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decided for the authenticity of the Synoptic Gospels
-at all events, for their general correctness and trustworthiness as to the teaching of Jesus. Thus, while all whose opinions are worth regarding deem the “Sermon on the Mount" and the main teaching of the first three Gospels authentic relics of the real Jesus—see, for example, our foregoing quotation from Mr. Gladstone (who is a good type of the Conservative theologian), where he deems that the Synoptics represent most truly the general tenour of Jesus' life, and that the fourth Gospel gives the exceptional teachingwhile all, as we said above, regard the Synoptics as in the main authentic, very many critics of the highest eminence regard the fourth Gospel as being substantially unauthentic and unreliable. The preponderance, then, of modern judgment, taking men of all shades of opinion, is in favour of the Synoptic Gospels, as compared with the fourth. There is a preponderance, taking quantity alone : if the quality of the critics is also considered, the weight in the synoptic scale is greatly increased ;* and as for all those who hold both to the Synoptic Gospels and the fourth,-in our judgment, by so doing they convict themselves of defective critical sagacity, or of holding what they possess in abeyance, in not perceiving the radical contrariety and divergence between the two.
* For instance, both Strauss and Baur decided for the relative merit of the Synoptics, and especially of Matthew as against John. See Strauss' “ Life of Jesus for the People," vol. i. p. 152. Authorized Translation. Williams and Norgate.
There is another circumstance, seemingly trivial, which tells in favour of Matthew. The term "gospel,”—good tidings,—was first applied to the announcement of the Messiah's speedy coming—“The kingdom of heaven is at hand." In that phrase we have the good tidings spread by the Baptist and by Jesus—the gospel of the kingdom, of which, in the last of the evangelical narratives, there is scarcely a trace. It was, therefore, the preaching of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God and his righteousness to which the term "gospel" originally applied, and not to a biography of Jesus, combining the incidents of his life with the teaching.
We want, then, the intermediate steps by which the designation “gospel” was transferred from the teaching respecting the kingdom to the biography. The most important link would be supplied did we know that the discourses of Jesus concerning the coming kingdom of heaven had first been published without any account of his life. Such a collection of the sayings or teachings of Jesus would very properly have been termed “the Gospel according to St. Matthew," or whoever first made the collection. It is conceivable that the incidents, real or supposed, of the life might have been afterwards combined with such a collection of the teachings, and the title “Gospel according to Matthew” still retained.
Now, the very earliest patristic authority, that of Papias, may be cited in favour of the actual occurrence of this. Papias wrote a book entitled “Exposition of the Lord's oracles " “ about the middle of the second century," says the author of “Supernatural Religion,” but Professor Plumptre, “ Boyle Lectures,” 1866, p. 41, dates it earlier, thus—“Papias (A.D. 120140) is said by Eusebius to have written a commentary on the words or oracles of the Lord. This implies the existence of one or more collections. Two of these he specifies : ‘Matthew wrote his oracles in Hebrew; Mark was the interpreter of Peter, and wrote what he remembered of the acts and words of Christ faithfully, though not in a formal order.”
Alluding to these words of Papias, the author of "Supernatural Religion” says (vol. i. p. 466), “Papias clearly distinguishes the work of Mark, who had written reminiscences of what Jesus had said and done, from that of Matthew, who had made a collection of his discourses.”
According to Schleiermacher and others, the phrase 'the oracles' used by Papias denotes a collection of our Lord's remarkable sayings written in Hebrew, which were subsequently extended and explained by the addition of facts and circumstances belonging to time and place.” *
Neander, too, says pretty much the same in his “Life of Jesus Christ” (p. 7, Bohn's series). “Matthew's gospel, in its present form, was not the production of the apostle whose name it bears, but was ounded on an account written by him in the Hebrew language, chiefly—but not wholly—for the purpose of presenting the discourses of Christ in a collective form."
* Dr. Davidson's “ Introduction to the Study of the New Testament,"
For this qualifying expression “but not wholly” the words of Papias supply no warrant. The evidence we have given above proves, as far as it goes, that the work of Matthew was a collection of the sayings, i.e. the teaching or preaching of Jesus (though it is likely enough to have contained indications of when and where uttered); and as we know that the preaching of Jesus was termed “the gospel,” and that the term “gospel” was originally confined to the preaching of “the kingdom,” there is every probability that the work of Matthew was usually spoken of as “the Gospel according to Matthew," written either in Hebrew or Aramaic, and serving as the nucleus or the primary source, as far as the teaching of Jesus is concerned, of our Greek canonical Matthew. For our first Gospel, according to the most competent critics, is practically another and distinct work, whose sources probably were—for the acts of Jesus, besides floating tradition, the various gospels styled “of the Nazarenes, Hebrews," etc., and for the teachings the work alluded to by Papias,—and as it thus embodied or contained a translation of "the Gospel according to Matthew,” that became eventually the only name by which the complete work was known, which work we now possess, subject to many interpolations and omissions, which do not, however, affect its chief characteristics.
Now, tradition gives no hint of any publication of the teaching alone, other than that ascribed to Matthew, who, as a collector of taxes, is the most likely of the original apostles, as far as ability to write is concerned and as far as we are able to judge, to have committed to writing any record of Jesus' teaching. And thus it is that the substance of the teaching of Jesus contained in the first Gospel has more reliable evidence of its authenticity than that contained in the other Synoptics (where they differ), and that there is more evidence for the authenticity of the teaching than of the acts or incidents recorded even in the first Gospel itself. But when the teaching of this first Gospel is compared with that of the fourth, and is found to be wholly different and in many respects contrary thereto, we cannot hesitate for the reasons given above, and others yet to follow, in wholly rejecting anything in the fourth that is not in accord with the first, and in attaching probability to anything in the later Gospel only so far as it accords with the earlier, so that practically, as authority for the life or teaching of Jesus, the fourth Gospel is valueless, and must be dismissed from our inquiry.
Before quitting it we will, however, notice another point or two which may help to dispel any lingering doubt still remaining in the minds of such readers as have followed us hitherto.
Respecting John the Baptist we have the authority of Josephus, who may surely be entitled to the casting vote between the Gospels. Now, Josephus terms him “the Baptist," as well as do each of our Synoptic