark | in Matt. iii. 18, v. 16, v. 48,
i. 2 4, John vi. 51. | vi. 10, xi. 11, xiii. 15, xv.
| 26, Mark ix. 7, John i. 13,
| v. 3, 43, v. 43, vi. 39, xii. 30.
A (Codex Alexandrinus) in |A in Mark i. 24, John i. 13,
Mark ix. 7, John v. 3, 4. | v. 43, vi. 39, xii. 30.
B (Codex Vaticanus) in John |B in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16, v. 48, vi.
v. 2, (vi. 51). | 10, xi. 11, xiii. 15, xv. 26,
| Mark i. 24, ix. 7, John i. 13,
| v. 3,4, V. 43, vi. 39, xii. 30.
C (Codex Ephraemi--somewhat |C in Matt. iii. 8, xi. 11, xiii.
fragmentary) in John | 15, xv. 26, Mark i. 24, ix. 7,
(vi. 51). | John i. 13, v. 3, 4, vi. 39.
D (Codex Bezae--in some |D in Matt. (iii. 8), v. 16, v. 48,
places wanting) in Matt. vi. | xiii. 15, Mark i. 24, ix. 7,
10, Xi. 11, (xv. 26), John (vi. | John i. 13, iii. 36, v. 4, v. 43.
51), xii. 30. |
GREEK FATHERS. |
Clement of Alexandria, in Matt. |
v. 16, v. 48. |
Origen, in Matt. (xv. 26), Mark |Origen, in Matt. iii. 8, (xv. 26),
i. 24, John i. 13 (Latin trans- |
lator), (vi. 51). |
Eusebius, in Matt. xv. 26, Mark |
i. 24, John i. 13 (partially). |
LATIN FATHERS. |
Irenaeus, in Mark i. 24, John |Irenaeus in Matt. iii. 8.
i. 13 (ter), iii. 36, v. 43. |
Cyprian, in John iii. 36, (vi. 51). |
Augustine, in Matt. v. 16, vi. 10. |
Ambrose, in Matt. v. 16, John v. 43. |
Hilary, in Matt. v. 16, (xv. 26), |
John xii. 30. |
Others, in Matt. v. 16, v. 48, |
John i. 13, v. 43, xii. 30. |
Old Latin-- |
a (Codex Vercellensis), in Matt. |a, in Matt. v. 16, v. 48, xi. 11,
(iii. 8), vi. 10, xiii. 15, (xv. | Mark i. 24, ix. 7, John i. 13,
26), John v. 3, 4, v. 43, (vi. | iii. 36.
51), xii. 30. |
b (Codex Veronensis), in Matt. |b, in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16, xi. 11,
v. 48, vi. 10, xiii. 15, (xv. 36), | Mark i. 24.
Mark ix. 7, John i. 13, |
iii. 36, v. 3, 4, v. 43, |
(vi. 51), xii. 30. |
c (Codex Colbertinus), in Matt. |c, in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16, xi. 11,
v. 48, vi. 10, xiii. 15, (xv. 26), | Mark i. 24, ix. 7, John i. 13,
John v. 3, 4, (vi. 51). | iii. 36, V. 43, vi. 39, xii. 30.
f (Codex Brixianus), in Matt. |f, in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16, v. 48,
xiii. 15, Mark ix. 7. | vi. 10, xi. 10, xv. 26, Mark
| i. 24, John i. 13, iii. 36, v. 3,
| 4, v. 43, vi. 39, vi. 51, xii. 30.
Other codices, in Matt. iii. 8, |Other codices, in Matt. iii. 8,
vi. 10, Xiii. 5, (xv. 26), John | v. 16, v. 48, vi. 10, xi. 11,
iii. 36, v. 3, 4, vi. 39, (vi. 51),| Mark i. 24, ix. 7, John i. 13,
xii. 30. | iii. 36, v. 3, 4, v. 43, vi. 39,
| vi. 51, xii. 30.
Vulgate, in Matt. xiii. 15, John |Vulgate, in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16,
v. 3, 4, (vi. 51), xii. 30 | v. 48, vi. 10, xi. 11, xv. 26,
(_fuld._). | Mark i. 24, ix. 7, John i. 13,
| iii. 36, v. 43, vi. 39.
Syr. Crt. (fragmentary), in |Syr. Crt., in Matt. v. 16, vi. 10,
Matt. iii. 8, v. 48, xiii. 15, | xi. 11, John (i. 13, ? Tregelles)
(xv. 26), John (i. 13, ? Crowfoot),| iii. 36, v. 3, 4, v. 43.
vi. 39, (vi. 51.). |
Syr. Pst., in Matt. iii. 8, v. 48, |Syr. Pst., in Matt. vi. 10, Mark
Mark ix. 7, John iii. 36, v. 3, 4. | i. 24, John i. 13, (vi. 51),
| xii. 30
[The evidence of this and the following versions is only given where it
is either expressly stated or left to be clearly inferred by the editors.]
Thebaic, in John (vi. 51). |Thebaic, in Matt. iii. 8, v. 16,
| Mark ix. 7, John v. 3, 4.
Memphitic, in Mark i. 24, John |Memphitic, in Matt. iii. 8, v.
iii. 36. | 16, (v. 48), Mark ix. 7, John
| v. 3, 4, vi. 51.
Summing up the results numerically they would be something of this
[Hebrew: A B C D
Agreement 2 2 2 1 5
Difference 13 5 14 9 10
Alexandria. Origen. Eusebius.
Agreement 1 4 3
Difference 0 2 0
Irenaeus. Cyprian. Augustine. Ambrose. Hilary. Others.
Agreement 4 2 2 2 3 5
Difference 1 0 0 0 0 0
OLD LATIN. VULGATE.
a b c f rel.
Agreement 8 11 6 2 9 4
Difference 7 4 10 14 14 12
Crt. Pst. Theb. Memph.
Agreement 7 5 1 2
Difference 7 5 4 6
Now the phenomena here, as on other occasions when we have had to
touch upon text criticism, are not quite simple and straightforward.
It must be remembered too that our observations extend only over
a very narrow area. Within that area they are confined to the cases
where Tertullian has _gone wrong_; whereas, in order to anything
like a complete induction, all the cases of various reading ought
to be considered. Some results, however, of a rough and approximate
kind may be said to be reached; and I think that these will be
perhaps best exhibited if, premising that they are thus rough
and approximate, we throw them into the shape of a genealogical tree.
\/ O.L. (a.c. &c.)
\/ Syr. Crt.
Tert. O.L.\ /
Greek Fathers. /
\ Tert. O.L./
\ Syr. Crt./
Best Alexandrine Authorities. \ /
\ \ / Western.
\ Greek Fathers /
\ Memph. Theb. /
Alexandrine. || Western.
The Sacred Autographs.
In accordance with the sketch here given we may present the
history of the text, up to the time when it reached Tertullian,
thus. First we have the sacred autographs, which are copied for
some time, we need not say immaculately, but without change on the
points included in the above analysis. Gradually a few errors slip
in, which are found especially in the Egyptian, versions and in
the works of some Alexandrine and Palestinian Fathers. But in time
a wider breach is made. The process of corruption becomes more
rapid. We reach at last that strange document which, through more
or less remote descent, became the parent of the Curetonian Syriac
on the one hand and of the Old Latin on the other. These two lines
severally branch off. The Old Latin itself divides. One of its
copies in particular (b) seems to represent a text that has a
close affinity to that of Tertullian, and among the group of
manuscripts to which it belongs is that which Tertullian himself
most frequently and habitually used.
Strictly speaking indeed there can be no true genealogical tree.
The course of descent is not clear and direct all the way. There
is some confusion and some crossing and recrossing of the lines.
Thus, for instance, there is the curious coincidence of Tertullian
with [Hebrew: Aleph], a member of a group that had long seemed to
be left behind, in John vi. 51. This however, as it is only on a
point of order and that in a translation, may very possibly be
accidental; I should incline to think that the reading of the
Greek Codex from which Tertullian's Latin was derived agreed
rather with that of B, C, D, &c., and these phenomena would
increase the probability that these manuscripts and Tertullian had
really preserved the original text. If that were the case--and it
is the conclusion arrived at by a decided majority of the best
editors--there would then be no considerable difficulty in regard
to the relation between Tertullian and the five great Uncials, for
the reading of Mark ix. 7 is of much less importance. Somewhat
more difficult to adjust would be Tertullian's relations to the
different forms of the Old Latin and Curetonian Syriac. In one
instance, Matt. xi. 11 (or Luke vii. 26), Tertullian seems to
derive his text from the Dd branch rather than the b branch of the
Old Latin. In another (Matt. iii. 8) he seems to overleap b and
most copies of the Old Latin altogether and go to the Curetonian
Syriac. How, too, did he come to have the paraphrastic reading of
Matt. v. 16 which is found in no MSS. or versions but in Justin
(approximately), Clement of Alexandria, and several Latin Fathers?
The paraphrase might naturally enough occur to a single writer
here or there, but the extent of the coincidence is remarkable.
Perhaps we are to see here another sign of the study bestowed by
the Fathers upon the writings of their predecessors leading to an
unconscious or semi-conscious reproduction of their deviations. It
is a noticeable fact that in regard to the order of the clauses in
Matt. v. 4, 5, Tertullian has preserved what is probably the right
reading along with b alone, the other copies of the Old Latin (all
except the revised f) with the Curetonian Syriac having gone
wrong. On the whole the complexities and cross relations are less,
and the genealogical tree holds good to a greater extent, than we
might have been prepared for. The hypothesis that Tertullian used
a manuscript in the main resembling b of the Old Latin satisfies
most elements of the problem.
But the merest glance at these phenomena must be enough to show
that the Tuebingen theory, or any theory which attributes a late
origin to our Gospels, is out of the question. To bring the text
into the state in which it is found in the writings of Tertullian,
a century is not at all too long a period to allow. In fact I
doubt whether any subsequent century saw changes so great, though
we should naturally suppose that corruption would proceed at an
advancing rate for every fresh copy that was made. The phenomena
that have to be accounted for are not, be it remembered, such as
might be caused by the carelessness of a single scribe. They are
spread over whole groups of MSS. together. We can trace the
gradual accessions of corruption at each step as we advance in the
history of the text. A certain false reading comes in at such a
point and spreads over all the manuscripts that start from that;
another comes in at a further stage and vitiates succeeding copies
there; until at last a process of correction and revision sets in;
recourse is had to the best standard manuscripts, and a purer text
is recovered by comparison with these. It is precisely such a text
that is presented by the Old Latin Codex f, which, we find
accordingly, shows a maximum of difference from Tertullian. A
still more systematic revision, though executed--if we are to
judge from the instances brought to our notice--with somewhat
more reserve, is seen in Jerome's Vulgate.
It seems unnecessary to dilate upon this point. I will only
venture to repeat the statement which I made at starting; that if
the whole of the Christian literature for the first three quarters
of the second century could be blotted out, and Irenaeus and
Tertullian alone remained, as well as the later manuscripts with
which to compare them, there would still be ample proof that the
latest of our Gospels cannot overstep the bounds of the first
century. The abundant indications of internal evidence are thus
confirmed, and the age and date of the Synoptic Gospels, I think
we may say, within approximate limits, established.
But we must not forget that there is a double challenge to be met.
The first part of it--that which relates to the evidence for the
existence of the Gospels--has been answered. It remains to
consider how far the external evidence for the Gospels goes to
prove their authenticity. It may indeed well be asked how the
external evidence can be expected to prove the authenticity of
these records. It does so, to a considerable extent, indirectly by
throwing them back into closer contact with the facts. It also
tends to establish the authority in which they were held,
certainly in the last quarter of the second century, and very
probably before. By this time the Gospels were acknowledged to be
all that is now understood by the word 'canonical.' They were
placed upon the same footing as the Old Testament Scriptures. They
were looked up to with the same reverence and regarded as
possessing the same Divine inspiration. We may trace indeed some
of the steps by which this position was attained. The [Greek:
gegraptai] of the Epistle of Barnabas, the public reading of the
Gospels in the churches mentioned by Justin, the [Greek: to
eiraemenon] of Tatian, the [Greek: guriakai graphai] of Dionysius
of Corinth, all prepare the way for the final culmination in the
Muratorian Canon and Irenaeus. So complete had the process been
that Irenaeus does not seem to know of a time when the authority
of the Gospels had been less than it was to him. Yet the process
had been, of course, gradual. The canonical Gospels had to compete
with several others before they became canonical. They had to make
good their own claims and to displace rival documents; and they
succeeded. It is a striking instance of the 'survival of the
fittest.' That they were really the fittest is confirmed by nearly
every fragment of the lost Gospels that remains, but it would be
almost sufficiently proved by the very fact that they survived.
In this indirect manner I think that the external evidence bears
out the position assigned to the canonical Gospels. It has
preserved to us the judgment of the men of that time, and there is
a certain relative sense in which the maxim, 'Securus judicat
orbis terrarum,' is true. The decisions of an age, especially
decisions such as this where quite as much depended upon pious
feeling as upon logical reasoning, are usually sounder than the
arguments that are put forward to defend them. We should hardly
endorse the arguments by which Irenaeus proves _a priori_ the
necessity of a 'four-fold Gospel,' but there is real weight in the
fact that four Gospels and no more were accepted by him and others
like him. It is difficult to read without impatience the rough
words that are applied to the early Christian writers and to
contrast the self-complacency in which our own superior knowledge
is surveyed. If there is something in which they are behind us,
there is much also in which we are behind them. Among the many
things for which Mr. Arnold deserves our gratitude he deserves it
not least for the way in which he has singled out two sentences,
one from St. Augustine and the other from the Imitation, 'Domine
fecisti nos ad te et irrequietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat
in te,' and, 'Esto humilis et pacificus et erit tecum, Jesus.' The
men who could write thus are not to be despised.
But beyond their more general testimony it is not clear what else
the early Fathers could be expected to do. They could not prove--
at least their written remains that have come down to us could not
prove--that the Gospels were really written by the authors
traditionally assigned to them. When we say that the very names of
the first two Evangelists are not mentioned before a date that may
be from 120-166 (or 155) A.D. and the third and fourth not before
170-175 A.D., this alone is enough, without introducing other
elements of doubt, to show that the evidence must needs be
inconclusive. If the author of 'Supernatural Religion' undertook
to show this, he undertook a superfluous task. So much at least,
Mr. Arnold was right in saying, 'might be stated in a sentence and
proved in a page.' There is a presumption in favour of the
tradition, and perhaps, considering the relation of Irenaeus to
Polycarp and of Polycarp to St. John, we may say, a fairly strong
one; but we need now-a-days, to authenticate a document, closer
evidence than this. The cases are not quite parallel, and the
difference between them is decidedly in favour of Irenaeus, but if
Clement of Alexandria could speak of an Epistle written about 125
A.D. is the work of the apostolic Barnabas the companion of St.
Paul [Endnote 346:1], we must not lay too much stress upon the
direct testimony of Irenaeus when he attributes the fourth Gospel
to the Apostle St. John.
These are points for a different set of arguments to determine.
The Gospel itself affords sufficient indications as to the
position of its author. For the conclusion that he was a
Palestinian Jew, who had lived in Palestine before the destruction
of Jerusalem, familiar with the hopes and expectations of his
people, and himself mixed up with the events which he describes,
there is evidence of such volume and variety as seems exceedingly
difficult to resist. As I have gone into this subject at length
elsewhere [Endnote 347:1], and as, so far as I can see, no new
element has been introduced into the question by 'Supernatural
Religion,' I shall not break the unity of the present work by
considering the objections brought in detail. I am very ready to
recognise the ability with which many of these are stated, but it
is the ability of the advocate rather than of the impartial
critic. There is a constant tendency to draw conclusions much in
excess of the premisses. An observation, true in itself with a
certain qualification and restriction, is made in an unqualified
form, and the truth that it contains is exaggerated. Above all,
wherever there is a margin of ignorance, wherever a statement of
the Evangelist is not capable of direct and exact verification,
the doubt is invariably given against him and he is brought in
guilty either of ignorance or deception. I have no hesitation in
saying that if the principles of criticism applied to the fourth
Gospel--not only by the author of 'Supernatural Religion,' but by
some other writers of repute, such as Dr. Scholten--were applied
to ordinary history or to the affairs of every-day life, much that
is known actually to have happened could be shown on _a priori_
grounds to be impossible. It is time that the extreme negative
school should justify more completely their canons of criticism.
As it is, the laxity of these repels many a thoughtful mind quite
as firmly convinced as they can be of the necessity of free
enquiry and quite as anxious to reconcile the different sides
of knowledge. The question is not one merely of freedom or
tradition, but of reason and logic; and until there is more
agreement as to what is reasonable and what the laws of logic
demand, the arguments are apt to run in parallel lines that never
meet [Endnote 348:1].
But, it is said, 'Miracles require exceptional evidence.' True:
exceptional evidence they both require and possess; but that evidence is
not external. Incomparably the strongest attestation to the Gospel
narratives is that which they bear to themselves. Miracles have
exceptional evidence because the non-miraculous portions of the
narrative with which they are bound up are exceptional. These carry
their truth stamped upon their face, and that truth is reflected back
upon the miracles. It is on the internal investigation of the Gospels
that the real issue lies. And this is one main reason why the belief of
mankind so little depends upon formal apologetics. We can all feel the
self- evidential force of the Gospel story; but who shall present it
adequately in words? We are reminded of the fate of him who thought the
ark of God was falling and put out his hand to steady it--and, for his
profanity, died. It can hardly be said that good intentions would be a
sufficient justification, because that a man should think himself fit
for the task would be in itself almost a sufficient sign that he was
mistaken. It is not indeed quite incredible that the qualifications
should one day be found. We seem almost to see that, with a slight
alteration of circumstances, a little different training in early life,
such an one has almost been among us. There are passages that make us
think that the author of 'Parochial and Plain Sermons' might have
touched even the Gospels with cogency that yet was not profane. But the
combination of qualities required is such as would hardly be found for
centuries together. The most fine and sensitive tact of piety would be
essential. With it must go absolute sincerity and singleness of purpose.
Any dash of mere conventionalism or self-seeking would spoil the whole.
There must be that clear illuminated insight that is only given to those
who are in a more than ordinary sense 'pure in heart.' And on the other
hand, along with these unique spiritual qualities must go a sound and
exact scientific training, a just perception of logical force and
method, and a wide range of knowledge. One of the great dangers and
drawbacks to the exercise of the critical faculty is that it tends to
destroy the spiritual intuition. And just in like manner the too great
reliance upon this intuition benumbs and impoverishes the critical
faculty. Yet, in a mind that should present at all adequately the
internal evidence of the Gospels, both should co-exist in equal balance
and proportion. We cannot say that there will never be such a mind,
but the asceticism of a life would be a necessary discipline for it
to go through, and that such a life as the world has seldom seen.
In the meantime the private Christian may well be content with what he
has. 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether
it be of God.'
And now that we have come to the end of the purely critical
portion of this enquiry, I may perhaps be allowed to say a few
words on its general tendency and bearing. As critics we have only
the critical question to deal with. Certain evidence is presented
to us which it is our duty to weigh and test by reference to
logical and critical laws. It must stand or fall on its own
merits, and any considerations brought in from without will be
irrelevant to the question at issue. But after this is done we may
fairly look round and consider how our conclusion affects other
conclusions and in what direction it is leading us. If we look at
'Supernatural Religion' in this way we shall see that its tendency
is distinctly marked. Its attack will fall chiefly upon the middle
party in opinion. And it will play into the hands of the two
extreme parties on either side. There can be little doubt that
indirectly it will help the movement that is carrying so many into
Ultramontanism, and directly it is of course intended to win
converts to what may perhaps be called comprehensively Secularism.
Now it is certainly true that the argument from consequences is
one that ought to be applied with great caution. Yet I am not at
all sure that it has not a real basis in philosophy as well as in
nature. The very existence of these two great parties, the
Ultramontane and the Secularist, over against each other, seems to
be it kind of standing protest against either of them. If
Ultramontanism is true, how is it that so many wise and good men
openly avow Secularism? If 'Secularism is true, how is it that so
many of the finest and highest minds take refuge from it--a
treacherous refuge, I allow--in Ultramontanism? There is
something in this more than a mere defective syllogism--more than
an insufficient presentation of the evidence. Truth, in the widest
sense, is that which is in accordance with the laws and conditions
of human nature. But where beliefs are so directly antithetical as
they are here, the repugnance and resistance which each is found
to cause in so large a number of minds is in itself a proof that
those laws and conditions are insufficiently complied with. To the
spectator, standing outside of both, this will seem to be easily
explained: the one sacrifices reason to faith; the other
sacrifices faith to reason. But there is abundant evidence to show
that both faith (meaning thereby the religious emotions) and
reason are ineradicable elements in the human mind. That which
seriously and permanently offends against either cannot be true.
For creatures differently constituted from man--either all reason
or all pure disembodied emotion--it might be otherwise; but, for
man, as he is, the epithet 'true' seems to be excluded from any
set of propositions that has such results.
Even in the more limited sense, and confining the term to
propositions purely intellectual, there is, I think we must say, a
presumption against the truth of that which involves so deep and
wide a chasm in human nature. Without importing teleology, we
should naturally expect that the intellect and the emotions should
be capable of working harmoniously together. They do so in most
things: why should they not in the highest matters of all? If the
one set of opinions is anti-rational and the other anti-emotional,
as we see practically that they are, is not this in itself an
antecedent presumption against either of them? It may not be
enough to prove at once that the syllogism is defective: still
less is it a sufficient warrant for establishing an opposite
syllogism. But it does seem to be enough to give the scientific
reasoner pause, and to make him go over the line of his argument
again and again and yet again, with the suspicion that there is
(as how well there may be!) a flaw somewhere.
It would not, I think, be difficult to point out such flaws
[Endnote 352:1]--some of them, as it appears, of considerable
magnitude. But the subject is one that would take us far away out
of our present course, and for its proper development would
require a technical knowledge of the processes of physical science
which I do not possess. Leaving this on one side, and regarding
them only in the abstract, the considerations stated above seem to
point to the necessity of something of the nature of a compromise.
And yet there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as compromise
in opinions. Compromise belongs to the world of practice; it is
only admitted by an illicit process into the world of thought. The
author of 'Supernatural Religion' is doubtless right in
deprecating that 'illogical zeal which flings to the pursuing
wolves of doubt and unbelief, scrap by scrap,' all the distinctive
doctrines of Christianity. Belief, it is true, must be ultimately
logical to stand. It must have an inner cohesion and inter-
dependence. It must start from a fixed principle. This has been,
and still is, the besetting weakness of the theology of mediation.
It is apt to form itself merely by stripping off what seem to be
excrescences from the outside, and not by radically reconstructing
itself, on a firmly established basis, from within. The difficulty
in such a process is to draw the line. There is a delusive
appearance of roundness and completeness in the creeds of those
who either accept everything or deny everything: though, even
here, there is, I think we may say, always, some little loophole
left of belief or of denial, which will inevitably expand until it
splits and destroys the whole structure. But the moment we begin
to meet both parties half way, there comes in that crucial
question: Why do you accept just so much and no more? Why do you
deny just so much and no more? [Endnote 354:1]
It must, in candour, be confessed that the synthetic formula for the
middle party in opinion has not yet been found. Other parties have
their formulae, but none that will really bear examination. _Quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_, would do excellently if there
was any belief that had been held 'always, everywhere, and by all,' if
no discoveries had been made as to the facts, and if there had been no
advance in the methods of knowledge. The ultimate universality and the
absolute uniformity of physical antecedents has a plausible appearance
until it is seen that logically carried out it reduces men to machines,
annihilates responsibility, and involves conclusions on the assumption
of the truth of which society could not hold together for a single day.
If we abandon these Macedonian methods for unloosing the Gordian knot
of things and keep to the slow and laborious way of gradual induction,
then I think it will be clear that all opinions must be held on the
most provisional tenure. A vast number of problems will need to be
worked out before any can be said to be established with a pretence to
finality. And the course which the inductive process is taking supplies
one of the chief 'grounds of hope' to those who wish to hold that
middle position of which I have been speaking. The extreme theories
which from time to time have been advanced have not been able to hold
their ground. No doubt they may have done the good that extreme
theories usually do, in bringing out either positively or negatively
one side or another of the truth; but in themselves they have been
rejected as at once inadequate and unreal solutions of the facts. First
we had the Rationalism (properly so called) of Paulus, then the
Mythical hypothesis of Strauss, and after that the 'Tendenz-kritik' of
Baur. But what candid person does not feel that each and all of these
contained exaggerations more incredible than the difficulties which
they sought to remove? There has been on each of the points raised a
more or less definite ebb in the tide. The moderate conclusion is seen
to be also the reasonable conclusion. And not least is this the case
with the enquiry on which we have been just engaged. The author of
'Supernatural Religion' has overshot the mark very much indeed. There
is, as we have seen, a certain truth in some things that he has said,
but the whole sum of truth is very far from bearing out his conclusions.
When we look up from these detailed enquiries and lift up our eyes
to a wider horizon we shall be able to relegate them to their true
place. The really imposing witness to the truth of Christianity is
that which is supplied by history on the one hand, and its own
internal attractiveness and conformity to human nature on the
other. Strictly speaking, perhaps, these are but two sides of the
same thing. It is in history that the laws of human nature assume
a concrete shape and expression. The fact that Christianity has
held its ground in the face of such long-continued and hostile
criticism is a proof that it must have some deeply-seated fitness
and appropriateness for man. And this goes a long way towards
saying that it is true. It is a theory of things that is being
constantly tested by experience. But the results of experience are
often expressed unconsciously. They include many a subtle
indication that the mind has followed but cannot reproduce to
itself in set terms. All the reasons that go to form a judge's
decision do not appear in his charge. Yet there we have a select
and highly-trained mind working upon matter that presents no very
great degree of complexity. When we come to a question so wide, so
subtle and complex as Christianity, the individual mind ceases to
be competent to sit in judgment upon it. It becomes necessary to
appeal to a much more extended tribunal, and the verdict of that
tribunal will be given rather by acts than in words. Thus there
seems to have always been a sort of half-conscious feeling in
men's minds that there was more in Christianity than the arguments
for it were able to bring out. In looking back over the course
that apologetics have taken, we cannot help being struck by a
disproportion between the controversial aspect and the practical.
It will probably on the whole be admitted that the balance of
argument has in the past been usually somewhat on the side of the
apologists; but the argumentative victory has seldom if ever been
so decisive as quite to account for the comparatively undisturbed
continuity of the religious life. It was in the height of the
Deist controversy that Wesley and Whitfield began to preach, and
they made more converts by appealing to the emotions than probably
Butler did by appealing to the reason.
A true philosophy must take account of these phenomena. Beliefs
which issue in that peculiarly fine and chastened and tender
spirit which is the proper note of Christianity, cannot, under any
circumstances, be dismissed as 'delusion.' Surely if any product
of humanity is true and genuine, it is to be found here. There are
indeed truths which find a response in our hearts without
apparently going through any logical process, not because they are
illogical, but because the scales of logic are not delicate and
sensitive enough to weigh them.
'Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall
not enter into the kingdom of heaven.' 'I will arise and go to my
father, and will say unto him: Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy
son.' 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.' The plummet of science--physical or
metaphysical, moral or critical--has never sounded so deep as
sayings such as these. We may pass them over unnoticed in our
Bibles, or let them slip glibly and thoughtlessly from the tongue;
but when they once really come home, there is nothing to do but to
bow the head and cover the face and exclaim with the Apostle,
'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'
And yet there is that other side of the question which is represented
in 'Supernatural Religion,' and this too must have justice done to it.
There is an intellectual, as well as a moral and spiritual, synthesis
of things. Only it should be remembered that this synthesis has to
cover an immense number of facts of the most varied and intricate kind,
and that at present the nature of the facts themselves is in many cases
very far from being accurately ascertained. We are constantly reminded
in reading 'Supernatural Religion,' able and vigorous as it is, how
much of its force depends rather upon our ignorance than our knowledge.
It supplies us with many opportunities of seeing how easily the whole
course and tenour of an argument may be changed by the introduction of
a new element. For instance, I imagine that if the author had given a
little deeper study to the seemingly minute and secondary subject of
text-criticism, it would have aroused in him very considerable
misgivings as to the results at which he seemed to have arrived. There
is a solidarity in all the different departments of human knowledge and
research, especially among those that are allied in subject. These are
continually sending out offshoots and projections into the neighbouring
regions, and the conclusions of one science very often have to depend
upon those of another. The course of enquiry that has been taken in
'Supernatural Religion' is peculiarly unfortunate. It starts from the
wrong end. It begins with propositions into which _a priori_
considerations largely enter, and, from the standpoint given by these,
it proceeds to dictate terms in a field that can only be trodden by
patient and unprejudiced study. A far more hopeful and scientific
process would have been to begin upon ground where dogmatic questions
do not enter, or enter only in a remote degree, and where there is a
sufficient number of solid ascertainable facts to go upon, and then to
work the way steadily and cautiously upwards to higher generalisations.
It will have been seen in the course of the present enquiry how
many side questions need to be determined. It would be well if
monographs were written upon all the quotations from the Old
Testament in the Christian literature of the first two centuries,
modelled upon Credner's investigations into the quotations in
Justin. Before this is done there should be a new and revised
edition of Holmes' and Parsons' Septuagint [Endnote 359:1].
Everything short of this would be inadequate, because we need to
know not only the best text, but every text that has definite
historical attestation. In this way it would be possible to arrive
at a tolerably exact, instead of a merely approximate, deduction
as to the habit of quotation generally, which would supply a
firmer basis for inference in regard to the New Testament than
that which has been assumed here. At the same time monographs
should be written in English, besides those already existing in
German, upon the date or position of the writers whose works come
under review. Without any attempt to prove a particular thesis,
the reader should be allowed to see precisely what the evidence is
and how far it goes. Then if he could not arrive at a positive
conclusion, he could at least attain to the most probable. And,
lastly, it is highly important that the whole question of the
composition and structure of the Synoptic Gospels should be
investigated to the very bottom. Much valuable labour has already
been expended upon this subject, but the result, though progress
has been made, is rather to show its extreme complexity and
difficulty than to produce any final settlement. Yet, as the
author of 'Supernatural Religion' has rather dimly and inadequately
seen, we are constantly thrown back upon assumptions borrowed from
Pending such more mature and thorough enquiries, I quite feel that
my own present contribution belongs to a transition stage, and
cannot profess to be more than provisional. But it will have
served its purpose sufficiently if it has helped to mark out more
distinctly certain lines of the enquiry and to carry the
investigation along these a little way; suggesting at the same
time--what the facts themselves really suggest--counsels of
sobriety and moderation.
What the end will be, it would be presumptuous to attempt to
foretell. It will probably be a long time before even these minor
questions--much more the major questions into which they run up--
will be solved. Whether they will ever be solved--all of them at
least--in such a way as to compel entire assent is very doubtful.
Error and imperfection seem to be permanently, if we may hope
diminishingly, a condition of human thought and action. It does
not appear to be the will of God that Truth should ever be so
presented as to crush out all variety of opinion. The conflict of
opinions is like that of Hercules with the Hydra. As fast as one
is cut down another arises in its place; and there is no searing-
iron to scorch and cicatrize the wound. However much we may
labour, we can only arrive at an inner conviction, not at
objective certainty. All the glosses and asseverations in the
world cannot carry us an inch beyond the due weight of the
evidence vouchsafed to us. An honest and brave mind will accept
manfully this condition of things, and not seek for infallibility
where it can find none. It will adopt as its motto that noble
saying of Bishop Butler--noble, because so unflinchingly true,
though opposed to a sentimental optimism--'Probability is the very
guide of life.'
With probabilities we have to deal, in the intellectual sphere.
But, when once this is thoroughly and honestly recognised, even a
comparatively small balance of probability comes to have as much
moral weight as the most loudly vaunted certainty. And meantime,
apart from and beneath the strife of tongues, there is the still
small voice which whispers to a man and bids him, in no
superstitious sense but with the gravity and humility which befits
a Christian, to 'work out his own salvation with fear and
[2:1] With regard to the references in vol. i. p. 259, n. 1, I
had already observed, before the appearance of the preface to the
sixth edition, that they were really intended to apply to the
first part of the sentence annotated rather than the second.
Still, as there is only one reference out of nine that really
supports the proposition in immediate connection with which the
references are made, the reader would be very apt to carry away a
mistaken impression. The same must be said of the set of
references defended on p. xl. sqq. of the new preface. The
expressions used do not accurately represent the state of the
facts. It is not careful writing, and I am afraid it must be said
that the prejudice of the author has determined the side which the
expression leans. But how difficult is it to make words express
all the due shades and qualifications of meaning--how difficult
especially for a mind that seems to be naturally distinguished by
force rather than by exactness and delicacy of observation! We
have all 'les defauts de nos qualites.'
[10:1] Much harm has been done by rashly pressing human metaphors and
analogies; such as, that Revelation is a _message_ from God and
therefore must be infallible, &c. This is just the sort of argument
that the Deists used in the last century, insisting that a revelation,
properly so called, _must_ be presented with conclusive proofs, _must_
be universal, _must_ be complete, and drawing the conclusion that
Christianity is not such a revelation. This kind of reasoning has
received its sentence once for all from Bishop Butler. We have nothing
to do with what _must_ be (of which we are, by the nature of the case,
incompetent judges), but simply with what _is_.
[18:1] Cf. Westcott, _Canon_, p. 152, n. 2 (3rd ed. 1870).
[18:2] See Lightfoot, _Galatians_, p. 60; also Credner,
_Beitraege_, ii. 66 ('certainly' from St. Paul).
[20:1] _The Old Testament in the New_ (London and Edinburgh,
[21:1] Mr. M'Clellan (_The New Testament_, &c., vol. i. p.
606, n. c) makes the suggestion, which from his point of view is
necessary, that 'S. Matthew has cited a prophecy spoken by
Jeremiah, but nowhere written in the Old Testament, and of which
the passage in Zechariah is only a partial reproduction.' Cf.
Credner, _Beitraege_, ii. 152.
[25:1] We do not stay to discuss the real origin of these
quotations: the last is probably not from the Old Testament at
[27:1] The quotations in this chapter are continuous, and are also
found in Clement of Alexandria.
[34:1] It should be noticed, however, that the same reading is
found in Justin and other writers.
[38:1] _Clementis Romani quae feruntur Homiliae Viginti_
[39:1] _Beitraege zur Einleitung in die biblischen Schriften_
[40:1] _The Epistles of S. Clement of Rome_ (London and
[49:1] The Latin translation is not in most cases a sufficient
guarantee for the original text. The Greek has been preserved in
the shape of long extracts by Epiphanius and others. The edition
used is that of Stieren, Lipsiae, 1853.
[49:2] Horne's _Introduction_ (ed. 1856), p. 333.
[52:1] Ed. Dindorf, Lipsiae, 1859. [The index given in vol. iii.
p. 893 sqq. contains many inaccuracies, and is, indeed, of little
use for identifying the passages of Scripture.]
[56:1] _Some Account of the Writings and Opinions of Clement of
Alexandria,_ p. 407 sqq.
[56:2] In the new Preface to his work on the Canon (4th edition,
1875), p. xxxii.
[58:1] _S.R._ i. p. 221, and note.
[59:1] _S.R._ i. p. 222, n. 3.
[59:2] _Lehrb. chr. Dogmengesch._ p. 74 (p. 82 _S.R._?).
[59:3] _Das nachapost. Zeitalter_, p. 126 sq.
[60:1] _Der Ursprung unserer Evangelien_, p. 64; compare
Fritzche, art. 'Judith' in Schenkel's _Bibel-Lexicon_.
[61:1] Vol. i. p. 221, n. I feel it due to the author to say that
I have found his long lists of references, though not seldom
faulty, very useful. I willingly acknowledge the justice of his
claim to have 'fully laid before readers the actual means of
judging of the accuracy of every statement which has been made'
(Preface to sixth edition, p. lxxx).
[65:1] i. p. 226.
[66:1] i. p. 228.
[69:1] _Der Ursprung_, p. 138.
[71:1] _The Apostolical Fathers_ (London, 1874), p. 273.
[71:2] The original Greek of this work is lost, but in the text as
reconstructed by Hilgenfeld from five still extant versions
(Latin, Syriac, Aethiopic, Arabic, Armenian) the verse runs thus,
[Greek: polloi men ektisthaesan, oligoi de sothaesontai]
(_Messias Judaeorum_, p. 69).
[73:1] A curious instance of disregard of context is to be seen in
Tertullian's reading of John i. 13, which he referred to
_Christ_, accusing the Valentinians of falsification because
they had the ordinary reading (cf. Roensch, _Das Neue Testament
Tertullian's_, pp. 252, 654). Compare also p. 24 above.
[73:2] _Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum_, Fasc. ii.
[74:1] c. v.
[74:2] _S. R._ i. p. 250 sqq.
[76:1] Lardner, _Credibility, &c_., ii. p .23; Westcott,
_On the Canon_, p. 50, n. 5.
[77:1] Since this was written the author of 'Supernatural
Religion' has replied in the preface to his sixth edition. He has
stated his case in the ablest possible manner: still I do not
think that there is anything to retract in what has been written
above. There _would_ have been something to retract if Dr.
Lightfoot had maintained positively the genuineness of the Vossian
Epistles. As to the Syriac, the question seems to me to stand
thus. On the one side are certain improbabilities--I admit,
improbabilities, though not of the weightiest kind--which are met
about half way by the parallel cases quoted. On the other hand,
there is the express testimony of the Epistle of Polycarp quoted
in its turn by Irenaeus. Now I cannot think that there is any
improbability so great (considering our ignorance) as not to be
outweighed by this external evidence.
[81:1] Cf. Hilgenfeld, _Nov. Test. ext. Can. Rec._, Fasc. iv.
[81:2] Cf. _ibid._, pp. 56, 62, also p. 29.
[82:1] But see _Contemporary Review_, 1875, p. 838, from
which it appears that M. Waddington has recently proved the date
to be rather 155 or 156. Compare Hilgenfeld, _Einleitung_, p.
72, where reference is made to an essay by Lipsius, _Der
Maertyrertod Polycarp's_ in _Z. f. w. T._ 1874, ii. p. 180
[82:2] _Adv. Haer._ iii. 3, 4.
[83:1] _Entstehung der alt-katholischen Kirche_, p. 586;
Hefele, _Patrum Apostolicorum Opera_, p. lxxx.
[84:1] Cf. _S. R._ i. p. 278.
[84:2] _Ent. d. a. K._ pp. 593, 599.
[84:3] _Apostolical Fathers_, p. 227 sq.
[84:4] _Ursprung_, pp. 43, 131.
[85:1] [Greek: mnaemoneuontes de hon eipen ho kurios didaskon; mae
krinete hina mae krithaete; aphiete kai aphethaesetai hymin; eleeite
hina eleaethaete; en ho metro metreite, antimetraethaesetai hymin; kai
hoti makarioi hoi ptochoi kai hoi diokomenoi heneken dikaiosynaes, hoti
auton estin hae basileia tou Theou.]
[89:1] _Geschichte Jesu von Nazara_, 1. p. 138, n. 2.
[89:2] _Einleilung in das N. T._ p. 66, where Lipsius' view
is also quoted.
[89:3] Cf. Westcott, _On the Canon_, p. 88, n. 4.
[89:4] As appears to be suggested in _S. R._ i. p. 292. The
reference in the note to Bleek, _Einl._ p. 637 (and Ewald?),
does not seem to be exactly to the point.
[89:5] _Apol._ i. 67.
[90:1] _Dial. c. Tryph._ 103.
[90:2] _Apol._ i. 66; cf. _S.R._ i. p. 294.
[91:1] The evangelical references and allusions in Justin have
been carefully collected by Credner and Hilgenfeld, and are here
thrown together in a sort of running narrative.
[101:1] This was written before the appearance of Mr. M'Clellan's
important work on the Four Gospels (_The New Testament_, vol. i,
London, 1875), to which I have not yet had time to give the
study that it deserves.
[103:1] Unless indeed it was found in one of the many forms of the
Gospel (cf. _S.R._ i. P. 436, and p. 141 below). The section
appears in none of the forms reproduced by Dr. Hilgenfeld (_N.T.
extra Can. Recept._ Fasc. iv).
[107:1] In like manner Tertullian refers his readers to the
'autograph copies' of St. Paul's Epistles, and the very 'chairs of
the Apostles,' preserved at Corinth and elsewhere. (_De
Praescript. Haeret._ c. 36). Tertullian also refers to the
census of Augustus, 'quem testem fidelissimum dominicae
nativitatis Romana archiva custodiunt' (_Adv. Marc._ iv. 7).
[110:1] _Beitraege_, i. p. 261 sqq.
[110:2] _Evangelien Justin's u.s.w._, p. 270 sqq.
[110:3] The chief authority is Eus. _H. E._ vi. 12.
[110:4] Cf. Hilgenfeld, _Ev. Justin's_, p. 157.
[116:1] A somewhat similar classification has been made by De
Wette, _Einleitung in das N. T._, pp. 104-110, in which
however the standard seems to be somewhat lower than that which I
have assumed; several instances of variation which I had classed
as decided, De Wette considers to be only slight. I hope I may
consider this a proof that the classification above given has not
been influenced by bias.
[119:1] _Beitraege_, i. p. 237.
[119:2] _S.R._ i. p. 396 sqq.
[120:1] _Die drei ersten Evangelien_, Goettingen, 1850. [A
second, revised, edition of this work has recently appeared.]
[120:2] _Die Synoptischen Evangelien_, Leipzig, 1863, p. 88.
[120:3] _Das Marcus-evangelium_, Berlin, 1872, p. 299.
[120:4] _Beitraege_, i. p. 219.
[120:5] Dr. Westcott well calls this 'the _prophetic_ sense
of the present' (_On the Canon_, p. 128).
[122:1] 'This is meaningless,' writes Mr. Baring-Gould of the
canonical text, rather hastily, and forgetting, as it would
appear, the concluding cause (_Lost and Hostile Gospels_, p.
166); cp. _S.R._ i. p. 354, ii. p. 28.
[123:1] i. pp. 196, 227, 258.
[123:2] _Geschichte des Neutestamentlichen Kanon_ (ed.
Volkmar, Berlin, 1860), p. 16.
[124:1] _Adv. Haer._ 428 D.
[124:2] I am not quite clear that more is meant (as Meyer,
Ellicott _Huls. Lect._ p. 339, n. 2, and others maintain) in
the evangelical language than that the drops of sweat 'resembled
blood;' [Greek: hosei] seems to qualify [Greek: haimatos] as much
as [Greek: thromboi]. Compare especially the interesting parallels
from medical writers quoted by McClellan _ad loc._
[128:1] The only parallel that I can find quoted is a reference by
Mr. McClellan to Philo i.164 (ed. Mangey), where the phrase is
however [Greek: isos angeloi (gegonos)].
[129:1] _S.R._ i. p. 304 sqq.
[130:1] _Ev. Justin's_, p. 157.
[135:1] Scrivener, _Introduction to the Criticism of the N.
T_. p. 452 (2nd edition, 1874).
[136:1] On reviewing this chapter I am inclined to lean more than
I did to the hypothesis that Justin used a Harmony. The phenomena
of variation seem to be too persistent and too evenly distributed
to allow of the supposition of alternate quoting from different
Gospels. But the data will need a closer weighing before this can
[138:1] _Contemporary Review_, 1875, p. 169 sqq.
[138:2] Tischendorf, however, devotes several pages to an argument
which follows in the same line as Dr. Lightfoot's, and is, I
believe, in the main sound (_Wann wurden unsere Evangelien
verfasst?_ p. 113 sqq., 4th edition, 1866).
[138:3] I gather from the sixth edition of _S. R._ that the
argument from silence is practically waived. If the silence of
Eusebius is not pressed as proving that the authors about whom he
is silent were ignorant of or did not acknowledge particular
Gospels, we on our side may be content not to press it as proving
that the Gospels in question _were_ acknowledged. The matter
may well be allowed to rest thus: that, so far as the silence of
Eusebius is concerned, Hegesippus, Papias, and Dionysius of
Corinth are not alleged either for the Gospels or against them. I
agree with the author of 'Supernatural Religion' that the point is
not one of paramount importance, though it has been made more of
by other writers, e.g. Strauss and Renan. [The author has missed
Dr. Lightfoot's point on p. xxiii. What Eusebius bears testimony
to is, _not_ his own belief in the canonicity of the fourth
Gospel, but its _undisputed_ canonicity, i.e. a historical
fact which includes within its range Hegesippus, Papias, &c. If I
say that _Hamlet_ is an undisputed play of Shakspeare's, I
mean, not that I believe it to be Shakspeare's myself, but that
all the critics from Shakspeare's time downwards have believed it
to be his.]
[140:1] _H. E._ iv. 22.
[141:1] _S. R._ i. p. 436.
[141:2] _Einleitung_, p. 103.
[141:3] _Das Nachapost. Zeit._ i. p. 238.
[141:4] _Beitraege_, i. p. 401.
[141:5] _Nov. Test. extra Can. Recept._ Fasc. iv. pp. 19, 20.
[143:1] We have, however, had occasion to note a somewhat
parallel, though not quite parallel, instance in the quotation of
Clement of Rome and Polycarp, [Greek: aphiete, hina aphethae humin
(kai aphethaesetai humin)].
[144:1] _Contemporary Review_, Dec. 1874, p. 8; cf. Routh,
_Reliquiae Sacrae_, i. p. 281 _ad fin._
[144:2] Tregelles, writing on the 'Ancient Syriac Versions' in
Smith's Dictionary, iii. p. 1635 a, says that 'these words might
be a Greek rendering of Matt. xiii. 16 as they stand' in the
[145:1] Or rather perhaps 155, 156; see p. 82 above.
[146:1] _H.E._ iii. 39.
[147:1] In Mr. M'Clellan's recent _Harmony_ I notice only two deviations
from the order in St. Mark, ii. 15-22, vi. 17-29. In Mr. Fuller's
_Harmony_ (the Harmony itself and not the Table of Contents, in which
there are several oversights) there seem to be two, Mark vi. 17-20,
xiv. 3-9; in Dr. Robinson's English _Harmony_ three, ii. 15-22,
vi. 17-20, xiv. 22-72 (considerable variation). Of these passages
vi. 17-20 (the imprisonment of the Baptist) is the only one the place
of which all three writers agree in changing. [Dr. Lightfoot, in
_Cont. Rev._, Aug. 1875, p. 394, appeals to Anger and Tischendorf
in proof of the contrary proposition, that the order of Mark cannot
be maintained. But Tischendorf's Harmony is based on the assumption
that St. Luke's use of [Greek: kathexaes] pledges him to a chronological
order, and Anger adopts Griesbach's hypothesis that Mark is a compilation
from Matthew and Luke. The remarks in the text turn, not upon precarious
harmonistic results, but upon a simple comparison of the three Gospels.]
[149:1] Perhaps I should explain that this was made by underlining
the points of resemblance between the Gospels in different
coloured pencil and reckoning up the results at the end of each
[153:1] This subject has been carefully worked out since Credner
by Bleek and De Wette. The results will be found in Holtzmann,
_Synopt. Ev._ p. 259 sqq.
[154:1] Cf. Holtzmann, _Die Synoptischen Evangelien_, p. 255
sq.; Ebrard, _The Gospel History_ (Engl. trans.), p. 247;
Bleek, _Synoptische Erklarung der drei ersten Evangelien_, i.
p. 367. The theory rests upon an acute observation, and has much
[155:1] _On the Canon_, p. 181, n. 2. [That the word will
bear this sense appears still more decidedly from Dr. Lightfoot's
recent investigations, in view of which the two sentences that
follow should perhaps be cancelled; see _Cont. Rev._, Aug.
1875, p. 399 sqq.]
[159:1] [It will be seen that the arguments above hardly touch
those of Dr. Lightfoot in the _Contemporary Review_ for
August and October: neither do Dr. Lightfoot's arguments seem very
much to affect them. The method of the one is chiefly external,
that of the other almost entirely internal. I can only for the
present leave what I had written; but I do not for a moment
suppose that the subject is fathomed even from the particular
standpoint that I have taken.]
[162:1] The lists given in _Supernatural Religion_ (ii. p. 2)
seem to be correct so far as I am able to check them. In the
second edition of his work on the Origin of the Old Catholic
Church, Ritschl modified his previous opinion so far as to admit
that the indications were divided, sometimes on the one side,