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trust has not been committed to the bands of one more competent, although not more willing than himself, to fulfil the duties attached to such an arduous undertaking.
Should sufficient encouragement be afforded for the task, the Editor proposes to undertake the Old Testament upon the same plan as the present Work. Those persons desirous of furthering this object are requested to forward their names to the publisher : the Work will be ready to go to press upon the receipt of five hundred subscribers“
WRITINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Although one principal design of the following Work has been to exhibit the uninterrupted harmony which subsists among the writers of the New Testament, on the various topics which have employed their pens, the plan laid down would not admit of any thing like an historical or chronological arrangement of the facts narrated, or of the circumstances detailed by those inspired men. Upon a subject, howerer, so intimately connected with the one pursued throughout this work, the reader will not, it is hoped, feel displeased at the introduction of a few remarks in this place.
To the most superficial reader of the historical books of the New Testament, it must be apparent, either that the writers of them have not carefully attended to the chronological order of events, or that in some cases three or four different events have occurred, so remarkably similar in all their circumstances, as to be scarcely distinguishable from each other. These are, in fact, the two hypotheses adopted by the various writers who have favoured us with harmonies of the evangelical histories; each of which has been supported and defended with considerable learning and ingenuity.
All the modern harmonies of the four Gospels, says Bishop Marsh, of wbich we have above a hundred, in various languages, may be divided into two classes : 1st. Harmonies, of which the authors have taken for granted, that all the facts recorded in all the four Gospels, are arranged in chronological order; and, 2dly. Harmonies, of which the authors have admitted, that in one or more of the four Gospels, chronological order has been more or less neglected, Osiander, or, as he was called in German, Hosmann, is at the head of the first class, Chemnitz at the head of the second. The harmonies of the former kind are very similar to each other; because, though the authors of them had to interweave the facts recorded in one Gospel with the facts recorded in another, yet, as they invariably retained the order which was observed in each Gospel, and consequently repeated whatever facts occurred in different places in different Gospels, as often as those facts presented themselves to the harmonists in their progress through the Gospels, there was less room for material deviations in their plan and method. But in the harmonies of the latter kind we meet with considerable variations, because, though the authors of them are unanimous in their principle, they are at variance in the application of it: and, though they agree in making transpositions, by which they distinguish themselves from the harmonists of the first class, yet they do not always make the same transpositions. Some, for instance, have supposed, as Chemnitz, Archbishop Newcome, and other harmonists of this class bave done, that St. Matthew has mostly neglected chronological order; while others, as Bengel and Bertling, have supposed, that he has in general retained it. Hence, though they have all the same object in view, namely, to make a chronological harmony, or to arrange the events, which are recorded in the Gospels, as nearly as possible according to the order of the time in which the events happened, they have adopted different modes of producing this effect. For in some harmonies the order of St. Matthew is inverted, and made subservient to that of St. Mårk; while in other harmonies St. Mark's order is inverted, and made subservient to that of St. Matthew. Some harmonists agaip suppose, that all the evangelists have neglected chronological order, while others make an exception in favour of one, or more of them ; though the question, which of the evangelists should be excepted, likewise affords matter of debate. And even those harmonists, who agree as to the Gospel, or Gospels, in which transpositions should be made, differ in respect to the particular parts, where these transpositions ought to take place. Amid this variety of opinion, and amid the manifold argaments, by which each barmonist has ingeniously defended his own particular plan, it is really difficult to discover a fixed and solid principle, by which the events recorded by the evangelists may be restored to chronological order. *
For a view of the difficulties to be encountered by the first class of harmonists, the reader may turn to Michaëlis' Introduction, translated by Bishop Marsh, vol. iii. part 1. sect. 2,3.; and for the arguments in favour of their hypotheses, he may consult Macknight's Preliminary Observations to his Harmony of the Gospels, Obs. iv.
After a careful examination of the various arguments put forth and supported with so much learning and ingenuity by the several writers in support of their respective hypotheses, my opinion has been formed in favour of that which supposes that the purpose for which the historical books of the New Testament were written, was not to give a regular chronologically disposed history of the life, ministry, and sufferings of Jesus Christ, but the collection of such a body of well
* Marsh's Michaëlis, vol. iii. part 2. p. 44.
authenticated facts, as might disclose the nature, and form sufficient proof of the truth of the Christian religion. In favour of this opinion, Jet the following remarks, from the pen of a writer who has produced one of the mostlogical and well-conducted arguments in proof of the authenticity of the New Testament that has ever appeared upon the subject, be carefully considered. “There are no marks of an intention, on the part of any of the evangelists, to give to their narratives a regular chronological order. While, in general, there are no indications of the succession, and proximity of the events narrated, but from their being prior, or posterior, and contiguous in the narrative, or from such indefinite expressions as τοτε, παλιν, εν ταις ημέραις εκειναις, εν εκεινω τω χαιρώ, εν τω καθεξης, μετα ταυτα; on the other hand, it sometimes occurs, that the events which one evangelist relates as in immediate suco lon, are noticed by himself to be not contiguous in time, and are put down by another, with some of the intervening transactions interposed. Than evidence of this kind, as to the purpose of a history, no declaration by the writer can be more satisfactory. Sach declaration, unless perfectly explicit, may be required to be modified, by what his work bears within itself of its purpose. But there can be no ambiguity in the evidence, deduced from such facts as we have noticed, in the Gospel narratives. Against this evidence, too, there is no contrary declaration to be weighed. The evangelist (John xx. 30, 31.) expressly asserts that the purpose of his writing, was to make such a selection of facts as might be good ground of faith in the divine mission of Jesus Christ; but be no where affirms the chronological order of the selection. Luke, also, thus declarés the purpose of his writing to Theophilus, Iνα επιγνως περι ων κατηχήOns doyov tnv aopalɛlav, (Luke i. 4.) and the expression in the preceling verse, Έδoξε καμοι, παρηκολουθηκοτι ανωθεν πασιν ακριβώς Kaleins got ypapar, is to be interpreted according to that purpose. For this purpose, thus distinctly expressed by two of the evangelists, and evident from the manner of writing common to them all, it was assuredly necessary that, either directly or indirectly, they should furnish us with such information, as miglit enable us to refer the facts in the Gospel history to a certain country, and a certain period in the history of the world. Without this, the Gospels would not have afforded the proper means for distinguishing them from fictitious histories; and hence, could not have answered the purpose of furnishing evidence to the truth of Christianity. This it was possible to do, either formally by dates, such as are found in the beginning of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Luke's Gospel; or by allusions to known places, persons, and circumstances, to be learnt from other histories. Of these two modes, the evangelists, with a few exceptions, follow the latter; natural to men writing immediately for contemporaries, upon or near the scene of the events, and conformable to the usual simplicity by which their whole style is pervaded. But for this purpose, it was not in the least necessary to frame regular chronological narratives ; and accordingly,
what was not necessary, has not been effected; the connexions carrying forward the arrangement of events in the Gospels, being not merely those of time, but of the various associations, such as similarity in the facts themselves, vicinity of place, &c., by which it is possible that the human mind may be guided, in recollecting and classifying things that are past. · And such, perhaps, upon the wbole, is the impression made on most readers by the narratives of the evangelists. As we read them, we have a general feeling that they are carrying us ultimately forward, from preceding to subsequent events, yet, occasionally, over intervals of time concerning which nothing has been recorded, or with deviations from the chronological order; thus rendering it difficult, or impossible, to make one harmonious arrangement of the whole Gospel history in which each event shall obtain, in perfect consistency with the account of each evangelist, its proper chronological place.
Adopting this hypothesis concerning the purpose for which the evangelists wrote, we get rid, and in the fairest way, of all the difficulties with which the authors of Harmonies of the Gospels have had to combat.*
After noticing the difficulties which present themselves in the way of making a chronological adjustment of the facts narrated in the Gospels, Dr. Cook thus concludes: “It seems thus necessary, not only from the impossibility of effecting any well-grounded adjustment of the apparent anachronisms in the Gospels, but from the whole style of the works, to abandon the hypothesis, that in any one of them the narrative of events has closely adhered to their order in time; and to adopt that one, favoured to a certain degree by Bengel and Michaëlis, and coinciding with the great purpose, for which the reason of the thing itself, the express declaration of the evangelist John, and the mode of narrative common to them all, induce us to think that they were written. This last hypothesis does not absolutely prohibit every attempt to reach the chronological arrangement of facts in the Gospel history; but it teaches us, should we make such attempt, to pass the insuperable difficulties, as nothing that is not in perfect consistency with the great end for which the Gospels were composed. The evangelists may thus be considered, as having written their testimony to the truth of Christianity, in very much the same unpremeditated way, that a witness examined before a court, gives extemporaneous evidence; each, after having began his narrative, following the arrangements which the varying associations, passing in his mind during the course of it, most naturally suggested; till, occasionally going backwards and forwards upon the precise . order of events in point of time, the whole information designed to be communicated, was completed."
* Cook's Inquiry into the books of the New Testament, p. 212.