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

By George Salmon

Chapter 11


Some fifty years ago or more, a Mr. Hone,1 who was at that time an opponent of orthodoxy, if not of Christianity (though I understand he afterwards regretted the line he had taken), published what he called the Apocryphal New Testament, which had considerable sale at the time, and which may still be picked up on stalls or at auctions. The object of the publication clearly was to disparage the pre eminent authority which we ascribe to the books of our New Testament, by making it appear that those which we honour had been picked out of a number of books with tolerably equal claims to our acceptance, the selection having been made by persons in whom we have no reason to feel much confidence. The work professes to be an answer to the question, After the writings contained in the New Testament were selected from the numerous Gospels and Epistles then in existence, what became of the books that were rejected by the compilers? The epoch of the compilation is apparently assumed to be that of the Council of Nicaea. The writer, at least, quotes a mediaeval story, that the selection of Canonical books was then made by miracle, the right books having jumped up on the table, and the wrong ones remained under it; and it would seem as if, though rejecting the miracle, he received the fact that the Council settled the Canon. He proceeds to quote some remarks from Jortin on the violence of the proceedings at the Council, and we are given to understand that if the selection was not made then, it was made by people not more entitled to confidence. He then gives a selection of Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Epistles, taken from works of orthodox writers, but divided by himself into verses (and, where that had not been done before, into chapters), obviously with the intention of giving to these strange Gospels, Epistles and Acts, as nearly as possible the same appearance to the eye of the English reader as that presented by the old ones with which he was familiar.

I need not tell you that the Council of Nicaea did not meddle with the subject of the Canon, and so we need not trouble ourselves to discuss the proofs that the members of that venerable Synod were frail and fallible men like our selves. The fact is that, as I have already told you, authority did not meddle with the question of the Canon until that question had pretty well settled itself; and, instead of this abstention weakening the authority of our sacred books, the result has been that the great majority have far higher authority than if their claims rested on the decision of any Council, however venerable. They rest on the spontaneous consent of the whole Christian world, Churches the most remote agreeing independently to do honour to the same books. Some of the books which Mr. Hone printed as left out by the compilers of our Canon were not in existence at the time when that Canon established itself; and the best of the others is separated, in the judgment of any sober man, by a very wide interval from those which we account Canonical. Mr. Hone's insinuation has, I understand, been repeated in a later edition, which I have not seen, in a still grosser form; the title-page being The Suppressed Gospels and Epistles of the Original New Testament of Jesus Christ, venerated by the primitive Christian Churches during the first four centuries, but since, after violent disputations, forbidden by the bishops of the Nicene Council, in the reign of the Emperor Constantine.

A work having a title not unlike Hone's was published a few years ago by Hilgenfeld: Novum Testamentum extra Canonem Receptum. But it is a work of a very different kind from Hone's catch-penny publication, having been compiled by a man of real learning. It includes nothing that is not really ancient, and the greater part of it is occupied with the writings of the so-called Apostolic Fathers, which, indeed, also appear in Hone's collection. I have thought it would be useful to give you, in this course of lectures, some account of those writings which at any time obtained credit in the Church of the same kind as was given to our Canonical Scriptures, though in degree infinitely below that. I speak, then, to-day of Apocryphal Gospels. Hilgenfeld does not admit into his collection any of the Apocryphal Gospels that have come down to us entire; I presume, not judging them of sufficient antiquity to deserve a place. What he gives are merely the fragmentary extracts, which different Fathers have preserved, of the Ebionite Gospels, of which I spoke in the last lecture, and of one or two heretical Gospels, of which I shall speak to-day.

Of Gospels which have come down to us entire, I place first, on many grounds, that called the Gospel of James, or Protevangelium, which has come down to us in more than fifty MSS., and has been translated into many languages both of East and West. The object of this Gospel is clearly supplementary to our Gospels, and it is intended to satisfy the curiosity of Christians with regard to the things which took place before the birth of our Lord. If we are to ascribe to the book any tendency beyond the simple desire to gratify curiosity, the doctrine which the inventor seems most solicitous to establish is that of the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary.

It is this book which invented the names Joachim and Anne for the parents of Mary. It tells how they had been childless to old age; how an angel appearing separately to each of them, announced to them the birth of a child; how they vowed to dedicate to the Lord that which should be born, and how, in fulfilment of this vow, Mary was brought to the Temple at the age of three years. When she comes to the age of twelve, the priests will not take the responsibility of having charge of a marriageable virgin at the Temple, and they seek a widower to whose charge to commit her. All the widowers are assembled; and in order to choose between them a miraculous test is employed, the idea of which is derived from the history of Aaron's rod that budded. They each give in their rod, and from Joseph's rod alone2 there issues a dove, so that he is chosen to have the charge, much against his will, for we are carefully told that he had children already. The story of the appearance of the angel Gabriel and the annunciation of the Saviour's birth is told almost in the words of Luke, except with the addition that the angel appeared to Mary as she was drawing water. We find mention made also of the dumbness of Zacharias, and of the taxing under Caesar Augustus, in such a way as to leave no room for doubt that Luke's Gospel was used; while the account of Herod and the wise men, the explanation of the name Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins, and other particulars, are so given as to make it equally clear that this Gospel presupposes St. Matthew's. There is a story that when Mary's pregnancy was discovered, both she and Joseph were made to clear themselves by drinking the water of jealousy. The birth of her child is made to take place, not in the stable of the inn, but in a cave by the roadside where the labour-pains suddenly come on her. A midwife is found, who expresses the greatest amazement at a virgin bringing forth. Salome, who, on hearing of this prodigy, refuses to believe unless she herself verify the fact, is punished by having her hand withered, until, on her repentance, she is healed by touching the child. The work is supposed to be written by James, immediately after the death of Herod; and the last things related are a miraculous rescue of the infant John the Baptist from the massacre of the children, by means of a mountain opening and hiding him and his mother; and a consequent murder of Zacharias the priest by Herod's command, when his child could not be found. This story may be regarded as bearing witness to the presence in the Gospel used by the fabulist of the text, Zacharias whom ye slew between the Temple and the altar. His blood is represented as miraculously congealing, and refusing to be removed till the avenger came.3

From this sketch of the contents of the Protevangelium you will see that it is merely an attempt to embroider with legend the simpler narrative of the earlier Evangelists, and that it could not have come into existence if they had not gained a position of acknowledged credit long before.

The Gospel which I have described can certainly lay claim to very high antiquity. It was undoubtedly in full circulation before the end of the fourth century, for it is clearly used by Epiphanius in his work on Heresy, written about 376.4 We can, without quitting undisputed ground, carry the evidence of the use of the book back to the very beginning of this century; for Peter of Alexandria, who died in 311, gives an account of the death of Zacharias, which is clearly derived from this Gospel. 5 In the preceding century Origen (in Matt., torn. x. 17) speaks of the opinion that the brethren of our Lord were sons of Joseph by a former wife, as a tradition derived from the Gospel according to Peter6 and the book of James; and I see no sufficient reason for doubting that this was in substance the same as the still extant book which bears the name of James. It is true that Origen elsewhere,7 not professing to quote the book of James, but relating a tradition which had come to him, gives an account of the death of Zacharias different from that already mentioned. He is said to have been put to death, not on the occasion of the slaughter of the Innocents, but later, and because he had permitted Mary, notwithstanding the birth of her child, to stand in the place assigned to virgins in the Temple. The truth seems to be that more than one of those who accepted from the Protevangelium that the Zacharias slain between the Temple and the altar was the father of the Baptist, attempted to improve on the account there given of the cause of his death. A Gnostic story on the subject is told by Epiphanius (Haer. xxvi. 12); and another orthodox account is reported by Jerome in his commentary on Matthew xxiii. 35. We might be sure that the Protevangelium was the book of which Origen speaks, if we had earlier traces of its existence; but the indications are uncertain. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vii. 1 6) has the story of the midwife's attestation of Mary's virginity; but it must be owned that Tertullian seems ignorant of this tale (De Cam. Christ. 23): and although he knows a story (Scorpiace 8) of stones retaining the marks of the blood of Zacharias, the reference seems to be to the Jewish story about the son of Jehoiada, already quoted. Justin Martyr has also been claimed as recognizing the Protevangelium: both, for instance, represent our Lord's birth as taking place in a cave; but this may have been a local tradition (see p. 71). Other coincidences have been pointed out by Hilgenfeld: for instance, the phrase χαρὰν λαβοῦσα Μαριάμ, (Trypho 100; Protev. 12). On the whole, I regard the Protevangelium as a second-century composition; and though I admit that the form now extant may exhibit some variations from the original text, I do not believe that these changes could have been considerable, or such as to affect the general character of the document. You see there is no great misstatement in describing this as one of the books rejected by the framers of our Canon. It was a book which, in point of antiquity, might have got into our Canon, unless, indeed, it be admitted that a book only making its appearance in the middle of the second century was far too late to have a chance of being placed on a level with our Gospels.

I pass briefly over Gospels which bear the same relation to the Protevangelium that it bears to the Synoptic Gospels; and which, if that be the child of these Gospels, are only their grandchildren: I mean fictions which, taking the Protevangelium as their basis, enrich with further ornaments and supplements the story as it was there told. Of such a kind is the Gospel of the pseudo-Matthew, a work not earlier than the fifth century. Some of the particulars, how ever, which it added to the story have passed into current ecclesiastical mythology. For instance, it tells how Mary, after coming out of the cave, laid her child in a manger, and how the ox and the ass which were there adored the child; thus fulfilling the prophecy, the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib; as also another prophecy of Habakkuk: for in the beginning of the third chapter, where we translate in the midst of the years make known, the Septuagint has in the midst of two animals thou shalt be known. You must be familiar with the ox and the ass in stories and pictures of our Lord's birth. This Gospel tells also of wonders that took place in the flight to Egypt: how lions and leopards adored the child, and harmlessly bore company to the party; how a palm-tree at the child's command bowed down its head and supplied its fruit to satisfy His mother's need; how, when He entered the idol temple in Egypt, the idols all fell with their faces to the ground, and there lay broken and shattered. This pseudo-Matthew contains at the end a section taken from the false Gospel, of which I have next to speak.

The Gospel of St. Thomas treats of the infancy and child hood of our Lord. This work, in its original, does not ap pear to have taken its rise in the Church, but rather to have been manufactured in a Gnostic workshop: not, indeed, in any of those schools of heresy which taught that our Lord only became Christ at His baptism (for to such teaching the doctrine was directly opposed which made Him exercise miraculous power in His childhood), but rather in the school of Docetism, which denied the true humanity of our Lord: for in these legends all trace disappears that He was, in the real truth of His nature, man. We may believe that there was a desire to do our Lord honour in the invention of tales of the early exercise of His miraculous power; but if so, the result sadly failed to correspond to the design: for there is none of the Apocryphal Gospels which is so repulsive to a Christian reader, on account of the degrading character of its representations of our Lord. In its pages the holy child is depicted as (to use Kenan's forcible language, vi. 541), un gamin omnipotent et omniscient, wielding the power of the Godhead with a child's waywardness and petulance. It tells, for example, that He was playing and making sparrows out of mud, that He did this on the Sabbath, and that when complaint was made against Him, He clapped His hands and the sparrows took life and flew away; and again, that He threw all the clothes in a dyer's shop into a single vat of blue dye, and on being called to account for the mischief He had done, commanded the clothes to be taken out, and lo, every one was dyed of the colour its owner wished. We are told that when He was drawing water for His mother and happened to break the pitcher, He brought the water safely home in the skirt of His garment; and that, when His father, working at his carpenter's trade, found a piece of wood too short for the place it was meant to occupy, the child gave the wood a pull, when it became of the right length. We learn to appreciate more justly the character of the miracles related in the New Testament when we compare them with those found in this Gospel, the majority of its stories being tales of wonder of no higher moral worth than the prodigies of the Arabian Nights. But some of them are even malevolent miracles, such as it shocks us to read of as ascribed to our Blessed Lord. Boys who spill the water out of little ponds He had made for His play are cursed by Him, and thereon wither away; another boy who knocks up against Him in the street is in like manner cursed, and falls down dead. The accusers who complain to Joseph of the child's conduct are struck with blindness. The parents of one of the children whose death He has caused are quite reasonable in their complaint to Joseph: Take away that Jesus of thine from this place, for he cannot dwell with us in this town; or, at least, teach him to bless and not to curse. The child like wise shows Himself from the first as omniscient as He is omnipotent. When He is brought to a master to be taught His letters, and is bid to pronounce Aleph, He refuses to go on to Beth until the instructor has taught Him all the mysteries of Aleph; and on his failing to do this, the child not only shows that He knows all the letters, but teaches him mysteries with regard to the shape and powers of each, which fill the hearers with amazement. And in other stories He is made to show that He has no need of human instruction. These accounts may profitably be compared with Luke's statement, that Jesus increased in wisdom and knowledge; and with his narrative of our Lord sitting in the midst of the doctors, not for the purpose of teaching them, as these stories would have it, but hearing them, and asking them questions.

This Gospel, however, can claim a very early parentage. The work, in the shape (or rather shapes) in which we now have it, has, no doubt, received many alterations and developments since the time of its first manufacture.8 But at the beginning of the third century a Gospel bearing the name of St. Thomas was known both to Hippolytus and to Origen;9 and Irenaeus (i. xx.) refers to the story just mentioned, concerning the attempt to teach our Lord His letters, as a tale in circulation among heretics.10 And this Gospel in its developed form obtained wide circulation in the East. From such a Gospel Mahomet seems to have drawn his conceptions of our Saviour (Renan, vi. 515).

In the Gospels which I have described, the public ministerial life of our Lord is avoided, and the inventors profess to give details of His life before He entered on His ministry. That to which I next come professes to supplement the Canonical Gospels at the other end. It has been current under the name of the Gospel of Nicodemus; but this name is modern, and criticism shows that the book is to be divided into two parts, of different dates and authorship. The first part gives a full account of the trial of our Lord, and it seems to be identical with what has been known under the name of the Acts of Pilate. Tischendorf has claimed for this part a very high antiquity. Justin Martyr twice refers his heathen readers (Apol. i. 35, 48, and probably 38), in confirmation of the things he tells concerning our Lord's death, to the Acts of Pilate, preserved in their own records. Tertullian does the same (Apol. 21). The best critics suppose that Justin Martyr did not himself know any such Acts of Pilate, but took for granted that he had sent his master an account of his doings, which would be sure to be found in the public records. But it is also possible that some Christian had already committed the pious fraud of fabricating Acts to answer this description, and that Justin Martyr was uncritical enough to be deceived by the fabrication. Tischendorf then thinks that this Gospel of which I speak contains the very Acts to which Justin refers; and the consequences in an apologetic point of view would be enormous. For these Acts are quite built up out of our four Canonical Gospels, including even the disputed verses at the end of St. Mark; St. John's Gospel being the one principally used. If, then, these Acts are as early as the first half of the second century, it would follow that all our Gospels are far earlier. But I do not think that Tischendorf's contention can be sustained, and cannot venture to claim greater antiquity than the fourth century for the Acts in their present form.11 The latter part of what is known as the Gospel of Nicodemus contains an account of the descent of Christ to the under world. Two of the saints who were raised at His resurrection relate how they had been confined in Hades when the Conqueror appeared at its entrance; how the gates of brass were broken and the prisoners released, Jesus taking with him to Paradise the souls of Adam, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and the other holy men who had died before Him. This story of a descent of our Lord to hell is of very great antiquity, and to it, no doubt, reference is made in that clause which in comparatively late times was added to the Creed. In the preaching of Thaddeus to Abgarus, of which I shall speak later on, part of the subject is said to have been how Jesus was crucified and descended into hell, and burst the bands which never had been broken, and rose again, and also raised with Himself the dead that had slept for ages; and how He had descended alone, but ascended with a great multitude to the Father. It may suffice to have said so much about Apocryphal Gospels of the supplemental class, if I merely add that these stories, though formally rejected by the Church, supplied abundant materials for legend, and are the source of many a name still current: Dismas and Gestas, the two robbers who were crucified with our Lord; Longinus, the soldier who pierced His side with a spear, or, according to some accounts, the centurion who superintended His crucifixion; Veronica, in some stories the woman who had the issue of blood, but, according to the popular tale, the woman who gave Him her handkerchief to wipe His face, and who received on it His true likeness.

In passing to the subject of heretical Gospels, I may just mention that a few evangelic fragments have been preserved, the source of which cannot be specified. For example, Justin Martyr,12 Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus, all quote, -as a saying of our Lord, In whatever things I find you, in these will I judge you; but we do not know from what document they took the saying. The doctrine which it is intended to convey is that of Ezek. xviii., viz. that in the case alike of the wicked man who turns from his wickedness, or of the righteous man who turns from his righteousness, judgment will pass on the man according to the state in which death finds him. In the appendix to Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels you will find a complete list of the non-Canonical sayings ascribed to our Lord.

It would be easy to make a long list of the names of Gospels said to have been in use in different Gnostic sects; but very little is known as to their contents, and that little is not such as to lead us to attribute to them the very slightest historic value. The earliest heretical Gospel of which quotations are numerous is that according to the Egyptians, the birthplace of which is probably truly indicated by its title, our knowledge of it being chiefly derived from Clement of Alexandria. Very soon after the rise of Christianity there came over the Western world a great wave of ascetic teaching from the East. If we can venture to trace a very obscure history, we may name India as the place where the movement originated, In that hot country very little food is absolutely necessary for the sustainment of life; and there were some who made it their glory to use as little as possible, and in other ways to detach themselves from that world of matter whence it was believed all evil had flowed. The admirers and imitators of these men by degrees spread them selves outside the limits of their own land. At any rate, whencesoever the teaching was derived, it became trouble some to the Christian Church in the very first years of its existence. Scarcely had St. Paul found himself able to relax his struggles against those who wanted to impose on his Gentile converts the yoke of circumcision and the Mosaic Law, when he was forced to do battle with a new set of opponents, whose cry was Touch not, taste not, handle not (Col. ii. 21), who forbad to marry, and commanded to- abstain from meats (i Tim. iv. 3). Several of the Gnostic sects had in common the feature of Encratism; that is to say, the rejection, as absolutely unlawful, of the use of marriage, of flesh meat, and of wine. Irenaeus (i. 28) tells this of Saturninus, one of the earliest of the Gnostics. Their principles obtained converts among heathens as well as among Christians: Porphyry, for instance, the great adversary of Christianity, has also a treatise (De Abstinentid) against the use of animal food. And even the Christians who refused to recognize Encratism as a binding rule were persuaded to acknowledge it to be a more perfect way of life. Among ourselves, for example, vegetarianism is regarded as a harm less eccentricity; but in early times of Christianity, even those who used animal food themselves came to think of the vegetarian as one who lived a higher life, and approached more nearly to Christian perfection. But it was the Encratite doctrine of the absolute unlawfulness of the marriage life which provoked the hottest controversies. The principal apocryphal Acts of the Apostles proceeded from men of Encratite views; and in these the type of story is of constant recurrence, how an Apostle persuades a young couple to abandon an intended project of matrimony; or how persecution is stirred up against the Christian missionaries by husbands whose wives these preachers have persuaded to desert them. The refutation of Encratism is the subject of the third book of the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria; and this leads him to speak of the Gospel according to the Egyptians as a work in vogue in that sect, and to give some extracts from it. They contrast remarkably with the simplicity of the genuine utterances of our Lord. Salome said, "How long shall death prevail?" And He said, "As long as ye women bring forth." And she said, "Then did I well in not having children?" And He said, "Eat every herb, but eat not that which hath bitterness." And again when Salome asked when the things about which she enquired should be known, and when His kingdom should come, He answered, * When ye trample under foot the garment of shame, and when the two become one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female neither male nor female.13

But I must not linger over heretical writings which have no bearing on modern controversies. I go on to speak of a document by means of which it has been attempted, though with now confessed ill success, to establish the posteriority of two of our Canonical Gospels: I mean the Gospel of Marcion. Marcion, who came forward as a teacher about A.D. 140, is usually classed with the Gnostics; yet he deserves a place by himself, for he does not appear to have derived his heretical notions from these propagators of a medley of Christian, Jewish, and heathen ideas, but to have worked out his system for himself. As the son of a bishop, he had received a Christian education; but he was perplexed by that great problem of the origin of evil, which has been a puzzle to so many. He took, as his principle to start with, the Gospel maxim, A good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit. It followed then, he concluded, that the Maker of the universe cannot be good. But the God of the Old Testament claims to be the Maker of the universe. This God also threatens to inflict punishment: in other words, to inflict suffering to do evil. We must then believe in two Gods the God of the Old Testament, a just God, the Creator, who alone was known to the Jews; and a good God, who was first revealed by Christ. For Christ Himself said, No man has known the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. Marcion drew out in antitheses the contradictions which he imagined he found between the Old Testament and the New, and between the Old Testament and itself. But how was this disparagement of the Old Testament to be reconciled with the New Testament itself? In the first place, Marcion has to sacrifice all the original Apostles as unfaithful preachers of the truth. Paul alone is to be trusted, and even Paul must be expurgated. We have had examples in our modern tendency critics of the Synoptic Gospels, that it is easy to establish that a document teaches anything you please if you are at liberty to cut out of it everything that contradicts your theory. So Marcion dealt with his Apostolicon, which consisted of ten Epistles of St. Paul. He had his Gospel also, with which he coupled no author's name, but which can be proved to be St. Luke's Gospel, with every part cut out which directly contradicted Marcion's theory. Tertullian devotes a whole book to Marcion's Gospel, going regularly through it, and undertaking to show that the heretic can be refuted from his own Gospel. Epiphanius also notes at considerable length the differences between Marcion's Gospel and St. Luke's. And from these and other minor sources we can, with tolerable completeness, restore Marcion's Gospel.

Now, it happens in one or two cases that readings (not connected with Marcion's peculiar theory) which Tertullian reprobates as corruptions of Marcion's are still to be found in some of the oldest MSS. of the Gospels, and we have reason to think that in these cases Tertullian was in error in thinking his own copy right, and Marcion wrong.14 Tertullian also blames Marcion for entitling Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians as to the Laodiceans; but it happens that in one or two of the oldest MSS. the words ἐν Ἐφεσῷ are absent from the address of that Epistle; and many critics think that Marcion was right, and that this was indeed the letter which the Colossians were directed by Paul to procure from Laodicea. Finally, Marcion is blamed by Tertullian for not including in his Apostolicon the three Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul. But, as we shall find in another lecture, the sceptical school of the present day are of the same opinion, and gladly claim Marcion as a witness in their favour. So the theory suggests itself it was only through ignorance and prejudice that Tertullian and other Fathers accused Marcion of mutilating the Gospels: they thought because his Gospel was shorter than theirs that he must have mutilated the Gospel; but the truth was, that he, living in the very beginning of the century at the end of which they lived, was in possession of the real original Gospel before it had been corrupted by additions. I have told you how it has been attempted to recover a Hebrew anti-Pauline Gospel by cutting out of St. Matthew everything that recognizes the calling of the Gentiles. That, after all, is unsatisfactory work, there being no means of verifying that such a Gospel as is thus arrived at was ever current. But it seems a fine thing to recover the opposition Gospel a Pauline, anti-Jewish Gospel and to have the evidence of Marcion that this was really current at the begin ning of the second century. On this matter our sceptical opponents were left to puzzle out the matter for themselves with little help from the orthodox, who either took no notice of what seemed to them a wild theory, or else exclaimed against it without any detailed attempt to refute it. The falsity of the theory was exposed by persons very willing to believe in it; indeed the death-blow to the theory was given by Volkmar, whose name I have had occasion to mention to you in connexion with some very wild speculations. He and others reconstructed the Marcionite Gospel from the Patristic testimony, and comparing it with our St. Luke, asked them selves, Which has the greater claim to originality? It had to be borne in mind that Marcion's doctrine went far beyond Paul s: that while Paul contended against Jewish exclusive- ness, and wished to put Gentiles on the same level, it is certain that he was not hostile to the Jews and their religion, in the way that Marcion was. Well, the result of examination was, that the features that distinguished Marcion's Gospel from our St. Luke were clearly not Pauline but Marcionite; and, on mere doctrinal grounds, these critics arrived at the conclusion that Marcion's Gospel was the mutilation, and not Luke's the amplification. Their arguments convinced their opponents, and the figment that Marcion's Gospel was the original St. Luke may now be regarded as, by the con sent of all competent judges, quite exploded by criticism. The author of Supernatural Religion, however, thought proper to revive this moribund theory, and this led to a new examination of it by Dr. Sanday.15 He took the passages which Marcion owned as belonging to the original Gospel, and minutely examined the style and the vocabulary, comparing them with the language of the passages which Marcion rejected; and the result was so decisive a proof of unity of authorship, that the author of Supernatural Religion, though not apt to confess defeat, has owned himself convinced, and has abandoned this part of his argument. But this abandonment is really an abandonment of great part of his book. For what is the use of contending that Justin Martyr and others who lived still later in the second century were ignorant of St. Luke's Gospel, if it has to be owned that Marcion, who wrote quite early in the century, was acquainted with that Gospel, and attached to it such value that he joined it with the Epistles of St. Paul, making it the basis of his entire system?

Before I part with Marcion I ought to notice another use that has been made of his attempt to make a new Gospel. The attempt to place Marcion before Luke may be regarded as having utterly collapsed; but it has been thought that ground might be gained for inferring that Marcion must have come before the fourth Gospel. It is said, Marcion's object was to get possession of a strong anti-Jewish, ultra-Pauline Gospel. The fact that he could do nothing better than take St. Luke's Gospel and modify it for his purpose by plentiful excisions shows, it has been said, that he knew nothing of St. John's Gospel, which would have exactly answered his purpose. But nothing can be more inconsiderate than this off-hand criticism. If St. John's Gospel can be called anti- Jewish, it is not so in the sense that Marcion is. It makes no opposition between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New; on the contrary, it so connects the two dispensations that Marcion would have found even more trouble necessary to adapt the fourth Gospel to his purpose than that which he has spent on the third. His own received Him not, says St. John in the first few verses: that is to say, the Logos is identified with the God of the Jews, and claims that nation as His own people. The one verse (iv. 22) in the discourse with the woman of Samaria. Salvation is of the Jews has been an insuperable stumbling-block to all critics who would exaggerate the anti-Jewish tendency of this Gospel. The Old Testament writers are appealed to as the best witnesses for Christ: Had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me (v. 46), Abraham rejoiced to see my day (viii. 56), These things said Esaias when he saw his glory and spake of him (xii. 41), Ye search the Scriptures and they are they which testify of me (v. 39). The temple which the Jews had built for the worship of their God, Jesus claims as his Father's house: Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise (ii. 16). The Old Testament is full of types of his work on earth: the brazen serpent (iii. 14), the manna in the wilderness (vi. 32), the Paschal Lamb (xix. 36). Great importance is attached to the testimony of John the Baptist, who, according to Marcion, like the older prophets, did not know the true Christ; and if there had been nothing else, the story of the miracle of turning water into wine would have condemned this Gospel in Marcion's eyes. We must also remember that to accept a Gospel ascribed to the Apostle John would have been at variance with the whole system of Marcion, who had thought himself warranted by Gal. ii. 14 to infer that the original Apostles did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, and therefore could not consistently use either the Gospels of Matthew or John, or that which was believed to have been derived from Peter (see Tert. Adv. Marc. iv. 3).

I own, then, that when I see one sceptical writer after another building an argument on the assumption that if Marcion had known the fourth Gospel he would have made it the text-book of his system, I cannot but ask myself, Which is it that these critics have never read the Gospel of St. John, or the authorities which describe the system of Marcion? You will find that the fourth Gospel so swarms with recognitions of the identity of the God of the Jews with the Father of our Lord, and of the authority of the Old Testament writers as testifying to Him, that Marcion would have had work to do on every chapter before he could fit it to his purpose a task which he was under no temptation to undertake, since, as we shall presently show, the fourth Gospel was never intended to stand alone, but was written for those who had an independent knowledge of the facts of our Saviour's life: so that no modification of the fourth Gospel would have enabled Marcion to dispense with another Gospel.



1) The same who gained a victory over the Government of the day by an acquittal on a charge of blasphemous libel, tried before Lord Ellenborough in 1817.

2) Accordingly, a prominent feature in pictures of the Marriage of the Virgin, by Raphael and his predecessors, is that of the disappointed suitors breaking their useless rods.

3) This story of the blood is derived from a Jewish story of a miraculous bubbling of the blood of Zacharias the son of Jehoiada, which refused to be stilled, though Nebuzaradan slew 94,000 of the chief of the Jews in the hope that by the addition of their blood that of Zacharias might be quieted. See Whitby's commentary on Matt, xxiii. 35, or Midrasch Echo, Rabbati (Wiinsche's translation), p. 21.

4) Haer. Ixxix. 5; Ixxviii. 7: see also Greg. Nyss. Orat. in diem Natal, Christi, Opp. Paris, 1638, vol. iii., 346.

5) Routh's Rell. Sac. iv. 44.

6) Of this book no extracts have been preserved, and apparently it never had a very wide range of circulation. It dates from the second century, and our chief information about it is from a letter of Serapion, bishop of Antioch at the end of that century, who had at first permitted the use of it in his diocese, but withdrew his permission on closer acquaintance with the book, which though in the main orthodox, contained some things that favoured the Docetic heresy (Euseb. H.., vi. 12: see also iii. 3 and 25),

7) Series Comm. in Matt. 25.

8) According to the Stichometry of Nicephorus (see p. 178), it contained 1300 sticboi, which would correspond to a larger book than that we have; whence we may conclude that the parts most deeply tainted with heresy were cut out when the book was preserved for orthodox use. For instance, the words quoted by Hippolytus do not appear in our present text.

9) Hippol. Ref. Haer. v. 7; Origen, in Luc. Horn. i.

10) A coincidence with Justin Martyr has been pointed out. Justin (Dial. 88) states that our Lord, working as a carpenter, made ἄροτρα καὶ ζυγά, words which occur Ev. Thorn. 13. But I am inclined to think that it was the pseudo-Evangelist who here borrowed from Justin, the latter being completely silent as to miracles performed by our Lord in His child hood, although in the chapter cited they could hardly fail to have been mentioned if they had been known to the writer.

11) The statements for which the Acts of Pilate are appealed to by Justin and Tertullian are not to be found in the Gospel under consideration; nor is its form such as would be used by the composer of what were intended to pass for Roman official acts. On this subject see Lipsius Die Pilatusacten and article GOSPELS APOCRYPHAL in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Biography. I consider that a limit in both directions to the age of this Gospel is given by its adoption of the date March 25 as that of the Saviour's Passion. This is quoted by Epiphanius (Haer. 50), whence we may conclude that our Acts are earlier than A.D. 376; but the date itself, I cannot doubt, was first invented by Hippolytus in the early part of the third century. His whole system of chronology is based on an astronomical cycle, by means of which he imagined himself able to calculate the day of the Jewish Passover in any year; and, according to this cycle, March 25 would be the day in the year 29 which Hippolytus supposed to be the year of the Passion. But the cycle is worthless, and March 25 could not have been the Passover, or close to it, in that year.

12) Justin, Dial. 47; Clem. Alex. Quis dives, 40; Hippol. De Univers.

13) Clem. Alex. Strom, iii. 6 and 9; Ex Scr. Theodot. 67; Clem. Rom. so-called Second Epistle, 12. Notices of the Gospel according to the Egyptians are also found in Hippol. Ref. v. 7; Epiph. Haer. 62.

14) Orthodox scribes would certainly not adopt readings invented by Marcion, so that any corrupt readings in which MSS. agree with Marcion must have crept into the text before his time. Now, in the newly- arrived volume of his History of the N. T. Canon, Zahn maintains (p. 675) that Marcion can be shown to have used a text of Luke corrupted by assimilation to Matthew and Mark; so that Marcion not only exhibits acquaintance with these Gospels, but also is proved to have lived at a time when the three Gospels had already circulated so long together that scribes had begun to be influenced in their copying of one by their habitual knowledge of the others. There has not been time for me to make an independent examination of Zahn's proofs, the full exhibition of which he has reserved for an Appendix not yet published.

15) See his Gospels in the Second Century. The chapter on Marcion had previously been published as an article in the Fortnightly Review.