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a collection of the Gospels” (“ Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge,” vol. i., p. 268). *
So we may infer, on the highest authority, that the titles, "The Gospel according to Matthew,” etc., were not placed there when the Gospels were written, but at some future time, no one knows' by whoni.
Lambert.—“These Gospels were received in the earliest times as genuine, and were quoted by the earliest Christian writers as the works of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
Yet it is a fact that the earliest Christian apologist, Justin Martyr, though he quotes from words contained in Matthew, Mark and Luke (never once from John and only once from Mark), yet does not mention the name of either, but quotes almost exclusively from Christ's words (“ Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge,” vol. ii., p. 1220). Justin also says, these writings were also called Gospels and were written by the apostles or their companions. Thus we see that in the earliest approach to the times of the apostles there seemed to be no definite idea in the mind of a Christian author and saint as to who were the writers of the first four books of the New Testament. Had the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John been prefixed to those works, or had they been popularly known as the writers thereof, would not Saint Justin Martyr have referred to them as such ? We are told that Celsus who lived in the second century, Porphyry who lived in the third, and Julian who lived in the fourth, referred to these books as having been written by their reputed authors. If so it proves nothing to the purpose; for between the times those books were written and the writers referred to lived and wrote, there
* As I shall have frequent occasion to refer to this scholarly and exhaustive work, I will say that its authors are not infidels but Christians; one of whom is the learned Philip Schaff, D. D., Professor in Union Theological Seminary, N. Y.
was ample time for some one to write over these books what was not originally there, i. e., "Gospel according to,” etc. But who were those men who earliest attested the authorship of the first four books of the New Testament? Honest men, no doubt, but were they careful in their methods and clear and rational in their conceptions of religious truth? Were they free from the fanciful notions common to their age? I quote from “ Mosheim's Church History,” Part II., chapter iii., a work of the most rigid orthodox stamp: “But the 'Expositions of the Revelations' by Justin Martyr, and of the four Gospels by Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, together with several illustrations of the Mosaic history of the creation by other ancient writers, are lost. The loss of these ancient productions is the less to be regretted, as we know, with certainty, their vast inferiority to the expositions of the Holy Scriptures that appeared in succeeding times. Among the persons already mentioned none deserved the name of an able and judicious interpreter of the sacred text. They all attributed a double sense to the words of Scripture; the one obvious and literal, the other hidden and mysterious, which lay concealed, as it were, under the veil of the outward letter. The former they treated with the utmost neglect and turned the whole force of their genius and application to unfold the latter. Or, in other words, they were more studious to darken the Scriptures with their idle fictions than to investigate their true and natural sense. Some of them also forced the expressions of sacred writ out of their obvious meaning in order to apply them to the support of their philosophical systems; of which dangerous and pernicious attempts Clemens of Alexandria is said to have given the first example.”
Irenæus also, a learned and devout Christian Father, bears ample testimony to the “four and no niore” of the Gospel writers. His reasons seem to the unlettered mind of the present as queer. Yet he was a pillar of the ancient church, and he shall speak for himself: "It is impossible,” he says, “ that the Gospels can be more or less than they are. For as there are four zones in the world we inhabit, and four principal winds, while the church is spread abroad throughout the earth, and the pillars and basis of the church are the gospel and the spirit of life, it is right that she should have four pillars, exhaling immortality on every side, and restoring renewed vitality on men. From which fact it follows that the word has given us four versions of the Gospels written by one Spirit."
But what has all this to do with the question of authorship? "Much every way," for these are the witnesses called, and we wish to see whether they have level heads; whether they are matter-of-fact men, who testify to facts only, or whether, even though honest, they are so imbued with a spirit of a romantic theology that they are liable to mistake their own fanciful notions for the truths of history.
But supposing that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the Gospels, are we certain they wrote them in their entirety as we have them now? We are certain they did not. We hear the Bible called “God's Book," as if it had been written as a unit, as one entire work, all of the parts to be bound to. gether according to the present order of arrangement, and translated as we have it in the “authorized version.” And yet the books of both the Old and New Testaments were written at various times, by different authors, very generally for a specific and temporary purpose, with no direction as to future use or disposition; and, as to the four Gospels, without any pretence of divine direction. Not only so, but not until the sixteenth century did the Catholic Church settle for itself the Canon of Scripture, and it is well known that the Council of Trent then incorporated into the canon several books which the Protestant world regards as apocryphal.
Which is right? Has the Catholic Church added spurious works to the word of God? or has the Protestant Church eliminated therefrom portions of the sacred text? Catholics believe in their Bible, which the laity seldom read, because the church says it is inspired; Protestants, because they are instructed so to believe by parents and preachers. Yet how few of either class can name or number the books of the Bible, much less give one satisfactory reason for believing in the authenticity or inspiration of any particular book contained in the Scriptures! But let us return to the question; are we certain that we possess the Scriptures as they were originally written ? Here let me say that I will not refer, in discussing this point, to infidel but to Christian authorities. I quote from “Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge," vol. i., pp. 268– 270: “Before the final close of the canon (end of the fourth century) there were probably few single manuscripts of the entire New Testament. [Of the thousand known manuscripts of the New Testament only about thirty include all the books.] Some of those of the fourth and fifth centuries, now preserved, contain not only the Greek Old Testament but also writings which, though not canonical, were read in the churches and studied by catechumens, . . . the arrangement of the Epistles differed; indeed, there were no models. . . . Turning to the internal history of the New Testament text it is evident that its original perfect purity was early lost. The quotations of the latter half of the second century contain readings which agree with later texts, but are not apostolic. Irenæus alludes (Adv. hær. v. 30, § I.) to the difference between the copies; and Origen, early in the third century, expressly declares that matters are growing worse and worse (in. Matt. tom. xv. 14), as is proved by the quotations of the Fathers of the third and fourth centuries. From this time on we have the manuscript text of each century: the writings of the Fathers, the various Oriental and Occidental versions, all testifying to varieties of reading for almost every verse, which undoubtedly occasioned many more or less important departures from the sense of the original text. How came this? The carly church did not know anything of that anxious clinging to the letter which characterizes the scientific rigor and piety of modern times, and, therefore, were not so bent on preserving the exact words. Moreover, the first copies were made rather for private than for public use : copyists were careless, often wrote from dictation, and were liable to misunderstand. Attempted improvements of the text in grammar and style; proposed corrections in history and geography; efforts to harmonize the quotations in the New Testament with the Greek of the Septuagint, but especially to harmonize the Gospels; the writing out of abbreviations; incorporation of marginal notes in the text; the embellishing of the Gospel narratives with stories drawn from non-apostolic though trustworthy sources (e. g., John vii. 53 to viii. 11, and Mark xvi. 9 to end)—it is to these causes that we must attribute the very numerous readings or textual variations.”
Thus we learn from the fathers of the church, and from some of the ablest orthodox critics of the age, that we are not and cannot be certain which of the multitudinous manuscripts (over a thousand in number, with different readings, amounting to tens of thousands) is correct, or whether either is entirely genuine. These differences extend to words, to phrases, to parts of chapters, and to whole chapters. In our revised edition we are told in regard to Mark xvi. that the two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some other authorities, omit from the gth verse to the end of the chapter, and that some other authorities have a different ending to the Gospel. In the same edition, of John vii. and viii. all of the verses from the 53d of the former to the 11th of the latter are treated as