« PreviousContinue »
sought instruction from Christian teachers in Greece, in Lower Italy, in Syria, in Palestine, as well as in Egypt; and his works which remain prove his extensive learning. Not only is the genuineness of the fourth Gospel an undisputed fact with Clement, but, not to speak of other testimony from him, he gave in his lost work, the Institutions, quoted by Eusebius, "a tradition concerning the order of the gospels which he had received from presbyters of more ancient times;” that is, concerning the chronological order of their composition. But of these three witnesses, Irenaeus, from the circumstances of his life as well as the peculiar character of his testimony, is the most important. A Greek, born in Asia Minor about the year 140, coming to Lyons and holding there first the office of presbyter, and then, in 178, that of bishop, he was familiar with the church in both the East and the West. Moreover, he had in his youth known and conversed with the aged Polycarp of Smyrna, the immediate disciple of John, and retained a vivid recollection of the person and the words of this remarkable man. Now Irenaeus not only testifies to the universal acceptance in the church of the fourth Gospel, but also argues fancifully that there must be four and only four gospels to stand as pillars of the truth ; thus showing how firmly settled was his faith, and that of others, in the exclusive authority of the canonical gospels. To the value of his testimony we shall have occasion again to refer. We simply ask here if it was possible for Irenaeus to express himself in
· Euseb., Lib. VI. c. 14. That the four Gospels alone were regarded as possessed of canonical authority is evident from other places in Clement. In reference to an alleged conversation between Salome and Jesus, Clement says : “We have not this passage in the four Gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians.” Strom., Lib. III. (See Lardner, Vol. II. pp. 236 and 251).
2 Adv. Haer., Lib. III. 1. 1. This noted passage on the four Gospels thus begins : “Non enim per alios dispositionem salutis nostrae cognovimus, quam per eos, per quos evangelium pervenit ad nos; quod quidem tunc praeconaverunt, postea vero per Dei voluntatem in scripturis nobis tradiderunt, fundamentum et columnam fidei nostrae futurum.” Like Tertullian, he makes his appeal to sure historical evidence. In speaking of Polycarp and the men who followed him,
this way to affirm not merely the genuineness of the four gospels, but the metaphysical necessity that there should be four - if Johu's Gospel had been made known for the first time during his lifetime, or shortly before. With these noteworthy witnesses, we associate the great name of Origen, the successor of Clement at Alexandria, although Origen's theological career is later, terminating near the middle of the third century, he having been born but fifteen years before the end of the second ; for his extensive journies through the Eastern church, and as far as Rome, and especially his critical curiosity and erudition, together with the fact that he was born of Christian parents, give extraordinary weight to the evidence he affords of the universal reception of John's Gospel. In the same category with Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian, belong the Canon of Muratori, or the list of canonical books which Muratori found in an old manuscript in the Milan library, and which is certainly not later than the end of the second century; and the ancient Syriac version of the New Testament, the Peschito, having a like antiquity. In both these monuments the Gospel of John is found in its proper place. Nor should we omit to mention here Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus, who, as we have said, represented the Asia Minor churches in the controversy concerning the cele. bration of Easter in the year 196, and in his letter to Victor the Roman bishop, alludes to John, who, he says, . “ leaned upon the Lord's breast,” ó ÉTÈ tò othJos toû kuplov ảvatrecóv. Even Hilgenfeld, one of the most forward of the Tübingen critics, does not longer deny that the expression is drawn by Polycrates from John xiii. 25 (xxi. 20). It proves the acceptance of John's Gospel by the Christians of Asia Minor.
he says of the former (III. 3. 4): "qui vir multo majoris auctoritatis et fidelior veritatis est testis, quam Valentinus et Marcion et reliqui, qui sunt perversae sententiae.” The curious attempt to show that there could not be more or fewer than four authoritative Gospels is in Lib. III. 11. 8.
Euseb., Lib. V. c. 24.
Looking about among the fragments of Christian literature that have come down to us from the second half of the second century, we meet with Tatian, supposed to have been a pupil of Justin Martyr, though after the master's death the disciple swerved from his teaching. It is now conceded by Baur and Zeller that in his apologetic treatise, the Oratio ad Graecos, composed not far from the year 170, he quotes repeatedly from the Gospel of John. There is also no reason to doubt that his work entitled Diatesserona sort of exegetical Harmony - was composed upon the basis of our four Gospels. Eusebius says that Tatian “having formed a certain body and collection of Gospels, I know not how, has given this the title Diatesseron, that is, the Gospel by the four, or the Gospel formed of the four, which is in the possession of some even now.” Precisely how the work was constructed from the four Gospels, Eusebius appears not to have known. He testifies, however, to the fact of its being in the hands of catholic Christians. At the beginning of the fifth century Theodoret tells us that he had found two hundred copies of Tatian's work in circulation, and had taken them away, substituting for them the four Gospels. A Syriac translation of this work began, according to a later Syrian writer, Bar Salibi, with the opening words of the Gospel of John : “ In the beginning was the word.” To this Syriac
edition, Ephraem Syrus, who died in 378, wrote a commen• tary, as Syriac writers inform us ; and this translation must
therefore have been early made. The attempt of Credner to invalidate this evidence on the ground that the Syrians confounded Tatian with Ammonius, the author of a Harmony in the early part of the third century, is overthrown by the fact that Bar Salibi distinguishes the two authors and their works. Considering all the evidence in the case,
" The following are examples,- Oratio, c. 13 : Kal TOÛTÓ Cotiv ápa od cionuevov. η σκοτία το φως του καταλαμβάνει. c. 19: πάντα υπ' αυτού, και χωρίς αυτού γέγονεν ουδε έν. c. 5: 8 nóyos év åpxń yevundels. See Bleek, s. 229.
? Lib. IV. c. 29.
together with the fact that Tatian is known to have quoted the Gospel of John in his Oratio, there is no room for doubting that this Gospel was one of the four at the foundation of the Diatesseron. Contemporary with Tatian was Theophilus, who became bishop of Antioch in 169. In his work Ad Autolycum, he describes John's Gospel as a part of the Holy scriptures, and John himself as a writer guided by the Holy Spirit. This explicit statement is a most weighty item of evidence. In addition to this, Jerome states that Theophilus composed a commentary upon the Gospels, in wbich he handled their contents synoptically: “ quatuor evangelistarum in unum opus dicta compingens."! There is no good reason for questioning the statement of Jerome respecting a work with which he appears to have been himself acquainted. A contemporary of Theophilus is Athenagoras. His acquaintance with the Prologue of John's Gospel may be inferred with a high degree of probability from his frequent designation of Christ as the Word. Besides this, he has the following passage, which is obviously founded on John X. 30: “ The Father and Son being one; and the Son being in the Father, and the Father in the Son.” Another contemporary of Theophilus, Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, in the fragments found in the Paschal Chronicle, makes a reference to the pouring out of water and blood from the side of Jesus (John xix. 34), and in another passage clearly implies the existence and authority of the fourth Gospel.3 The Epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons, written in 177, and presenting an account of the sufferings of their martyrs in their great persecution under Marcus Aurelius, an epistle from which Eusebius gives copious extracts, contains a clear reference to John xvi. 2, in the passage where they say: “Then was
1“Οδεν διδάσκουσιν ημάς αι άγιαι γραφα και πάντες οι πνευματοφόροι, εξ ών Ιωάννης λέγει· εν αρχή, κ. τ.λ. See Bleek, s. 231.
? Hieron. de viris ill. 25 and Ep. 151. Bleek, s. 230. 8 See Meyer's Einl., 8. 9. There appears to be no sufficient reason for questioning the genuineness of these fragments, as is done by Lardner (Vol. II. p. 315), and Neander (Church Hist., Vol. I. p. 298, N. 2). See Schneider, s. 52. VOL. XXI. No. 82.
fulfilled that which was spoken by the Lord, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." The same epistle, applying the thought of 1 John iii. 16, praises the love of one of their martyrs who was willing in defense of the brethren to lay down his own life.”! But every testimony to the first epistle is, for reasons to which we shall advert hereafter, virtually a testimony for the Gospel.
We go back now to the first half of the second century, and among the remnants of early Christian literature which remain, where so much has irrecoverably perished, the writer who is most entitled to consideration is Justin Martyr. He was born about the year 89, and his life extended at least ten years beyond the middle of the next century. A native of Flavia Neapolis, near the ancient Sichem, he had visited various countries, having been at Alexandria and Ephesus before he came to Rome. He had, therefore, an extensive acquaintance with the church. It is well known that Justin in different places refers to works which are styled by him the Records or Memoirs by the Apostles and their Followers or Companions. He quotes from these as the authentic and recognized sources of knowledge respecting the Saviour's life and teaching. He further states that they are read on Sundays in the Christian assemblies, where "all who live in cities or in country districts” meet together for worship. They are read, he says, in connection with the writings of the Old Testament prophets; and when the reader concludes, the people are instructed and exhorted “to the imitation of these excellent things." 3 The evangelical histories which he has in mind, then, were used in the public worship of Christians everywhere. What were these Records or Memoirs ? This title, we may observe, was probably given to the gospel histories, partly for the reason
1 Euseb., Lib. V. c. 1.
2 τα απομνημονεύματα των αποστόλων. Apol. Ι. 67. απομνημονεύμασι, και φημι υπό των αποστόλων αυτού και των εκείνοις παρακολουθησάντων συντετάχθαι. C. Tryph., c. 103.
Apol. I. 67.