Page images

be a reasonable ground for adhering strictly to his arrangement, if we had no other authority; for the caution, skill, and accuracy which are displayed in his other admirable history, would afford a presumption that one possessed of such advantages as he had for knowing the reality of things, and endowed with such abilities and judgment, would employ that arrangement which was best adapted for his purpose: but we might not have seen reason for the assured belief that the order which he proposed to follow was the order of time, or that in the circumstances in which he compiled his Gospel, he could always have attained it. In one portion it is clear, from internal evidence, that he has not followed it. See p. liii.

We might, à priori, reasonably expect the greatest accordance with the order of time, in that Evangelist who was a personal witness of the history he records. "St. Matthew" (says Sir Isaac Newton) "was an eyewitness of what he relates, and so tells all things in due order of time, which St. Mark and St. Luke do not."* More complete and detailed examination might have led our great philosopher to make a less unqualified statement; but the general principle is a solid one, and it deserves our adherence, unless cause can be shown to the contrary. It might have been the fact, as Mr. Veysie maintains,† that St. Matthew intentionally departed from the order of time, with a view to give his Gospel a more forcible bearing on the great purpose of it; but admitting the possibility of this, there is abundant reason to conclude that, in some cases, where his arrangement entirely differs from that of Mark and Luke, he did not knowingly depart from that order. For instance-he could not, merely for the sake of argument, have placed the cure of the Leper, ch. viii. 2, immediately after the Sermon on the Mount, when he knew that it occurred at a different period, and at the same time have so connected it with the descent from the mountain and the entrance into Capernaum, that no reader of his Gospel alone could come to any other conclusion than that it

Eichhorn says "that the facts recorded in the former part of St. Matthew's Gospel, were re-arranged by St. Matthew, according to the exact order of time, as it would be easy to show by an analysis of the several sections of which that part is composed." See Marsh's Michaelis, VOL. III. Translator's Notes, pp. 9, 10, 16. Bishop Pearce cites Hammond and Grotius as advocates for the same general view; and Campbell agrees with them.

* See Marsh's Michaelis, as above cited.

+ In pp. 74-78 of his "Examination of Mr. Marsh's Hypothesis respecting the Origin of our three first Canonical Gospels." This able treatise has not publicly undergone the critical scrutiny of the Bishop of Peterborough; but Mr. Veysie has given him abundant reason either for refuting his arguments or for abandoning his own Hypothesis; for he has shown that it neglects various opposing phenomena.

took place between those occurrences: nor could he have connected the application of Jaïrus, ch. ix. 13, with the Feast at his own house, if he knew that it occurred, as St. Luke has placed it, at a very different time, viz. after the Message of John, and even after the Parable of the Sower. The supposed system of arrangement might be well adapted to his object; but he could not have carried it so far as to sacrifice historical truth to it.

Where the relation of subject-matter, or the real connection of events with others not in close succession with them, or the want of connection with those exactly contemporaneous, or uncertainty as to the actual time. of occurrence, rendered arrangement by the order of time less convenient, or less useful, than by some other principle, there was nothing to prevent a faithful and accurately informed historian of our Lord's Ministry from departing from the order of time, provided he did not professedly unite the events together as occurring in close succession.

The constantly-occupied period which St. Matthew records in the portion that begins with ch. iv. 12 and ends with ch. xi. 1,—including the chief discrepancies in the order of time,-probably occupied, as will be shown in the Fourth Dissertation, less than the interval between the Tabernacles and the Dedication, which was about nine weeks. Now, how extremely difficult must it have been, if not impossible, for any one who was not a continual eye-witness, to have given a narrative of such a period, in strict chronological order, at the distance of thirty years from its occurrence, and after so many other interesting events: nay, how difficult would it have been for even an eye-witness to have done this, unless he had made some records at an earlier period, or satisfied himself with a few prominent facts. It must be recollected, too, when appreciating the resources of the Evangelists, that they had no maps, or public chronicles, to refer to; that, in the period peculiarly in our view, the whole series, though crowded with the most wonderful occurrences, could have, in the mind of the general observer of it, little necessary connection, in its several parts, with time and place; and that this little connection would be likely to fade from the memory of the witnesses, if they made no written records, as the distance of time increasingly made the facts themselves alone of


Those who adopt the hypothesis that one common document formed the basis of the narrative part of the first three Gospels,-whether in the refined form of it given by Bishop Marsh, or in any more satisfactory one, if such there be, can scarcely avoid his conclusion, that the accordance between Mark and Luke in connection with their discrepancy from Matthew, so far from being an objection to the chronological accuracy of Matthew, favours

the supposition that he alone followed the order of time: for why should not he, as well as Mark and Luke, have adopted the order of their common document, except from his knowledge, as a personal witness, that it was not chronologically correct? If it were replied that he departed from it for another purpose, such as Mr. Veysie supposed, we might repeat the remarks already offered against his supposition.

That in forming a chronological arrangement of the events in our Lord's Ministry, the order of those recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel should have a general preference over that in St. Luke's, depends for its support on the following considerations:

1. He lived in the very district where, and at the time when, those events occurred respecting which there is the main diversity of arrangement; he was personally acquainted with many of them, had an adequate knowledge of all, and knew all the circumstances of locality, &c.

2. With fewer details respecting the facts which he has recorded than we often find in St. Luke's Gospel, St. Matthew commonly gives more definite indications of time and place. Throughout the whole of his Gospel, excepting in his record of the first days in Jerusalem at the last Passover, and that of the period following the Mission of the Apostles, there is no difficulty in tracing the course of events on a map and by a calendar, without the aid of the other Gospels.* On the the other hand,-though St. Luke sometimes supplies a more distinct specification than the other two Gospels give, and shows, by chronological particularity where it was attainable by him, (as in ch. iii. 1, 2. vi. 1. ix. 28, 37, 51), that he made it an object of inquiry,-yet the attentive reader may find several indications of his not possessing all the information as to time and place which we can derive from the other Gospels: for instance, he does not advert to the special commencement of our Lord's Public Preaching in Galilee as taking place immediately after the Imprisonment of the Baptist; and though, from St. Matthew, ch. ix. 1, we know that the cure of the Paralytic took place at Capernaum, on our Lord's return from the country of the Gadarenes, and just before he called Matthew himself to attend his Ministry, yet Luke, though he mentions circumstances which Matthew does not, speaks of it, ch. v. 17, as being on one of the days', and gives no clue to the place where it was wrought. See Harm. p. 80.


* Dr. Priestley, in his Observations on the Harmony of the Evangelists, p. 75, says that he pays 66 but little regard to the order of St. Matthew's Gospel, before the history of his own call to attend upon Jesus" yet the only transposition which he makes, is of four verses (ch. viii. 14-17) which, from considering the place in the Gospel of Peter s friend, I also transpose. See Harm. p. 51.

3. Though the conviction of the preferableness of St. Matthew's order over that of St. Luke, must, as far as it respects the phenomena of the Gospels themselves, depend more upon an accumulation of numerous indications, often differently appreciated by different judges, rather than upon any single consideration, yet there is one that is sufficiently decisive, and which has already been adverted to, viz. that founded upon the connection of the application of Jaïrus with Matthew's Feast, which succeeded, at a short interval, his Call to be a constant follower of Christ. That period must have been very impressive to Matthew; and his narrative, ch. viii. 18-ix. 26, though commonly very succinct, is too closely connected in its various parts to allow of the supposition that it essentially departs from the real succession of events. After recording the stilling of the storm, and the cure of the Gadarene dæmoniac, he gives, as immediately succeeding the latter, a brief account of the cure of the paralytic at Capernaum, and connects with it, in close succession, the circumstances of his own Call. He then speaks of our Lord's being at his table, with various other persons; and he represents Jaïrus as making application to him for his daughter, while engaged there in conversation with the disciples of John, and records our Lord's following Jaïrus, and, on the way to his house, restoring the health of the disordered woman. What considerations can authorize the separation of this application of Jaïrus from our Lord's visit to Matthew, by those who knew what Matthew himself has recorded? Mark and Luke could not have known this. In their Gospels, the stilling of the storm, the cure of the Gadarene dæmoniacs, the restoration of the woman, and the raising of Jaïrus's daughter, are placed in uninterrupted succession, after the selection of the Apostles; and the cure of the paralytic, with the call of Levi, i. e. Matthew, and the conversation of our Lord at his table, are entirely separated from the former series, and placed before the selection of the Apostles. If no probable reason could be assigned for this remarkable agreement with each other, while these Gospels are inconsistent, as to the succession of events, with St. Matthew's, still would the difficulty present no adequate reason to relinquish the express testimony of Matthew concerning what took place at his own table.*

To vindicate the general preference of St. Matthew's order over St.

In the Appendix to this Dissertation, an analysis will be found of that leading division of St. Mark's and St. Luke's Gospels which respects the Ministry of Christ in Galilee; and it may assist in accounting for the order of events actually adopted in that division but my conviction of the general preferableness of St. Matthew's succession of events, does not depend on it.


Luke's, in that portion of the history where alone there is real disagreement, it seems sufficient to show, which has now been done, that the latter, in a striking series of occurrences, is directly opposed to the former; and that, from the circumstances of the case, the succession of events, as given by Matthew, must be that of actual occurrence.

The diversity between St. Mark's order and that of Matthew, would, of itself, cause no difficulty in selecting the latter as the basis. The succession of events, (without reference to omissions), is, in some parts, accordant with that of Matthew. This is the case in ch. i. 16—ii. 22, with the exception of the cure of Peter's Wife's Mother; in ch. iv. 35— v. 43; and in the portion onward from vi. 14. But in the portion preceding the death of John and the return of the Apostles, taken as a whole, there is, in St. Mark's Gospel, an obvious want of coherent successiveness; and, except where he expressly connects events together, by notes of time or place, I should feel no hesitation in leaving his order for that of Matthew, even though the reasons for adopting the latter were much less weighty than it has been shown that they are.

SECT. VI. On the Extent to which the Order of St. Luke's Gospel is


The declaration with which St. Luke begins his inestimable record, has never been lost sight of through the whole of this Dissertation; and it is now the time to state its import, in relation to the succession of events. is closely rendered in the first page of the following Harmony.


The only expression respecting the force of which there can be any material doubt, is kaεns. The common rendering' in order', in connection with with the regularly-historical character of the book of the Acts, and impressions derived from the statements of Beza, Le Clerc, and others, gives to most general readers the idea that St. Luke has drawn up his Gospel in the exact order in which events occurred. There can be no doubt that he would arrange his materials in the order of occurrence, in proportion as he could ascertain it, and unless the connection of subject rendered a departure from it expedient. Indeed, when we observe that, after his general introduction, the Evangelist first relates what he had learnt of the birth and early history of the Baptist and of Christ; that he then gives a general view of the Baptist's Ministry, next of Christ's Ministry, first in Galilee, and then, as it appears, in the Peræa; that he then records the occurrences on the road to the Passover, and lastly the transactions at Jerusalem from our Lord's arrival there to his Ascension ;-we

« PreviousContinue »