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

By George Salmon

Chapter 9




Having at some length laid before you the account which Church tradition gives of the origin of our Gospels, I went on in the last lecture to compare with this the conclusions to which we are led by a study of these writings themselves; and I did not then proceed further than was necessary to show that these conclusions are in no wise contradictory to the traditional account, but rather are confirmatory of it. But the study of the genesis of the Gospels has much more than an apologetic interest. Critics of all schools have been tempted to grapple with the perplexing problems presented by the aspect of three narratives of the same series of events, so like each other, not only in arrangement, but in verbal details, as to convince us that there must be a close affinity of some kind between them, and yet presenting manifold diversities, such as to be irreconcilable with the most obvious ways of accounting for the resemblances.

It is not without some reluctance that I go on to describe to you more minutely the problems that have to be solved, and to tell you something of the attempts made to solve them. Not that I share the feelings of some who regard their belief in the inspiration of the Gospels as precluding any such inquiry. They cannot imagine that one inspired by the Holy Spirit should have need to consult any previous document, and they think it enough to hold that such as the Gospels are now, such their Divine Author from the first ordained they should be. Some such feeling stood for a time in the way of geological inquiries. If the markings of a stone resembled a plant or a fish, it was held that this was but a sport of Creative Power, which had from the beginning made the fossil such as we see it. Yet we now feel that we may lawfully study the indications of their origin which God's works present, in the reverent belief that He has not mocked us with delusive suggestions of a fictitious history. Similarly we may pronounce it to be not truly reverent to decline a careful study of God's Word on account of any preconceived theory as to the mode of composition most befitting an inspired writer.

My reluctance to enter with you upon this inquiry arises solely from my sense of its extreme difficulty. As I have already said, we are on ground where we have no authentic history to guide us; for the earliest uninspired Church writers are far too late to have had personal knowledge of the publication of the Gospels, and such traditions as they have preserved are extremely scanty, and not always to be implicitly relied on. And the history of the present speculations shows how difficult it is to plant firm footsteps where we are obliged to depend on mere criticism, unaided by historical testimony. For if I wished to deter you from forming any theory as the origin of the Gospels, and to persuade you that knowledge on this subject is now unattainable by man, I should only have to make a list for you of the discordant results arrived at by a number of able and ingenious men who have given much study to the subject.

Yet patient and careful thought has so often gained un expected victories, that we incur the reproach of indolent cowardice if we too easily abandon problems as insoluble. In particular, we ought not to grudge our labour when it is on God's Word we are asked to bestow our study. It is scarcely creditable to Christians that in recent years far more pains have been expended on the minute study of the New Testament writings by those who recognized in them no Divine element, than by those who believe in their inspiration. In fact, their very belief in inspiration, fixing the thoughts of Christians on the Divine Author of the Bible, made them indifferent or even averse to a comparative examination of the work of the respective human authors of the sacred books. They were sure there could be no contradiction between them, and it was all one to their faith in what part of the Bible a statement was made, so that no practical object seemed to be gained by inquiring whether or not what was said by Matthew was said also by Mark. In modern times the study of the New Testament has been taken up by critics who, far from shutting their eyes to discrepancies, are eager to magnify into a contradiction the smallest indication they can discover of opposite tendencies in the different books; and we must at least acknowledge the closeness and carefulness of their reading, and be willing in that respect to profit by their example. For these reasons, notwithstanding the discouraging absence of agreement among the critics who have tried from a study of the Gospels themselves to deduce the history of their origin, I think myself bound to lay before you some account of their speculations.

The hypotheses which have been used to account for the close agreement of the Synoptic Evangelists in so much common matter are three-fold: (1) The Evangelists copied, one from another; the work of him whom we may place first having been known to the second, and these two to the third. (2) The Evangelists made use of one or more written documents which have now perished. (3) The common source was not written but oral, the very words in which Apostles had first told the story of the Saviour's works having been faithfully preserved by the memory of different disciples. There is wide room for differences among themselves in details between the| advocates of each of these three solutions; and the solutions also may be variously combined, for they do not exclude one another. If the first of the three Synoptics, whichever he was, made use of a previous document, it is conceivable that the second Evangelist may have not only made use of the first Gospel, but also of that previous document; while, again, if we assert that an Evangelist used written documents, we are still not in a position to deny that some of the things he records had been communicated to him orally. Evidently, therefore, there is room for a great variety of rival hypotheses.

Before I enter on any detailed discussion of them there is a preliminary caution which it is by no means unnecessary to give, viz. that in our choice of a solution we ought to be determined solely by a patient comparison of each hypothesis with the facts; and that we are not entitled to decide off-hand on any solution according to the measure of its agreement with our preconceived theory of inspiration. For example, there are some who think that they are entitled to reject with out examination both the first and the second of the solutions I have stated, because they cannot believe that if the story of our Lord's life had been once written down by an inspired hand, any subsequent writer who knew of it would permit himself to vary from it in the slightest degree; while they do not find the same difficulty in conceiving that variations may have been introduced into the narrative in the process of oral transmission before it was written down.1 For myself, I see no a priori reason for preferring one account of the matter to the other. If we had had to speculate beforehand on the way in which it was likely God would have provided an inspired record of the life of His Son upon this earth, we should not have guessed that there would be four different narratives presenting certain variations among themselves. But we know, as a matter of fact, that He has not seen fit to secure uniformity of statement between the sacred writers. I need not delay to give reasons for thinking that the Bible, such as we have it, is better adapted for the work it was to accomplish than if it had been endowed with attributes which men might think would add to its perfection. I content myself with the matter of fact that God has permitted that there should be variations between the Gospels; and if He did not choose to prevent them by miraculously guarding the memory of those who reported the narratives before they were written down, I know no greater reason for His interfering miraculously. for a similar purpose on the supposition that the Evangelists used written documents.

Needless embarrassment, in fact, has been caused by theories invented under a fancied necessity of establishing that conditions have been satisfied in the transmission of the Divine message, which cannot be shown to be essential to what one of the Evangelists declares to have been his object in writing, viz. That ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, ye might have life through His name. We do not imagine that when two of the apostolic missionaries went about preaching the Gospel they would think themselves bound to tell the story of the Saviour's life exactly in the same way, nor even that if one were relating an incident at which he had not been present himself, he would think it necessary to repeat the identical words of his informant. If God did not see fit to provide statements of rigid uniformity for the establishment of the faith of the first generation of Christians, whose souls were, no doubt, as dear to Him as those of their successors, what warrant have we for asserting that He must have dealt differently with later generations? When anyone imagines himself entitled to pronounce off-hand that the second Evangelist (whichever he was) could not have known that an inspired writer had performed the task before him, we cannot but ask him if he does not believe that the second Evangelist was inspired as much as the first. Whether the human author of the second Gospel knew or not that he had had a predecessor, the Divine Author of the work assuredly knew; and, notwithstanding, it was His will that the second Gospel should be written. The fact that the two Evangelists stood precisely on a level, in respect of supernatural assistance, makes all the difference in the world to the argument. We justly assign to the four Gospels a place apart. Though many in our day undertake to write Lives of Christ, we know that what they presume to add without warrant from these inspired narratives may freely be rejected. But the apostolic preachers were not dependent on any written Gospel for their knowledge. Every one of our Evangelists has told us many things which he could not have learned from the work of any of the other three. If one of the apostolic band of missionaries, on quitting a Church which he had founded, desired to leave behind, for the instruction of his converts, a record of the facts on which their faith rested, I know no reason why he should not be free to choose whether he should give to be copied the story as written by another Evangelist, or whether he should commit to writing the narrative as he had been accustomed, in his oral teaching, to deliver it himself. I am sure that we are over-arrogant if we venture to dictate the conditions according to which inspiration must act, and if we undertake to pronounce, from our own sense of the fitness of things, what mode of using his materials would be permissible to one commissioned to write by God's Holy Spirit. But Alford objects, that if one of our Evangelists knew the work of another, or a document on which it was founded, the arbitrary manner in which he must have used his arche type at one moment servilely copying its words, and the next moment capriciously deviating from them is inconsistent not only with a belief in the inspiration of the antecedent document employed, but also with the ascription to it of any authority whatever. I am persuaded that this assertion can not be maintained by anyone who takes the pains to study the way in which historians habitually use the documents they employ as authorities. The ordinary rule is, that a great deal of the language (including most of the remarkable words) of the original passes into the work of the later writer, who, however, is apt to show his independence by variations, the reasons for which are often not obvious. Mr. Smith, of Jordan Hill, whose work on the Shipwreck of St. Paul I have already recommended to you, wrote also a treatise on the origin of the Gospels. In this he places side by side accounts of battles, as given in Napier's History of the Peninsular War, in Alison's History, and in a French military memoir employed by both writers; and he finds just the same phenomena as our Gospels exhibit. The three narratives not only agree in their general purport, but have many common words: sometimes a whole sentence is common to two; and yet identity of narration is never kept up long without some interruption.

In ancient times it was considered legitimate to use, with out acknowledgment, the very words of a preceding writer to a much greater extent than would now be regarded as consistent with literary honesty. But even when one mea ns to copy the exact words of another, it is very easy to deviate from perfect accuracy. It might be amusing, but would lead- me too far from my subject, if I were to give you illustrations how little we can be sure that what modern writers print with inverted commas does really contain the ipsissima verba of the writer whom they profess to quote. Of ancient writers, there is none whose reputation for accuracy stands higher than that of Thucydides: yet, what he gives (v. 47) as the accurate copy of a treaty presents no fewer than thirty-one variations from the portions of the actual text recently recovered.2 The frequent occurrence of variations in what are intended to be faithful transcripts arises from the fact that it is irksome to stop the work of the pen in order to refer to the archetype, and so the copyist is under a constant temptation to try to carry more in his head than his memory can faithfully retain. Naturally, then, when a writer undertakes no obligation of faithful transcription, but of his own free will uses the words of another, he will look at his archetype at longer intervals not referring to it as long as he believes that he sufficiently remembers the sense; and consequently, while he reproduces the more remarkable words which have fixed themselves in his memory, will be apt to vary in what may seem a capricious way from his original. I do not think that the variations between the Synoptic Gospels exceed in number or amount what might be expected to occur in the case of three writers using a common authority; nor do I think that we have any right to assume that God would miraculously interfere to prevent the occurrence of such variations.

If we desire to know what amount of variation an Evangelist might probably think it needless to exclude, some means of judgment are afforded by the three accounts of the conversion of St. Paul contained in the Acts of the Apostles. These accounts present the same phenomena of great resemblance with unaccountable diversities, and even apparent contradictions. If they had been found in different works it might have been contended that the author of one had not seen the others; and ingenious critics might have even discovered the different tendencies of the narrators. As things are, we seem to have in the comparison of these narratives a measure of the amount of variation which St. Luke regarded as compatible with substantial accuracy. I am therefore unable to assent to those who would set aside without examination the hypothesis that one Evangelist was indebted to another, or that both had used a common document; and who would reduce us to an oral tradition as the only source of their agreements that can be asserted without casting an imputation on the inspiration or on the authority of our existing documents.

Yet, after all, we have advanced but a little way when we have vindicated for the advocates for the documentary hypo thesis3 the right to get a hearing. We may now go on to examine what need there is of any such hypothesis. The oral teaching of the Apostles was, no doubt, the common basis of all the Evangelic narratives. Does this common basis sufficiently account for all the facts?

Let us then observe the precise nature of the agreement between the Synoptic narratives. If the story of a miracle were told by two independent witnesses we should have delations in substantial agreement no doubt, but likely to differ considerably in their form. But in a number of cases; the Synoptic narratives agree so closely, in form as well as in substance, as to convince us that they are not stories told by independent witnesses, but different versions of the story some one witness had told. Take, for example, a verse common to all three Synoptics (Matt. ix. 6; Mark ii. 10; Luke v. 24): But that ye may know that the Son of Man (hath power on earth to forgive sins (then saith he to the sick of the palsy), Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. You will feel that it would be scarcely possible for three independent narrators to agree in interpolating this parenthesis into their report of our Lord's words. Take another example: St. Luke (viii. 28), relating the miracle of the healing of the: demoniac, tells that when he saw Jesus he cried out, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Now, if the story had been told in the chronological order we should first have Jesus command to the unclean spirit to depart, and then the remonstrance of the demoniac. So when we find Mark (v. 7) agreeing with Luke in the minute detail of relating the remonstrance first, and then adding parenthetically that there had been a command, this coincidence alone gives us warrant for thinking that we have here, not the story as it might have been told by two different witnesses to the. miracle, but the story in the form in which a single witness) was accustomed to tell it.

Add now the consideration that both in the instances just produced, and in many others, we have a vast number of verbal coincidences between the corresponding narratives of different Evangelists; and we may go further. Either the story, as it proceeded from the lips of that single witness, was written down; or at least the hearers did not content themselves with a faithful report of the substance of what he related, but must have striven to commit to memory the very words in which he related it. Before the narrative came into our Gospels it had passed out of the fluidity of a story, told now one way, now another, and had crystallized into a definite form.

When we have reached this point, it seems to become practically unimportant to determine whether or not writing had been used for the preservation of the story before it was included in our Gospels. If writing was so used, it would clearly be idle to inquire whether the material to which the writing had been committed was papyrus, or parchment, or waxen tablets. Well, if we are willing to believe that the memory of the first disciples, unspoiled by the habit of writing and stimulated by the surpassing interest of the subject, retained what was entrusted to it as tenaciously and as faith fully as a written record, then the hypothesis that a story had been preserved by memory stands on the same level as the hypothesis that it had been preserved on papyrus or on parchment. We should have no means of determining, and very little interest in determining, which hypothesis was actually true. In either case we acknowledge that the tradition had assumed the fixity of a written record.

It is because we have not only one but a series of stories common to the Synoptics that the difference between documentary and oral transmission comes to have a practical meaning. The latter supposition contemplates a number of stories preserved independently: the former regards them as already embodied in a document which, even if it did not pretend to be a complete Gospel, contained the narration of more incidents than one, disposed in a definite order. Our choice between the two suppositions can be guided by examining whether the Evangelists agree, not only in their way of relating separate stories, but also in the order in which they arrange them. Now, a careful examination brings out the fact that the likeness between the Synoptic Gospels is not confined to agreement in the way of telling separate stories, but extends also to the order of arranging them. Take, for instance, the agreement between Matthew and Mark as to the place in which they tell the death of John the Baptist (Matt. xiv. 1; Mark vi. 14). They relate that when Herod heard of the fame of Jesus he was perplexed who He might be, and said to his servants, This is John whom I beheaded. And then, in order to explain this speech, the two Evangelists go back in their narrative to relate the beheading of John. Their agreement in this deviation from the natural chronological order can scarcely be explained except by supposing either that one Evangelist copied from the other, or both from a common source. The order of St. Luke deviates here from that of the other two Evangelists. He relates the imprisonment of John in its proper place (iii. 19), and the perplexed inquiry of Herod later (ix. 7); but we are not entitled to infer that he did not employ the same source, for the change is an obvious improvement that would suggest itself to anyone desirous to relate the history in chronological order. And we may even conjecture that it was in consequence of Luke's thus departing from the order of his archetype that he has come to omit altogether the direct narrative of the beheading of John.

The example I have cited is not an isolated one. Our attention, indeed, is caught by a few cases in which an incident is differently placed by different Evangelists, but the rule is uniformity of order; and in particular Mark and Luke are in very close agreement. Of course as to a few leading events, the arrangement would admit of no choice. All narratives would begin with the story of our Lord's Birth, would go on to tell of His Baptism, and would finish with His Passion and Resurrection. But there is a host of incidents, the order of arranging which is dictated by no internal necessity. If these had been preserved separately by oral tradition, the chances are enormous that different persons weaving them into a connected narrative would arrange them differently; for the stories themselves but rarely contain notes of time, such as would direct the order of placing them. I feel bound, therefore, to conclude that the likeness between the Gospels is not sufficiently explained by their common basis, the oral narrative of the Apostles; and that they must have copied, either one from the other the later from the earlier or else all from some other document earlier than any. Reuss4 has divided the Evangelic narrative into 124 sections, of which 47 are common to all three Synoptics; and I believe that in these common sections we have, represented approximately, a primary document used by all three Evangelists. I say approximately, for of course we cannot assume without careful examination that some of these sections may not have come in from a different source, or that some sections which we now find only in two Evangelists, or even only in one, may not have belonged to the common basis.

On the other hand, a study of the order of narration gives the death-blow to Schleiermacher's theory that the Logia of St. Matthew consisted of a collection of our Lord's discourses. It is not only that the words of Papias, as I have contended, give us no authority for believing in the existence of this Spruchsammlung, which so many critics assume as undoubted fact; but critical comparison of the Gospels gives us reason to assert the negative, and say that no such collection of discourses existed. If the Evangelists took their report of our Lord's sayings from a previously existing document, they would have been likely in their arrangement to follow the order of that document; but if the sayings were separately preserved by the memory of the hearers, two independent arrangers would probably dispose them in different order. Now, the sections common to the three Synoptics contain some discourses of our Lord, and, as a rule, these follow the same order in all; but besides these Matthew and Luke report many other of His sayings, and in the case of these last there is no agreement between the, order of the two Evangelists. Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, which seems to offer the best chance of complete agreement, there being a corresponding discourse in St. Luke. But the result is, that of the 107 verses in the Sermon on the Mount only 27 appear in the corresponding discourse in Luke vi. Twelve more of these verses are found in the 11th chapter, 14 in the 12th, 3 in the 13th, 1 in the 14th, 3 in the 16th, and 47 are omitted altogether. The same dislocation is found if we compare any other of the discourses in St. Matthew with St. Luke. And if we further take into account how many parables and other sayings of our Lord there are in each of these two Gospels, which are not found in the other, and yet which no one who found them in a document he was using would be likely to omit, we can assert, with as much confidence as we can assert anything on critical grounds alone, and in the absence of external evidence, that Matthew and Luke did not draw from any documentary record containing only our Lord's discourses, but that the sayings they have in common must have reached them as independent fragments of an oral tradition.

What I have said gives me occasion to remark that theories as to one of the Synoptics having copied another seem to me deserving consideration, only if we confine them to the relations of Mark to the other two, for Matthew and Luke show every sign of being quite independent of each other.5 When we compare the accounts which they give of our Lord's birth, we find them proceed on such different lines as to suggest that they have been supplied by independent authorities. The two accounts agree in the main facts that our Lord was miraculously conceived of the Virgin Mary, who was espoused to a man named Joseph, of the lineage of David; that the birth took place at Bethlehem, and that the family afterwards resided at Nazareth. But the two Gospels give different genealogies to connect Joseph with David, and with respect to further details those which the one gives are absent from the other. In the one we have successive revelations to Joseph, the visit of the Magi, the slaughter of the Innocents, the flight into Egypt. In the other the annunciation to Mary, the visit to Elisabeth, the taxing, the visit of the shepherds, the presentation in the temple, and the testimony of Simeon and Anna. As we| proceed further in our comparison of the two Gospels, we continue to find a number of things in each which are not recorded in the other; and it is not easy to see why, if one were using the other as an authority, he should omit so J many things well suited to his purpose. When, therefore, we have to explain the agreements of these two Evangelists, the hypothesis that one borrowed directly from the other is so immensely less probable than the hypothesis that both writers drew from a common source, that the former hypo thesis may safely be left out of consideration.

The hypothesis that the later of the Synoptics borrowed from the earlier may evidently be maintained, and has actually been maintained in six different forms, according as they are supposed to have written in the orders: Matthew, Mark, Luke; Matthew, Luke, Mark; Mark, Matthew, Luke; Mark, Luke, Matthew; Luke, Matthew, Mark; Luke, Mark, Matthew. You will find in Meyer's Commentary (or, perhaps, more conveniently in that of Alford, who has copied Meyer's list) the names of the advocates of each of these arrangements. However, if we regard it as established that Matthew and Luke were independent, it is only with regard to the relations of these two to Mark that the hypothesis that one Evangelist used the work of another need come under consideration. Some maintain that Mark's Gospel was the earliest, and that Matthew and Luke independently incorporated portions of his narrative with additions of their own: Bothers believe that Mark wrote latest, and that he combined and abridged the two earlier narratives.6 To this question I mean to return.

The theory that one Evangelist copied the work of another is sometimes modified by the supposition that the Gospel copied was not one of those we read now, but the supposed original Matthew or original Mark, from which it is imagined that our existing Gospels were developed. I count this as but a form of the solution which will next come under consideration, viz. that the Evangelists used common documents. To give to one of these documents the question-begging name of original Matthew, &c., is to overload the hypothesis with an assumption which it is impossible to verify. Such a name implies not only that the compiler of that which we now call St. Matthew's Gospel used previous documents, but that he used some one document in a pre-eminent degree, taking it as the basis of his work; and further, that the name of the compiler of the present document was not Matthew, and that this was the name of the author of the basis-document. It is unscientific so to encumber with details the solution of a problem which, in its simplest form, presents quite enough of difficulty. Accumulation of unverifiable details is a manifest note of spuriousness. We should, for instance, be thankful to anyone who could tell us in what year Papias or Justin Martyr was born; but if our informant went on to tell us the day of the month and hour of the day, we should know at once that we had to do with romance, not with history. Quite in like manner we feel safe in rejecting such a history as Scholten has given of the origin of St. Mark's Gospel. He tells how, from the proto-Marcus combined with the collection of speeches contained in the proto-Matthaeus, there resulted the deutero-Matthaeus; how this was in time improved into a trito-Matthaeus, and, finally, this employed by a new editor of the proto-Marcus to manufacture by its means the deutero-Marcus which we have now. A story so circumstantial and so baseless has no interest for the historical inquirer.

The advocates of the documentary hypothesis have also been apt to encumber their theories with details which pass out of the province of history into that of romance, as they undertake to number and name the different documents which have been used in the composition of the Gospels. Anyone who assumes that our Evangelists used a common document has first to settle the question, In what language are we to suppose that document to have been written: Greek or Hebrew? where, of course, the latter word means not the classical Hebrew of the Old Testament, but the modern type of the language, Aramaic, to which the name Hebrew is given in the New Testament, and which we know was extensively used in Palestine in our Lord's time. It was employed for literary purposes: Josephus, for instance, tells us in his preface that his work on the Jewish wars had been originally written in that language. It is intrinsically probable that the Hebrew-speaking Christians of Palestine should have a Gospel in their own language, and we actually hear of Hebrew Gospels claiming great antiquity. It is therefore no great stretch of assumption to suppose that a Hebrew Gospel was the first to be written, and that this was made use of by the writers of Greek Gospels.

The hypothesis of a Hebrew original at once accounts for a number of verbal differences between corresponding pas sages in different Gospels. How easy it is for the process of translation to introduce variations not to be found in the original may be abundantly illustrated from the Authorized Version,7 the translators of which declare in their preface that they deliberately adopted the principle of not thinking them selves bound always to translate the same Greek word by the same English. For example, there is considerable verbal difference between the two following texts: John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey (Matt. iii. 4); John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins, and he did eat locusts and wild honey (Mark i. 6). Yet the sense is so precisely the same that the variations would be completely accounted for, if we suppose the two to be independent translations of the same original in another language. We know for certain that the most important difference between the two texts can be thus accounted for; the girdle of a skin in one Evangelist and the leathern girdle of the other being both translations of the same Greek words, ζώνην δερματίνην. It is, then, a very tempting conjecture that the further differences, had his raiment of camel's hair, was clothed with camel's hair; his meat was locusts and wild honey, he did eat locusts and wild honey differences which exist in the Greek as well as in our version might be explained by regarding the two Greek accounts as translations from a common Aramaic original. This supposition evidently gives a satisfactory explanation of all variations between the Gospels which are confined to words and do not affect the sense. Some ingenious critics have gone further, and tried to show how some of the variations which do affect the sense might have arisen in the process of translation from an Aramaic original. But I do not feel confidence enough in any of these explanations to think it worth while to report them to you.

Even when the sense is unaffected, the idea may be pushed too far, and we may easily mistake for translational variations what are really editorial corrections. For example, in Matthew (ix. 12) and Mark (ii. 17) we read, They that are strong (οἱ ἰσχύοντες) have no need of a physician; in Luke (v. 31) it is they that are well (οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες). Now Matthew and Luke may have independently translated the same Aramaic word by different Greek ones; but it is also a possible sup position that, having Matthew's or Mark's Greek before him, but knowing that our Lord had not spoken in Greek, Luke purposely altered the popular phrase οἱ ἰσχύοντες into the more correct word to denote health, ὑγιαίνοντες.8 Again, St. Mark uses several words which we know, from the grammarian Phrynichus, were regarded as vulgarisms by those who aimed at elegance of Attic style. Such are ἐσχάτως ἔχει (v. 23), εὐσχήμων (xv. 43), κολλυβισταί (xi. 15), κοράσιον (v. 41), κράββατος (ii. 4), μονόφθαλμος (ix. 47), ὁρκίζω (v. 7), ῥάπισμα (xiv. 65), ῥαφίς (x. 25)9 Now when Luke avoids all these words, we cannot infer with any certainty that he is merely making an independent translation of an Aramaic original.

The case may be, that St. Luke, having more command of the Greek language than the other Evangelists, designedly altered phrases which he found in a Greek original intended for a circle of readers the majority of whom were not Greek by birth, and who habitually spoke the Greek language with less purity than those for whom his Gospel was composed.

However this may be, the hypothesis of an Aramaic original does not suffice to explain all the phenomena. For there are very many passages where the Evangelists agree in the use of Greek words, which it is not likely could have been hit on independently by different translators. If such cases are to be explained by the use of a common original, that original must have been in the Greek language. On the ἐπιούσιος of the Lord's Prayer, though the word plainly belongs to the class of which I speak, I do not lay stress, because we can well believe that a liturgical use of that Prayer in Greek had become common before our Gospels were written; and such a use would affect the language of translators. Nor again can I lay stress on a very striking and oft-cited specimen: Matt. xxi. 44, ὁ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὸν λίθον τοῦτον συνθλασθήσεται ἐϕ ̓ὃν δ ̓ἂν πέσῃ λικμήσει αὐτόν. We have the very same words in St. Luke xx. 1 8, with only the exception of ἐκεῖνον λίθον for λίθον τοῦτον. It is certainly not likely that two independent translators from the Aramaic should hit on identical expressions. But though the words I have read are found in the text of St. Matthew, as given by an overwhelming majority of Greek MSS., including all the oldest; yet there is a minority, insignificant in numbers, no doubt, but sufficient to establish the fact that a text from which these words were wanting early obtained some circulation. And then we must admit it to be possible that the shorter reading represents the original text of St. Matthew; and the longer, one which a very early transcriber had filled up by an addition from St. Luke. We have no need to insist on any doubtful cases, the instances of the use of common words being so numerous. And in order to feel the force of the argument you need only put in parallel columns the corresponding passages in the different Evangelists: say, of the parable of the Sower or of the answer to the question about fasting (Mark ii. 18-22; Matt. ix. 14-17; Luke v. 33-39), when you will find such a continuous use of common words as to forbid the idea that we have before us independent translations from another language.10

The use of a common Greek original is further established by a study of the form of the Old Testament quotations in the Gospels. Several such quotations are peculiar to St. Matthew, and are introduced by him with the formula that it might be fulfilled. In these cases the ordinary rule is, that the Evangelist does not take the quotation from the LXX., but translates directly from the Hebrew. It is otherwise in the case of quotations which Matthew has in common with other Evangelists. As a rule they are taken from the LXX., and when they deviate from our text of the LXX. all agree in the deviation. For example, all three quote Malachi's prophecy in the form ἰδού, ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου (Matt. xi. 10; Mark i. 2; Luke vii. 27). Here the LXX. has ἰδού ἑξαποστέλλω τ. ἄ. μ., καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου. Similarly, Matt. xv. 8, 9, is in verbal agreement with Mark vii. 6, 7, but the quotation is considerably different from the LXX. In Matt, iv. 10; Luke iv. 8, both Evangelists have Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, while the LXX. have Thou shalt fear.

The result is, that if an Aramaic original document is assumed in order to account for the verbal variations of the Gospels, a Greek original (whether a translation of that Aramaic or otherwise) is found to be equally necessary in order to explain their verbal coincidences.

Again, there are verbal coincidences between St. Matthew and St. Luke in their account of our Lord's temptation and other stories not found in St. Mark. If we account for Mark's omission by the solution that these stories were not contained in the document used by all three Evangelists, we are tempted to imagine a second document used by Matthew and Luke. Thus in hypotheses of this nature documents have a tendency to multiply. Eichhorn,11 for example, having put forward in 1794 the idea of an Aramaic original from different recensions of which the different Gospels had sprung, Marsh12 pointed out the necessity of a Greek original also; and he constructed an elaborate history, how, out of ten different documents, which he distinguished by different Hebrew, Greek, and Roman letters, the Synoptic Gospels severally took their origin. Eichhorn then, in the second edition of his Introduction, adopted Marsh's theory as to its general outline, but added to the number of assumed documents, and otherwise complicated the history. It is not wonderful that these theories found little acceptance with subsequent scholars, who have not been able to believe in so complicated a history, resting on no external evidence, and obtained solely by the inventor's power of critical divination. Nor, indeed, is there much to attract in a theory which almost assumes that in the production of their Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke used no other instrument of composition than paste and scissors.

It may further be remarked that as the number of documents is increased, the documentary theory ceases to differ much from that which makes a common oral tradition the basis of the Gospel narratives. On the latter hypothesis nothing forbids us to suppose that each story when orally delivered may have been separately written down by the hearers, so that the hypothesis is practically equivalent to one which assumes as the basis a large number of independent documents.

I certainly have not courage to follow out the documentary hypothesis into details; but one is strongly tempted to examine whether it does not at least afford the best account of the matter common to the three Synoptics. If you wish to pursue this study you can now do so luxuriously by means of Mr. Rushbrooke's Synopticon, published by Macmillan in 1880. The corresponding passages are printed in parallel columns, matter common to the three Synoptics being printed in red, and that common to each two being also distinguished by differences of type. Mr. Rushbrooke's work was undertaken at the suggestion of Dr. Edwin Abbott, whose article Gospels in the Encyclopaedia Britannica contains a summary of results thus obtained. Dr. Abbott gives in detail the contents of what he calls the triple tradition that is to say, the matter common to the three Synoptics; then of the three double traditions that is to say, the matter common to each pair; and, lastly, the addition which each separately has made to the common tradition. Dr. Abbott has accompanied his analysis with many acute remarks, but there are some considerations which it seems to me he has not sufficiently attended to, and which ought to be kept in mind by way of caution by anyone who uses his work.

In the first place, it is obvious that the phrases triple tradition, twofold tradition, express phenomena as they appear to us, not things as they are in themselves. You would feel that a man knew very little of astronomy if he spoke of the full moon, and the half moon, and the new moon, in such a way as to lead one to think that he took these for three distinct heavenly bodies, and not for the same body differently illuminated. Now, considering that the triple tradition becomes a double tradition every time that one of the three writers who transmit it chooses to leave out a word or a sentence, we are bound in our study of the subject constantly to bear in mind the possibility that the triple and the double, and perhaps even the single tradition, may be only the same thing differently illuminated.

The business of science is to interpret phenomena: to deduce from the appearances the facts that underlie them. The work, no doubt, must begin by an accurate study of the phenomena, but it must not stop there. When the painter Northcote was asked with what he mixed his colours, he answered: With brains. The deduction of the original tradition from the existing narratives must be done by brains; it cannot be done merely by blue and red pencils. The present is not the only case in which it has been attempted to restore a lost document by means of the use made of it by three independent writers.13 But was ever critic unintelligent enough to imagine that such a restoration could be effected by the mechanical process of taking out the words common to the three more recent writers? Surely a careful study of the things in which two of the witnesses agree is essential to the investigation; for in such a case it appears, at first sight, a more probable explanation that the third witness here, for some reason, did not care to copy the common document, than that the other two here both deserted it and agreed in drawing their information from a new common source. Moreover, it ought also to be examined whether for the purposes of the investigation the three witnesses are all of equal value, or whether one does not show signs of having adhered closer to his original than the others. For in the latter case a probable claim to belong to the common original might be made on behalf of things re ported by that witness, though not confirmed by the other two.14

Now, Dr. Abbott dispenses too summarily with all this brain-work. Having crossed out of his New Testament all the words that are not common to the three Synoptics, he forthwith accepts the residuum as the original tradition upon which the Synoptic Gospels are based, or at least as representing that tradition as nearly as we can now approach to it; and in his work the name triple tradition is constantly used so as to convey the idea of original tradition.15

Thus the triple tradition is said to verify itself, because the sayings of Jesus as they appear in it answer to Justin Martyr's description of being short, pithy, and abrupt. But how could they be otherwise? If the most diffuse orator in the kingdom were treated in the same way, and only those portions of his speeches recognized as genuine, of which three distinct hearers gave a report in identical words, the fragments that survived such a test would assuredly be βραχεῖς καὶ σύντομοι, short, and very much cut up.16 But Dr. Abbott commits a far more serious mistake, in the tacit assumption he makes in proposing to search for the original tradition upon which the Synoptic Gospels are based. Admit that the Synoptic Evangelists used a common document, and we are yet not entitled to assume without examination that this contained a complete Gospel, or that it was more than one of the materials they employed. Dr. Abbott treats the triple tradition as if it were not only the original Gospel, but represented it in so complete a form that its omissions might be used to discredit later additions to the story. Thus the triple tradition does not contain the story of our Lord's Resurrection, and of all the miracles ascribed to Him it relates only six.17

It is certainly worth considering, if we could find the original Gospel, what would be its value as compared with those we have. Suppose, for instance, we could recover one of those earlier Gospels which Luke mentions in his preface, that would certainly be entitled to be called an original Gospel. It was probably defective rather than erroneous; and we may certainly believe that all that was not erroneous has been embodied by St. Luke in his work, so that by a simple process of erasure, if we only knew how to perform it, we might recover all that was valuable in the original Gospel. But would that be an improvement on St. Luke? The Primitive Church did not think so, which allowed the earlier work to drop into oblivion. But could it now be restored, the whirligig of time would bring in its revenges. In the eyes of modern critics every one of its omissions would be a merit. It only relates six miracles. What a prize! It does not tell the story of the Resurrection/ Why, it is a perfect treasure!

But before we can build an argument on the omissions of a document, we must know what it aims at doing; and as far as the triple tradition is concerned, quite a new light is cast on the matter when we examine it more closely. We find, then, that it is certainly true that this tradition gives no account of the Resurrection; but then it is also true that it does not contain the history of the Passion: in other words, it was no complete Gospel, but at most the narrative of certain events given by a single relater. Compare the story of the Crucifixion, as told by St. Luke, with that told by St. Matthew and St. Mark, and we find the two accounts completely independent, having scarcely anything in common except what results necessarily from the fact that both are histories of the same event. Again, though with regard to this history, Matthew and Mark are in close agreement, the nature of this agreement is quite different from that which prevails in the earlier narrative. There the two Evangelists present the appearance of using the same source, though in a different way, Matthew reproducing it in an abridged form, Mark with an abundance of pictorial detail. In the history of the Passion, on the contrary, the relation between Matthew and Mark is constantly one of simple copying. We may conclude then with confidence that if the three Evangelists drew their history from a common source, that source did not extend so far as the relation of the Passion.

There is one remark, obvious enough when it is made, but of which it is quite necessary for you to take notice, viz. that triple tradition does not mean triply attested tradition, but singly attested tradition. If you compare the history of the early Church, as told by three modem historians, you will find several places where they relate a story in nearly identical words. In such a case an intelligent critic would recognize at once that we had, not a story attested by three independent authorities, but one resting on the credit of a single primary authority, coming through different channels. When we come further down in the history, and Eusebius is no longer the unique source of information, exactly as authorities become numerous, verbal agreement between the histories ceases, and our triple tradition comes to an end. Thus, instead of its being true that the triple tradition is the most numerously attested portion of the Gospel narrative, we may conclude that this is just the part for which we have a single primary authority. Now, when the first Christian converts desired to hear the story of their Master's life there would be no difficulty in finding many who could tell them of the Passion and the Resurrection. Everyone who had lived through that eventful week, in which the triumph of Palm Sunday was so rapidly exchanged for the despair of Good Friday, and that, again, for the abiding joy of Easter Sunday, would have all the events indelibly burned on his memory. In comparison with these events, those of the Galilean ministry would retire into the far back distance of things that had occurred years ago; and there would be more than the ordinary difficulty we all experience, when we unexpectedly lose one whom we love, of recalling words which we should have taken pains to treasure in our memory, could we have foreseen we should hear no such words again. I have often thought that the direction to the Apostles to return to Galilee for the interval between the Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Ghost was given in order to provide them with a season for retirement and recollection, such as they could not have again after they had become the rulers of the newly- formed Church. When we return to the place where we last conversed with a departed friend, as we walk over the ground we trod together, the words he then spoke rise spontaneously to the mind; and nothing forbids us to believe that the Holy Spirit, whose work it was to bring to the disciples memory the things that Jesus had said, employed the ordinary laws which govern the suggestion of human thoughts. Yet so difficult is it, as I have already observed, to remember with accuracy words spoken at some distance of time, that there would be nothing surprising if the story of the Galilean ministry mainly depended on a single witness, whose recollections were so much the fullest and most accurate that they were accepted and adopted by all.

It seems to me that if it be admitted that the triple tradition rests on the testimony of a single witness, we can go very near determining who that witness was. Take the very commencement of this triple tradition. The whole of the first chapter of St. Mark is occupied with a detailed account of the doings of one day of our Lord's ministry. It was the Sabbath which immediately followed the call of Simon and Andrew, John and James. We are told of our Lord's teaching in the Synagogue, of the healing of the demoniac there, of the entry of the Saviour into Simon's house, the healing of his wife's mother, and then in the evening, when the close of the Sabbath permitted the moving of the sick, the crowd of people about the door seeking to be healed of their diseases. In whose recollections is it likely that that one day would stand out in such prominence? Surely, we may reasonably conjecture that the narrator must have been one of those four to whom the call to follow Jesus had made that day a crisis or turning-point in their lives. The narrator could not well have been John, whose authorship is claimed for a different story; nor could it have been Andrew, who was not present at some other scenes depicted in this triple tradition, such as the Transfiguration and the healing of Jairus's daughter. There remain then but Peter and James the son of Zebedee; and it is again the history of the Transfiguration which determines our choice in favour of Peter; for to whom else is it likely that we can owe our knowledge of the words he caught himself saying as he was roused from his heavy sleep, though unable, when fully awake, to explain what he had meant by them? It seems to me then that we are quite entitled to substitute, for the phrase triple tradition, Petrine tradition; -and to assert that a portion, if not the whole of the matter common to the three Synoptics, is based on what Peter was able to state of his recollections of our Lord's Galilean ministry. Although I have given reasons for thinking that these recollections had been arranged into a continuous narrative before the time of the composition of the Synoptics, we are not bound to believe that this had been done by Peter himself. These recollections would naturally have been made use of -by some of those who, as St. Luke tells us, had before him attempted to arrange an orderly narrative of the Saviour's life; and when St. Luke entered on the same work, with more abundant materials and more certain knowledge, he might still have followed the order of his predecessors as regards the truly apostolic traditions which they did record.

Thus are we led, by internal evidence solely, to what Papias stated had been communicated to him as a tradition, viz., that Mark in his Gospel recorded things related by Peter; but we must add, not Mark alone, but Luke and Matthew also only we may readily grant that it is Mark who tells the stories with such graphic fulness of detail as to give us most nearly the very words of the eyewitness. To this Renan bears testimony. He says (p. xxxix.): Mark is full of minute observations, which, without any doubt, come from an eye witness. Nothing forbids us to think that this eyewitness, who evidently had followed Jesus, who had loved Him, and looked on Him very close at hand, and who had preserved a lively image of Him, was the Apostle Peter himself, as Papias would have us believe.

If you will take the trouble to compare any of the stories recorded by St. Mark with the corresponding passages in the other Evangelists, you will be pretty sure to find some example of these autoptic touches. Read, for instance, the history of the miracle performed on the return from the mount of Transfiguration (ix. 14), and you will find the story told from the point of view of one of the little company who descended with our Lord. We are told of the conversation our Lord held with them on the way down. Next we are told how, when they caught sight of the other disciples, they saw them surrounded by a multitude, and scribes questioning with them; and how when our Lord became visible there was- a rush of the crowd running to Him. It is then Mark alone who records the conversation between our Lord and the parent of the demoniac child; who tells the father's half- despairing appeal: If thou canst do anything; and then, when our Lord has said that all things are possible to him that believeth, the parent's agonizing cry: Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief; and then, as the child's convulsive struggles drew new crowds running, the performance of the miracle. This one narrative would suffice to banish the idea, taken up by some hasty readers, that Mark was a mere copyist and abridger an idea indeed countenanced by St. Augustine, who says of Mark, Matthseum secutus tanquam pedissequus et breviator (De consent. Evangg. i. 4). It is Mark who tells that when children were brought to our Lord, He took them up in His arms and blessed them (ix. 36, x. 16). It is Mark who, in telling of the feeding of the multitude (vi. 39), depicts the companies showing as garden-beds (πρασιαὶ πρασιαί) on the green grass. It is Mark who tells of the little boats which accompanied the vessel in which, during the storm, our Lord lay asleep on the pillow; Mark again who tells of the look of love which our Lord cast on the young man (x. 17) who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life; and again of His look of anger on the hypocrites who watched Him (iii. 5). I have already referred to Mark's record of different Aramaic words used by our Lord. He gives us also several proper names the name of the father of Levi the publican, the name and father's name of the blind man healed at Jericho, and the names of the sons of Simon of Gyrene. Baur struggled hard to maintain that all these details were but arbitrary additions of a later writer, who having a pretty turn for invention and an eye for pictorial details, used his gifts in ornamenting the simple narrative of the primitive Gospel. But subsequent criticism has generally acknowledged the view to be truer which recognizes in these details particulars which had fastened them selves on the memory of an eyewitness. And I cannot read the early chapters of St. Mark without the conviction that here we have the narrative, not only in its fuller but in its older form. Observe how carefully the name Peter is withheld from that Apostle until the time when it was conferred by our Lord: in the opening chapters he is only called Simon. Again, Mark alone tells of the alarm into which our Lord's family was cast by His assuming the office of a public teacher: how they thought He was out of His mind, and wished to put Him under restraint. Again, on comparing Mark's phrase, vi. 3: the carpenter, the son of Mary, with Matthew's in the parallel passage, xiii. 55: the carpenter's son, the son of Joseph, I am disposed to accept the former as the older form. When Jesus first came forward, He would probably be known in His own city as the carpenter; and if, as seems likely, Joseph was dead at the time, as the son of Mary. But after our Lord devoted Himself to the work of public teaching, and ceased to labour at His trade, He would be known as the carpenter's son. Justin Martyr shows his knowledge of both Gospels by his use of both titles. On the whole, internal evidence gives ample confirmation to the tradition that Mark's Gospel took its origin in a request, made by those who desired to have a permanent record of the things Peter had said, that Peter's trusted companion should furnish them with such a record.18

Does it follow, then, that Mark's was the earliest Gospel of all, and that it was used by the other two Evangelists? Not necessarily; and the result of such comparison as I have been able to make is to lead me to believe that Matthew and Luke did not copy Mark, but that all drew from a common source, which, however, is represented most fully and with most verbal exactness in St. Mark's version. It is even possible that the second Gospel may be the latest of the three. It contains a good deal more than the Petrine tradition; and it is conceivable that when Mark was asked to record that tradition, he chose to complete it into a Gospel; and that he may even have used in his work the other two Synoptics, which may have been then already written. Whether they were so or not is a question on which I do not feel confidence in taking a side.

It has been contended that the fact that Mark contains so little outside the Petrine tradition, that is not found either in Matthew or Luke, is most easily explained on the supposition that he was the latest; for if it was the case that the other two Evangelists had used his work, it is hardly likely that their borrowings would have so supplemented each other as to leave nothing behind. Although in many places Mark's narrative compared with the others shows clear indications of priority, there are other places where I find no such indications, and where the hypothesis that Mark simply copied Matthew or Luke seems quite permissible.

But here the question becomes complicated with one on criticism of the text; for our decision is seriously affected according as we recognize or not the last twelve verses as an integral part of the Gospel. Some of these verses appear to give an abridged account of what is more fully told elsewhere: in particular, one of them reads like a brief reference to Luke's account of the appearence to the two disciples at Emmaus. The current of critical opinion runs so strongly in favour of the rejection of these verses that it seems presumptuous to oppose it. But no one can be required to subscribe to a verdict which he believes to be contrary to the evidence; and he sufficiently satisfies the demands of modesty if, in differing from the opinion of persons of higher authority than himself, he expresses his dissent with a due sense of his own fallibility.

This is not the place to enter into a discussion of the critical question. Here I have only to observe how the question is affected by the view I take that in Mark we have the Petrine tradition completed into a Gospel. Of course, it is not to be expected that there should be uniformity of style between verses that belong to the tradition and those which belong to the framework in which it is set; and, therefore, arguments against the last twelve verses, drawn from a comparison of their language with that of other parts of the Gospel, at once lose their weight. On the other hand, if we compare the last twelve verses with the first fifteen, we do find features of re semblance, and in particular I think that it is either on the opening verses or on the concluding ones the still prevalent idea that Mark's Gospel is an abridgment of the others is founded. And opening and conclusion seem to me to have equal rights to be regarded as part of the framework in which the tradition is set.

It seems to me also that the hand of the writer of the concluding verses is to be found elsewhere in the Gospel. Three times in these concluding verses attention is called to the surprising slowness of the disciples to believe the evidence offered them (vv. 11, 13, 14). Now, you will find that, the thought is constantly present to the mind of the second Evangelist, how slow of heart were the beholders of our Lord's miracles; how stubborn the unbelief which the evidence of these miracles was obliged to conquer. Thus, in the account of the healing of the man with the withered hand (common to the three Synoptics), Mark alone relates (iii. 5) that before commanding the man to stretch forth his hand our Lord looked round on the bystanders with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. Again, in Mark vi. 6 there is a note special to this Evangelist: Jesus marvelled because of their unbelief. And in the history of the tempest on the lake of Gennesaret, told both by Matthew and Mark, there is a noticeable difference between the two accounts. Where Matthew (xiv. 33) tells of the conviction effected by the miracle in those who beheld it, Mark (vi. 52) has instead an expression of surprise at the stupidity and hardness of heart of those who had not sooner recognized our Lord's true character.

Believing, then, the existing conclusion to have been part of the second Gospel, ever since it was a Gospel, I look on the marks of posteriority which it exhibits as affecting the whole Gospel; and I am, therefore, disposed to believe that Mark's is at once the oldest and the youngest of the three Synoptics: the oldest as giving most nearly the very words in which the apostolic traditions were delivered; the youngest as respects the date when the independent traditions were set in their present framework.





The following is a statement of my reasons for thinking that in this in stance critical editors have preferred (I.) later testimony to earlier, and (II.) a less probable story to a more probable. The question is one that stands by itself, so that the conclusions here stated may be adopted by one who has accepted all Westcott and Hort's other decisions.

I. As to the first point there is little room for controversy, (1) The disputed verses are expressly attested by Irenaeus in the second century, and very probably by Justin Martyr, who incorporates some of their language, though, as usual, without express acknowledgment of quotation. The verses are found in the Syriac version as early as we have any knowledge of it; in the Curetonian version as well as in the Peshitto. Possibly we ought to add to the witnesses for the verses Papias, Celsus, and Hippo- lytus. On the other hand, the earliest witness against the verses is Eusebius, in the fourth century, whose testimony is to the effect that some of the copies in his time contained the verses, and some did not; but that those which omitted them were then the more numerous, and, in his opinion, the more trustworthy. There is no reason for doubting this testimony; but Eusebius stands strangely alone in it. It is true that several writers used to be cited as bearing independent witness to the same effect. But all this confirmatory testimony was demolished by Dean Burgon in what seems to me the most effective part of his work On the Last Twelve Verses of St. Mark. He shows that three of the authorities cited reduce themselves to one. A homily of uncertain authorship having been inserted among the works of three different writers; each of these writers was separately cited as a witness. And he shows, further, that all the writers cited do no more than copy, word for word, what had been said by Eusebius; and in some cases indicate that they were of a different opinion themselves. Dr. Hort replaces, or reinforces these discredited witnesses by an argument, ex silentio, that the disputed verses were unknown to Cyril of Jerusalem, who otherwise would not have failed to use them in his catechetical lectures. But the argument from silence is always precarious. It is a common experience with everyone who makes a speech or writes a book to find after he has brought his work to a conclusion that he has failed to use some telling argument which he might have employed. Dr. Hort owns that the same argument might be used to prove that the verses were unknown to Cyril of Alexandria and to Theodoret, neither of whom could possibly be ignorant of the verses, which in their age were certainly in wide circulation. But supposing it proved that the text of St. Mark used by Cyril of Jerusalem did] not contain the verses, it only results that the recension approved by the great Palestinian critic, Eusebius, found favour in Palestine for a few years after his death. We still fail to find any distinct witness against the verses who, we can be sure, is independent of Eusebius.

It is more to the point, that Dr. Hort contends by a similar argument from silence that neither Tertullian nor Cyprian knew the disputed verses. In order to maintain this thesis, as far as Cyprian is concerned, Dr. Hort is forced to contend that the quotation by a bishop at one of Cyprian's councils, of words of our Lord, In my name, lay on hands, cast out devils, implies no knowledge of Mark xvi. 17, 18! All extant copies of the old Latin, with but one exception, recognize the disputed verses; but that one has so many points of agreement with the quotations of Cyprian that it seems probable that the translation first in use in Africa was made from a copy of the shorter version. On the other hand, the disputed verses were used in the West by Irenaeus, and were in the Curetonian version, which has many affinities with the old Latin. Indeed we are led to suspect that Eusebius must have been guilty of some exaggeration in his account of the general absence of the verses from MSS. of his day. The presence of the verses in all later MSS., and the testimony of writers who lived within a century of Eusebius, prove that the scribes of the generation next to him found copies containing the verses, and that, notwithstanding his great authority, they gave them the preference. And, if the argument from silence is worth anything, the fact deserves attention, that we have no evidence that any writer anterior to Eusebius remarked that there was anything abrupt in the conclusion of St. Mark's Gospel, or that it gave no testimony to our Lord's Resurrection.

(2) But the two great uncials B and agree in rejecting the verses, and though these be but fourth-century MSS., yet as they were made from different archetypes, the common parent of these archetypes, presumably the common source of readings in which they agree, is likely to have been as old as the second century. Let it be granted that this inference holds good in the case of ordinary agreements between B and; but the present case is exceptional. The MSS. are here not independent, the conclusion of St. Mark being transcribed in both by the same hand. This was pointed out by Tischendorf; but it is to be observed that his opinion does not merely rest on his general impression of the character of the handwriting, concerning which only an expert like himself would be competent to judge. He gives a multitude of conspiring proofs, which can be verified by anyone who refers to the published facsimile of the Sinaitic MS. The leaf containing the conclusion of St. Mark is one of six leaves which differ from the work of the Sinaitic New Testament scribe and agree with that of the Vatican in a number of peculiarities: in the shape of certain letters, for instance E; in the mode of filling up vacant space at the end of a line; in the punctuation; in the manner of referring to an insertion in the margin; in the mode of marking the end of a book, including what Tischendorf calls arabesques, or ornamented finials, those used in the Sinaitic being quite unlike those used in the Vatican, except in the leaves now under consideration. Further, in these leaves the words ἄνθρωπος, υἱός, οὐρανός, are written at full length, as in the Vatican, not abbreviated, as elsewhere in the Sinaitic. Again, these leaves agree with the Vatican against the Sinaitic as to certain points of orthography. For instance, Pilate's name is spelt with t in the Sinaitic, with ει in these leaves and in the Vatican; Ἰωάννης is spelt with one ν by the Vatican scribe, with two by the Sinaitic. Such an accumulation of indications does not come short of a demonstration; and, accordingly, Tischendorf's conclusion is accepted by Dr. Hort, who says (p. 213): The fact appears to be sufficiently established by concurrent peculiarities in the form of one letter, punctuation, avoidance of contractions, and some points of orthography. As the six leaves are found on computation to form three pairs of conjugate leaves, holding different places in three distant quires, it seems probable that they are new or clean copies of corresponding leaves which had been executed by the scribe who wrote the rest of the New Testament, but had been so disfigured either by an unusual number of clerical errors, or from some unknown cause, that they appeared unworthy to be retained, and were therefore cancelled and transcribed by the "corrector." Tischendorf's view, that these leaves were transcribed by the corrector is confirmed by the fact that these leaves themselves contain scarcely any corrections. Not that they do not require them. In the first verse of Mark xvi., for instance, there is a very gross blunder which could not have failed to be discovered if the leaf had been read over; but it is intelligible that the corrector, whose duty it was to read over the work of other scribes, thought it unnecessary to read over his own.

But why was this leaf cancelled? On inspection of the page, two phenomena present themselves, which go far to supply the answer. First, on looking at the column containing the conclusion of St. Mark, and at the next column, containing the beginning of St. Luke, it is apparent that the former is written far more widely than the latter. There are, in fact only 560 letters in the former column, 678 in the latter. This suggests that the page as originally written must have contained something of consider able length which was omitted in the substituted copy. Unless some pre caution were taken an omission of the kind would leave a telltale blank. In fact, if the concluding column of St. Mark had been written in the same manner as elsewhere, there would have been a whole column blank. But by spreading out his writing the scribe was enabled to carry over 37 letters to a new column, the rest of which could be left blank without attracting notice, as it was the conclusion of a Gospel. The second phenomenon is that the Gospel ends in the middle of a line, and the whole of the rest of the line is filled up with ornament, while, underneath, the arabesque is prolonged horizontally, so as to form an ornamented line reaching all across the column. This filling up the last line occurs nowhere else in the Sinaitic (though the same scribe has written the conclusion of three other books), nor in the Vatican New Testament. It occurs three or four times in the Vatican Old Testament, but the prolongation of the arabesque has no parallel in either MS. We see that the scribe who recopied the leaf betrays that he had his mind full of the thought that the Gospel must be made to end with ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ, and took pains that no one should add more. I do not think these two phenomena can be reasonably explained in any other way than that the leaf, as originally copied, had contained the disputed verses; and that the corrector, regarding these as not a genuine part of the Gospel, cancelled the leaf, recopying it in such a way as to cover the gap left by the erasure. It follows that the archetype of the Sinaitic MS. had contained the disputed verses. But what about the archetype of the Vatican? In that manuscript there actually is a column left blank following the end of St. Mark, this being the only blank column in the whole MS. All critics agree that the blank column indicates that the scribe was cognizant of something following ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ which he did not choose to copy. But surely before he began St. Luke he would make up his mind whether or not the additional verses deserved a place in his text. If he decided against them he would leave no blank, but begin St. Luke in the next column. But what we have seen in the case of the Sinaitic suggests the hypothesis that the Vatican also as first copied had contained the disputed verses, and that on the leaf being cancelled, the gap left by the omission was bigger than spreading out the letters would cover. Thus both MSS., when cross-examined, give evidence, not against, but for the disputed verses, and afford us reason to believe that in this place these MSS. do not represent the reading of their archetypes, but the critical views of the corrector under whose hand both passed; and as they were both copied at a time when the authority of Eusebius as a biblical critic was predominant, and possibly even under the superintendence of Eusebius himself (for Canon Cook thinks that these two were part of the 50 MSS. which Constantine commissioned Eusebius to have copied for the use of his new capital), we still fail to get distinctly pre-Eusebian testimony against the verses.

II. Supposing that we cannot produce against the verses any witness earlier than Eusebius, still Eusebius in the fourth century used a purer text than Irenaeus in the second, and, therefore, his testimony deserves the more credit. Again, I raise no question as to general principles of criticism, nor shall 1 inquire whether in this case Eusebius was not liable to be unduly influenced by harmonistic considerations; but if we accept the fourth- century witness as on the whole the more trustworthy, it remains to be considered whether we are to prefer a credible witness telling an in credible story to a less trustworthy witness telling a highly probable one.

The rejection of the verses absolutely forces on us the alternative either that the conclusion which St. Mark originally wrote to his Gospel was lost without leaving a trace of its existence, or else that the second Gospel never proceeded beyond verse 8. The probability that one or other of these two things is true is the exact measure of the probability that the Eusebian form of text is correct.

(1) "We may fairly dismiss as incredible the supposition that the conclusion which St. Mark originally wrote to his Gospel unaccountably disappeared without leaving a trace behind, and was almost universally replaced by a different conclusion. It has been suggested that the last leaf of the original MS. became detached, and perished; and it is true that the loss of a leaf is an accident liable to happen to a MS. Such a hypothesis explains very well the partial circulation of defective copies of a work. Suppose, for instance, that a very old copy of St. Mark's Gospel, wanting the last leaf, was brought, let us say, to Egypt. Transcripts made from that venerable copy would want the concluding verses; or if they were added from some other authority, indications might appear that the addition had been made only after the Gospel had been supposed to terminate. In this way might originate a local circulation of a defective family of MSS. But the total loss of the original conclusion could not take place in this way, unless the first copy had been kept till it dropped to. pieces with age before anyone made a transcript of it, so that a leaf once lost was lost for ever.

(2) It has been imagined that the Gospel never had a formal conclusion: but this also I find myself unable to believe. Long before any Gospel was written, the belief in the Resurrection of our Lord had become universal among Christians, and this doctrine had become the main topic of every Christian preacher. A history of our Lord, in which this cardinal point was left unmentioned, may be pronounced inconceivable. And if there were no doctrinal objection, there would be the literary one that no Greek writer would give his work so abrupt and ill-omened a termination as ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

Two explanations of the absence of a suitable conclusion have been offered. One is that the Evangelist died before bringing his work to a conclusion. But even in the supposed case, that St. Mark, after writing verse 8, had a fit of apoplexy, the disciple who gave his work to the world would surely have added a fitting termination. The other is that Mark copied a previous document, to which he was too conscientious to make any addition of his own. Then our difficulties are simply transferred from St. Mark to the writer of that previous document. But, not to press this point, we must examine whether internal evidence supports the theory that Mark acted the part of a simple copyist, who did not attempt to set the previous tradition in any framework of his own; and that, consequently the second Gospel, as it stands now, was the source used by Matthew and Luke in the composition of their Gospels. I do not believe this to be true; and so I find no explanation to make it conceivable that Mark's Gospel could have finished with ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ.

On the other hand, the opinion that the concluding verses, just as much as the opening ones, belong to the original framework of the Gospel has no internal difficulties whatever to encounter. The twelve verses have such marks of antiquity that Dr. Tregelles, who refused to believe them to have been written by St. Mark, still regarded them as having a full I claim to be received as an authentic part of the second Gospel. In fact, we have in the short termination of Codex L, a specimen of the vague generalities with which a later editor, who really knew no more than was contained in our Gospels, might attempt to supply a deficiency in the narrative. The twelve verses, on the contrary, are clearly the work of one who wrote at so early a date that he could believe himself able to add genuine apostolic traditions to those already recorded. If he asserts that Jesus was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God, he only gives expression to what was the universal belief of Christians at as early a period as anyone believes the second Gospel to have been written (see Rom. viii. 34; Eph. i. 20; Col. iii. I; I Peter iii. 22; Heb. i. 3; viii. i; x. 12; xii. 2). This belief was embodied in the earliest Christian Creeds, especially in that of the Church of Rome, with which probable tradition connects the composition of St. Mark's Gospel. Further, the twelve verses were written at a time when the Church still believed herself in possession of miraculous powers. Later, a stumbling-block was found in the signs which it was said (verse 17) should follow them that believe. The heathen objector, with whom Macarius Magnes19 had to deal, asked if any Christians of his day really did believe. Would the strongest believer of them all test the matter by drinking a cup of poison? The objection may have been as old as Porphyry, and may have been one of the reasons why Eusebius was willing to part with these verses. We must, therefore, ascribe their authorship to one who lived in the very first age of the Church. And why not to St. Mark?

Thus, while the Eusebian recension of St. Mark presents intrinsic difficulties of the most formidable character, that form of text which has the advantage of attestation earlier by a century and a -half contains nothing inconsistent with the date claimed for it. In spite, then, of the eminence of the critics who reject the twelve verses, I cannot help looking at them as having been from the first an integral part of the second Gospel; and I regard the discussion of them as belonging not so much to the criticism of the Text as to the subject of the present lecture, the history of the genesis of the Synoptic Gospels.20



1) Thus Mr. Sadler, a writer for whom I have much respect, says (Comm. on St. Matthew, p. xi): St. Luke, if he had either of the two first [Gospels] before him, would have scarcely reproduced so much that is common to both, with alterations also which he could never have made if he looked upon them as inspired documents. And again, The inspiration [of the Gospels] is incompatible with the theory that they were all taken from one document, for in such a case that unknown and lost document must have been the only one which could be called the work of the Spirit; and the alterations which each one made in it, which their mutual discrepancies show, prove that in altering it they individually were not so far guided by the Holy Spirit.

2) Mahaffy's History of Greek Literature, ii. 121.

3) Hypothesis, perhaps, is hardly a right word to use. We know as a certain fact, from St. Luke's preface, that other documents were in existence when he wrote. It is then scarcely an hypothesis to assume that he made use of these documents, however much his superior knowledge enabled him to supplement or correct them.

4) Professor at Strassburg. The division is given, p. 17 of the introduction to his Histoire Evaugeligue, which forms part of his French translation of the Bible, with commentary. I have found this introduction very instructive, and it would have been more so if Reuss had cleared his mind of the cobwebs that have been spun about the fragments of Papias.

5) If this be so, no great interval of time can have separated their publications; otherwise the later could scarcely fail to have become acquainted with the work of the earlier.

6) This controversy illustrates a source of difficulty in these critical inquiries, viz.: that there is scarcely anything which may not be taken up by one or other of two handles, it constantly happening that the same facts are appealed to by critics who draw from them quite opposite conclusions. For example, certain miracles recorded by St. Mark (i. 32) are related to have been performed at even when the sun did set (ὀψίας γενομένης ὅτε ἔδυσεν ὁ ἥλιος). Here St. Matthew (viii. 16) has at even (ὀψίας γενομένης), St. Luke (iv. 40), when the sun was setting (δύνοντοςτοῦἡλίου). One critic argues that this comparison clearly shows Mark to be the earliest, his two successors having each omitted part of his fuller statement. Another critic pronounces this to be a clear case of conflation, the latest writer evidently being Mark, who carefully combined in his narrative everything that he found in the earlier sources.

7) See note, pp. 116, 117.

8) Similarly, Luke v. 18 has παρλελυμένος, not παραλυτικός, Mark ii. 3; ἰᾶσθαι (vi. 19), not διασώζειν (Matt. xiv. 36); τρῆμα βελόνης (xviii. 25). not τρύπημα ῥαφίδος (Matt. xix. 24), or τρυμαλιὰ ῥαφίδος (Mark x. 25). Many more instances of the kind will be found in Dr. Hobart's interesting book on The Medical Language of St. Luke. In this work the Church tradition that the author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles was the same person (viz. he who is described [Col. iv. 14] as Luke the beloved physician) is confirmed by a comparison of the language of these books with that of Greek medical treatises. The result is to show that a common feature of the Third Gospel and the Acts is the use of technical medical terms, which in the New Testament are either peculiar to St. Luke, or at least are used by him far more frequently than by any other of the writers. Dr. Hobart sometimes pushes his argument too far, forgetting that medical writers must employ ordinary as well as technical language, and therefore that every word frequently found in medical books cannot fairly be claimed as a term in which medical writers can be supposed to have an exclusive property. But when every doubtful instance has been struck out of Dr. Hobart's lists, enough remain to establish completely what he desires to prove.

9) I take this list from Dr. Abbott's article Gospels in the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

10) See also p. 117. Other examples of common words are ἀνάγαιον (Mark xiv. 15; Luke xxii. 12); δυσκόλως (Matt. xix. 23; Mark x. 23; Luke xviii. 24); κατέκλασε (Mark vi. 41; Luke ix. 16) κολοβοῦν (Matt, xxiv. 22, Mark xiii. 20); πτερύγιον (Matt. iv. 5; Luke iv. 9);  διαβλέψεις (Matt. vii. 5; Luke vi. 42).

11) Eichhorn (1752-1827), Professor at Jena and afterwards at Gottingen, published his Introduction to the New Testament in successive volumes, first edition, 1804-1812; second edition, 1820-1827.

12) Herbert Marsh (1758-1839), Bishop of Peterborough in 1819, having himself studied in Germany, did much to introduce into England a know ledge of German theological speculation. The theory referred to in the text was put forward in 1803 in an Appendix to his translation of Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament.

13) I refer in particular to the attempt made by Lipsius in his Quellenkritik des Epiphanios to restore a common document used by three writers on heresy Epiphanius, Philaster, and pseudo-Tertullian.

14) Thus there is a general agreement among critics that St. Mark adhered to the common document more closely than the other two Evangelists, and some have even supposed that his Gospel exactly was the common document. I do not believe that it was, but I believe that it re presents it infinitely more closely than does Dr. Abbott's triple tradition.

15) Since the first edition of this lecture was printed, Dr. Abbott, in conjunction with Mr. Rushbrooke, has published what he calls The Common Tradition of the Synoptic Gospels; and he promises to follow it up with another volume containing the Double Tradition, that is to say, the portions of the Synoptic narrative common to two Evangelists. This rending the evidence in two seems to me as sensible a proceeding as if a printseller were to cut his stereoscopic slides in two and sell them separately. The double traditions are an essential part of the evidence by which the common original is to be recovered. It must be remembered also that, even if it be granted that the triple tradition and the three double traditions represent four different documents, one at least of the double traditions stands on a level with the triple tradition as respects claims to antiquity. A document antecedent to the two earliest of our Synoptics must be antecedent to all three.

16) Here is the narrative of two miracles, as given in the triple tradition:

(1)... to the mountain.. walking on the sea.. it is I, be not afraid.

(2) He came into the house.. not dead but sleepeth, and they mocked him... Having taken her by the hand.. arise.

17) This limitation of number, combined with the casting out of many of the details, facilitates much the application of the methods of Paulus (see p. 10); and the curious reader will find in the Appendix to Dr. Abbott's Through Nature to Christ how all six may be explained as being cases where either the spectators of the supposed miracle imagined occurrences to be supernatural, which in truth were not so, or elsewhere the language used by the reporters of the event was misunderstood.

18) I fear Klostermann's remark is a little too ingenious (cited by Godet, Etudes Bibliques, ii. 38), that some statements become clearer if we go back from Mark's third person to Peter's first. For example (Mark i. 29): They entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. If we look for the antecedent of they, we find that it includes James and John. But all would have been clear in Peter's narrative, We entered into our house with James and John.

19) The author of a book called Apocritica, written about A.D. 400, and containing heathen objections against Christianity, with answers to them. In answering an objection founded on the disputed verses, Macarius shows no suspicion that it was open to him to cast any doubt on their genuine ness. Nothing is known with certainty about this Macarius, and indeed his book had been known only by a few short extracts, until a considerable portion of it, which had been recovered at Athens, was published in Paris in 1876.

20) It seems to me that textual critics are not entitled to feel absolute confidence in their results, if they venture within range of the obscurity that hangs over the history of the first publication of the Gospels. Such a task as Bentley and Lachmann proposed to themselves, viz. to recover a good fourth-century text was perfectly feasible, and has, in fact, been accomplished by Westcott and Hort with triumphant success. I suppose that if a MS. containing their text could have been put into the hands of Eusebius, he would have found only one thing in it which would have been quite strange to him, namely, the short conclusion on the last page of St. Mark, and that he would have pronounced the MS. to be an extremely good and accurate one. But these editors aim at nothing less than going back to the original documents; and, in order to do this, it is in some cases necessary to choose between two forms of text, each of which is attested by authorities older than any extant MS. Now, a choice which must be made on subjective grounds only cannot be made with the same confidence as when there is on either side a clear preponderance of historical testimony. And, further, there is the possibility that the Evangelist might have himself published a second edition of his Gospel, so that two forms of text might both be entitled to claim his authority.