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they were not, however, forbidden to use the lawful means of preservation; but even enjoined to put them in practice, whenever they could do it with innocence (x. 16, 17. 23.); that the due observance of the Christian precepts was an excellent method to appease the wrath and fury of their enemies, and what therefore they were obliged in point of prudence as well as duty, carefully to mind and attend to (v. 39. vii. 12. 24–27. v. 13—20.); that, if it should be their fate to suffer martyrdom at last for their religion, it was infinitely better to continue faithful to their important trust, than by any base compliance to incur his displeasure, in whose hands are the issues not only of this life, but also of that which is to come. (xvi. 25—27. x. 28.)
2. On the other hand again, to calm the passions of the enraged Jews, and win them over to the profession of the Gospel, he labours to soften and abate their prejudices, and to engage them in the practice of meekness and charity. (ix. 13.) To this end, he lays before them the dignity and amiableness of a compassionate, benevolent disposition (v. 43-48. xvii. 23–35.); the natural good consequences that are annexed to it here ; and the distinguished regard, which the Almighty himself will pay to‘it hereafter. (v. 5. 7. 9. x. 40
- 12. xviii. 23–35. v. 21–26. xxv. 31–46.) Then he reminds them of the repeated punishments which God had inflicted on their forefathers for their cruel and barbarous treatment of his prophets, and assures them that a still more accumulated vengeance was reserved for themselves, if they obstinately persisted in the ways of cruelty (xxiii. 27–39. x. 14, 15.): for God, though patient and long-suffering, was sure at last to vindicate his elect, and to punish their oppressors, unless they repented, believed, and reformed, with the dreadful rigour of a general destruction. (xxiv. 2, &c.)
These and similar arguments, which St. Matthew has inserted in the body of his Gospel (by way of comfort to the afflicted Christians, and also as a warning to their injurious oppressors and persecutors), evidently refer to a state of distress and persecution under which the church of Christ laboured at the time when the evangelist advanced and urged them. Now the greatest persecution ever raised against the church, while it was composed only of Jewish and Samaritan converts, was that which was commenced by the Sanhedrin, and was afterwards continued and conducted by Saul, with implacable rage and fury. During this calamity, which lasted in the
. whole about six years, viz. till the third year of Caligula, A. D. 39 or 40 (when the Jews were too much alarmed concerning their own affairs to give any further disturbance to the Christians), the members of the Christian church stood in need of all the support, consolation, and assistance that could be administered to them. But what comfort could they possibly teceive, in their distressed situation, comparable to that which resalted from the example of their suffering master, and the promise he had made to his faithful followers ? This example, and those promises, Saint Matthew seasonably laid before them, towards the close of this period of trial, for their imi
· The samne temper is also particularly illustrated in all our Saviour's miraclas.
tation and encouragement, and delivered it to them, as the anchor of their hope, to keep them steadfast in this violent tempest. Froin this consideration Dr. Owen was led to fix the date of Saint Matthew's Gospel to the year 38.'
Thirdly, Saint Matthew ascribes those titles of sanctity 10 Jerusalem, by which it had been distinguished by the prophets and antient historians, and also testifies a higher veneration for the temple than the other evangelists :3 and this fact proves that his gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and not after it, as a recent scoffing antagonist of Christianity has asserted, contrary to all evidence. The evangelist's comparative gentleness in mentioning John the Baptist's reproof of Herod, and his silence concerning the insults offered by Herod to our Lord on the morning of his crucifixion, are additional evidences for the early date of his Gospel : for, as Herod was still reigning in Galilee, the evangelist displayed no more of that sovereign's bad character than was absolutely necessary, lest he should excite Herod's jealousy of his believing subjects or their disaffection to him. If he was influenced by these motives, he must have written before the year 39, for in that year Herod was deposed and banished to Lyons by Caligula.
Lastly, to omit circumstances of minor importance, Matthew's frequent mention (not fewer than nine times) of Pilate, as being then actually governor of Judea, is an additional evidence of the early date of his Gospel. For Josephus informis us, that Pilate having been ordered by Vitellius, governor of Syria, to go to Rome, to answer a complaint of the Sainaritans before the emperor, hastened thither, but before he arrived the emperor was dead. Now, as Tiberius died in the spring of 37, it is highly probable that Saint Mauhew's Gospel was written by that time.
Dr. Lardner, however, and Bishop Percy, think that they discover marks of a lower date in Saint Matthew's writings. They argue from the knowledge which he shows of the spirituality of the Gospel, and the excellence of the moral above the ceremonial law: and from the great clearness with which the comprehensive design of the Christian dispensation, as extending to the whole Gentile world, together with the rejection of the Jews, is unfolded in this Gospel. Of these topics they suppose the evangelist not to have treated, until a course of years had developed their meaning, removed his Jewish prejudices, and given him a clearer discernment of their nature.
This objection, however, carries but little force with it. For, in the first place, as Dr. Townson has justly observed, with regard to
1 Owen's Observations on the Four Gospels, (8vo. Lond. 1764.) pp. 8–21.
2 Compare Neh. xi. 1. 18. Isa. xlviii. 2. lii. 1. Dan. ix. 24. with Matt. iy. 5. v.35, xxvii. 52, 53.
3 Compare Matt. xxi. 12. with Mark xi. 15. Luke xix. 45. and Matt. xxvi. 51. with Mark xiv. 58.
4 Ant. Jud. lib. xviii. c. iv. § 2.
Works, 8vo. vol. vi. pp. 57, 58. ; 4to. vol. iii. pp. 163, 164. 7 Key to the New Test p. 55. 3d. edit.
the doctrinal part of his Gospel, if Saint Matthew exhibits a noble idea of pure religion and morality, he teaches no more than he had heard frequently taught, and often opposed to the maxims of the Jews, by his divine instructor. And when the Holy Spirit, the guide into all truth, had descended upon him, it seems strange to imagine that he still wanted twenty or thirty years to enlighten his mind. If he was not then furnished with knowledge to relate these things as an evangelist, how was he qualified to preach them to the Jews as an apostle ?
In the next place, it is true that the prophetic parts of his Gospel declare the extent of Christ's kingdom, and the calling and acceptance of the Gentiles. But these events had been plainly foretold by the antient prophets, and were expected by devout Israelites to happen in the days of the Messiah ; and in those passages which relate to the universality of the Gospel dispensation, the evangelist merely states that the Gospel would be successfully preached among the Gentiles in all parts of the earth. He only recites the words of our Saviour without any explanation or remark; and we know it was promised to the apostles, that after Christ's ascension, the Holy Spirit should bring all things to their remembrance, and guide them into all truth. “ Whether Saint Matthew was aware of the call of the Gentiles, before the Gospel was actually embraced by them, cannot be ascertained: nor is it material, since it is generally agreed, that the inspired penmen often did not comprehend the full meaning of their own writings when they referred to future events; and it is obvious that it might answer a good purpose to have the future call of the Gentiles intimated in an authentic history of our Saviour's ministry, to which the believing Jews might refer, when that extraordinary and unexpected event should take place. Their minds would thus be more easily satisfied; and they would more readily admit the comprehensive design of the Gospel, when they found it declared in a book, which they acknowledged as the rule of their faith and practice.”
Once more, with respect to the argument deduced from this evangelist's mentioning prophecies and prophetic parables, that speak of the rejection and overthrow of the Jews, it may be observed, that if this argument means, that, being at first prejudiced in favour of a kingdom to be restored to Israel, he could not understand these prophecies, and therefore would not think of relating them if he wrote early ; - though the premises should be admitted, we may justly deny the conclusion. Saint Matthew might not clearly discern in what manner the predictions were to be accomplished, yet he must see, what they all denounced, that God would reject those who rejected the Gospel : hence, he always had an inducement to
1 Thus Zacharias, the father of the Baptist, speaks of Christ as coming to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke i. 79.), which description includes the Gentiles and Simeon expressly calls him a light to lighten the Gentiles. (Luke ii. 32.) 2 Bishop Tomline's Elements of Christ. Theol. vol. i. p. 202.
notify them to his countrymen ; and the sooner he apprised them of their danger, the greater charity he showed them.'
Since, therefore, the objections to the early date by no means balance the weight of evidence in its favour, we are justified in assigning the date of this Gospel to the year of our Lord 37, or at the latest to the year 38. And as the weight of evidence is also in favour of Saint Matthew's having composed his Gospel in Hebrew AND Greek,? we may refer the early date of A. D. 37 or 38 to the former, and A. D. 61 to the latter. This will reconcile the apparently conflicting testimonies of Irenæus and Eusebius above mentioned, which have led biblical critics to form such widely different opinions concerning the real date of Saint Matthew's Gospel.
III. The next subject of inquiry respects the language in which Saint Matthew wrote his Gospel, and which has been contested among critics with no small degree of_acrimony : Bellarmin, Grotius, Casaubon, Bishops Walton and Tonline, Drs. Cave, Hammond, Mill, Harwood, Owen, Campbell, and A. Clarke, Simon, Tillemont, Pritius, Du Pin, Calmet, Michaelis, and others, having supported the opinion of Papias as cited by Irenæus, Origen, Cyril, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and other early writers, that this Gospel was written in Hebrew, that is, in the Syro-Chaldaic dialect then spoken by the Jews. On the other hand, Erasmus, Paræust, Calvin, Le Clerc, Fabricius, Pfeiffer, Dr. Lightfoot, Beausobre, Basnage, Wetstein, Rumpæus, Whitby, Edelman, Hoffman, Moldenhawer, Viser, Harles, Jones, Drs. Jortin, Lardner, Hey, and Hales, Mr. Hewlett, and others, have strenuously vindicated the Greek original of Saint Matthew's Gospel. A third opinion has been offered by Dr. Townson, and some few modern divines that there were two originals, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek. He thinks that there seems to be more reason for allowing two originals, than for contesting either; the consent of antiquity pleading strongly for the Hebrew, and evident marks of originality for the Greek.
The presumption, it must be acknowledged, is in favour of the opinion first stated, viz. that Saint Matthew wrote in Greek : for Greek, as we have already seen,4 was the prevailing language in the time of our Saviour and bis apostles. Matthew too, while he was a collector of customs, and before he was called to be an apostle, would have frequent occasions both to write and to speak Greek, and could not discharge his office without understanding that language. We may therefore (say the advocates for this hypothesis), consider it as highly probable, or even certain, that he understood Greek. Besides as all the other evangelists and apostles wrote their Gospels and Epistles in that language for the use of Christians (whether Jews or Gentiles) throughout the known world, and as Saint Matthew's Gospel, though in the first instance written for the use of Jewish and Samaritan converts, was ultimately designed for universal dissemination, it is not likely that it was written in any other language than that which was employed by all the other writers of the New Testament. This presumption is corroborated by the numerous and remarkable instances of verbal agreement between Matthew and the other evangelists; which, on the supposition that he wrote in Hebrew, or the vernacular Syro-Chaldaic dialect, would not be credible. Even those who maintain that opinion are obliged to confess that an early Greek translation of this Gospel was in existence before Mark and Luke composed theirs, which they saw and consulted. After all, the main point in dispute is, whether the present Greek copy is entitled to the authority of an original or not; and as this is a question of real and serious importance, we shall proceed to state the principal arguments on both sides.
1 Dr. Townson's Discourses, disc. iv. sect. iv. Works, vol. i. pp. 116, 117. 2 See pp. 237, 238. infra.
3 See p. 229. notes 1, 2. supra. 4 See Vol. II. pp. 15—20.
The modern advocates for the second opinion above noticed, viz. that Saint Matthew wrote in Hebrew, lay most stress upon the testimonies of Papias (Bishop of Hierapolis, A. D. 116), of Irenæ is (A.D. 178), and of Origen (A. D. 230); which testimonies have been followed by Chrysostom, Jerome, and others of the early fathers of the Christian church. But these good men, as Wetstein has well observed, do not so properly bear testimony, as deliver their own conjectures, which we are not bound to admit unless they are supported by good reasons. Supposing and taking it for granted that Matthew wrote for the Jews in Judea, they concluded that he wrote in Hebrew :' and because the fathers formed this conclusion, modern writers, relying on their authority, have also inferred that Matthew composed his Gospel in that language. Let us now review their testimonies. 1. Papias, as cited by Eusebius, says, “Matthew composed the
2 divine oracles in the Hebrew dialect, and each interpreted them as he was able.” 2. Irenæus, as quoted by the same historian, says, “ Matthew
published also a Scripture of the Gospel among the Hebrews, in their own dialect."
3. Origen, as cited by Eusebius," says, “ As I have learned by tradition concerning the four Gospels, which alone are received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven. The first was written by Matthew, once a publican, afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for the believers from Judaism, composed in Hebrew letters."
1 Wetstenii Nov. Test. tom. i. p. 224. note.
ηρεμενεσε aura ws ndrrato exa505. Eusebii Hist. Eccl. lib. 3. c. 39. tom. i. p. 133. edit. Readiny.
3 ο μεν δε Ματθαιος εν τοις ΕΒΡΑΟΙΣ ΕΝ ΤΗ ΙΔΙΑ ΑΥΤΩΝ ΔΙΑΛΕΚΤΩ, ΚΑΙ ΓΡΑΦΗΝ EZENECKEN EYATSEAIOT. Ibid. lib. V. c. 8. tom. i. p. 219,
4 Ιbid. lib. vi. c. 25. tom. i. p. 290. Ως εν παραδοσει μαθων περι των τεσσαρων ευαγγελιων ......οτι πρωτον μεν γεραπται το κατα......ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ εκδεδωκοτα τοις απο Ιουδαϊσμου πιςευσασι, ΓΡΑΜΜΑΣΙΝ ΕΒΡΑΙΚΟΙΣ ΣΥΝΕΤΑΓΜΕΝ ΟΝ.