Page images

It will probably be agreed by every attentive reader of this Gospel, that Mark's manner of writing indicates great earnestness and strength of conviction and I may add that, at times, it manifests even a kind of eagerness of sentiment, such as would be natural to an ingenuous, simplehearted man like this Evangelist,-long acquainted with many things respecting him in whom believing he rejoiced with joy unspeakable,'—on being informed, for the first time, of other deeply interesting circumstances, by one whose heart must have been always full of humble love and glowing gratitude and exulting reverence towards his Lord and Saviour, and whose memory, we know, so vividly recalled, during the very period when the Evangelist was the companion of his imprisonment, the great and glorious scene of the Transfiguration;-at which he and the two other Apostles of Christ were eye-witnesses of his majesty,' and their Lord 'received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' As the aged servant of the Lord Jesus, when in the certain approach of martyrdom for his sake, thus himself wrote to his distant brethren, (not improbably to those of Palestine), we cannot doubt that he would also thus speak to his 'son Mark,' when about to give them, through him, such records as would enable them, after his decease, to have always in remembrance' those things which he could affirm, with the confidence of truth and certainty, were not cunningly-devised fables.' See 2 Pet. i. 12-18.

St. Mark's Gospel may, for comparison with that of Matthew, be divided into the following Parts:

PART I. A brief Record of the Ministry of the Baptist, with the Baptism and Temptation of Christ: ch. i. 1-13.

PARTS 11. and III. The Public Preaching of Christ in Galilee : ch. i. 14—vi. 6.

PART IV. Transactions from the Return of the Twelve till the close of our Lord's Residence in Galilee: ch. vi. 7-ix. 50.-This Part is commenced in Mark, as the corresponding record is in Luke, with a summary view of the Mission of the Apostles.

PART V. Occurrences during the Last Journey: ch. x.

PART VI. Events from our Lord's Entry into Jerusalem till his Ascension: cb. xi. to the end of the Gospel.

The long and important portion of Mark's Gospel in Part IV., has so great an agreement, in substance and succession of events, with the same part in Matthew (p. xliii.), that this Evangelist must have had direct

information respecting that very striking period; but it contains much that is not recorded by Matthew.

SECT. III. Order in which the Gospels were composed.

The evidence of Irenæus would lead us to place the composition of St. Matthew's Gospel about A. D. 64; for he says that the Apostle published it while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome; and this must of course have been during the Apostle Paul's second imprisonment, terminating in martyrdom, which Peter also underwent at Rome, about the same time. This date accords with all the indications of time in the Gospel itself, and with all other known circumstances; and, notwithstanding the opinions of some learned critics leading to a much earlier period, I am satisfied by the arguments of Lardner, that the date here assigned is the true one.*

St. Mark's Gospel must have been composed about 64 or 65. There is no evidence, external or internal, to support the supposition that he had seen St. Matthew's Gospel, or St. Luke's, before he wrote his own. This matter has been fully examined by Lardner, in the tenth chapter of his Supplement "The Question considered, whether any of the first three Evangelists had seen the Gospels of the others, before he wrote"; and he decides it in the negative.+

See Supplement to the Credibility, ch. v. The following passage is very important. "At the year 64, or thereabout, the Gospel had been propagated in many gentile countries, the times were troublesome in Judea, and the war was coming on: several of the apostles were dead, others of them, who survived, were gone, or going abroad, and many of the Jewish believers were about to seek shelter elsewhere: now was a proper time to write a history of Christ and his miracles. Moreover in this gospel are recorded divers plain predictions of the miseries and desolations of Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the temple and the Jewish state, besides many other figurative intimations of the same things in many of our Lord's discourses and parables, which could not be well published to all the world in writing, till about this time. The suitableness of St. Matthew's Gospel to the state of the christian religion, and of the Jewish people, about the year 64 or 65, leads to that time. And however unwillingly, from private apprehensions and prejudices, we may admit the thought of protracting so long the writing of the history of our Lord's Ministry; the circumstances of things will constrain us to acquiesce in this season as the most likely." Lardner's Works, (Kippis's Ed.) VOL. VI. p. 56.

+ I should have supposed that every critical inquirer who had studied, in comparison, the phenomena of the (¡ospels, must have been led by them, independently of external considerations, to the same conclusion with Lardner. Mr. Greswell, however, has, in his Dissertations, advanced and maintained a very different opinion; viz. that the Gospels were written in the order in which they stand in the Canon, and that Mark's Gospel was designed by its Author as supplementary to Matthew's, and Luke's, by its

The question as it respects St. Luke's Gospel is still more easy of decision. It is not a tenable position that this Evangelist could have known of St. Matthew's Gospel when he wrote his own. If his introduction were not utterly inconsistent with this opinion, the contents of the Gospel itself, examined with any minuteness, would decide against it. One obvious fact seems sufficient. St. Luke has given a record of a discourse which, for the reasons stated in the Note in p. 70, must be the same as the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth and two following chapters of Matthew: if so, he could not possibly, possessing the knowledge of St. Matthew's Gospel, have placed that after St. Matthew's appointment as an Apostle, which St. Matthew himself has placed before even his call to be a follower of Jesus: nor could he have given an incomplete account of that all-important Discourse, when he had in his possession the record of it by an Apostle, to say the least much fuller, and of course more authoritative.—But St. Luke's introduction is quite inconsistent with the opinion that he had knowledge of the Gospel of Matthew, or even of Mark's when he wrote his own. His words to Theophilus clearly imply, that those who had previously undertaken the work which he executed, had not such means of information as he himself possessed, and that their narratives were not authoritative like his own. He could not have thought thus of a Gospel written by an Apostle; nor of that by a companion of Apostles, who must himself have seen the Lord.

Author, to both: he even speaks (VOL. 1. p. 34) of St. Mark as rectifying the transpositions of Matthew, and supplying his historical deficiences. The nature of this work does not require an examination of these opinions. That Mark would have composed his Gospel, if he had known of the publication of Matthew's, is extremely improbable; that, supposing him to have possessed that Gospel, which first existed only in SyroChaldaic, and to have purposed to give a briefer one in Greek, he should, though not himself a personal witness, have so much departed from the order of Matthew; and that, while he recorded the Parables of Christ, he should have altogether passed by the Sermon on the Mount, is to me utterly inconceivable. In some instances, from his personal intimacy with Peter, he would be likely to give circumstances which Matthew has not given: and, in a few others, to record events in a different order from that of Matthew, -as in his first chapter, where he places the cure of Peter's Wife's Mother on the sabbath after Peter's Call, whereas Matthew, less conversant at that period with the transactions of Christ, places it after the first progress through Galilee closed by the Sermon on the Mount, but still before his own Call, and in the same local connection. This advantage, however, would not be likely to lead to an order so entirely different, in the early part of his Gospel, from that of Matthew, with which, indeed, his own cannot be made to coalesce. The then aged Peter was much more likely to furnish vivid impressions of particular transactions (see p. xlvi.) than a series, chronologically correct, of the whole period; and he would scarcely, at that distance of time, have advised the abandonment of the digested arrangement already formed by a fellow Apostle.

It does not, indeed, necessarily follow, that St. Luke composed his Gospel before the publication of the two which precede it in our canon: if one of these were published in Galilee, and the other in Rome, although the Christians would of course multiply copies as fast as they could, yet months, if not years, might elapse before any of these reached the region, say in Greece, or in Proconsular Asia, where we may suppose him to have written. It is, nevertheless, decidedly probable, indeed next to certain, that he wrote it at an earlier period than those Gospels were written, as Lardner has shown in his Supplement. The book of Acts was, we know, from the commencement of it, written after the Gospel- the former treatise'; and as this gives a summary notice of St. Paul's confinement at Rome, but says nothing of his course after it was ended, it must have been finished about the time when the Apostle was released. This probably was in the spring of 63. We may, therefore, with much confidence, place the Evangelist's transmission of his Gospel to Theophilus in 62 or 63; but as it was designed for an individual, and a man of rank, it would not of course be so speedily known to the Christians at large as the others.

SECT. IV. View of St. Luke's Gospel.

The Author of this invaluable record was obviously a man of intellectual refinement and literary acquirements, of a calm discriminating judgment, and of an earnest love of truth: it is alike clear that he was imbued with the spirit of piety, with a devoted attachment to the cause of Christ, and with a high appreciation of the spirit of his religion. He had been the companion and friend of St. Paul; and his relation of the Apostle's labours and discourses shows that he was able to form a just estimate of the elevated excellencies of his character, and of the value of the testimony which he bore to faith in Christ.

The uniform voice of antiquity ascribes the book of Acts, and this Gospel which was composed before it, to a person of the name of Luke. The Author of these books no where gives his own name; but there is no reason to doubt that he was that Lucas, i. e. Luke, whom St. Paul speaks of as among his fellow-labourers' when writing to Philemon of Colossæ, ver. 24, and in his Epistle to the Colossians, ch. iv. 14, as the beloved physician' indeed this last designation perfectly suits the characteristics of the Evangelist's mind, and his literary qualifications, as disclosed by his writings. There is much reason to think that he was of Gentile extraction; *


The Apostle Paul speaks of him with Epaphras and Demas, Col. iv. 10-14, separately from those of the circumcision'.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

but more, that he had, from an early period, embraced the principles of the Jewish religion; and we know that he had become a follower of Christ many years before he composed his Gospel; for he first joined Paul at Troas, (see Acts xvi. 10), on the second apostolical journey. Eusebius, Jerome, and others of the ancients, speak of him as a native of Antioch; but this appears to have arisen from the supposition that he was that Lucius who is spoken of in Acts xiii. 1. Considering the place of his joining St. Paul, and the peculiar mention of him in the Epistles written by that Apostle to inhabitants of Colossæ, it seems more probable that he was a native, at least a resident, of that city, or of one of the neighbouring cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea. The Hellenistic character of his style, (which may, however, be in part attributed to the documents he employed), and his intimate acquaintance with the institutions of the Jewish religion, suit well the supposition that he had long been attached to it; but all competent judges, ancient and modern, agree in regarding his style as by far more polished than that of any of the other Evangelists, and his Greek as approaching even to classic elegance. Such is certainly the case with those portions of his Gospel which are more peculiarly his own composition; in these he may be compared to Xenophon, both in respect to language, and to his general style.

A cursory examination of the following Harmony, or even an inspection of the Table of Sections prefixed to it, will show how rich the Gospel of St. Luke is; not only in matter which it has, more or less, in common with Matthew's; but also in important facts, and especially in interesting parables, contained by it exclusively. To pass by the former class of its materials, which, as it is common to Mark also, must have been more generally known, when we advert to the records which he has given of the rejection of Christ at Nazareth, the raising of the Widow's Son at Nain, the circumstances at the house of Simon the Pharisce, the parable of the Good Samaritan and our Lord's Visit to Mary and Martha, the discourses in the thirteenth chapter, and in the fourteenth, and the inestimable parables in the fifteenth, with those in the sixteenth,-not to enumerate various expressions and circumstances which are eminently characteristic of the piety and tender sensibility of our Lord, and which are peculiar to the Gospel of Luke,—we must ourselves feel grateful to him for that diligent and well-prepared inquiry by which he obtained the knowledge of these precious memorials of the words of the Lord Jesus', and may easily enter into the thankful and devout delight which the admirable historian must have experienced, when these heavenly treasures were, one after another, disclosed to his view.

St. Luke obviously had a wider range of information than was taken by

« PreviousContinue »