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themselves on this head, is that of men who had the certain knowledge of what they affirm, and therefore consider it as indisputable.
9. It would be endless to bring authorities: Jerom, Augustin, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Eusebius, and many others, all attest the same thing, and attest it in such a manner as shows that they knew it to be uncontroverted, and judged it to be uncontrovertible. "But," say some modern disputants, "all the witnesses you can produce in support of this fact may, for aught we know, be reducible to one. Ireneus, perhaps, has had his information only from Papias; and Origen from Papias and Ireneus; and so of all the rest downwards, how numerous soever; so that the whole evidence may be, at bottom, no more than the testimony of Papias." But is the positive evidence of witnesses, delivered as of a well-known fact, to be overturned by a mere supposition, a perhaps? for that the case was really as they suppose, no shadow of evidence is pretended. Papias is not quoted on this article by Ireneus, nor is his name mentioned, or his testimony referred to. Nor is the testimony of either urged by Origen. As to Ireneus, from the early period in which he lived, he had advantages for information little inferior to those of Papias, having been, in his younger years, well acquainted with Polycarp the disciple of the apostle John. Had there then subsisted any account or opinion contradictory to the account given by Papias, Ireneus must certainly have known it, and would probably have mentioned it, either to confirm or to confute it. As the matter, stands, we have here a perfect unanimity of the witnesses, not a single contradictory voice: no mention is there, either from those fathers or from any other ancient writer, that ever another account of this matter had been heard of in the church. Shall we then admit a mere modern hypothesis to overturn the foundations of all historic evidence?
10. Let it be observed that Papias, in the words quoted from him, attested two things; that Matthew wrote the Gospel ascribed to him, and that he wrote it in Hebrew. These two points rest on the same bottom, and are equally, as matter of fact, the subjects of testimony. As to both, the authority of Papias has been equally supported by succeeding authors, and by the concurrent voice of antiquity. Now there has not any thing been advanced to invalidate his testimony, in regard to the latter of these, that may not, with equal justice, be urged to invalidate his testimony in regard to the former. This may be extended also to other points; for, that Mark was the writer of the Gospel commonly ascribed to him, rests ultimately on the same authority. How arbitrary then is it, where the evidence is the same, and exposed to the same objections, to admit the one without hesitation, and to reject the other? Wetstein, for removing this difficulty, has suggested a distinction, insinuating,
that the former may be the testimony of Papias, the latter only his conjecture. But if the words of Papias himself be attended to, no conjecture was ever worse founded than this of Wetstein. Papias speaks of both in the same affirmative tone, as of matters of public notoriety.
I shall conclude the argument with observing, that the truth of the report that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, is the only plausible account that can be given of the rise of that report. Certain it is, that all the prejudices of the times, particularly among the Greek Christians, were unfavourable to such an opinion. Soon after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, the Hebrew church, distinguished by the name Nazarene, visibly declined every day: the attachment which many of them still retained to the ceremonies of the law, in like manner the errors of the Ebionites and other divisions which arose among them, made them soon be looked upon by the Gentile churches as but halfchristian at the most. That an advantage of this kind would have been so readily conceded to them by the Greeks, in opposition to all their own prejudices, can be attributed only to their full conviction of the fact.
11. Dr. Lardner's doubts (for I can discover none in Origen) are easily accounted for. Averse, on one hand, to admit that there is any book in Scripture whereof we have only a translation, and sensible of the danger of acquiescing in an argument which would unsettle the whole foundations of his system of credibility, he is inclinable to compromise the matter by acknowledging both the Hebrew and the Greek to be originals; an opinion every way improbable, and so manifestly calculated to serve a turn, as cannot recommend it to a judicious and impartial critic. In this way of compounding matters, Whitby also, and some other disputants on the same side, seem willing to terminate the difference. Nay, even Beausobre and Lenfant, who have treated the question at more length, and with greater warmth than most others, conclude, somewhat queerly, in this manner: "As there is no dispute affecting the foundation, that is, the authority of St. Matthew's Gospel, such as we have it, the question about the language ought to be regarded with much indifference." *
12. Having said so much on the external evidence, I shall add but a few words to show, that the account of this matter given by the earliest ecclesiastical writers, is not so destitute as some may think of internal probability. In every thing that concerned the introduction of the new dispensation, a particular attention was for some time shown, and the preference, before every other nation, given to the Jews. Our Lord's ministry upon the earth
Ainsi, n'y ayant point de dispute sur le fond de la chose même, c'est-à-dire, sur l'autorité de l'Evangile de S. Matthieu, tel que nous l'avons, la question de la langue doit être regardée avec beaucoup d'indifference. Preface sur S. Matthieu, iii. 5.
was among them only. In the mission of the apostles, during his own life, they were expressly prohibited from going to the Gentiles, or so much as entering any city of the Samaritans, Matt. x. 5; and when, after our Lord's resurrection, the apostolical commission was greatly enlarged, being extended to all nations throughout the world, still a sort of precedency was reserved for God's ancient people. "It behoved the Messiah," said Jesus, in his last instructions to the apostles, "to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM," Luke xxiv. 46, 47. The orders then given were punctually executed. The apostles remained some time in Jerusalem, preaching, and performing miracles in the name of the Lord Jesus, with wonderful success. Peter, in the conclusion of one of his discourses, without flattering his countrymen that this dispensation of grace would, like the law, be confined to their nation, takes notice of their prerogative, in having it first offered to their acceptance: " TO YOU FIRST," says he, "God, having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities," Acts iii. 26. And when the disciples began to spread their Master's doctrine through the neighbouring regions, we know, that till the illumination they received in the affair of Cornelius, which was several years after, they confined their teaching to their countrymen the Jews. And, even after that memorable event, wherever the apostles came, they appear first to have repaired to the synagogue, if there was a synagogue in the place, and to have addressed themselves to those of the circumcision, and afterwards to the Gentiles. What Paul and Barnabas said to their Jewish brethren at Antioch, sets this matter in the strongest light': "It Was NECESSARY that the word of God should FIRST HAVE BEEN SPOKEN TO YOU: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles," Acts xiii. 46. Have we not then reason to conclude, from the express order, as well as from the example of our Lord, and from the uniform practice of his disciples, that it was suitable to the will of Providence, in this dispensation of grace, that every advantage should be first offered to the Jews, especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and that the gospel which had been first delivered to them by word, both by our Lord himself and by his apostles, should be also first presented to them in writing, in that very dialect in which many of the readers, at the time of the publication, might remember to have heard the same sacred truths, as they came from the mouth of him who spake as never man spake, the great oracle of the Father, the interpreter of God?
13. If the merciful dispensation was in effect soon frustrated by their defection, this is but of a piece with what happened in regard to all the other advantages they enjoyed. The sacred
deposit was first corrupted among them, and afterwards it disappeared for that the Gospel according to the Hebrews, used by the Nazarenes, (to which, as the original, Jerom sometimes had recourse, and which, he tells us, he had translated into Greek and Latin,) and that the Gospel also used by the Ebionites, were, though greatly vitiated and interpolated, the remains of Matthew's original, will, notwithstanding the objections of Mill and others, hardly bear a reasonable doubt. Their loss of this Gospel proved the prelude to the extinction of that church. But we have reason to be thankful, that what was most valuable in the work is not lost to the Christian community. The version we have in Greek is written with much evangelical simplicity, entirely in the idiom and manner of the apostles. And I freely acknowledge, that if the Hebrew Gospel were still extant, such as it was in the days of Jerom, or even of Origen, we should have much more reason to confide the authenticity of the common Greek translation, than in that of an original wherewith such unbounded freedoms had been taken. The passages quoted by the ancients from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which are not to be found in the Gospel according to Matthew, bear intrinsic marks, the most unequivocal, of the baseness of their origin.
14. It may be proper here to inquire a little more particularly what language it was that the ancient ecclesiastical writers meant by Hebrew, when they spoke of the original of this Gospel. I should have scarcely thought this inquiry necessary, had I not observed that this matter has been more misunderstood, even by authors of some eminence, than I could have imagined. Beausobre and Lenfant, in particular, go so far as to argue against the probability of the fact, because what we commonly call Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, was not then spoken either in Palestine or anywhere else, being understood only by the learned. And that the common language of the country was not meant, they conclude from the use which Eusebius, who calls the original of Matthew's Gospel Hebrew, makes of the word Syriac, when he says of Bardasenes that he was eloquent in the Syrian language. "Thus," say they, "he knew how to distinguish between Hebrew and the language of the country, which he calls Syriac." But in this these critics themselves have unluckily fallen into a mistake, in supposing that Syriac was, in the time of our Lord and his apostles, or during the subsistence of the Jewish polity, the language of Palestine. That their language at that time had a mixture of the Syrian language is acknowledged, but not that it was the same. It was what Jerom very aptly calls Syro-chaldaic, having an affinity to both languages, but much more to the Chaldean than to the Syrian. It was, in short, the language which the Jews brought with them from Hier. Com. in Matt. lib. i. cap. 16. Matt. vi. 11. N.
Babylon after the captivity, blended with that of the people whom they found, at their return, in the land, and in the neighbouring regions. It is this which is invariably called Hebrew in the New Testament; I might have said, in Scripture no language whatever being so named in the Old Testament. It is denominated Hebrew, as Lightfoot has from some rabbinical writings with great probability suggested;* because the language of the persons who returned from captivity would readily be called, by those who possessed the land, lingua transfluviana, or transeuphratensis, the language of the people beyond the Euphrates, the river which they had passed in returning to their own country; and the name, as often happens, would be retained, when the language was much altered. We are surprised, indeed, to find this learned author, in another place,† in contradiction to this, maintaining that the Syriac was the mother-tongue of the Jews after the captivity; and still more to observe, that he advances some things on the subject, which will be found, if attended to, totally to subvert his argument.
15. Abram was in Canaan called the Hebrew, Gen. xiv. 13. for this reason, probably, because he was from the farthest side of the great river, not because he was descended from Heber, one indeed in the line of his progenitors, but one of whom nothing remarkable is mentioned to distinguish him from the rest. Heber was neither the first after the sons of Noah, nor the immediate father of the patriarch. Accordingly, the word is, in that passage where Abram is so named, which is the first time it occurs, rendered by the Seventy & Tεparns, transitor. The Canaanites, amongst whom he sojourned, appear to have used the name Hebrew in a manner similar to that wherein the Italians use the word Tramontani for all who live north of the Alps. The peculiarity, in respect both of religions and of customs, which continued in Abram's posterity in the line of Jacob, and prevented them from mingling with other nations, or adopting their manners, must have been the reason why this appellation was given to the descendants in continuance, which in strictness was applicable to the first comers only. But let it be observed, that though this term was very early used of the nation, it was not applied to the language brought by Abram and his family from Ur of the Chaldees; a language which they soon lost, acquiring in its stead that of the Canaanites, amongst whom they lived. Abram's tongue, was doubtless Chaldee, that of the country whence he came. But we learn from the sacred historian, that Jacob his grandson (though he could not fail to understand that language, having lived so long with Laban) spoke at home a different tongue. Laban called the heap which they had raised Jegar-sahadutha; but Jacob called it Galeed, Gen. xxxi. 47. Both names signify the same thing, the heap of testimony; the
Hor. Heb. Jo. v. 2.
+ Hor. Heb. Matt. i. 23.