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FROM THE BIRTH OF JOHN BAPTIST TO THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, 75 YEARS.
Vespasian invades Judea...
The Chronology of this short, but most eventful and important
period, is exceedingly intricate and embarrassed. The Evangelists, in their concise memoirs, notice but few dates, and even these are not easily reconcileable with each other, nor with the corresponding annals of ecclesiastical, Jewish, and profane history. Nor is Josephus, to whom we are principally indebted for this outline, sufficiently explicit in determining the several years of the reigns and administrations of the Roman emperors and procurators. However, from those that he has determined, the rest may be supplied with a considerable degree of precision. A fuller outline of the Gospel Chronology, during the former part, to the conversion and ministry of Paul, A.D. 35, and of the principles upon which it was constructed, may be seen, Vol. I. p. 96-99.
Before we enter upon the history of this period, it will be requisite to enquire into the nature and extent of the evidence afforded by those incomparable historians, the Evangelists, in
THE CANONICAL GOSPELS,
respecting their, 1. authenticity, genuineness, and integrity, or freedom from adulteration; 2. order; 3. time of composition; 4. inspiration; 5. style; and, 6. credibility.
The four Gospels have been uniformly attributed, by the uninterrupted tradition of the Church, to the Apostles Matthew and John, and, the companions of Apostles, Luke and Mark. The two former personally attended CHRIST throughout the greater part, or the whole, of his ministry. And Luke, "the physician" of Antioch, was the intimate friend and companion of Paul in his travels, who mentions him honourably, Philemon 24; Col. iv. 14; 2 Tim. iv. 11; whose ministry forms the latter part of his second work, the Acts of the Apostles. Mark also, was the nephew of Barnabas, Col. iv. 10, and the joint companion of him and Paul, Acts xii. 25, and afterwards of Barnabas, when they parted, Acts xv. 39, and also the intimate friend of Peter, Acts xii. 12, whom he accompanied to the mystical "Babylon," or Rome, 1 Pet. v. 13. All, therefore, had the best opportunities of procuring the most authentic and correct information; as stated by Luke, in the classical preface to his Gospel, which may thus be more clearly rendered, 1-4.
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to compose a narrative of the things that are fully believed among us, [Christians]; according as they delivered them to us, who, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses and ministers of THE ORACLE: it seemed good to me also, having been accurately informed in all things from the very first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest well know the certainty of those matters, in which thou hast been instructed by word of mouth."
In the original, the term oλλo, may reasonably include the preceding Evangelists, Matthew, and perhaps Mark, among other writers of Gospels. The verb ɛɛxonov, “have taken in hand,” or “undertaken,” is used with latitude, both in a good and a bad sense. Several commentators, following Origen, take it in the latter; but that it should rather be taken in the former, may justly be inferred from St. Luke classing himself among those writers, Edose кapo, "It seemed good to me also." εδοξε καμοι, Прayμarшv, the general subject of their writings, is rightly rendered "things," as including both facts and doctrines; and seems to be synonymous with Aoywv, "matters" afterwards; by a usual Hebraism, denoting words and things. Oi avтоTTαι, και ὑπηρεται ΤΟΥ ΛΟΓΟΥ, in strictness, can only denote the eye-witnesses and ministers of the PERSONAL WORD, or ORACLE, who conversed with, and ministered unto Him, an' apxns, "from the beginning" of his mission; as understood in the parallel passages, John xv. 27; Acts i. 22, 23; 1 John ii. 14, &c.; and Tapedoσav, "delivered them by tradition," either in speech or writing; and these were the apostles and disciples in general; from whom likewise St. Luke, πаρηкoλovInkoti, “derived information, as an attendant," on St. Paul especially, avwJEV πασiν aкoißws, " in all things, accurately, from the very first," or from the very commencement of the GOSPEL dispensation, in all the wonders accompanying the birth of the Baptist, the annunciation to the Virgin Mary, &c. which he alone records in his curious and valuable Introduction. And he wrote Kang, "in order," or methodically, in a regular, well connected narrative, though more observant of the order of place, than of time. And his chief object in writing his Gospel, was that Theophilus, επɩyvwç, might well, or intimately know, (which is the proper import of the verb, 2 Cor. vi. 9; Matt. xi. 27, &c.) by a written and authentic record, aopaλeav, "the certainty"
of the matters, in which кarnxnns, he had been instructed by word of mouth, or by some preachers of the Gospel.
This, it is hoped, will be found a more correct translation and explanation of this concise and difficult Preface; suggested, chiefly, by Townson's judicious Observations, Vol. I. p. 212, &c.
Some German critics, Le Clerc, Michaelis, Koppe, Lessing, Eichhorne, &c. have supposed that the three first Evangelists did not see each other's Gospels; and to account for the remarkable verbal harmony notwithstanding, that appears between their Gospels, they have supposed that all the Evangelists made use of a common document in the Hebrew or Syrochaldee dialect, which contained a short narrative of the principal transactions of CHRIST'S ministry, which served as a basis for their Gospels; and which they altered and enlarged, according as they got fuller information.
This hypothesis has been adopted and modified by the learned and ingenious Dr. Marsh, in his elaborate Dissertation on the origin of the three first Gospels, annexed to his Notes on the third volume of Michaelis; who conjectures that Luke meant to express the title of this common document, which was Διηγησις περι των πεπληροφορημένων πραγματων. p. 197.
κ. τ. λ.
At the same time, he candidly notices an objection, which he leaves to the decision of the learned, whether it may not destroy the whole conjecture: namely, that Luke omits the article Tv, in his account, αναταξασθαι διηγησιν, κ. τ.λ. p. 199, note.
But that profound Greek critic, Middleton, in his Doctrine of the Greek Article, p. 288, gives a verdict against him, observing, that "The title of a book, as prefixed to the book itself, should be anarthrous, [without the article] but when the book is referred to, the article should be inserted." And he instances, in Hesiod's Poem, entitled Aσiç 'Hoaкλεovç, [Hercules' Shield,] which Longinus thus cites, ειγε Ησιοδου και ΤΗΝ Ασπιδα θετεον. ["If the Shield also is to be ascribed to Hesiod."]
And surely, Luke's preface militates against this hypothesis throughout: for Matthew and John, who were eye-witnesses and ministers" of the "ORACLE," had no need of a common document; and Luke expressly asserts, that he derived his information from Apostles *; and we may conclude the same of
Luke accompanied Paul the Apostle to Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 8, and continued there for two years, during Paul's imprisonment, till the administration of Festus, A.D. 62.