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before the year 63; which, if Christ died A. D. 36, was twenty-seven years after the occurrence of that event; and thirty years afterwards, if (as some have supposed) he was crucified A. D. 33.
The dates at which the three other Gospels were composed, are matters of less importance, as far as the purpose which I now have distinctly in view is concerned; as it has been my principal desire to learn, if possible, how long a period of time had elapsed after the close of Christ's eventful career on the earth, before the writing of the first book among those which are now considered as authentic records of his life and ministry.
As I have once before remarked, it is pretty generally admitted, on the strength of the most ancient testimony, that the Gospel by Matthew was written before any of the others. The dates of the three which remain to be noticed are involved in as much doubtfulness as that which we have found to obscure the period at which Matthew wrote. In regard to each, the opinions of the most eminent ecclesiastics are considerably at variance with each other. For this reason, it is scarcely worth our while to adduce further chronological speculations for examination, -as, in case of the most successful effört, the result would be but an uncertainty.
AUGUSTINE, (one of “the fathers of the Church," as they are generally termed) who lived in the fourth century, and CALMET, regarded the Gospel of MARK as an abridgement of that composed by Matthew, instead of
its being an original work.* GEORGE CAMPBELL, D. D., † though he does not endorse this view of the book, makes the following observation in relation to Mark: “That he had read Matthew's Gospel cannot be doubted.” Who Mark was is not certainly known. He was not one of the twelve apostles; and we have no evidence that he was at any time a companion of Jesus, or even personally acquainted with him. His family relatives are alluded to, in two instances, although but slightly. $ The apostle Peter designates him as “Mar. cus my son;"|| (i. e. "son" in the faith) from which some have inferred that he was made a convert to Christianity by Peter's preaching.
There is a close resemblance between many parts of the first three Gospels—those by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The book of Mark contains but twenty-four verses peculiar to itself: all the remaining portions may be found, but slightly varied in their phraseology in some instances, in Matthew and Luke.
Of all the Evangelists, LUKE doubtless was the most learned, and had the most cultivated mind. He was a physician : Paul, in one of his Epistles, styles him “the beloved physician.” There is no proof that he was
* See Dr. Campbell's Notes and Preliminary Dissertations on the Four Gospels, Preface to Mark, 16; and Calinet's Dictionary, Art. Mark.
+ 'The learned Scotcbman, whose work is alluded to in the note iinmediately preceding this at one time Principal of Marischal College, and minisier of a Church in Aberdeen, his native place.
#Acts, xii. 12; and Colossians, iv. 10, in which latter place he is, in onr Version, styled Marcus.
ll 1 Pet. v. 13. 1 Colossians, iv. 14.
acquainted with Jesus, personally, or that he ever saw him. He never asserts or intimates any thing of this kind; nor does he in any instance represent himself as an eye-witness of the principal scenes and events which he describes, although he claims to have had a "perfect understanding” of them “from the very first.”* Of his personal history nothing is known, save what he himself mentions in the writings ascribed to him; which is but very little. The most learned acknowledge themselves unable to determine whether he was, by birth, a Jew or a Gentile.
John, the reputed author of the fourth Gospel, was the youngest of the twelve apostles, and evidently the most spiritual-minded among them. Between him and Jesus there subsisted, perhaps, a greater degree of spiritual harmony than between the illustrious personage and the rest of his pupils and associates. He seems, indeed, to have been a peculiar favorite, in whom much confidence was placed,-being spoken of as “the discipled whom Jesus loved,” † and portrayed, on a certain occasion, as “leaning on Jesus' bosom."$ The Gospel bearing his name is believed to have been written at a
* Luke, i. 3. John, xix. 26.
I John, xiii. 23. It was, perhaps, this incident which suggested to the mind of Dr. Watts the idea expressed in one of the most beautiful stanzas within the range of his numerous compositions. I have allusion to the familiar words, –
"Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as doriny pillows are,
And breathe my life out sweetly there."
much later period than the others, when he was quite advanced in years—according to Hug, A. D. 96; according to MILL and LE CLERC, A. D. 97.* LARDNER thought it might have been composed about A. D. 68: but BARNES says, "The common opinion is that it was written at Ephesus, after John's return from Patmos, and of course as late as the year 97 or 98. Nothing can be determined with certainty on the subject.”+
John lived to a great age-he survived all the other apostles, and is said to have been the only one among them all who died a natural or peaceful death.
In his Gospel we find much less concerning miracles than in the three books which precede it. He treats more of the character of Christ and the nature of his doctrine.
The book termed The Acts of the Apostles is generally attributed to LUKE ; and is supposed to have been written at a period not far from A. D. 65, though nothing positive can be ascertained in regard to this particular. Some have considered it as a fifth Gospel; and, anciently, it was termed, The Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Although in the arrangement of our version, it follows the Gospel of John, in some ancient MSS. of the New Testament it is placed at the end of Paul's Epistles, for the reason, probably, that it contains a narration of his life and travels, and records many circumstances referred
* The apostle at that time was over eighty years of age-some say about ninety. † Barnes: "Notes," preface to John.
to in his writings. It seems to have been designed as a sort of continuation of Luke's Gospel, as he dedicates it to the same person to whom that work was inscribed, and commences his narrative at the point where he left off at the termination of his other book. The introductory language of the first chapter is as follows: “The former treatise have I made, 0 Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,” &c. It is, professedly, as its name implies, a history of the various transactions of the early apostles of Christ, containing detailed relations of many remarkable incidents which are said to have occurred at different times during their career.
We are accustomed to speak of the authors of the several books we have now noticed, in common with the persons to whom are attributed the other portions of the Bible, as divinely inspired writers; which appellative is commonly understood as signifying, individuals supernaturally endowed. Were the four Evangelists really of this description? Do their writings contain any evidence that the Deity imparted wisdom and spiritual illumination to their minds, through any other than a purely natural medium ? Were they assisted by the spirit of God, in any other manner or in any higher degree than all good men, of the same mental developments, are thus assisted? Was their inspiration different in kind from that which true-hearted men possess now? So far as their written productions are concerned, particularly the narrative portions, what need had they of any