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SETTLING THE CANON
A general Differtation, or Proof, concerning the Canonical Authority of the Four Gofpels.
EFORE I enter upon the proof of the Canonical autho rity of each of the Gospels in particular, it will be very ferviceable to my design to observe and shew, that the primitive Chriftians have expressly acknowledged only four Gospels; and thofe four Gofpels which we now receive under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to be genuine and Canonical. I fhall produce the feveral teftimonies which I have observed, according to the order of time in which the writers lived; and among these it will not be amifs to place,
1. St. JOHN.
I. The teftimony of St. John the Apoftle; concerning whom we are told by Eufebius a, That when the three Gospels (of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were published and known to every body, St. John at length faw them, approved them, and confirmed the truth :f them; but (owned) that they were defective as to the account of those things which were done by our Saviour at the beginning of his miniftry-For which reason John, being defired by his friends, fupplied the defects of the three others, and wrote his Gospel to inform us of that time, and the things which were done by our Saviour in it, viz. before the imprisonment of John the Baptift. Now hence it follows;
r. That before St. John wrote his Gofpel, the Chriftians of that first age owned and received no other than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; although it is certain there were many other falfe Gospels extant at that time, as I have elsewhere proved.
2. That thefe three were univerfally received and approved. 3. That they were with juft reafon fo approved, becaufe St. John alfo did approve them.
Befides this teftimony of Eufebius, I find in a very old book, intitled, Μαρτύριον Τιμοθέω τοῦ ̓Αποτόλυ, i. e. The Martyrdom of Timothy the Apostle, of which we have an extract in Photius (Cod. ccliv.); “ That when, after the death of Domitian, “ Nerva became Emperor, John returned to Ephefus, from "which place he had been banished by Domitian, he then "took the feveral books which contained the hiftory of our "Saviour's sufferings and miracles and doctrines, and were "now tranflated into feveral different languages, reviewed σε them, rectified them, and joined himfelf to the former three Evangelifts (by writing his Gofpel)." I confefs I cannot
· Τι προαναγραφέντων τριῶν εἰς Τῶν πώντας ἤδη καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν Ἀξαδέξου μόνων, ἀποδέξασθαι μὲν φασὶν ἀλήΞειαν αὐτοῖς ἐπιμαρτυρήσαντα μότην δὲ ἄρα λείπεθαι τῇ γραφῇ τὴν περὶ τῶν ἐν πρώτοις καὶ κατ' ἀρχὴν τῶ κηρύγματος ὑπὸ τοῦ Χρισᾶ πεπραγμένων οδήγησιν -- Παρακληθέντα δὴ
ἐν τούτων ἕνεκα φησὶ τὸν ἀπότυλον Ἰωάννην, τὸν ὑπὸ τῶν προτέρων ενας γελαςῶν παρασιωπηθέντα χρόνον, καὶ τὰ κατὰ τῦτον πεπραγμένα τῷ Σω• τῆρι (ταῦτα δ ̓ ἦν τὰ πρὸ τῆς τοῦ Βαπτιςοῦ καθείρξεως) τῷ κατ ̓ αὐτὸν εὐαγγελίῳ παραδέναι. Hift. Εccl.
1. 3. c. 24.
certainly determine the age of this book. There is a book extant, intitled The Martyrdom of Timothy, which goes under the name of Polycrates, a Bishop of Ephefus, in the latter end of the fecond century, out of which Photius feems to have made this extract; and if this be true, it makes the history more valid: but it must be owned that several learned men are of opinion this book was not made by Polycrates, into which it is not my business here to enquire.
2. St. POLYCARP.
II. The testimony of Polycarp, who, according to Irenæus, was not only inftructed by the Apostles, and acquainted with many who had feen Chrift, but placed by the Apostles in Afia, as Bishop of Smyrna, whom, says he, I also faw when I was young. He (Polycarp) exprefsly mentions together our four Gofpels and their authors thus: "It was not without " reason that the Evangelifts began their Gospels different
ways; though the defign of each of them was the fame. "Matthew, because he wrote to the Hebrews, began with the
genealogy of Chrift, that he might evidence Chrift to be "descended of that family, which all the Prophets had foretold " he should defcend from. John being fixed among the "Ephefians, who as Gentiles were ignorant of the law, began his Gospel with an account of the cause of our redemp❝tion, viz. that God would have his Son become incarnate
* Καὶ Πολύκαρπος δὲ οὐ μόνον ὑπὸ ἀποςόλων μαθητευθείς, καὶ συναναγραφείς πολλοῖς τοῖς τὸν Χρισὸν ἑωρακόσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὸ ἀποσόλων καταταθεὶς εἰς τὴν ̓Ασίαν ἐν τῇ ἐν Σμύρνῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐπίσκοπος, ὃν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἑωράκαμεν ἐν τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμῶν
zig. Adv. Hærei. 1. 3. c. 3. et apud Euseb. 1. 4. c. 14.
Rationabiliter Evangelifta principiis diverfis utuntur, quamvis una eademque evangelizandi eorum probetur intentio. Matthæus, ut Hebræis fcribens, genealogiæ Chrifti ordinem texuit, ut oftenderet ab ea Christum descendiffe progenie, de
qua eum nafciturum univerfi Pro
phetæ cecinerant. Joannes autem ad Ephefum conftitutus, qui legem tanquam ex Gentibus ignorabant, a caufa noftræ redemptionis Evange lii fumpfit exordium; quæ caufa ex eo apparet, quod filium fuum Deus pro noftra falute voluit incarnari. Lucas vero a Zachariæ facerdotio incipit, ut ejus filii miraculo nativitatis, et tanti prædicatoris officio, Divinitatem Chrifti gentibus declararet. Unde et Marcus antiqua prophetici myfterii competentia adventui Chrifti declarat, ut non nova, fed antiquitus prolata ejus Prædicatio probaretur.
"for our falvation. Luke begins with the priesthood of Za"charias, that by the account of his fon's miraculous birth, "and his being fo confiderable a preacher, he might evidence "the divinity of Chrift to the Gentiles. Mark began his "Gospel with the explication of fome antient prophecies re"lating to the coming of Chrift, that his Gospel might ap (6 pear no new thing, but the fame as had been of old." For this fragment of Polycarp we are obliged to Feuardentius, who in his notes on Irenæus, 1. 3. c. 3. published it with fome other fragments of Polycarp out of a very antient manufcript of Victor Capuanus's Catena, upon the four Evangelifts, which Catena he there promises to publish; but whether he did or no, I know not. Victor Capuanus lived, according to Feuardentius, in the year of Chrift 480. Johan. Jacob. Grynæus (Præfat. in Orthodoxographa) places him fooner, viz. A. D. 455; but Bellarmine 2, and Dr. Cave, place him near a hundred years later, viz. in the year 540, and 545, as also does Dr. Mill c.
III. That there were only the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, received in the middle part of the second century, is evident from Tatian's Harmony, which was made about that time. He was a scholar of Juftin Martyr, and συνάφειάν τινα καὶ συναγωγὴν ἐκ οἶδ' ὅπως τῶν εὐαγδελίων συνθεὶς, τὸ δια τεσσάρων τοῦτο προσωνόμασεν ὁ καὶ παρά τισιν εἰσέτι νῦν φέρεται (Eufeb. Hift. Eccl. lib. 4. c. 29.) compiled a certain harmony of the Gospels, and called it, The Gospel of the Four; which is even to this day in the hands of fome. The fame account is alfo in Epiphanius, Hæref. 46. n. 1. There can be no reafonable doubt but that these four were the Gofpels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; for not only the number agrees, but these were the only four Gofpels that ever were reduced to a harmony. Befides, if the above-mentioned Victor Capuanus is to be credited, the Harmony of Tatian is still extant; for that which he published in the fifth or fixth cen
a De Scriptor. Ecclef. ad voc. b Hift. Liter. tom. 1. p. 411.
Prolegom. in Nov. Teftam.