Page images

tially examines the contents of these two passages, will find that the clauses in question are not only unnecessary, but even a burden to the sense. The clause of the second example in particular could not possibly have proceeded from the author of the rest of the verse, who, whether Moses or any other person, would hardly have written, "He called them after his own name unto this day.' The author of the Pentateuch wrote, "He called them after his own name;" some centuries after the death of the author, the clause "unto this day" was probably added in the margin, to denote that the district still retained the name which was given it by Jair, and this marginal reading was in subsequent transcripts obtruded on the text. Whoever doubts the truth of this assertion, needs only to have recourse to the manuscripts of the Greek Testament, and he will find that the spurious additions in the texts of some manuscripts are actually written in the margin of others.1

So far, however, is the insertion of such notes from impeaching the antiquity and genuineness of the original narrative, that, on the contrary, it rather confirms them. For, if this were a compilation long subsequent to the events it records, such additions would not have been plainly distinguishable, as they now are, from the main substance of the original: since the entire history would have been composed with the same ideas and views as these additions were ; and such explanatory insertions would not have been made, if length of time had not rendered them necessary.

We have therefore every possible evidence, that "the genuine text of the Pentateuch proceeded from the hands of Moses; and the various charges that have been brought against it amount to nothing more than this, that it has not descended to the present age without some few alterations; a circumstance at which we ought not to be surprised, when we reflect on the many thousands of transcripts that have been made from it in the course of three thousand years."3 The authority of the Pentateuch being thus established, that of the other books of the Old Testament follows of course for so great is their mutual and immediate dependence upon each other, that if one be taken away, the authority of the other must necessarily fall.

1 To mention only two examples. The common reading of 1 Cor. xvi. 2. is prav cabbarov, but the Codex Petavianus 3. has ry volakny in the margin, and in one of the manuscripts used by Beza, this marginal addition has been obtruded on the text. See his note to this passage. Another instance is 1 John ii. 27. where the genuine reading is xpipa, but Wetstein quotes two manuscripts in which va is written in the margin, and this marginal reading has found its way not only into the Codex Covelli 2. but into the Coptic and Ethiopic versions.

2 Dr. Graves's Lectures, vol. i. P. 346.

3 Bishop Marsh's Authenticity of the Five Books of Moses vindicated, pp. 15. 18. The texts above considered, which were excepted against by Spinoza, Le Clerc (who subsequently wrote a dissertation to refute his former objections), the late Dr. Geddes, and some opposers of revelation since his decease, are considered, discussed, and satisfactorily explained at great length by Huet, Dem. Evang. prop. iv. cap. 14. (tom. i. pp. 254-264), and by Dr. Graves in the appendix to his Lectures on the four last books of the Pentateuch, vol. i. pp. 332-61. See also Carpzov. Introd. ad Libros Biblicos Vet. Test. pp. 38-41. Moldenhawer, Introd ad Libros Canonicos Vet. et Nov. Test. pp. 16. 17.



I. General title of the NEW TESTAMENT.-II. Account of its CANON. -III. GENUINENESS of the books of the New Testament. Their AUTHENTICITY proved, 1. From the IMPOSSIBILITY OF FORGERY; 2. From EXTERNAL or HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, afforded by antient Jewish, Heathen, and Christian testimonies in their favour, and also by antient versions of them in different languages; - and 3. From INTERNAL EVIDENCE, furnished by the character of the writers, by the language and style of the New Testament, and by the circumstantiality of the narrative, together with the coincidence of the accounts there delivered, with the history of those times. I. THAT an extraordinary person, called Jesus Christ, flourished in Judæa in the Augustan age, is a fact better supported and authenticated, than that there lived such men as Cyrus, Alexander, and Julius Cæsar; for although their histories are recorded by various antient writers, yet the memorials of their conquests and empires have for the most part perished. Babylon, Persepolis, and Ecbatana are no more; and travellers have long disputed, but have not been able to ascertain, the precise site of antient Nineveh, that exceeding great city of three days' journey (Jonah iii. 3.) How few vestiges of Alexander's victorious arms are at present to be seen in Asia Minor and India! And equally few are the standing memorials in France and Britain, to evince that there was such a person as Julius Cæsar, who subdued the one, and invaded the other. Not so defective are the evidences concerning the existence of Jesus Christ. That he lived in the reign of Tiberius emperor of Rome, and that he suffered death under Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, are facts that are not only acknowledged by the Jews of every subsequent age, and by the testimonies of several Heathen writers, but also by Christians of every age and country, who have commemorated, and still commemorate, the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and his spiritual kingdom, by their constant and universal profession of certain principles of religion, and by their equally constant and universal celebration of divine worship on the Lord's day, or first day of the week, and likewise of the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper. These religious doctrines and ordinances they profess to derive from a collection of writings, composed after the ascension of Jesus Christ, which they acknowledge to be divine, and to have been written by the first preachers of Christianity.

As all who have claimed to be the founders of any particular sect or religion have left some written records of their institutes, it is

a natural supposition, that the first preachers of the Christian faith should have left some writings containing the principles which it requires to be believed, and the moral precepts which it enjoins to be performed. For although they were at first content with the oral publication of the actions and doctrines of their master; yet they must have been apprehensive lest the purity of that first tradition should be altered after their decease by false teachers, or by those changes which are ordinarily effected in the course of time in whatever is transmitted orally. Besides, they would have to answer those who consulted them; they would have to furnish Christians, who lived at a distance, with lessons and instructions. Thus it became necessary that they should leave something in writing; and, if the apostles did leave any writings, they must be the same which have been preserved to our time: for it is incredible that all their writings should have been lost, and succeeded by supposititious pieces, and that the whole of the Christian faith should have for its foundation only forged or spurious writings. Besides, it is natural to think the first Christians must have received some written, as well as some oral instruction. This conjecture is supported by the unanimous testimony of all the Christian churches, which, in every age since their establishment, have professed to read and to venerate certain books as the productions of the apostles, and as being the foundation of their faith. Now every thing which we know concerning the belief, worship, manners, and discipline of the first Christians, corresponds exactly with the contents of the books of the New Testament, which are now extant, and which are therefore most certainly the primitive instructions which they received.


This collection of books or writings is generally known by the appellation of H KAINH AIA@HKH, the NEW COVENANT, or New TESTAMENT; a title, which, though neither given by divine command, nor applied to these writings by the apostles, was adopted in a very early age. Although the precise time of its introduction is not known, yet it is justified by several passages in the Scriptures, and is, in particular, warranted by Saint Paul, who calls the doctrines, precepts, and promises of the Gospel dispensation Kawn Aanen, the New Covenant, in opposition to those of the Mosaic dispensation, which he terms Пaλaa Aanan, the Old Covenant.3 This appellation, in process of time, was by a metonymy transferred to the collection of apostolical and evangelical writings. The title, "New

1 Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament, vol. i. p. 1. Bishop Marsh in a note thinks it probable that this title was used so early as the second century, because the word testamentum was used in that sense by the Latin Christians before the expiration of that period, as appears from Tertullian. Adversus Marcionem, lib. iv. c. 1. But the first instance in which the term kain diadnen actually occurs in the sense of "writings of the new covenant," is in Origen's treatise Пept Apxwv, lib. iv. c. 1. (Op. tom. i. p. 156). - Michaelis, vol. i. p. 343. See also Rosenmüller's Scholia in N. T. tom. i. p. i.; Rumpai Commentatio Critica in Libros Novi Testamenti, pp. 1-3; and Leusden's Philologus Hebræo Græcus, p. 1.

2 Matt. xxvi. 28. Gal. iii. 17. Heb. viii. 8. ix. 15-20.

32 Cor. iii. 6. 14.

Covenant," then, signifies the book which contains the terms of the New Covenant, upon which God is pleased to offer salvation to mankind through the mediation of Jesus Christ. But according to the meaning of the primitive church, which bestowed this title, it is not altogether improperly rendered New Testament; as being that, in which the Christian's inheritance is sealed to him as a son and heir of God, and in which the death of Christ as a testator is related at large, and applied to our benefit. As this title implies that in the Gospel unspeakable gifts are given or bequeathed to us, antecedent to all conditions required of us, the title of TESTAMENT may be retained, although that of COVENANT would be more correct and proper.1

II. The writings, thus collectively termed the New Testament, consist of twenty-seven books, composed on various occasions, and at different times and places, by eight different authors, all of whom were contemporary with Jesus Christ, viz. the Four Gospels, which bear the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the fourteen Epistles which bear the name of Paul, and which are addressed to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, to Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews, the Seven Catholic Epistles (as they are called) of James, Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude, and the Book of the Revelation, which likewise bears the name of John. These writings contain the history of Jesus Christ, the first propagation of his religion, together with the principles of Christianity, and various precepts or rules of life. The Gospels were written at various periods, and published for very different classes of believers; while the Epistles were addressed, as occasion required, to those various Christian communities, which, by the successful labours of the Apostles, had been spread over the greatest part of the then known world, and also to a few private individuals.

Different churches received different books according to their situations and circumstances. Their canons were gradually enlarged; and at no very great distance of time from the age of the apostles, with a view to secure to future ages a divine and perpetual standard of faith and practice, these writings were collected together into one volume under the title of the "New Testament," or the "Canon of the New Testament." Neither the names of the persons that were concerned in making this collection, nor the exact time when it was undertaken, can at present be ascertained with any degree of certainty; nor is it at all necessary that we should be precisely informed concerning either of these particulars. It is sufficient for us to

1 The learned professor Jablonski has an elegant dissertation on the word AIAOHKн; which, he contends, ought to be translated Testament, 1. From the usage of the Greek language; 2. From the nature of the design and will of God, which is called AIAOHKH; 3. From various passages of the New Testament, which evidently admit of no other signification; 4. From the notion of inheritance or heirship, under which the Scripture frequently designates the same thing; and, 5. From the consent of antiquity. Jablonskii Opuscula, tom, ii. pp. 393–423. Lug.

Bat. 1804.

know that the principal parts of the New Testament were collected before the death of the apostle John, or at least not long after that event.1

Modern advocates of infidelity, with their accustomed disregard of truth, have asserted that the Scriptures of the New Testament were never accounted canonical until the meeting of the council of Laodicea, A. D. 364. The simple fact is, that the canons of this council are the earliest extant, which give a formal catalogue of the books of the New Testament. There is, indeed, every reason to believe that the bishops who were present at Laodicea did not mean to settle the canon, but simply to mention those books which were to be publicly read." Another reason why the canonical books were not mentioned before the council of Laodicea, is presented in the persecutions, to which the professors of Christianity were constantly exposed, and in the want of a national establishment of Christianity for several centuries, which prevented any general councils of Christians for the purpose of settling their canon of Scripture. But, though the number of the books thus received as sacred and canonical was not in the first instance determined by the authority of councils, we are not left in uncertainty concerning their genuineness and authenticity, for which we have infinitely more decisive and satisfactory evidence than we have for the productions of any antient classic authors, concerning whose genuineness and authenticity no doubt was ever entertained.

III. We receive the books of the New Testament, as the genuine works of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude, for the same reason that we receive the writings of Xenophon, of Polybius, of Cæsar, Tacitus, and Quintus Curtius; namely, because we have the uninterrupted testimony of ages to their genuineness, and we have no reason to suspect imposition. This argument, Michaelis remarks, is much stronger when applied to the books of the New Testament than when applied to any other writings: for they were addressed to large societies, in whose presence they were often read, and were acknowledged by them to be the writings of the apostles. Whereas the most eminent profane writings, that are still ex

1 Of all the various opinions that have been maintained concerning the person who first collected the canon of the New Testament, the most general seems to be, that the several books were originally collected by St. John; -an opinion for which the testimony of Eusebius (Hist. Ecel. lib. iii. c. 24). is very confidently quoted as an indisputable authority. But it is to be observed, says Mosheim. that, allowing even the highest degree of weight to Eusebius's authority, nothing further can be collected from his words, than that St. John approved of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and added his own to them by way of supplement. Concerning any of the other books of the new Testament, Eusebius is totally silent. Mosheim's Commentaries, translated by Mr. Vidal, vol. i. p. Stosch, in his learned Commentatio Critica de Librorum Nov. Test. Canone, (pp. 103, et seq. 8vo. Franckfort, 1755,) has given the opinions of Ens, Lampe, Frickius, Dodwell, Vitringa, and Dupin. He adopts the last, which in substance corresponds with that above given, and defends it at considerable length. Ibid. pp. 113, et seq.

Lardner's Works, vol. iii. p. 448. 4to. edit.


3 Bp. Tomline's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. i. p. 270. Jones on the Canon, vol. i. p. 41. Oxford, 1798.

« PreviousContinue »