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FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
of people, blind Bartimeus,
St Mark x. 46, &c.
begging : And hearing the
These three narratives agree as completely as could be expected if written by inde
pendent authors at a distance from each other; and considered in that light their harmony is a strong proof that they were all written under the superintendence of the Spirit of God; but if the author of the second wrote with the first lying before him, and the author of the third copied from both the first and the second, their discrepancies are such as cannot be reconciled, I think, to the notion of their having written by inspiration. I allude not here to the circumstances, with respect to place, under which this miracle is said to have been performed ; for though in our version St Luke is made to say, that it was “as they came nigh to Jericho,” whilst the other two expressly af. firm, that it was as they departed from that town, the original rightly understood exhibits no such disagreement among them. The verb ty)i&ir, made use of by St Luke, does indeed often signify to approach or draw near ; but motion seems not to be included in its radical meaning, as it is unquestionably derived from #yyo, near ; and it is accordingly often used in the New Testament to denote nearness of place, and nothing more (a). The phrase therefore—Eyirito 3i in 73 yyi'ur avròr is lifixd—might be rendered—“And it came to pass while he was near to Jericho;” and in this sense it is understood by Whit
(a) See Scapula and Schleusner on the word.
by, who justly observes, that it might be said of a man at a small distance as well from the town which he had just left, as from that into which he was about to enter. There is in this circumstance therefore no real difference among the evangelists; though it is probable that, had St Matthew's and St Mark's Gospels been lying before St Luke, he would have mentioned, as they have done, both our Lord's entry into Jericho and his departure from it in his way to Jerusalem ; but how came both he and St Mark, with St Matthew's Gospel lying before them, to say that only one blind man was restored to sight, when the apostle-evangelist affirms that there were two 2 and how came they to omit the interesting circumstance of our Lord's touching the eyes of the blind men 2 If the three evangelists were perfectly independent writers, all this is easily accounted for. One of the blind men seems to have been so much more conspicuous than the other as to have been generally known by his name, and not only so, but as the son of a man likewise of some note. He was probably the person who spoke for himself and his companion. He would, of course, draw the attention of the whole company chiefly to himself; and as it was of no importance to the cause for which our Lord's miracles are so faithfully recorded, whether he gave sight to two blind men or only to one in the neighbourhood of Jericho, St Luke, and St Mark or St Peter, recollected only what had fixed their own attention at the time, and recorded only what they distinctly re. membered. The omission, however, of such circumstances, if St Matthew's Gospel was lying before them, can be accounted for only by their considering his narrative as not perfectly correct; but if they supposed him capable of inserting what did not really take place, it is obvious that they could not have believed his Gospel to have been written under the very lowest degree of inspiration. Though there is no reason to suppose that the Spirit of God brought to the recollection of the evangelists every incident, however unimportant, which they had witnessed in the life of their Divine Master, or to each individual among them, all the circumstances of every miracle which they had seen him perform; yet if he superintended their writing at all, it is impossible that he would permit any of them to relate as truth what was in reality falsehood. If therefore there was but one blind man restored to his sight by the miracle at Jericho, St Matthew has recorded what was not true; but the same charge cannot be brought against the other two evangelists on any supposition; for though they might, when writing their Gospels, have forgotten the case of the other blind man, one had certainly his sight given to him on that occasion; and the restoration of sight to one blind man by a miracle is just as complete a proof of the Divine mission of him by whom that miracle was wrought, as if it had operated upon a thousand blind men. St Luke and St Mark mention but one blind man to whom our Saviour gave sight at Jericho; but they do not say that he gave sight to one only. If, however, they mentioned but one, with-St Matthew's Gospel lying before them, it follows, I think undeniably, that they did not believe that he had given sight to two, nor of course that the apostle had written under the influence of the Spirit of God, which they knew well would have prevented him from asserting, on so solemn an occasion, a direct falsehood, however unimportant in itself had it occurred in the work of a mere human historian. But if St Luke and St Mark considered St Matthew as thus occasionally liable to err, and of course not writing by Divine inspiration, what security can we have that, in all those places in which they seem to contradict him or each other, they were not at least as liable to err as he? or what security can we possibly have that any one of them wrote under any other superintendence of the Spirit of God, than that under which every honest historian has written since the beginning of the world? On the common hypothesis that they wrote at a distance from each other both in time and place, their occasional discrepancies may be easily accounted for, whilst their wonderful harmony is it.
From the be-
A. M. 4034, self a proof that they wrote by inspiration, since nothing else conceivable by us could ... have produced a harmony so perfect under such circumstances as theirs. so. K." But it has been affirmed, with the utmost confidence, that no other account can be Vulg, or * given of the exact agreement of the different Gospels, in a variety of passages, than that each evangelist, when writing his own Gospel, had in his hand the works of him or them who had written Gospels before him. As an argument for the probability of this opinion, it has been said, (a) that “the inspired writers of the Old Testament, especially in the historical books, quoted each other's works precisely in the same way, in which Dr Townson and others have endeavoured to prove that the evangelists did. “Admitting this,” which in the opinion of the writer has been made undeniably evident, “what can be more probable, says he, than that the holy evangelists, with the same Almighty Spirit for their guide, would tread in the steps of their predecessors the prophets? would, in similar circumstances, do as they had done, combining together, not a twofold, but a quadruple and indissoluble, chain of history, each in succession referring to, and transcribing from, the prior accounts, and always, like the prophets, indicto auctore.” Mr Churton is the author who is here said to have made it undeniably evident that the writers of the historical books of the Old Testament quoted each other's works without acknowledgment; and it must be confessed that he has urged very convincing evidence (b), that the writers of those books often record the same events in nearly the same words; but from this fact, which must have been known to every reader of the Old Testament before Mr Churton was born, it does not necessarily follow that the writers of the books of the Old Testament which have come down to us, quoted from each other. They may all have quoted, and I have no doubt did quote, from the annals or records of the kingdom, in which every important event, related to the theocracy, appears to have been inserted with religious care and accuracy (c): and there is one observation made by Mr Churton himself, which might have convinced him that this is the real source of the verbal harmony which prevails occasionally among the historical tracts of the Old Testament, and not that dishonourable mode of quoting from each other without acknowledgment, which he attributes to the authors of those tracts. Speaking of the account which we have in the first book of Kings, and the second of Chronicles, of the consecration of Solomon's temple, and of the excellence of the prayer pronounced by the monarch on that occasion, he says, (d) that the prayer “is preserved, as it deserved to be in both books; but, strictly speaking, by a copious extract only, as neither book separately delivers the whole prayer.” This is true; but where, let us ask, did the author of the second book of Chronicles find that part of the prayer which is not in the first book of Kings, if the writer of one of these copied from the other? The books of Chronicles were certainly not written till the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity ; and in the opinion of some of the most eminent critics, the books of Kings themselves were written during the captivity. If this last opinion be admitted, where did the writers of the books of Kings themselves find the materials of their histories 2 I will not however insist upon this point, since the parts of Solomon's prayer, which are found only in the second book of Chronicles, furnish a complete proof that the writers of the historical books of the Old Testament must have had access to some source of information different from the works of each other; and what could that be but the records of the kingdom, from which, if each transcribed what suited his own purpose, they would almost inevitably relate the same events in nearly the same words 2
This leads me to consider the hypothesis that the evangelists transcribed their seve(a) British Critic, vol. xl. p. 291. (b) See his Sermon prefixed to the Works of Dr Townson.
(c) See the Introduction to the History of the Old Testament prefixed to the First Wolume of this Work. (d) Introduction to Dr Townson's Works.
ral memoirs of our Saviour from one common record; and were we as certain that the apostles, before they separated, had really met for the purpose of drawing up a copious and authentic history of their Divine Master's life and doctrines, as we are that an au. thentic record was kept at Jerusalem, of the reigns of the different kings, the state of
From the be-
religion under each, and the preaching of the prophets, this would be by much the -—
easiest and perhaps the most satisfactory method of accounting as well for the harmony
(a) See, among a variety of such appeals, 1 Kings xiv. 19, and 1 Chron, xxvii. 24.
time, those which made the deepest impression are distinctly remembered long after all