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ART. III.-THE RELATION OF THE THIRD TO
THE FIRST TWO GOSPELS.
Jo. Jac. Griesbachii Commentatio quo Marci Evangelium
totum a Matthæi et Lucæ Commentariis decerptum esse monstratur. (Opuscula Academica, Vol. II., ed. Gabler. Jenæ, 1825.)
We may seem to be assuming to ourselves the province of Retrospective reviewers, in calling attention to an article so long before the world, as that of which we have just written the title. But as we intend to controvert the opinion that Mark has epitomized Matthew and Luke, and to claim for him the character of being the earliest of our Lord's biographers, we know not how we could proceed more fairly than by giving our readers notice that we have against us the judgment of one of the most eminent of modern critics of the New Testament. We do not, however, intend to enter into a minute examination of Griesbach's arguments. He has proved, what the inspection of a Harmony is sufficient to show, that nearly the whole of Mark is to be found either in Matthew or Luke; but the more important question, which has been the borrower, he passes over very lightly indeed. He seems almost tó have taken it for granted that the shorter Gospel must be an abridgment of the longer. Yet if Mark, with the other Gospels before him, really designed to make an abridgment of them, he entitled himself to small thanks from those into whose hand his work came to the exclusion of the originals. The authors of Abridgments have never held a very high place among literary labourers; but we should be sorry to think that they could plead such a precedent as the Evangelist would in this case have afforded them. Let us conceive of an author sitting down to abridge Matthew, and leaving out the whole of the Sermon on the Mount; or with Luke before him, omitting the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and Dives and Lazarus, the raising of the Widow's Son, the cure of the Ten Lepers, and the scene in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Never was parchnent or papyrus more injudiciously
economised. Griesbach has not indeed overlooked the fact that Mark, whom he supposes to be the epitomater of Matthew and Luke, relates the same events as they do, often in a manner the most opposite to that of an epitome, adding minute circumstances to their more general narratives. In replying to the hypothesis of Storr, that Matthew and Luke had the Gospel of Mark before them, and copied from him the passages in which they coincide, he actually argues that this cannot have been the
because “ Mark sometimes surpasses Matthew in the perspicuity and distinctness of his narrative; nay, even is more accurate, and approaches nearer to the truth of facts, so that it is inexplicable why Matthew should in these instances have deserted him, while he elsewhere follows his footsteps.” The superiority thus assigned to the non-apostle over the apostle, the second-hand relator over the eye-witness, is extraordinary, and very little accordant with the character of an epitomater. The hypothesis of which it is a necessary part will lose all probability, if we can show, as we trust we shall, that Matthew had a reason for his variations from Mark, in cases where, as Griesbach admits, Mark has related most accurately.
We are not about to discuss the question respecting the origin of the verbal harmony between the three first Gospels. We confess ourselves not satisfied with the original hypothesis of Eichhorn respecting the Urevangelium, nor its modifications by Marsh and others, nor with Mr. Norton's, of an oral tradition, formed by repetitions of the Gospel-history, in the apostolical preaching, and finally consigned to writing.* No doubt, if we can establish the priority of Mark's gospel to the others, it will go far to confirm the opinion that he was copied by his successors. But what we shall endeavour is to show from internal evidence, that his narrative, whenever published, was at least written before the other two, and represents therefore a tradition or recollection of our Lord's actions and teaching nearer to the time of his ministry than either Matthew's or Luke's. In conducting our inquiry, we must deal with the Evangelists as human biographers, not only possessing no supernatural sources of knowledge, nor
guarded from error by any divine superintendence, but men of " like infirmities with ourselves," and exposed to the influences of their age, their country, and their personal connections. Unless this be allowed in its fullest extent, there is no scope for our criticism. The Deus e machina puts an end at once to all human agency, and all reasoning upon human probabilities.
The very opening of the Gospel of Mark suggests the idea that it was written by one who had not acquired a notion of the relation in which the events he records stood to the history of the world, and therefore takes no pains to connect it with that history. Beyond its internal connection with the preaching of the Baptist and the procuratorship of Pilate, things essential to the narrative, there is nothing to fix the date of our Saviour's ministry. Nothing either in its opening or elsewhere has any reference to a future reader; it appears more like a private record of facts which the author wished to preserve, than a book to be given to the world. How different in this respect are all the other gospels ! Matthew* fixes the birth of Jesus to the reign of Herod the Great, and by implication the latter part of that reign, a date sufficient for the Jews, for whose special benefit according to the most credible accounts his gospel was written. The introduction to Luke's gospel on the other hand reveals a time when the ministry of Christ had become an event in the world's history, and therefore needed to be attached to the great chronological chain by a fixed and formal date. He not only tells us who was governor of Syria when the enrolment took place which caused his mother's visit to Bethlehem, but his own age at the beginning of his ministry, and enumerates all the rulers civil and spiritual of Judæa and the adjoining countries at the commencement of the Baptist's preaching. He writes at a time, too, when many had already taken the same subject in hand, and is anxious to impress his readers with the idea that he has used all diligence in preparing his own work. John's gospel is equally devoid with Mark's of all reference to chronology, but from a very different cause. He regarded the ministry of his master altogether in its spiritual, not at all in its external relation. “ The kingdom God or of Heaven," which forms so prominent a topic in the other Evangelists, and to which some ideas, more or less refined, of an outward and visible manifestation of divine power, was always attached, occurs only once in his gospel, where, in the discourse with Nicodemus, our Saviour teaches that a man must be born again, and of the Spirit, or he cannot enter it. He assigns to him no human parentage, but traces the Divine Word which dwelt in him to the bosom of the Father and the beginning of Time. For this reason we apprehend, not because a chronology was to be found in the other Evangelists, whom he could not reasonably presume his readers to have in their hands, he has said nothing of the time of Christ's appearance.
* That is as his gospel now stands. As far as we can make out from the confused account of Epiphanius (see Norton, i. 201), his original gospel began at the third chapter, with the words, “ In the days of Herod came John the Baptist preaching," &c.
The termination of Mark's gospel bears the same character of a private record, rather than a book written for the public. As it stands in our Bibles indeed it
appears to be finished off after the manner of a history, the subsequent fortunes of the gospel and its preachers winding up the whole. But critics are generally agreed that the last verses from the 9th inclusive to the end are not genuine, the weight of authority being against them, and the style obviously different from the rest of the gospel ; at all events we may take this for granted, in examining Griesbach's opinion, since he distinctly admits their spuriousness. Is it then conceivable that any one sitting down to epitomize the gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which relate (and Luke at great length) events subsequent to our Lord's resurrection, by which his history was brought to a natural close, should break off his own abridgment with the mention of the female disciples flying in terror from the sepulchre ? Taking the commencement and the close of the gospel together, we cannot regard it in any other light than as a document carried on from day to day during our Lord's ministry, and terminated with the visit of the female disciples to the sepulchre, by which the fact of his resurrection was ascertained. The first verse as it stands in our Bibles reads, it is true, like the title of a book, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” the more so as the false pointing of the common
version connects the first verse with those which follow; whereas it should stand alone, and is merely a summary of what is afterward related more fully (v. 14), the beginning of our Lord's preaching.*
How early the composition of this document must have taken place, is evident from the circumstance that Apostle had not yet become a title. In Luke and in the Acts it is repeatedly given to the Twelve, just as at the present day; in Mark never. It occurs once, and only once, in his Gospel, but in circumstances which clearly mark the difference of usage. The manner of their first mission is related with no important difference, by the three Evangelists (Matt. x. 1; Mark iii. 14, vi. 7; Luke ix. 1), except that Mark mentions their being sent out two and two. When they return from their mission, Mark (vi. 30) gives them the name of oi à tóctolo, but evidently in the sense of oi απεσταλμένοι, dTeotaluévoi, “those who had been sent out," the name having a reference only to this special mission; and, accordingly, he never again applies it to them. In Matthew's account also, though some precepts and warnings are represented as given to them, which belong not to this temporary mission, but to their subsequent office preachers in a hostile world (Matt. x. 16), no mention is made of the title of Apostle being conferred upon them. Luke, on the other hand, says he named them Apostles (vi. 13), and accordingly gives them this title in the subsequent history (xvii. 5 ; xxii, 14). The order in which we suppose the Evangelists to have written, will explain these differences. Mark, writing nearest to the time and with the most exact recollection, represents the mission and the name as temporary, and the instructions as adapted exclusively to that mission. Matthew here, as elsewhere, has brought together things said by our Lord at different times, as if they were parts of one address. Luke, writing when the name had become the recognised title of the Twelve, represents our Lord as giving it them when they were first sent out, and proleptically applies it to them during his ministry. At the same time he transfers to a later and more appropriate part of the history, the warning of the persecution which they might expect (xii. 11), and the
* Mark xiii. 14 (8 åvayıváokw voeltw) contemplates a reader, but it is evidently an interjectional remark.