Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

have been written in an entire independence of each other. The greater part of the former would appear to have been drawn from the writer's own experience and oral tradition; and the greater part of the latter from concise written accounts or memoranda which had been prepared by others. That which is common to both Gospels may be explained in part by supposing that the writers followed a similar form of oral communication which prevailed in the different circles of their Christian intercourse, and, in part, by supposing that in some few instances in which the agreement is more exact, they were acquainted with the same written sources of information. In this way we could account

the similarity to each other which they exhibit; and yet this would seem to have been produced without any direct connection between them. In the case of Mark, however, there may have been an immediate use of the other Gospels. He coincides to such an extent with Matthew and Luke, that the accordance can. not well be explained without supposing that he had a knowledge of their writings. His conformity to Matthew is, on the whole perhaps, more striking than to Luke; and if it would be too much to affirm that Mark wrote his Gospel with both the other Evangelists before him, yet this may be assumed not without · probability as regards Matthew. Such, in few words, is the view of Olshausen. Here it will be observed, a mutual use of the Evangelists is recognized within certain limits; something is attributed to the force of tradition, and something also to the existence of written accounts, prior to the composition of our present Gospels. In the other modes of explanation, these several causes were represented as acting singly; in this instance they are united, and produce the effect whose origin is sought for by their joint operation. Others may modify the theory by assigning to the agencies in question a somewhat different relative power; but variations of this kind do not require a separate notice.

We have adverted to this topic chiefly on account of its own intrinsic interest; but it may serve at the same time as one example of the many important, critical inquiries which the synoptical study of the Gospels presents to our attention. No one who studies the Evangelists or professes to study them, without a constant and rigid comparison with each other, can either form any adequate idea of the nature and extentof the labor, or will ever acquire any other than the most superficial knowledge of this branch of biblical criticism. No distinct, well defined image of the Saviour's life

1846.] Necessity of harmonizing the Gospels.

17 can possibly be formed in the mind without it. The single incidents which compose his history, may be recollected; but they can exist in the memory only as a confused heap, without method or vividness. It is incumbent on us to study the Gospels in this manner, as believers in their authenticity and truth. One of the first written objections to Christianity, of which we have any account, was that the Evangelists contradict each other, and thus destroy the credibility of their testimony. Porphyry, in the third century, had already taken in this respect the position which Strauss has re-assumed at the present time. We are challenged to defend our faith against this accusation. If the Gospels contain an authentie history, they must be consistent both with the truth and with one another. They are confessedly merely frag. mentary records; and human knowledge when improved to the utmost is still imperfect. But, though for these reasons, we may not be able to clear the subject of all obscurity, we are bound to show that there is no necessary contradiction in the testimony of the sacred writers. We are to meet such opponents; and if their representations are partial, distorted, incorrect, we are to supply deficiencies, correct misstatements, conciliate what is falsely alleged to be inconsistent. And though in a certain class of passages, we may not be able to demonstrate what the actual state of things positively was, yet we must point out at least what it might have been, suggesting those possible conditions under which the veracity of the narrator remains unimpeachable till the contrary be established. much as this is absolutely indispensable to a defence of the credibility of the evangelical history. Nor is this all. The study which we expend upon such an attempt to comprehend the connection of the Gospels with each other, has, in fact, much more than this apologetic value. By subjecting them to the accurate examination and comparison which such an effort requires, we are led to the discovery of numerous incidental coincidences which would otherwise have escaped attention, or at any rate have impressed us with much less force. Such undesigned coincidences form one of the strongest links in the chain of those evidences which support the truth of the Christian Scriptures. They afford one of our most conclusive arguments for showing that these writings are authentic, and that the transactions narrated in them actually took place.

Most of our English works which treat of the Gospels, are sadly deficient in the materials for prosecuting this mode of study.

The remark is specially true in its application to those of a more recent origin. Some of our older commentaries are constructed upon the right principle in this respect; but not being adapted to the present state of critical science, they have now lost much of their value. The later publications are wanting, for the most part, even in a proper recognition of this correspondence of the Gospels to each other. They are here treated very much as if they were held to be separate, independent histories; each is explained in its own place and by itself, or connected with the others only at those more obvious points of contact, which thrust themselves into notice. We have no commentaries illustrative of this part of the New Testament, in which pains are taken to explain real difficulties that arise from a seeming discrepancy of the writers, or to improve those occasions that offer themselves, for illustrating their fidelity from instances of striking agreement. In the exegetical literature of the Germans, this subject occupies a very different position. The Gospels, particularly the first three, are very rarely separated from each other, in their modes of study, whether it be in lectures at the universities, or in published works. Some of them, it is true, labor at this work of comparison for the purpose of discrediting, if possible, the authority of these writings, and others, in order to defend them against such attacks; but this controversy itself shows both their sense of the importance and the importance in fact, which belongs to the subject in dispute between them. In some of their commentaries, as those of Paulus, Glöckler, Olshausen, the corresponding passages of the Evangelists are brought together and explained as parts of one continued narrative; and in those of them which adhere to a separate or constant attention is paid to the manner in which the harmony of the writers is to be made out. In that numerous class of productions called forth in defence of the Gospels against Strauss, this becomes naturally one of the principal topics of consideration. These works furnish a rich fund of material for the study of the Evangelists generally, but for this particular investigation more especially. The results of the most exact philological science, of exegetical skill and extensive historical research, have been concentrated in these writings upon this portion of the Scriptures; and have thus placed us in a situation for illustrating them, superior to that of any preceding period. Among those who have labored in this field and may be consulted by the student with most advantage, are Neander, in his Life of


Recent Works illustrative of the Gospels.


Christ;' Hoffmann, Kuhn, and Osiander, in their work sunder the same title; Tholuck in his Credibility of the Evangelical History; Krabbe in his Lectures on the Life of Christ; Ebrard in his Critique of the Evangelical History, and Wieseler in his Chronologi. cal Synopsis of the Gospels. These works have all the common aim of establishing the true character of the Evangelists, as consistent in their statements both with one another and with the historical and political relations of the period in which they lived. It would be, of course, only in treatises professedly aiming at this, that such a topic could be handled with the fulness which it demands at the present time. It would not comport with the plan of an ordinary commentary.

The publication of the new Harmony of the Greek Gospels, for which we are indebted to Dr. Robinson, will prove a seasonable help to the prosecution of this study. Archbishop Newcome's Harmony, which has been heretofore used among us, was out of print; and the wants of the public required either that a third edition of it-two have already been disposed of-should be published, or a new work prepared. The reasons which induced the editor to decide on the latter course, appear to us decisive. А work was needed, representing the present state of biblical studies more truly than was possible for one which time has now placed so far in the past. There was room also for improvement in some of the details at least of the arrangement adopted in the old work, and still more in the character of the notes attached to it. The experience of Dr. Robinson as a teacher, has enabled

1 The last edition of Neander's work is the third and can no longer be had. A fourth is expected. The titles in German of some of the others which are probably less known to the public, are as follows:

Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet von Dr. D. F. Strauss. Geprüft for Theologen und Nicht-theologen von Wilhelm Hoffinann, Inspector des Missionshauses in Basil. 1839.

Das Leben Jesu, wissenschafllich bearbeitet von Dr. Johannes Kubn, Professer der katholisch-theologischen Facultat in Tübingen, 1838. Of this only one volume has been published.

Apologie des Lebens Jesu gegen den neusten Versuch, es in Mythen aufzu. lösen von Johann Ernst Osiander, Professor zu Maulbronn, 1837.

Vorlesungen über das Leben Jesu für Theologen und Nicht-theologen von Dr. Otto Krabbe, Prefossor, etc., am akademischen Gymnasium zu Hamburg. 1339. He is now Professor at Kiel.

Chronologische Synopse der vier Evangelien. Ein Beitrag zur Apologie der Evangelien und evangelischen Geschichte vom Standpuncte der Voraussetzungslosigkeit. Von Karl Wieseler, Licentiat, etc., in Göttingen. 1843.

2 Newcome's Harmony appeared originally at Dublin, 1778.


him to judge wisely in reference to the points which most needed elucidation ; while his familiarity with the results of the latest criticism and his personal inspection of many of the scenes of the Gospel History, have given him uncommon advantages for the execution of such a labor. The work contains the entire Greek of the four Gospels and the few verses in Acts and Corinthians, which relate to the personal history of Christ. It is based upon the chronology supposed to be intimated in John's Gospel, that is, that the ministry of the Saviour embraced four passoverfestivals, or a period of three and a half years. The arrangement in its general ontline is that which has approved itself to the majority of the ablest critics, as most probably the correct one. The place of the more disputed portions has been determined with independence of judgment. The decision of the author in reference to this class of passages, accords with that of others where the grounds for it are approved; otherwise, a new position is assigned to them. The parallelism proposed between John 11: 54 and Luke 13: 22, is, so far as we know, peculiar to this Harmony, and strikes us as a very happy combination. The adoption of this order simplifies very much the arrangement of several other related sections, and throws an unexpected light upon the accuracy of the sacred writers in a particular which has not been generally remarked. A body of learned and instructive notes accompanies the volume. The student will find here precisely the information which he needs on the great points which require attention in an effort to harmonise the Gospels. This information is conveyed, according to the circumstances of the case, in brief paragraphs which dispose of the questions that arise in few words, or, where the occasion calls for it, in fuller discussions which are sometimes pursued through a series of pages. Special labor has been bestowed upon a conciliation of the genealogies as found in Matthew and Luke, upon that of the alleged discrepancy between John and the other Evangelists, in respect to the time when our Saviour observed the last passover, and also upon an examination of the difficulties, connected with the manner in which the circumstances of our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection are narrated. No parts of the evangelical history, it is well known, have been exposed to such frequent assaults as these. The discussions of Dr. Robinson in relation to these topics, we regard as the most satisfactory to which the student can be referred. The difculties that exist are brought clearly into view; objections are fairly canvassed; and those results established, which vindicate

« PreviousContinue »