A Historical Introduction to the Study of the Books of the New Testament

By George Salmon

Chapter 7





We have seen now that in the middle of the second century our four Gospels had obtained their pre-eminence, and enjoyed the distinction of use in the public service of the Church. To-day I go back to an earlier witness, Papias, who was bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, in the first half of the second century. Although all that we have remaining of him which bears on the subject is half-a-dozen sentences, which happen to have been quoted by Eusebius, countless pages have been written on these fragments; and, what seems not reasonable, almost as much stress has been laid on what they do not mention as on what they do. Indeed, nothing can be more unfair or more absurd than the manner in which the argumentum ex silentio has been urged by sceptical critics in the case of writers of whom we have scarcely any extant remains. The author of Supernatural Religion, for instance, argues: The Gospels of St. Luke and St. John cannnot be earlier than the end of the second century, because Hegesippus, because Papias, because Dionysius of Corinth, &c., were unacquainted with them. Well, how do you know that they were unacquainted with them? Because they never mention them. But how do you know that they never mentioned them, seeing that their writings have not come down to us? Because Eusebius does not tell us that they did; and he would have been sure to tell us if they had, for he says that he made it his special business to adduce testimonies to the Canon of Scripture. Now, here is exactly where these writers have misunderstood Eusebius; for the point to which he says he gave particular attention was to adduce testimonies to those books of the Canon which were disputed in his time;1 and, in one of his papers,2 Bishop Lightfoot most satisfactorily shows that this was his practice, by examining the re port which Eusebius gives of books which have come down to us. Eusebius tells us (H. E. iii. 37) that Clement of Rome used the Epistle to the Hebrews, but never says a word as to his quoting the First Epistle to the Corinthians, though the latter quotation is express (Clem. Rom. 47), and the use of the former Epistle is only inferred from the identity of certain expressions. The explanation plainly is, that there was still, some controversy in the time of Eusebius about the Epistle |to the Hebrews, and none at all about the Epistles to the Corinthians. In like manner, he tells us (H. E. iv. 24) that Theophilus of Antioch used the Revelation of St. John, but never says a word about his quotation of the Gospel; though, as I have already said, Theophilus is the earliest writer now extant who mentions John by name as the author of the fourth Gospel. Why so? Plainly because the Revelation was still matter of controversy, and there was no dispute in the time of Eusebius about the fourth Gospel. Other in stances of the same kind may be given. Perhaps the most remarkable is the account which Eusebius gives (v. 8) of the use which Irenaeus makes of the Holy Scriptures. Eusebius begins the chapter by calling to mind how, at the outset of his history, he had promised to quote the language in which ancient ecclesiastical writers had handed down the tradition which had come to them concerning the canonical Scriptures; and, in fulfilment of this promise, he undertakes to give the language of Irenaeus. He then quotes some things said by Irenaeus about the four Gospels, something more said by him about the Apocalypse, and then mentions, in general terms, that Irenaeus had quoted the First Epistle of John and the First Epistle of Peter, and that he was not only acquainted with the Shepherd of Hernias but accepted it as Scripture. Not a word is said about Irenaeus having used the Acts and the Epistles of St. Paul. If the writings of Irenaeus had perished, and our knowledge of them had depended on this chapter, he would have been set down as an Ebionite anti- Pauline writer; for it would have been argued that the silence of Eusebius, when expressly undertaking to tell what were the Scriptures used by Irenaeus, was conclusive evidence that the latter did not employ the Pauline writings. Actually, how ever, Irenaeus refers to Paul more than two hundred times, and it becomes plain that the reason why Eusebius says nothing about it is, because in his mind it was a matter of course that a Christian should acknowledge St. Paul's Epistles. We see, then, that we have not the slightest reason to expect that Eusebius should go out of his way to adduce testimonies to the Gospels about which no one in his time had any doubt whatever; and, therefore, that no argument against them can be built on his silence.

To return to Papias: it is necessary that you should have before you the facts about Papias in order to enable you to judge of the theories of Renan and others as to the origin of the Gospels. Papias was the author of a book called λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις, an Exposition3 of the oracles of the Lord, of which Eusebius and Irenaeus have preserved a very few fragments; and in this is the earliest extant mention of the names of Matthew and Mark as the recognized authors of Gospels. Eusebius (H. E. iii. 36), according to some manuscripts of his work, describes Papias as a man of the greatest erudition, and well skilled in the Scriptures; but it must be owned that this favourable testimony is deficient in manuscript authority; and elsewhere (H. E. iii. 39) commenting on some millennarian traditions of his, he remarks that Papias, who was a man of very narrow understanding (σφόδρα σμικρὸς τὸν νοῦν), as his writings prove, must have got these opinions from a misunderstanding of the writings of the Apostles. It is a very possible thing for a man of weak judgment to possess considerable learning and a good know ledge of Scripture; and so what Eusebius says in disparagement of Papias in one place does not forbid us to believe that he may have given him some measure of commendation in another. What is the exact date of Papias is uncertain. We know that he lived in the first half of the second century; but some place him at the very beginning; others, not earlier than Justin Martyr. But the chief authority for placing him at the later date has been exploded by Bishop Lightfoot.4 The Paschal Chronicle, a compilation of the sixth or seventh century, states that Papias was martyred at Pergamum in the year 164. But coincidences of language clearly show that the compiler is drawing his information from a passage in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, where the martyrdom of one Papylus at Pergamum is mentioned. The confounding of this man with Papias is a mere blunder of the Paschal compiler; and so we are left to gather the date of Papias from his own writings. These clearly show that he lived at a time when it was still thought possible to obtain oral traditions of the facts of our Saviour's life.5

I will ask you to attend carefully to what Papias says as to the sources of his information: If I met anywhere with anyone who had been a follower of the elders, I used to inquire what were the declarations of the elders; what was said by Andrew, by Peter, by Philip, what by Thomas or James, what by John or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord; and the things which Aristion and the elder [or presbyter] John, the disciples of the Lord say; for I did not expect to derive so much benefit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice.6 By disciples of our Lord Papias clearly means men who had personal intercourse with him; but it is a point which has been much discussed whether Papias claims to have known the Apostle John. The name John, you will observe, occurs twice over in this extract What was said by John or Matthew; what is said by Aristion and John the elder. The question is, whether he only means to distinguish these last two, concerning whom the present tense is used, as men still surviving; or whether, beside John the Apostle, there was another later John, from whom Papias derived his information; whether, in short, Papias was so early as to have been actually a hearer of the Apostle John, or whether he was separated from him by one link. Eusebius was, I believe, the first to remark the double mention of John, from which he concluded that two Johns were referred to; and those in the third century who denied the Apostolic origin of the Revelation had already suggested that a John different from the Apostle might have been its author. It must, however, be borne in mind that the fact that Papias twice men tions the name John does not make it absolutely certain that he meant to speak of two Johns; and there is no other in dependent witness to the existence of the second. Irenaeus (v. xxxiii. 4), in fact, makes no doubt that it was John the Apostle of whom Papias was a disciple; and this view was generally adopted by later ecclesiastical writers.

In order that we may have before us all the facts we are discussing, I will read at once the two passages in which Papias speaks of Matthew and Mark. I told you already that in his fragments we find the first mention of any of our Evangelists by name. On the authority of John the elder Papias writes: And this also the elder said: Mark, having become the interpreter (ἑρμηνευτής) of Peter, wrote accurately all that he remembered of the things that were either said or done by Christ; but, however, not in order. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him, but subsequently, as I said,7 [attached himself to] Peter, who used to frame his teaching to meet the immediate wants [of his hearers], but not as making a connected narrative of our Lord's discourses.8 So Mark committed no error in thus writing down particulars just as he remembered them; for he took heed to one thing, to omit none of the things that he had heard, and to state nothing falsely in his narrative of them. Eusebius next gives Papias's statement concerning Matthew: Matthew wrote the oracles (τὰ λόγια) in Hebrew, and each one interpreted them as he could.9 Eusebius gives no quotation from Papias concerning St. Luke's or St. John's Gospels. He mentions, however, that Papias quoted John's first Epistle; and since that Epistle and the Gospel have evident marks of common authorship, the presumption is that he who used the one used the other also. The passages I have just quoted were until comparatively modern times regarded as undoubted proofs that Papias knew our present Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Principally on his authority the belief was founded that Matthew's Gospel was originally written in Hebrew, and that Mark's Gospel was founded on the preaching of Peter.10 But it has been contended by some modern critics that our present first two Gospels do not answer the descriptions given by Papias of the works of which he speaks. You see how hard it is to satisfy the sceptical school of critics. When we produce citations in verbal accordance with our Gospels, they reply, The source of the quotation is not mentioned; how can you be sure that it is taken from your Gospels? Here, when we have a witness who mentions Matthew and Mark by name, they ask, How can you tell whether Papias's Matthew and Mark are the same as the Matthew and Mark we have now?

To the question just raised I am going to pay the compliment of giving it a detailed examination; but I cannot forbear saying that the matter is one in which doubt is wildly unreasonable. Juvenal tells us that the works of Virgil and Horace were in the hands of schoolboys in his time. Who dreams of raising the question whether the works referred to by Juvenal were the same as those we now ascribe to these authors? And yet that a change should be made in books in merely private circulation is a small improbability compared with the improbability that a revolutionary change should be made in books in weekly ecclesiastical use. We have seen that in the time of Justin the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were weekly read in the Church service. It is absurd to imagine that the liturgical use described by Justin originated in the year his Apology was written. We must in all reason attribute to it some years of previous existence. Again, we must allow a book several years to gain credit and authority, before we can conceive its obtaining admission into Church use. If our present Matthew and Mark supplanted a previous Matthew and Mark, at least the new Gospels would not be stamped with Church authority until so many years had passed that the old ones had had time to be forgotten, and the new to be accepted as the genuine form of Apostolic tradition. Put the work of Papias at its earliest (and I do not find sceptical critics disposed to place it so very early), and still the interval between it and Justin's Apology is not adequate to account for the change alleged to have taken place. Observe what is asserted is not that some corruptions crept into the text of the Gospels ascribed to Matthew and Mark, but that a change was made in them altering their entire character. And we are asked to believe that no one remonstrated, that the old Gospels perished out of memory, without leaving a trace behind, and that the new ones reigned in their stead, without anyone finding out the difference! I shall afterwards have to consider speculations as to the process by which it is imagined floating- traditions as to the Saviour's life crystallized into the form of our present Gospels. What I say now is, that the interval between Papias and Justin is altogether too short to leave room for such a process. The mention by Papias of Matthew and Mark by name is evidence enough that in his time these Gospels had already taken their definite form; for it is inconceivable that if anyone in the second century had presumed to remodel a Gospel which bore the name, and was believed to be the work, of an Apostle, there would not be many who would prefer and preserve the older form. I am persuaded, then, that interpreters of the words of Papias get on an entirely wrong track if, instead of patiently examining what opinion concerning our present Gospels his words indicate, they fly off to imagine some other Matthew and Mark, to which his words shall be more applicable.

Once more, I may take a hint from our opponents, and, with better reason than they, build an argument on the silence of Eusebius. He had before him the whole book, which we only know by two or three extracts; and no passage in it suggested to him that Papias used different Gospels from ours, or that he even used an extra-canonical Gospel. Now, although Eusebius is apt to see nothing calling for remark when an ecclesiastical writer expresses the opinion which the later Church generally agreed to hold, he takes notice readily enough of any divergence from that opinion. For instance, in his account of the Ignatian Letters he takes no notice of a couple of fairly accurate quotations from our Gospels; but he singles out for remark the only passage suggesting a possible use of a different source. (H. E. iii. 36; Ignat. Smyrn. 3.)

To return now to the reasons alleged for facing so many improbabilities, it is urged that there is a striking resemblance between the Gospels of Matthew and Mark as we have them now, but that Papias's description would lead us to think of them as very different. Matthew's Gospel was, according to him, a Hebrew work, containing an account only of our Lord's discourses; for so Schleiermacher11 would have us translate τὰ λόγια, the word which I have rendered oracles. Mark, on the other hand, wrote in Greek, and recorded what was done as well as what was said by Christ τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ χριστοῦ ἢ λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα. Again, Mark's Gospel, which in its present state has the same claims to orderly arrangement as Matthew s, was, according to Papias, not written in order. The conclusion, then, which has been drawn from these premisses, is that Papias's testimony does not relate to our present Gospels of Matthew and Mark, but to certain un known originals, out of which these Gospels have sprung; and in some books of the sceptical school the original Matthew and original Mark (Ur-Markus) are constantly spoken of, though there is no particle of evidence, beyond that which I have laid before you, that there ever was any Gospel by Matthew and Mark different from those we have got.

Thus, according to Renan, Papias was in possession of two documents quite different from one another a collection of our Lord's discourses made by Matthew, and a collection of anecdotes taken down by Mark from Peter's recollections; and Renan (Vie de Jesus, p. xxii.) thus describes the process by which Matthew's Gospel gradually absorbed Mark's anecdotes, and Mark's derived a multitude of features from the Logia of Matthew: As it was thought the world was near its end, men were little anxious about composing books for the future: all they aimed at was to keep in their hearts the living image of Him whom they hoped soon to see again in the clouds. Hence the small authority which the evangelic texts enjoyed for one hundred and fifty years.12 No scruple was felt as to inserting additions in them, combining them diversely, and completing one by another. The pas sage I am reading illustrates the character of Renan's whole book, in which he trusts far more to his power of divination than to evidence, his statements being often supported by the slenderest authority. Thus, for this statement that for a century men had no scruple in transposing, combining, and interpolating the evangelic records, there is not a shadow of proof. Renan goes on to say: The poor man who has only one book wants it to contain everything which goes to his heart. These little books were lent by one to another. Each transcribed in the margin of his copy the words, the parables, which he found elsewhere, and which touched him. Thus has the finest thing in the world issued from a process worked out unobserved and quite unauthoritatively.13 In this way we are to suppose that the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, which were originally unlike, came, by a process of mutual assimilation, to their present state of resemblance.

If this theory were true, we should expect to find in early times a multitude of Gospels, differing in their order and in their selection of facts, according as the different possessors of manuscripts had differently inserted the discourses or events which touched their hearts. In the more ancient manuscripts the order of the events would become uncertain.

It would even be doubtful to which Gospel this or that story should be referred. Why we should have now exactly four versions of the story is not easy to explain. We should expect that, by the process of mutual assimilation which has been described, all would, in the end, have been reduced to a single Gospel. Attempts would surely have been made to bring the order of the different Evangelists to uniformity. If one poor man had written an anecdote in his manuscript in a wrong place, another would not scruple to change it.

But the fact is that our four Gospels are as distinct, and the order of the events as definite, in the earliest manuscripts as in the latest; and if such variations as I have described had ever prevailed, it is incredible that no trace of them should be found in any existing authority. The two Gospels of Matthew and Mark, with all their likeness, remain quite distinct as far as we can trace them back. Nor is there the slightest uncertainty as to the order of narration of either. One solitary fact is appealed to by Renan in his note as the sole basis for his monstrous theory. The section of St. John's Gospel which contains the story of the woman taken in adultery is, as you probably know, wanting in the most ancient manuscripts; in a few copies it is absent from the place where it occurs in the received text, but is added at the end of the Gospel; and in five manuscripts of comparatively late date, which, however, show evident marks of having been copied from a common original, it is inserted in St. Luke's Gospel at the end of the 21st chapter. It would be out of place to discuss here the genuineness of this particular passage.14 Critics generally regard it as an authentic fragment of apostolic tradition, but not as a genuine part of St. John's Gospel. But now it is manifest that the phenomena which present themselves in a small degree in the case of this story would, if Kenan's theory were true, show themselves in a multitude of cases. There would be a multitude of parables and miracles with respect to which we should be uncertain whether they were common to all the Evangelists or special to one, and what place in that one they ought to occupy. Further, according to the hypothesis stated, Mark's design was more comprehensive than Matthew's. Matthew only related our Lord's discourses; Mark, the things said or done by Christ that is to say, both discourses and actions of Jesus. If this were so, it might be expected that Mark's Gospel would differ from Matthew's by excess, and Matthew's would read like a series of extracts from Mark's. Exactly the opposite is the case.

But I wholly disbelieve that the word λόγια in the extract from Papias is rightly translated the speeches of our Lord. Not to speak of the absurdity of supposing a collection of our Lord's sayings to have been made without any history of the occasions on which they were spoken, λόγια is one word, λόγοι another. Examine for yourselves the four passages in which the former word occurs in the New Testament: Acts vii. 38, Moses received the lively oracles to give unto us; Rom. iii. 2, To the Jews were committed the oracles of God; Heb. v. 12, Ye have need that we teach you which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and lastly, 1 Peter iv. n, If anyone speak let him speak as the oracles of God. Now, when Paul, for example, says that to the Jews were committed the oracles of God, can we imagine that he confines this epithet to those parts of the Old Testament which contained Divine sayings, and that he excludes those narrative parts from which he has himself so often drawn lessons in his Epistles; as, for instance, the account of the creation which he uses, 1 Cor. xi. 8; the account of the fall, 2 Cor. xi. 3, 1 Tim. ii. 14.; the wanderings in the wilderness, 1 Cor. x. 1; the story of Sarah and Hagar, Gal. iv. 21; or the saying (Gen. xv. 6) that Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, of which such use is made both in the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians. Thus we find that in the New Testament λόγια has its classical meaning, oracles, and is applied to the inspired utterances of God in His Holy Scriptures. This is also the meaning the word bears in the Apostolic Fathers and in other Jewish writers. Philo quotes as a λόγιον, an oracle of God, the narrative in Gen. iv. 15, The Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him; and as another oracle the words, Deut. x. 9, The Lord is his inheritance. The quotations from latter writers, who use the word λόγια generally as inspired books, are too abundant to be cited. We must recollect also that the title of Papias's own work is λόγίων κυριακῶν ἐξήγησις,15 while it is manifest that the book was not confined to treating of our Lord's discourses. I consider the true conclusion to be, that as we find from Justin that the Gospels were put on a level with the Old Testament in the public reading of the Church, so we find from Papias that the name λόγια, the oracles, given to the Old Testament Scriptures, was also given to the Gospels, which were called τὰ κυριακὰ λόγια, the oracles of our Lord. The title of Papias's own work I take as meaning simply an exposition of the Gospels; and his statement about Matthew I take as meaning: Matthew composed his Gospel in Hebrew, the word λόγια implying its Scriptural authority. I do not know any passage where λόγια means discourses; and I believe the notion that Matthew's Gospel was originally only a collection of speeches to be a mere dream. Indeed the theory of an original Matthew containing speeches, and an original Mark containing acts, has been so worked out that the best rationalist critics now recognize its absurdity. For it was noticed that our present Matthew contains a great deal of history not to be found in our pre sent Mark; and that our present Luke contains a great many discourses not to be found in Matthew; and so the theory led to the whimsical result of critics looking for the original Matthew in St. Luke, and for the original Mark in St. Matthew.

A more careful examination of what Papias says leads us, I am convinced, to a very different conclusion. On reading what Papias says about Mark's Gospel, two things are apparent first, Papias had a strong belief in Mark's perfect accuracy. Three times in this short fragment he asserts it: * Mark wrote down accurately everything he remembered; Mark committed no error; He made it his rule not to omit anything he heard, or to set down any false statement there in. Secondly, that Papias was for some reason dissatisfied with Mark's arrangement, and thought it necessary to apologize for it. No account of this passage is satisfactory which will not explain why, if Papias reverenced Mark so much, he was dissatisfied with his order. Here Kenan's hypothesis breaks down at once the hypothesis, namely, that Papias was in possession of only two documents, and these totally different in their nature: the one a collection of discourses, and the other a collection of anecdotes. Respecting, as he did, Mark's accuracy, Papias would assuredly have accepted his order had he not been in possession of some other document, to which for some reason he attached more value in this particular a document going over somewhat the same ground as Mark s, but giving the facts in different order. It is clear that the Mark of which Papias was in possession did not merely consist of loose collections of unconnected anecdotes of our Lord's life, but was a Gospel aiming at some orderly arrangement. It was not the case that the copies of this Gospel so differed from each other as to make it uncertain what was the order in which it gave the facts. This order was definite, and though Papias was dissatisfied with it, and tried to explain why it was not different, he never maintained that Mark had originally written the facts in any different or preferable order. And it is clear that he had more such Gospels than one, namely, at the least, St. Mark's Gospel, and some other Gospel, with whose order he compared St. Mark s, and found it different.

The question then remains to be answered: If Papias held that Mark's Gospel was not written in the right order, what was, in his opinion, the right order? Strauss considers and rejects three answers to this question, as being all in admissible, at least on the supposition that the Gospel known to Papias as St. Mark's was the same as that which we receive under that name. These answers are: first, that the right order was St. John s; secondly, that the right order was St. Matthew s; thirdly, that Papias meant to deny to Mark the merit not only of the right order, but of any historical arrangement whatever. Of these three solutions, the first that the right order in Papias's mind was St. John's is that defended with great ability by Bishop Lightfoot. Besides these there remains another, which I believe to be the true one, namely, that what Papias regarded as the right order was St. Luke's. The reason, I suppose, why this solution has been thought unworthy of discussion is, that no mention of St. Luke is made in any of the fragments of Papias which have reached us; from which it has been assumed to be certain that Papias was unacquainted with Luke's writings. Now, if we had the whole work of Papias, and found he had said nothing about St. Luke, it might be reasonable to ask us to account for his silence; but when we have only remaining some very brief extracts from his book, it seems ludicrous to conclude that Papias was ignorant of St. Luke, merely because Eusebius found in his work no statement concerning Luke which he thought worth copy-^ ing. With regard to Matthew and Mark, Eusebius found the statements that Mark was the interpreter of Peter, and that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, and these he thought worth pre serving; but if Papias added nothing to what was known; about Luke, we can understand why Eusebius should not I have copied any mention of Luke by Papias. The fragments preserved contain clear traces that Papias was acquainted with the Acts, and since, as we have seen, Luke's Gospel was certainly known to Justin Martyr, who was not so much, later than Papias that both may not have been alive at the* same time, the conclusion that it was known by Papias also 1 is intrinsically most probable. When, therefore, in explain ing the language used by Papias, we have to choose between I the hypothesis that he was acquainted with Luke's Gospel, and the hypothesis that the Matthew and Mark known to Papias perished without leaving any trace of their existence, and were in the next generation silently replaced by another,- Matthew and Mark, the former hypothesis is plainly to be preferred, if it will give an equally good account of the phenomena. Since we know from Justin that it was the custom to read the Gospels every Sunday in the Christian assemblies, the notion that one of these could have been utterly lost, and another under the same name substituted, is as extravagant a supposition as can well be imagined.

In support of my opinion that Papias knew St. Luke, I may quote an authority above suspicion Hilgenfeld, who may be pronounced a leader of the present German Rationalist school. His notion is that Papias was acquainted with Luke's Gospel, but did not ascribe to it the same authority as to Matthew and Mark. And his opinion, that Papias knew St. Luke, is founded on a comparison of the preface to Luke's Gospel with the preface to Papias's work, in which he finds many phrases which seem to him an echo of St. Luke. I am disposed to think he is right; but the resemblance is not striking enough to convince anyone inclined to deny it. Lightfoot comes to the same conclusion on different grounds, namely, on account of a striking coincidence between one of the fragments of Papias and Luke x. 18.

But if we assume that Papias recognized St. Luke's Gospel, the language which he uses with respect to St. Mark's is at once accounted for. The preface to St. Luke's Gospel declares it to be the Evangelist's intention to write in order γράψαι καθεξῆς, but a reader could not go far without finding out that Luke's order is not always the same as Mark's. In the very first chapter of St. Mark the healing of Peter's wife's mother is placed after the Apostle's call to become a fisher of men, in opposition to Luke's order. It is on this difference of order that, as I understand the matter, Papias undertook to throw light by his traditional anecdotes. And his account of the matter is that Mark was but the interpreter of Peter, whose teaching he accurately reported; that Peter had not undertaken to give any orderly account of our Lord's words or deeds; that he only delivered these instructions from time to time as the needs of his people required; and that Mark was, therefore, guilty of no falsification in faithfully reporting what he had heard.

We have no evidence that Papias's notice about St. Matthew occurred in the same context as that about St. Mark; but I think it likely that this remark was also made in explanation of an apparent disagreement between the first Gospel and one of the others. And I conceive Papias's solution of the difficulty to be, that the Church was not then in possession of the Gospel as Matthew wrote it that the Greek Matthew was but an unauthorized translation from a Hebrew original, which each one had translated for himself as he could. Thus, in place of its being true that Papias did not use our present Gospels, I believe the truth to be that he was the first who attempted to harmonize them, assuming the principle that no apparent disagreement between them could affect their substantial truth.

Thus, then, these explanations lead to the same inference as the use of the word λόγια in speaking of St. Matthew's Gospel; both indicate that Papias regarded the Gospels as really inspired utterances. When he finds what seems a disagreement between the Gospels, he is satisfied there can be no real disagreement. Mark's order may be different from Luke s; but, then, that was because it was not Mark's design to recount the facts in their proper order. Three times over he repeats that Mark committed no error, but wrote all things truly. If in Matthew's Gospel, as he read it, there seemed any inaccuracy, this must be imputed to the translators; the Gospel as Matthew himself wrote it was free from fault.

Weighing these things, I have convinced myself that Bishop, Lightfoot has given the true explanation of a passage, from, which ah erroneous inference has been drawn. Papias declares, in a passage which I have already cited, If I met with anyone who had been a follower of the elders anywhere, I made it a point to inquire what were the declarations of the, elders, what was said by Andrew, by Peter, by Philip, what! by Thomas or James, what by John or Matthew, or any other of the disciples of our Lord, and the things which Aristion and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord, say; for I did not think that I could get so much benefit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice. The question is: Does this disparagement of written, books extend to our Gospels? Are we to suppose that Papias regarded these books, if he had them, as in no sense inspired, and that he preferred to obtain his knowledge of the Saviour's earthly life from viva voce tradition? Considering his solicitude to clear the Gospels from all charge of inaccuracy, I feel convinced that these were not the writings which he found comparatively useless to him for his work. The title of his book was, as I understand it, An Exposition of the Gospels; and it was in seeking for traditions to supplement and illustrate the Scripture history that he found it useless to search the Gnostic interpretations16 then current, and that he preferred his own collection of viva voce traditions, whose genuineness could, as he alleged, be proved by tracing them up, like the I four Gospels, to the Apostles themselves.

It is worth while to take notice also of the commencement of the preface of Papias: I shall not scruple also to place along with my interpretations anything that I carefully learned from the elders. Here we have in the first rank, as the object of Papias's work, expositions of the oracles of our Lord interpretations; that is to say, he assumes an existing authoritative text, on which he comments, and which he tries to explain; and then, with a little apology, he takes leave to put his traditions forward as on the same level with his interpretations. But neither one nor the other seems to come into competition with the text. Those who would have us believe that Papias preferred his traditions to the Evangelic text forget that he tells us the two things that he was in possession of a book written by Matthew, and that he also made it his business to inquire from anyone who could tell him what Matthew had said. Papias must have been even of weaker understanding than Eusebius would lead us to think, if he regarded hearsay reports as better evidence what were the statements of Matthew than the testimony of a book which he believed to have been written by that Apostle. But Papias might fairly retort the charge of stupidity on his critics. He had called Matthew's book the Logia, and his own book an interpretation of Logia. To find a parallel case, then, we must imagine a writer of the present day publishing a commentary on the In Memoriam, and stating in his preface that he had taken pains to question everyone that he met with who had conversed with the Laureate, and that he regarded the interpretations he had thus been able to collect as more valuable than anything he had seen in print. What should we think of a reviewer who, reading no further than the preface, should report that the author maintained that none of the printed editions of Tennyson's Poems could be relied on, and that he attached no value to anything save certain stanzas he had heard in conversation to have been recited by the poet?

On the whole, then, I arrive at the conclusion that Papias recognized an Evangelic text, to which he ascribed the highest authority, and in the perfect accuracy of which he had strong faith. In my own mind I have no doubt that this text consisted of the four Gospels we now have. Papias has named two of his Gospels, those of St. Matthew and St. Mark; and I see no ground for imagining that these names totally changed their signification in the course of a generation. With regard to the use of St. John's Gospel by Papias, the presumption arising from his confessed use of the First Epistle is confirmed by several indications in the list of names already quoted. Andrew is placed before Peter, as in John i. 44 (compare Mark i. 29); Philip and Thomas are selected for mention, who have no prominence except in St. John's Gospel; Matthew and John are coupled together, the simplest explanation of which is that both were known to Papias as authors of Gospels. In the context of this list, Papias calls our Lord by the Johannine title of the Truth. And Light- foot gives strong reasons for thinking Papias to be the author of a passage quoted anonymously by Irenaeus, and which contains a quotation from St. John. Lightfoot's reasons have been accepted as convincing by an unprejudiced critic, Harnack. Of Papias's use of St. Luke's Gospel I have spoken already, and we shall not doubt that he recognized this Gospel if we afterwards find reason to think that he was acquainted with the Acts of the Apostles.

If still earlier evidence than that of Papias is required, the only difficulty is that the books from which we might have drawn our testimony have perished. The extant remains of earlier Christian literature are few; and, indeed, it is likely that the first generation of Christians, among whom there were not many learned, and who were in constant expectation of their Master's second coming, did not give birth to many books. As to the remains we do possess, I avoid burdening your memory with too many details, and I will only quote a specimen from him who is accounted the earliest of uninspired writers, Clement of Rome, in order to show the kind of testimony which those who are known as the Apostolic Fathers afford: Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, for he said, Woe to that man; it were better for him that he had not been born than that he should offend one of my elect. It were better for him that a millstone should be tied about his neck,, and that he should be drowned in the sea, than that he should offend one of my little ones (Clem. Rom. 46). Elsewhere he says: Especially remembering the words of our Lord Jesus, which he spake, teaching gentleness and long-suffering. For thus he said, Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy: forgive, that it may be forgiven to you. As ye do, so shall it be done unto you: as ye give, so shall it be given unto you: as ye judge, so shall ye be judged: as ye show kind ness, so shall kindness be shown unto you: with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured unto you (Ch. 13). Similar quotations are found in the Letters of Polycarp and Ignatius, but the passages I have read illustrate the two characteristics of these early citations first, that they do not mention the name of the source whence they are taken; secondly, that, though they substantially agree with passages in our present Gospels, they do not do so literally and verbally. There are two questions, then, to be settled First: Is the writer quoting from a written source at all, or is he merely using oral traditions of our Lord's sayings and doings? Secondly: Is he using our Gospels, or some other record of our Saviour's life? It seems to me that the words Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, when ad dressed to the members of a distant Church who had received no oral instructions from the writer, point distinctly, not to oral tradition, but a written record, which Clement could know to be recognized as well by those whom he was addressing as by himself. St. Paul, addressing the Ephesian elders, might say, Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts xx. 35 ), although these words do not occur in our Gospel history, because he had taught for three years in Ephesus, and there fore had the means of knowing that his readers had heard the same words before. But the words, Remember the words of our Lord Jesus, when addressed to men, as to the oral instruction delivered to whom the writer apparently had no means of knowledge, point, in my opinion, plainly to written sources of information. And it appears to me unreasonable to suppose that these written sources of information were works which have disappeared, and not those works to which we find testimonies very little less ancient than the quotations to which I refer, and which contain the passages cited, the verbal differences not exceeding those that are commonly found in memoriter quotations. I have already spoken of the degree of accuracy that may reasonably be looked for in the memoriter quotations of the very early Fathers.

But, before parting with the Apostolic Fathers, I must produce a passage which illustrates the skill of critics in resisting evidence produced to prove something which they have, on a priori grounds, decided not to admit. There are those who have made up their minds that the Gospels are comparatively late compositions, and who are certain that they could not, for a long time, have been looked on as inspired or treated as Scripture. Now, the Epistle of Barnabas is a work which, though not likely to have been written by the Apostle Barnabas, is owned on all hands to be one of great antiquity, dating from the end of the first century, or at least the beginning of the second,17 a period at which, according to some of our opponents, St. Matthew's Gospel was per haps not written, and at any rate could not yet have been counted as Scripture. But this Epistle contains (c. 4) the exhortation, Let us take heed lest, as it is written, we be found, many called, but few chosen. Here we have a plain quotation from St. Matthew, introduced with the well-known formula of Scripture citation, It is written. But this part of the Epistle of Barnabas was till lately only extant in a Latin translation; hence it was said that it was impossible that these words, It is written, could have been in the original Greek. They must have been an interpolation of the Latin translator. Hilgenfeld, in an early work,18 went so far as to admit that the Greek text contained some formula of citation, but he had no doubt it must have been as Jesus says, or some such like. Unfortunately, however, lately the Greek text of this portion of the Epistle of Barnabas came to light, being part of the newly- discovered Sinaitic Manuscript, and there stands the as it is written, ὡς γέγραπται, beyond mistake. Then it was suggested that the quotation is not from St. Matthew, but from the second book of Esdras. Now, it is a question whether this book is not post-Christian (as certainly some portions of the present text of it are), and possibly later than St. Matthew say as late as the end of the first century. But the words there are, Many are created, but few shall be saved. The contention that the words Many are called, but few chosen, are not from St. Matthew, but from this passage, though this itself may have been derived from our Gospels, is only a proof of the straits to which our opponents are reduced. Then it was suggested that the quotation was perhaps from some lost apocryphal book. And lately a more plausible solution, though itself sufficiently desperate, has been discovered. Scholten19 suggests that the phrase It is written was used by Barnabas through a lapse of memory. The words many are called, but few chosen, ran in his head, and he had forgotten where he had read them, and fancied it was somewhere in the Old Testament. I think this is an excellent illustration of the difficulty of convincing a man against his will.


1) The words in which Eusebius states his design (iii. 3) are: ὑποσημῄνασθαι τίνες τῶν κατὰ χρόνους ἐκκλησιαστικῶν συγγραφέων ὁποίαις κέχρηνται τῶν ἀντιλεγομένων, τίνα τε περὶ τῶν ἐνδιαθήκων καὶ ὁμολογουμένων γραφῶν, καὶ ὅσα περὶ τῶν μὴ τοιούτων αὐτοῖς εἴρηται: that is to say, he undertakes to mention instances of the use of any of the disputed writings together with any statements that he found concerning the composition of any of the writings, whether canonical or not.

2) Contemporary Review, January, 1875.

3) Or Expositions; for readings vary between the singular and the plural.

4) Contemporary Review, Aug. 1875, Colossians, p. 48.

5) On this account it seems to me that A.D. 125 or 130 is as late as we can place his work.

6) The following is the extract given by Eusebius from the Preface of Papias: but the student ought to read carefully the whole chapter (Euseb. H. E. iii. 39). He will find the other fragments of Papias in Routh's Rell. Sac. i. 8, or in Gebhardt and Harnack's Apostolic Fathers, I. ii. 87:

Οὐκ ὀκνήσω δέ σοι καὶ ὅσα ποτὲ παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καλῶς ἔμαθον καὶ καλῶς ἐμνημόνευσα, συγκατατάξαι ταῖς ἑρμηνείαις, διαβεβαιηιίμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἂλήθειαν. Οὒ γὰρ ταῖς τὰ πολλὰ λε”γυνσιν ἔχαιρον ὥσπερ αἱ πυλλοὶ ἁλλὰ τοῖς τάληθῆ διδάσκουσιν οῦδὲ τοῖς τὰς ἆλλυτρίας ἐντολὰς μνημονεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τὰς παρὰ τοῦ Κυρίου τῇ πίστει δεδομένας, καὶ ἀπ’ αὐτῆς παραγινομένας τῆς ἀληθείαςΑ Εἰ δέ που καὶ παρηκολουθηκώς τις τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις ἔλθοι, τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ιἰνέκρινυν λόγους” τί Ἀνδρέω,ἢ τί Πέτρος εἶπεν, ἦ τί Φίλιππος, ἢ τί Θωμᾶς, ἢ Ἰάκωβος· ἦ τί Ἰωάννης, ἢ Ματθαῖος, ἢ τὶς ἕτερος τῶν σωῦ Κυρίου μαθητῶν· ἃ τε Ἀριστίων, καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης υἱ ταῦ Κυρίου μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν. Οὔ γὰρ τὰ ἐκ τῶν Βιβλίων τοσοῦτόν με ὠφελεῖν ὕπελάμβιινυν, ὅσον τὰ παρὰ ζώσης φωνῆς καὶ μενούσης.

7) Eusebius states that Papias quoted the First Epistle of Peter; and reasons will be given afterwards for thinking that in the place here referred to Papias quoted I Pet. v. 13.

8) Or oracles: the reading varies between λόγων and λόγίων.


Καὶ ταῦθ’ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἔλεγε. Μάρκος μὲν ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρον ’γενόμενσς, ὅσα ἐμνημόνευσεν, ἀκριβῶς ἔγραψεν, αὖ μέν τοι τάξει τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ Χριστυῦ ἢ λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα. Οὔτε γὰρ ἤκουσε τυῐὶ Κυρίου, οὔτε παρηκολούθησεν αιἠῷ- ὕστερον δὲ, ὡς ἔφην, Πέτρῳ, ἧς πρὸς τὰς χρείας ἐποιεῖτο τὰς διδασκαλίας ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούμενος λό’)ων, ὥστε υῦδὲν ἥμαρτε Μάρκος, οὕτως ἔνια ’γράψας ὣς ἂπεμνημόνευσεν, Ἐνὶις γὰρ ἐποιήσατο πρόνοιαν, τυῦμηδὲν ὧν ἤκανσε παραλιπεῖν, ἢ ψεύσασθαί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς.

Ματθαῖιις μὲν οὖν Ἐβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὸ, λόγια συνεγράψατο. (Ηρμήνενσε δ’ αὐτὰ ὡς ἦν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος.

10) The dependence of Mark's Gospel upon Peter is also asserted by Clement of Alexandria (Euseb. H. E. vi. 14), who, no doubt, may have had Papias for his authority. It has even been thought that Justin Martyr refers to the second Gospel as Peter's. In the passage quoted, p. 70, where Justin says that our Lord gave to the sons of Zebedee the name Boanerges, he adds that Christ changed the name of one of the Apostles to Peter, and that this is written in his memoirs. Grammatically, this may mean, either Christ's memoirs or Peter's memoirs; and considering that Justin's ordinary name for the Gospels is the Memoirs of the Apostles, some have supposed that he here uses the genitive in the same way, and that he describes the second Gospel (the only one containing the name Boanerges) as the memoirs of the Apostle Peter.

11) Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Professor of Theology at Halle, and after wards at Berlin. His essay on the testimony of Papias to our first two Gospels appeared in the Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1832.

12) Later editions, nearly one hundred.

13) La plus belle chose du monde est ainsi sortie d une elaboration obscure et completement populaire.

14) Eusebius gives us some reason to think that the story of the adulteress was related in the work of Papias. If, as Lightfoot conjectures, it was told in illustration of our Lord's words, I judge no man (John viii. 15), we have an explanation how the paragraph has come to be inserted in the particular place in which we rind it.

15) If there were any doubt as to the meaning of this title, it would be removed by the words of Irenaeus in the preface to his treatise. Certain, he says, παράγουσι τὸν νοῦν τῶν ἀπειροτέρων, . . . ῥᾳδιουργοῦντες τὰ λόγια κυρίου ἐξηγηταί κακοὶ τῶν καλῶς εἰρημένων γινόμενοι. Papias wished to combat false interpretations of the "oracles " by true. Westcott, N. T Canon, p. 577.

16) Basilides, apparently a contemporary of Papias, is said to have written twenty-four books on the Gospel (Euseb. H. E. iv. 7). Two fragments of these Exegetica have been preserved: one by Clement of Alexandria (Strom, iv. 12), the other in the Acts of the Disputation of Archelaus and Manes (Routh, Rell. Sac.v. 196). These extracts make it probable that the Gospel of St. Luke was one of the books on which Basilides commented.

17) Hilgenfeld dates it A.D. 97.

18) Die apostolischen Vater, p. 48 (1853).

19) Scholten (born 1811), Emeritus Professor of the University of Leyden, representative of the extreme school of revolutionary criticism.