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St. Peter, I reckon, did not come to Rome before the reign of Nero, probably, not till the second time that Paul was in that city, in the year 63. or 64. And yet, at this time, the Chriftians at Rome desired Mark to give them in writing an account of Peter's preaching, for refreshing their memories concerning what the Apostle had said of Christ, and his doctrine. The consequence is manifest. They had not then any written Gospel in their hands. Nor did they know, that there was one. « The truth is, says Mr. Jones (b), if St. Mark, or any one else, had had « St. Matthew's Gospel, at Rome, there would have been no need of St. « Mark's writing."
These are general observations in the ancients, or deduced from them, which
may be of no small use to lead us to the true time of writing the furft three Gospels.
SECT. III. That the first three Gospels were published before the destruction of Jerusalem,
which happened in the year of the Christian epoch LXX. NONCERNING this I transcribe below (c) a very good ar
gument of Le Clerc from his Dissertation upon the four Evangelifts.
The Jewish war began, according (d) to Josephus, in the month of May in the 66. year of the Christian epoch, and ended in September, in the year 70. in the desolation of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. And I think, it may be Thewn to be very probable, that the first three Gospels were writ before the year 66. when the final troubles and calamities of the Jewish People were coming on.
This must appear to have a great deal of probability from the predictjons therein recorded concerning the destruction of the temple, the over, throw of the city of Jerusalem, the ruin of the Jewish State and People in Judea, together with divers circumstances of these events, and many troubles and calamities preceding them. These predictions are recorded in the histories of our Saviour's ministrie, which we call Gos
(6) Vindication of the former part of St. Mathew's Gospel, p. 54. chap. vi.
(c) Quinetiam, fi ex Veterum nonnullorum teftimoniis antea adductis, de re judicemus, affirmabimus, Matthæum, Marcum, et Lucam, ante ultima Ne. ronis tempora, quibus occisi sunt Petrus et Paulus, Evangelia fcripfiffe. Quod fron levi argumento confirmari poteit, ducto ex Matth. cap. xxiv. Marc. xiii. Luc. xxi, ubi narratur Jerofolymæ excidii prædictio, quafi rei etiamnum futore, eo tempore, quo Evangelia ab iis fcribebantur. Si enim eam prædicationem poft eventum feripfiffent Evangeliftæ memorati, verbulo faltem moDuiffent, prædictionem fuiffe eventu confirmatam. Quod tantum abeft ut faciant, ut Matthæus et Marcus hac admonitione, è äveywoxwy sosītu, qui legit, intelligat, quam fubjiciunt præsagiis Jerofolymitanæ cladis, admonere videantur Chriftianos in Judæa viventes, ut diligenter futura illa præsagia attendant, quo poslint vitæ suæ confulere. Vide Matth. xxiv. 15. Marc. xiii. 14. et ad ea foca interpretes. Cleric. Dif. ii. de quatuor Évangeliis. num. vi. P541.
(d) Vid. Jofeph. Antig. Jud. l. 20. cap. xi, 11•1. Sc. B.1.1. 6. cap. to
pels, without any the left hint, either express and designed, or accidenTotal tally dropping from the writers, that those predictions had been fulfilled
and verified, or that the things spoken of had happened. Those prophecies are recorded in Matth. xxiii. 34. . 39. and xxiv. Mark xiii. Luke xxi. St. Luke has also elsewhere recorded the affectionate concern, which our Lord expressed in the view and prospect of those impending evils, ch. xiii
. 34. 35. and xix. 41. . . 44. These things are also referred to, and spoken of, in divers other discourses, some plain, some parabolical, or otherwise figurative: as Matth. xxi. 33. . . 46. xxii. 1...7. Mark xii. 1. .. 12. Luke xiii. 1. .. 9. XX. 9. .. 20. xxi. 5. . 13. In none of all which places does there appear any intimation, that the things spoken of were come to pass. And in recording the presages of this final and total overthrow of the Jewish nation the historians have inserted warnings and admonitions, proper to excite the attention of readers, and induce those who lived in Judea, to take care of their
own safety, without delay. Matt. xxiv. 15. ... 18. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of de
solation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the boly place, (wholo reach Leth, let him understand :) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any
thing cut of his house. Neither let him which is in the field, return back to take bis clothes. And what follows. And to the like purpose in Mark xiii. 14... 16. When these discourses were recorded, the things spoken of
had not yet come to pass. There were men living, to whom these adc monitions might be useful for securing their safety.
Moreover, though these predictions must have been recorded, before ole . they were accomplished; I think, the fulfilment was then near at hand,
and not far off. This seems to be implied in that expression: Let bim that readeth, understand. And indeed it must have been difficult and hazardous to publish such things in writing. How offensive these fayings
must have been to the Jewilh People, and perhaps to some others likere wise, is easie to conceive from the nature of the things spoken of. And
it may be confirmed by divers instances. When our Lord had spoken the parable of the vineyard, let out to husbandmen, recorded in Luke xx. 9... 18. it is added by the Evangelist. ver. 19. 20. And the Chief Priests
, and the Scribes, the fame hour sought to lay hands on him. But they 5 feared the people. For they perceived, that he had spoken this parable against
them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themfelves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the Governor. And among the odious charges brought against our Saviour by false witnesses, this was one, that he said: I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. Matth. xxvi. 61. With this he was reproached likewise, when hanging on the cross. xxvii. 40. The like offensive charges were brought against Stephen. Acts vi. 14. We have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth Mall destroy this place, and shall change the customs, which Mofes delivered to us. And, possibly, he did say somewhat not very different.' So likewise St. Matthew, and the other Apostles, might repeat in the hearing of many what Christ had said to them, and in part to others also, concerning the overthrow of the temple, and the Jewish state. Yea, very probably, they had often repeated these things to attentive
hearers. But speaking and writing are different. And I apprehend, it could not have been safe, nor prudent, to record these predictions, (many of which are very plain, and all intelligible,) foon after our Lord's 'arcenfion.
These prophecies therefore of our Lord, as recorded in the first three Gospels, afford at once an argument, that they were written and published before the destruction of Jerusalem : and that they were not published many years before it, or however, not many years before the commencement of the war at the time above mentioned.
An Argument, fnewing the true Time of writing the Gospels, taken from the
Alts, and the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel.
brought down to the period of St. Paul's two years imprisonment at Rome.
And, very probably, the Gospel, to which St. Luke refers at the beginning of that book, had not been writ long before. This I suppose to be now the common opinion of learned men. And for giving the greatest satisfaction to all my readers, I shall transcribe below at large the sentiments of several to this purpose, such as that of the late (e) Mr. Jones, and (f) Estius, (8) Mill, (*) Dodwell
, and (b) Basnage : though the
xi. p. 115:
(e) “ Hence we see near to what time this history of the Acts was written: viz. either in the year 62. or not long after : it being altogether probable that St. Luke would not defer writing long after his departure from St. Paul. Which seems to have been now, when the Apostle was set at liberty from his confinement at Rome. ... That he wrote both the Gospel and the Acts in the fame year, seems very probable : as it is certain, that one of them is only to be looked upon as the second part, or continuation of the other." Yones New and Full Method, &c. Part. 4. ch. xvi. Vol. 3. p. 158. See him also.ch.
(f ) Deinde, nec fatis constat, Evangelium Lucæ jam tum editum fuisse; quando Paulus hanc epistolam fcripfit. Nam Acta quidem Apoftolica scripfiffe videtur ftatim poft Evangelium, tanquam ejufdem voluminis libros primum et fecundum. Scripfit autem Acta poft biennium Pauli Romæ commorantis, id eft, multis annis poft hanc epistolam. Quare circa idem tempus Evangelium ab eo fcriptum fuifle, credibile eft. Ef. ad 2 Cor. viii. 18.
(8) Voluminis hujus D. Lucæ patrem pofteriorem, feu aóyou dé: Tigor quod attinet, librum dico Actuum Apoftolorum, haud dubium eft...i quin is fcriptus fit ftatim poft nógv aspūtos, five Evangelium. Mill. Prol, num, 121.
(*) Stunt enim Acta δέυτερος ejufdem operis λόγος, cujus πρωτον λόγον ipfe fuum agnoscit Evangelium. Act. i. 1. Dodw. Dif. Iren. i. num. xx
(6) Non multum vero interjectum fuiffe temporis inter Actorum Apoftolicorum et Evangelii confectionem, conjectura ex præfatione ad Theophilum, duci potest. Primum quidem librum confeci ... Actuum ergo liber continuatio eft, feriesque Evangelii, ... Multum vero abiisse temporis antequam a priore libro omnibus numeris expleto ad pofteriorem tranfire Lucas, nulla ratione cogimur ad credendum, &c. Bafmag. Ann. 60. num. xxviii.
thing appears to me very obvious. And if so, we have gained very nearly the date of one of the four Gospels.
Grotius fupposeth, that (i) when Paul left Rome, he went into Spain: and that at the same time Luke went into Greece, and there wrote both his Gospel and the Acts. Jerome supposeth, that (k) the book of the Acts was writ at Rome. But that makes no difference in point of time: fince he allows, that it reaches to the end of St. Paul's two years imprifonment at Rome.
This one consideration, so far as I am able to judge, overthrows the opinion, that St. Luke's Gospel was writ about fifteen years after our Lord's ascension. Yea, it evidently thews, that it was not writ till the year 60. or afterwards.
And the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel affords an argument, that the other two Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were not writ fooner. For this Evangelist knew nothing of them. Consequently, they were not then writ, and published : or, but lately. Every word of his introduction Thews this. Let us observe it.
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of these things, which are most surely believed among us... It feemed good unto me also, having had perfeet understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus : that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hasi been instructed.
When St. Luke says, that many had undertaken to write histories of our Saviour, he cannot mean Matthew alone, nor Matthew and Marke only. For they are not many.
He must intend them, and others, or some different from them. Which last will appear most likely, if we confider what there follows.
Of those many he says, they had taken in hand, undertaken, or attempted. St. Luke would not have spoken thus of Matthew, or Mark. Indeed, we may suppose, that (1) those narrations, to which St. Luke refers, were not falle and fabulous, nor heretical. But they were defective.
Grotius says, the (m) word is of a middle meaning. And that it does not necessarily imply, that the writers, here intended, had failed to perform what they undertook.
(1) Librum autem et hunc, et qui de A&ibus Apostolorum, scriptum arbitror, non multo poftquam Paulus Romà abiit in Hifpaniam. Nam in id tempus definit Actuum liber, qui fi serius scriptus effet, in ulteriora etiam tempora narrationem protenderet. Puto autem, Româ iisfe Lucam. in A. chaiam, atque ibi ab eo conscriptos quos habemus libros. Grot. Pr. in Evang. Luce.
(4) See Vol. x. p. 94, 95• (0) Quod iftos ait Lucas, non fatis commoda præftitiffe: minime tamen, opinor, fabulofas, immo etiam impias narrationes intelligens, tandem Ecclefiz, fub Nicodemi, ... · Thomæ, Ægyptiorum nominibus impudentissime obtrufas. Nec tamen hic recte colligunt, Lucam poft Matthæum et Marcum hanc fuam historiam edidisse. Bez. in Luc. cap. i. ver. I.
(m) Enixignav. aggrefli funt. Bene notavit vir eruditiffimus, vocem effe mediam : neque enim ex ea colligi posse, non præftituin ab illis fcriptoribus quod aggrelli funt. Grot. in loc.
Nevertheless the ancient Chriftians, to several of whom the Greek language was natural, understood the word differently. And their judgements must be of value in this case. Origen's observations upon St. Luke's introduction may be feen, vol. iii. p. 316... 319. where he says, “ St. Luke's expression, taken in hand, implies a tacit accusation of « those, who without the gift of the Holy Ghost took upon them to write “ Gospels
. For Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, did not take a in hand to write : but being full of the Holy Ghost wrote Gospels.” In which words, and afterwards, continually, he distinguisheth the four Evangelists from the writers, referred to by St. Luke. To the like purpose (n) Ambrose, who either copied, or closely imitated Origen. And says Eusebe : « Luke (6) at the beginning assigns the reason of his writing, “ declaring, that whereas many others had rashly undertaken to compose “ relations of the things, which were most firmly believed, he therefore “ thought himself obliged, in order to divert us from the uncertain rela« tions of others, to deliver in his Gospel a certain account of those " things of which he was fully affured.” Which paffage was transcribed by us (P) formerly. And Epiphanius, whom (2) I now place below, plainly affixed a disadvantageous meaning to this word.
Beausobre readily allows, that (r) we ought to follow the ancients in their interpretation of this word, and to suppose, that St. Luke here speaks of some attempts, and eflays, that had not been well executed.
This may be sufficient to satisfy us, that St. Luke does not speak of any of our Evangelists. Mr. (*) Dodwell was of the fame opinion.
But we may have yet farther afsurance of it by observing what St. Luke fays of himself, and his own design. Which is to this purpose: “ That «'it had seemed good to him, to send to Theophilus in writing a distinct « and particular historie of Jesus Christ : that he might better know, and « be more fully confirmed in the truth of those things, in which he had « been instructed by word of mouth.”
In my opinion, this implies a supposition, that Theophilus had not yet in his hands any good written historie of the words and works of Jesus Christ.
Consequently St. Luke at the year 62. and possibly somewhat later, did not know of St. Matthew's and St. Mark's Gospels. And therefore we
(n) See Vol. ix. p. 245.
(o) • δηλών ώς άρα πολλών και άλλων προπετίσερον επιτηδευκότων διήγησιν monocobas autós Wetangopéento nãyw, x. d. Eufeb. l. 3. c. 24. p. 96. C.
6) Vol. viii. p. 954
(9) φάσκων, επειδήπερ πολλοί επεχείρησαν να τινας επιχειρητας δειξη φημι δε τες σερί κήρινθον, και μήρινθον, και τες άλλες. Η. 51, num. vii. p. 428. (r) Ce mot Grec, é7-Xeiprcav, est certainement tres-equivoque, et peut
fort bien signifier des tentatives malheureuses, des efforts qui ont mal rèuffi. *St. Epiphane ne l'a pas entendu autrement. Origene de même, dans la preface fur S. Luc. et après lui la plupart des Interpretes Grecs. Quand il s'agit de la fignification des termes Grecs, et que les auteurs Grecs, qui les expliquent, n'ont aucun interêt à leur donner des sens forcés, ces derniers semblent dignes de creance. Beauf. Remarques sur Luc. ch. i. p. 100.
(*) Ut plane alios fuiífe necesse fit evangelicæ hiftoriæ scriptores a Luca visos, a noftris, quos habemus Evangelistis. Dili Iren. i. num. xxxix,