Edited by Hovey, Alvah
General Introduction to the New Testament
THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
For the purposes of this Introduction it is unnecessary to give a history of the word " canon," or even a list of the significations which it has in ancient literature. As applied to the New Testament, it means " the collection of books which constitute the original written rule of the Christian faith " (Westcott). If there is any standard of religious faith and practice recognized by Christians of every name as authoritative, it is this collection of books which are supposed to have been written by the immediate disciples of Christ and their associates.
It is true that Christians do not all agree in holding these books to be the only authoritative rule of faith and practice in matters of religion, but they all agree in holding them to be an original and authoritative rule, even though, as some suppose, their teaching must be supplemented by ecclesiastical tradition. It is true, again, that Christians do not all agree as to the complete inspiration and final authority of these books, but they all concede to them very high authority as the only original documents of the Christian religion now extant. It is also true that Christians do not all agree in their interpretation of these books, or in their theory as to the persons who are qualified to interpret them, but they all admit the high importance of their teaching, whenever it is ascertained.
How was the Canon of the New Testament established?
In seeking an answer to this question it will be found that the ways of God are not like our ways; for human wisdom would, doubtless, have deemed it expedient to guard against possible doubt or error in time to come by committing the closing up of the Canon to the last of the apostles. If John, residing at Ephesus in his old age, had inserted in his last book a list of the inspired writings of his contemporaries, with such a sketch of their contents as would make it easy to identify them; if he had testified that the number of such writings was then complete; and if he had joined with this statement a warning against any addition to or subtraction from the number or the teaching of those books (like that in Rev. 22:18, 19), — this, it may be thought, would have fixed the Canon of the New Testament beyond any possibility of doubt or debate, and this, surely, would have been a very natural course for human wisdom to take in the circumstances.
But it might have proved to be a mistake after all, giving to Christians less stable grounds for confidence than they now have. Would it not have led them to overlook all other evidence, and to depend exclusively on the witness of this apostle? Would it not have excited in critical minds suspicions of human calculation or fear, and demands for impossible proof that John himself wrote the book containing the list described, or at least the paragraph in which the list was found? Would it not have provoked the assertion that such a proceeding was unexampled and uncalled for by the circumstances of Christians at that time, since they must have known who were the writers of the Gospels and Epistles which they had received? These and similar criticisms would certainly have been made if the course suggested had been taken, even though that course was the safest and best possible in the eyes of human wisdom.
But it was not taken. The Spirit of God, who is wiser than men, and who presided over the work of the apostles, chose another way of establishing the Canon, another way of making known to Christians the authoritative documents of their religion in distinction from other books pertaining to it. And the way chosen by the Spirit was perfectly obvious and natural. It was to make use of the prudence and piety of the churches in accomplishing this work, by committing to them the writings of men who were known to be inspired teachers of Christian truth. For the prudence and piety of the churches would be morally certain to preserve these writings as a sacred trust, and to hand them down, with the names of their authors, from generation to generation as authoritative expositions of their religion.
If, for example, the churches of Philippi and Corinth received from Paul letters that were instinct with the spirit of love, wisdom, and authority — letters that praised their virtues, reproved their sins, corrected their errors, relieved their perplexities, scattered their doubts, and brightened their hopes — they would not fail to preserve these letters with the utmost care, or to leave them as precious treasures to their successors in the church. While they would be very willing to have them read and copied by disciples of Christ from other churches, they would "be likely to insist upon retaining them in their own custody. And since the letters directed to a single church were few in number (rarely if ever more than two), there would never be the slightest danger of mistake as to their authorship.
Thus, by a natural process, under the control of good sense and right feeling, would nearly all the writings of "apostles" and "apostolic men" (Tertullian) be kept distinct from the writings of those who could not declare the will of Christ with equal authority. For example, the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians would never for a moment be put on a level with the epistle which they received, a third of a century later, from the church in Rome, and which was written by Clement, Bishop of that church. Even if the latter were sometimes read in the church at Corinth, or were copied into the same manuscript with the former, there would be no danger of confusion. For if we look merely at the general contents of the two Epistles of Paul to " the church of God in Corinth," and of the first epistle of Clement to that church, it is manifestly absurd to ascribe them all to the same author, or to ascribe the canonical epistles to Clement and the ecclesiastical epistle to Paul. Besides, the former purport to be from the apostle, while the latter purports to be from the church in Rome. There may have been cases where the possibility of mistaking a non-apostolical for an apostolical writing is less incredible than in the case mentioned, but there were none, it is believed, where such a mistake can be regarded as probable.
And, in spite of modern doubts and denials, it is evident from a variety of circumstances that the early Christians were reasonably cautious about the sources of their knowledge. It is evident, for example, from the four great Epistles of Paul (viz. Romans, First and Second Corinthians, and Galatians), which are accepted as genuine by the boldest criticism, that special and, indeed, absolute confidence was reposed in the teaching of those admitted to be apostles (1 Cor. 12:28, 29; 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11, 12; Gal. 2:7-9; Eph. 2:20; 4:11). They were looked upon as entitled to speak with authority on all matters relating to the person and work of Christ or the duty of his followers. Naturally, therefore, their writings would be preserved and consulted with the greatest respect. It is also evident from hints in the New Testament, and from the language of the Christian Fathers, that along with the teaching of the apostles was placed the teaching of their companions, such as Mark and Luke, either because their doctrine was supposed to be received directly from apostles, and to be fully endorsed by them, or because, in addition to their intimacy with apostles, they were believed to have a special gift of inspiration to qualify them for their work.
If, now, as history appears to show, the formation of the New Testament Canon was left to the prudence and piety of the early churches, several things which may be said to characterize the actual process of formation are seen to be natural, if not inevitable. A few of these may be named in this place.
1. The Principal Reason for admitting a Book to the Canon was found in its Authorship. — If the sacred books of the New Covenant had been selected by the apostle John, the names and relations of their writers might have been a matter of no vital importance to any one. Enlightened by the Spirit, this apostle might have discerned the pure gold of truth with no admixture of error in anonymous productions, and these productions, stamped with his approval, might have been welcomed by the churches without much desire or effort to ascertain who were their authors. The great name and authority of John would have proved sufficient for a time to satisfy reason and blunt the edge of curiosity. But if books were to be pronounced authoritative and assigned a place in the Canon by the common judgment of churches composed of uninspired men, it could only be done on the ground of confidence in their authors as men who were commissioned by the Lord to declare his truth, and assisted to do this by the Holy Spirit. And this appears to have been the principal, if not the sole, ground on which the books of the New Testament were accepted by the churches, in preference to all others, as authentic statements of fact, of doctrine, and of duty.
2. The Formation of the Canon was a Slow but Safe Process. — To understand this, the reader must picture to himself the condition of the churches when the last of the apostles died in Ephesus. For that condition was not such as to suggest the necessity of collecting at once the standard documents of Christianity into a single volume. Had John ever directed them to collect those documents? though these would be sought by the ministry for a special reason, the instruction which they give as to the qualifications and duties of pastors. Again, such a book as the Epistle to the Hebrews might be chiefly used at first by churches composed of Jewish converts, for whose special benefit it was written.
Still further: local or temporary enthusiasm for a certain doctrine might lead to a more extensive and diligent use of the book in which it was supposed to be taught than was made of other books no less interesting to-day, while local or temporary dislike of certain doctrines might lead first to neglect, and then to ignorance, of the books supposed to teach them. This was probably true of the doctrine of Chiliasm as affecting the use or neglect of the Apocalypse.
For these reasons it is plain that the evidence for the canonicity of certain books of the New Testament would appear to be less compulsory in the fourth century than that for the canonicity of others. A uniform and universal tradition would commend a large part of these Scriptures to the confidence of every upright inquirer, but other portions would be supported by testimony from certain quarters and periods only.
From this general survey of the process by which the New Testament Canon was established in the early church it is now proper to turn to a consideration of the question —
Why should this Canon of the New Testament be accepted as Trustworthy?
The first and most obvious reason for this is our confidence in the good sense and piety of those who united their voices in adopting it. But if their repute for intelligence and fairness of mind were less than it is, there are two circumstances in their favor: the matter to be determined was not likely, on the whole, to enkindle partisan strife, and the evidence on which to found their decision was much more abundant then than it is now; for, as the writings of Eusebius clearly prove, a large part of that evidence has disappeared with the numerous volumes in which it was found.
In the light of these statements, the conclusions adopted by churches and councils in the latter part of the fourth century, even though they were but a ratification or declaration of the views of Christians in different parts of the empire, are presumably correct, and should be received with confidence unless they can be proved erroneous. The " burden of proof" rests upon those who reject any portions of the New Testament as unworthy of a place in the Canon of Holy Scripture. Unless well-attested facts, inconsistent with the view that these books were written by " apostles " or " apostolic men," and were received with veneration by those to whom they were first sent, can be produced, the books are entitled to retain the high position which was then accorded to them. This state of the case should be borne in mind by every one who undertakes to review the arguments for and against the limits to the New Testament Canon which have been generally accepted by Christians since the close of the fourth century. For the judgment of men having much evidence since lost must not be set aside as of no value. To restate our position: Since the churches and councils of the fourth century fixed the limits of the New Testament Canon with the aid of all the evidence which we now have and of much that has been lost, it would be unreasonable to change those limits unless they are found to be irreconcilable with ascertained facts. Yet a brief survey of the evidence which remains will be of service to those who cannot study that evidence minutely, and perhaps of nearly equal service to persons who desire to recall the principal features of that evidence or to prepare themselves for the study of it.
First Period — that of the Apostolical Fathers, to A. D. 120.
Very little Christian literature from this period has been preserved. The peculiar relation of the apostles to Christ, and the special inspiration which guided them in their work, gave them a vast influence over those who received the gospel from their lips. Hence, naturally, the spiritual leaders of the churches, after the apostolic age, were preachers, not writers. They were simply heralds of the truth which they had received from men whom they felt to be vastly superior to themselves in knowledge and authority. Most of their own work was done with the voice, and not with the pen; but whatever they did with the pen was chiefly done by letters of a practical character, rather than by treatises or full discussions. It is not, therefore, surprising that few exact quotations from books of the New Testament occur in their writings, or that these quotations are informal. For they probably had no occasion to enumerate the Christian books which they esteemed sacred, and little or no occasion to point out the source of any expressions which they drew from those books.
That a man bearing the name of Clement was one of the early pastors of the church in Rome cannot be seriously denied; for, according to IrenŠus, who wrote within less than a hundred years of the time when Clement was supposed to have stood at the head of the Roman Church, he was the successor of Anencletus, while Anencletus was the successor of Linus, the first overseer of the church (B. iii. 33); and, according to Eusebius, Linus was Pastor in Rome from A. D. 68-80; Anencletus, from A. D. 80-92; and Clement, from A. D. 92-101 (H, E., iii. 13, 15). Of the many writings once ascribed to Clement of Rome, only one is now believed to be genuine — an epistle of the church in that city to the church in Corinth — and this appears to have been written about A. D. 95. It is commonly called the " First Epistle of Clement," because there is evidence that it was written by Clement in the name and on behalf of the Roman Church, and because another production, once supposed to be a second letter, was early associated with the name of Clement and with this epistle. That production is at last ascertained to be a homily belonging to some author who lived before the middle of the second century. It is therefore probably the oldest Christian homily extant.
Of the first and genuine epistle it may be remarked — (1) That it is full of Christian thought and sentiment. One who reads it attentively will perceive that the spirit of its author was thoroughly Christian, and that he must have been at home with all the great truths of Scripture. (2) That it blends together in a very natural way the several types of doctrinal statement which have been found in the different books of the New Testament, and expresses views and feelings which would be produced in a candid mind by perusing with reverence all these books. So manifest is this that, in the language of the epistle, we seem to hear again, as it were, though in fainter tones, the voices of Christ and of Peter, of John and of Paul. (3) That many passages of Scripture are reproduced with Blight changes, as if from memory, and that expressions from different books or chapters are blended together in quotation, as if they belonged to the same paragraph of the sacred record. Such a method of quotation may not be commended as scholarly or critical, but it was certainly very natural, especially if the writer supposed his readers to be familiar with the Septuagint and with the books of the New Testament.1 (4) That it refers particularly to Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, probably because that Epistle was addressed to the same church when it was in somewhat similar circumstances; but the author appears to have been " well acquainted with the writings of Paul " (Donaldson). Important extracts are made from the Epistle to the Hebrews, though without describing the source from which they were derived. (5) That the contents and language of this epistle are accounted for by supposing that its writer knew and reverenced the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament, while they cannot easily be accounted for if he was ignorant of any considerable part of the latter volume.2
The brief references in early Christian writers to Ignatius warrant the belief that he was for a considerable time Bishop of Antioch, and that, either about A. D. 107 or about A. D. 116, he was sent as a condemned Christian to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom. The epistles ascribed to him are preserved in three forms, the longest of which may be pronounced quite unworthy of confidence. But of the other two forms it is difficult to say which has the best claim to be regarded genuine. The tendency of criticism seems, however, to be just now more favorable to the seven epistles of the shorter recension in Greek than to the three epistles in Syriac, the latter being regarded as made up of extracts from three of the former. Without undertaking to decide between the claims of these two forms of the Ignatian letters, and without affirming positively that Ignatius wrote even the three in the form published by Cureton, it may be remarked (1) that the seven contain many more references to the New Testament than the three. But even the testimony of the seven as to the New Testament will be found to be indirect instead of direct, and implied instead of expressed. For they do not formally appeal to the sacred books of the New Covenant, but presuppose their existence by the use of words, sentences, and thoughts which those books contain. (2) The author of these epistles must have been well acquainted with the writings of Paul and of John, and by no means ignorant of other New Testament Scriptures. Charteris recognizes citations from Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, First Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, First Timothy, and Revelation, and "echoes" of passages in Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, First and Second Peter, First and Third John, and Revelation. (3) The style of Ignatius is rugged, forcible, positive, and his spirit bold, earnest, and perhaps slightly fanatical. This is said on the assumption that the seven Vossiau epistles are substantially genuine. But if it is assumed that only the three Syriac epistles are genuine, the references to the New Testament are few, though the spirit and phraseology are such as we have described, and are best accounted for by supposing Ignatius familiar with the writings of Paul and of John.
POLYCARP was the living link between the apostles — especially John — and IrenŠus, a well-known bishop and writer who flourished in Gaul during the last quarter of the second century. For Polycarp was a disciple of John, and IrenŠus a disciple of Polycarp. IrenŠus testifies that in his youth he himself had heard Polycarp " describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord," and that Polycarp " survived long, and departed this life, at a very great age, by a glorious and most notable martyrdom." According to the Martyrium Polycarpi — which, if not wholly authentic, appears to be founded on fact — Polycarp declared that he had served Christ eighty-six years, so that, if converted in childhood, he was probably more than ninety years old at the time of his death. But scholars are not agreed as to the date of his death, some placing it about A. D. 155, and others about A. D. 166), eleven years later. If the former date be accepted as correct, he was probably born about A. D. 63 — if the latter, he may have been born about A. D. 74. In one case he was about thirty-five years old when the apostle John died; in the other, he was perhaps twenty-six years old; in either, he might have known the apostle ten or fifteen years. On the other hand, IrenŠus may have been born as early as A. D. 125 or 130, and may therefore have been a hearer of Polycarp many years before leaving Asia Minor for Gaul.
In a letter to Florinus, who had, as he believed, fallen into grievous errors, IrenŠus says: " These opinions, Florinus, that I may speak without harshness, are not of sound judgment; these opinions are not in harmony with the church, but involve those adopting them in the greatest impiety; these opinions even the heretics outside the pale of the church have never ventured to broach; these opinions the elders before us, who also were disciples of the apostles, did not hand down to thee. For I saw thee, when I was still a boy, in Lower Asia in company with Polycarp, while thou wast faring prosperously in the royal court and endeavoring to stand well with him. For I distinctly remember the incidents of that time better than events of recent occurrence; for the lessons received in childhood, growing with the growth of the soul, become identified with it, so that 1 can describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and his manner of life, and his personal appearance, and his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how ho would relate their words. And whatsoever things he had heard from them about the Lord, and about his miracles, and about his teaching, Polycarp, as having received them from eye-witnesses of the life of the Word, would relate altogether in accordance with the Scriptures. To these [discourses] I used to listen at the time with attention by God's mercy, which was bestowed upon me, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart; and by the grace of 'God I constantly ruminate upon them faithfully."
Moreover, in his work Against Heresies, Irenaeus refers to him again, after speaking of the succession of Roman bishops through whom the true doctrine had been handed down to his own times: "And Polycarp also — who not only was taught by apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ, but also received his appointment for Asia by apostles in the church that is in Smyrna, an overseer, whom also we have seen in the beginning of our life, for he remained a long time, and at an exceedingly old age, having borne his testimony gloriously and most notably, departed this life — always taught these things, which also he learned from the apostles, which also he gave to the church, and which alone are true. To these doctrines testimony is also borne by all the churches throughout Asia, and by those who have been up till this time the successors of Polycarp, who was a much more trustworthy and secure witness of the truth than Valentinus and Marcion and the rest, who held wicked opinions. Moreover, there is an epistle of Polycarp addressed to the Philippians, which is most adequate, and from which both his manner of life and his preaching of the truth may be learnt by those who desire to learn and are anxious for their own salvation " (B. iii. 3).
To the genuineness of this letter several objections have been urged, but these objections are greatly outweighed by the evidence in its favor; so that, whatever may be thought of ch. 13, the rest of the epistle must be accepted as the work of Polycarp. Indeed, it would be difficult to name any ancient writing which is better authenticated than this. It may therefore be used without fear as a fair sample of Christian counsel and exhortation soon after the beginning of the second century. And it is specially noticeable (1) that the tone of the letter accords with the testimony of IrenŠus that its author had listened to the venerable apostle John and to others who had seen the Lord. For this experience, whether in youth or early manhood, would be likely to make a deep impression on a susceptible mind, and would be unfavorable to originality of thought or expression. (2) That the phraseology of the letter agrees with the alleged circumstances of the writer. For if Polycarp was Bishop of the church in Smyrna and a disciple of John, it is extremely probable that he was familiar with the writings of Peter, Paul, and John, all of whom had been connected, more or less closely, with the churches of Asia Minor. And the mind of the writer of this epistle evidently moved in the thoughts and language of these apostles and of Christ. (3) That a very considerable part of the letter is couched in sentences borrowed from the New Testament. These sentences are not generally quoted with an express reference to sources, but they are naturally appropriated and made the vehicle of expression, as if the writer were perfectly familiar with them, and could count upon their being recognized by his readers. Especially marked is his use of the Pastoral Epistles and of the First Epistle of Peter. Charteris finds in the letter of Polycarp " quotations " from Matthew, Acts, Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, First Peter, First John, and " echoes " from Matthew, Acts, Romans, First Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Hebrews, James, First and Second Peter, First John, Jude.
Three special references may be quoted as indicative of the importance which these Fathers attached to apostolic writings. " Take up the Epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle. What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the gospel? Of a truth, he charged you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos," etc. (Clement, 1 Ep., ch. 47). " Ye are initiated into mysteries with Paul, the sanctified, the martyred, worthy of all blessing, in whose footsteps may I be found when I obtain God! who in every part of his letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus." " Not as Peter and Paul do I command you; those were apostles, I am a condemned man" (Ignatius, ad Eph., ch. 12; ad Rom., ch. 4). " For neither I, nor any other like me, is able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who, being among you, taught accurately and firmly, in the presence of the men then living, the word respecting truth, who also departing wrote you epistles,3 into which, if ye look diligently, ye will be able to be built up into the faith given to you " (Polycarp, ad Phil., ch. 3).
Early tradition (Clement Alex., Origen, Jerome) ascribes the Epistle of Barnabas to the well-known companion of Paul (Acts 4:36, 37); and this tradition is somewhat favored by the fact that the epistle was appended to the books of the New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus. But there are statements in the letter itself which render it extremely doubtful whether it could have been written by a Levite and an associate of the apostles. For Jewish sacrifices and fasts are denounced (chs. 3, 4), and serious mistakes are made in speaking of the great day of atonement (ch. 7), and of the red heifer as a type of Christ (ch. 8). Indeed, it is evident that the author " was neither accurately acquainted with the text of the law, nor had [he] even seen the celebration of the day of atonement " (Donaldson). Moreover, it is surely very improbable that the Cyprian Barnabas would have said that Christ chose for his own apostles " those who were lawless, beyond the bounds of all ordinary sin, that he might show he came not to call the righteous, but sinners " (ch. 5).
But while the author of the epistle is unknown, competent scholars are agreed in believing that it was written in the first quarter of the second century, perhaps about A. D. 120. In studying the relation of this epistle to the New Testament it will be observed (1) That the doctrines which are taught in respect to God, Christ, salvation, and morality are in substantial agreement with those of the New Testament. The author's mistakes in explaining the Old Testament " must not," says Charteris, " cause us to forget how pure is his theology, how unfaltering is his faith in the one Almighty Maker and Ruler of all, and how his constant endeavor is to show that the Son of God was incarnate, and taught, and suffered, and died. and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of both the dead and living." (2) That in doctrine this epistle represents exclusively neither Paul nor Peter nor John, but rather all of them. Hilgenfeld maintains that his teaching is Pauline, though tending to Gnosticism. Dorner says that " with the fundamental thoughts of Peter he combats Judaism within Christianity." And Charteris remarks, " Not only does Barnabas regard Christ's incarnation in the same way as John does, but the facts of Christ's life as recorded by John seem to be the indispensable basis of his theology." All are doubtless correct; and this fact is best accounted for by supposing that Barnabas was familiar with the writings of all these apostles. (3) That this epistle first quotes a passage from the New Testament with the biblical formula, " It is written " (ch. 4; cf Matt. 22:14). There is also no sufficient reason for doubting that it uses the words of Matt. 9:13 in ch. 5:["In order that he might show that] he came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Several pretty distinct reminiscences of the language of the Fourth Gospel may also be traced.
Of the writer of this epistle Donaldson says:" However weak and misdirected his intellectual powers may be, and however light his head may occasionally seem, his heart always beats right. There is not one expression contrary to the soundest morality, and much that stands out in magnificent contrast to the morality of his age, even of its highest philosophers."
The Age of Greek Apologists — A. D. 120-A. D. 170.
The circumstances of Christians in this period led them to write a considerable number of books, treating a great variety of topics. But of these books many, and indeed those of the greatest value, perished in the early ages. Among these were the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Expositions of Papias, the Ecclesiastical History of Hegesippus, and the works of Melito and Apollinaris, which, it is said, ranged over the wide domain of theology, interpretation, morals, apologetics, and church polity, and which must have been much richer in materials for ascertaining what books of the New Testament were deemed authoritative than most of the works that have come down from about the middle of the second century.
But nearly all these writings were in the hands of Eusebius, and it is therefore a matter of importance to know the principles which guided him in his use of them. Fortunately, Bishop Lightfoot has discovered those principles by a careful interpretation of his " prefatory statements " and a thorough verification of the meaning assigned to them. He has thus proved " that the main object of Eusebius was to give such information as might assist in forming correct views respecting the Canon of Scripture;" that he " was therefore indifferent to any quotations or references in early Christian writings which went toward establishing the canonicity of those books which had never been disputed in the church;" and "that to this class belonged the four Gospels, the Acts, and thirteen Epistles of Paul."
Hence it is claimed that " the silence of Eusebius respecting early witnesses to the fourth Gospel is an evidence in its favor. Its apostolic authorship has never been questioned by any church-writer from the beginning, so far as Eusebius was aware, and therefore it was superfluous to call witnesses " (Cont Review, 1875, pp. 176-183). As regards a most important part of the whole New Testament — viz. the four Gospels, the Acts, and thirteen Epistles of Paul — he contents himself with preserving any anecdotes which he may have found illustrating the circumstances under which the books in question were written. Accordingly, the statement of Bishop Lightfoot as to the bearing of the silence of Eusebius respecting early witnesses to the Fourth Gospel may be applied to his silence respecting early witnesses to the four Gospels, the Acts, and the thirteen Epistles of Paul. That silence proves the universal reception of these books. It was useless to bring forward evidence of that which no one doubted, or, as far as his reading went, had ever doubted.
But in respect to other books of the New Testament he was careful to bring the evidence, both for them and against them, which he found in early writers. Hence we are indebted to him for several important testimonies which he selected from writings since lost, but belonging to the period of the Greek Apologists — t. e. A. D. 120-A. D. 170.
Thus he refers to Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia during a considerable part of the first half of the second century, for the double purpose of declaring that he made use of certain books as authoritative which were not received with full confidence by all the churches, and of borrowing from him certain anecdotes or traditions about the origin of other books that were never doubted. Papias was a friend of Polycarp, and, according to IrenŠus, a hearer of the apostle John. At any rate, he loved to converse with those who had listened to one or more of the apostles. For he says:" Unlike the many, I did not take pleasure in those who have so very much to say, but in those who teach the truth. And again, on any occasion when a person came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the discourses of the elders — what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that I could get so much profit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice."
There is no good reason to suppose that Papias meant by " books," as here used, the " Oracles of the Lord," which his work was written to interpret, or indeed any apostolical writings. It is far more probable that he had in mind books, already becoming numerous, which were filled with Gnostic speculations about the meaning of Scripture. " Papias judged rightly," remarks Lightfoot, "that any doctrinal statement of Andrew or Peter or John, or any anecdote of the Saviour which could be traced distinctly to their authority, would be far more valuable to elucidate his text than the capricious interpretations which he found in current books" (Cont. Review, 1875, p. 290).
According to Eusebius, Papias " has made use of testimonies from the former Epistle of John, and from that of Peter likewise." From another source we learn that he maintained "the divine inspiration" of the Apocalypse, and Eusebius represents him as saying " that there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the apostolic narratives." Probably his views of the millennium were founded on what he supposed to be the meaning of Christ's language in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, in connection with the well-known passage concerning " the thousand years " in Revelation, twentieth chapter. By " the former Epistle of John " Eusebius doubtless meant his First Epistle; for he testifies in a previous chapter that " besides the Gospel of John, his First Epistle is acknowledged without dispute, both by those of the present day and also by the ancients. The other two Epistles, however, are disputed " (H. E., iii. 24).
Eusebius also, according to his plan, quotes from Papias certain accounts respecting the origin of two of the Gospels which that writer had received from the elders Aristion and John. Thus:" So then Matthew composed the Oracles in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as he was able." This declaration obviously refers to a period that was already past when Papias wrote his " Expositions," and there is no reason to suppose that the " Oracles " composed by Matthew were known to Papias in their Hebrew form. His knowledge of their existence in that form was derived from " the elders." Nor is there any good reason to believe that the word " Oracles " was not used of historical as well as of didactic writings, being, in fact, as comprehensive as the word " Gospel." Indeed, there can be little doubt that Eusebius copied this statement, because he understood it to refer to the first draft and original form of the canonical Gospel of Matthew. Hence the Aramaic " Oracles " must have been superseded by the Greek " Gospel " before the close of the first century; and it is difficult to believe that they contained anything essentially different from what is found in that Gospel.
Again, Eusebius quotes from Papias the following account of Mark:" And John the Elder said also this: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately everything that he remembered, without, however, recording in order what was either said or done by Christ. For neither did he hear the Lord, nor did he follow him; but afterward, as I said, [he heard and followed] Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs [of his hearers], but had no design of giving a connected account of the Lord's Oracles (or discourses). So then Mark made no mistake while he thus wrote down some things as he remembered them; for he made it his care not to omit anything that he heard, or to set down any false statement therein."
According to this tradition, received by Papias from contemporaries of the apostles, the work of Mark here referred to was a careful memoriter record of what Peter rehearsed in his preaching from the words and deeds of Christ. And as Peter adapted his preaching to the needs of those addressed, it could not, in the nature of the case, furnish a complete or chronological narrative of Christ's life. Are we then justified in supposing that the work of Mark, referred to in this extract, was the second of our four Gospels?
(1) That Gospel is the briefest of the four. It gives no genealogy, no account of the birth of John the Baptist or of Jesus the Christ, no outline of the longer discourses of the Lord, and no report of many of his parables. It is certainly, then, a very incomplete narrative of the Lord's words and works, and to that extent it agrees with the tradition given by Papias. (2) That Gospel, in common with the First and the Third, appears to disregard in many cases the chronological order of events, at least as compared with the Gospel of John. This statement is not inconsistent with the conclusion of Dr. Sanday, that, " so far as there is an order in the Synoptic Gospels, the normal type of that order is to be found precisely in St. Mark, whom Papias alleges to have written not in order " (The Gospels in the Second Century, p. 149). For it is natural to assume, with Dr. Lightfoot, that the standard of comparison for the elders of Asia Minor in the second century was the Gospel of John. (3) Eusebius evidently supposed that the Gospel of Mark, as known to himself, was referred to in the account which Papias had from " the elders," and it is pretty safe to assume that Eusebius understood tlie true relevancy of that account. In any case, his view deserves most respectful consideration. (4) If " the elder " really described the origin of an " UrMarcus," this fact must be inferred from the contents of the Synoptic Gospels, and not from any known tradition of the second century. But the proof which is alleged for the existence of such a document seems to us unsatisfactory.
It is greatly to be regretted that the work of Papias is lost, for he lived and labored during a period from which few Christian writings have been preserved. But all have not perished, and we now turn to some that have been spared.
Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, formerly Shechem, about the close of the first century. He appears to have had some knowledge of Christians, and especially of their fortitude under persecution, even before his own conversion, which took place when he was (probably) twenty-five or thirty years old. Having been addicted to philosophical studies before conversion, he continued to wear the philosopher's cloak after that event, and was disposed to look upon the Christian religion as a sort of divine philosophy. But he exhibited great zeal and firmness in advocating the new faith, and by intercourse with Christians in different parts of the empire he became well acquainted with their creed, worship, and manner of life. It may therefore be presumed that he was familiar with the books from which they drew their knowledge of the public ministry of Christ.
But in Justin's two Apologies, and his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho, he had no occasion to make formal references to any part of the New Testament as possessing divine authority, for neither Roman emperors nor unbelieving Jews would have any particular reverence for the names of Peter, John, and Paul. The facts of Christ's life as fulfilling the predictions of the Old Testament, together with the moral character and religious worship of Christians, would be far more likely to impress the minds of Pagan rulers and hostile Jews than would any definite appeals to the writings of the apostles. Hence, if Justin Martyr's account of events and sayings in the ministry of Jesus Christ is found to agree substantially with that which is given in the Gospels (cf Sanday, pp. 91-98); if his citations from the words of Christ appear to be made, though in a free way, from the same Gospels (cf. E. Abbott, p. 20, sq.); if there is just such a difference as one might expect between his use of the Gospels in his two Apologies and his use of the same in his Dialogue with Trypho (Westcott); if his use of the Gospels is quite as frequent as their use in later Apologies (e. g. that of Tertullian); and if his language suggests an acquaintance with the vocabulary as well as with the doctrine of Paul, — it is as much as any thoughtful scholar ought to expect on the assumption that Justin knew and honored the writings of the apostles as sacred. And just these things are found to be true of his two Apologies and of his Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew.
Justin in his first Apology refers three times to the Memorabilia of the Apostles, stating in one place that in them were " taught all things concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ " (I. 33), in another, that they were read, together with the writings of the prophets, in the weekly meetings of Christians (I. 67), and in another, that they " were called Gospels " (I. 66). In the Dialogue with Trypho he quotes them ten times as the Memorabilia of the Apostles and five times as the Memorabilia. An interesting passage of the Dialogue contains these words:" In the Memorabilia, which I say were composed by the apostles and those who followed them, [it is written] that sweat as drops streamed down as he was praying and saying, Let this cup, if it be possible, pass away from me" (cf. Luke 22:44). As he was making a quotation from Luke, it seemed proper to call attention to the fact that the Apostolic Memorabilia were not all written by apostles, but rather by the apostles and their followers.
With this statement should be compared the language of Tertullian:" We lay down, in the first place, that the Evangelic Instrument has apostles for its authors, on whom this charge of publishing the gospel was laid by the Lord himself; if also apostolic men, yet not these alone, but with apostles, and after apostles. . . . In fine, of the apostles, John and Matthew implant faith in us — of their followers, Luke and Mark refresh it." As the form of Justin's explanation agrees so perfectly with the general statement of Tertullian, it cannot reasonably be denied that the interpretation of his own statement by Tertullian is a just interpretation of Justin's language also. And if so, Justin knew and received the same four Gospels which IrenŠus and his contemporaries, forty years later, received, and which Tertullian and his contemporaries, fifty or sixty years later, received. It is also to be considered that Justin must have been for a long time (say twenty-five years at least) a contemporary of Polycarp, and IrenŠus for the first twenty or thirty years of his life a contemporary of both Justin and Polycarp, and Tertullian for as long a time a contemporary of IrenŠus. Whether IrenŠus ever met Justin Martyr we have no means of knowing, but they lived in the same period long enough to transmit the traditions of that period to the next; so that we cannot assume the occurrence of any great and sudden change in the written sources of Christian knowledge which left no trace of itself in their works.
It is manifestly impossible to bring within the limits of an Introduction the critical processes by which the Memorabilia of Justin are shown to be identical with our four Gospels. But the reader will find a good illustration of them in Dr. Ezra Abbott's recent work on The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel. He affirms that " Justin nowhere expressly quotes the ' Memoirs ' for anything which is not substantially found in our Gospels; and there is nothing in his deviations from exact correspondence with them, as regards matters of fact or the report of the words of Christ, which may not be abundantly paralleled in the writings of the Christian Fathers who used our four Gospels as alone authoritative." And after a minute examination of the evidence for this statement he concludes thus:" It is not, then, I believe, too much to say, that the strong presumption from the universal reception of our four Gospels as sacred books in the time of IrenŠus, that Justin's ' Memoirs of Christ, composed by apostles and their companions ' were the same books, is decidedly confirmed by these evidences of his use of the Fourth Gospel " (p. 52).
In a valuable work by Dr. Sanday, on The Four Gospels in the Second Century, he examines the quotations made by Justin, and remarks:" If Justin did not use our four Gospels in their present shape as they have come down to us, he used them in a later shape, not in an earlier. His resemblances to them cannot be accounted for by the supposition that he had access to the materials out of which they were composed, because he reproduces features which by the nature of the case cannot have been present in those originals, but of which we are still able to trace the authorship and the exact point of their insertion. Our Gospels form a secondary stage in the history of the text — Justin's quotations, a tertiary. In order to reach the state in which it [the text] is found in Justin, the road lies through our Gospels, and not outside of them."
Besides the four Gospels, there are in Justin's Apologies and Dialogue distinct traces of the Acts, Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, Second Thessalonians, First Timothy, Hebrews, James, First Peter, First John, and the Apocalypse. The last he ascribes to " John, one of the apostles of Christ, [who] in a revelation that was made to him prophesied that those who believe in our Christ will live a thousand years in Jerusalem " (Dial, with Trypho, ch. 81).
To the period of the Greek Apologists may also be assigned the Second Epistle of Clement (a homily), which makes use of Matthew and Luke, together with the Epistles to the Ephesians and Timothy; the Epistle to Diognetus, which contains many reminiscences of the New Testament in thought and expression, and declares that by Christians " the fear of the Law is chanted, and the grace of the prophets is recognized, and the faith of the Gospels is established, and the tradition of the apostles is guarded, and the grace of the church has free and exulting course" (ch. 11); the Shepherd of Hermas, which, though it makes no quotations from Scripture, has many points of connection with the Epistle of James and the Apocalypse, some allusions to the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles, and a few echoes of language found in First Corinthians and Ephesians; and the Memoirs of Hegesippus, who appears to have made use of our present Gospels, while he took certain things from " the Gospel to the Hebrews," of which very little is known.
To the same period should probably be assigned the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon, the Latin version of the New Testament in North Africa, and the earliest Syriac version.
(1) The Fragment on the Canon, discovered by Muratori, begins now with the last words of a sentence which probably referred to the Gospel of Mark. It then proceeds to speak of the Third Gospel as written by Luke the physician, who did not see the Lord; of the Fourth Gospel as written by John, a disciple of the Lord, at the request of his fellow-disciples and his elders, with a reference also to his Epistles, and a quotation from the First; of the Acts of the Apostles as composed by Luke; of the Epistles of Paul — to the Corinthians the first, to the Ephesians the second, to the Philippians the third, to the Colossians the fourth, to the Galatians the fifth, to the Thessalonians the sixth, to the Romans the seventh; also to the Corinthians and Thessalonians a second each, to Philemon one, to Titus one, and to Timothy two, on account of love and affection (thirteen in all). It then speaks of two spurious Epistles that were ascribed to Paul — one to the Laodiceans and another to the Alexandrians — and adds that one Epistle of Jude and two superscribed of John are received by catholic Christians. Finally, that " we receive also only the Revelations of John and Peter, which [latter] some of us are unwilling to have read in the church." There is, moreover, a reference to " Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honor," which Westcott thinks may imply a lost clause mentioning the Epistle to the Hebrews as written by a friend of Paul. The same scholar discovers indications of two breaks in the Fragment where the Epistles of James, First and Second Peter, and Hebrews may have been named in the original Greek list. This is of course conjecture, but there are several peculiarities of the list as it now stands which seem to render it in a certain measure probable. At any rate, this list appears to embrace the four Gospels, the Acts, thirteen Epistles of Paul, two of John, one of Jude, and the Revelation of John. And if the two Epistles of John referred to near the end of the list are the Second and the Third, Bishop Lightfoot's conjecture that the First Epistle of John was then connected with his Gospel is extremely natural (see Cont. Review, 1875, p. 835), especially as the opening verse of that Epistle is quoted by the Fragment in giving an account of the origin of the Gospel. Moreover, in view of the other testimonies of this period, it is difficult to believe that the First Epistle of Peter could have been omitted from the list; and it is surely more likely that there was a reference, by way of comparison, to a book of " Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in liis honor," than to suppose that a book with that title was reckoned among the Christian Scriptures.
(2) The earliest Latin version of the New Testament was prepared before A. D. 170, and, according to Mr. Westcott, " it contained the four Gospels, the Acts, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, the three Catholic Epistles of St, John, the First Epistle of St. Peter, the Epistle of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse. To these the Epistle to the Hebrews was added subsequently, but before the time of Tertullian, and without the author's name. There is no external evidence to show that the Epistle of St. James or the Second Epistle of St. Peter was included in the Vetus Latina " (On the Canon of the N. T., p. 225).
(3) The early Syriac version, called the Peshito, is commonly supposed to have been made in the first half of the second century, and may safely be assumed to have been in use before A. D. 170. It has all the books of the New Testament but the Second and Third Epistles of John, the Second Epistle of Peter, the Epistle of Jude, and the Apocalypse.
Turning now to heretical leaders and writings, they will be found to furnish evidence that many books of the New Testament were received as authoritative documents in respect to the Christian religion during the age of the Greek Apologists. Basilides is admitted to have been a teacher in Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian (A. D. 117-137). He was therefore a younger contemporary of Polycarp and of Justin Martyr. The doctrines taught by him and by his followers are described by Hippolytus and Epiphanius, while the works of Clement of Alexandria and of Origen have occassional references to them. He appears to have accepted the liistorical facts recorded in our Gospels; and Westcott remarks that " in the few pages of his writings which remain there are certain references to the Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John, and to the Epistles of Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians, possibly also to the First Epistle to Timothy," and, still further, to the First Epistle of Peter. But he is believed to have rejected the Pastoral Epistles (unless First Timothy be an exception) and the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is noticeable also that he introduces language from the New Testament Scriptures as that "which is said" or "written," or by the phrase "the Scripture saith," using the same formulas of quotation which were commonly employed in appeals to the language of the Old Testament.
Valentinus, a younger contemporary of Basilides, began his career as an heretical teacher in Alexandria, but soon repaired to Rome, and made that city the centre of his activity. IrenŠus says (C HŠr., iii. 4, 3) that " he came to Rome during the episcopate of Hyginus (perhaps about A. D. 140), was in his prime under Pius (142-150), and lived until the time of Anicetus." Tertullian says that " he seems to use ' the whole Instrument,' yet perverting the meaning by his method of interpretation." In this way he was thought to be a more crafty assailant of Christian truth than was Marcion, who boldly mutilated the Scriptures. By " the whole Instrument " Tertullian means, of course, the books of the New Testament that were recognized as sacred in North Africa at the close of the second century — i e. all the books of our New Testament save the Epistles of James and Second Peter. In the brief extracts that have come down to us from the writings of Valentinus (or of his school) there are citations from the Epistle to the Romans, the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and references to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John; also, perhaps, to the First of John and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Marcion flourished at the same time as Valentinus. In his first Apology (A. D. 140-147) Justin declares that Marcion " had in every nation of men caused many to blaspheme" (I. 26), and also that "many had been convinced by him" (I. 58). Probably, then, he settled in Rome and began to teach his peculiar views about 138-142 A. D. He did not receive all the books of the New Testament as canonical, but constructed a Canon for himself from the Gospel of Luke and ten Epistles of Paul. This, at least, is the statement of Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Irenoeus. And it appears that one of the two following hypotheses is true: Either Marcion's Gospel was formed by mutilating our Third Gospel, or our Third Gospel was formed by interpolating that of Marcion. After comparing the two, Dr. Sanday says:" The Gospel [of Marcion] stands to our Synoptic entirely in the relation of defect. We may say 'entirely,' for the additions are so insignificant — some thirty words in all, and those for the most part supported by other authority — that for practical purposes they need not be reckoned. With the exception of these thirty words inserted, and some, also slight, alterations of phrase, Marcion 's Gospel presents simply an abridgment of our St. Luke." Again:" In Germany it seems to be agreed at the present time that the hypothesis of a mutilated Luke suits the dogmatic argument better than that of later Judaizing interpolations." Once more, after a careful analysis of the language of Luke's Gospel, Dr. Sanday remarks:" The total result may be summarized thus: Accepting the scheme of Marcion's Gospel given some pages back, which is substantially that of ' Supernatural Religion,' Marcion will have omitted a total of three hundred and nine verses. In those verses there are found one hundred and eleven distinct peculiarities of St. Luke's style, numbering in all one hundred and eighty-five separate instances; there are also found one hundred and thirty-eight words peculiar to or specially characteristic of the third evangelist, with two hundred and twenty-four instances. In other words, the verified peculiarities of St. Luke's style and diction (and how marked many of these are will have been seen from the examples above) are found in the portions of the Gospel omitted by Marcion in a proportion averaging considerably more than one to each verse." It is therefore evident that the three hundred and nine verses were written by Luke, and were stricken from his Gospel by Marcion; for an interpolator could not have imitated the style and vocabulary of Luke so perfectly as it is represented in these verses.
But was Luke's Gospel a new production when it was adopted, by Marcion about A. D. 140? Or does the text which he uses prove upon examination to be one that had been corrupted more or less by transcription? In answer to this question Dr. Sanday, in a work distinguished for caution and moderation of statement, affirms that the textual phenomena "show that Marcion's Gospel, so far from being an original document, has behind it a deep historical background, and stands at the head of a series of copies which have already passed through a number of hands, and been exposed to a proportionate amount of corruption." Again:" I think it is a safe proposition to assert that, in order to bring the text of Marcion's Gospel into the state in which we find it, there must have been a long previous history, and the manuscripts through which it was conveyed must have parted far from the parent stem."
It may be added that Marcion appears to have treated the ten Epistles of Paul which he accepted in the same way as he treated the Gospel of Luke; that is, as far as he accepted the Epistles at all, he accepted the text as he found it, without making any changes; but from the Epistles, as from the Gospel, he omitted such verses or paragraphs as did not agree with his doctrinal opinions. (See the conclusive argument by Sanday, pp. 204-237.)
To this period also must probably be assigned the so-called "Homilies of Clement," a theological fiction of Judaizing tendency, though scholars are not yet agreed as to the time when it was written. Those who have given the subject most attention are, however, united in the belief that it was before A. D. 180, and the best authorities assign it to the third quarter of the second century. According to Charteris, Sanday, and others, the Homilies make use of every one of the four Gospels. Sanday indeed, as in the case of Justin Martyr, admits a possible alternative, saying, " Either the Clementine writer quotes our present Gospels, or else he quotes some other composition later than them, and which implies them. In other words, if he does not bear witness to our Gospels at first hand, he does at second hand, and by the interposition of a further intermediate stage." And if this second hypothesis be correct, he represents the " composition " supposed as in all likelihood a harmony of the four Gospels, and suggests that it may have been " begun, and used, and left in a more or less advanced stage, by Justin," but made public afterward by Tatian.
The evidence which has been briefly noticed does not embrace every allusion to our New-Testament Scriptures which may be found in the fragments of Christian or heretical literature that have come down to us from the age of the Greek Apologists. But it embraces the most important testimonies and allusions, and may therefore be allowed to stand for the whole in a rapid survey like the present. And if the reader will simply bear in mind these circumstances — that all the books of the New Testament were not yet probably united in a single volume; that only brief extracts have come down to us from most of the great Christian writers of this period; that Apologists, addressing their pagan rulers, would gain nothing by definite appeals to the writings of Matthew, John, Peter, or Paul; that it was too early for the existence of many translations, especially of the whole New Testament; and that heretics would be very likely to have their favorite books, rejecting or neglecting others, — he will perhaps be gratified at the amount and character of the evidence now within our reach, rather than surprised at any defects in the same which critics may be able to discover.
Having, examined very closely a considerable part of the evidence — namely, that which has a natural connection with the school of John in Asia Minor — Bishop Lightfoot speaks as follows:" Out of a very extensive literature, by which this school was once represented, the extant remains are miserably few and fragmentary; but the evidence yielded by these meagre relics is decidedly greater, in proportion to their extent, than we had any right to expect. As regards the Fourth Gospel, this is especially the case. If the same amount of written matter — occupying a very few pages in all — were extracted accidentally from the current theological literature of our own day, the chances, unless I am mistaken, would be strongly against our finding so many indications of the use of this Gospel."
From A. D. 170-A. D. 400.
About the year 170 A. D. the long period of historical twilight as to Christian affairs begins to give place to the dawning of a tolerably clear day. A Christian literature, composed in great measure of fragments preserved in later writings, begins to be followed by a literature embracing several treatises that have come down to us, either complete or only slightly mutilated. After the shorter works of Tatian (so far as preserved;, Athenagoras, and Theophilus of Antioch we pass to the more extended productions of IrenŠus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen, finding conclusive evidence that many books of the New Testament were received by all the churches in Europe, Asia, and Africa as indisputably apostolic. These were the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Paul, and the First Epistles of Peter and John. No competent scholar will deny that from this time onward these writings were esteemed sacred and authoritative by the whole Christian world, just as truly as they were so esteemed at the beginning of the present century. They were nowhere questioned, but everywhere accepted as parts of the Canon. Of the remaining books, some were received here, and others there, with absolute confidence, while none of them were received without doubt everywhere and by all. From this time forward our attention will therefore be directed more and more to the doubtful books. Yet it will be instructive to notice the manner in which the undisputed books, and especially the four Gospels, as well as the disputed books, are characterized by the leading writers.
In the following passage IrenŠus sets forth his estimate of apostolic teaching — an estimate which was shared, without doubt, by the great body of Christians in his day: " For we have learned to know the economy of our salvation through no others but those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they then preached, but afterward by the will of God delivered to us in Scriptures, that it might be a ground and pillar of our faith. For it is not right to say that they preached before they had a perfect knowledge, as some dare to affirm, boasting that they are correctors of the apostles. For after our Lord rose again from the dead they indeed were clothed with power from on high, through the Holy Spirit coming upon them — were filled with the Spirit for all duties and had perfect knowledge; they went forth to the end of the earth, preaching good news of blessings to us from God, and announcing celestial peace to men, because they all and each had the gospel of God " (C. HŠr., iii. 1).
Of the authorship of the four Gospels he thus speaks: "Matthew indeed among the Hebrews in their own language published a written Gospel, while Peter and Paul in Rome were preaching the gospel and founding the church. And after their departure Mark himself, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing that which was preached by Peter. Moreover, Luke, the follower of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel that was preached by him. Afterward, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned back on his bosom, himself published the Gospel while he was residing at Ephesus in Asia " (ibid.).
Of the general recognition of these Gospels even by heretics he bears witness in another place:" And so great is this firmness [of evidence] about the Gospels that even the heretics themselves bear testimony to them, and each one of them, by starting from the same, is compelled to confirm their teaching. For the Ebionites, using only the Gospel according to Matthew, are proved by that to make false suppositions concerning the Lord. But Marcion, though mutilating the Gospel according to Luke, is shown by those portions which are still preserved by him to be a blasphemer against the only existing God. Moreover, those who separate Jesus from the Christ, and say that Christ remained impassible, but Jesus only suffered, and who prefer the Gospel according to Mark, can be corrected if they read this [Gospel] with a love of truth. Also those who follow Valentinus and use most fully the Gospel according to John for the purpose of setting forth their conjunctions, are detected by this Gospel as teaching nothing rightly, as we have shown in our first book. Since, therefore, our opponents bear witness for us and use these Gospels, our proof from them is firm and true " (iii, 11, 7).
To prove that there could properly be neither more nor fewer than four Gospels, he writes thus in the next section:" Since there are four zones of the world in which we are, and four general winds, and [since] the church is scattered over all the earth, but the Gospel and Spirit of life are a pillar and ground of the church, it [the church] should properly have four pillars, breathing immortality from every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which it is evident that the Word, the Architect of all things, who sitteth upon the cherubim and holdeth together all things, having been manifested to men, gave us a gospel in four forms, but bound together by one Spirit" (iii. 11, 8).
It may also be remarked that IrenŠus makes abundant use of passages from the Acts, from the Epistles to the Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First Peter, First John, and from the Apocalypse; also occasional use of extracts from First and Second Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James, and Second John, together with the expression, a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, which appears to be taken from 2 Pet. 3:8. The only books of our New Testament which are not employed by him at all are the brief Epistle to Philemon, the briefer Third Epistle of John, and the Epistle of Jude — all of them amounting to scarcely more than an average chapter in the Gospel of Luke, and no one of them holding a prominent place among the apostolical writings or likely to be needed in refuting the strange heresies of the second century.
Such is the evidence of IrenŠus to the Canon of the New Testament. And the fact must not be lost sight of that he was personally acquainted with Polycarp and his associates, the disciples of the apostle John in Asia Minor; that he was a contemporary of Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, on the one hand, and with Basilides, Marcion, Valentinus, and Celsus, on the other; that he was in most respects, if not all, a man of sober judgment, familiar with the doctrinal views of both the Asiatic and the Western churches, and that he made the heresies of the second century a subject of special investigation, comparing them with the apostolic writings, and refuting them by testimonies drawn from these writings, which were deemed authoritative by Christians throughout the known world.
Clement of Alexandria flourished about A. D. 200, and was probably a more learned man than Irenaius. He thus speaks of a treatise which he was composing (called Stromaleis, or " Miscellanies") and of the sources of his knowledge:" Now this work is not a writing artistically composed for display, but memoranda are stored up [in it] for myself against old age as a remedy of forgetfulness, an inartistic image and rough sketch of those clear and vivid discourses which I was thought worthy to hear, and of blessed and truly remarkable men. Of these, one, the Ionian, was in Greece, and others in Magna GrŠcia. One of them was of Cœle-Syria, another from Egypt, and others in [or through] the East. Of this region that of Assyria was one, and another in Palestine, a Hebrew by descent. When I met with the last (he was first in ability), having hunted him up concealed in Egypt, I found rest. He, a true Sicilian bee, plucking the flowers of both the prophetic and the apostolic meadow, begat in the souls of his hearers a pure substance of knowledge. But they, preserving the veritable tradition of the blessed doctrine directly from Peter and James, John and Paul, the holy apostles, son receiving it from father (but few are they who are like their fathers), came indeed by the will of God to deposit in us also those ancestral and apostolic seeds; and well I know that they will rejoice, not, I mean, as being pleased with this description, but with the mere preservation of truth as it was noted down " (Miscell., i. 1, 11). It is generally admitted that the person whom Clement here calls his last and ablest teacher was Pantsenus, head of the catechetical school in Alexandria. Photius represents Pantsenus as a hearer of the apostles, and, as far as age is concerned, he might possibly have been so. At any rate, he appears to have been a diligent student of the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, and, as Westcott has said, " there is not the slightest ground for assuming any organic change in the doctrine of the Alexandrian Church between the age of the apostles and Pantsenus," the teacher and predecessor of Clement. The latter was at the head of the Christian school in Alexandria from about A. D. 189 to A. D. 202, when he was compelled to leave the city by the persecution under Severus.
Clement makes use of the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians (First and Second), the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Philippians, the Thessalonians (First and Second), Timothy (First and Second), Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, the First Epistle of Peter, the First of John, the Epistle of Jude, and the book of Revelation; but he appears to have no quotations from the Epistles of James, Second Peter, and Third John. Eusebius testifies that " in the work called Hypotoposes, Clement has given us concise explanations of the whole canonical Scripture, without omitting the disputed books: I mean the Epistle of Jude and the remaining Catholic Epistles, as well as the Epistle of Barnabas and the so-called Revelation of Peter. Moreover, he says that the Epistle to the Hebrews is Paul's, but that it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language, and that Luke, having carefully translated it, published it for the use of the Greeks." It will be observed that although Eusebius associates the Catholic Epistles with the Epistle of Barnabas and the so-called Revelation of Peter, he yet distinguishes the former from the latter, making thereby in some sense two classes of " disputed books." Very noteworthy is the language of Clement in respect to the Epistle to the Hebrews, though there are strong objections to his view that our Greek Epistle is a translation.
To the testimony of Clement may be subjoined that of Origen, his successor after a time in the Alexandrian school, and the most learned biblical critic of the Ante-Nicene Church. If perfect reliance could be placed on the translation of Rufinus, the following passage from his Homilies on Joshua (vii. 2) would be conclusive as to his view of the New Testament Canon:" So too our Lord Jesus Christ, whose advent was typified by that earlier son of Nun, when he came sent his apostles as priests bearing well-wrought trumpets, the glorious and heavenly doctrine which they preached. Matthew first sounded with priestly trumpet in his Gospel. Mark also, Luke and John, each gave forth a strain on their priestly trumpets. Peter moreover sounds with the two trumpets of his Epistles; so also James and Jude. None the less does John blow the trumpet by his Epistles and Apocalypse, and Luke, by describing the Acts of the Apostles. Lastly came he who said, 1 think that God hath set forth us apostles last of all, and thundering with the fourteen trumpets of his Epistles threw down to the ground the walls of Jericho, even all the instruments of idolatry and the doctrines of philosophy." But it is known that Rufinus sometimes modified the teaching of Origen according to his own belief of what was true, and therefore it is possible that he has done so in this place. Yet there is ample evidence to be found in the untranslated writings of Origen that he received all the books that were received by Clement. He accepted our four Gospels as canonical, and rejected the authority of all others. Of the Epistle to the Hebrews he says:" If I were to express my own opinion, I should say that the thoughts are the apostle's, but the diction and composition that of some one who recorded from memory the apostle's teaching, and, as it were, illustrated with a brief commentary the sayings of his master. It was not without good reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's. But who it was that wrote the Epistle, God only knows certainly." He accepted the Apocalypse as an undoubted work of the apostle John (Westcott). He quoted the Epistle of Jude as a work of " the Lord's brother." He referred to " the Epistle in circulation under the name of James," But he does not, it is said, quote the Second Epistle of Peter or the Second and Third Epistles of John, though the Second Epistle of Peter is quoted several times in the Latin version of the Homilies.
Tertitllian, the earliest great representative of the North African Church, was probably born in Carthage about A. D. 160, and was therefore a contemporary of IrenŠus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. His literary activity may be chiefly assigned to the first quarter of the third century. He speaks of the " ancient Scripture" in contrast with the "New Testament" (Ad Prax., ch. 15). He distinguishes between "the Gospels and the apostles" (ibid.), meaning by the latter the writings of the apostles. And he declares that " the gospel Instrument has for its authors apostles on whom this office of proclaiming the gospel was imposed by the Lord himself; and if also apostolic men, yet not these alone, but with apostles and after apostles " (Adv., iv. 2). Referring to the church at Rome, which he pronounces " happy, because there apostles poured forth their doctrine with their blood," he declares that " she unites in one volume the law and the prophets with the writings of evangelists and apostles, and thence drinks in her faith " (De PrŠsc. Hœret, ch. 36). He says that the germs of later heresies were present in the first age, and remarks that " Paul in the First to the Corinthians marks those who denied and doubted the resurrection. . . . Writing to the Galatians, he assails those who practise and defend circumcision and the law. . . . Instructing Timothy, he also condemns such as 'forbid to marry' (1 Tim. 4:3. . . . Equally does he smite such as said that ' the resurrection was already past ' (2 Tim. 2:3). . . . When he mentions 'endless genealogies' (1 Tim. 1:4) Valentinus is recognized," etc. . . . Again, " John in the Apocalypse is commanded to chastise those 'who eat things offered to idols and commit fornication ' (Rev. 2:20). But in the Epistle he calls those antichrists in a special sense who deny that Christ has come in the flesh, and who do not think that Jesus is the Son of God " (De Prœscrip. HŠret, ch. 33).
Tertullian recognizes in his writings the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Paul, First Peter, First John, Jude, the Apocalypse, and (though as written by Barnabas and of second-rate authority) the Epistle to the Hebrews — i. e. all the books of our New Testament except the Epistles of James, Second Peter, and Second and Third John (Charteris).
It is important to bear in mind the localities with which these great writers must have been familiar. IrenŠus, connected with Polycarp, with Pothinus, and with some of the bishops of Rome, may be said to reflect the belief of Asia Minor, Gaul, and Italy; Clement of Alexandria, the pupil of PantŠnus, and Origen, the distinguished scholar who was at home both in Egypt and in Palestine, may be said to reflect the belief of Christians in Egypt, Palestine, and Greece; and Tertullian, the fiery and powerful teacher at Carthage, must be presumed to reflect the belief of the churches of North Africa, with which he was well acquainted, and of the churches in and about Rome, where many of the heretics, whom he assailed with resistless torrents of argument and denunciation, resided. Thus these writers represent, if they do not doubly or trebly represent, the several great provinces where Christians had become numerous and powerful.
Noticeable also is the high authority which these writers attribute to the Old and New Testaments. IrenŠus affirms that "the Scriptures are indeed perfect, because they were spoken by the Word of God and his Spirit" (C. HŠr., ii. 28, 2). Clement proposes to show that " the Scriptures which we have believed were ratified by Omnipotent Authority," and " to show from them to all the heresies that there is one God and Lord Omnipotent, who has been truly preached by the law and the prophets, and in addition to these by the blessed gospel" (Miscell., iv. 1). Tertullian, by a variety of testimonies, as well as by the use "which he makes of the New Testament, proves that for him its teaching is ultimate and divine. With no less reverence does Origen treat the Scriptures of the New Testament.
A few remarks may now be made in respect to the seven disputed books of the New Testament — viz. the Epistle to the Hebrews, the book of Revelation, and the Epistles of James, Jude, Second and Third John, and Second Peter.
(1) The Epistle to the Hebrews was generally received in Alexandria and the East, while it was doubted or rejected for a long time in North Africa and the West. It is found in the Peshito, but not in the Fragment of Muratori on the Canon, or in the earliest form of the Latin version. Origen ascribes it habitually to Paul, though he appears to have believed that the thoughts only were the apostle's, while the composition was by some other person. Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas, the companion of Paul, and claims for it no more than secondary authority. Yet Clement of Rome was certainly familiar with it, and treated it with special respect; it is also probably referred to by Justin Martyr. Dionysius, a distinguished pupil of Origen, became president of the school at Alexandria about A. D. 231, and afterward bishop of the Christians in that city. Fragments of his letters have been preserved in which are numerous references to the New Testament, and quotations from the Epistle to the Hebrews as the " testimony of Paul." The voice of the churches of Egypt and of the East prevailed, and at last this Epistle was accepted as canonical by the churches of the West also. Its earlier and unhesitating reception in the East was probably due to the circumstance that the Hebrew Christians to whom it was first sent resided in Egypt and the East.
(2) The Apocalypse, it will be recollected, is expressly attributed by Justin Martyr to the apostle John:" A certain man among us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, predicted in a revelation given to him that those who had believed in our Christ should spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and that afterward the universal and, to speak briefly, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all would take place together" (Dial. e. Try., ch. 81). There is also satisfactory evidence that Papias was familiar with the Apocalypse, and was peculiarly interested in its Chiliastic teaching. (See Andreas CŠs. in Apoc, ch. 34, Serm. 12, Edit. Morel.; Opp. S. Chrys., p. 52; and Euseb., H. E., iii. 39.) Among the writings of Melito, Bishop of the church in Sardis, which were known to Eusebius, was one on the Revelation of John (H. E., iv. 26). Irena^us, who spent his early life in Asia Minor, ascribes the Apocalypse to John the disciple of the Lord, and a careful consideration of his language shows that by " disciple " he meant the apostle John, who was called, by way of preference, " the disciple," because he was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (B., iv. 20, 11; v. 2(), 1; 30, 3; 8). This testimony is very important. Tertullian cites the, Apocalypse repeatedly as a work of the apostle John (e. g. Adv. Mar., iii. 14; iv. 5; De PrŠs. HŠret., ch. 33). Clement of Alexandria and Origen both make use of it as authoritative and written by John (Strom., vi. 13; Paid., ii. 12; Com. in Matt, t. 16, torn. iii. p. 711; Com. in Joan., t. 1, also t. 2). Hippolytus does the same (De Christo et Antichr., ch. 36). It is included in the Fragment of Muratori on the Canon. But for some reason it was not made a part of the Peshito; and Dionysius of Alexandria, while agreeing that it was the work of some " holy and inspired man " by the name of John, doubts whether it was written by the evangelist. It is, however, noteworthy that his reasons for doubting are not historical, but critical, or, in other words, derived from the style of the book as compared with John's Gospel and First Epistle (Euseb., H. E., vii. 25). In like manner Eusebius appears to have hesitated about ascribing it to the apostle John, But it is at least possible that they were predisposed to reject the book by their strong opposition to the Chiliasm of their day. At any rate, their doubts made hut a slight impression on the minds of Christians, and before the close of the fourth century the Apocalypse was everywhere received as apostolic and divine. And surely there was no lack of external evidence for the apostolic authorship of this remarkable book.
(3) The Epistle of James, like that to the Hebrews, was addressed to believing Israelites who did not reside in Palestine; and this circumstance accounts for the non-universal reception of the Epistle in the early church. " It was meant only for Jewish believers, and was not likely, therefore, to circulate widely among Gentile Christians" (Smith's Diet of the Bible, p. 1208). Hence, too, it was included in the Peshito, but not in the Muratorian Canon or in most of the MSS. of the early Latin version. As might have been expected, it was received as canonical in Alexandria. Thus Origen says: "For if there may be something called faitli, but existing without works, such a faith is dead, as we have read in the current Epistle of James" (Com. in Joan., F. 19). Again: "As also James the apostle says. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Com. in Ep. ad Rom., ix.). "Eusebius tells as a matter of fact that some counted it spurious, and that there was a lack of early testimony to it; but he himself quotes it as apostolic" (Charteris). Athanasius, a younger contemporary of Eusebius, accepted it as inspired and canonical (Ath. Opp., tom. p. 38). The objections to the letter derived from its contents are of no force, and there appears to be no good reason to doubt that the churches and their teachers were guided by sufficient evidence in assigning to this Epistle a place in the Canon of Scripture.
(4) The Epistle of Jude purports to have been written by " the brother of James," who must therefore have been well known to Christians. This James is generally believed to have been "the Lord's brother," spoken of in Gal, 1:19, the writer of the Epistle noticed above, and for many years the Bishop of the church at Jerusalem. The Muratorian Canon numbers the Epistle of Jude with the sacred books of the New Testament. It was also in the Old Latin version, though not in the Syriac. Clement of Alexandria appeals to it in both the Paidagogos and the Stromateis (Paid., iii. 44; Sir., iii. 11); moreover, the Latin Adumbrationes found in the editions of Clement contain notes written by him on this Epistle, as well as on the First Epistle of Peter and the first two Epistles of John (Westcott, pp. 310, 311). Origen agrees With Clement in the use of Jude as a part of the New Testament (Com. in, Matt, t. 10, ch. 17, and others). Tertullian speaks of the apostle Jude as bearing testimony to Enoch or the book of Enoch (De Cultu femin, i. 3). Eusebius, while placing it with the disputed books, says that the Catholic Epistles, including Jude, are publicly used with the rest in most of the churches (H. E., ii. ch. 23). It is considered authoritative and canonical by Athanasius, by the Laodicean Council (about A. D. 364 — Charteris), and by Cyril of Jerusalem (Cateches., iv. p. 36, sq.).
(5 and 6) It is difficult to see why the Second and Third Epistles of John should have been called " catholic " or " general," for they are manifestly brief letters to individuals, of no more interest to the churches than was the letter to Philemon, and of much less general significance than the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, Charteris says that they " were at an early date supposed to be general, the ' elect lady ' and ' Gaius ' being supposed to denote the Christian church." But the fact that they are brief personal letters accounts for their being so little known to the great body of the early Christians. The writer designates himself "the elder" — a title which may have been naturally applied with special reverence to the apostle John during the last years of his life in Asia Minor, and which therefore would have been sufficiently explicit and at the same time modest on his lips. IrenŠus speaks of " John's First Epistle " (Euseb., H. E, v. 8), showing thereby that he knew of more than one, and also quotes a passage from his Second Epistle (v. 11), declaring that it was a " saying of John the disciple of the Lord " (B., i. 16, 3). Clement of Alexandria cites the words of 1 John 5:16 as being in his " greater Epistle," thus intimating that he knew of a smaller one (Strom., ii. ch. 15, 66). Origen says of John, who reclined on the bosom of Jesus, that " he has also left an Epistle consisting of very few lines; perhaps, too, a second and a third, since not all say that these are genuine, but both together do not contain a hundred lines " (Euseb., H. E., vi. 25). Dionysius of Alexandria mentions that " a Second and a Third Epistle ascribed to John were in circulation," and in such a way as to imply his acceptance of them as works of the apostle (Euseb., H. E., vii. 25). These minor Epistles appear to be recognized (one of them certainly, and probably both) in the Fragment of Muratori, and both of them were also in the earliest Latin version.
(7) The historical evidence for the genuineness of the Second Epistle of Peter is less conclusive than that for any other book of the New Testament. If genuine, its circulation must have been restricted for a comparatively long time to a small number of churches. The earliest passage manifestly based upon it appears to be in the so-called Second Epistle of the Roman Clement (ch. 16, 3), which, however, is now understood to be a Christian homily from the middle of the second century. Yet there seem to be pretty clear reminiscences of the Epistle in Justin Martyr, in the Shepherd of Hermas, and perhaps in some of the Ignatian epistles, which were written as early, at least, as A. D. 150. The same may be said of Melito of Sardis (Charteris, p. 314), of Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol., ii. 9, 13), and of IrenŠus (iv. 36, 4; v. 23, 2; and v. 28, 3). Clement of Alexandria is said to have written short expositions of all the Scriptures, not passing by those that are disputed — viz. Jude and the other Catholic Epistles (Euseb,, H. E, vi. 14). And it is surely improbable that Clement would have written even short expositions of a book which he did not esteem, in some proper sense of the words, holy Scripture. Origen appears to have looked upon the Epistle as a genuine work of Peter, though he says that it was questioned in his day (Euseb., H. E., vi. 25). Eusebius, speaking as an historian, classes it with the disputed books (H. E., iii, 3, 25), but Athanasius (De S. Trin., Dial. i.; Contra Arianos, Orat. i.), Cyril of Jerusalem (Cateches., iv. p. 36, sq.), Gregory of Nazianzus (Carm., 33, v. 31), Epiphanius (HŠr., ii. t. 2, h. 66; iii. t. 1, h. 76), and Jerome (De Vir. Ill., ch. i.; also Ep. ad Hedib. QuŠst, xi.), receive it as a work of the inspired apostle.
Thus slowly, and not without careful inquiry, did the several disputed books of the New Testament take their place in the Canon with other books acknowledged by all the churches from the first age. It was ascertained to the satisfaction of intelligent men, by evidence that must have been derived from the churches where these books were first known, that they were written by apostles or associates of apostles, and were therefore authentic statements of the original facts and doctrines of the Christian religion.
Meanwhile, other books, with which many Christians were particularly pleased, were associated more or less with these, and were occasionally read in certain public meetings of some of the churches. The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, are perhaps the most important of these. But they seem never to have been considered of equal authority with apostolic and inspired Scripture, and they were all in due time assigned without hesitation to their true place outside the Canon.
ORDER OF BOOKS IN THE CANON.
This has not always been the same. By the present arrangement the Historical part holds the first place, the Doctrinal part the second, and the Prophetical part the third. And to this general order there seems to be no good objection. The life and work of Jesus Christ are the logical foundation and starting-point of Christianity; hence the evangelical narratives ought to precede everything else in the Christian Canon. But the early work of the apostles — until the gospel had gained a secure foothold among both Jews and Greeks — was inseparably connected with the preaching of Jesus and with the beginnings of the Christian religion; accordingly, by common consent, the story of the Acts of the Apostles is made to follow the Gospels. With equal propriety do the Epistles, which set forth the doctrines of Christianity for the edification of believers, instructing, admonishing, and encouraging the disciples of the Lord Jesus in their conflict with evil, follow the historical books, though it is not quite so obvious what is gained by disregarding chronology in the arrangement of Paul's Epistles or by placing the Catholic Epistles after those of Paul. And as to the Apocalypse, it takes the position of a final book, partly because of its relation to the future, and partly because of the time when it was supposed to have been written — that is, near the close of the first century, and after nearly or quite all the other books of the New Testament had been given to the churches.
This is the natural order, yet in some of the manuscripts, as well as in the Complutensian edition of the New Testament (1514), the Epistles of Paul precede the Acts. In one manuscript the order is said to be this: the Acts, the Pauline Epistles, the Catholic Epistles, the Gospels. In another the Apocalypse is placed between the Acts and the Catholic Epistles. Besides these, a few instances are mentioned by Scrivener (Introd. to the Crit. of the N. T., p. 67) in which the three great divisions of the New Testament do not stand in their natural order. But these instances are strictly exceptional. The general order is the following: the Gospels, the Acts, the Catholic Epistles, the Pauline Epistles, the Apocalypse.
But when we turn our attention from this general order to the arrangement of books under the first and second divisions, a certain variety appears. The four Gospels do not always succeed one another in the order to which we are accustomed — viz. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In the Codex Bezse they stand Matthew, John, Luke, Mark; and " this, according to Scrivener (p. 68), is the true Western order, found in the copies of the Old Latin d, e, f, and in the Gothic version." It may have been adopted for the purpose of giving a certain precedence to the Gospels written by apostles. In this arrangement it is easy to see why Matthew was placed before John, for it was believed to have been written much earlier, and it was doubtless felt to be a better connecting-link between the old economy and the new. But it is difficult to imagine why Luke was put before Mark. Had the order of these two been reversed, we might have surmised that the references in Luke to the relation of Christ to all mankind, and the close connection of this Gospel with the Acts, written also by Luke, had led to the arrangement; but for the actual order it seems impossible to assign any reason. In the Curetonian Syriac version the succession is Matthew, Mark, John, Luke; and this certainly is preferable to the " Western " order, though it is perhaps less satisfactory than that which closes with the Gospel of John. For both the doctrinal character, and the time when it was written, are valid reasons for giving the last place among the Gospels to that of John, even as the contents and the time of writing are valid reasons for assigning the last place in the New Testament to the Revelation by John.
In respect to the second, or Doctrinal, part of the New Testament, which is composed of Epistles to Christians in general, to particular churches, and to certain individuals, the principal variations have been (1) In the place assigned to the Catholic Epistles. These were generally put before the Pauline Epistles in the Greek manuscripts, but in a few instances, as stated above, they were put after them. We know of nothing decisive in favor of the one order or of the other. (2) In the place assigned to the Epistle to the Hebrews. This was frequently placed after the undoubted Epistles of Paul, partly perhaps because there was felt to be some uncertainty in respect to its origin, and partly perhaps because it was a sort of general Epistle, and might on that account be put with those of James, Peter, John, and Jude. But it was sometimes placed in the midst of Paul's Epistles, and before the personal ones, because of its great doctrinal importance and of its somewhat general destination. The reasons for the former position seem not inferior to those for the latter, and we may therefore be satisfied with the place which this Epistle holds in the Textus Receptus and the Common Version.
But would not something be gained by arranging the Epistles of Paul chronologically, beginning with First Thessalonians and ending with Second Timothy? An affirmative answer must be made to this question. For these letters chronologically arranged would connect themselves more naturally than they now do with the history of Paul's missionary life as related in the Acts — the letters interpreting the history, and the history interpreting the letters, and both together giving a clearer view of the progress and conflicts of the new religion than can be easily gained from them now. Moreover, thus arranged the Pauline Epistles would serve as a spiritual biography of the apostle. The difference of tone between his earlier and his later Epistles would be observed by the ordinary reader as well as by the trained scholar. The letters to the Thessalonians, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Romans, which were composed before his first imprisonment in Rome, and while he was pushing forward his missionary work in every direction possible, would be perceived to differ in a perfectly natural way from the letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, the Ephesians, and Philemon, which were written during his first imprisonment in Rome, and after his two years' confinement at Caesarea, while the letters to Timothy and Titus would be found in harmony with a still later period of life. Without being confident as to the mode of its production, we are, on the whole, inclined to connect the Epistle to the Hebrews with the mind of Paul as its primary source, and to assign it to the period of his confinement in Caesarea and Rome (A. D. 59-63).
If the Catholic Epistles retain their present place between the writings of Paul and the book of Revelation, there might be some slight advantage in putting the three Epistles of John after the Epistle of Jude — thus: James, Peter, Jude, John. And if it were a settled result of biblical criticism that Jude was written before Second Peter, it might be still better to make the order James, Jude, Peter, John. For then the really general Epistles by James, Jude, and Peter would follow the general Epistle to the Hebrews, the order of succession in the Testament would agree with the true relation between Jude and Second Peter, and the Epistles and Apocalypse of John would appear together as a final group. But biblical scholars are by no means certain that Jude was written before Second Peter, and therefore its appropriate situation remains at present in doubt.
GREEK TEXT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Any commentary worthy of the name must take account of the Greek text of the New Testament. It may expound for the most part a current version of that text, but it can never do this in a safe and satisfactory manner without comparing it with the Greek original. But that original, as it came from the hands of the apostles and their associates, is no longer in existence. How, then, can we ascertain as nearly possible what it was? If the autographs have all perished, how can we learn what they contained?
(1) From Manuscripts of an early age or from copies of manuscripts that were made in an early age. A few of these manuscripts, distinguished for their antiquity and importance, are written in capital letters, and are therefore called uncials. It is not incredible that some of the inspired autographs were in the hands of those who prepared the oldest existing manuscripts, yet there is no evidence, and but little probability, of this. A great majority of known manuscripts are written in small letters connected with one another, and are therefore called cursives.
(2) From Versions of an early age. Only those that were made during the first three centuries are of much account in establishing the original text; and of the early versions the most literal are the most useful in this respect. A free, paraphrastic translation, however truly or idiomatically it may express the sense of the original, is of little service in revealing the inspired text.
(3) From Quotations made by the early Christian writers. These quotations differ in value for textual criticism according to the age in which a given writer lived, the degree of exactness with which he cited passages of Scripture, and the language which he employed. Citations of the Greek Testament by Greek writers like Origen, Athanasius, Hippolytus, Cyril would often afford decisive evidence of the text as found in the manuscripts used by them, while citations in Latin by Tertullian or Cyprian or Augustine would be less decisive in their evidence.
(4) From Critical Editions of the New Testament founded on a careful examination of the preceding sources. If all the best editors agree in a particular reading, there is strong reason to believe it genuine. If they differ, there is presumably some ground for doubt, and at all events a commentator is compelled to look closely at the sources of evidence. Of the critical editors, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, deserve special attention.
Returning to the subject of manuscripts, it may be observed that all the oldest Greek copies of the New Testament are written in uncial (or capital) letters. This form prevailed until about the tenth century. But in the ninth or tenth century cursive letters began to be used, and, with various ligatures and contractions, continued to be employed until the introduction of printing. By reason of their age, therefore, the uncial manuscripts are, as a class, of pre-eminent value; but are there any marks by which the earlier manuscripts of this class can be distinguished from the later? According to Scrivener, "persons who have had much experience in the study of manuscripts are able to distinguish [them] from one another in respect of style and character; so that the exact period at which each was written can be determined within certain inconsiderable limits" (p. 28). And after pointing out as critically as possible, by means of fac-similes and verbal notes, the changes which took place in various uncial letters of the alphabet, he sums up the results in two propositions: "First, that the upright square uncials are more ancient than those which are narrow, oblong, or leaning. Secondly, that the simpler and less elaborate the style of writing, the more remote its probable date " (p. 38). Of these propositions there can be no reasonable doubt, but the changes from century to century must be traced with peculiar exactness, and none but experts can speak with the highest confidence respecting them. Fortunately, however, the number of experts in this branch of learning is not likely to diminish, but to increase.
Moreover, the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament are written upon vellum — i. e., speaking strictly, the delicate skins of young calves; or upon parchment — i. e. the skins of sheep or of goats. Indeed, the oldest are said ])y Scrivener to be " almost invariably inscribed on the thinnest and whitest vellum that could be procured, while manuscripts of later ages are usually composed of parchment, thick, discolored, and coarsely grained." Yet papyrus was a cheaper material, very generally used instead of vellum or parchment at the time when the New-Testament Scriptures were written, and " its frail and brittle quality " may perhaps account for the fact that no original manuscript of any book of the New Testament is known to be in existence.
In form the manuscripts commonly resemble printed books. A few only are folios, more are octavos, but the greater part are quartos, their height slightly exceeding their breadth. Many copies have two Greek columns on a page, but the Codex Vaticanus has three, and the Codex Sinaiticus four. In the early uncial manuscripts there is no space between the different words: an unbroken succession of letters must be separated by the reader into words as his eye passes along the uniform line. But "the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts have a single point here and there on a level with the top of the letters, and occasionally a very small break in the continuous uncials, with or without the point, to denote a pause in the sense" (Scrivener). Abbreviated words are somewhat frequent, but they rarely occasion any ambiguity, since they are almost never resorted to unless the words are familiar — e. g. θς for θεύς, χς for χύριυς, Ις for Ἰησοῦς, Χς for Χριστός, Πνα for Πνεῦμα.
The following manuscripts must be frequently named in the Commentary, and should therefore be briefly described:
(1) The Codex Sinaiticus (or א) is now in St. Petersburg, and is the property of the Russian emperor. " It is made of the finest skins of antelopes, and its leaves are so large that a single animal would furnish only two " (Cod. Fred. Aug. Proleg., ž i.). " It consists of 3452 leaves of vellum, 147i of which contain the whole New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas, and a fragment of the Shepherd of Hermas. Each page contains four columns, with 48 lines in a column." It is supposed to have been written about the middle of the fourth century — i. e. about A. D. 350. In 1862 the Emperor of Russia published a facsimile edition of three hundred copies, edited by Tischendorf, who discovered the manuscript in the Convent of St. Catharine, at the foot of Mount Sinai, in 1844.
(2) The Codex Alexandrinus (or A) is in the British Museum. It is written on vellum in uncial letters. Each page has two columns of 50 lines each. The fourth volume, of 134 leaves, contains most of the New Testament, also the First Epistle of Clement of Rome, a small part of the so-called Second Epistle, and three beautiful Christian hymns. Matthew's Gospel is wanting from the beginning to 25:6; John's, from 6:50 to 8:52 (two leaves); and Second Corinthians, from 4:13 to 12:6 (three leaves). All the other books of the New Testament are complete. The Catholic Epistles follow the Acts, and the Pastoral Epistles that to the Hebrews. This manuscript is ascribed on good grounds to the beginning, or at the latest the middle, of the fifth century, A. D. 400-450. It is believed to have been taken from Alexandria to Constantinople by the patriarch Cyril Lucas, who sent it to Charles I., King of England, through the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, about 1628.
(3) The Codex Vaticanus (or B) is in the Vatican Library at Rome. " All who have inspected the Codex are loud in their praises of the fine, thin vellum, the clear and elegant hand of the first penman, and the simplicity of the whole style of the work " (Scrivener). The New Testament fills 142 leaves (out of 759 for the whole Bible). Each of the three columns on a page has 42 lines, with 16 or 18 letters in a line — the letters being somewhat smaller than those of Codex A, and considerably smaller than those of Codex א. There are no intervals between the words, and no enlarged capitals a prima manu at the beginning of sentences. It contains the New Testament complete to Heb. 9:14 by the original copyist, while the rest of Hebrews, the four Pastoral Epistles, and the Apocalypse are said to have been supplied in the fifteenth century from a manuscript belonging to Cardinal Bessarion. By general consent of critics this manuscript is assigned to the middle of the fourth century, A. D. 350. A so-called Fac-simile of it has been published by the Roman Curia.
(4) The Codex Ephraemi (or C) is in the Royal Library of Paris. It is a palimpsest4, containing fragments from all parts of the New Testament on 145 leaves, but amounting in all to less than two-thirds of the volume. About 37 chapters of the Gospels, 10 of the Acts, 42 of the Epistles, and 8 of the Apocalypse have perished. It is written on vellum, very good, but not so fine as that of Codex A and some others. It has but one column on a page, with from 40 to 46 lines in the column. The letters are a little larger and more elaborate than those of A or B. The writing is continuous, with but a single joint for punctuation, and this point commonly, but not always, put on a level with the top of the preceding letter. This manuscript belongs to the fifth century (about a. i>. 450), and is of "first-rate importance" as far as it goes.
(5) The Codex BezŠ (or D of the Gospels and Acts) is in the Library of Cambridge (England), to which University it was presented by Theodore Beza in 1581. It is a vellum manuscript, though the material is not quite as fine as that of א, A, or B. The Greek text on the left of each page is accompanied by a Latin version on the right— line being as nearly opposite and parallel to line as possible. The letters are of the same size as in Codex C. Both Davidson and Scrivener say of this manuscript that " its singularly corrupt text, in connection with its great antiquity, is a curious problem which cannot easily be solved." "The best judgment of the age of this MS. appears to be that which assigns it to the sixth century." " Taking the peculiarities of this MS. into consideration, it may be said that its evidence when alone, especially in additions, is of scarcely any value as to the genuine text, but of the very greatest when corroborated by other very ancient authority " (Tregelles).
(6) The Codex Regius (or L) is in the Royal Library of Paris. It consists of 257 leaves of thick vellum, with two columns of 25 lines each on a page, and contains most of the four Gospels. It was published by Tischendorf in his Monumenta Sacra Inedita, 1846. Written in the eighth or ninth century, it bears a strong resemblance in its text to Codex B, to the quotations of Origen, and to the marginal readings of the Philoxenian Syriac (A. D. 616), and is therefore highly esteemed by the best critics.
The following remarks of Westcott merit attention:(1) "That B deserves the first place as an authority; (2) That א and D have much in common, and a text of very high antiquity, dating from the end of the second century; (3) That the characteristic readings of C and L indicate careful grammatical revision; (4) That in the Gospels A gives a revised text, the basis of the later Alexandrine text; (5) That the characteristic readings of B, of N, D, and of C L, have all more or less support in the Ante-Nicene age; and (6) That very few readings in the Gospels will stand the test which are not supported by א or B or D."
More than fifteen hundred cursive manuscripts of the whole or of parts of the New Testament are known to be in existence — all of them written since A. D. 900. But only a few of this great number have been thoroughly " collated." Some of these deserve notice in this place:
1. The Codex Basiliensis is an illuminated manuscript at Basle, ascribed to the tenth century. It has been collated by Wetstein, C. L. Roth, and Tregelles. "In the Gospels the text is very remarkable, adhering pretty closely to the uncials B L and others of that class" (Scrivener).
13. The Codex Regius 50 of the twelfth century is regarded (together with 69, 124, and 346) as a transcript from a manuscript whose text was substantially the same as that of the uncial D,
33. The Codex Regius 14 is a folio of the twelfth century, containing all the New Testament but the Apocalypse. The text is very valuable, resembling Codices B, D, L more than does that of any other cursives. " After Larroque, Wetstein, Griesbach, Begtrup, and Scholz, it was most laboriously collated by Tregelles in 1850 " (Scrivener).
157. The Codex Urbino-Vatlcanus of the twelfth century, pronounced by Birch the most important MS. of the New Testament in the Vatican, after B. Among the cursives it stands next in value to Codex 33.
205 and 209, belonging to the Library of St. Mark's, Venice, supposed by Burgon to be copies from the same archetype, have a text much like that of B, at least in the Gospels. They are assigned respectively to the fifteenth and to the twelfth centuries.
For a more detailed account of the manuscripts of the New Testament the reader is referred to the fourth vol. of Home's Introduction to the Critical Study. . . . of the Holy Scriptures, new edition (1866), this volume being written by S. P. Tregelles; to Scrivener's Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. second edition; to The Story of the Manuscrips, by Rev. Geo. E. Merrill; and to The Critical Handbook, by E. C. Mitchell, D. D.
Parsing now to a consideration of early versions as affording evidence in respect to the Greek text at the time when they were made, we cannot do better than to quote the following remarks of Tregelles:" The value of the testimony of versions to the genuine ancient text is considerable; for although they have been subjected to the same casualties of transcription as has the text of the original Greek, and though at times they have been remodelled in some sort of conformity to the Greek copies then current, yet in general they are representatives of the Greek text from which they were formed. The casualties of transmission would rarely, if ever, affect documents in different languages in a way precisely similar, and we may in this manner account for not a few divergences in the versions as they have come down to us; yet when we find an avowedly ancient translation according in peculiar readings with some of the more ancient and valuable of the ancient MSS., it is an important proof of the antiquity at least of such readings; and thus, if they are not genuine, the proof must be sought in the counter-evidence that may be adduced."
Again, he says of ancient versions:" They follow the Greek from which they were taken with an almost scrupulous exactitude, and they so often preserve even the order of the words that they can be quoted as authorities on such points. At times, of course, the translator may have failed in vigilance; he may have passed by words which are omitted in no Greek copy, and he may have confused the text from which he was rendering, just in the same manner as was done by Greek copyists. But the admission of all this in the fullest manner does not afford any ground for the statement that the testimony of versions is of little moment in the question of the insertion or omission of a whole clause, or that 'a version need be very literal' if it is to show whether important words were or were not recognized by the Greek text from which it was taken " (Home, vol. iv., pp. 225 and 228).
But Tregelles admits that special caution is needed in the use of early versions as testimony to the early Greek text. For " a copyist of a version, if he possessed any acquaintance with the original, was in danger of correcting by the Greek text with which he was familiar; and thus he might introduce mixed readings: this is an addition to the usual causes of transcriptural mistake; and for all these allowance must be made. We are, however, often able to revert to very ancient copies of versions, and then, just as in the case with such MSS. of the originals, we are brought back to the condition of the text nearly or quite identical with that in which the translation first appeared " (Id., p. 228).
Even a moderately correct version of the New Testament must be of great Value as evidence — (1) As to the presence or absence of certain disputed clauses, verses, or paragraphs in the manuscript from which it was made. In this respect the evidence afforded by a version would be almost independent of its literary qualities. For a poor translation would be just as useful as a good one in answering the question, Was the doxology of Matt. 6:13, or the last part of Mark, 16:9-20, or the account of an angel troubling the waters of Bethesda, John 5:4, or the pericope respecting the woman taken in adultery, John 7:53-8:11, in the source from which it was made? (2) As to certain important words concerning which existing manuscripts may leave the critic in doubt. Thus, if the translator had before him a Greek text which read " God only-begotten," instead of " the only-begotten Son," in John 1:18, or "the Lord," instead of "God," in Acts 20:28, or " who," instead of " God," in 1 Tim. 3:16, his version, though not distinguished for accuracy, would be likely to indicate these readings.
But the present text of every early version of the New Testament has suffered 80 many changes by transcription and correction that a critical study of its history, by means of the most ancient copies extant and through the citations of the earliest writers who employed it, is very necessary before much reliance can be placed on its testimony as a clue to the text used by the translator. The value of an early version for critical purposes will therefore depend upon three things: (a) Upon the time when it was made; (b) Upon the literal exactness with which it reproduced the original; and (c) Upon the certainty with which its own primary text can now be made out. Judged by these tests, it is believed that the most important versions for critical purposes are — (1) The Old Latin and the Syriac (Peshito and Curetonian); (2) The Coptic (Memphitic and Thebaic), the Latin Vulgate, the Harclean Syriac, and perhaps the Gothic.
As we have already observed, the first Latin version was made in North Africa, and is now fitly called the Old Latin Version. It can be traced in several manuscripts, especially a, b, c, and the fragments of i, compared with quotations from the New Testament found in the writings of the Fathers who lived in North Africa — e. g. Tertullian, Cyprian, Arnobius, Lactantius, Augustine, and in the ancient Latin version of IrenŠus Against Heresies. On these and similar authorities Tregelles remarks:" In one respect the testimony of the early Latin copies can hardly be estimated too highly. The translators adhered so closely to the Greek text from which the version was formed that they practically made it their rule to follow as far as they could even the order of the Greek words" (Horne, iv., p. 256). But he distinctly concedes that " the Versio Vetus, as unaltered, contains both readings and corruptions which are more ancient than the time of Jerome " — readings sustained by paramount early evidence, and defects which were removed by the recension of Jerome. The Old Latin Version was probably in existence as early as the year 170, and perhaps much earlier. And Scrivener asserts that " although the testimony of versions is peculiarly liable to doubt and error, the Peshito Syriac and Old Latin translations of the Greek Testament stand with a few of the most ancient manuscripts of the original in the very first rank as authorities and aids for the critical revision of the text."
There has been some difference of opinion among scholars as to the critical value of the Syriac Version of portions of the New Testament, published by Dr. Cureton in 1858, as compared with the critical value of the Peshito. Dean Alford spoke of the former as " perhaps the earliest and most important of all tlie versions," and Tregelles affirms that " the readings " [of this translation are] " in far greater accordance with the oldest authorities of various kinds than is the case in the previously-known Peshito. . . . Probably this older form of Syriac text was known to the translator of the Peshito Gospels, and from it he took much that would suit his purpose," etc. On the other hand. Scrivener uses this language concerning the Peshito: " For the present we can but assent to the ripe judgment of Michaelis, who, after thirty years' study of its contents, declared that he could consult no translation with so much confidence in cases of difficulty and doubt. While remarkable for its ease and freedom, it very seldom becomes loose or paraphrastic. The Peshito has well been called ' the queen of versions ' of Holy Writ, for it is at once the oldest and one of the most excellent of those whereby God's providence has blessed and edified the church " (p. 280). Westcott classifies the Syriac Versions thus: "The Old (Curetonian) Syriac, the Vulgate Syriac (Peshito), the Harclean Syriac," showing that he agrees with Tregelles and Cureton as to the comparative age of the two versions.
For the two Egyptian or Coptic versions, the Memphitic and the Thebaic, we may assume a very early origin. They may have been made before the close of the second century. This is admitted by Lightfoot, who also remarks that, " with the single exception of the Apocalypse, the Memphitic New Testament, as far back as we can trace its history, contained all the books of our present Canon;" and from the omission of the Apocalypse he infers that the completion or codification of this version was effected about the middle of the third century, when, for a short time, doubts were entertained in Egypt concerning the authorship of the Apocalypse. The order of books in this version is given as follows: Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles, Acts. " The Pauline Epistles include the Hebrews, which is placed after First and Second Thessalonians and before First and Second Timothy, as in the Greek MSS. א, A, B, C," etc. " Of all the versions, the Memphitic is perhaps the most important for the textual critic. In point of antiquity it must yield the palm to the Old Syriac and the Old Latin; but, unlike them, it preserves the best text as current among the Alexandrian Fathers, free from the corruptions which prevailed so widely in the copies of the second century " (Scrivener, pp. 344, 345).
The Thebaic Version exists only in fragments, though these fragments now embrace a large part of the New Testament. In this version, as well as in the Memphitic, the Epistle to the Hebrews is evidently ascribed to Paul, for it stood between Second Corinthians and Galatians. Its textual value is pronounced by Lightfoot only second to that of the Memphitic Version, of which it is wholly independent.
These are the most important of the early versions in the matter of textual criticism, and a wise editor of the Greek Testament will be careful to consult them. Others are of less value, though not unworthy of attention in the study of doubtful passages.
Lastly, some use may be made in textual criticism of the numerous Quotations which are found in the writings of the Christian Fathers. But these quotations are of far less service in establishing the true text than they are in proving the existence of the New-Testament Scriptures at an early day, the respect which was paid to them by Christians, and their substantial agreement with the books we now have. In these latter respects their testimony is of the highest value:in the former respect, it must be used with very great caution, for the following reasons: (1) The quotations of the Fathers were often made from memory. This is admitted by those most familiar with early Christian literature. Nor is it at all surprising. For if those writers were sure of the substance of a passage which they desired to use, this was generally enough for their purpose. Verbal accuracy could only be attained by consulting the manuscript in almost every instance, and this process, at once slow and laborious, was felt to be unnecessary. (2) Their quotations were in many cases made up of expressions from different parts of Scripture, loosely put together, and giving no more from the several passages than suited their immediate object. Citations thus made can be of but little service in showing what was the reading of any passage from which a particular clause had been taken. (3) Their quotations have been changed, more or less, in many instances, by copyists or editors. Perhaps the circumstance that they were loosely made has seemed to copyists and editors a reason for changing them in the interest of accuracy; but if, in doing this, they have been guided by the readings found in manuscripts of their own times, they have injured the citations for purposes of textual criticism.
Nevertheless, it is certainly possible to underrate the importance of Patristic quotations as a guide to the original text of the New Testament. For there are places, though few, where the Fathers appeal to the codices of their own early day as reading thus and so, or where they discriminate between codices, saying that many of them have a particular reading, and implying that others have it not. There are places also where they show, by exposition or by argument, what must have been the reading accepted by them, though it is doubtful to us. Especially valuable in this respect are the commentaries of Greek writers; and it is not too much to say that the works of Origen and of some others may be profitably studied with reference to ascertaining the original text of the New Testament. Yet until the writings of the Christian Fathers have been edited with peculiar care, and with the use of the earliest manuscripts preserved, they ought to be appealed to with the utmost caution.
In the light of these facts as to the sources of evidence respecting the original text of the New Testament, it is manifest that interpreters are called upon to decide for themselves what that evidence requires, at least in cases where the critical editors disagree; and the writers of this Commentary have sometimes done this. It will be observed, however, that they have proceeded in this matter with very great caution, rarely favoring a change of the text from which the Common Version was made unless that change is adopted by some of the best editors and required by early and weighty evidence. In other language, they have labored diligently to discover the pure word of God as it was delivered to early Christians by inspired men, and no less diligently to ascertain the precise meaning of that word, and to place that meaning in the clearest manner possible before the reader's mind.
As an aid to the accomplishment of this purpose it has been thought desirable to print the Revised Version (1881) side by side with the Common Version (1611) at the top of the page. For, to say nothing of improvements in translation, the Greek text adopted by the Revisers must be regarded as one of great excellence, approaching more nearly perhaps than any one yet prepared to that which existed in the autographs of the sacred writers. We shall not go too far, therefore, if we assert that the Revised Version must hold a position co-ordinate with that of the Common Version — first, because it represents in perspicuous English a remarkably pure text of the original; and secondly, because it is likely to be in the hands of a vast majority of those who read the New Testament at all.
With these remarks this Introduction might be closed. But it may not be improper to add a few words of explanation. (1) Special introductions to the several books of the New Testament will be given by the writers upon those books — the present Introduction being of a general nature, applicable to the New Testament as a collection of sacred writings, but not aiming to give all the evidence for the authorship and authority of particular books. (2) The undersigned is only responsible for the selection of the writers who prepare this Commentary, and for the general character of the Commentary itself, but not for the details of interpretation in particular passages. Yet he has in a few instances inserted brief notes over his own initials (A. H.). (3) As may be inferred from our General Introduction, due regard is paid by the writers of this Commentary to the results of modern biblical scholarship as to the authenticity, the original text, and the true meaning of the New-Testament Scriptures. (4) Yet the results of careful and critical study are presented in the clearest terms possible. Greek words are very rarely introduced; indeed, never, unless they are deemed necessary to justify the interpretation given; and, when introduced, they are carefully translated — the object of the writers being distinctly this, to render the Commentary useful to all who desire a knowledge of God's word. Hence the practical bearings of divine truth are often insisted upon in the Commentary.
Note. — The remaining volumes of the Commentary will be published as rapidly as circumstances will permit. The work on many of them is far advanced, and it is confidently expected that two or more volumes will be published yearly, until the series (probably consisting of twelve volumes) is complete.
Newton Centbe, July 5, 1881,
1) "We must remember that the ancient writer had not a small, compact reference Bible at his side, but, when he wished to verify a reference, would have to take an unwieldy roll out of its case, and then would not find it divided into chapter and verse, like our modern books, but would have only the columns, and those not numbered, to guide him. We must remember, too, that the memory was much more practised and relied upon in ancient times, especially among the Jews." (Sanday, The Gospels in the Second Century, pp. 29, 30.)
2) Westcott (On the Canon of the New Testament, p. 44) gives the following books of the New Testament as certainly or possibly referred to by Clement: Romans, Ephesians, First Timothy (?), Titus (?), Hebrews, James.
3) On this plural see Hefele ad loc.
4) I. e. a Codex Rescriptus, the original writing being partially obliterated and a second treatise written over it.