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Passages from the First Canonical Gospel, sup-
posed to form the Original Hebrew Gospel written
by Matthew the Apostle, translated into English ;
with an Introduction.

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EVERY Christian desires to obtain as accurate a knowledge as possible of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and in consequence treasures the gospels in which he finds those teachings recorded. Criticism has shown us however that there is very great difficulty in deciding how far certain verses, and even certain chapters, in these gospels are to be depended on as genuine, since the authorship of the gospels, the process by which they came into their present form, and the extent to which additions have been made to them by later hands, are all matters on which the learned differ in opinion. Remembering these facts, many persons are almost in despair of obtaining any exact and trustworthy information as to what Christ taught; they feel as though the foundations of Christianity were shaken. To meet this difficulty, I here aim at producing a translation of the earliest Christian Scripture containing the teachings of Christ, and giving the discourses of Jesus, as they were preserved by one of the Apostles. How far there is sufficient ground for supposing this can be done, the reader must judge from the contents of these introductory pages. If there is even an approach towards success in the undertaking, the result will be full of interest and instruction to every religious thinker.

2. The origin and mutual relations of the first three gospels form a problem that has been the subject of much critical investigation. The clue to its solution is furnished by Dr. Réville in his “EtudeCritiques sur l'Evangile selon S. Matthieu.” To that work I refer those who wish to pursue the investigation, merely stating here its result. This is—that our Arst gospel, as it now stands in the Greek Testament, consists of four parts; 1. A collection of the discourses of Jesus, first written in Hebrew by Matthew, and here translated into Greek; 2. An anecdotic gospel, written by Mark, of which the second canonical gospel is for the most part a reproduction ; 3. A certain number of traditionary narratives; 4. Some additions introduced by the writer who reduced the whole into its present form. The two latter parts comprise only a very small proportion of the whole.

The general tradition of antiquity informs us that Matthew wrote in Hebrew. Especially Papias, who lived in the former half of the second century, says “Matthew wrote the discourses in the Hebrew language, and each one translated them as he could." The first canonical gospel contains discourses of Jesus, which answer to the description of Papias, and when you take these away, the remainder corresponds very nearly with the second canonical gospel. These passages, which do not appear in the second gospel, have a peculiar character of their own, and one that is entirely in favour of the supposition that they are the work of Matthew. The theory that thus accounts for the peculiar relations of the two first gospels has the general assent of modern critics in its favour, and may be regarded as established.

We have then in these "Discourses” of Jesus, written originally in Hebrew, by Matthew (or Levi) one of the first Christian writings ever produced, and the earliest record of the teachings of the Founder of our Religion.


If the first canonical gospel, as we possess it, is founded on “discourses of Jesus” written by Matthew, is it possible to separate the component parts ? Can we, by a process of analysis, obtain the original work of Matthew? In answer to these questions, it has been already pointed out that there is in the first gospel a series of discourses, which have nothing corresponding to them in the second gospel; and that when we take away these discourses from the first, what is left corresponds nearly entirely with the second, while portions of the discourses are found scattered through the third, gospel. Now the passages thus peculiar to the first gospel have, as I have said, a character of their own; they contain the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” 32 times, while it is never found in the second gospel;—the phrase "Father in heaven,” 22 times, while it occurs only once in the second gospel. Besides these and other verbal peculiarities, they have a special reference throughout to the establishment of a coming reign of the Messiah, and are marked by a prevailing Judaism of tone. On these grounds Dr. Réville indicates certain portions of the first gospel, as being translations of the Hebrew “discourses of Jesus,” which was the work of Matthew. I have for the most part adopted his conclusions, omitting only a few verses as to which there seemed some doubt, because I desire to include no sections which may not with tolerable certainty be attributed to Matthew.


The “discourses” written by Matthew, seem to have formed a systematic whole, with a specific design, namely to exhibit the teachings of Jesus in regard to a coming “kingdom of heaven.” This is spoken of as though it was about to be established in some external, visible form, and its benefits were to be confined to a certain portion of mankind, those prepared at its establishment, for its reception. At the same time many expressions are used which seem appropriate only to a spiritual influence. That Jesus had come on earth to inaugurate this kingdom, and that he would, ere long, come again to consummate it, seems the central idea. Dr. Réville regards the Seven Discourses as all distinctly referable to this central idea, and names them 1. The Legislation, 2. The Propagation, 3. The Apology, 4. The Description, 5. The Hierarchy or the Internal Relations, 6. The Maledictions, 7. The Establishment. This is probably an attempt to attribute to the “discourses,” a definite system more appropriate to a modern French theologian than to an ancient Hebrew apostle. But it is possible to trace some thread of unity running through the whole, and the perception of this adds to the interest with which we study the successive discourses. I have attempted, in the analysis, to indicate the general scope and intention of the writing, but I have kept the analysis separate from the translation of the writing itself, that this may be left without interference to produce its due impression on the mind of the reader.

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