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REPLY TO CHAPTER XVI.
The Authorship of the Gospels—The Gospels do not purport to have been written
by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-Diverse Renderings in Manuscripts of the Scriptures—Orthodox Authority—Original Purity of Text of Scripture Early Lost—Catholic Authority-The Bible does not prove itself— Translations of Scripture-Miracles.
As prefatory to our reply to Chapter XVI. of the “Notes,” we observe, that here is a subject, the authorship of the Gospels, worthy the pen of the profound scholar and of the most astute and searching criticism. No one who loves truth desires victory at the expense of truth. Moreover men love certainty; they are too lazy to accept bullion when the ready coin is equally convenient; to formulate by laborious process, even in matters of faith, when a perfectly infallible formula is at hand. If the Bible be an unerring guide in all matters of faith and practice, or if there be a divinely commissioned priesthood that will lead us to a knowledge of all spiritual truth necessary to our happiness here and hereafter, all sane men, being assured of the fact, will rejoice and prefer certainty to doubt and speculation. Doubt is not captiousness, investigation is not the child of prejudice, but the issue of a wedlock between truth and the human soul, consecrated by the purest and holiest love.
Who wrote the Gospels ? On such a question as this we had expected, at least, dignified reasoning and learned criticism. We were disappointed. In place thereof we find ireful captiousness and, in the main, assertion substituted for proof, statement for argument.
Ingcrsöll.—“ The fact is, no one knows who made the 'statements of the evangelists.'
“There are three important manuscripts upon which the Christian world relies. “The first appeared in the Catalogue of the Vatican in 1475. This contains the Old Testament. Of the New it contains the four Gospels--the Acts, the seven Catholic Epistles, nine of the Pauline Epistles, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, as far as the fourteenth verse of the ninth chapter,'—and nothing more. This is known as the Codex Vatican. The second, the Alexandrine, was presented to King Charles the First, in 1628. It contains the Old and New Testaments, with some exceptions; passages are wanting in Matthew, in John, and in 2d Corinthians. It also contains the Epistles of Clemens Romanus, a letter of Athanasius, and the treatise of Eusebius on the Psalms. The last is the Sinaitic Codex, discovered about 1850, at the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. It contains the Old and New Testaments, and in addition the entire Epistle of Barnabas, and a portion of the Shepherd of Hermas—two books which, up to the beginning of the fourth century, were looked upon by many as Scripture.' In this manuscript, or codex, the Gospel of St. Mark concludes with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, leaving out the frightful passage : 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.'”
Lambert.—“The fact is, there can be no reasonable doubt whatever that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospels attributed to them. ... You have as good reason, and no better, to say that no one knows who wrote Shakespeare, “Paradise Lost," the Divine Comedy of Dante, Cæsar, Livy, Tacitus, Josephus or Homer. No one ever doubts that those books were written by the authors to whom they are attributed."
Certainly as to Homer and Shakespeare the Father is in fault. But waiving this, is there no difference in the amount of proof which a just criticism requires in establishing the authenticity of the Gospels and of the works referred to ? The works of Shakespeare, Livy, Tacitus, etc., are professedly merely human productions, written to regale the imagination and to teach us the facts of history, while the Gospels speak to us as from the skies. They come freighted with a record of miracles and wonders stupendous. They tell us of ụnseen worlds and of spirits and angels intangible. They assure us of facts for which we find no parallel in human experience, and above all, aver that, unless we believe these things, and submit to a certain ceremonial rite—as to which the Christian world is at sad variance, both as to mode and effect—we shall be damned; that is, cast into a lake of fire, to there "burn forever unconsumed.” Moreover these writers do not agree among themselves.* Such being the case, our eternal interests demand that we should know both who speaks and by what authority we are addressed. There are many different renderings of the text of Shakespeare ; but one would suppose that if God inspired a book on the acceptance of which the salvation of a world depended, it would not only be free from ambiguity but that its authorship would be placed beyond dispute, and its text preserved from liability to mutilation and interpolation. That which is intended as a "lamp unto the feet, and a light unto the path,” should give forth no dim nor deflected rays. The poor wanderer in the swamps and morasses of
. error, when he casts his longing gaze over the drear expanse, should be able to know the beacon light which is set to guide
* We are told that circumstantial variety with sạbstantial agreement in the testimony of witnesses is a proof of their veracity. But what of circumstantial contradiction, and of irreconcilable statements ?
him to the haven of safety from the ignis fatuus which leads on to ruin.
Lambert.—"The more important the contents of a book are to mankind the more surely will its genuineness be admitted or denied from the beginning.”
Such is the case in periods of advanced civilization; but uneducated and barbarous peoples are so prone to superstition and to an unquestioning faith that they are ever ready to seize upon anything as true which ministers to their love of the marvellous. The
age in which the Gospels were written was not a critical age. The art of printing was then unknown; copying was laborious, and a belief in necromancy, demonology and witchcraft was held by Jews and Gentiles alike. In popular belief miraculous powers were supposed to be possessed by good and bad alike, though derived from different sources.
Is the present age willing to receive the legends of those times with the same implicit credence that they do the leading facts of history and science about the truth of which the educated minds of the world are in substantial accord? Why ignore facts? Why forget that this is not only the iron and golden but par excellence the typographical age ? That laborious research has unsealed the repertories of the past and brought to light treasures of knowledge which have been hidden from the wisdom of ages? We know more of ancient Egypt than the average Egyptian knew of his own times and country; more of Galilee, of its faiths and hopes, and fears, than those who fished in its waters and struck their tents by its shores; more of the mysticism of the past than those who waved the magic wand, held converse with familiar spirits and traced by the trackless stars the course of human destiny. And yet let us not indulge in vainglory. We have
only begun to learn-only taken our first lesson in the hornbook of knowledge. But in the light of our present advancement and of our knowledge of the past, how futile to say: “ It is a remarkable fact that the authenticity or genuineness of the four Gospels was never brought in question until modern times, and then only by a few infidels; and even these confine themselves to bold, naked, groundless statements.”
In the first place, little attention was paid to the small sect of “ despised Galileans." It was only after Christianity had become a power that special notice was taken of it. At Christ's death the number of the disciples, as far as Scripture informs us, was about one hundred and twenty (Acts i. 15). It does not follow because the "crime of unbelief," or heresy, was punished, that those who inflicted the penalty cared to look critically into the history or tenets of the offender. The mouth of the dissenter was gagged, his books burned, and hitself tortured and slain. What use had orthodoxy for other argument than fagot, wedge and thumb-screw? What had theology to do with the doctrines of “infidels,” or history, save by a passing notice, with a record of their lives and sufferings? They were criminals. They dared to think ; "away with them to the dungeon and the rack!” The Jews were intolerant of Christianity, and Christian professors in turn persecuted Jew and infidel.
Lambert.-" The genuineness of the four Gospels was never brought in question until modern times." "Modern times" is exceedingly indefinite; but, if so, why were they not questioned? There is no evidence that, when the Gospels were written, they bore on their face any evidence that they were composed or claimed to have been written by the authors to whom they are now ascribed. Justin speaks of them as the “memoirs of the apostles," although neither Mark nor Luke were apostl
“But all additions are later and presuppose