A Series of Ten Lectures
Authenticity of the Gospels
GENUINENESS OF THE GOSPELS.
-TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIAN FATHERS.
- OF HERETICS.
- OF ENEMIES.
- RULES OP EVIDENCE.
- AUTHENTICITY OF THE GOSPELS.
- THEIR AUTHORS COMPETENT WITNESSES.
- THE GOSPELS COMPLEMENTING AND INTERPRETING ONE ANOTHER.
IN my last Lecture I sought to prove the antiquity of the Gospels. I showed you that we have reason to believe that they could not have been written later than the apostolic age; that is, that they are undoubtedly works of the first Christian century. We will now consider the proof that they were written by the men whose names they bear.
The first question that suggests itself is, Why should we not believe that the Gospels were written by these men? We have precisely the same reason for so believing that we have for our belief in authorship generally. When we find an author's name attached to a book with the earliest mention of it, and that name remains so attached from generation to generation without its rightful use being once called in question, the probability is little less than certainty that the name properly belongs to it. Thus, although there is no quotation or mention of the " Theogony " or of the " Works and Days " until some four hundred years from the time when they were written, because when mention of them is first found they are spoken of as Hesiod's, and no doubt is expressed as to their authorship in the age when such reasons for doubt as there might have been could not have grown obsolete, classical scholars have consented to call them Hesiod's, with a unanimity broken only by certain extremists of that class of critics whose fundamental canon is that " things are not what they seem." The Histories of Herodotus and Thucydides are known to be theirs only on this ground; and the case is the same with most books, modern no less than ancient. We have no detailed account of their inception, writing, and publication. All that we know is, that a certain book appeared under a certain name, and that no one ever gainsaid that name, or suggested that another name ought to have taken its place. Now, these four Gospels of ours are called the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as early as we can find any traces of their existence : they were never called by the names of any other men; nor, so far as I know, till the last century, did any one ever deny or doubt that they were written by these men.
But we are not left to this general consideration. We can, with entire distinctness and confidence, trace the very four Gospels that we now have as not only in existence, but universally received in the Church, under the names which they now bear, at a period so early that a false theory as to their origin could not by any possibility have obtained undisputed currency. In this line of argument I need but two names. There is, indeed, a cloud of witnesses that might be adduced; and the Christian apologist finds his only embarrassment, not that of penury, but that of superabundant wealth. The voluminous testimony of the first four centuries is invaluable : there is ready access to it in Lardner's great work and in other less complete collections; but there is no subject to which we might apply with more literal truth than to this the scriptural saying, " Out of the mouth of two or three witnesses the whole matter shall be established."
My chief witnesses are Origen and Irenasus. Origen was born about A.D. 185, and was known as a scholar and a writer till after the middle of the third century. He was, perhaps, the most learned man of his time, and realized more fully than any other person in classic or Christian antiquity the idea which we attach to the designation of a critical scholar. He prepared with great skill and care what would now be called a critical edition of the Septuagint, collated with other Greek versions of the Old Testament. He was a zealous collector of manuscripts, having by his spiritual services secured for his literary pursuits the affluent aid of a man of large wealth. He, in his various books, quotes from our present Gospels so copiously that, were they lost, we could almost replace them from his quotations. He describes the four Gospels, and names their authors, giving the order of their composition precisely as they are arranged in our present Bible, He speaks of them as " the elements of the faith of the Church; " again, as " not rare books, read only by a few studious persons, but in the most common use;" still farther, as " received without controversy; " and yet once more, as " believed by all the churches of God." He was in the habit of comparing different copies of the Gospels, arid commenting on the various readings which he found, which are in every instance identical with or similar to the Various readings to be collected from now existing manuscripts. There is not the faintest indication that the Gospels which Origen used contained any thing that is not in our present Gospels; while the great number and variety of his quotations from them, his comments on their phraseology, his frequent analysis and exposition of single texts from them word by word, and his repeated mention of the various readings, render it absolutely certain that he had in his hands our present four Gospels substantially as they are now. As Origen was of Christian parentage, of liberal education, and a public teacher of religion from the age of seventeen, his testimony must of necessity cover the whole period embraced within his personal memory. The Gospels must have been regarded in his youth and childhood as he regarded them; else, whatever his own opinion of them, he could not have spoken pf them as universally received without controversy.
Irenasus died about the time of Origen's entrance on public life. He was contemporary with Clement of Alexandria, who was Origen's teacher. He thus represents the generation from which Origen derived his knowledge of the Gospels and his reverence for them. He was a man of no little learning, very extensive travel, and high official standing. He is spoken of by Tertullian as " a diligent inquirer into all sorts of opinions." He was a native of Asia Minor, was for many years a bishop in Gaul, and had numerous correspondents in all parts of the world in which Christianity had gained a foothold. He, beyond a doubt, had received the very same traditions about the Gospels that were transmitted to Origen, and it is certain that he had in his possession precisely the same Gospels. He writes, " We have not received the knowledge of the way of salvation by any others than those by whom the Gospel has come down to us; which Gospel they first preached, and afterward, by the will of God, committed to writing that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith." He then goes on to describe the four Gospels, the circumstances of their composition, and the precise view with which each was written. He cites the opening sentences of each of the four, which correspond verbally with the first sentences of our Gospels. He quotes frequently from the Gospels, and the passages quoted are in every instance to be found in our Gospels. He gives a detailed catalogue of the contents of Luke's Gospel, discriminating those portions which are peculiar to Luke from those which are common to him and one or more of the other evangelists. There cannot be the slightest doubt that he had the same Gospels that we have, and that he believed them to have been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who had been a disciple of the evangelist John, and he tells of Poly-carp's relating his conversations with John and others who had been with Jesus, and of his repeating what he had heard from these eye and ear witnesses about the preaching and the miracles of Jesus, all of which, he says, Polycarp described " in accordance with what is written," that is, in the Gospels. Irenæus must have been born a little before the death of John the evangelist. If the Gospels were of post-apostolic authorship, they must have been written during his lifetime. He was, as we have seen, familiar with the traditions of the apostolic times; and he records as among these traditions the names of the authors of the Gospels, the circumstances under which they were written, and the reasons for writing each of them. He knew whether Polycarp had these books, and held them in veneration. If he had never heard of them from Polycarp, it would not have been possible to palm them off upon him as apostolic writings, and to make him believe that they had come down as such without Polycarp's knowing any thing about them. Strauss (in his " Life of Jesus for the German People ") and the Tubingen critics say that the Gospel of John could not have been written before A.D. 150, and they date those of Mark and Luke but about fifteen years earlier. In A.D. 150, Irenæus cannot have been much less than forty years of age, and had already been for some years a preacher of Christianity; yet, according to these critics, he was made to believe that brand-new books, of which he had never heard from his teachers or from his seniors in the Christian ministry, were really written by members of the apostolic company, and constituted, as he styles them, " the pillar and foundation of the Church which is spread over all the earth." It is perfectly evident that books of which Irenæus speaks so confidently could not have been written in his time, but must have been regarded by his venerable teacher and by Christians contemporary with him in the same light in which Irenaeus himself regarded them.
Let us review the several stages of our argument. Origen's numerous quotations and textual criticisms enable us to identify the Gospels which he had with our own. He speaks of their unquestioned and universal reception and authority in his time as writings of the apostolic age. That reception and authority could not have begun to be in his lifetime; else it could not have been universal and unquestioned. Irenæus belonged to the generation from which Origen must have derived his Christian traditions. Irenæus gives accounts of the Gospels coinciding point for point with those of Origen, and quotes from them so copiously, and describes them so minutely, as to make it certain that he had the same Gospels. Irenaeus received his Christian traditions from those who had been intimately acquainted with the apostles and their friends, and who could not have been mistaken as to the books purporting to have emanated from that circle.
I might close my argument here; but I will ask leave to dwell a little longer on the testimony of Irenæus, in connection with parallel testimonies of similar bearing. Contemporary with Irenaeus in Gaul, were Theophilus at Antioch, Tertullian at Carthage, and Clement at Alexandria. They all quote, as from the Gospels, passages that are in our Gospels; they all speak of the Gospels as works of the apostolic age and of unquestioned authority; and Tertullian and Clement give descriptions of them and of the circumstances and causes of their authorship closely resembling those of Irenæus. The first remark to be made on their testimony is, that it is not theirs alone. They were representative men, official personages, organs of Christian communities. They cite and describe the Gospels, not merely as histories which they receive, but as books approved and believed, received and read, by all Christian men. Their voice is that of the whole Church.
In the next place, Irenaeus and his contemporaries, by their testimony, render it certain that these Gospels were generally and numerously diffused in every part of the Church; that is, that there existed many thousand copies of them : and their quotations are sufficiently ample and various to show that they had not different but the same books under the name of Gospels in Gaul, at Antioch, at Carthage, and at Alexandria. Books were then multiplied and circulated with a slowness of which it is now hard to conceive. It must have taken a. longer period than the lifetime of one generation to give these books the universal currency which it appears that they had in the latter part of the second century. Suppose them written (as Strauss and Baur maintain that they were) when Irenaeus was a young man in Asia Minor, it is utterly impossible that, by the time he was established as a bishop in the heart of Gaul, they should have obtained such a circulation and prestige in every part of the empire as to make him forget that he had never seen them or heard of them in his youth, and imagine that they had been books of standard authority before he was born. This hypothesis trenches so far on the miraculous that we can hardly conceive of it as tenable in quarters where miracles are repudiated with scorn.
Irenæus is probably the earliest author who expressly mentions the four Gospels, and formally quotes from either of them; and this corresponds to what we should expect on the ground stated in my last lecture. As we recede nearer the apostolic age, we find in the Christian writers coincidence without formal quotation. There is one of these writers, however, who forms, as it were, an intermediate link between the epoch of express quotation and that of non-quotation; and who has often been adduced as a virtual witness against the antiquity and genuineness of the Gospels. I refer to Justin Martyr. It is urged as a conclusive argument for the non-apostolic and late origin of our Gospels that he does not once mention them; while yet, in his own words and way, he gives almost their entire contents, occasionally referring to what he calls " Memoirs. by the Apostles," and in one place, " Memoirs by the Apostles, which are called Gospels." It is alleged that these Memoirs could not have been identical with our Gospels, inasmuch as Justin relates some, though very few sayings of Jesus and incidents in his life, which are not to be found in our Gospels (see Appendix II, Note B). As for his omission of the names of the evangelists, it must be remembered that his extant writings are chiefly apologetic, addressed to heathen emperors, and designed for heathen readers, to whom the names of those obscure Jewish writers would have been a matter of indiffer-ence. Then too, Justin, though not many years earlier than Irenaeus, was born in Samaria, spent a large part of his life in Palestine, and must have had numerous sources of information by tradition or from the narratives of survivors of the apostolic age, entirely independent of the written Gospels, which then held by no means the sole and undivided place as repertories of knowledge about Jesus Christ which the next genera-tion assigned to them, and were not read so constantly, and so absorbed word by word into the memory, as they were when the links of oral tradition became feeble and treacherous. Justin had, no doubt, heard a great deal more about Jesus than he had read. He had heard many of those things which, it is said in the sequel to the fourth Gospel, were too numerous to be written; and a few of them - probably authentic; for they are not in a single instance inconsistent in time, place, or character with our canonical Gospels - found their way into his treatises. He writes, as it seems to me, about the life of Christ very much as we < should write about our late civil war for the information of foreign and unfriendly readers. We should have Abbot's, Greeley's, and other histories at hand, to refresh or verify our recollection; and we should be very likely to mention these histories collectively, " As we read in the histories of the time;" but we should hardly name them, seldom quote them, should, for the most part, tell in our own way what we had seen or heard at the time, or had learned afterward from those personally concerned in the events narrated, and should undoubtedly tell some things that are not recorded in the histories. I have no doubt that it is our four Gospels to which Justin so often refers; but, even were it otherwise, his testimony is none the less valuable, as it shows that there were afloat and on record, in the generation next succeeding the apostles, the same accounts of Jesus Christ that are contained in our Gospels, and no account of a different style or tenor (see Appendix II, Note C).
It is often alleged, in answer to the arguments for the genuineness of the Gospels, that the early Christian centuries were an uncritical age, when questions of authorship were not likely to be discussed, and when a false name might have easily become attached to any writing without protest or inquiry. We have, however, ample reason for the opposite opinion. I do not remember, indeed, any classic writing of those times, in which, the specific question of the genuineness of a book is discussed; but there are treatises of Cicero and chapters of Quinctilian which are masterworks of critical skill and acumen, showing precisely that keen curiosity and close observation as to the details, conditions, and surroundings of literary composition, which constitute the art of the modern critic. Among Christian writers, Origen may be fittingly termed an eminently discriminating and skilful critical editor of the Septuagint; while his labors on the New Testament show a careful comparison of texts, and a clear recognition of the canons by which decision is to be made in doubtful cases. Then, as regards the special question of authorship, we have in a well-known passage of Eusebius, in the half-century next succeeding that in which Origen died, proof that the importance of the inquiry was fully understood, and that special care had been bestowed upon its answer. Eusebius was a man of very great learning. He undertook to write the history of the Church; and prepared himself for this work by extended study, travel, and correspondence, and by collecting, at great expense, from every portion of the empire such books as might aid him in his enterprise. His work shows manifest tokens of the most faithful research into the beginnings and early growth of Christianity, and a diligent and judicious use of all authorities extant. He divides the books in the hands of Christians into three classes, - those acknowledged as genuine, among which are our four Gospels; books disputed, though well known, and approved by many, among which are included most of the (so-called) Catholic Epistles; and those which are undoubtedly spurious. He expresses doubt whether the Apocalypse belongs to the first or the third class; that is, whether the apostle John's name had been truly or falsely connected with it. In a subsequent sentence, he speaks of some books as disputed, notwithstanding that they are recognized by most ecclesiastical writers. What could demonstrate more clearly than such language as this, that the authorship of the sacred books had been subjected to searching investigation, and that these Gospels of ours, as contradistinguished from books recognized by most, had been recognized by all Christian writers?
Nor let it be imagined that Eusebius was ready to accept testimony without challenging the witnesses. I know of hardly a finer specimen of the acute and skilled sifting of testimony than his chapter about Papias. He, in the first place, corrects a careless statement of Irenæus about Papias. Then, speaking of Papias as a man of limited understanding, he rejects certain traditions reported by him from unknown sources, but lays emphatic stress on such as he professed to have received directly from the companions of the apostles. From this same Papias he quotes a cursory mention of Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, and a statement which shows what I have already dwelt upon, that books like the Gospels, however genuine and authentic, could not be estimated at their full value, so long as oral tradition remained fresh and clear. " I do not think," Papias is quoted as saying, " that I derived so much benefit from books as from the living voice of those that are still surviving." (see Appendix II, Note D)
I have thus far drawn testimony only from men who were in the direct line of spiritual descent from the reputed writers of the Gospels; and though they had the best opportunities of knowing that of which they testi-fied, it may be said that their subjective faith, which may have been the result less of evidence than of personal influence, made them partial witnesses for the reputed records of their faith. The same cannot be said, however, of the Gnostics, who had every possible motive to throw the Gospels into discredit, if they could have done so with any show of reason. The theology of the Gnostics was an incongruous and deformed hybrid of the Oriental Dualism and Christianity. All their mumerous sects were agreed in maintaining that the supremely good God of the New Testament was a different being from the God of the Old Testament, who was the creator of the world and the author of the Mosaic theocracy; and that Jesus descended from heaven, not in body,-for he had no body, - but in spirit, to reveal the supremely good God, and to put away the imperfection and evil that deformed the earthly domain of the Creator. Of these sects, the Marcionites received as of authority the Gospel of Luke, with some omissions of passages unfavorable to their views, and disavowed the authority of the other three, not because they questioned their genuineness, but for a reason which only bears added attestation to their genuineness, - because they were so thoroughly Jewish. The remaining sects of Gnostics received all four of the Gospels as genuine, and quoted them constantly in their controversial writings, garbling them, indeed, and putting text and text together, so as often to elicit from the two a meaning that can have belonged to neither. Irenæus and Tertullian are full of complaints about their methods of quoting the Gospels. Irenaeus says, - and the sentence, for the indirect evidence it gives, is worth volumes of more direct testimony,- "There is such assurance concerning the Gospels, that the heretics themselves bear testimony to them, and every one of them endeavors to prove his doctrines from them."
Now it is certain that the Gnostics derived no countenance for their
views from the Gospels. It would have been very much to their purpose to
prove these books to be of late or doubtful origin, jottings down of floating
traditions, or compilations by unauthorized editors. It cost them a vast
amount of trouble, contradiction, and absurdity, to quote the Gospels as
they persisted in doing; and their persistency is to be accounted for only
on the ground that they believed the Gospels to have emanated from the
apostolic circle. Moreover, as Gnosticism may be traced back to the very
lifetime of the apostles, and as the Gnostics would have run counter to
all known laws of belief and action, had they midway on their career accepted
as of primitive authority books that then first came to hand, the conclusion
is inevitable that the Gospels are as old as Gnosticism, and, if so, that
they are in date and authority what they purport to be.
The early writers against Christianity may also be cited as witnesses to the genuineness of the Gospels. They quote very largely from the Gospels, assume their contents as the basis and substance of Christian belief, and refer to them as written by the immediate disciples of Jesus. Only one of these hostile writers lived early enough to be of importance as a direct witness to primitive tradition; namely, Celsus, who was contemporary with Irenaeus. His book is lost; but we have Origen's answer to it, in which he constantly quotes the very words of Celsus. In these numerous extracts the author perpetually refers to narratives and sayings contained in our Gospels, so as to make it certain that he had these and no other written records of the faith which he assailed; and he speaks of the statements thus quoted as "written by the disciples," and, in one instance, as " your own writings, in addition to which we need no other testimony." These books cannot, therefore, have been just coming into circulation in the time of Irenaeus; but must even then have been currently regarded, by enemies no less than by friends, as works of the primitive disciples. The other hostile writers who might be named, like Celsus, treat the Gospels as the undisputed records of what Jesus was believed by his disciples to have done and said; and they are of the same value as witnesses with such Christian writers as were contemporary with them respectively.
(The testimony in behalf of Christianity, derived from the writings of its early Pagan and Jewish adversaries, is exhibited with equal thoroughness and candor, in the second volume of "Lowell Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity," by John G. Palfrey, D.D., LL.D.)
I have thus shown you, in the last and in the present lecture, that the testimony of orthodox Christians, heretics, and enemies, is unanimous and manifold in affirming the authorship of our Gospels in the apostolic age by primitive disciples, and, wherever names are given, by the men whose names are now attached to them. This authorship has been denied, not on the ground of the discovery of any new testimony, but on the score of the alleged inadequacy of that which has been cited. To me it seems more than sufficient, even had there been adverse opinions in the third and fourth centuries, of which we find not a vestige. Opinions of later times have no validity as evidence. We may apply here a principle of evidence recognized in all the courts of Christendom; namely, that involved in the statute of limitations, which is not a decree of arbitrary legislation, but a law of nature and a dictate of common sense. Permit me to illustrate its application here.
(The author is indebted for the suggestion of this legal analogy, as also for a similar analogy introduced at the close of the third Lecture, to his friend Rev. Francis Wharton, D.D., LL.D., whose well-known legal acumen and learning are most happily employed in the defence and illustration of the Christian faith and its records.)
If against a claim openly made and maintained, there be valid adverse
claims, it is morally certain that they will be presented while the evidence
for them is fresh, the witnesses living, and the whole case capable of
being carefully revised. Experience in different countries and ages can
easily determine the extreme limit of time within which valid counter-claims
are likely to appear. After this limit is passed, if adverse claims are
presented, not only the legal, but the moral probability is that they are
fraudulent claims, set on foot for base ends, in reliance on the absence
of original witnesses or the disappearance of original documents.
The first three Christian centuries were a period of perpetual conflict between Christianity and rival pre-established religions. During this whole time - of which we have many surviving literary monuments, not a few fragments of the writings of enemies, and, in the works of the Christian apologists, the precise moulds in which objections were cast (for the answers of course show what the objections were) - we have not the slightest trace of a doubt as to the genuineness of the Gospels. During this same period there were, also, in the Church heresies wild and strange, forms of belief so thoroughly extra-Christian in their origin and type, that we can hardly imagine how their disciples could have coveted and claimed the Christian name. Though one and another of these sects, on doctrinal grounds, disclaimed the authority of portions of this or that Gospel, and one of them set aside three of the Gospels, - just as Luther, without doubting that St. James wrote the epistle that bears his name, called it an epistle of straw, because he did not like its doctrines, - there is not on record a single instance in which any heretical sect or writer denied the genuineness of either of the Gospels. They would have been greatly relieved and comforted by such denial; that they did not make it proves that they could not make it. Now if with the means of establishing the spuriousness of these writings within reach; with the origins of Christianity familiarly known by intelligent and hostile Jews scattered all over the world, and by not a few of the cosmopolitan Roman officials of various grades, civil and military, who, for a time in Palestine, were subsequently dispersed through the empire, - if, I say, with these materials for sustaining the adverse charge, the early authorship of the Gospels by their reputed writers remained unquestioned, subsequent doubts might seem ruled out by a reasonable statute of limitations. If there existed actual grounds for such doubts, they would have been exhibited and urged in the primitive ages, when the materials for substantiating them still existed. Doubts that have sprung up almost in our own time might be fairly dismissed without examining their alleged merits, as we would dismiss, without examination, a legal claim which had been suffered to lie over for many years by those who had the strongest interest in maintaining it, if valid. It is not my intention, however, to leave these doubts unexamined. Those that relate to the testimony of the early centuries have been already considered. Others, based on the contents of the Gospels, will come before us in due time.
I have confined myself thus far to the question of the genuineness of the Gospels. Their authenticity will he a subject of future inquiry. But I will avail myself of the few moments that remain of the present hour to offer some preliminary considerations on this head.
In the first place, the genuineness of these writings is of itself a strong argument for their authenticity. The authors had the best opportunities for knowing what they recorded. Matthew and John were the companions of Jesus for many months, and John took care of the mother of Jesus after her Son had departed from the earth. The house of Mark's mother was one of the rallying points for the Christians of Jerusalem shortly after their Master had left them; and there is, therefore, hardly a doubt that he and his mother had been disciples of Jesus during his lifetime. Moreover, uniform tradition assures us that Mark's Gospel was virtually Peter's, Mark having written what he heard from Peter; and there are in the Gospel strong marks of the fervid genius of Peter, especially in the preservation, in several instances, of the precise Syro-Chaldaic words used by Jesus under circumstances of peculiar interest. Such a mind as Peter's would have treasured up the mere sounds that fell from his Master's lips, and he would have been the very man to reproduce them even where they were unintelligible till interpreted. Luke was an intimate friend of the apostles : his name is found in some old lists of the seventy disciples, - lists, indeed, whose authenticity cannot be affirmed, yet which are from their very nature among the things least likely to be forged; and so graphic is his description of the walk to Emmaus, that I cannot resist the belief that he was the companion of Cleopas on that memorable occasion. These men had, then, the requisite knowledge.
Had they any motive for writing such narratives, if they knew them to be false? We can conceive of none. On the other hand, it was for their earthly interest to suppress the whole marvellous story, or to leave it to take shape as it might, if they knew it to be true. They had nothing to gain, and every thing to lose, by writing and circulating such narratives as these books contain. For the cause in behalf of which they wrote, they and all their associates were sufferers, many even to death.
But might they not have been deluded? Their style is not that of madmen, or of men laboring under hallucination. They write very calmly. No one can talk about the events they describe with as little emotion as they manifest in writing about them. I know of no way of accounting for a style like theirs, except by supposing that they had become so much accustomed to experiences on a higher plane than that of common humanity as to be almost unconscious of their unique position, - just as natives of Switzerland might talk and write quietly and coldly about snow-peaks, glaciers, and avalanches, the very thought of which quickens our pulses, and as to which we are capable only of glowing and enthusiastic utterance.
It next claims our emphatic notice, that the relation of these four books to one another is such as to confirm the authenticity of each and all. The writers manifestly did not copy from one another. The resemblances and parallelisms of the synoptic Gospels will be a subject for distinct consideration hereafter, and may, I think, be fully accounted for. But that they were not copyists of one another's books is very manifest, both from the materials of transcendent interest peculiar to each, which no copyist would have been willing to omit, and from the frequent occurrence of just such unessential discrepancies as would naturally and necessarily be found in independent narratives. Then, too, in every instance in which a many-sided action is described, each writes as if he had regarded it from a different point of view. Thus, in the narrative of the resurrection of Jesus, while they all record the main fact and a very few of the accessory facts, each relates circumstances which may have escaped the notice or eluded the knowledge of the others, had they belonged to different groups of disciples, or lodged at different houses, or first became apprised of what was taking place at different moments of that eventful day.
There are also many cases in which one of the Gospels supplies what is necessary to the clear understanding of the others. For instance, in each of the first three Gospels we have a list of the twelve apostles. In Matthew and Luke the lists are given in pairs, " Simon and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew;" but there appears no reason for so grouping them. In Mark's Gospel they are not thus grouped; but in that alone we are told that Jesus sent them forth to preach "by two and two."
Another case of the same kind may be found in the narrative of Christ's appearance before Pilate. According to Luke, he is charged with calling himself a king. Pilate asks if he is the king of the Jews, and on his admitting the charge, strangely enough for a Roman procurator, says at once, " I find no fault in him." This can be explained only by John's narrative, in which Jesus says to Pilate, " My kingdom is not of this world. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice; " that is, belongs to my kingdom. Pilate, thus convinced that as against the Roman sovereignty the alleged kingship has no significance, says very naturally, and in accordance with the fitness of his official position, " I find no fault in him."
These are specimens of numerous instances in which one evangelist, after the manner of an un-artistic, inexperienced writer, tells but part of a story, omitting what alone could fully explain it, and the explanation is supplied by a like fragmentary statement of another of the four. In fine, the Gospels are full, not of superficial, obtrusive coincidences, which are always suspicious and always abound in falsified narratives, but of latent coincidences, such as reveal themselves only on close inspection and diligent study, such as could never have been invented or contrived, such as can be explained by no hypothesis other than the substantial truth of the several narratives.
We have lingered thus far, as it were, in the outer courts. In the next
Lecture we will approach - may it be with profound and loving reverence
! - the holy of holies, and consider Jesus himself, in the human and divine
personality in which his historians present him, as the most conclusive
argument for the authenticity of those biographies which enshrine the faith
and hope of our race.