The Freethinker's Text Book, Part II.
Annie Besant

Part 2 out of 6

We have already noticed the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, and
pointed out the numerous forgeries circulated under their names, and the
consequent haze hanging over all the early Christian writers, until we
reach the time of Justin Martyr. Thus we entirely destroy the whole
basis of Paley's argument, that "the historical books of the New
Testament ... are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of Christian
writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the Apostles,
or who immediately followed them" ("Evidences," page 111;) for we have
no certain writings of any such contemporaries. In dealing with the
positions _f_. and _h_., we shall seek to prove that in the writings of
the Apostolic Fathers--taking them as genuine--as well as in Justin
Martyr, and in other Christian works up to about A.D. 180, the
quotations said to be from the canonical Gospels conclusively show that
other Gospels were used, and not our present ones; but no further
evidence than the long list of apocryphal writings, given on pp. 240-243
is needed in order to prove our first proposition, that _forgeries,
bearing the name of Christ, of the apostles, and of the early fathers,
were very common in the primitive Church_.

B. "_That there is nothing to distinguish the canonical from the
apocryphal writings_." "Their pretences are specious and plausible, for
the most part going under the name of our Saviour himself, his apostles,
their companions, or immediate successors. They are generally thought to
be cited by the first Christian writers with the same authority (at
least, many of them) as the sacred books we receive. This Mr. Toland
labours hard to persuade us; but, what is more to be regarded, men of
greater merit and probity have unwarily dropped expressions of the like
nature. _Everybody knows_ (says the learned Casaubon against Cardinal
Baronius) _that Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, and the
rest of the primitive writers, were wont to approve and cite books which
now all men know to be apocryphal. Clemens Alexandrinus_ (says his
learned annotator, Sylburgius) _was too much pleased with apocryphal
writings_. Mr. Dodwell (in his learned dissertation on Irenaeus) tells us
that, _till Trajan, or, perhaps, Adrian's time, no canon was fixed; the
supposititious pieces of the heretics were received by the faithful, the
apostles' writings bound up with theirs, and indifferently used in the
churches._ To mention no more, the learned Mr. Spanheim observes, _that
Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen very often cite apocryphal books under
the express name of Scripture_.... How much Mr. Whiston has enlarged the
Canon of the New Testament, is sufficiently known to the learned among
us. For the sake of those who have not perused his truly valuable books
I would observe, that he imagines the 'Constitutions of the Apostles' to
be inspired, and of greater authority than the occasional writings of
single Apostles and Evangelists. That the two Epistles of Clemens, the
Doctrine of the Apostles, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of
Hermas, the second book of Esdras, the Epistles of Ignatius, and the
Epistle of Polycarp, are to be reckoned among the sacred authentic books
of the New Testament; as also that the Acts of Paul, the Revelation,
Preaching, Gospel and Acts of Peter, were sacred books, and, if they
were extant, should be of the same authority as any of the rest" (J.
Jones, on the "Canon," p. 4-6). This same learned writer further says:
"That many, or most of the books of the New Testament, have been
rejected by heretics in the first ages, is also certain. Faustus
Manichaeus and his followers are said to have rejected all the New
Testament, as not written by the Apostles. Marcion rejected all, except
St. Luke's Gospel. The Manichees disputed much against the authority of
St. Matthew's Gospel. The Alogians rejected the Gospel of St. John as
not his, but made by Cerinthus. The Acts of the Apostles were rejected
by Severus, and the sect of his name. The same rejected all Paul's
Epistles, as also did the Ebionites, and the Helkesaites. Others, who
did not reject all, rejected some particular epistles.... Several of the
books of the New Testament were not universally received, even among
them who were not heretics, in the first ages.... Several of them have
had their authority disputed by learned men in later times" (Ibid, pp.
8, 9).

If recognition by the early writers be taken as a proof of the
authenticity of the works quoted, many apocryphal documents must stand
high. Eusebius, who ranks together the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of
Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the
Institutions of the Apostles, and the Revelation of John (now accounted
canonical) says that these were not embodied in the Canon (in his time)
"notwithstanding that they are recognised by most ecclesiastical
writers" ("Eccles. Hist.," bk. iii., chap. xxv.). The Canon, in his
time, was almost the same as at present, but the canonicity of the
epistles of James and Jude, the 2nd of Peter, the 2nd and 3rd of John,
and the Revelation, was disputed even as late as when he wrote. Irenaeus
ranks the Pastor of Hermas as Scripture; "he not only knew, but also
admitted the book called Pastor" (Ibid, bk. v., chap. viii.). "The
Pastor of Hermas is another work which very nearly secured permanent
canonical rank with the writings of the New Testament. It was quoted as
Holy Scripture by the Fathers, and held to be divinely inspired, and it
was publicly read in the churches. It has place with the Epistle of
Barnabas in the Sinaitic Codex, after the canonical books"
("Supernatural Religion," vol. i., p. 261).

The two Epistles of Clement are only "preserved to us in the Codex
Alexandrinus, a MS. assigned by the most competent judges to the second
half of the fifth, or beginning of the sixth century, in which these
Epistles follow the books of the New Testament. The second Epistle ...
thus shares with the first the honour of a canonical position in one of
the most ancient codices of the New Testament" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i., p.
220). These epistles are, also, amongst those mentioned in the Apostolic
Canons. "Until a comparatively late date this [the first of Clement]
Epistle was quoted as Holy Scripture" (Ibid, p. 222). Origen quotes the
Epistle of Barnabas as Scripture, and calls it a "Catholic Epistle"
(Ibid, p. 237), and this same Father regards the Shepherd of Hermas as
also divinely inspired. (Norton's "Genuineness of the Gospels," vol. i.,
p. 341). Gospels, other than the four canonical, are quoted as authentic
by the earliest Christian writers, as we shall see in establishing
position _h_; thus destroying Paley's contention ("Evidences," p. 187)
that there are no quotations from apocryphal writings in the Apostolical
Fathers, the fact being that such quotations are sown throughout their
supposed writings.

It is often urged that the expression, "it is written," is enough to
prove that the quotation following it is of canonical authority.

"Now with regard to the value of the expression, 'it is written,' it may
be remarked that in no case could its use, in the Epistle of Barnabas,
indicate more than individual opinion, and it could not, for reasons to
be presently given, be considered to represent the opinion of the
Church. In the very same chapter in which the formula is used in
connection with the passage we are considering, it is also employed to
introduce a quotation from the Book of Enoch, [Greek: peri hou gegraptai
hos Henoch legei], and elsewhere (c. xii.) he quotes from another
apocryphal book as one of the prophets.... He also quotes (c. vi.) the
apocryphal book of Wisdom as Holy Scripture, and in like manner several
unknown works. When it is remembered that the Epistle of Clement to the
Corinthians, the Pastor of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas itself, and
many other apocryphal works have been quoted by the Fathers as Holy
Scripture, the distinctive value of such an expression may be
understood" (Ibid, pp. 242, 243). "The first Christian writers ... quote
ecclesiastical books from time to time as if they were canonical"
(Westcott on "The Canon," p. 9). "In regard to the use of the word
[Greek: gegraptai], introducing the quotation, the same writer
[Hilgenfeld] urges reasonably enough that it cannot surprise us at a
time when we learn from Justin Martyr that the Gospels were read
regularly at public worship [or rather, that the memorials of the
Apostles were so read]; it ought not, however, to be pressed too far as
involving a claim to special divine inspiration, as the same word is
used in the epistle in regard to the apocryphal book of Enoch; and it is
clear, also, from Justin, that the Canon of the Gospels was not yet
formed, but only forming" ("Gospels in the Second Century," Rev. W.
Sanday, p. 73. Ed. 1876). Yet, in spite of all this, Paley says, "The
phrase, 'it is written,' was the very form in which the Jews quoted
their Scriptures. It is not probable, therefore, that he would have used
this phrase, and without qualification, of any books but what had
acquired a kind of Scriptural authority" ("Evidences," p. 113).
Tischendorf argues on Paley's lines and says that "it was natural,
therefore, to apply this form of expression to the Apostles' writings,
as soon as they had been placed in the Canon with the books of the Old
Testament. When we find, therefore, in ancient ecclesiastical writings,
quotations from the Gospels introduced with this formula, 'it is
written,' we must infer that, at the time when the expression was used,
the Gospels were certainly treated as of equal authority with the books
of the Old Testament" ("When Were Our Gospels Written?" p. 89. Eng. Ed.,
1867). Dr. Tischendorf, if he believe in his own argument, must greatly
enlarge his Canon of the New Testament.

Paley's further plea that "these apocryphal writings were not read in
the churches of Christians" ("Evidences," p. 187) is thoroughly false.
Eusebius tells us of the Pastor of Hermas: "We know that it has been
already in public use in our churches" ("Eccles. Hist.," bk. iii., ch.
3). Clement's Epistle "was publicly read in the churches at the Sunday
meetings of Christians" ("Sup. Rel," vol. i., p. 222). Dionysius of
Corinth mentions this same early habit of reading any valued writing in
the churches: "In this same letter he mentions that of Clement to the
Corinthians, showing that it was the practice to read in the churches,
even from the earliest times. 'To-day,' says he, 'we have passed the
Lord's holy-day, in which we have read your epistle, in reading which we
shall always have our minds stored with admonition, as we shall, also,
from that written to us before by Clement'" (Eusebius' "Eccles. Hist.,"
bk. iv., ch. 23). So far is "reading in the churches" to be accepted as
a proof, even of canonicity, much less of genuineness, that Eusebius
remarks that "the disputed writings" were "publicly used by many in most
of the churches" (Ibid, bk. iii., ch. 31). Paley then takes as a further
mark of distinction, between canonical and uncanonical, that the latter
"were not admitted into their volume" and "do not appear in their
catalogues," but we have already seen that the only MS. copy of
Clement's first Epistle is in the Codex Alexandrinus (see ante p. 246),
while the Epistle of Barnabas and the Pastor of Hermas find their place
in the Sinaitic Codex (see ante p. 246); the second Epistle of Clement
is also in the Codex Alexandrinus, and both epistles are in the
Apostolic constitutions (see ante p. 247). The Canon of
Muratori--worthless as it is, it is used as evidence by
Christians--brackets the Apocalypse of John and of Peter ("Sup. Rel.,"
vol. ii., p. 241). Canon Westcott says: "'Apocryphal' writings were
added to manuscripts of the New Testament, and read in churches; and the
practice thus begun continued for a long time. The Epistle of Barnabas
was still read among the 'apocryphal Scriptures' in the time of Jerome;
a translation of the Shepherd of Hermas is found in a MS. of the Latin
Bible as late as the fifteenth century. The spurious Epistle to the
Laodicenes is found very commonly in English copies of the Vulgate from
the ninth century downwards, and an important catalogue of the Apocrypha
of the New Testament is added to the Canon of Scripture subjoined to the
Chronographia of Nicephorus, published in the ninth century" ("On the
Canon," pp. 8, 9). Paley's fifth distinction, that they "were not
noticed by their [heretical] adversaries" is as untrue as the preceding
ones, for even the fragments of "the adversaries" preserved in Christian
documents bear traces of reference to the apocryphal writings, although,
owing to the orthodox custom of destroying unorthodox books, references
of any sort by heretics are difficult to find. Again, Paley should have
known, when he asserted that the uncanonical writings were not alleged
as of authority, that the heretics _did_ appeal to gospels other than
the canonical. Marcion, for instance, maintained a Gospel varying from
the recognised one, while the Ebionites contended that their Hebrew
Gospel was the only true one. Eusebius further tells us of books
"adduced by the heretics under the name of the Apostles, such, viz., as
compose the Gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Matthew, and others beside
them, or such as contain the Acts of the Apostles, by Andrew and John,
and others" ("Eccles. Hist," bk. iii., ch. 25. See also ante p. 246). It
is hard to believe that Paley was so grossly ignorant as to know nothing
of these facts; did he then deliberately state what he knew to be
utterly untrue? His last "mark" does not touch our position, as the
commentaries, etc., are too late to be valuable as evidence for the
alleged superiority of the canonical writings during the first two
centuries. The other section of Paley's argument, that "when the
Scriptures [a very vague word] are quoted, or alluded to, they are
quoted with peculiar respect, as books _sui generis_" is met by the
details given above as to the fashion in which the Fathers referred to
the writings now called uncanonical, and by the evidence adduced in this
section we may fairly claim to have proved that, so far as external
testimony goes, _there is nothing to distinguish the canonical from the
apocryphal writings_.

But there is another class of evidence relied upon by Christians,
wherewith they seek to build up an impassable barrier between their
sacred books and the dangerous uncanonical Scriptures, namely, the
intrinsic difference between them, the dignity of the one, and the
puerility of the other. Of the uncanonical Gospels Dr. Ellicott writes:
"Their real demerits, their mendacities, their absurdities, their
coarseness, the barbarities of their style, and the inconsequence of
their narratives, have never been excused or condoned" ("Cambridge
Essays," for 1856, p. 153, as quoted in introduction of "The Apocryphal
Gospels," by B.H. Cowper, p. x. Ed. 1867). "We know before we read them
that they are weak, silly, and profitless--that they are despicable
monuments even of religious fiction" (Ibid, p. xlvii). How far are such
harsh expressions consonant with fact? It is true that many of the tales
related are absurd, but are they more absurd than the tales related in
the canonical Gospels? One story, repeated with variations, runs as
follows: "This child Jesus, being five years old, was playing at the
crossing of a stream, and he collected the running waters into pools,
and immediately made them pure, and by his word alone he commanded them.
And having made some soft clay, he fashioned out of it twelve sparrows;
and it was the Sabbath when he did these things. And there were also
many other children playing with him. And a certain Jew, seeing what
Jesus did, playing on the Sabbath, went immediately and said to Joseph,
his father, Behold, thy child is at the water-course, and hath taken
clay and formed twelve birds, and hath profaned the Sabbath. And Joseph
came to the place, and when he saw him, he cried unto him, saying, Why
art thou doing these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to
do? And Jesus clapped his hands, and cried unto the sparrows, and said
to them, Go away; and the sparrows flew up and departed, making a noise.
And the Jews who saw it were astonished, and went and told their leaders
what they had seen Jesus do" ("Gospel of Thomas: Apocryphal Gospels,"
B.H. Cowper, pp. 130, 131). Making the water pure by a word is no more
absurd than turning water into wine (John ii. 1-11); or than sending an
angel to trouble it, and thereby making it health-giving (John v. 2-4);
or than casting a tree into bitter waters, and making them sweet (Ex.
xv. 25). The fashioning of twelve sparrows out of soft clay is not
stranger than making a woman out of a man's rib (Gen. ii. 21); neither
is it more, or nearly so, curious as making clay with spittle, and
plastering it on a blind man's eyes in order to make him see (John ix.
6); nay, arguing _a la_ F.D. Maurice, a very strong reason might be made
out for this proceeding. Thus, Jesus came to reveal the Father to men,
and his miracles were specially arranged to show how God works in the
world; by turning the water into wine, and by multiplying the loaves, he
reminds men that it is God whose hand feeds them by all the ordinary
processes of nature. In this instructive miracle of the clay formed into
sparrows, which fly away at his bidding, Jesus reveals his unity with
the Father, as the Word by whom all things were originally made; for
"out of the ground, the Lord God formed every beast of the field and
every fowl of the air" (Gen. ii. 19) at the creation, and when the Son
was revealed to bring about the new creation, what more appropriate
miracle could he perform than this reminiscence of paradise, clearly
suggesting to the Jews that the Jehovah, who, of old, formed the fowls
of the air out of the ground, was present among them in the incarnate
Word, performing the same mighty work? Exactly in this fashion do
Maurice, Robertson, and others of their school, deal with the miracles
of Christ recorded in the canonical gospels (see Maurice on the
Miracles, Sermon IV., in "What is Revelation?"). The number, twelve, is
also significant, being that of the tribes of Israel, and the local
colouring--the complaining Jews and the violated Sabbath--is in perfect
harmony with the other gospels. The action of Jesus, vindicating the
conduct complained of by the performance of a miracle, is in the fullest
accord with similar instances related in the received stories. It is,
however, urged that some of the miracles of Jesus, as given in the
apocrypha, are dishonouring to him, because of their destructive
character; the son of Annas, the scribe, spills the water the child
Jesus has collected, and Jesus gets angry and says, "Thou also shalt
wither like a tree;" and "suddenly the boy withered altogether" (Ap.
Gos., p. 131). This seems in thorough unity with the spirit Jesus showed
in later life, when he cursed the fig-tree, because it did not bear
fruit in the wrong season, and "presently the fig-tree withered away"
(Matt. xxi. 19). Or a child, running against him purposely, falls dead;
or a master lifting his hand against him, has the arm withered which
essays to strike. Later, of Judas, who betrays him, we read that,
"falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels
gushed out" (Acts i. 18); while, in the Old Testament, which speaks of
Christ, we are told, in figures, we learn that, when Jeroboam tried to
seize a prophet, "his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so
that he could not pull it in again to him" (1 Kings xiii. 4). If
destructiveness be thought injurious when related of Jesus, what shall
we say to the wanton destruction of the herd of swine which Jesus filled
with devils, and sent racing into the sea? (Matt. viii. 28-34.) The
miracle the child works to rectify a mistake of his father's in his
carpenter's business, taking hold of some wood which has been cut too
short and lengthening it, is certainly not more silly than the miracle
worked by the man when money is short, and he (Matt. xvii. 24-27) sends
Peter to catch a fish with money in its mouth (why not, by the way, have
fished directly for the coin? it would be quite as possible for a coin
to transfix itself on a hook, as for a fish, with a piece of money in
its mouth, to swallow a hook). Other miracles recorded in the apocryphal
gospels, of healing and of raising the dead, are identical in spirit
with those told of him in the canonical. We may also remark that, unless
there were some received traditions of miracles worked by Jesus in his
household, there is no reason for the evident expectation of some help
which is said to have been shown by Mary when the guests want wine at
the wedding (John ii. 3-5). That verse 11 states that this was his first
miracle is only one of the many inconsistencies of the gospel stories.
Passing from these gospels of the infancy to those which tell of the
sufferings of Jesus, we shall find in the "Gospel of Nicodemus, or Acts
of Pilate," much that shows their full accordance with the received
writings of the New Testament. This point is so important, as equalising
the canonical and uncanonical gospels, that no excuse is needed for
proving it by somewhat extensive extracts. The gospel opens as follows:
"I, Ananias, a provincial warden, being a disciple of the law, from the
divine Scriptures recognised our Lord Jesus Christ, and came to him by
faith; and was also accounted worthy of holy baptism. Now, when
searching the records of what was wrought in the time of our Lord Jesus
Christ, which the Jews laid up under Pontius Pilate, I found that these
Acts were written in Hebrew, and by the good pleasure of God I
translated them into Greek for the information of all who call on the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the government of our Lord Flavius
Theodosius, the 17th year, and in the 6th consulate of Flavius
Valentinianus, in the 9th indiction." It may here be noted for what it
is worth that Justin Martyr (1st Apology, chap, xxxv.) refers the Romans
to the Acts of Pilate as public documents open to them, which is
testimony far stronger than he gives to any canonical gospel. "In the
15th year of the government of Tiberius Caesar, King of the Romans, and
of Herod, King of Galilee, the 9th year of his reign, on the 8th before
the calends of April, which is the 25th of March; in the consulship of
Rufus and Rubellio; in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad, when Joseph
Caiaphas was high priest of the Jews. Whatsoever, after the cross and
passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour God, Nicodemus recorded
and wrote in Hebrew, and left to posterity, is after this fashion"
("Apocryphal Gospels," B.H. Cowper, pp. 229, 230). In the first chapter
we learn how the Jews came to Pilate, and accuse Jesus, "that he saith
he is the son of God and a king; moreover, he profaneth the Sabbaths,
and wisheth to abolish the law of our fathers." After some conversation,
Jesus is brought, and in chap. 2 we read the message from Pilate's wife,
and "Pilate, having called the Jews, said to them, Ye know that my wife
is religious, and inclined to practise Judaism with you. They said unto
him, Yea, we know it. Pilate saith to them, Behold my wife hath sent to
me, saying, Have nothing to do with this just man, for I have suffered
very much because of him in the night. But the Jews answered, and said
to Pilate, Did we not tell thee that he is a magician? Behold, he hath
sent a dream to thy wife." The trial goes on, and Pilate declares the
innocence of Jesus, and then confers with him as in John xviii. 33-37.
Then comes the question (chaps, iii. and iv.): "Pilate saith unto him,
What is truth? Jesus saith to him, Truth is from heaven. Pilate saith,
Is truth not upon earth? Jesus saith to Pilate, Thou seest how they who
say the truth are judged by those who have power upon earth. And,
leaving Jesus within the praetorium, Pilate went out to the Jews, and
saith unto them, I find no fault in him." The conversation between
Pilate and the Jews is then related more fully than in the canonical
accounts, and after this follows a scene of much pathos, which is far
more in accord with the rest of the tale than the accepted story,
wherein the multitude are represented as crying with one voice for his
death. Nicodemus (chap. v.) first rises and speaks for Jesus: "Release
him, and wish no evil against him. If the miracles which he doth are of
God, they will stand; but, if of men, they will come to nought... Now,
therefore, release this man, for he is not deserving of death." Then
(chaps. vi., vii., and viii.): "One of the Jews, starting up, asked the
governor that he might say a word. The governor saith, If thou wilt
speak, speak. And the Jew said, I lay thirty-eight years on my bed in
pain and affliction. And when Jesus came, many demoniacs, and persons
suffering various diseases, were healed by him; and some young men had
pity on me, and carried me with my bed, and took me to him; and when
Jesus saw me, he had compassion, and said the word to me, Take up thy
bed, and walk; and I took up my bed and walked. The Jews said to Pilate,
Ask him what day it was when he was healed. He that was healed said, On
the Sabbath. The Jews said, Did we not tell thee so? that on the Sabbath
he healeth and casteth out demons? And another Jew, starting up, said, I
was born blind; I heard a voice, but saw no person; and as Jesus passed
by, I cried with a loud voice, Have pity on me, Son of David, and he had
pity on me, and placed his hands upon my eyes, and immediately I saw.
And another Jew, leaping up, said, I was a cripple, and he made me
straight with a word. And another said, I was a leper, and he healed me
with a word. And a certain woman cried out from a distance, and said, I
had an issue of blood, and I touched the hem of his garment, and my
issue of blood, which had been for twelve years, was stayed. The Jews
said, We have a law not to admit a woman to witness. And others, a
multitude, both of men and of women, cried and said, This man is a
prophet, and demons are subject unto him. Pilate said to those who said
that demons were subject to him, Why were your teachers not also subject
to him? They say unto Pilate, We know not. And others said, That he
raised up Lazarus from the sepulchre, when he had been dead four days.
And the governor, becoming afraid, said to all the multitude of the
Jews, Why will ye shed innocent blood?" The story proceeds much as in
the gospels, the names of the malefactors being given; and when Pilate
remarks the three hours' darkness to the Jews, they answer, "An eclipse
of the sun has happened in the usual manner" (chap. xi.). Chap. xiii.
gives a full account of the conversation between the Jews and the Roman
soldiers alluded to in Matt. xxviii. 11-15. The remaining chapters
relate the proceedings of the Jews after the resurrection, and are of no
special interest. There is a second Gospel of Nicodemus, varying on some
points from the one quoted above, which assumes to be "compiled by a
Jew, named Aeneas; translated from the Hebrew tongue into the Greek, by
Nicodemus, a Roman Toparch." Then we find a second part of the Gospel of
Nicodemus, or "The Descent of Christ to the Under World," which relates
how Jesus descended into Hades, and how he ordered Satan to be bound,
and then he "blessed Adam on the forehead with the sign of the cross;
and he did this also to the patriarchs, and the prophets, and martyrs,
and forefathers, and took them up, and sprang up out of Hades." This
story manifestly runs side by side with the tradition in 1. Pet. iii.
19, 20, wherein it is stated that Jesus "went and preached unto the
spirits in prison," and that preaching is placed between his death (v.
18) and his resurrection (v. 21). The saving by baptism (v. 21) is also
alluded to in this connection in Nicodemus, wherein (chap, xi.) the dead
are baptised. The Latin versions of the Gospels of Nicodemus vary in
details from the Greek, but not more than do the four canonical. In
these, as in all the apocryphal writings, there is nothing specially to
distinguish them from the accepted Scriptures; improbabilities and
contradictions abound in all; miracles render them all alike incredible;
myriad chains of similarity bind them all to each other, necessitating
either the rejection of all as fabulous, or the acceptance of all as
historical. Whether we regard external or internal evidence, we come to
the same conclusion, _that there is nothing to distinguish the canonical
from the uncanonical writings_.

C. _That it is not known where, when, by whom, the canonical writings
were selected_. Tremendously damaging to the authenticity of the New
Testament as this statement is, it is yet practically undisputed by
Christian scholars. Canon Westcott says frankly: "It cannot be denied
that the Canon was formed gradually. The condition of society and the
internal relations of the Church presented obstacles to the immediate
and absolute determination of the question, which are disregarded now,
only because they have ceased to exist. The tradition which represents
St. John as fixing the contents of the New Testament, betrays the spirit
of a later age" (Westcott "On the Canon," p. 4). "The track, however,
which we have to follow is often obscure and broken. The evidence of the
earliest Christian writers is not only uncritical and casual, but is
also fragmentary" (Ibid, p. 11). "From the close of the second century,
the history of the Canon is simple, and its proof clear... Before that
time there is more or less difficulty in making out the details of the
question.... Here, however, we are again beset with peculiar
difficulties. The proof of the Canon is embarrassed both by the general
characteristics of the age in which it was fixed, and by the particular
form of the evidence on which it first depends. The spirit of the
ancient world was essentially uncritical" (Ibid, pp. 6-8). In dealing
with "the early versions of the New Testament," Westcott admits that "it
is not easy to over-rate the difficulties which beset any inquiry into
the early versions of the New Testament" ("On the Canon," p. 231). He
speaks of the "comparatively scanty materials and vague or conflicting
traditions" (Ibid). The "original versions of the East and West" are
carefully examined by him; the oldest is the "Peshito," in Syriac--i.e.,
Aramaean, or Syro-Chaldaic. This must, of course, be only a translation
of the Testament, if it be true that the original books were written in
Greek. The time when this version was formed is unknown, and Westcott
argues that "the very obscurity which hangs over its origin is a proof
of its venerable age" (Ibid, p. 240); and he refers it to "the first
half of the second century," while acknowledging that he does so
"without conclusive authority" (Ibid). The Peshito omits the second and
third epistles of John, second of Peter, that of Jude, and the
Apocalypse. The origin of the Western version, in Latin, is quite as
obscure as that of the Syriac; and it is also incomplete, compared with
the present Canon, omitting the epistle of James and the second of Peter
(Ibid, p. 254). All the evidence so laboriously gathered together by the
learned Canon proves our proposition to demonstration. But, it is
admitted on all hands, that "it is impossible to assign any certain time
when a collection of these books, either by the Apostles, or by any
council of inspired or learned men, near their time, was made.... The
matter is too certain to need much to be said of it" (Jones "On the
Canon," vol. i, p. 7). Jones adds that he hopes to confute "these
specious objections ... in the fourth part of this book," in which he
endeavours to prove the Gospels and Acts to be _genuine_, so that it
does not much matter when they were collected together. In the time of
Eusebius the Canon was still unsettled, as he ranks among the disputed
and spurious works, the epistles of James and Jude, second of Peter,
second and third of John, and the Apocalypse ("Eccles. Hist.," bk. iii.,
chap. 25). It is not necessary to offer any further proof in support of
our position, _that it is not known where, when, by whom, the canonical
writings were selected._

D. _That before about_ A.D. 180 _there is no trace of_ FOUR _gospels
among the Christians_. The first step we take in attacking the four
canonical gospels, apart from the writings of the New Testament as a
whole, is to show that there was no "sacred quaternion" spoken of before
about A.D. 180, i.e., the supposed time of Irenaeus. Irenaeus is said to
have been a bishop of Lyons towards the close of the second century; we
find him mentioned in the letter sent by the Churches of Vienne and
Lyons to "brethren in Asia and Phrygia," as "our brother and companion
Irenaeus," and as a presbyter much esteemed by them ("Eccles. Hist." bk.
v., chs. 1, 4). This letter relates a persecution which occurred in "the
17th year of the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Verus," i.e., A.D. 177.
Paley dates the letter about A.D. 170, but as it relates the persecution
of A.D. 177, it is difficult to see how it could be written about seven
years before the persecution took place. In that persecution Pothinus,
bishop of Lyons, is said to have been slain; he was succeeded by Irenaeus
(Ibid bk. v., ch. 5), who, therefore, could not possibly have been
bishop before A.D. 177, while he ought probably to be put a year or two
later, since time is needed, after the persecution, to send the account
of it to Asia by the hands of Irenaeus, and he must be supposed to have
returned and to have settled down in Lyons before he wrote his
voluminous works; A.D. 180 is, therefore, an almost impossibly early
date, but it is, at any rate, the very earliest that can be pretended
for the testimony now to be examined. The works against heresies were
probably written, the first three about A.D. 190, and the remainder
about A.D. 198. Irenaeus is the first Christian writer who mentions
_four_ Gospels; he says:--"Matthew produced his Gospel, written among
the Hebrews, in their own dialect, whilst Peter and Paul proclaimed the
Gospel and founded the church at Rome. After the departure of these,
Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in
writing what had been preached by him. And Luke, the companion of Paul,
committed to writing the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the
disciple of our Lord, the same that lay upon his bosom, also published
the Gospel, whilst he was yet at Ephesus in Asia" (Quoted by Eusebius,
bk. v., ch. 8, from 3rd bk. of "Refutation and Overthrow of False
Doctrine," by Irenaeus).

The reasons which compelled Irenaeus to believe that there must be
neither less nor more than four Gospels in the Church are so convincing
that they deserve to be here put on record. "It is not possible that the
Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since
there are four zones [sometimes translated 'corners' or 'quarters'] of
the world in which we live, and four Catholic spirits, while the Church
is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and grounding of
the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting she
should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and
vivifying men afresh. From which fact it is evident that the Word, the
Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the Cherubim, and contains all
things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four
aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.... For the Cherubim too were
four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son
of God.... And, therefore, the Gospels are in accord with these things,
among which Christ Jesus is seated" ("Irenaeus," bk. iii., chap, xi.,
sec. 8). The Rev. Dr. Giles, writing on Justin Martyr, the great
Christian apologist, candidly says: "The very names of the Evangelists
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are never mentioned by him--do not occur
once in all his works. It is, therefore, childish to say that he has
quoted from our existing Gospels, and so proves their existence, as they
now are, in his own time.... He has nowhere remarked, like those Fathers
of the Church who lived several ages after him, that there are _four_
Gospels of higher importance and estimation than any others.... All this
was the creation of a later age, but it is wanting in Justin Martyr, and
the defect leads us to the conclusion that our four Gospels had not then
emerged from obscurity, but were still, if in being, confounded with a
larger mass of Christian traditions which, about this very time, were
beginning to be set down in writing" ("Christian Records," pp. 71, 72).

Had these four Gospels emerged before A.D. 180, we should most certainly
find some mention of them in the Mishna. "The Mishna, a collection of
Jewish traditions compiled about the year 180, takes no notice of
Christianity, though it contains a chapter headed 'De Cultu Peregrino,
of strange worship.' This omission is thought by Dr. Paley to prove
nothing, for, says he, 'it cannot be disputed but that Christianity was
perfectly well known to the world at this time.' It cannot, certainly,
be disputed that Christianity was _beginning_ to be known to the world,
but whether it had yet emerged from the lower classes of persons among
whom it originated, may well be doubted. It is a prevailing error, in
biblical criticism, to suppose that the whole world was feelingly alive
to what was going on in small and obscure parts of it. The existence of
Christians was probably known to the compilers of the Mishna in 180,
even though they did not deign to notice them, but they could not have
had any knowledge of the New Testament, or they would undoubtedly have
noticed it; if, at least, we are right in ascribing to it so high a
character, attracting (as we know it does) the admiration of every one
in every country to which it is carried" (Ibid, p. 35).

There is, however, one alleged proof of the existence of four, and only
four, Gospels, put forward by Paley:--Tatian, a follower of Justin
Martyr, and who flourished about the year 170, composed a harmony or
collection of the Gospels, which he called Diatessaron, of the Four.
This title, as well as the work, is remarkable, because it shows, that
then, as now, there were four and only four, Gospels in general use with
Christians ("Evidences," pp. 154, 155). Paley does not state, until
later, that the "follower of Justin Martyr" turned heretic and joined
the Encratites, an ascetic and mystic sect who taught abstinence from
marriage, and from meat, etc.; nor does he tell us how doubtful it is
what the Diatessaron--now lost--really contained. He blandly assures us
that it is a harmony of the four Gospels, although all the evidence is
against him. Irenaeus, as quoted by Eusebius, says of Tatian that "having
apostatised from the Church, and being elated with the conceit of a
teacher, and vainly puffed up as if he surpassed all others," he
invented some new doctrines, and Eusebius further tells us: "Their chief
and founder, Tatianus, having formed a certain body and collection of
Gospels, I know not how, has given this the title Diatessaron, that is
the Gospel by the four, or the Gospel formed of the four" ("Eccles.
Hist," bk. iv., ch. 29). Could Eusebius have written that Tatian formed
this, _I know not how_, if it had been a harmony of the Gospels
recognised by the Church when he wrote? and how is it that Paley knows
all about it, though Eusebius did not? And still further, after
mentioning the Diatessaron, Eusebius says _of another of Tatian's
books_: "This book, indeed, appears to be the most elegant and
profitable of all his works" (Ibid). More profitable than a harmony of
the four Gospels! So far as the name goes, as given by Eusebius, it
would seem to imply one Gospel written by four authors. Epiphanius
states: "Tatian is said to have composed the Gospel by four, which is
called by some, the Gospel according to the Hebrews" ("Sup. Rel.," vol.
ii., p. 155). Here we get the Diatessaron identified with the
widely-spread and popular early Gospel of the Hebrews. Theodoret (circa
A.D. 457) says that he found more than 200 such books in use in Syria,
the Christians not perceiving "the evil design of the composition;" and
this is Paley's harmony of the Gospels! Theodoret states that he took
these books away, "and instead introduced the Gospels of the four
Evangelists;" how strange an action in dealing with so useful a work as
a harmony of the Gospels, to confiscate it entirely and call it an evil
design! To complete the value of this work as evidence to "four, and
only four, Gospels," we are told by Victor of Capua, that it was also
called Diapente, i.e., "by five" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., p. 153). In
fact, there is no possible reason for calling the work--whose contents
ate utterly unknown--a _harmony_ of the Gospels at all; the notion that
it is a harmony is the purest of assumptions. There is some slight
evidence in favour of the identity of the Diatessaron with the Gospel of
the Hebrews. "Those, however, who called the Gospel used by Tatian the
Gospel according to the Hebrews, must have read the work, and all that
we know confirms their conclusion. The work was, in point of fact, found
in wide circulation precisely in the places in which, earlier, the
Gospel according to the Hebrews was more particularly current. The
singular fact that the earliest reference to Tatian's 'harmony' is made
a century and a half after its supposed composition, that no writer
before the 5th century had seen the work itself, indeed, that only two
writers before that period mention it at all, receives its natural
explanation in the conclusion that Tatian did not actually compose any
harmony at all, but simply made use of the same Gospel as his master
Justin Martyr, namely, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, by which
name his Gospel had been called by those best informed" ("Sup. Rel.,"
vol. ii., pp. 158, 159). As it is not pretended by any that there is any
mention of _four_ Gospels before the time of Irenaeus, excepting this
"harmony," pleaded by some as dated about A.D. 170, and by others as
between 170 and 180, it would be sheer waste of time and space to prove
further a point admitted on all hands. This step of our argument is,
then, on solid and unassailable ground--_that before about_ A.D. 180
_there is no trace of FOUR Gospels among the Christians_.

E. _That, before that date, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are not
selected as the four evangelists._ This position necessarily follows
from the preceding one, since four evangelists could not be selected
until four Gospels were recognised. Here, again, Dr. Giles supports the
argument we are building up. He says: "Justin Martyr never once mentions
by name the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This circumstance
is of great importance; for those who assert that our four canonical
Gospels are contemporary records of our Saviour's ministry, ascribe them
to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and to no other writers. In this they
are, in a certain sense, consistent; for contemporary writings [?
histories] are very rarely anonymous. If so, how could they be proved to
be contemporary? Justin Martyr, it must be remembered, wrote in 150; but
neither he, nor any writer before him, has alluded, in the most remote
degree, to four specific Gospels, bearing the names of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John. Let those who think differently produce the passages in
which such mention is to be found" ("Christian Records," Rev. Dr. Giles,
p. 73). Two of these names had, however, emerged a little earlier, being
mentioned as evangelists by Papias, of Hierapolis. His testimony will be
fully considered below in establishing position _g_.

F. _That there is no evidence that the four Gospels mentioned about that
date were the same as those we have now._ This brings us to a most
important point in our examination; for we now attack the very key of
the Christian position--viz., that, although the Gospels be not
mentioned by name previous to Irenaeus, their existence can yet be
conclusively proved by quotations from them, to be found in the writings
of the Fathers who lived before Irenaeus. Paley says: "The historical
books of the New Testament--meaning thereby the four Gospels and the
Acts of the Apostles--are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of
Christian writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the
Apostles or who immediately followed them, and proceeding in close and
regular succession from their time to the present." And he urges that
"the medium of proof stated in this proposition is, of all others, the
most unquestionable, the least liable to any practices of fraud, and is
not diminished by the lapse of ages" ("Evidences," pp. 111, 112). The
writers brought in evidence are: Barnabas, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, Hegesippus, and the epistle from Lyons
and Vienne. Before examining the supposed quotations in as great detail
as our space will allow, two or three preliminary remarks are needed on
the value of this offered evidence as a whole.

In the first place, the greater part of the works brought forward as
witnesses are themselves challenged, and their own dates are unknown;
their now accepted writings are only the residuum of a mass of
forgeries, and Dr. Giles justly says: "The process of elimination, which
gradually reduced the so-called writings of the first century from two
folio volumes to fifty slender pages, would, in the case of any other
profane works, have prepared the inquirer for casting from him, with
disgust, the small remnant, even if not fully convicted of spuriousness;
for there is no other case in record of so wide a disproportion between
what is genuine and what is spurious" ("Christian Records," p. 67).
Their testimony is absolutely worthless until they are themselves
substantiated; and from the account given of them above (pp 214-221, and
232-235), the student is in a position to judge of the value of evidence
depending on the Apostolic Fathers. Professor Norton remarks: "When we
endeavour to strengthen this evidence by appealing to the writings
ascribed to Apostolical Fathers, we, in fact, weaken its force. At the
very extremity of the chain of evidence, where it ought to be strongest,
we are attaching defective links, which will bear no weight"
("Genuineness of the Gospels," vol. i., p. 357). Again, supposing that
we admit these witnesses, their repetition of sayings of Christ, or
references to his life, do not--in the absence of quotations specified
by them as taken from Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John--prove that, because similar sayings or actions are recorded in the
present canonical Gospels, therefore, these latter existed in their
days, and were in their hands. Lardner says on this point: "Here is,
however, one difficulty, and 'tis a difficulty which may frequently
occur, whilst we are considering these very early writers, who were
conversant with the Apostles, and others who had seen or heard our Lord;
and were, in a manner, as well acquainted with our Saviour's doctrine
and history as the Evangelists themselves, unless their quotations or
allusions are very express and clear. The question, then, here is,
whether Clement in these places refers to words of Christ, written and
recorded, or whether he reminds the Corinthians of words of Christ,
which he and they might have heard from the Apostles, or other
eye-and-ear-witnesses of our Lord. Le Clerc, in his dissertation on the
four Gospels, is of opinion that Clement refers to written words of our
Lord, which were in the hands of the Corinthians, and well known to
them. On the other hand, I find, Bishop Pearson thought, that Clement
speaks of words which he had heard from the Apostles themselves, or
their disciples. I certainly make no question but the three first
Gospels were writ before this time. And I am well satisfied that Clement
might refer to our written Gospels, though he does not exactly agree
with them in expression. But whether he does refer to them is not easy
to determine concerning a man who, very probably, knew these things
before they were committed to writing; and, even after they were so,
might continue to speak of them, in the same manner he had been wont to
do, as things he was well informed of, without appealing to the
Scriptures themselves" ("Credibility," pt. II., vol. i., pp. 68-70).
Canon Westcott, after arguing that the Apostolic Fathers are much
influenced by the Pauline Epistles, goes on to remark: "Nothing has been
said hitherto of the coincidences between the Apostolic Fathers and the
Canonical Gospels. From the nature of the case, casual coincidences of
language cannot be brought forward in the same manner to prove the use
of a history as of a letter. The same facts and words, especially if
they be recent and striking, may be preserved in several narratives.
References in the sub-apostolic age to the discourses or actions of our
Lord, as we find them recorded in the Gospels, show, as far as they go,
that what the Gospels relate was then held to be true; but it does not
necessarily follow that they were already in use, and were the actual
source of the passages in question. On the contrary, the mode in which
Clement refers to our Lord's teaching--'the Lord said,' not
'saith'--seems to imply that he was indebted to tradition, and not to
any written accounts, for words most closely resembling those which are
still found in our Gospels. The main testimony of the Apostolic Fathers
is, therefore, to the substance, and not to the authenticity, of the
Gospels" ("On the Canon," pp. 51, 52). An examination of the Apostolic
Fathers gives us little testimony as to "the substance of the Gospels;"
but the whole passage is here given to show how much Canon Westcott,
writing in defence of the Canon, finds himself obliged to give up of the
position occupied by earlier apologists. Dr. Giles agrees with the
justice of these remarks of Lardner and Westcott. He writes: "The
sayings of Christ were, no doubt, treasured up like household jewels by
his disciples and followers. Why, then, may we not refer the quotation
of Christ's words, occurring in the Apostolical Fathers, to an origin of
this kind? If we examine a few of those quotations, the supposition,
just stated, will expand into reality.... The same may be said of every
single sentence found in any of the Apostolical Fathers, which, on first
sight, might be thought to be a decided quotation from one of the
Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. It is impossible to
deny the truth of this observation; for we see it confirmed by the fact
that the Apostolical Fathers do actually quote Moses, and other old
Testament writers, by name--'Moses hath said,' 'but Moses says,'
etc.--in numerous passages. But we nowhere meet with the words, 'Matthew
hath said in his Gospel,' 'John hath said,' etc. They always quote, not
the words of the Evangelists, but the words of Christ himself directly,
which furnishes the strongest presumption that, though the sayings of
Christ were in general vogue, yet the evangelical histories, into which
they were afterwards embodied, were not then in being. But the converse
of this view of the case leads us to the same conclusion. The
Apostolical Fathers quote sayings of Christ which are not found in our
Gospels.... There is no proof that our New Testament was in existence
during the lives of the Apostolical Fathers, who, therefore, could not
make citations out of books which they had never seen" ("Christian
Records," pp. 51-53). "There is no evidence that they [the four Gospels]
existed earlier than the middle of the second century, for they are not
named by any writer who lived before that time" (Ibid, p. 56). In
searching for evidence of the existence of the Gospels during the
earlier period of the Church's history, Christian apologists have
hitherto been content to seize upon a phrase here and there somewhat
resembling a phrase in the canonical Gospels, and to put that forward as
a proof that the Gospels then were the same as those we have now. This
rough-and-ready plan must now be given up, since the most learned
Christian writers now agree, with the Freethinkers, that such a method
is thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Yet, again, admitting these writers as witnesses, and allowing that they
quote from the same Gospels, their quotations only prove that the
isolated phrases they use were in the Gospels of their day, and are also
in the present ones; and many such cases might occur in spite of great
variations in the remainder of the respective Gospels, and would by no
means prove that the Gospels they used were identical with ours. If
Josephus, for instance, had ever quoted some sentences of Socrates
recorded by Plato, that quotation, supposing that Josephus were
reliable, would prove that Plato and Socrates both lived before
Josephus, and that Plato wrote down some of the sayings of Socrates; but
it would not prove that a version of Plato in our hands to-day was
identical with that used by Josephus. The scattered and isolated
passages woven in by the Fathers in their works would fail to prove the
identity of the Gospels of the second century with those of the
nineteenth, even were they as like parallel passages in the canonical
Gospels as they are unlike them.

It is "important," says the able anonymous writer of "Supernatural
Religion," "that we should constantly bear in mind that a great number
of Gospels existed in the early Church which are no longer extant, and
of most of which even the names are lost. We will not here do more than
refer, in corroboration of this fact, to the preliminary statement of
the author of the third Gospel: 'Forasmuch as many ([Greek: polloi])
have taken in hand to set forth a declaration of those things which are
surely believed among us, etc.' It is, therefore, evident that before
our third synoptic was written, many similar works were already in
circulation. Looking at the close similarity of the large portions of
the three synoptics, it is almost certain that many of the [Greek:
polloi] here mentioned bore a close analogy to each other, and to our
Gospels; and this is known to have been the case, for instance, amongst
the various forms of the 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' distinct
mention of which we meet with long before we hear anything of our
Gospels. When, therefore, in early writings, we meet with quotations
closely resembling, or, we may add, even identical with passages which
are found in our Gospels--the source of which, however, is not
mentioned, nor is any author's name indicated--the similarity, or even
identity, cannot by any means be admitted as evidence that the quotation
is necessarily from our Gospels, and not from some other similar work
now no longer extant; and more especially not when, in the same
writings, there are other quotations from apocryphal sources different
from our Gospels. Whether regarded as historical records or as writings
embodying the mere tradition of the early Christians, our Gospels cannot
for a moment be recognised as the exclusive depositaries of the genuine
sayings and doings of Jesus; and so far from the common possession by
many works in early times of such words of Jesus, in closely similar
form, being either strange or improbable, the really remarkable
phenomena is that such material variation in the report of the more
important historical teaching should exist amongst them. But whilst
similarity to our Gospels in passages quoted by early writers from
unnamed sources cannot prove the use of our Gospels, variation from them
would suggest or prove a different origin; and, at least, it is obvious
that quotations which do not agree with our Gospels cannot, in any case,
indicate their existence" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i., pp. 217-219).

We will now turn to the witness of Paley's Apostolic Fathers, bearing
always in mind the utter worthlessness of their testimony; worthless as
it is, however, it is the only evidence Christians have to bring forward
to prove the identity of their Gospels with those [supposed to have
been] written in the first century. Let us listen to the opinion given
by Bishop Marsh: "From the Epistle of Barnabas, no inference can be
deduced that he had read any part of the New Testament. From the genuine
epistle, as it is called, of Clement of Rome, it may be inferred that
Clement had read the first Epistle to the Corinthians. From the Shepherd
of Hermas no inference whatsoever can be drawn. From the Epistles of
Ignatius, it may be concluded that he had read St. Paul's Epistle to the
Ephesians, and that there existed in his time evangelical writings,
though it cannot be shown that he has quoted from them. From Polycarp's
Epistle to the Philippians, it appears that he had heard of St. Paul's
Epistle to that community, and he quotes a passage which is in the first
Epistle to the Corinthians, and another which is in the Epistle to the
Ephesians; but no positive conclusion can be drawn with respect to any
other epistle, or any of the four Gospels" (Marsh's "Michaelis," vol.
i., p. 354, as quoted in Norton's "Genuineness of the Gospels," vol. i.,
p. 3). Very heavily does this tell against the authenticity of these
records, for "if the four Gospels and other books were written by those
who had been eye-witnesses of Christ's miracles, and the five Apostolic
Fathers had conversed with the Apostles, it is not to be conceived that
they would not have named the actual books themselves which possessed so
high authority, and would be looked up to with so much respect by all
the Christians. This is the only way in which their evidence could be of
use to support the authenticity of the New Testament as being the work
of the Apostles; but this is a testimony which the five Apostolical
Fathers fail to supply. There is not a single sentence, in all their
remaining works, in which a clear allusion to the New Testament is to be
found" ("Christian Records," Rev. Dr. Giles, p. 50).

Westcott, while claiming in the Apostolic Fathers a knowledge of most of
the epistles, writes very doubtfully as to their knowledge of the
Gospels (see above p. 264), and after giving careful citations of all
possible quotations, he sums up thus: "1. No evangelic reference in the
Apostolic Fathers can be referred certainly to a written record. 2. It
appears most probable from the form of the quotations that they were
derived from oral tradition. 3. No quotation contains any element which
is not substantially preserved in our Gospels. 4. When the text given
differs from the text of our Gospels it represents a later form of the
evangelic tradition. 5. The text of St. Matthew corresponds more nearly
than the other synoptic texts with the quotations and references as a
whole" ("On the Canon," p. 62). There appears to be no proof whatever of
conclusions 3 and 4, but we give them all as they stand. But we will
take these Apostolic Fathers one by one, in the order used by Paley.

BARNABAS. We have already quoted Bishop Marsh and Dr. Giles as regards
him. There is "nothing in this epistle worthy of the name of evidence
even of the existence of our Gospels" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i., p. 260).
The quotation sometimes urged, "There are many called, few chosen," is
spoken of by Westcott as a "proverbial phrase," and phrases similar in
meaning and manner may be found in iv. Ezra, viii. 3, ix. 15 ("Sup.
Rel.," vol. i., p. 245); in the latter work the words occur in a
relation similar to that in which we find them in Barnabas; in both the
judgment is described, and in both the moral drawn is that there are
many lost and few saved; it is the more likely that the quotation is
taken from the apocryphal work, since many other quotations are drawn
from it throughout the epistle. The quotation "Give to every one that
asketh thee," is not found in the supposed oldest MS., the Codex
Sinaiticus, and is a later interpolation, clearly written in by some
transcriber as appropriate to the passage in Barnabas. The last supposed
quotation, that Christ chose men of bad character to be his disciples,
that "he might show that he came not to call the righteous, but
sinners," is another clearly later interpolation, for it jars with the
reasoning of Barnabas, and when Origen quotes the passage he omits the
phrase. In a work which "has been written at the request, and is
published at the cost of the Christian Evidence Society," and which may
fairly, therefore, be taken as the opinion of learned, yet most
orthodox, Christian opinion, the Rev. Mr. Sanday writes: "The general
result of our examination of the Epistle of Barnabas may, perhaps, be
stated thus, that while not supplying by itself certain and conclusive
proof of the use of our Gospels, still the phenomena accord better with
the hypothesis of such a use. This epistle stands in the second line of
the Evidence, and as a witness is rather confirmatory than principal"
("Gospels in the Second Century," p. 76. Ed. 1876). And this is all that
the most modern apologetic criticism can draw from an epistle of which
Paley makes a great display, saying that "if the passage remarked in
this ancient writing had been found in one of St. Paul's Epistles, it
would have been esteemed by every one a high testimony to St. Matthew's
Gospel" ("Evidences," p. 113).

CLEMENT OF ROME.--"Tischendorf, who is ever ready to claim the slightest
resemblance in language as a reference to new Testament writings, admits
that although this Epistle is rich in quotations from the Old Testament,
and here and there that Clement also makes use of passages from Pauline
Epistles, he nowhere refers to the Gospels" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i. pp.
227, 228). The Christian Evidence Society, through Mr. Sanday, thus
criticises Clement: "Now what is the bearing of the Epistle of Clement
upon the question of the currency and authority of the Synoptic Gospels?
There are two passages of some length which are, without doubt,
evangelical quotations, though whether they are derived from the
Canonical Gospels or not may be doubted" ("Gospels in the Second
Century," page 61). After balancing the arguments for and against the
first of these passages, Mr. Sanday concludes: "Looking at the arguments
on both sides, so far as we can give them, I incline, on the whole, to
the opinion that Clement is not quoting from our Gospels; but I am quite
aware of the insecure ground on which this opinion rests. It is a nice
balance of probabilities, and the element of ignorance is so large that
the conclusion, whatever it is, must be purely provisional. Anything
like confident dogmatism on the subject seems to me entirely out of
place. Very much the same is to be said of the second passage" (Ibid, p.

The quotations in Clement, apparently from some other evangelic work,
will be noted under head _h_, and these are those cited in Paley.

HERMAS.--Tischendorf relinquishes this work also as evidence for the
Gospels. Lardner writes: "In _Hermas_ are no express citations of any
books of the New Testament" ("Credibility," vol. i. pt. 2, p. 116). He
thinks, however, that he can trace "allusions to" "words of Scripture."
Westcott says that "The _Shepherd_ contains no definite quotation from
either Old or New Testament" ("On the Canon," p. 197); but he also
thinks that Hermas was "familiar with" some records of "Christ's
teaching." Westcott, however, does not admit Hermas as an Apostolic
Father at all, but places him in the middle of the second century. "As
regards the direct historical evidence for the genuineness of the
Gospels, it is of no importance. No book is cited in it by name. There
are no evident quotations from the Gospels" (Norton's "Genuineness of
the Gospels," vol. i, pp. 342, 343).

IGNATIUS.--It would be wasted time to trouble about Ignatius at all,
after knowing the vicissitudes through which his supposed works have
passed (see ante pp. 217-220); and Paley's references are such vague
"quotations" that they may safely be left to the judgment of the reader.
Tischendorf, claiming two and three phrases in it, says somewhat
confusedly: "Though we do not wish to give to these references a
decisive value, and though they do not exclude all doubt as to their
applicability to our Gospels, and more particularly to that of St. John,
they nevertheless undoubtedly bear traces of such a reference" ("When
were our Gospels Written," p. 61, Eng. ed.). This conclusion refers, in
Tischendorf, to Polycarp, as well as to Ignatius. In these Ignatian
Epistles, Mr. Sanday only treats the Curetonian Epistles (see ante, p.
218) as genuine, and in these he finds scarcely any coincidences with
the Gospels. The parallel to Matthew x. 16, "Be ye, therefore, wise as
serpents and harmless as doves," is doubtful, as it is possible "that
Ignatius may be quoting, not directly from our Gospel, but from one of
the original documents (such as Ewald's hypothetical 'Spruch-Sammlung'),
out of which our Gospel was composed" ("Gospels in the Second Century,"
p. 78). An allusion to the "star" of Bethlehem may have, "as it appears
to have, reference to the narrative of Matt, ii... [but see, ante, p.
233, where the account given of the star is widely different from the
evangelic notice]. These are (so far as I am aware) the only
coincidences to be found in the Curetonian version" (Ibid, pp. 78, 79).

POLYCARP.--This epistle lies under a heavy weight of suspicion, and has
besides little worth analysing as possible quotations from the Gospels.
Paley quotes, "beseeching the all-seeing God not to lead us into
temptation." Why not finish the passage? Because, if he had done so, the
context would have shown that it was not a quotation from a gospel
identical with our own--"beseeching the all-seeing God not to lead us
into temptation, as the Lord hath said, The spirit, indeed, is willing,
but the flesh is weak." If this be a quotation at all, it is from some
lost gospel, as these words are nowhere found thus conjoined in the

Thus briefly may these Apostolic Fathers be dismissed, since their
testimony fades away as soon as it is examined, as a mist evaporates
before the rays of the rising sun. We will call up Paley's other

PAPIAS.--In the fragment preserved by Eusebius there is no quotation of
any kind; the testimony of Papias is to the names of the authors of two
of the Gospels, and will be considered under _g_.

JUSTIN MARTYR.--We now come to the most important of the supposed
witnesses, and, although students must study the details of the
controversy in larger works, we will endeavour to put briefly before
them the main reasons why Freethinkers reject Justin Martyr as bearing
evidence to the authenticity of the present Gospels, and in this
_resume_ we begin by condensing chapter iii. of "Supernatural Religion",
vol. i., pp. 288-433, so far as it bears on our present position. Justin
Martyr is supposed to have died about A.D. 166, having been put to death
in the reign of Marcus Aurelius; he was by descent a Greek, but became a
convert to Christianity, strongly tinged with Judaism. The longer
Apology, and the Dialogue with Trypho, are the works chiefly relied upon
to prove the authenticity. The date of the first Apology is probably
about A.D. 147; the Dialogue was written later, perhaps between A.D. 150
and 160. In these writings Justin quotes very copiously from the Old
Testament, and he also very frequently refers to facts of Christian
history, and to sayings of Jesus. Of these references, for instance,
some fifty occur in the first Apology, and upwards of seventy in the
Dialogue with Trypho; a goodly number, it will be admitted, by means of
which to identify the source from which he quotes. Justin himself
frequently and distinctly says that his information and quotations are
derived from the "Memoirs of the Apostles," but, except upon one
occasion, which we shall hereafter consider, when he indicates Peter, he
never mentions an author's name. Upon examination it is found that, with
only one or two brief exceptions, the numerous quotations from these
"Memoirs" differ more or less widely from parallel passages in our
Synoptic Gospels, and in many cases differ in the same respects as
similar quotations found in other writings of the second century, the
writers of which are known to have made use of uncanonical Gospels; and
further, that these passages are quoted several times, at intervals, by
Justin, with the same variations. Moreover, sayings of Jesus are quoted
from the "Memoirs" which are not found in our Gospels at all, and facts
in the life of Jesus, and circumstances of Christian history, derived
from the same source, not only are not found in our Gospels, but are in
contradiction with them. Various theories have been put forward by
Christian apologists to lessen the force of these objections. It has
been suggested that Justin quoted from memory, condensed or combined to
suit his immediate purpose; that the "Memoirs" were a harmony of the
Gospels, with additions from some apocryphal work; that along with our
Gospels Justin used apocryphal Gospels; that he made use of our Gospels,
preferring, however, to rely chiefly on an apocryphal one. Results so
diverse show how dubious must be the value of the witness of Justin
Martyr. Competent critics almost universally admit that Justin had no
idea of ranking the "Memoirs of the Apostles" among canonical writings.
The word translated "Memoirs" would be more correctly rendered
"Recollections," or "Memorabilia," and none of these three terms is an
appropriate title for works ranking as canonical Gospels. Great numbers
of spurious writings, under the names of apostles, were current in the
early Church, and Justin names no authors for the "Recollections" he
quotes from, only saying that they were composed "by his Apostles and
their followers," clearly indicating that he was using some collective
recollections of the Apostles and those who followed them. The word
"Gospels," in the plural, is only once applied to these "Recollections;"
"For the Apostles, in the 'Memoirs' composed by them, which are called
Gospels." "The last expression [Greek: kaleitai euaggelai], as many
scholars have declared, is a manifest interpolation. It is, in all
probability, a gloss on the margin of some old MS. which some copyist
afterwards inserted in the text. If Justin really stated that the
'Memoirs' were called Gospels, it seems incomprehensible that he should
never call them so himself. In no other place in his writings does he
apply the plural to them, but, on the contrary, we find Trypho referring
to the 'so-called Gospel,' which he states that he had carefully read,
and which, of course, can only be Justin's 'Memoirs,' and again, in
another part of the same dialogue, Justin quotes passages which are
written 'in the Gospel.' The term 'Gospel' is nowhere else used by
Justin in reference to a written record." The public reading of the
Recollections, mentioned by Justin, proves nothing, since many works,
now acknowledged as spurious, were thus read (see ante, pp. 248, 249).
Justin does not regard the Recollections as inspired, attributing
inspiration only to prophetic writings, and he accepts them as authentic
solely because the events they narrate are prophesied of in the Old
Testament. The omission of any author's name is remarkable, since, in
quoting from the Old Testament, he constantly refers to the author by
name, or to the book used; but in the very numerous quotations, supposed
to be from the Gospels, he never does this, save in one single instance,
mentioned below, when he quotes Peter. On the theory that he had our
four Gospels before him, this is the more singular, since he would
naturally have distinguished one from the other. The only writing in the
New Testament referred to by name is the Apocalypse, by "a certain man
whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ," and it is
impossible that John should be thus mentioned, if Justin had already
been quoting from a Gospel bearing his name under the general title of
Recollections. Justin clearly quotes from a _written_ source and
excludes oral tradition, saying that in the Recollections is recorded
"_everything_ that concerns our Saviour Christ." (The proofs that Justin
quotes from records other than the Gospels will be classed under
position _h_, and are here omitted.) Justin knows nothing of the
shepherds of the plain, and the angelic appearance to them, nor of the
star guiding the wise men to the place where Jesus was, although he
relates the story of the birth, and the visit of the wise men. Two short
passages in Justin are identical with parallel passages in Matthew, but
"it cannot be too often repeated, that the mere coincidence of short
historical sayings in two works by no means warrants the conclusion that
the one is dependent on the other." In the first Apology, chaps, xv.,
xvi., and xvii. are composed almost entirely of examples of Christ's
teaching, and with the exception of these two brief passages, not one
quotation agrees verbally with the canonical Gospels. We have referred
to one instance wherein the name of Peter is mentioned in connection
with the Recollections. Justin says: "The statement also that he (Jesus)
changed the name of Peter, one of the Apostles, and that this is also
written in _his_ 'Memoirs,'" etc. This refers the "Memoirs" to Peter,
and it is suggested that it is, therefore, a reference to the Gospel of
Mark, Mark having been supposed to have written his Gospel under the
direction of Peter. There was a "Gospel according to Peter" current in
the early Church, probably a variation from the Gospel of the Hebrews,
so highly respected and so widely used by the primitive writers. It is
very probable that this is the work to which Justin so often refers, and
that it originally bore the simple title of "The Gospel," or the
"Recollections of Peter." A version of this Gospel was also known as the
"Gospel According to the Apostles," a title singularly like the
"Recollections of the Apostles" by Justin. Seeing that in Justin's works
his quotations, although so copious, do not agree with parallel passages
in our Gospels, we may reasonably conclude that "there is no evidence
that he made use of any of our Gospels, and he cannot, therefore, even
be cited to prove their very existence, and much less the authenticity
and character of records whose authors he does not once name." Passing
from this case, ably worked out by this learned and clever writer (and
we earnestly recommend our readers, if possible, to study his careful
analysis for themselves, since he makes the whole question thoroughly
intelligible to _English_ readers, and gives them evidence whereby they
can form their own judgments, instead of accepting ready-made
conclusions), we will examine Canon Westcott's contention. He admits
that the difficulties perplexing the evidence of Justin are "great;"
that there are "additions to the received narrative, and remarkable
variations from its text, which, in some cases, are both repeated by
Justin and found also in other writings" ("On the Canon," p. 98). We
regret to say that Dr. Westcott, in laying the case before his readers,
somewhat misleads them, although, doubtless, unintentionally. He speaks
of Justin telling us that "Christ was descended from Abraham through
Jacob, Judah, Phares, Jesse, and David," and omits the fact that Justin
traces the descent to Mary alone, and knows nothing as to a descent
traced to Joseph, as in both Matthew and Luke (see below, under _h_). He
speaks of Justin mentioning wise men "guided by a star," forgetting that
Justin says nothing of the guidance, but only writes: "That he should
arise like a star from the seed of Abraham, Moses showed beforehand....
Accordingly, when a star rose in heaven at the time of his birth, as is
recorded in the 'Memoirs' of his Apostles, the Magi from Arabia,
recognising the sign by this, came and worshipped him" ("Dial.," ch.
cvi.). He speaks of Justin recording "the singing of the Psalm
afterwards" (after the last supper), omitting that Justin only says
generally ("Dial.," ch. cvi., to which Dr. Westcott refers us) that
"when living with them (Christ) sang praises to God." But as we
hereafter deal with these discrepancies, we need not dwell on them now,
only warning our readers that since even such a man as Dr. Westcott thus
misrepresents facts, it will be well never to accept any inferences
drawn from such references as these without comparing them with the
original. One of the chief difficulties to the English reader is to get
a reliable translation. To give but a single instance. In the version of
Justin here used (that published by T. Clark, Edinburgh), we find in the
"Dialogue," ch. ciii., the following passage: "His sweat fell down like
drops of blood while he was praying." And this is referred to by Canon
Westcott (p. 104) as a record of the "bloody sweat." Yet, in the
original, there is no word analogous to "of blood;" the passage runs:
"sweat as drops fell down," and it is recorded by Justin as a proof that
the prophecy, "my bones are poured out _like water_" was fulfilled in
Christ. The clumsy endeavour to create a likeness to Luke xxii. 44
destroys Justin's argument. Further on (p. 113) Dr. Westcott admits that
the words "of blood" are not found in Justin; but it is surely
misleading, under these circumstances, to say that Justin mentions "the
bloody sweat." Westcott only maintains seven passages in the whole of
Justin's writings, wherein he distinctly quotes from the "Memoirs;"
_i.e.,_ only seven that can be maintained as quotations from the
canonical Gospels--the contention being that the "Memoirs" _are_ the
Gospels. He says truly, if naively, "The result of a first view of these
passages is striking." Very striking, indeed; for, "of the seven, five
agree verbally with the text of St. Matthew or St. Luke, _exhibiting,
indeed, three slight various readings not elsewhere found_, but such as
are easily explicable. The sixth is a condensed summary of words related
by St. Matthew; the seventh alone presents an important variation in the
text of a verse, which is, however, otherwise very uncertain" (pp. 130,
131. The italics are our own). That is, there are only seven distinct
quotations, and all of these, save two, are different from our Gospels.
The whole of Dr. Westcott's analysis of these passages is severely
criticised in "Supernatural Religion," and in the edition of 1875 of Dr.
Westcott's book, from which we quote, some of the expressions he
previously used are a little modified. The author of "Supernatural
Religion" justly says: "The striking result, to summarise Canon
Westcott's own words, is this. Out of seven professed quotations from
the 'Memoirs,' in which he admits we may expect to find the exact
language preserved, five present three variations; one is a compressed
summary, and does not agree verbally at all; and the seventh presents an
important variation" (vol. i., p. 394).

Dr. Giles speaks very strongly against Paley's distortion of Justin
Martyr's testimony, complaining: "The works of Justin Martyr do not fall
in the way of one in a hundred thousand of our countrymen. How is it,
then, to be deprecated that erroneous statements should be current about
him! How is it to be censured that his testimony should be changed, and
he should be made to speak a falsehood!" ("Christian Records," p. 71).
Dr. Giles then argues that Justin would have certainly named the books
and their authors had they been current and reverenced in his time; that
there were numberless Gospels current at that date; that Justin mentions
occurrences that are only found related in such apocryphal Gospels. He
then compares seventeen passages in Justin Martyr with parallel passages
in the Gospels, and concludes that Justin "gives us Christ's sayings in
their traditionary forms, and not in the words which are found in our
four Gospels." We will select two, to show his method of criticising,
translating the Greek, instead of giving it, as he does, in the
original. In the Apology, ch. xv., Justin writes: "If thy right eye
offend thee, cut it out, for it is profitable for thee to enter into the
kingdom of heaven with one eye, than having two to be thrust into the
everlasting fire." "This passage is very like Matt. v. 29: 'If thy right
eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is
profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that
thy whole body should be cast into hell.' But it is also like Matt,
xviii. 9: 'And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from
thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than
having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire.' And it bears an equal
likeness to Mark ix. 47: 'And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it
is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than,
having two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire.' Yet, strange to say, it is
not identical in words with either of the three" (pp. 83, 84). "I came
not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." "In this only
instance is there a perfect agreement between the words of Justin and
the canonical Gospels, three of which, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, give the
same saying of Christ in the same words. A variety of thoughts here rush
upon the mind. Are these three Gospels based upon a common document? If
so, is not Justin Martyr's citation drawn from the same anonymous
document, rather than from the three Gospels, seeing he does not name
them? If, on the other hand, Justin has cited them accurately in this
instance, why has he failed to do so in the others? For no other reason
than that traditionary sayings are generally thus irregularly exact or
inexact, and Justin, citing from them, has been as irregularly exact as
they were" (Ibid, p. 85). "The result to which a perusal of his works
will lead is of the gravest character. He will be found to quote nearly
two hundred sentiments or sayings of Christ; but makes hardly a single
clear allusion to all those circumstances of time or place which give so
much interest to Christ's teaching, as recorded in the four Gospels. The
inference is that he quotes Christ's sayings as delivered by tradition
or taken down in writing before the four Gospels were compiled" (Ibid,
pp. 89, 90). Paley and Lardner both deal with Justin somewhat briefly,
calling every passage in his works resembling slightly any passage in
the Gospels a "quotation;" in both cases only ignorance of Justin's
writings can lead any reader to assent to the inferences they draw.

HEGESIPPUS was a Jewish Christian, who, according to Eusebius,
flourished about A.D. 166. Soter is said to have succeeded Anicetus in
the bishopric of Rome in that year, and Hegesippus appears to have been
in Rome during the episcopacy of both. He travelled about from place to
place, and his testimony to the Gospels is that "in every city the
doctrine prevails according to what is declared by the law, and the
prophets, and the Lord" ("Eccles. Hist," bk. iv., ch. 22). Further,
Eusebius quotes the story of the death of James, the Apostle, written by
Hegesippus, and in this James is reported to have said to the Jews: "Why
do ye now ask me respecting Jesus, the Son of Man? He is now sitting in
the heavens, on the right hand of great power, and is about to come on
the clouds of heaven." And when he is being murdered, he prays, "O Lord
God and Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (see
"Eccles. Hist.," bk. ii., ch. 23). The full absurdity of regarding this
as a testimony to the Gospels will be seen when it is remembered that it
is implied thereby that James, the brother and apostle of Christ, knew
nothing of his words until he read them in the Gospels, and that he was
murdered before the Gospel of Luke, from which alone he could quote the
prayer of Jesus, is thought, by most Christians, to have been written.
One other fragment of Hegesippus is preserved by Stephanus Gobarus,
wherein Hegesippus, speaking against Paul's assertion "that eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard," opposes to it the saying of the Lord, "Blessed are
your eyes, for they see, and your ears that hear." This is paralleled by
Matt. xiii. 16 and Luke x. 23. "We need not point out that the saying
referred to by Hegesippus, whilst conveying the same sense as that in
the two Gospels, differs as materially from them as they do from each
other, and as we might expect a quotation taken from a different, though
kindred, source, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews, to do" ("Sup.
Rel.," vol. i., p. 447). Why does not Paley tell us that Eusebius writes
of him, not that he quoted from the Gospels, but that "he also states
some particulars from the Gospel of the Hebrews and from the Syriac, and
particularly from the Hebrew language, showing that he himself was a
convert from the Hebrews. Other matters he also records as taken from
the unwritten tradition of the Jews" ("Eccles. Hist.," bk. iv., ch 22).
Here, then, we have the source of the quotations in Hegesippus, and yet
Paley conceals this, and deliberately speaks of him as referring to our
Gospel of Matthew!

A.D. 170, although the persecution it describes occurred in A.D. 177
(see ante, pp. 257, 258). The "exact references to the Gospels of Luke
and John and to the Acts of the Apostles," spoken of by Paley
("Evidences," p. 125), are not easy to find. Westcott says: "It contains
no reference by name to any book of the New Testament, but its
coincidences of language with the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, with
the Acts of the Apostles, with the Epistles of St. Paul to the Romans,
Corinthians (?), Ephesians, Philippians, and the First to Timothy, with
the first Catholic Epistles of St. Peter and St. John, and with the
Apocalypse, are indisputable" ("On the Canon," p. 336). Unfortunately,
neither Paley nor Dr. Westcott refer us to the passages in question,
Paley quoting only one. We will, therefore, give one of these at full
length, leaving our readers to judge of it as an "exact reference:"
"Vattius Epagathus, one of the brethren who abounded in the fulness of
the love of God and man, and whose walk and conversation had been so
unexceptionable, though he was only young, shared in the same testimony
with the elder Zacharias. He walked in all the commandments and
righteousness of the Lord blameless, full of love to God and his
neighbour" ("Eusebius," bk. v., chap. i). This is, it appears, an "exact
reference" to Luke i. 6, and we own we should not have known it unless
it had been noted in "Supernatural Religion." Tischendorf, on the other
hand, refers the allusion to Zacharias to the Protevangelium of James
("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., p. 202).

The second "exact reference" is, that Vattius had "the Spirit more
abundantly than Zacharias;" "such an unnecessary and insidious
comparison would scarcely have been made had the writer known our Gospel
and regarded it as inspired Scripture" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., p. 204).
The quotation "that the day would come when everyone that slayeth you
will think he is doing God a service," is one of those isolated sayings
referred to Christ which might be found in any account of his works, or
might have been handed down by tradition. This epistle is the last
witness called by Paley, prior to Irenaeus, and might, indeed, fairly be
regarded as contemporary with him.

Although Paley does not allude to the "Clementines," books falsely
ascribed to Clement of Rome, these are sometimes brought to prove the
existence of the Gospels in the second century. But they are useless as
witnesses, from the fact that the date at which they were themselves
written is a matter of dispute. "Critics variously date the composition
of the original Recognitions from about the middle of the second century
to the end of the third, though the majority are agreed in placing them,
at least, in the latter century" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., p. 5). "It is
unfortunate that there are not sufficient materials for determining the
date of the Clementine Homilies" ("Gospels in the Second Century," Rev.
W. Sanday, p. 161). Part of the Clementines, called the "Recognitions,"
is useless as a basis for argument, for these "are only extant in a
Latin translation by Rufinus, in which the quotations from the Gospels
have evidently been assimilated to the canonical text which Rufinus
himself uses" (Ibid). Of the rest, "we are struck at once by the small
amount of exact coincidence, which is considerably less than that which
is found in the quotations from the Old Testament" (Ibid, p. 168). "In
the Homilies there are very numerous quotations of expressions of Jesus,
and of Gospel History, which are generally placed in the mouth of Peter,
or introduced with such formula as 'The teacher said,' 'Jesus said,' 'He
said,' 'The prophet said,' but in no case does the author name the
source from which these sayings and quotations are derived.... De Wette
says, 'The quotations of evangelical works and histories in the
pseudo-Clementine writings, from their free and unsatisfactory nature,
permit only uncertain conclusions as to their written source.' Critics
have maintained very free and conflicting views regarding that source.
Apologists, of course, assert that the quotations in the Homilies are
taken from our Gospels only. Others ascribe them to our Gospels, with a
supplementary apocryphal work, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, or
the Gospel according to Peter. Some, whilst admitting a subsidiary use
of some of our Gospels, assert that the author of the Homilies employs,
in preference, the Gospel according to Peter; whilst others, recognising
also the similarity of the phenomena presented by these quotations with
those of Justin's, conclude that the author does not quote our Gospels
at all, but makes use of the Gospel according to Peter, or the Gospel
according to the Hebrews. Evidence permitting of such divergent
conclusions manifestly cannot be of a decided character" ("Sup. Rel.,"
vol. ii., pp. 6, 7).

On Basilides (teaching c. A.D. 135) and Valentinus (A.D. 140), two of
the early Gnostic teachers, we need not delay, for there is scarcely
anything left of their writings, and all we know of them is drawn from
the writings of their antagonists; it is claimed that they knew and made
use of the canonical Gospels, and Canon Westcott urges this view of
Basilides, but the writer of "Supernatural Religion" characterises this
plea "as unworthy of a scholar, and only calculated to mislead readers
who must generally be ignorant of the actual facts of the case" (vol.
ii., p. 42). Basilides says that he received his doctrine from Glaucias,
the "interpreter of Peter," and "it is apparent, however, that
Basilides, in basing his doctrines on these apocryphal books as
inspired, and upon tradition, and in having a special Gospel called
after his own name, which, therefore, he clearly adopts as the exponent
of his ideas of Christian truth, absolutely ignores the canonical
Gospels altogether, and not only does not offer any evidence for their
existence, but proves that he did not recognise any such works as of
authority. Therefore, there is no ground whatever for Tischendorf's
assumption that the Commentary of Basilides 'On the Gospel' was written
upon our Gospels, but that idea is, on the contrary, negatived in the
strongest way by all the facts of the case" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., pp.
45, 46). Both with this ancient heretic, as with Valentinus, it is
impossible to distinguish what is ascribed to him from what is ascribed
to his followers, and thus evidence drawn from either of them is weaker
even than usual.

Marcion, the greatest heretic of the second century, ought to prove a
useful witness to the Christians if the present Gospels had been
accepted in his time as canonical. He was the son of the Christian
Bishop of Sinope, in Pontus, and taught in Rome for some twenty years,
dating from about A.D. 140. Only one Gospel was acknowledged by him, and
fierce has been the controversy as to what this Gospel was. It is only
known to us through his antagonists, who generally assert that the
Gospel used by him was the third Synoptic, changed and adapted to suit
his heretical views. Paley says, "This rash and wild controversialist
published a recension or chastised edition of St. Luke's Gospel"
("Evidences," p. 167), but does not condescend to give us the smallest
reason for so broad an assertion. This question has, however, been
thoroughly debated among German critics, the one side maintaining that
Marcion mutilated Luke's Gospel, the other that Marcion's Gospel was
earlier than Luke's, and that Luke's was made from it; while some,
again, maintained that both were versions of an older original. From
this controversy we may conclude that there was a strong likeness
between Marcion's Gospel and the third Synoptic, and that it is
impossible to know which is the earlier of the two. The resolution of
the question is made hopeless by the fact that "the principal sources of
our information regarding Marcion's Gospel are the works of his most
bitter denouncers Tertullian and Epiphanius" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., p.
88). "At the very best, even if the hypothesis that Marcion's Gospel was
a mutilated Luke were established, Marcion affords no evidence in favour
of the authenticity or trustworthy character of our third Synoptic. His
Gospel was nameless, and his followers repudiated the idea of its having
been written by Luke; and regarded even as the earliest testimony for
the existence of Luke's Gospel, that testimony is not in confirmation of
its genuineness and reliability, but, on the contrary, condemns it as
garbled and interpolated" (Ibid, pp. 146, 147).

It is scarcely worth while to refer to the supposed evidence of the
"Canon of Muratori," since the date of this fragment is utterly unknown.
In the year 1740 Muratori published this document in a collection of
Italian antiquities, stating that he had found it in the Ambrosian
library at Milan, and that he believed that the MS. from which he took
it had been in existence about 1000 years. It is not known by whom the
original was written, and it bears no date: it is but a fragment,
commencing: "at which, nevertheless, he was present, and thus he placed
it. Third book of the Gospel according to Luke." Further on it speaks of
"the fourth of the Gospels of John." The value of the evidence of an
anonymous fragment of unknown date is simply _nil_. "It is by some
affirmed to be a complete treatise on the books received by the Church,
from which fragments have been lost; while others consider it a mere
fragment itself. It is written in Latin, which by some is represented as
most corrupt, whilst others uphold it as most correct. The text is
further rendered almost unintelligible by every possible inaccuracy of
orthography and grammar, which is ascribed diversely to the transcriber,
to the translator, and to both. Indeed, such is the elastic condition of
the text, resulting from errors and obscurity of every imaginable
description, that, by means of ingenious conjectures, critics are able
to find in it almost any sense they desire. Considerable difference of
opinion exists as to the original language of the fragment, the greater
number of critics maintaining that the composition is a translation from
the Greek, while others assert it to have been originally written in
Latin. Its composition is variously attributed to the Church of Africa,
and to a member of the Church in Rome" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. ii., pp. 238,
239). On a disputable scrap of this kind no argument can be based; there
is no evidence even to show that the thing was in existence at all until
Muratori published it; it is never referred to by any early writer, nor
is there a scintilla of evidence that it was known to the early Church.

After a full and searching analysis of all the documents, orthodox and
heretical, supposed to have been written in the first two centuries
after Christ, the author of "Supernatural Religion" thus sums
up:--"After having exhausted the literature and the testimony bearing on
the point, we have not found a single distinct trace of any one of those
Gospels during the first century and a half after the death of Jesus....
Any argument for the mere existence of our Synoptics based upon their
supposed rejection by heretical leaders and sects has the inevitable
disadvantage, that the very testimony which would show their existence
would oppose their authenticity. There is no evidence of their use by
heretical leaders, however, and no direct reference to them by any
writer, heretical or orthodox, whom we have examined" (vol. ii., pp,
248, 249). Nor is the fact of this blank absence of evidence of identity
all that can be brought to bear in support of our proposition, for there
is another fact that tells very heavily against the identity of the now
accepted Gospels with those that were current in earlier days, namely,
the noteworthy charge brought against the Christians that they changed
and altered their sacred books; the orthodox accused the unorthodox of
varying the Scriptures, and the heretics retorted the charge with equal
pertinacity. The Ebionites maintained that the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew
was the only authentic Gospel, and regarded the four Greek Gospels as
unreliable. The Marcionites admitted only the Gospel resembling that of
Luke, and were accused by the orthodox of having altered that to suit
themselves. Celsus, writing against Christianity, formulates the charge:
"Some believers, like men driven by drunkenness to commit violence on
themselves, have altered the Gospel history, since its first
composition, three times, four times, and oftener, and have re-fashioned
it, so as to be able to deny the objections made against it" ("Origen
Cont. Celsus," bk. ii., chap. 27, as quoted by Norton, p. 63). Origen
admits "that there are those who have altered the Gospels," but pleads
that it has been done by heretics, and that this "is no reproach against
true Christianity" (Ibid). Only, most reverend Father of the Church, if
heretics accuse orthodox, and orthodox accuse heretics, of altering the
Gospels, how are we to be sure that they have come down unaltered to us?
Clement of Alexandria notes alterations that had been made. Dionysius,
of Corinth, complaining of the changes made in his own writings, bears
witness to this same fact: "It is not, therefore, matter of wonder if
some have also attempted to adulterate the sacred writings of the Lord,
since they have attempted the same in other works that are not to be
compared with these" ("Eusebius," bk. iv., ch. 23). Faustus, the
Manichaean, the great opponent of Augustine, writes: "For many things
have been inserted by your ancestors in the speeches of our Lord, which,
though put forth under his name, agree not with his faith; especially
since--as already it has been often proved by us--that these things were
not written by Christ, nor his Apostles, but a long while after their
assumption, by I know not what sort of half Jews, not even agreeing with
themselves, who made up their tale out of report and opinions merely;
and yet, fathering the whole upon the names of the Apostles of the Lord,
or on those who were supposed to have followed the Apostles; they
mendaciously pretended that they had written their lies and conceits
_according to_ them" (Lib. 33, ch. 3, as quoted and translated in
"Diegesis," pp. 61, 62).

The truth is, that in those days, when books were only written, the
widest door was opened to alterations, additions, and omissions;
incidents or remarks written, perhaps, in the margin of the text by one
transcriber, were transferred into the text itself by the next copyist,
and were thereafter indistinguishable from the original matter. In this
way the celebrated text of the three witnesses (1 John, v. 7) is
supposed to have crept into the text. Dealing with this, in reference to
the New Testament, Eichhorn points out that it was easy to alter a
manuscript in transcribing it, and that, as manuscripts were written for
individual use, such alterations were considered allowable, and that the
altered manuscript, being copied in its turn, such changes passed into
circulation unnoticed. Owners of manuscripts added to them incidents of
the life of Christ, or any of his sayings, which they had heard of, and
which were not recorded in their own copies, and thus the story grew and
grew, and additional legends were incorporated with it, until the
historical basis became overlaid with myth. The vast number of readings
in the New Testament, no less--according to Dr. Angus, one of the
present Revision Committee--than 100,000, prove the facility with which
variations were introduced into MSS. by those who had charge of them. In
heated and angry controversy between different schools of monks appeals
were naturally made to the authority of the Scriptures, and what more
likely--indeed more certain--than that these monks should introduce
variations into their MS. copies favouring the positions for which they
were severally contending?

The most likely way in which the Gospels grew into their present forms
is, that the various traditions relating to Christ were written down in
different places for the instruction of catechumens, and that these,
passing from hand to hand, and mouth to mouth, grew into a large mass of
disjointed stories, common to many churches. This mass was gradually
sifted, arranged, moulded into historical shape, which should fit into
the preconceived notions of the Messiah, and thus the four Gospels
gradually grew into their present form, and were accepted on all hands
as the legacy of the apostolic age. No careful reader can avoid noticing
the many coincidences of expression between the three synoptics, and
deducing from these coincidences the conclusion that one narrative
formed the basis of the three histories. Ewald supposes the existence of
a _Spruchsammlung_--collected sayings of Christ--but such a collection
is not enough to explain the phenomena we refer to. Dr. Davidson says:
"The rudiments of an original oral Gospel were formed in Jerusalem, in
the bosom of the first Christian Church; and the language of it must
have been Aramaean, since the members consisted of Galileans, to whom
that tongue was vernacular. It is natural to suppose that they were
accustomed to converse with one another on the life, actions, and
doctrines of their departed Lord, dwelling on the particulars that
interested them most, and rectifying the accounts given by one another,
where such accounts were erroneous, or seriously defective. The
Apostles, who were eye-witnesses of the public life of Christ, could
impart correctness to the narratives, giving them a fixed character in
regard to authenticity and form. In this manner an original oral Gospel
in Aramaean was formed. We must not, however, conceive of it as put into
the shape of any of our present Gospels, or as being of like extent; but
as consisting of leading particulars in the life of Christ, probably the
most striking and the most affecting, such as would leave the best
impression on the minds of the disciples. The incidents and sayings
connected with their Divine Master naturally assumed a particular shape
from repetition, though it was simply a rudimental one. They were not
compactly linked in regular or systematic sequence. They were the oral
germ and essence of a Gospel, rather than a proper Gospel itself, at
least, according to our modern ideas of it. But the Aramaean language was
soon laid aside. When Hellenists evinced a disposition to receive
Christianity, and associated themselves with the small number of
Palestinian converts, Greek was necessarily adopted. As the
Greek-speaking members far out-numbered the Aramaean-speaking brethren,
the oral Gospel was put into Greek. Henceforward Greek, the language of
the Hellenists, became the medium of instruction. The truths and facts,
before repeated in Hebrew, were now generally promulgated in Greek by
the apostles and their converts. The historical cyclus, which had been
forming in the Church at Jerusalem, assumed a determinate character in
the Greek tongue" ("Introduction to the New Testament," by S. Davidson,
LL.D., p. 405. Ed. 1848). Thus we find learned Christians obliged to
admit an uninspired collection as the basis of the inspired Gospel, and
laying down a theory which is entirely incompatible with the idea that
the Synoptic Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Our
Gospels are degraded into versions of an older Gospel, instead of being
the inspired record of contemporaries, speaking "that we do know."

Canon Westcott writes of the three Synoptic Gospels, that "they
represent, as is shown by their structure, a common basis, common
materials, treated in special ways. They evidently contain only a very
small selection from the words and works of Christ, and yet their
contents are included broadly in one outline. Their substance is
evidently much older than their form.... The only explanation of the
narrow and definite limit within which the evangelic history (exclusive
of St. John's Gospel) is confined, seems to be that a collection of
representative words and works was made by an authoritative body, such
as the Twelve, at a very early date, and that this, which formed the
basis of popular teaching, gained exclusive currency, receiving only
subordinate additions and modifications. This Apostolic Gospel--the oral
basis, as I have endeavoured to show elsewhere, of the Synoptic
narratives--dates unquestionably from the very beginning of the
Christian society" ("On the Canon," preface, pp. xxxviii., xxxix). Mr.
Sanday speaks of the "original documents out of which our Gospel was
composed" ("Gospels in the Second Century," page 78), and he writes:
"Doubtless light would be thrown upon the question if we only knew what
was the common original of the two Synoptic texts" (Ibid, p. 65). "The
first three Gospels of our Canon are remarkably alike, their writers
agree in relating the same thing, not only in the same manner, but
likewise in the very words, as must be evident to every common reader
who has paid the slightest attention to the subject.... [Here follow a
number of parallel passages from the three synoptics.] The agreement
between the three evangelists in these extracts is remarkable, and leads
to the question how such coincidences could arise between works which,
from the first years of Christianity until the beginning of the
seventeenth century, were understood to be perfectly independent, and to
have had each a separate and independent origin. The answer to this
question may at last, after more than a hundred years of discussion, be
given with tolerable certainty, if we are allowed to judge of this
subject according to the rules of reason and common sense, by which all
other such difficulties are resolved. 'The most eminent critics'--we
quote from 'Marsh's Michaelis,' vol. iii., part 2, page 170--'are at
present decidedly of opinion that one of the two suppositions must
necessarily be adopted--either that the three evangelists copied from
each other, or that all the three drew from _a common source_, and that
the notion of an absolute independence, in respect to the composition of
our three first Gospels, is no longer tenable'.... The alternative
between _a common source_ and _copying from each other_, is now no
longer in the same position as in the days of Michaelis or Bishop Marsh.
To decide between the two is no longer difficult. No one will now admit
that either of the four evangelists has copied from the other three, 1.
Because in neither of the four is there the slightest notice of the
others. 2. Because, if either of the evangelists may be thought, from
the remarkable similarity of any particular part of his narrative, to
have copied out of either of the other Gospels, we immediately light
upon so many other passages, wholly inconsistent with what the other
three have related on the same subject, that we immediately ask why he
has not copied from the others on those points also. It only remains,
therefore, for us to infer that there was a common source, first
traditional and then written--the [Greek: Apomnemoneumata], in short, or
'Memorials,' etc., of Justin Martyr, and that from this source the four
canonical Gospels, together with thirty or forty others, many of which
are still in existence, were, at various periods of early Christianity,
compiled by various writers" ("Christian Records," Dr. Giles, pp. 266,
270, 271). Dean Alford puts forward a somewhat similar theory; he
considers that the oral teaching of the apostles to catechumens and
others, the simple narrative of facts relating to Christ, gradually grew
into form and was written down, and that this accounts for the marked
similarity of some passages in the different Gospels. He says:--"I
believe, then, that the Apostles, in virtue not merely of their having
been eye-and-ear witnesses of the Evangelic history, but especially of
_their office_, gave to the various Churches their testimony in _a
narrative of facts_, such narrative being modified in each case by the
individual mind of the Apostle himself, and his sense of what was
requisite for the particular community to which he was ministering....
It would be easy and interesting to follow the probable origin and
growth of this cycle of narratives of the words and deeds of our Lord in
the Church at Jerusalem, for both the Jews and the Hellenists--the
latter under such teachers as Philip and Stephen--commissioned and
authenticated by the Apostles. In the course of such a process some
portions would naturally be written down by private believers for their
own use, or that of friends. And as the Church spread to Samaria,
Caesarea, and Antioch, the want would be felt in each of those places of
similar cycles of oral teaching, which, when supplied, would
thenceforward belong to, and be current in, those respective Churches.
And these portions of the Evangelic history, oral or partially
documentary, would be adopted under the sanction of the Apostles, who
were as in all things, so especially in this, the appointed and
divinely-guided overseers of the whole Church. This _common substratum
of Apostolic teachings_--never formally adopted by all, but subject to
all the varieties of diction and arrangement, addition and omission,
incident to transmission through many individual minds, and into many
different localities--_I believe to have been the original source of the
common part of our three Gospels_" ("Greek Test.," Dean Alford, vol. i.,
Prolegomena, ch. i., sec. 3, par. 6; ed. 1859. The italics are Dean

Eichhorn's theory of the growth of the Gospels is one very generally
accepted; he considers that the present Gospels were not in common
circulation before the end of the second century, and that before that
time other Gospels were in common use, differing considerably from each
other, but resting on a common foundation of historical fact; all these,
he thinks, were versions of an "original Gospel," a kind of rough
outline of Christ's life and discourses, put together without method or
plan, and one of these would be the "Memoirs of the Apostles," of which
Justin Martyr speaks. The Gospels, as we have them, are careful
compilations made from these earlier histories, and we notice that, at
the end of the second, and the beginning of the third, centuries, the
leaders of the Church endeavour to establish the authority of the four
more methodically arranged Gospels, so as to check the reception of
other Gospels, which were relied upon by heretics in their

Strauss gives a careful _resume_ of the various theories of the
formation of the Gospels held by learned men, and shows how the mythic
theory was gradually developed and strengthened; "according to George,
_mythus_ is the creation of a fact out of an idea" ("Life of Jesus,"
Strauss, vol. i., p. 42; ed. 1846), and the mythic theory supposes that
the ideas of the Messiah were already in existence, and that the story
of the Gospels grew up by the translation of these ideas into facts:
"Many of the legends respecting him [Jesus] had not to be newly
invented; they already existed in the popular hope of the Messiah,
having been mostly derived, with various modifications, from the Old
Testament, and had merely to be transferred to Jesus, and accommodated
to his character and doctrines. In no case could it be easier for the
person who first added any new feature to the description of Jesus, to
believe himself its genuineness, since his argument would be: Such and
such things must have happened to the Messiah; Jesus was the Messiah;
therefore, such and such things happened to him" (Ibid, pp. 81, 82). "It
is not, however, to be imagined that any one individual seated himself
at his table to invent them out of his own head, and write them down as
he would a poem; on the contrary, these narratives, like all other
legends, were fashioned by degrees, by steps which can no longer be
traced; gradually acquired consistency, and at length received a fixed
form in our written Gospels" (Ibid, p. 35). From the considerations here
adduced--the lack of quotations from our Gospels in the earliest
Christian writers, both orthodox and heretical; the accusations against
each made by the other of introducing chants and modifications in the
Gospels; the facility with which MSS. were altered before the
introduction of printing; the coincidences between the Gospels, showing
that they are drawn from a common source; from all these facts we
finally conclude _that there is no evidence that the Four Gospels
mentioned about that date_ (A.D. 180) _were the same as those we have

G. _That there is evidence that two of them were not the same._ "The
testimony of Papias is of great interest and importance in connection
with our inquiry, inasmuch as he is the first ecclesiastical writer who
mentions the tradition that Matthew and Mark composed written records of
the life and teaching of Jesus; but no question has been more
continuously contested than that of the identity of the works to which
he refers with our actual Canonical Gospels. Papias was Bishop of
Hierapolis, in Phrygia, in the first half of the second century, and is
said to have suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius about A.D.
164-167. About the middle of the second century he wrote a work in five
books, entitled 'Exposition of the Lord's Oracles,' which, with the
exception of a few fragments preserved to us chiefly by Eusebius and
Irenaeus, is unfortunately no longer extant. This work was less based on
written records of the teaching of Jesus than on that which Papias had
been able to collect from tradition, which he considered more authentic,
for, like his contemporary, Hegesippus, Papias avowedly prefers
tradition to any written works with which he was acquainted" ("Sup.
Rel.," vol. i., pp. 449, 450). Before giving the testimony attributed to
Papias, we must remark two or three points which will influence our
judgment concerning him. Paley speaks of him, on the authority of
Irenaeus, as "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp" ("Evidences,"
p. 121); but Paley omits to tell us that Eusebius points out that
Irenaeus was mistaken in this statement, and that Papias "by no means
asserts that he was a hearer and an eye-witness of the holy Apostles,
but informs us that he received the doctrines of faith from their
intimate friends" ("Eccles. Hist.", bk. iii., ch. 39). Eusebius subjoins
the passage from Papias, which states that "if I met with any one who
had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I made it a point to inquire
what were the declarations of the elders: what was said by Andrew,
Peter, or Philip; what by Thomas, James, John, Matthew, or any other of
the disciples of our Lord; what was said by Aristion, and the Presbyter
John, disciples of the Lord" (Ibid). Seeing that Papias died between
A.D. 164 and 167, and that the disciples of Jesus were Jesus' own
contemporaries, any disciple that Papias heard, when a boy, would have
reached a portentous age, and, between the age of the disciple and the
youth of Papias, the reminiscences would probably be of a somewhat hazy
character. It is to Papias that we owe the wonderful account of the
vines (ante, p. 234) of the kingdom of God, given by Irenaeus, who states
that "these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer
of John, and a companion of Polycarp.... And he says, in addition, 'Now
these things are credible to believers.' And he says that 'when the
traitor, Judas, did not give credit to them, and put the question, How
then can things about to bring forth so abundantly be wrought by the
Lord? the Lord declared, They who shall come to these (times) shall
see'" ("Irenaeus Against Heresies," bk. v., ch. 33, sec. 4). The
recollections of Papias scarcely seem valuable as to quality. Next we
note that Papias could scarcely put a very high value on the Apostolic
writings, since he states that "I do not think that I derived so much
benefit from books as from the living voice of those that are still
surviving" ("Eccles. Hist," bk. iii., ch. 39), i.e., of those who had
been followers of the Apostles. How this remark of Papias tallies with
the supposed respect shown to the Canonical Gospels by primitive
writers, it is for Christian apologists to explain. We then mark that we
have no writing of Papias to refer to that pretends to be original. We
have only passages, said to be taken from his writings, preserved in the
works of Irenaeus and Eusebius, and neither of these ecclesiastical
penmen inspire the student with full confidence; even Eusebius mentions
him in doubtful fashion; "there are said to be five books of Papias;" he
gives "certain strange parables of our Lord and of his doctrine, and
some other matters rather too fabulous;" "he was very limited in his
comprehension, as is evident from his discourses" ("Eccles. Hist.," bk.
iii., ch. 39). We thus see that the evidence of Papias is discredited at
the very outset, perhaps to the advantage of the Christians, however,
for his testimony is fatal to the Canonical Gospels. Papias is said to
have written: "And John the Presbyter also said this: Mark being the
interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great
accuracy, but not, however, in the order in which it was spoken or done
by our Lord, but as before said, he was in company with Peter, who gave
him such instruction as was necessary, but not to give a history of our
Lord's discourses; wherefore Mark has not erred in anything, by writing
some things as he has recorded them; for he was carefully attentive to
one thing, not to pass by anything that he heard, or to state anything
falsely in these accounts" ("Eccles. Hist.," bk iii., ch. 39). How far
does this account apply to the Gospel now known as "according to St.
Mark?" Far from showing traces of Petrine influence, such traces are
conspicuous by their absence. "Not only are some of the most important
episodes in which Peter is represented by the other Gospels _as_ a
principal actor altogether omitted, but throughout the Gospel there is
the total absence of anything which is specially characteristic of
Petrine influence and teaching. The argument that these omissions are
due to the modesty of Peter is quite untenable, for not only does
Irenaeus, the most ancient authority on the point, state that this Gospel
was only written after the death of Peter, but also there is no modesty
in omitting passages of importance in the history of Jesus, simply
because Peter himself was in some way concerned in them, or, for
instance, in decreasing his penitence for such a denial of his master,
which could not but have filled a sad place in the Apostle's memory. On
the other hand, there is no adequate record of special matter which the
intimate knowledge of the doings and sayings of Jesus possessed by Peter
might have supplied to counterbalance the singular omissions. There is
infinitely more of the spirit of Peter in the first Gospel than there is
in the second. The whole internal evidence, therefore, shows that this
part of the tradition of the Presbyter John transmitted by Papias does
not apply to our Gospel" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i., pp. 459, 460). But a far
stronger objection to the identity of the work spoken of by Papias with
the present Gospel of Mark, is drawn from the description of the
document as given by him. "The discrepancy, however, is still more
marked when we compare with our actual second Gospel the account of the
work of Mark, which Papias received from the Presbyter. Mark wrote down
from memory some parts [Greek: enia] of the teaching of Peter regarding
the life of Jesus, but as Peter adapted his instructions to the actual
circumstances [Greek: pros tas chreias] and did not give a consecutive
report [Greek: suntaxis] of the discourses or doings of Jesus, Mark was
only careful to be accurate, and did not trouble himself to arrange in
historical order [Greek: taxis] his narrative of the things which were
said or done by Jesus, but merely wrote down facts as he remembered
them. This description would lead us to expect a work composed of
fragmentary reminiscences of the teaching of Peter, without orderly
sequence or connection. The absence of orderly arrangement is the most
prominent feature in the description, and forms the burden of the whole.
Mark writes 'what he remembered;' 'he did not arrange in order the
things that were either said or done by Christ;' and then follow the
apologetic expressions of explanation--he was not himself a hearer or
follower of the Lord, but derived his information from the occasional
preaching of Peter, who did not attempt to give a consecutive narrative,
and, therefore, Mark was not wrong in merely writing things without
order as he happened to hear or remember them. Now it is impossible in
the work of Mark here described to recognise our present second Gospel,
which does not depart in any important degree from the order of the
other two Synoptics, and which, throughout, has the most evident
character of orderly arrangement.... The great majority of critics,
therefore, are agreed in concluding that the account of the Presbyter
John recorded by Papias does not apply to our second Canonical Gospel at
all" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. 1, pp. 460, 461). "This document, also, is
mentioned by Papias, as quoted by Eusebius; the account which they give
of it is not applicable to the work which we now have. For the 'Gospel
according to St. Mark' professes to give a continuous history of
Christ's life, as regularly as the other three Gospels, but the work
noticed by Papias is expressly stated to have been memoranda, taken down
from time to time as Peter delivered them, and it is not said that Mark
ever reduced these notes into the form of a more perfect history"
("Christian Records," Rev. Dr. Giles, pp. 94, 95). "It is difficult to
see in what respects Mark's Gospel is more loose and disjointed than
those of Matthew and Luke.... We are inclined to agree with those who
consider the expression [Greek: ou taxei] unsuitable to the present
Gospel of Mark. As far as we are able to understand the entire fragment,
it is most natural to consider John the Presbyter or Papias assigning a
sense to [Greek: ou taxei] which does not agree with the character of
the canonical document" ("Introduction to the New Testament," Dr.
Davidson, p. 158). This Christian commentator is so disgusted with the
conviction he honestly expresses as to the unsuitability of the phrase
in question as applied to Mark, that he exclaims: "We presume that John
the Presbyter was not infallible.... In the present instance, he appears
to have been mistaken in his opinion. His power of perception was
feeble, else he would have seen that the Gospel which he describes as
being written [Greek: ou taxei], does not differ materially in
arrangement from that of Luke. Like Papias, the Presbyter was apparently
destitute of critical ability and good judgment, else he could not have
entertained an idea so much at variance with fact" (Ibid, p. 159). We
may add, for what it is worth, that "according to the unanimous belief
of the early Church this Gospel was written at _Rome._ Hence the
conclusion was drawn that it must have been composed in _the language of
the Romans_; that is, Latin. Even in the old Syriac version, a remark is
annexed, stating that the writer preached the Gospel in Roman (Latin) at
Rome; and the Philoxenian version has a marginal annotation to the same
effect. The Syrian Churches seem to have entertained this opinion
generally, as may be inferred not only from these versions, but from
some of their most distinguished ecclesiastical writers, such as
Ebedjesu. Many Greek Manuscripts, too, have a similar remark regarding
the language of our Gospel, originally taken, perhaps from the Syriac"
(Ibid, pp. 154, 155). We conclude, then, that the document alluded to by
the Presbyter John, as reported by Papias through Eusebius, cannot be
identical with the present canonical Gospel of Mark. Nor is the
testimony regarding Matthew less conclusive: "Of Matthew he has stated
as follows: 'Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect, and
every one translated it as he was able'" ("Eccles. Hist," Eusebius, bk.
iii., ch. 39). The word here translated "history" is [Greek: ta logia]
and would be more correctly rendered by "oracles" or "discourses," and
much controversy has arisen over this term, it being contended that
[Greek: logia] could not rightly be extended so as to include any
records of the life of Christ: "It is impossible upon any but arbitrary
grounds, and from a foregone conclusion, to maintain that a work
commencing with a detailed history of the birth and infancy of Jesus,
his genealogy, and the preaching of John the Baptist, and concluding
with an equally minute history of his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and
resurrection, and which relates all the miracles, and has for its
evident aim throughout the demonstration that Messianic prophecy was
fulfilled in Jesus, could be entitled [Greek: ta logia] the oracles or
discourses of the Lord. For these and other reasons ... the majority of
critics deny that the work described by Papias can be the same as the
Gospel in our Canon bearing the name of Matthew" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i.,
pp. 471, 472). But the fact which puts the difference between the
present "Matthew" and that spoken of by Papias beyond dispute is that
Matthew, according to Papias, "wrote in the Hebrew dialect," i.e., the
Syro-Chaldaic, or Aramaean, while the canonical Matthew is written in
Greek. "There is no point, however, on which the testimony of the
Fathers is more invariable and complete than that the work of Matthew
was written in Hebrew or Aramaic" ("Sup. Rel.," vol. i., p. 475). This
industrious author quotes Papias, Irenaeus, Pantaenus in Eusebius,
Eusebius, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Jerome, in support of
his assertion, and remarks that "the same tradition is repeated by
Chrysostom, Augustine and others" (Ibid, pp. 475-477). "We believe that
Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, meaning by that term the common
language of the Jews of his time, because such is the uniform statement
of all ancient writers who advert to the subject. To pass over others
whose authority is of less weight, he is affirmed to have written in
Hebrew by Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome. Nor does any
ancient author advance a contrary opinion" ("Genuineness of the
Gospels," Norton, vol. i., pp. 196, 197). "Ancient historical testimony
is unanimous in declaring that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, i.e.,
in the Aramaean or Syro-Chaldaic language, at that time the vernacular
tongue of the Jews in Palestine" (Davidson's "Introduction to the New
Testament," p. 3). After a most elaborate presentation of the evidences,
the learned doctor says: "Let us now pause to consider this account of
the original Gospel of Matthew. It runs through all antiquity. None
doubted of its truth, as far as we can judge from their writings. There
is not the least trace of an opposite tradition" (Ibid, p. 37). The
difficulty of Christian apologists is, then, to prove that the Gospel
written by Matthew in Hebrew is the same as the Gospel according to
Matthew in Greek, and sore have been the shifts to which they have been
driven in the effort. Dean Alford, unable to deny that all the testimony
which could be relied upon to prove that Matthew wrote at all, also
proved that he wrote in Hebrew, and aware that an unauthorised
translation, which could not be identified with the original, could
never claim canonicity, fell back on the remarkable notion that he
himself translated his Hebrew Gospel into Greek; in the edition of his
Greek Testament published in 1859, however, he gives up this notion in
favour of the idea that the original Gospel of Matthew was written in

Of his earlier theory of translation by Matthew, Davidson justly says:
"It is easy to perceive its gratuitous character. It is a clumsy
expedient, devised for the purpose of uniting two conflicting
opinions--for saving the credit of ancient testimony, which is on the
side of a Hebrew original, and of meeting, at the same time, the
difficulties supposed to arise from the early circulation of the
Greek.... The advocates of the double hypothesis go in the face of
ancient testimony. Besides, they believe that Matthew wrote in Hebrew,
for the use of Jewish converts. Do they also suppose his Greek Gospel to
have been intended for the same class? If so, the latter was plainly
unnecessary: one Gospel was sufficient for the same persons. Or do they
believe that the second edition of it was designed for Gentile
Christians? if so, the notion is contradicted by internal evidence,
which proves that it was written specially for Jews. In short, the
hypothesis is wholly untenable, and we are surprised that it should have
found so many advocates" ("Introduction to the New Testament," p. 52).
The fact is, that no one knows who was the translator--or, rather, the
writer--of the Greek Gospel. Jerome honestly says that it is not known
who translated it into Greek. Dr. Davidson has the following strange
remarks: "The author indeed must ever remain unknown; but whether he
were an apostle or not, he must have had the highest sanction in his
proceeding. His work was performed with the cognisance, and under the
eye of Apostolic men. The reception it met with proved the general
belief of his calling, and competency to the task. Divine
superintendence was exercised over him" (Ibid, pp. 72, 73). It is
difficult to understand how Dr. Davidson knows that divine
superintendence was exercised over an unknown individual. Dr. Giles
argues against the hypothesis that our Greek Gospel is a translation:
"If St. Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, why has the original
perished? The existing Greek text is either a translation of the Hebrew,
or it is a separate work. But it cannot be a translation, for many
reasons, 1. Because there is not the slightest evidence on record of its
being a translation. 2. Because it is unreasonable to believe that an
authentic work--written by inspiration--would perish, or be superseded
by, an unauthenticated translation--for all translations are less
authentic than their originals. 3. Because there are many features in
our present Gospel according to St. Matthew, which are common to the
Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke; which would lead to the inference that
the latter are translations also. Besides, there is nothing in the
Gospel of St. Matthew, as regards its style or construction, that would
lead to the inference of its being a translation, any more than all the
other books contained in the New Testament. For these reasons we
conclude that the 'Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew,' which perhaps no one
has seen since Pantaenus, who brought it from India, and the 'Greek
Gospel according to St. Matthew,' are separate and independent works"
("Christian Records." Rev. Dr. Giles, pp. 93, 94). It must not be
forgotten that there was in existence in the early Church a Hebrew
Gospel which was widely spread, and much used. It was regarded by the
Ebionites, or Jewish Christians, later known as Nazarenes, as the only
authentic Gospel, and Epiphanius, writing in the fourth century, says:
"They have the Gospel of Matthew very complete; for it is well known
that this is preserved among them as it was first written in Hebrew"
("Opp.," i. 124, as quoted by Norton). But this Gospel, known as the
"Gospel according to the Hebrews," was not the same as the Greek "Gospel
according to St. Matthew." If it had been the same, Jerome would not
have thought it worth while to translate it; the quotations that he
makes from it are enough to prove to demonstration that the present
Gospel of Matthew is not that spoken of in the earliest days. "The
following positions are deducible from St. Jerome's writings: 1. The
authentic Gospel of Matthew was written in Hebrew. 2. The Gospel
according to the Hebrews was used by the Nazarenes and Ebionites. 3.
This Gospel was identical with the Aramaean original of Matthew"
(Davidson's "Introduction to the New Testament," p. 12). To these
arguments may be added the significant fact that the quotations in
Matthew from the Old Testament are taken from the Septuagint, and not
from the Hebrew version. The original Hebrew Gospel of Matthew would
surely not have contained quotations from the Greek translation, rather
than from the Hebrew original, of the Jewish Scriptures. If our present
Gospel is an accurate translation of the original Matthew, we must
believe that the Jewish Matthew, writing for Jews, did not use the
Hebrew Scriptures, with which his readers would be familiar, but went
out of his way to find the hated Septuagint, and re-translated it into
Hebrew. Thus we find that the boasted testimony said to be recorded by
Papias to the effect that Matthew and Mark wrote our two first
synoptical Gospels breaks down completely under examination, and that
instead of proving the authenticity of the present Gospels, it proves
directly the reverse, since the description there given of the writings
ascribed to Matthew and Mark is not applicable to the writings that now
bear their names, so that we find that in Papias _there is evidence that
two of the Gospels were not the same_.

H. _That there is evidence that the earlier records were not the Gospels
now esteemed Canonical._ This position is based on the undisputed fact
that the "Evangelical quotations" in early Christian writings differ
very widely from sentences of somewhat similar character in the
Canonical Gospels, and also from the circumstance that quotations not to


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