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

By George Salmon



The Lectures out of which the present volume has taken its origin were written some years ago, and did not aim at giving a complete or systematic account of the subjects with which they dealt. When I decided last year on sending them to the Press, I contemplated making no other change than that of altering the division into Lectures the original division, of necessity, having mainly had regard to the length which it was convenient to deliver at one time. Accordingly, the first three Lectures of this volume contain, with but slight alterations, what was originally the introductory Lecture of my course. But as the printing went on I found additions necessary, partly in order to take notice of things that had been published since the delivery of the Lectures, and partly in order to include details which want of time had obliged me to omit, but which I was un willing to pass unnoticed in my book. In this way I have been led on to re-write, and make additions (but without making any change in the style or in the arrangement), until I am now somewhat dismayed to find that the Lectures have swelled to two or three times their original bulk.

The additions thus made have so far completed the discussion, that I have ventured to give this volume the title of an Introduction; but it will be seen that it does not embrace all the topics frequently included under that title. I do not enter on the criticism of the text, nor do I make any analysis of the contents of the books. My main purpose has been to discuss their date and authorship on purely historical grounds; and to examine with sufficient completeness for a practical decision the various theories on the subject advanced by modern schools of criticism. It is in this latter respect that this Introduction will chiefly be found to differ from some valuable works on the same subject which are in the hands of students. Most of the original evidence requisite for the discussion has already been brought within easy reach in Canon Westcott's History of the New Testament Canon' Dr. Charteris, also, in his 'Canonicity' has rendered accessible to the English reader the collection of ancient testimonies made by Kirchhofer in his Quellensammlung. According to the arrangement of Canon Westcott's book, each of the ancient wit nesses is treated separately, and under each name are placed the books of the New Testament to which the witness bears testimony. According to the arrangement of Kirchhofer and Charteris, each book of the New Testament is examined in succession, and the ancient writers are cited who bear testimony to it. The latter is the arrangement I have followed. I do not always give as full a report of the evidence as the authors just mentioned have done, contenting myself with citing as many witnesses as I judge to be sufficient to prove my case. But on the other hand, as I have said, I aim at giving a somewhat fuller discussion than they have done of the theories of authorship which modern sceptical writers have proposed to substitute for the traditional belief of the Christian Church. The time has passed when it could be objected that a student's time was ill-spent in becoming acquainted with such theories, on the ground that he probably would never have heard of them if he had not been asked to study the refutation. Literature in which the theories in question are treated as established facts has now obtained such extensive circulation, that a clergyman must be pronounced ill-trained for his work if he has to make his first acquaintance with these speculations when he finds them accepted among his people as the latest results of scientific inquiry.

Although my work may be described as apologetic in the sense that its results agree in the main with the traditional belief of the Church, I can honestly say that I have not worked in the spirit of an advocate anxious to defend a foregone conclusion. I have aimed at making my investigations historical, and at asserting nothing but what the evidence, candidly weighed, seemed to warrant. It would be idle in anyone to pretend that he can wholly divest himself of bias; but I must remark that the temptation to hold obstinately to traditional opinions is one to which those who are called apologists are not exclusively liable. The theories which in these Lectures I have found myself obliged to reject are now some fifty years old. They are maintained by a generation of scholars who have accepted them on the authority of guides to whom, in their youthful days, they looked up with reverence, and whose dicta they regard it as presumptuous to dispute, receiving their doctrines with something like the blind submission which the teachers of the scholastic philosophy gave to the decisions of the Fathers. The temptation to apply unfairly the methods of historical criticism besets as strongly the opponents as the assertors of the super natural. The former have found great difficulties in maintaining their position by a priori proof of the impossibility of miracle; for what they seek to establish really amounts to this: that, even if God exists, it is beyond the power of His Omnipotence to give His creatures convincing proof of His existence. Failing to gain many converts to this doctrine, they have tried another method of attaining their object: namely, by a criticism directed to show that the documents tendered for the establishment of miracles are so late as to be undeserving of attention. But the attempt to show this has, in my opinion, broken down, as I have endeavoured to prove in the fol lowing pages. If this result has been established, it must follow that the opponents of the supernatural will be forced to fall back on their older methods.

I have thankfully to acknowledge kind help given me in reading the proofs by my friends Professor MAHAFFY, Dr. QUARRY, and Dr. WAGE, to each of whom I owe some useful suggestions. But my chief acknowledgments are due to my colleague in our Divinity School, Dr. GWYNN, who has taken, on my behalf, an amount of trouble which, if I were not somewhat ashamed of having imposed so much labour on him, would make me congratulate myself that the publication of my Lectures was delayed until I could have the benefit of his assistance. In addition to most careful reading of all the proofs, he has been ever ready to consult authorities, and verify references for me, a service which was particularly useful to me during three months that I was at a distance from books; and he has, besides, made some special investigations on my account, such as those which I have particularly acknowledged, pp. 349, 549, 557, 595


Readers who may compare the present with former editions of this work will perhaps find it convenient if I specify a few places where changes or additions are now made. I have added (p. 44) a note on Zahn's speculation concerning the date of the Latin Version of the New Testament: some slight addition is made (p. 86) to what had been said about Tatian's Diatessaron: Dr. Gwynn's discovery of fragments of Caius has made some change necessary in what had been said (p. 227) about Caius's reception of the Apocalypse, and about the Alogi: in a note (p. 255) I have discussed Vischer's assault on the unity of the Apocalypse: something has been added (p. 389) with regard to the date of the formation of a collection of Pauline letters, and a fuller discussion than before of the second group of Pauline Epistles has been given (p. 403). On the other hand, I have judged it sufficient to present, in an abridged form (p. 545), my examination of Dr. Abbott's censures of the style of 2 Peter, which in the first and subsequent editions was given with more detail than now appears to be requisite. The change of form of the book, and the consequent alteration in the paging, has rendered necessary the preparation of a new Index; and though I have taken a good deal of pains, I fear it is too much to expect that I shall have altogether escaped misprints and false references both in the Index and elsewhere.


            October, 1889.