Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

teachers would feel bound to adhere strictly to the very words in cases of reported speech, whereas they would be under no such obligation in the narration of events. As regards the latter a considerable modification of the oral Gospel would naturally take place during the long period that elapsed before it was committed to writing. The modification would vary in different parts of the Church; and it is in this way, as well as by taking into account the possibilities of fresh lessons being added from time to time by those who had been "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word ”i that we can best account for differences, both in expression and in substance, which would otherwise seem unaccountable. If the apostles' teaching was originally given in Aramaic—the form of Hebrew then spoken in Palestine-and had to be translated into Greek by the catechists, this would help still further to account for the diversity we meet with in the Gospels.2

5. Their Harmony. It is possible that further study and investigation may shed more light on the historical and literary relations of the four Gospels, but meantime it is clear that the true way

1 Luke i. 2.

2 An interesting contribution to the settlement of this question has recently been made by Prof. J. T. Marshall. On the supposition of an original Aramaic Gospel (perhaps the Logia òf St. Matthew) he finds that a great many of the verbal differences between the synoptics, in parallel passages, may beaccounted for by reference to the Aramaic word from which they have emanated. For example the word οφειλήματα in Matt. vi. 12 (“Forgive us our debts") and åpaprlas in Luke xi. 4 (“Forgive us our sins") may be divergent inter

both be accounted for by the Aramaic word 700 which means (1) to throw, cast," (2) to “burn, consume. These and similar instances do not require the assumption of a written Aramaic Gospel; but Prof. Marshall finds that

"the great majority of the Greek variants in the synoptics can only be accounted for by corruptions that had crept into an original Aramaic text, in one or other of the four following ways :-(1) "the diverse vocalisation of the same consonants, (2) the misreading of a letter, (3) the omission of a letter, (4) the transposition of two adjacent consonants. Referring, by way of analogy, to the Hebrew texts of certain parts of the Old Testament, Professor Marshall says : "These kinds of divergences are always present, and what is more, there is a tolerably constant ratio in the frequency with which they respectively occur. This

חוב pretations of the Aramaic word

which means (1) a debt, (2) a sin or trespass; or, again, the word åtolérat in Matt. x. 28 (“But rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna") and éußadeîv in Luke xii. 5 (“hath power to cast into Gehenna")may

No one

to discern their harmony is not to attempt to piece them together in the vain hope of forming a complete chronological history, but to study each from its own point of view and learn from it what it has to teach concerning the many-sided life and character of Jesus Christ. Gospel could possibly do justice to the infinite significance of the great theme; and instead of causing perplexity, the existence of four different Gospels should rather be matter of thankfulness, as setting Christ before us in so many different aspects of His divinely human personality, much in the same way as various portions of the Old Testament set Him forth prophetically under the several aspects of prophet, priest, lawgiver, and king.

From the nature of the case, the Gospels are necessarily fragmentary, as indicated by St. John when he says, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be written."1 The same writer gives us a key to the interpretation of his Gospel when he says, “These are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye may have life in his name.”2 In like manner each of the other Gospels, while historical in its character, is animated by a special purpose of its own with its appropriate grouping and selection of events. Owing to the frequent change of scene and audience in Christ's ministry, the historical sequence could not be strictly adhered to by anyone desirous to trace, from any point of view, the progress of His teaching. At the same time there was a gradual development in Christ's ministry, culminating in His death, resurrection, and ascension; and this gradual advance we find reflected in each of the four Gospels.

same ratio, we may add, is discernible in the kinds of variation we claim to have found in the Aramaic." It has, however, been objected to Prof. Marshall's theory that in his attempts to reproduce the words of the original text he does not confine himself to the

Aramaic of any one period or literature,
and resorts to linguistic suppositions
which are open to question. Moreover,
it is at best but a partial solution of the
synoptical problem.

1 John xxi. 25.
2 John xx. 31.

Unity amid diversity is what we have to look for in the Gospels, as in the Scriptures generally; and of this we have a token in the time-honoured fancy of the Church, by which the four Gospels are likened to the four-visaged cherubim, having the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. This comparison has been variously applied, but the interpretation followed in modern works of art, after St. Jerome, identifies the four faces with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively, as setting forth the human, the conquering, the sacrificial, and the heaven-regarding aspects of Christ's being. We shall probably be nearer the truth, however, if we say that while the first Gospel sets forth Christ's life and teaching with reference to the past, as the fulfilment of the Old Testament, the Gospel of Mark exhibits that life in the present, as a manifestation of the activity and power so congenial to the Roman mind; St. Luke, as a Greek, depicts it in its catholic and comprehensive character, as destined in the future to embrace within its saving influence all the kindreds of the Gentiles; while the fourth Gospel represents it in its absolute perfection as it is related to the Father in eternity.1

While there is no such thing as uniformity in Scripture any more than in Nature or the Church, there is an essential and deep-lying unity which cannot be broken without serious injury to the truth. The right way to use the Gospels is to combine their various testimony, allowing each to tell its story in its own way, and to contribute its allotted part to a full and adequate conception of the Lord's personality and work. While each possesses a distinct individuality of its own, they may and ought to be united in order to form a complete and grander whole. In this sense they have been likened to the four parts of music, which may be sung apart, but blend together to form a perfect harmony. A striking parallel has been drawn between the work of the first three evangelists and the threefold portrait of Charles I. (taken from three different points of view) which Vandyke prepared for the sculptor; 1 while a beautiful illustration has been furnished by an eloquent writer, who says that “the first three evangelists give us diverse aspects of one glorious landscape; St. John pours over that landscape a flood of heavenly sunshine which seems to transform its very character, though every feature of the landscape remains the same.

1 Recently an ingenious and laborious to meet “a widely prevailing desire to attempt has been made by the Rev. J. J. combine the three authorised histories Halcombe to reverse the traditional into a single composite whole"-a task view of the relations between the Synop- which had been attempted by the tics and the Fourth Gospel. According “many." to whom St. Luke refers in his to Mr. Halcombe's theory, St. John preface, and which we can see to have wrote his Gospel very soon after the been successfully accomplished by that Ascension, as "the original and founda- Evangelist himself, if we assume that tion title-deed of the Church and the Luke xi. 14-xiii.21 was accidentally Christian faith"; St. Matthew's was transposed in the original MS., and that written after an interval of some six or its proper place is immediately after viii. eight years, or even longer, as a supplemental and companion volume, and was Mr Halcombe claims for this arrangefollowed almost immediately by St. ment of the Four Gospels that it is as Mark's as “an explanatory supplement superior in point of intelligibility to to St. Matthew's record"; while St. that which puts St. John's Gospel last Luke's was written much later, in order (cf. p. 72), as WORD is to ORDW!

21.

"3

1 Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p. 251.

2 Farrar's Messages of the Books,

p. II.

3 With regard to the harmony of the four Gospels in matters of historical detail, while it is true that we meet with apparent discrepancies which it would require more complete information than we possess to explain fully (for example, as to the date of the Last Supper,

whether on the night of the Jewish Passover, as the synoptical Gospels would lead us to suppose, or on the night previous, which is the impression we receive from St. John's narrative), yet, on the other hand, there are many cases of undesigned harmony which afford positive evidence of their historical accuracy and truthfulness. (See Appendix, p. 287.)

CHAPTER III.

“THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW.

1. Authorship. St. MATTHEW's Gospel has been described by one who can scarcely be accused of partiality (M. Renan) as “the most important book of Christendom—the most important book that has ever been written.” Its importance is derived, not from the genius of the writer, but from the grandeur of the subject. According to the unanimous tradition of the ancient Church, as preserved in the title which this Gospel has borne ever since the second century and confirmed by the testimony of the early Church Fathers beginning with Papias in the first half of the second century, the writer of the book was Matthew, one of the twelve apostles. But for his authorship of this book, Matthew would have been one of the least-known of the apostles, as neither Scripture nor tradition gives us much information regarding him. Not a single word or act of his after he became a disciple of our Lord is recorded in the Gospels; and in the Book of Acts his name is never mentioned after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He is evidently to be identified with Levi the publican, 1 ix. 9, 10:

And as Jesus passed by his house, and many publicans and sinfrom thence, he saw a man, called Mat- ners sat down with Jesus and his disthew, sitting at the place of toll : and he ciples : for there were many, and they saith unto him, Follow me. And he followed him.” Luke v. 27-29: arose and followed him. And it came after these things he went forth, and beto pass, as he sat at meat in the house, held a publican, named Levi, sitting at behold, many publicans and sinners the place of toll, and said unto him, came and sat down with Jesus and his

Follow me. And he forsook all, and disciples." Mark ii. 14, 15:“And as rose up and followed him. And Levi he passed by, he saw Levi the son of made him a great feast in his house: Alphæus sitting at the place of toll, and and there was a great multitude of pubhe saith unto him, Follow me. And he licans and of others that were sitting at arose and followed him. And it came meat with them." to pass, that he was sitting at meat in

С

[ocr errors]

66 And

« ÎnapoiContinuați »