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the shorter Gospel of St. Mark follows upon the fuller one of St. Matthew, or St. Luke, or both. We have then only to examine those in which St. Mark stands first. Either then St. Luke supplemented St. Matthew, -or St. Matthew, St. Luke. But first, both of these are inconceivable as being expansions of St. Mark; for his Gospel, although shorter, and narrating fewer events and discourses, is, in those which he does narrate, the fullest and most particular of the three. And again, St. Luke could not have supplemented St. Matthew ; for there are most important portions of Matthew which he has altogether omitted (e. g. ch. xxv. much of ch. xiii. ch. xv.) ;-nor could St. Matthew have supplemented St. Luke, for the same reason, having omitted almost all of the important section, Luke ix. 51–xviii. 15, besides very much matter in other parts. I may also mention that this supposition leaves all the difficulties of different arrangement and minute discrepancy unaccounted for.
5. We pass to (b), on which much need not be said. If it were so, nothing could have been done less calculated to answer the end, than that which our Evangelists have done. For in no material point do their accounts differ, but only in arrangement and completeness ;—and this latter difference is such, that no one of them can be cited as taking any pains to make it appear that his own arrangement is chronologically accurate. No fixed dates are found in those parts where the differences exist ; no word to indicate that any other arrangement had ever been published. Does this look like the work of a corrector ? Even supposing him to have suppressed the charge of inaccuracy on others,would he not have been precise and definite in the parts where his own corrections appeared, if it were merely to justify them to his readers ?
6. Neither does the supposition represented by (c) in any way account for the phænomena of our present Gospels. For,—even taking for granted the usual assumption, that St. Matthew wrote for Hebrew Christians, St. Mark for Latins, and St. Luke for Gentiles in general,—we do not find any such consistency in these purposes, as a revision and alteration of another's narrative would necessarily presuppose. We have the visit of the Gentile Magi exclusively related by the Hebraizing Matthew ;-the circumcision of the child Jesus, and His frequenting the passovers at Jerusalem, exclusively by the Gentile Evangelist Luke. Had the above purposes been steadily kept in view in the revision of the narratives before them, the respective Evangelists could not have omitted incidents so entirely subservient to their respective designs.
7. Our supposition (d) is, that receiving the Gospel or Gospels before them as authentic, the Evangelists borrowed from them such parts as they purposed to narrate in common with them. But this does not represent the matter of fact. In no one case does any Evangelist borrow from another any considerable part of even a single narrative. For such borrowing would imply verbal coincidence, unless in the case of strong Hebraistic idiom, or other assignable peculiarity. It is inconceivable that one writer borrowing from another matter confessedly of the very first importance, in good faith and with approval, should alter his diction so singularly and capriciously as, on this hypothesis, we find the text of the parallel sections of our Gospels altered. Let the question be answered by ordinary considerations of probability, and let any passage common to the three Evangelists be put to the test. The phænomena presented will be much as follows:-first, perhaps, we shall have three, five, or more words identical;—then as many wholly distinct: then two clauses or more, expressed in the same words but. dijsering order:—then a clause contained in one or two, and not in the third :then several words identical :-- then a clause not only wholly distinct but apparently inconsistent ;—and so forth ;-with recurrences of the same arbitrary and anomalous alterations, coincidences, and transpositions. Nor does this description apply to verbal and sentential arrangement only;—but also, with slight modification, to that of the larger portions of the narratives. Equally capricious would be the disposition of the subject-matter. Sometimes, while coincident in the things related, the Gospels place them in the most various order,—each in turn connecting them together with apparent marks of chronological sequence (e. g. the visit to Gadara in Matt. viii. 28 ff. as compared with the same in Mark v. 1 ff. Luke viji. 26 ff. and numerous other such instances noticed in the commentary). Let any one say, divesting himself of the commonly-received hypotheses respecting the connexion and order of our Gospels, whether it is within the range of probability that a writer should thus singularly and unreasonably alter the subjectmatter and diction before him, having (as is now supposed) no design in so doing, but intending, fairly and with approval, to incorporate the work of another into his own ? Can an instance be any where cited of undoubted borrowing and adaptation from another, presenting similar phænomena ?
8. I cannot then find in any of the above hypotheses a solution of the question before us, how the appearances presented by our three Gospels are to be accounted for. I do not see how any theory of mutual interdependence will leave to our three Evangelists their credit as able or trustworthy writers, or even as honest men: nor can I find any such theory borne out by the nature of the variations apparent in the respective texts.
THE ORIGIN OF OUR THREE GOSPELS.
1. It remains then, that the three Gospels should have arisen independently of one another. But supposing this, we are at once met by the difficulty of accounting for so much common matter, and that narrated, as we have seen, with such curious verbal agreements and discrepancies. Thus we are driven to some common origin for those parts. But of what kind ? Plainly, either documentary (i. e. contained in writings), or oral. Let us consider each of these in turn.
2. No documentary source could have led to the present texts of our Gospels. For supposing it to have been in the Hebrew language (or Aramaic, the dialect of Palestine at the time), and thus accounting for some of the variations in our parallel Greek passages, as being independent translations, we shall still have no solution whatever of the more important discrepancies of insertion, omission, and arrangement. To meet these, the most complicated hypotheses have been advanced,-all perfectly capricious, and utterly inadequate, even when apprehended, to account for the phænomena. The various opponents of the view of an original Gospel have well shewn besides, that such a Gospel could never have existed, because of the omission in one or other of our three, of passages which must necessarily have formed a part of it ; e. g. Matt. xxvi. 6—13 (see there) omitted by St. Luke'. I believe then that we may safely abandon the idea of any single original Gospel, whether Aramaic or Greek.
3. Still it might be thought possible that, though one document cannot have originated the text of the common parts of our Gospels, several documents, more or less related to one another, may have done so, in the absence of any original Gospel. But this, it will be seen, is but an imperfect analysis of their origin ; for we are again met by the question, whence did these documents take their rise? And if they turn out to be only so many modifications of a received oral teaching respecting the actions and sayings of our Lord, then to that oral teaching are we referred back for a more complete account of the matter. That such evangelical documents did exist, I think highly probable ; and believe I recognize such in some of the peculiar sections of Luke; but that the common parts of our Gospels, even if taken from such, are to be traced back further, I am firmly convinced.
4 Those who maintain the anointing of Matt. xxvi. 6 to be the same with that of Luke vii. 36, forget that it is incumbent on them in such cases to shew sufficient reason for the inversion in order of time. It is no reply to my argument, to say that St. Luke omits the anointing at Bethany, because he had related it before in ch. vii. Had he not had St. Matthew's Gospel before him, it is very likely that he may have inserted an incident which he found without date, in a place where it might illustrate the want of charity of a Pharisee; but having (on their hypothesis) St. Matthew's Gospel before him, and the incident being there related in strict sequence and connexion with our Lord's Death, it is simply inconceivable that he should have transposed it, and obliterated all trace of such connexion, deeply interesting and important as it is.
4. We come then to enquire, whether the common sections of our Gospels could have originated from a common oral source. If by this latter is to be understood, -one and the same oral teaching every where recognized, our answer must be in the negative : for the difficulties of verbal discrepancy, varying arrangement, insertion, and omission, would, as above, remain unaccounted for. At the same time, it is highly improbable that such a course of oral teaching should ever have been adopted. Let us examine the matter more in detail.
5. The Apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In this consisted their especial office and work. Others besides them had been companions of our Lord :—but peculiar grace and power was given to them, by which they gave forth their testimony (Acts iv. 33). And what this testimony included, we learn from the conditions of apostleship propounded by Peter himself, Acts i. 21, 22: that in order to its being properly given, an Apostle must have been an eye and ear witness of what had happened from the baptism of John until the ascension: i. e. during the whole official life of our Lord. With the whole of this matter, therefore, was his apostolic testimony concerned. And we are consequently justified in assuming that the substance of the teaching of the Apostles consisted of their testimony to such facts, given in the Holy Ghost and with power. The ordinary objection to this view, that their extant discourses do not contain Evangelic narrations, but are hortatory and persuasive, is wholly inapplicable. Their extant discourses are contained in the Acts, a second work of the Evangelist Luke, who having in his former treatise given all which he had been able to collect of their narrative teaching, was not likely again to repeat it. Besides which, such narrative teaching would occur, not in general and almost wholly apologetic discourses held before assembled unbelievers, but in the building up of the several churches and individual converts, and in the catechization of catechumens. It is a strong confirmation of this view, that Luke himself in his preface refers to this original apostolic narrative as the source of the various narrations, which many had taken in hand to draw up, and states his object in writing to be, that Theophilus might know the certainty of those sayings concerning which he had been catechized.
It is another confirmation of the above view of the testimony of the apostolic body,—that St. Paul claims to have received an independent knowledge, by direct revelation, of at least some of the fundamental parts
of the Gospel history (see Gal. i. 12: 1 Cor. xi. 23; xv. 3), to qualify him for his calling as an Apostle.
6. I believe then that the Apostles, in virtue not merely of their having been eye and ear witnesses of the Evangelic history, but especially of their office, gave to the various Churches their testimony in a narrative of facts: such narrative being modified in each case by the individual mind of the Apostle himself, and his sense of what was requisite for the particular community to which he was ministering. While they were principally together, and instructing the converts at Jerusalem, such narrative would naturally be for the most part the same, and expressed in the same, or nearly the same words : coincident, however, not from design or rule, but because the things themselves were the same, and the teaching naturally fell for the most part into one form. It would be easy and interesting to follow the probable origin and growth of this cycle of narratives of the words and deeds of our Lord in the Church at Jerusalem,—for both the Jews, and the Hellenists,—the latter under such teachers as Philip and Stephen, commissioned and authenticated by the Apostles. In the course of such a process some portions would naturally be written down by private believers, for their own use or that of friends. And as the Church spread to Samaria, Cæsarea, and Antioch, the want would be felt in each of these places, of similar cycles of oral teaching, which when supplied would thenceforward belong to and be current in those respective Churches. And these portions of the Evangelic history, oral or partially documentary, would be adopted under the sanction of the Apostles, who were as in all things so especially in this, the appointed and divinely-guided overseers of the whole Church. This common substratum of apostolic teaching,– never formally adopted by all, but subject to all the varieties of diction and arrangement, addition and omission, incident to transmission through many individual minds, and into many different localities -I believe to have been the original source of the common part of our three Gospels.
7. Whether this teaching was wholly or in part expressed originally in Greek, may admit of some question. That it would very soon be so expressed, follows as a matter of course from the early mention of Grecian converts, Acts vi., and the subsequent reception of the Gentiles into the Church ; and it seems to have been generally received in that language, before any of its material modifications arose. This I gather from the remarkable verbal coincidences observable in the present Greek texts. Then again, the verbal discrepancies of our present Greek texts entirely forbid us to imagine that our Evangelists took up the usual oral teaching at one place or time; but point to a process of alteration and deflection, which will now engage our attention.