« PreviousContinue »
reason the Apocalypse may have been omitted in this catalogue of books which all were to esteem holy, and, of course, to read; for it is so little adapted to the edification of the illiterate, and such absurdities have been drawn from it by fanciful interpreters, that very few lessons from it are at this day appointed to be read in the church of England, in which, however, it is certainly deemed a book of canonical authority. It is omitted likewise, as the reader will observe, in the Laodicean canon, which is more accurately expressed than that called apostolical ; for that canon makes no mention whatever of the Wisdom of Sirach in the Old Testament, or of the Epistles of Clement and the Apostolical Constitutions in the New. It does not, however, follow from this, that the council of Laodicea did not consider the Apocalypse as a sacred book, or was at all inclined to put it on the same footing with the Constitutions, and the epistles of Clement. It is quoted as sacred by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Theophilus of Alexandria, all of whom flourished about the middle or at least before the end of the second century; and Melito (a), towards the end of that century, wrote a commentary on it; but in the third century, Caius or Gaius (b), a Roman presbyter, and Dionysius, bishop. ef Alexandria, in their zeal against the doctrine of the Millennium, which had then begun to put on a very exceptionable form, called in question the authority of this book, Dionysius, indeed, did not absolutely reject it. He admitted it to be an inspired work, written by some man of the name of John, but not by John the apostle; and he drew this inference from its style, so different, as he thought, from the style of the Gospel and Epistle which all acknowledged to have been written by the apostle. It will be seen elsewhere (c), how little eonfidence can be placed in arguments drawn from the style of books written on subjects so very different from each other, as are the subjects of St John's Gospel and Apocalypse; but it may be proper here to place the authority of Origen and Hippolytus (d) in opposition to that of Caius and Dionysius. Origen had been the preceptor of Dionysius, and was beyond all controversy the most learned and acute writer of the age in which he lived; he opposed the doctrine of the Millennium with as great vehemence as his pupil; but he opposed it, not by calling in question the authenticity of the book, in which that doctrine was thought to be taught, but by contending that the Millenarians mistook the meaning of the Apocalypse. That the council of Laodicea should not recommend to the perusal of every man a work so liable to, be misinterpreted, and from which had been extracted so exceptionable a doctrine as that of the Millennium, in the form in which it was then exhibited, can excite no surprise; for their silence respecting the Apocalypse implies no doubt whatever of its being the genuine work of St John, but only of its being proper for the perusal of the illiterate vulgar. It is indeed to be wished even now, that no man would undertake to interpret this most mysterious book, who is not thoroughly acquainted with the history of the world since the commencement of the Christian era, and who has not learned, that “no historical series of prophecy can be thoroughly understood, before its full aceomplishment, when it will be explained by the event.” - But the Apocalypse is not the only book of the New Testament, about the canonical authority of which some doubts were entertained in the primitive church. It appears from Eusebius (e), that the epistles ascribed to James and Jude, were, for some time, galled in question, as well as the second ascribed to St Peter; and that, though the second and third of the epistles ascribed to St John, were undoubtedly of the apostolic e, the learned of his time were divided in their opinions whether they were written. by St John the apostle and evangelist, or by another person of the same name. It is likewise universally known, that, though the epistle to the Hebrews is unquestionably of
a) Cave's Hist. Liter. and Dr Routh's Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. i. (b) See Cave's Hist. Liter. and Dr Routh’s Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. ii. (c) Page 471 of this volume. (d) For some account of Hippolytus, see Cave's Hist, Liter. (e) Hist, Eccles, lib. iii. cap. xxv.
the age of the apostles, and has always been received as canonical Scripture, doubts were long entertained, and are by some entertained still, whether St Paul was the author of that epistle. That the epistle of St James is authentic, and ought to be received as canonical Scripture, Dr Lardner has declared his firm conviction (a). It is alluded to by Clement, bishop of Rome, and by Hermas, who both lived in the age of the apostles. It is quoted once or twice by Origen, but as of doubtful authority, or not received by all; and we have seen, that it is placed in the sacred canon by the council of Laodicea, as well as by the authors of the 76th of the canons called apostolical. Michaelis has declared himself of a different opinion from Lardner, and affects to hold the proofs brought forward by that diligent searcher into antiquity very cheap; though few, that are acquainted with the accuracy of both writers, are likely to repose the same confidence in the quotations made by the German professor as in those of the author of the Credibility of the Gospel History. Michaelis has indeed made one observation, which ought to have silenced all his own cavils against the authenticity of this epistle, and supplied the defects which he found in the evidence brought forward by Lardner. “Though Eusebius, says he (b), places the epistle of St James in the same class with that of St Jude, the second of St Peter, and the second and third of St John, it has in some respects a better claim to canonical authority than these. For none of these four last mentioned epistles were admitted into the Syriac canon; but the epistle of St James was admitted into it, and the Syriac version of this epistle appears to have been made by the same person who translated the other epistles. We must conclude therefore, that, when the Syriac version was made, which was at the close of the first century, the translator found this epistle in the Greek collection of canonical writings, and that the Syrian church received it as canonical, with the first epistle of St Peter and ‘the first of St John.” In a question concerning a matter of fact respecting the canon of the Christian Scriptures, surely the testimony of the Syrian church at the close of the first century is the very highest authority that can be had, or, indeed I think, conceived; and, by quotations from Syrian authors, the professor shews that the testimony of that church in favour of the epistle under consideration continued to the thirteenth century. The weight of this testimony seems to have made some impression on the mind of Michaelis; for he says that his principal objection to the canonical authority of the epistle arises from the uncertainty whether or not its author was one of our Lord's apostles; just as if the 'miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost had been bestowed, in that age, on none but the apostles | But this objection, frivolous as it is, Lardner ought to have removed; for both he and Cave have proved, as completely as any point of the kind can be proved, that James, called the Lord's brother—the author of the epistle—was an apostle in the highest sense of the word. Among the epistles, which, Eusebius says, were in his days of doubtful authority, there is none to which so many internal objections present themselves to the mind of the ‘reader, as the epistle of St Jude. But the external evidence of the genuineness of that epistle, and by consequence of its canonical authority, is very strong. It was received, we have seen, as Sacred Scripture by the council of Laodicea, and by the authors of the more ancient canons called apostolical ; it was received likewise with the other catholic epistles, by the third council of Carthage (c), held A. D. 252. It was received and commented on by Clement of Alexandria, who flourished about A. D. 194; and it is expressly quoted by the same author in two of his works still extantthe Pedagogue, and the Siromata. It is likewise quoted by Tertullian, about the year
(a) Supplement to the Credibility, &c. chap. xvi. (b) Introduction to the New Testament, 'chap. xxvi. sect. viii. (c) Lardner's Supplement, &c. chap. xxi.
200, in these words—“Hence it is that Enoch is quoted by the apostle Jude” (a)— which prove with the force of demonstration that the epistle of Jude in our Scriptures is the work referred to by that ancient writer. Origen, about the year 230, quotes it very frequently. It is acknowledged as genuine by Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Didymus of Alexandria, Jerome, Ruffinus, and Augustine, who all flourished in the fourth century, and were—some of them, especially Jerome—as capable of forming a correct judgment on the subject as any critic of the present day. To all this weight of testimony Michaelis and others, who wish to reject the epistle under consideration from the canon of Scripture, have nothing to reply but that the author quotes apocryphal books, and that there is no certainty of his having been an apostle. With respect to his quoting apocryphal books, it is sufficient to observe, that if he found in those books a good illustration of the doctrine which he was inculcating, he might employ them for that purpose in an epistle addressed to Jews, with as much. propriety as St Paul quoted heathen poets in discourses addressed to Greeks. Even our Lord himself illustrated his doctrine by parables, and gave to the actors in them real names familiar to the Jews; and it may be proper to add, that Michaelis admits, that if Jude, the author of the epistle, can be proved to have been an apostle, this objection and all others of the kind must go for nothing. Now he acknowledges, what indeed he could not well deny, that Jude, the author of the epistle—if the epistle be genuine—was certainly the brother of James, called our Lord's brother; but, as has been just observed, the apostleship of James our Lord's brother has been completely proved by Cave and Lardner (b). If the observations of Michaelis (c) on the epistle of St Jude gives little satisfaction, his reasoning in support of the authenticity of the second and third epistles of St John is to me so very conclusive, that I shall state it at full length in the words of his learned translator. “Though not admitted into the Syriac version of the New Testament, these two epistles are so similar to the first, both in the thoughts and in the style, that in my opinion they were certainly written by the same person who wrote the first, that is, by St John the apostle. Nor is it easy to comprehend what could have induced an impostor to forge two such epistles, or what advantage he could have proposed by the introduction of them. For they contain nothing which had not been said in the first epistle, except commendation or censure either of unnamed persons, as of Demetrius and Diotrephes, of whom no one knows what they were. They could not have been forged during St. John's life, for the imposture must have been immediately detected; and’ if they had been forged after his death, it is not very probable that the impostor would have made the pretended author promise at the end of each epistle, that he would shortly pay a visit to those to whom the epistles are addressed. “In modern times, an objection has been made to the opinion, that St John the apostle was the author, drawn from a comparison of St John's amiable character with an apparently severe precept delivered in the second epistle, ver, 10, 11. Here the author says, “if there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither greet him ; for he that greeteth him * is partaker of his evil deeds.” Now it is asserted that St John the apostle, whose precepts are replete with love and charity, would hardly have given the uncharitable command to refuse the rites of hos. pitality to all those who differ from us in religious opinions: and that this command in
(a) Eo accidit, quod Enoch apud Judam aposto- * In our version it is “neither bid him God speed ; lum testimonium perhibet. De cultu Fem. lib. i. for he that biddeth him God speed,” &c.; and this is cap. 3. a better translation than that of Michaelis, for it shews (b) Cave's Life of St James, and Lardner's Sup- more clearly, how the hospitality, which is here forplement, &c. chap. xvi. bidden, would be a partaking of evil deeds. . (c) Marsh's Michaelis, chap. xxxii, sect. 1.
particular would have come with great impropriety from St John, since no man more sensibly felt the violation of these rites than himself (a). Hence it is inferred that he was not the author of, at least, the second epistle. “If the passage just quoted be detached from the rest of the epistle, and the doctrine, which it contains, be taken in its utmost latitude, I own that the argument is very specious. However, it may be explained in such a manner as to remove all difficulty. The Greek expression xzsfer zoro used in the original, does not denote an ordinary salutation, such as we make to indifferent persons when we meet them in the street, but involves in it a kind of blessing, like the expression—Peace be with you. And it is evident from the context, that the subject here relates to the blessing usually received, on entering the house of a friend, or an assurance of hearty welcome *. For that which is meant by the words azuédrew aurër six oixian, xzi xzi; tır alry, ver, 10. is comprised in the single phrase xaspur auro in the eleventh verse. Now it must be observed, that among the primitive Christians, it was the custom to receive all travelling brethren, and to entertain them during their stay, which was sometimes done at the expence of the whole community by persons appointed for that purpose. That the third epistle relates to the reception and entertainment of travelling Christians, especially of those who travelled to preach the Gospel, is evident from ver. 5–11. But the second epistle is so similar to the third, that we may conclude the same of that also, in the passage which is the subject of our present inquiry. Suppose then that a travelling Christian was known to deliver false doctrines, or to propagate Gnostic errors, such as this, that Jesus was not the Son of God, the question is, Was he entitled to the hospitable reception usually given to Christian travellers? and was it want of charity to refuse him admittance, unless his situation were such as rendered him an object of compassion ? I think not ; for if a missionary comes into my house, who is a false teacher of Christianity, and I receive and protect him, I take part in the propagation of his errors +” We have observed that the second epistle of St Peter is one of those, which, in the earliest ages of the church, was considered as of doubtful authority. Origen was the first writer who mentioned this doubt; but we have seen that it was received by the council of Laodicea, and by the collector or collectors of the canons called apostolical; for without it we cannot make up the number of catholic epistles, which, according to the 76th of those canons, were by the church considered as inspired Scriptures. The second epistle was received equally with the first by Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Jerome, Ruffinus, Augustine, and others of the fourth century; and it appears from St Jerome, that the only reason for calling its authority in question was, a supposed difference of its style from that of the first, which has from the beginning been universally received as the genuine writing of Peter the apostle. This objection was long ago completely removed by Dr Sherlock (b), afterwards bishop of London; and it has been well observed by Dr Lardner (c), that the second epistle bears, in the inscription, the name of the same apostle with the first: and that the writer appears (d) to have been one of the disciples who were with Jesus in the mount at his transfiguration, which leads us directly to St Peter the apostle. No man, however, has discussed this question
(a). See Luke ix. 52–54.
* Schleusner on the word zaiga says it means that kind of exultation, which the people of Jerusalem displayed (1 Kings. i. 40.) on the anointing of Solomon; and he explains the words-a yo; Aiyay awry zeitu, (in the passage under consideration) qui e im eum salutat, h. e. qui comiter cum eo agit.
+ It was probably from this very necessary caution of St John, that no Christian, in the primitive church, eould travel without taking letters of credence with him from his own bishop, if he meant to communicate
with the Christian church in a foreign country. Who-
with greater ability, or in fewer words, than Michaelis, of whom it has been justly said by Dr Hales, that we are often compelled to praise and censure him almost with the same breath. “ After a diligent comparison of the first epistle of St Peter with that which is ascribed to him as his second, the agreement between them, says this ingenious critic (a), appears to me to be such, that if the second was not written by St Peter as well as the first, the person who forged it not only possessed the power of imitation in a very unusual degree, but understood likewise the design of the first epistle, with which the ancients in general appear not to have been acquainted. Now, if this be true, the supposition that the second epistle was not written by St Peter himself involves a contradiction. Nor is it credible that a pious impostor of the first or second century should have imitated St Peter so successfully as to betray no marks of a forgery; for the spurious productions said to be of those ages, and sent into the world under the names of apostles, are for the most part very unhappy imitations, and discover evident marks that they were not written by the persons to whom they are ascribed. They betray their origin by the poverty of their materials, or by the circumstance, that instead of containing original thoughts, they are nothing more than a rhapsody of sentiments collected from various parts of the Bible, and put together without plan or order (b). This charge cannot possibly be laid to the second epistle of St Peter, which is so far from containing materials derived only from other parts of the Bible, that the third chapter exhibits the discussion of a totally new subject. Lastly, it is extremely difficult even for a man of the greatest talents (and a forger cannot be supposed to have had supernatural aid) to forge a writing in the name of another, without sometimes inserting what the pretended author would not, or could not have said; and to support the imposture in so complete a manner, as to militate, in not a single instance, either against his character, or against the age in which he lived. Now in the second epistle of St Peter, though it has been a subject of examination for full seventeen hundred years, nothing has hitherto been discovered, which is unsuitable, either to the apostle, or to the apostolic age. We have no reason therefore to believe, that the second epistle of St Peter is spurious, especially as it is difficult to comprehend what motive could have induced a Christian, whether orthodox or heretic, to attempt the fabrication of such an epistle, and then falsely to ascribe it to St Peter. “The arguments in favour of the genuineness of this epistle are of two kinds, being founded on the similarity of the two epistles in respect both to their materials and to their style. “ The design of the first epistle was to assure the uncircumcised Christians, that they stood in the grace of God, as well as those who had been previously Jews. But the design of the second epistle was certainly the same with that of the first, as appears from the address (chap. i. 1.) rest isérao jai, x2xova, rior, is macom roo elow. If we explain #air as denoting us apostles, the address will imply what was wholly unnecessary, since no one could doubt that the faith of other Christians might be as good as the faith of the apostles, whilst the expression understood in this sense would betray arrogance in the writer. But if we explain air as denoting us who were born Jews, and consider that the second epistle, as well as the first, was directed to persons who were born heathens, the address becomes clear and consistent. Analoon rot Qiao will then signify the impartiality of God in estimating the faith of native heathens as highly as the faith of native Jews, which St Peter has extolled in other places (c). We shall likewise be able to explain chap. i. 5–10, which appears to contain the tautology, that “they who are diligent in good works are not idle; whereas, if this epistle be explained from the design
(a) Introduction, &c. Ch. xxviii. sect. 1. (b) Of the truth of this remark the Apostolical Constitutions £urnish a very sufficient proof. (c) Acts x. 34, 35, xv. 8, 9. 1 Peter i. 17. (d) Ch. 15, 16.