Page images

the least', and one or two Rabbies, were always the invited guests. It is obvious, therefore, that they were known to many persons, and natural to conclude, that they were communicated to many more. Such was actually the case, for fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa.” They probably remembered that some of the most distinguished patriarchs and prophets were born under circumstances resembling those of John, and, revolving in their minds this series of mysterious facts, might well ask each other, with feelings of the most intense interest, “what manner of child shall this

[ocr errors]

Such are the events, that are said to have at- i tended the conception, birth, and circumcision of John the Baptist. If true, they are unquestionably miraculous, for they fall under none of the exceptions which may be made to relations of

Buxtorf says, that the number of persons to be invited to this feast, at the circumcision, was not limited to ten; but there was always to be ten at the least. Syn. Jud. c. 2.

? This might have been rendered “circumstances;the original is, “ Távta Ta Přuuta taūta ;' in our translation, “ all these sayings;" — but that “ ta pruara. may signify things as well as words has been proved from numberless passages of the New Testament.

It is perhaps needless to observe that the Greek writers, and particularly Homer, use ρημα, έπος, and λόγος to express , a thing and action. See Soph. Ed. Tyr. 1144. Aj. 1268, &c. Not. Brunck.

3 « In circumstances parallel with those of St. John, were born of old, Isaac, and Joseph, and Samson, and Samuel. -Bp. Horne's Consid. &c. on John the Baptist:

[ocr errors]

miracles. There is no rooni for error and delusion in the parties concerned. The sudden appearance of the angel was, it is true, but momentary; but the improbable events he predicted;—the long privation of speech which Zacharias experienced ;-the exact accomplishment of the angel's predictions, and Zacharias's instantaneous recovery of speech, are circumstances entirely different from the case of transient miracles, or of those which can, in any way, be resolved into a false perception.

So irrefutable is the argument which arises from this extraordinary account, that if its truth be allowed, the divine mission of John, and consequently that of Jesus, are proved beyond dispute.

But was this relation really written by the Evangelist, whose name it bears; or, admitting its genuineness, is it free from all suspicion of falsehood ?-Such is the question which it is incumbent on us to answer, before we can make this narrative the foundation of any satisfactory argument.

In the first place we acknowledge, that attempts have been made by those who disbelieve the miraculous conception of Christ, to invalidate the authority of the two chapters, in which the above account is contained. But so slight are the grounds on which our opponents proceed, that the shortest way to refute their reasoning, is simply to state it. What should we think of the judgment and critical opinions of a man, who should express

3 These are mentioned by Paley. Evidences of Christi. anity, Part I. Prop. 2. chap. i. p. 195. See also Leslie's Short and Easy Method with the Deists.

himself in the following manner :-" I allow that “ the first two chapters of Luke are quoted by “ Justin Martyr, by Irenæus, and by Tertullian, in " the second century;-I cannot deny, that, as they “ stand, the first chapter is connected with the “ second, and the second similarly connected with " the third' ;-I must admit, that they are found in “ all the ancient manuscripts at present known, and “ even in the Syriac version, which is of the most “ remote antiquity, and of the highest authority?; – “ yet, notwithstanding the chain of testimony in “ their favour, I reject them, because they were “ wanting in the copies of Marcion, a founder of “ heretics, remarkable for his extravagant opinions, “who also rejected the preface of Luke, which I retain, and proceeded so far in his system of altera“ tions and omissions, as to deny the Old Testament “ altogether, and the New Testament, with the “ exception of one Gospel, and a few mutilated “ Epistles of St. Paul!" Yet, strange as it may seem, these are concessions which the Unitarian

1 The second chapter begins 'Eyéveto è év tais riuepais. · Now it happened in those days, &c.' The third: 'Ev čtede TTEVTEKA.dekatw... Now, in the fifteenth year, &c.'

2 Introduction to Improved Version.

3 Marcion asserted, that our Saviour was a man only in outward form ; and that he was not born like other men, but appeared on the earth full grown.

“ Of all the ancient heretics, the most extraordinary was Marcion. One of his tenets was, the rejection of the Old Testament, as proceeding from an inferior and imperfect Deity; and, in pursuance of this hypothesis, he erased from the New, and that, as it should seem, without entering into any critical 'reasons, every passage which recognized the Jewish Scriptures. He spared not a text that contradicted his opinion.” Paley's Evidences of Christianity, Part I. chap. ix. sect. 7. See Lardner's Works, Vol. IX.

must make, and these are his only reasons for endeavouring to impugn the authority of a portion of that Gospel, whose genuineness and authenticity have been confirmed by the apostolical fathers, Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, and Polycarp; by those of the second century Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and the Martyrs of Lyons; by Tertullian in the third century, by Origen, and by a long series of later writers. Such reasoning proves, not the point in debate, but the eagerness with which men believe whatever suits their prejudices, and the rashness with which they reject whatever contradicts them“. But the extreme weakness of their arguments is still more apparent, when we find that there is no foundation for their assertion, that the gospel used by Marcion was the Gospel of St. Luke. Marcion himself never maintained it was the same; nor did his followers so call ito; nor does Epiphanius describe it otherwise than as one which was, in its general style, like that of St. Luke'. So different are the fragments

° Leibnitz disoit que si les hommes avoient intérêt à nier les vérités mathématiques, ces vérités seroient mises en doute. Mde. de Stael. De La Literature, tom. II.

5 Tertullian observes that Marcion had not annexed the name of St. Luke to his copy, and adds: “ quasi non licuerit illi titulum quoque affingere, cui nefas non fuit ipsum corpus evertere.” Adv. Marcion. lib. iv. Op. p. 414.

6 See Iren. Adv. Hær.-Simon's Critical History of the Text of the New Testament.

? Adv. Hær. lib. i. p. 309. Epiphanius observes on the gospel of the Marcionites, “ ó meu xapakTrip Toù kata Aoukáv σημαίνει το ευαγγελίου ως δε ηκρωτηρίασται μήτε αρχην έχων, μήτε μέσα, μήτε τέλος, ιματίου βεβρωμένου υπό πολλών σητων ÉTTEXEL Tov Tpórov, k. 7.1." Ib. lib. i. Op. tom. I. p. 311.

of Marcion's gospel, and the corresponding passages of St. Luke's, that the most celebrated modern biblical critics? entirely deny that the former was even an altered and mutilated, much less, as the Unitarians assert, an exact and genuine copy of the latter?

No argument, therefore, can be drawn from the omission of these chapters, in the copy of Marcion ; nor is there any other reason for doubting their genuineness 3.

Griesbach maintained, that Marcion compiled a gospel of his own, for the use of his followers, from the writings of the Evangelists, and particularly of St. Luke." Hist. Text. Gr. Ep. Paul. p. 92.

Bp. Marsh thinks that “ it is probable that he used some apocryphal Gospel, which had much matter in common with that of St. Luke, but yet was not the same.” See the Arguments of Bp. Marsh in the Notes to Michaelis, Vol. III. p. 159.

2 A writer who has entered into a minute investigation of the question, concludes that the gospel of Marcion was anonymous ;-that Marcion rejected all our four Gospels, and maintained the authenticity of his own in opposition to them ;that his followers afterwards asserted that Christ himself, and St. Paul were the authors of it; and that there is no just ground for believing that Marcion had any pressing motives to induce him to adopt a garbled copy of St. Luke; and the motives assigned by the Fathers are inconsistent, and selfdestructive.—Dr. Loeffler, quoted by Horne in his “ Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.".

3 Of all the grounds, stated by Michaelis *, for suspecting a work to be spurious, none can be applied to this portion of the sacred Writings: For, in the first place, it cannot be proved that any doubts have been entertained from their first appearance whether they proceeded from St. Luke;--secondly,

it does * Marsh's Michaelis, Introduction.

« PreviousContinue »