« ZurückWeiter »
tises, a very large proportion of the whole New Testament ; and Lardner justly observes, that the quotations from it, adduced by Tertullian alone, may be deemed greatly to exceed in number those made from the works of Cicero, by all writers combined, who have ever cited him. The same may, with equal propriety, be said of Origen, (A. D. 230) whose citations from the various parts of the New Testament are exceedingly abundant; and, after him, we have a host of writers in all the departments of the multiplied and extended church, whom it would be tedious to name, and by whom the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, are quoted to the same extent, and with the same variety, as by modern theologians : see Lardner's Cred., 4to ed., vols. i, ii.
But the testimonies borne by Christian writers, during the first four centuries, to the genuineness of the New Testament are by no means confined to the quotation of particular passages. Many of them, like Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, and Cyril, have given catalogues or canons of the books of the New Testament; a measure which was also taken by the council of ecclesiastics, held at Laodicea, (A. D. 363.) Others, like Tatian, (A. D. 170)* composed harmonies of the four Gospels : and many more wrote commentaries on the several constituent parts of this sacred volume.
Now, as the evidences thus afforded by Christian writers, during the first four centuries, are very abundant, and various in form and manner, so it is to be remembered that this vast company of witnesses consisted of individuals, who lived at different times, were scattered over widely separated countries, occupied very different stations in the church and in the world, and were, in general, totally independent one of another. But, diversified as they were in almost every respect, yet, in the testimony which they bear to the genuineness and authority of the New Testament, there is an entire and uninterrupted harmony. What can account for such a harmony, but truth?
II. During the first few centuries of the Christian era, while revealed religion was gradually spreading in the world, many versions of the New Testament were made into the vernacular dialects of those nations among whom a knowledge of divine truth was disseminated. The old Syriac version contains the whole of the New Testament, except the Revelation and four of the Catholic Epistles, viz. the second of Peter, the first and
* 6. Tatian,” says Eusebius, “ composed I know not what harmony and collection of the four Gospels, which he called Dia Tessaron, and which is still in the hands of some.” Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. iv, cap. 29. second of John, and the Epistle of Jude. It is remarkably accurate and faithful, and was probably written during the se. cond century. The same period is supposed to have given
birth to those numerous Latin versions, and especially the - Vetus Itala, mentioned by Augustine, which formed the basis of the Vulgate of Jerome. The existing translation of the New Testament into Sahidic, the language of Upper Egypt, is traced by the learned Woide to the same ancient date. The Ethiopic and Coptic versions also are of great and allowed antiquity. Now, these versions could not have been made, if the original of the New Testament had not existed previously ; and it is quite obvious that they would not have been made, if that volume had not in those early ages heen generally received as truly the work of the apostles and evangelists.
III. The genuineness of the books of the New Testament was allowed by the enemies of Christianity, as well as by its friends. Among the early heretics, who fell away from the TM truths of the Gospel into the most absurd and unscriptural errors, there were many who rejected the divine authority of those parts of the New Testament which did not comport with their own creeds. But, that its contents were the real productions of their supposed authors, seems to have been a point generally admitted by these bewildered disputants, as Michaëlis shows to have been the case, in reference to particular parts of the New Testament, with the Ebionites, with Cerinthus, and with Marcion : Introd. to New Test., vol. i, ch. ii, $ 7, by Marsh.
Still more important is the testimony of the heathen enemies of Christianity. From the works of Origen we learn that his opponent, the acute and bitter Celsus, quoted largely from the New Testament, and argued against Christianity on the allowed principle, that the Gospels and Epistles were actually written by the apostles and their companions : and the same observation applies to those still more powerful enemies of our religion, Porphyry and Julian: Michaelis, vol. i, ch. ii, $ 8. It is a triumphant argument in favour of the New Testament, that, during the first three centuries and a half after the Christian era, almost the whole of it was admitted to be genuine by the opposers, as well as by the defenders, of Christianity; and that the first person of whom we read, as venturing to advance a contrary sentiment, was Faustus, an illiterate Manichæan, who lived at the close of the fourth century.
IV. The strong and satisfactory testimonies to which we have now adverted are confirmed by a variety of internal evidences of a very convincing character. The first of them is
the dialect in which the whole New Testament is written. Greek was the language more generally spoken than any other in those various countries (considered as a whole) where the Gospel was first propagated. Since, therefore, it was the intention of the apostles and evangelists to be as extensively useful as possible, it was to be expected that they should write their histories and epistles in Greek. But the Greek, in which the New Testament is composed, is not classical Greek; it is the Greek which comes from the pen of Hebrews—with a very large infusion of their national phraseology. From this circumstance we derive a strong confirmatory evidence, that the New Testament was truly the work of the apostles and their companions. Certainly it could not have been written in those later periods of the church, when there were no longer to be found any Hebrew Christians. The Christian fathers of the second, third, and fourth, centuries, were utterly incapable of writing in any such dialect.
V. Another plain internal indication of the genuineness of the New Testament may be found in the very numerous allusions, contained in its several parts, to the habits and condition of the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, at the time when it is considered to have been written, as well as to many minor historical circumstances which happened during the life, or soon after the death, of Jesus Christ. The variety and particularity of these allusions are such as would never have been ventured on by a forger in an after age; and their correctness and freedom from anachronism, as evinced by the correspondent testimonies of Josephus and other authors, plainly prove that the New Testament was composed by individuals who were personally conversant with the subjects on which they wrote.
To point out a few particulars: a very considerable intricacy attaches to the history of the family of Herod : in the works of Josephus and other historians, we read of Herod the great, whom the senate of Rome, at the instigation of Marcus Antonius, appointed to be king of Judea-of his three sons Archelaus, Philip, and Herod Antipas, who severally ruled over distinct provinces, viz. Judea, Galilee, and Trachonitis-of Herod Agrippa the elder, (grandson of Herod the great) under whose dominion these provinces were again combined, and who, on a public occasion, was smitten with a fatal disease at Cæsarea-and, lastly, of Herod Agrippa the younger, and of his sisters Mariamne, Bernice, and Drusilla, the last of whom was the wife of the Roman governor, Felix. Now, in the New Testament most of the principal members of this family are mentioned, and a variety of allusions are made to their history, character, and circumstances : and, although some of these details are of a subordinate nature, yet all of them, on examination, turn out to be correct; they are the faithful, natural, references of cotemporary writers to facts which are known to have taken place in their day. Precisely the same may be said of the account, given in the New Testament, of the various Roman governors in Judea and elsewhere; of the titles and dignities which they bore; of the authority which they assumed ; and of the practices to which they and their people were accustomed. All is natural-all is evinced, by other well-authorized evidences, to be correct and real. With regard to the Jews themselves, the argument now stated is much enhanced in value by the consideration, that after the taking and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, (A. D. 72) the customs and general condition of that extraordinary people underwent, in various respects, a total change. When we find the evangelists, who profess to relate the events of their own time, describing, incidentally indeed, but truly and accurately, the very peculiar circumstances of the Jewish polity under the government of Rome-the course of the priesthood—the councils—the synagogue worship- the sects, and their opinions--and the general habits and character which, at that remarkable period, are known to have attached to the Jews, we may rest fully assured that the Gospels are no forgeries—that they are the genuine production of the apostolic age, and of the authors whose names they bear. For the particulars appertaining to this part of the subject, see Lardner's Cred., book 1, part i.
VI. Lastly, One part of the New Testament will often be found to afford a powerful confirmation of the genuineness of another. For example, the Gospel of John bears strong marks of having been written in order to complete the account of the life and discourses of Jesus, as delivered by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and thus, the positive evidences adduced in favour of his Gospel are reflected on those of his predecessors. Again, the numerous undesigned and almost latent accordances which subsist between the statements made by Luke in “the Acts,” and by Paul in his Epistles, afford an ample moral demonstration that the Book of Acts was really composed, as it professes to be, by one of Paul's companions, and that the Epistles attributed to Paul were actually the work of that highly-gifted person, whose labours and ministry are so graphically represented in the Book of Acts. So also a striking uniformity of style may, in general, be observed between those different works in the New Testament, which are attributed to
the same author. On this ground, if we prove the genuine origin of the Gospel of John, (as we may do by a reference to innumerable quotations, that of his first Epistle is, on critical grounds, easily established. If, from historical evidences, we are satisfied that the Acts of the apostles were written by Luke, we cannot reasonably dispute the genuineness of his Gospel. If the testimonies of many early fathers compel us to admit that the Epistle to the Romans was really the work of Paul, we may be sure that he was the author also of the other twelve Epistles inscribed with his name; since they are all written in the same inimitable manner; all display the same extraordinary mind ; and, with respect to the mode of thought, of argument, and of practical application, are generally cast in the same peculiar mould.
On a reference to the principal points adverted to in the present Essay, it will be observed : first, that, from a fair view of the attributes of God and of the condition of man, there arises a strong antecedent probability of such an especial revelation of divine truth as Christianity professes to be. Secondly, that the introduction of the Christian revelation into the world is a matter of undisputed history, and that the substance of it is contained in the New Testament. Thirdly, that this volume, deserving as it is of the regard and attention of all men, from its intrinsic excellence, professes to have been written by six of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and two of their companions. Fourthly, that, in the early part of the fourth century, at a time when the New Testament was very largely disseminated in the church of Christ, the bulk of it was so confessed by all to be genuine,” and that the same character was soon afterwards, with equal unanimity, attributed to its remaining parts. Fifthly, that its genuineness is amply evinced by a variety of both external and internal evidences, viz :-innumerable quotations in the writings of the early fathers ; catalogues, harmonies, and commentaries ; early versions into foreign dialects; the testimony of heretics and of heathen enemies; the peculiarity of the language in which it is written; the correct allusions contained in it to the customs which prevailed, and to the events which occurred, during the age of Christ and his apostles; and, lastly, the reciprocal accordances of its several
Now, I conceive that, the more we examine these evidences, and make them the subject of our reflection, the more ready shall we be to adopt the opinion of Paley and other authors, that, in point of number, extent, variety, and harmony, they are far superior to those which can be brought to bear on any