Freethought Archives > Walter R. Cassels > Supernatural Religion




WE now turn to Hegesippus, one of the contemporaries of Justin, and, like him a Palestinian Jewish Christian. Most of our information regarding him is derived from Eusebius, who fortunately gives rather copious extracts from his writings. Hegesippus was born in Palestine, of Jewish parents, [268:1] and in all probability belonged to the primitive community of Jerusalem. In order to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the state of the Church, he travelled widely and came to Rome when Anicetus was Bishop. Subsequently he wrote a work of historical Memoirs, Hupomnêmata, in five books, and thus became the first ecclesiastical historian of Christianity. This work is lost, but portions have been preserved to us by Eusebius, and one other fragment is also extant. It must have been, in part at least, written after the succession of Eleutherus to the Roman bishopric (A.D. 177-193), as that event is mentioned in the book itself, and his testimony is allowed by all critics to date from an advanced period of the second half of the second century.

The testimony of Hegesippus is of great value, not only as that of a man born near the primitive Christian tradition, but also as that of an intelligent traveller amongst many Christian communities. Eusebius evidently held him in high estimation as recording the unerring tradition of the Apostolic preaching in the most simple style of composition, [268:2] and as a writer of authority who was "contemporary with the first successors of the Apostles" [268:3] (epi tês prôtês tôn apostolôn genomenos diadochês). Any indications, therefore, which we may derive from information regarding him, and from the fragments of his writings which survive, must be of peculiar importance for our inquiry.

As might have been expected from a convert from Judaism [268:4] (pepisteukôs ex Hebraiôn) we find in Hegesippus manifest evidences of general tendency to the Jewish side of Christianity. For him, "James, the brother of the Lord," was the chief of the Apostles, and he states that he had received the government of the Church after the death of Jesus. [269:1] The account which he gives of him is remarkable. "He was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, nor ate he any living thing. A razor never went upon his head, he anointed not himself with oil, and did not use a bath. He alone was allowed to enter into the Holies. For he did not wear woollen garments, but linen. And he alone entered into the Sanctuary, and was wont to be found upon his knees seeking forgiveness on behalf of the people; so that his knees became hard like a camel's, through his constant kneeling in supplication to God, and asking for forgiveness for the people. In consequence of his exceeding great righteousness he was called Righteous and 'Oblias,' that is, Protector of the people and Righteousness, as the prophets declare concerning him," [269:2] and so on. Throughout the whole of his account of James, Hegesippus describes him as a mere Jew, and as frequenting the temple, and even entering the Holy of Holies as a Jewish High Priest. Whether the account be apocryphal or not is of little consequence here; it is clear that Hegesippus sees no incongruity in it, and that the difference between the Jew and the Christian was extremely small. The head of the Christian community could assume all the duties of the Jewish High Priest, [269:3] and his Christian doctrines did not offend more than a small party amongst the Jews.

We are not, therefore, surprised to find that his rule (kanôn) of orthodoxy in the Christian communities which he visited was "the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord." Speaking of the result of his observations during his travels, and of the succession of Bishops in Rome, he says: "The Corinthian Church has continued in the true faith until Primus, now Bishop of Corinth. I conversed with him on my voyage to Rome, and stayed many days with the Corinthians, during which time we were refreshed together with true doctrine. Arrived in Rome, I composed the succession until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. After Anicetus succeeded Soter, and afterwards Eleutherus. But with every succession, and in every city, that prevails which the Law, and the Prophets, and the Lord enjoin." [269:4] The test of true doctrine (opthos logos) with Hegesippus, as with Justin, therefore, is no New Testament Canon, which does not yet exist for him, but the Old Testament, the only Holy Scriptures which he acknowledges, and the words of the Lord himself, which, as in the case of Jewish Christians like Justin, were held to be established by, and in direct conformity with, the Old Testament. He carefully transmits the unerring tradition of apostolic preaching (tên aplanê paradosin tou apostolikou kêrygmatos), but he apparently knows nothing of any canonical series even of apostolic epistles.

The care with which Eusebius searches for information regarding the books of the New Testament in early writers, and his anxiety to produce any evidence concerning their composition and authenticity, render his silence upon the subject almost as important as his distinct utterance when speaking of such a man as Hegesippus. Now, while Eusebius does not mention that Hegesippus refers to any of our canonical Gospels or Epistles, he very distinctly states that he made use in his writings of the "Gospel according to the Hebrews" (ek te tou kath' Hebraious euangeliou ... tina tithêsin). It may be well, however, to give his remarks in a consecutive form. "He sets forth some matters from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Syriac, and particularly from the Hebrew language, showing that he was a convert from among the Hebrews, and other things he records as from unwritten Jewish tradition. And not only he, but also Irenaeus, and the whole body of the ancients, called the Proverbs of Solomon: all-virtuous Wisdom. And regarding the so-called Apocrypha, he states that some of them had been forged in his own time by certain heretics." [270:1]

It is clear that Eusebius, who quotes with so much care the testimony of Papias, a man of whom he speaks disparagingly, regarding the composition of the first two Gospels, would not have neglected to have availed himself of the evidence of Hegesippus, for whom he has so much respect, had that writer furnished him with any opportunity, and there can be no doubt that he found no facts concerning the origin and authorship of our Gospels in his writings. It is, on the other hand, reasonable to infer that Hegesippus exclusively made use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, together with unwritten tradition. In the passage regarding the Gospel according to the Hebrews, as even Lardner [270:2] conjectures, the text of Eusebius is in all probability confused, and he doubtless said what Jerome later found to be the fact, that "the Gospel according to the Hebrews is written in the Chaldaic and Syriac (or Syro-Chaldaic) language, but with Hebrew characters." [270:3] It is in this sense that Rufinus translates it. It may not be inappropriate to point out that fragments of the Gospel according to the Hebrews which have been preserved show the same tendency to give some pre-eminence to James amongst the Apostles which we observe in Hegesippus. [271:1] It has been argued by a few that the words, "and regarding the so-called Apocrypha, he states that some of them had been forged in his own times by certain heretics," are contradictory to his attributing authority to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, or at least that they indicate some distinction amongst Christians between recognised and apocryphal works. The apocryphal works referred to, however, are clearly Old Testament Apocrypha. [271:2] The words are introduced by the statement that Hegesippus records matters "as from unwritten Jewish tradition," and then proceeds, "and not only he, but also Irenaeus and the whole body of the ancients, called the Proverbs of Solomon: all-virtuous wisdom." Then follow the words, "And with regard to the so-called Apocrypha," etc., evidently passing from the work just mentioned to the Old Testament Apocrypha, several of which stand also in the name of Solomon, and it is not improbable that amongst these were included the Ascensio Esaiae and the Apocalypsis Eliae, to which is referred a passage which Hegesippus, in a fragment preserved by Photius, [271:3] strongly repudiates. As Hegesippus does not, so far as we know, mention any canonical work of the New Testament, but takes as his rule of faith the Law, the Prophets, and the words of the Lord, probably as he finds them in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, quotes also Jewish tradition and discusses the Proverbs of Solomon, the only possible conclusion at which we can reasonably arrive is that he spoke of Old Testament Apocrypha. There cannot be a doubt that Eusebius would have recorded his repudiation of New Testament "Apocrypha," regarding which he so carefully collects information, and his consequent recognition of New Testament canonical works implied in such a distinction.

We must now see how far in the fragments of the works of Hegesippus which have been preserved to us there are references to assist our inquiry. In his account of certain surviving members of the family of Jesus who were brought before Domitian, Hegesippus says: "For Domitian feared the appearing of the Christ as much as Herod." [271:4] It has been argued that this may be an allusion to the massacre of the children by Herod related in Matt. 2, more especially as it is doubtful whether the parallel account to that contained in the first two chapters of the first Gospel existed in the oldest forms of the Gospel according to the Hebrews. [272:1] But the tradition which has been preserved in our first Synoptic may have formed part of many other evangelical works, in one shape or another, and certainly cannot be claimed with reason exclusively for that Gospel. This argument, therefore, has no weight, and it obviously rests upon the vaguest conjecture.

The principal passages which apologists [272:2] adduce as references to our Gospels occur in the account which Hegesippus gives of the martyrdom of James the Just. The first of these is the reply which James is said to have made to the Scribes and Pharisees: "Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus the Son of Man? He sits in heaven on the right hand of great power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven." [272:3] This is compared with Matt. 26:64: "From this time ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven." [272:4] It is not necessary to point out the variations between these two passages, which are obvious. If we had not the direct intimation that Hegesippus made use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which no doubt contained this passage, it would be apparent that a man who valued tradition so highly might well have derived it from that source. This is precisely one of those sayings which were most current in the early Church, whose hope and courage were sustained amid persecution and suffering by such Chiliastic expectations, with which, according to the apostolic injunction, they comforted each other. [272:5] In any case, the words do not agree with the passage in the first Gospel; and with such discrepancy, without any evidence that Hegesippus knew anything of our Gospels, but, on the contrary, with the knowledge that he made use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, we must decide that any such quotations must rather be derived from it than from our Gospels.

It is scarcely necessary to say anything regarding the phrase, "for we and all the people testify to thee that thou art just, and that thou respectest not persons." [272:6] Dr. Westcott points out that kai ou lambaneis prosôpon only occurs in Luke 20:21, and Galatians 2:6; [273:1] but the similarity of this single phrase, which is not given as a quotation, but in a historical form put into the mouth of those who are addressing James, cannot be accepted as evidence of a knowledge of Luke. The episode of the tribute money is generally ascribed to the oldest form of the Gospel history, and, although the other two Synoptics [273:2] read Blepeis eis for lambaneis, there is no ground for asserting that some of the polloi who preceded Luke did not use the latter form, and as little for asserting that it did not so stand, for instance, in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. The employment of the same expression in the Epistle, moreover, at once deprives the Gospel of any individuality in its use.

Hegesippus represents the dying James as kneeling down and praying for those who were stoning him: "I beseech (thee), Lord God Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Parakalô, kurie Theè pater, aphes autois ou gar oidasi ti poiusin). [273:3] This is compared with the prayer which Luke (23:34) puts into the mouth of Jesus on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Pater, aphes autois ou gar oidasin ti poiousin), and it is assumed from this partial coincidence that Hegesippus was acquainted with the third of our canonical Gospels. We are surprised to see an able and accomplished critic like Hilgenfeld adopting such a conclusion without either examination or argument of any kind. [273:5] Such a deduction is totally unwarranted by the facts of the case, and if the partial agreement of a passage in such a Father with a historical expression in a Gospel which, alone out of many previously existent, has come down to us can be considered evidence of the acquaintance of the Father with that particular Gospel, the function of criticism is at an end.

It may here be observed that the above passage of Luke 23:34 is omitted altogether from the Vatican MS. and Codex D (Bezae), and in the Codex Sinaiticus its position is of a very doubtful character. [273:6] The Codex Alexandrinus which contains it omits the word pater[274:1] Luke's Gospel was avowedly composed after many other similar works were already in existence, and we know from our Synoptics how closely such writings often followed each other, and drew from the same sources. [274:2] If any historical character is conceded to this prayer of Jesus, it is natural to suppose that it must have been given in at least some of these numerous Gospels which have unfortunately perished. No one could reasonably assert that our third Gospel is the only one which ever contained the passage. It would be unwarrantable to affirm, for instance, that it did not exist in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which Hegesippus employed. On the supposition that the passage is historical, which apologists at least will not dispute, what could be more natural or probable than that such a prayer, "emanating from the innermost soul of Jesus," [274:3] should have been adopted under similar circumstances by James his brother and successor, who certainly could not have derived it from Luke. The tradition of such words, expressing so much of the original spirit of Christianity, setting aside for the moment written Gospels, could scarcely fail to have remained fresh in the mind of the early Church, and more especially in the primitive community among whom they were uttered, and of which Hegesippus was himself a later member; and they would certainly have been treasured by one who was so careful a collector and transmitter of "the unerring tradition of the apostolic preaching." No saying is more likely to have been preserved by tradition, both from its own character, brevity, and origin, and from the circumstances under which it was uttered, and there can be no reason for limiting it amongst written records to Luke's Gospel. The omission of the prayer from very important codices of Luke further weakens the claim of that Gospel to the passage. Beyond these general considerations, however, there is the important and undoubted fact that the prayer which Hegesippus represents James as uttering does not actually agree with the prayer of Jesus in the third Gospel. So far from proving the use of Luke, therefore, this merely fragmentary and partial agreement, on the contrary, rather proves that he did not know that Gospel, for on the supposition of his making use of the third Synoptic at all for such a purpose, and not simply giving the prayer which James may in reality have uttered, why did he not quote the prayer as he actually found it in Luke?

We have still to consider a fragment of Hegesippus preserved to us by Stephanus Gobarus, a learned monophysite of the sixth century, which reads as follows: "That the good things prepared for the righteous neither eye saw, nor ear heard, nor entered they into the heart of man. Hegesippus, however, an ancient and apostolic man, how moved I know not, says in the fifth book of his Memoirs that these words are vainly spoken, and that those who say these things give the lie to the divine writings and to the Lord, saying: 'Blessed are your eyes that see, and your ears that hear,'" etc. (Makarioi oi ophthalmoi humôn oi blepontes, kai ta ôta humôn ta akouonta, kai ta exês). [275:1] We believe that we have here an expression of the strong prejudice against the Apostle Paul and his teaching, which continued for so long to prevail amongst Jewish Christians, and which is apparent in many writings of that period. The quotation of Paul, 1 Cor. 2:9, differs materially from the Septuagint version of the passage in Isaiah 44: 4, and, as we have seen, the same passage quoted by Clement of Rome, [275:2] differs both from the version of the Septuagint and from the epistle, although closer to the former. Jerome, however, found the passage in the apocryphal work called Ascensio Esaiae[275:3] and Origen, Jerome, and others, likewise ascribe it to the Apocalypsis Eliae[275:4] This, however, does not concern us here, and we have merely to examine the "saying of the Lord," which Hegesippus opposes to the passage "Blessed are your eyes that see and your ears that hear." This is compared with Matt. 13:16, "But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear" (humôn de makarioi oi ophthalmou hoti Blepousin, kai ta ôta humôn hoti akouousin), and also with Luke 10:23, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see," etc. We need not point out that the saying referred to by Hegesippus, whilst conveying the same sense as that in the two Gospels, differs from them both as they do from each other, and as we might expect a quotation taken from a different though kindred source, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews, to do. The whole of the passages which we have examined, indeed, exhibit the same natural variation.

We have already referred to the expressions of Hegesippus regarding the heresies in the early Church: "From these sprang the false Christs, and false prophets, and false apostles, who divided the unity of the Church by corrupting doctrines concerning God and his Christ." [275:5] We have shown how this recalls quotations in Justin of sayings of Jesus foreign to our Gospels, in common with similar expressions in the Clementine Homilies[275:6] Apostolic Constitutions[276:1] and Clementine Recognitions[276:2] and we need not discuss the matter further. This community of reference, in a circle known to have made use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, to matters foreign to our Synoptics, furnishes collateral illustration of the influence of that Gospel.

Tischendorf, who so eagerly searches for every trace, real or imaginary, of the use of our Gospels and of the existence of a New Testament Canon, passes over in silence, with the exception of a short note [276:3] devoted to the denial that Hegesippus was opposed to Paul, this first writer of Christian Church history, whose evidence, could it have been adduced, would have been so valuable. He does not pretend that Hegesippus made use of the canonical Gospels, or knew of any other Holy Scriptures than those of the Old Testament; but, on the other hand, he does not mention that he possessed, and quoted from, the Gospel according to the Hebrews. There is no reason for supposing that Hegesippus found a New Testament Canon in any of the Christian communities which he visited, and such a rule of faith certainly did not yet exist in Rome in A.D. 160-170. There is no evidence to show that Hegesippus recognised any other evangelical work than the Gospel according to the Hebrews, as the written source of his knowledge of the words of the Lord.

The testimony of Papias is of great interest and importance in connection with our inquiry, inasmuch as he is the first ecclesiastical writer who mentions the tradition that Matthew and Mark composed written records of the life and teaching of Jesus; but no question has been more continuously contested than that of the identity of the works to which he refers with our actual canonical Gospels. Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, [276:4] in the first half of the second century, and is said to have suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius about A.D. 164-167. [276:5] About the middle of the second century he wrote a work in five books, entitled "Exposition of the Lord's Oracles" [276:6] (Logiôn Kuriakôn Exegesis) which, with the exception of a few fragments preserved to us chiefly by Eusebius and Irenaeus, is, unfortunately, no longer extant. In the preface to his book he stated: "But I shall not hesitate also to set beside my interpretations all that I rightly learnt from the Presbyters, and rightly remembered, earnestly testifying to their truth; for I was not, like the multitude, taking pleasure in those who speak much, but in those who teach the truth; nor in those who relate alien commandments, but in those who record those delivered by the Lord to the faith, and which come from the truth itself. If it happened that anyone came who had followed the Presbyters, I inquired minutely after the words of the Presbyters, what Andrew or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James, or what John or Matthew, or what any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say; for I held that what was to be derived from books did not so profit me as that from the living and abiding voice" [277:1] (Ou gar ta ek tôn bibliôn tosouton me ôphelein hupelambanoi, hoson ta para zôsês phônês kai menousês). It is clear from this that Papias preferred tradition to any written works with which he was acquainted, that he attached little or no value to any Gospels with which he had met, [277:2] and that he knew nothing of canonical Scriptures of the New Testament. His work was evidently intended to furnish a collection of the discourses of Jesus completed from oral tradition, with his own expositions; and this is plainly indicated, both by his own words and by the statements of Eusebius, who, amongst other things, mentions that Papias sets forth strange parables of the Saviour, and teachings of his from unwritten tradition (ek paradoseôs agraphou). [277:3] It is not, however, necessary to discuss more closely the nature of the work, for there is no doubt that written collections of discourses of Jesus existed before it was composed, of which it is probable he made use.

The most interesting part of the work of Papias which is preserved to us is that relating to Matthew and Mark. After stating that Papias had inserted in his book accounts of Jesus given by Aristion, of whom nothing is known, and by the Presbyter John, Eusebius proceeds to extract a tradition regarding Mark communicated by the latter. There has been much controversy as to the identity of the Presbyter John, some affirming him to have been the Apostle, but the great majority of critics deciding that he was a totally different person. Irenaeus, who, sharing the Chiliastic opinions of Papias, held him in high respect, boldly calls him "the hearer of John" (meaning the Apostle) "and a companion of Polycarp" (ho Iôannon men akoustês, Polykarpou de etairois gegonôs); [278:1] but this is expressly contradicted by Eusebius, who points out that, in the preface to his book, Papias by no means asserts that he was himself a hearer of the Apostles, but merely that he received their doctrines from those who had personally known them; [278:2] and, after making the quotation from Papias which we have given above, he goes on to point out that the name of John is twice mentioned -- once together with Peter, James, and Matthew and the other Apostles, "evidently the Evangelist," and the other John he mentions separately, ranking him amongst those who are not Apostles, and placing Aristion before him, distinguishing him clearly by the name of Presbyter. [278:3] He further refers to the statement of the great Bishop of Alexandria, Dionysius, [278:4] that at Ephesus there were two tombs, each bearing the name of John, thereby leading to the inference that there were two men of the name. [278:5] There can be no doubt that Papias himself, in the passage quoted, mentions two persons of the name of John, distinguishing the one from the other, and classing the one amongst the Apostles and the other after Aristion, an unknown "disciple of the Lord," and, but for the phrase of Irenaeus, so characteristically uncritical and assumptive, there probably never would have been any doubt raised as to the meaning of the passage. The question is not of importance to us, and we may leave it with the remark that a writer who suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius, c. A.D. 165, can scarcely have been a hearer of the Apostles. [278:6]

The account which the Presbyter John is said to have given of Mark's Gospel is as follows: "'This also the Presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately whatever he remembered, though he did not arrange in order the things which were either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord, nor followed him; but afterwards, as I said, [279:1] accompanied Peter, who adapted his teaching to the occasion, and not as making a consecutive record of the Lord's oracles. Mark, therefore, committed no error in thus writing down some things as he remembered them. For of one point he was careful, to omit none of the things which he heard, and not to narrate any of them falsely.' These facts Papias relates concerning Mark." [279:2] The question to decide is, whether the work here described is our canonical Gospel or not.

The first point in this account is the statement that Mark was the interpreter of Peter (hermêneutês Petrou). Was he merely the secretary of the Apostle, writing in a manner from his dictation, or does the passage mean that he translated the Aramaic narrative of Peter into Greek? The former is the more probable supposition, and that which is most generally adopted; but the question is not material here. The connection of Peter with the Gospel according to Mark was generally affirmed in the early Church, as was also that of Paul with the third Gospel, [279:3] with the evident purpose of claiming apostolic origin for all the canonical Gospels. [279:4] Irenaeus says: "After their (Peter and Paul) decease, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing that which had been preached by Peter." [279:5] Eusebius quotes a similar tradition from Clement of Alexandria, embellished, however, with further particulars. He says: "...The cause for which the Gospel according to Mark was written was this: When Peter had publicly preached the word at Rome, and proclaimed the Gospel by the Spirit, those who were present, being many, requested Mark, as he had followed him from afar, and remembered what he had said, to write down what he had spoken; and, when he had composed the Gospel, he gave it to those who had asked it of him; which, when Peter knew, he neither absolutely hindered nor encouraged it." [280:1] Tertullian repeats the same tradition. He says: "And the Gospel which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was …… for it may rightly appear that works which disciples publish are of their masters." [280:2] We have it again from Origen: "The second (Gospel) is according to Mark, written as Peter directed him." [280:3] Eusebius gives a more detailed and advanced version of the same tradition. "So much, however, did the effulgence of piety illuminate the minds of those (Romans) who heard Peter that it did not content them to hear but once, nor to receive only the unwritten doctrine of the divine teaching; but, with reiterated entreaties, they besought Mark, to whom the Gospel is ascribed, as the companion of Peter, that he should leave them a written record of the doctrine thus orally conveyed. Nor did they cease their entreaties until they had persuaded the man, and thus became the cause of the writing of the Gospel called according to Mark. They say, moreover, that the Apostle (Peter), having become aware, through revelation to him of the Spirit, of what had been done, was delighted with the ardour of the men, and ratified the work, in order that it might be read in the churches. This narrative is given by Clement in the sixth book of his Institutions whose testimony is supported by that of Papias, the Bishop of Hierapolis." [280:4] The account given by Clement, however, by no means contained these details, as we have seen. In his Demonstration of the Gospel, Eusebius, referring to the same tradition, affirms that it was the modesty of Peter which prevented his writing a Gospel himself. [280:5] Jerome almost repeats the preceding account of Eusebius: "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being entreated by the brethren of Rome, wrote a short Gospel according to what he had received from Peter, which, when Peter heard, he approved, and gave his authority for its being read in the churches, as Clement writes in the sixth book of his Institutions," [281:1] etc. Jerome, moreover says that Peter had Mark for an interpreter, "whose Gospel was composed: Peter narrating and he writing" (cujus evangelium Petro narrante et illo scribente compositum est). [281:2] It is evident that all these writers merely repeat with variations the tradition regarding the first two Gospels which Papias originated. Irenaeus dates the writing of Mark after the death of Peter and Paul in Rome. Clement describes Mark as writing during Peter's life, the Apostle preserving absolute neutrality. By the time of Eusebius, however, the tradition has acquired new and miraculous elements, and a more decided character; Peter is made aware of the undertaking of Mark through a revelation of the Spirit, and, instead of being neutral, is delighted, and lends the work the weight of his authority. Eusebius refers to Clement and Papias as giving the same account, which they do not, however, and Jerome merely repeats the story of Eusebius without naming him; and the tradition which he had embellished thus becomes endorsed and perpetuated. Such is the growth of tradition; [281:3] it is impossible to overlook the mythical character of the information we possess as to the origin of the second canonical Gospel.

In a Gospel so completely inspired by Peter as the tradition of Papias and of the early Church indicates we may reasonably expect to find unmistakeable traces of Petrine influence; but, on examination, it will be seen that these are totally wanting. Some of the early Church did not fail to remark this singular discrepancy between the Gospel and the tradition of its dependence on Peter, and, in reply, Eusebius adopts an apologetic tone. [281:4] For instance, in the brief account of the calling of Simon in Mark, the distinguishing addition, "called Peter," of the first Gospel is omitted, [281:5] and, still more notably, the whole narrative of the miraculous draught of fishes which gives the event such prominence in the third Gospel. [281:6] In Matthew, Jesus goes into the house of "Peter" to cure his wife's mother of a fever, whilst in Mark it is "into the house of Simon and Andrew," the less honourable name being still continued. [282:1] Matthew commences the catalogue of the twelve by the pointed indication: "The first, Simon, who is called Peter," [282:2] thus giving him precedence, whilst Mark merely says, "And Simon he surnamed Peter." [282:3] The important episode of Peter's walking on the sea, of the first Gospel, [282:4] is altogether ignored by Mark. The enthusiastic declaration of Peter, "Thou art the Christ," [282:5] is only followed by the chilling injunction to tell no one, in the second Gospel, [282:6] whilst Matthew not only gives greater prominence to the declaration of Peter, but gives the reply of Jesus, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona," etc. — of which Mark apparently knows nothing — and then proceeds to the most important episode in the history of the Apostle, the celebrated words by which the surname of Peter was conferred upon him: "And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church," etc. [282:7] The Gospel supposed to have been inspired by Peter, however, totally omits this most important passage, as it also does the miracle of the finding the tribute money in the fish's mouth, narrated by the first Gospel. [282:8] Luke states that "Peter and John" are sent to prepare the Passover, whilst Mark has only "two disciples"; [282:9] and in the account of the last Supper, Luke gives the address of Jesus to Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (all) that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." [282:10] Of this Mark does not say a word. Again, after the denial, Luke reads: "And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, etc., and Peter went out and wept bitterly"; [282:11] whereas Mark omits the reproachful look of Jesus, and makes the penitence of Peter depend merely on the second crowing of the cock, and further modifies the penitence by the omission of "bitterly" -- "And when he thought thereon, he wept." [282:12] There are other instances to which we need not refer. Not only are some of the most important episodes in which Peter is represented by the other Gospels as a principal actor altogether omitted, but throughout the Gospel there is a total absence of anything which is specially characteristic of Petrine influence and teaching. The argument that these omissions are due to the modesty of Peter is quite untenable, for not only does Irenaeus, the most ancient authority on the point, state that this Gospel was only written after the death of Peter, [283:1] but also there is no modesty in omitting passages of importance in the history of Jesus, simply because Peter himself was in some way concerned in them, or, for instance, in decreasing his penitence for such a denial of his master, which could not but have filled a sad place in the Apostle's memory. On the other hand, there is no adequate record of special matter, which the intimate knowledge of the doings and sayings of Jesus possessed by Peter might have supplied, to counterbalance the singular omissions. There is much more of the spirit of Peter in the first Gospel than there is in the second. The whole internal evidence, therefore, shows that this part of the tradition of the Presbyter John transmitted by Papias does not apply to our Gospel.

The discrepancy is still more marked when we compare with our actual second Gospel the account of the work of Mark which Papias received from the Presbyter. Mark wrote down from memory some parts (enia) of the teaching of Peter regarding the life of Jesus, but as Peter adapted his instructions to the actual circumstances (pros tas chreias), and did not give a consecutive report (syntaxis) of the sayings or doings of Jesus, Mark was only careful to be accurate, and did not trouble himself to arrange in historical order (taxis) his narrative of the things which were said and done by Jesus, but merely wrote down facts as he remembered them. This description would lead us to expect a work composed of fragmentary reminiscences of the teaching of Peter, without regular sequence or connection. The absence of orderly arrangement is the most prominent feature in the description, and forms the burden of the whole. Mark writes "what he remembered"; "he did not arrange in order the things that were either said or done by Christ." And then follow the apologetic expressions of explanation -- he was not himself a hearer or follower of the Lord, but derived his information from the occasional preaching of Peter, who did not attempt to give a consecutive narrative. Now, it is impossible in the work of Mark, here described, to recognise our present second Gospel, which does not depart in any important degree from the order of the other two Synoptics, and which throughout has the most evident character of orderly arrangement. Each of the Synoptics compared with the other two would present a similar degree of variation, but none of them could justly be described as not arranged in order, or as not being consecutive. The second Gospel opens formally, and, after presenting John the Baptist as the messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord, proceeds to the baptism of Jesus, his temptation, his entry upon public life, and his calling of the disciples. Then, after a consecutive narrative of his teaching and works, the history ends with a full account of the last events in the life of Jesus, his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. There is in the Gospel every characteristic of artistic and orderly arrangement, from the striking introduction by the prophetic voice crying in the wilderness to the solemn close of the marvellous history. [284:1] The great majority of critics, therefore, are agreed in concluding that the account of the Presbyter John recorded by Papias does not apply to our second canonical Gospel at all. Many of those who affirm that the description of Papias may apply to our second Gospel do so with hesitation, and few maintain that we now possess the original work without considerable subsequent alteration. Some of these critics, however, feeling the difficulty of identifying our second Gospel with the work here described, endeavour to reconcile the discrepancy by a fanciful interpretation of the account of Papias. They suggest that the first part, in which the want of chronological order is pointed out, refers to the rough notes which Mark made during the actual preaching and lifetime of Peter, and that the latter part applies to our present Gospel, which he later remodelled into its present shape. This most unreasonable and arbitrary application of the words of Papias is denounced even by apologists.

It has been well argued that the work here described as produced by Mark in the character of hermêneutês Petrou is much more one of the same family as the Clementine Homilies than of our Gospels. The work was no systematic narrative of the history of Jesus, nor report of his teaching, but the dogmatic preaching of the Apostle, illustrated and interspersed with passages from the discourses of Jesus, or facts from his life. Of this character seems actually to have been that ancient work, The Preaching of Peter (Kêrygma Petrou), which was used by Heracleon, [284:2] and by Clement [284:3] of Alexandria, as an authentic canonical work, [284:4] denounced by Origen [284:5] on account of the consideration in which it was held by many, but still quoted with respect by Gregory of Nazianzum. [284:6] There can be no doubt that the Kêrygma Petrou, although it failed to obtain a permanent place in the canon, was one of the most ancient works of the Christian Church, dating probably from the first century, and, like the work described by Papias, it also was held to have been composed in Rome in connection with the preaching there of Peter and Paul. It must be noted, moreover, that Papias does not call the work ascribed to Mark a Gospel, but merely a record of the preaching of Peter.

It is not necessary for us to account for the manner in which the work referred to by the Presbyter John disappeared, and the present Gospel according to Mark became substituted for it. The merely negative evidence that our actual Gospel is not the work described by Papias is sufficient for our purpose. Anyone acquainted with the thoroughly uncritical character of the Fathers, and with the literary history of the early Christian Church, will readily conceive the facility with which this can have been accomplished. The great mass of intelligent critics are agreed that our Synoptic Gospels have assumed their present form only after repeated modifications by various editors of earlier evangelical works. These changes have not been effected without traces being left by which the various materials may be separated and distinguished; but the more primitive Gospels have entirely disappeared, naturally supplanted by the later and amplified versions. The critic, however, who distinguishes between the earlier and later matter is not bound to perform the now impossible feat of producing the originals, or accounting in any but a general way for the disappearance of the primitive Gospel.

Tischendorf asks: "How then has neither Eusebius nor any other theologian of Christian antiquity thought that the expressions of Papias were in contradiction with the two Gospels (Mt. and Mk.)?" [285:1] The absolute credulity with which those theologians accepted any fiction, however childish, which had a pious tendency, and the frivolous character of the only criticism in which they indulged, render their unquestioning application of the tradition of Papias to our Gospels anything but singular, and it is only surprising to find their silent acquiescence elevated into an argument. We have already, in the course of these pages, seen something of the singularly credulous and uncritical character of the Fathers, and we cannot afford space to give instances of the absurdities with which their writings abound. No fable could be too gross, no invention too transparent, for their unsuspicious acceptance, if it assumed a pious form or tended to edification. No period in the history of the world ever produced so many spurious works as the first two or three centuries of our era. The name of every Apostle, or Christian teacher, not excepting that of the great Master himself, was freely attached to every description of religious forgery. False gospels, epistles, acts, martyrologies, were unscrupulously circulated, and such pious falsification was not even intended, or regarded, as a crime, but perpetrated for the sake of edification. It was only slowly and after some centuries that many of these works, once, as we have seen, regarded with pious veneration, were excluded from the canon; and that genuine works shared this fate, while spurious ones usurped their places, is one of the surest results of criticism. The Fathers omitted to inquire critically when such investigation might have been of value, and mere tradition credulously accepted and transmitted is of no critical value. [286:1] In an age when the multiplication of copies of any work was a slow process, and their dissemination a matter of difficulty and even danger, it is easy to understand with what facility the more complete and artistic Gospel could take the place of the original notes as the work of Mark.

The account given by Papias of the work ascribed to Matthew is as follows: "Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew dialect, and every one interpreted them as he was able." [286:2] Critics are divided in opinion as to whether this tradition was, like that regarding Mark, derived from the Presbyter John, or is given merely on the authority of Papias himself. Eusebius joins the account of Mark to that given by Matthew merely by the following words: "These facts Papias relates concerning Mark; but regarding Matthew he has said as follows:" [286:3] Eusebius distinctly states that the account regarding Mark is derived from the Presbyter, and the only reason for ascribing to him also that concerning Matthew is that it is not excluded by the phraseology of Eusebius; and, the two passages being given by him consecutively -- however they may have stood in the work of Papias -- it is reasonable enough to suppose that the information was derived from the same source. The point is not of much importance, but it is clear that there is no absolute right to trace this statement to the Presbyter John, as there is in the case of the tradition about Mark.

This passage has excited even more controversy than that regarding Mark, and its interpretation and application are still keenly debated. The intricacy and difficulty of the questions which it raises are freely admitted by some of the most earnest defenders of the canonical Gospels, but the problem, so far as our examination is concerned, can be solved without much trouble. The dilemma in which apologists find themselves when they attempt closely to apply the description of this work given by Papias to our canonical Gospel is the great difficulty which complicates the matter and prevents a clear and distinct solution of the question. We shall avoid minute discussion of details, contenting ourselves with the broader features of the argument, and seeking only to arrive at a just conclusion as to the bearing of the evidence of Papias upon the claim to authenticity of our canonical Gospel.

The first point which we have to consider is the nature of the work which is here described. Matthew is said to have composed the Lôgia or Oracles, and there can be little doubt from the title of his own book, Exposition of the Lord's Oracles (Logiôn kuriakôn exêgêsis) that these oracles referred to by Papias were the Discourses of Jesus. Does the word logia, however, mean strictly oracles or discourses alone, or does it include within its fair signification also historical narrative? Were the "Logia" here referred to a simple collection of the discourses of Jesus, or a complete Gospel like that in our canon bearing the name of Matthew? That the natural interpretation of the word is merely "oracles" is indirectly admitted, even by the most thorough apologists, when they confess the obscurity of the expression — obscurity, however, which simply appears to exist from the difficulty of straining the word to make it apply to the Gospel. "In these sentences," says Tischendorf, referring to the passage about Matthew, "there is much obscurity; for instance, it is doubtful whether we have rightly translated 'Discourses of the Lord,'" [287:1] and he can only extend the meaning to include historical narrative by leaving the real meaning of the word, and interpreting it by supposed analogy.

There can be no doubt that the direct meaning of the word logia anciently and at the time of Papias was simply -- words or oracles of a sacred character, and, however much the signification became afterwards extended, that it was not then at all applied to doings as well as sayings. There are many instances of this original and limited signification in the New Testament; [287:2] and there is no linguistic precedent for straining the expression used at that period to mean anything beyond a collection of sayings of Jesus which were estimated as oracular or divine, nor is there any reason for thinking that ta logia was here used in any other sense. It is argued, on the other hand, that in the preceding passage upon Mark a more extended meaning of the word is indicated. The Presbyter John says that Mark, as the interpreter of Peter, wrote, without order, "the things which were either said or done by Christ" (ta hupo tou Christou ê lechthenta ê prachthenta), and then, apologising for him, he goes on to say that Peter, whom he followed, adapted his teaching to the occasion, "and not as making a consecutive record of the oracles (logiôn) of the Lord."Here, it is said, the word logiôn is used in reference both to sayings and doings, and, therefore, in the passage on Matthew ta logia must not be understood to mean only lechthenta, but also includes, as in the former case, the practhenta. For these and similar reasons -- in very many cases largely influenced by the desire to see in these logia our actual Gospel according to Matthew -- many critics have maintained that ta logia in this place may be understood to include historical narrative as well as discourses. The arguments by which they arrive at this conclusion, however, seem to us to be based upon thorough misconception of the direct meaning of the passage. Few, or none, of these critics would deny that the simple interpretation of ta logia, at that period, was oracular sayings. [289:1] Papias shows his preference for discourses in the very title of his lost book, Exposition of the Logiôn of the Lord, and in the account which he gives of the works attributed to Mark and Matthew the discourses evidently attracted his chief interest. Now, in the passage regarding Mark, instead of logiôn being made the equivalent of lechthenta and prachthenta, the very reverse is the fact. The Presbyter says Mark wrote what he remembered of the things which were said or done by Christ, although not in order, and he apologises for his doing this on the ground that he had not himself been a hearer of the Lord, but merely reported what he had heard from Peter, who adapted his teaching to the occasion, and did not attempt to give a consecutive record of the oracles (logiôn) of the Lord. Mark, therefore, could not do so either. Matthew, on the contrary, he states, did compose the oracles (ta logia). There is an evident contrast made -- Mark wrote ê lechthenta ê practhenta because he had not the means of writing the oracles; but Matthew composed the logia. Papias clearly distinguishes the work of Mark, who had written reminiscences of what Jesus had said and done from that of Matthew, who had made a collection of his discourses.

It is impossible upon any but arbitrary grounds, and from a foregone conclusion, to maintain that a work commencing with a detailed history of the birth and infancy of Jesus, his genealogy, and the preaching of John the Baptist, and concluding with an equally minute history of his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection; which relates all the miracles, and has for its evident aim throughout the demonstration that Messianic prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus, could be entitled ta logia: the oracles or discourses of the Lord.

Partly for these, but also for other important reasons, some of which shall presently be referred to, the great majority of critics deny that the work described by Papias can be the same as the Gospel in our canon bearing the name of Matthew. Whilst of those who suppose that the (Aramaic) original of which Papias speaks may have been substantially similar to it in construction, very few affirm that the work did not receive much subsequent manipulation, addition, and alteration, necessarily including translation, before it assumed the form in which the Gospel now lies before us; and many of them altogether deny its actual apostolic origin.

The next most important and obvious point is that the work described in this passage was written by Matthew in the Hebrew or Aramaic dialect, and each one who did not understand that dialect was obliged to translate as best he could. Our Gospel according to Matthew, however, is in Greek. Tischendorf, who is obliged to acknowledge the Greek originality of our actual Gospel, and that it is not a translation from another language, recognises the inevitable dilemma in which this fact places apologists, and has, with a few other critics, no better argument with which to meet it than the simple suggestion that Papias must have been mistaken in saying that Matthew wrote in Hebrew. [290:1] Just as much of the testimony as is convenient or favourable is eagerly claimed by such apologists, and the rest, which destroys its applicability to our Gospel, is set aside as a mistake. Tischendorf perceives the difficulty, but, not having arguments to meet it, he takes refuge in feeling. "In this," he says, "there lies before us one of the most complicated questions, whose detailed treatment would here not be in place. For our part, we are fully at rest concerning it, in the conviction that the assumption by Papias of a Hebrew original text of Matthew, which already in his time cannot have been limited to himself and was soon repeated by other men, arises only from a misunderstanding." [290:2] It is difficult to comprehend why it should be considered out of place, in a work specially written to establish the authenticity of the Gospels, to discuss fully so vital a point; and its deliberate evasion in such a manner alone can be deemed out of place. [290:3]

We may here briefly remark that Tischendorf and others [290:4] repeat with approval the disparaging expressions against Papias which Eusebius, for dogmatic reasons, did not scruple to use, and in this way they seek somewhat to depreciate his testimony, or at least indirectly to warrant their free handling of it. It is true that Eusebius says that Papias was a man of very limited comprehension [290:5] (sphodra gar toi smikros ôn ton noun), but this is acknowledged to be on account of his Millenarian opinions, to which Eusebius was vehemently opposed. It must be borne in mind, however, that the Chiliastic passage from Papias quoted by Irenaeus, and in which he certainly saw nothing foolish, is given on the authority of the Presbyter John, to whom, and not to Papias, any criticism upon it must be referred. If the passage be not of a very elevated character, it is quite in the spirit of that age. The main point, however, is that in regard to the testimony of Papias we have little to do with his general ability, for all that was requisite was the power to see, hear, and accurately state very simple facts. He repeats what is told him by the Presbyter, and, in such matters, we presume that the Bishop of Hierapolis must be admitted to have been competent.

There is no point, however, on which the testimony of the Fathers is more invariable and complete than that the work of Matthew was written in Hebrew or Aramaic. The first mention of any work ascribed to Matthew occurs in the account communicated by Papias, in which, as we have seen, it is distinctly said that Matthew wrote "in the Hebrew dialect." Irenaeus, the next writer who refers to the point, says: "Matthew also produced a written Gospel amongst the Hebrews in their own dialect," and that he did not derive his information solely from Papias may be inferred from his going on to state the epoch of Matthew's writings: "when Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the Church in Rome." [291:1] The evidence furnished by Pantaenus is certainly independent of Papias. Eusebius states, with regard to him: "Of these Pantaenus is said to have been one, and to have penetrated as far as India (Southern Arabia), where it is reported that he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had been delivered before his arrival to some who had the knowledge of Christ, to whom Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, as it is said, had preached, and left them that writing of Matthew in Hebrew letters" (autois te Hebraiôn grammasi tên tou Matthaiou kataleipsai graphên). [291:2] Jerome gives a still more circumstantial account of this: "Pantaenus found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles, had there (in India) preached the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew, which was written in Hebrew letters (quod Hebraicis literis scriptum), and which, on returning to Alexandria, he brought with him." [292:1] It is quite clear that this was no version specially made by Bartholomew, for had he translated the Gospel according to Matthew from the Greek, for the use of persons in Arabia, he certainly would not have done so into Hebrew. Origen, according to Eusebius, "following the ecclesiastical canon," states what he has understood from tradition (en paradosei) Of the Gospels, and says: "The first written was that according to Matthew, once a publican, but afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, who delivered it to the Jewish believers, composed in the Hebrew language." [292:2] Eusebius, in another place, makes a similar statement in his own name: "Matthew, having first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go also to others delivered to them his Gospel written in their native language, and thus compensated those from whom he was departing for the want of his presence by the writing." [292:3] Cyril of Jerusalem says: "Matthew, who wrote the Gospel, wrote it in the Hebrew language."  [292:4] Epiphanius, referring to the fact that the Nazarenes called the only Gospel which they recognised the "Gospel according to the Hebrews," continues: "As in very truth we can affirm that Matthew alone, in the New Testament, set forth and proclaimed the Gospel in the Hebrew language and in Hebrew characters"; [292:5] and elsewhere he states that "Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew." [292:6] The same tradition is repeated by Chrysostom, [292:7] Augustine, [292:8] and others.

Whilst the testimony of the Fathers was thus unanimous as to the fact that the Gospel ascribed to Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, no question ever seems to have arisen in their minds as to the character of the Greek version; much less was any examination made with the view of testing the accuracy of the translation. "Such inquiries were not in the spirit of Christian learned men generally of that time," [292:9] as Tischendorf remarks in connection with the belief current in the early Church, and afterwards shared by Jerome, that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was the original of the Greek Gospel according to Matthew. The first who directly refers to the point, frankly confessing the total ignorance which generally prevailed, was Jerome. He states: "Matthew, who was also called Levi, who, from a publican, became an Apostle, was the first who wrote a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in Hebrew language and letters, on account of those from amongst the circumcision who had believed; but who afterwards translated it into Greek is not sufficiently certain." [293:1] It was only at a much later period, when doubt began to arise, that the translation was wildly ascribed to the Apostles John, James, and others. [293:2]

The expression in Papias that "everyone interpreted them (the logia) as he was able" (hêrmêneuse d'auta hôs ên dynatos ekastos) has been variously understood by different critics, like the rest of the account. Schleiermacher explained the hêrmêneuse as translation by enlargement -- Matthew merely collected the logia, and everyone added the explanatory circumstances of time and occasion as best he could. [293:3] This view, however, has not been largely adopted. Others consider that the expression refers to the interpretation which was given on reading it at the public meetings of Christians for worship; but there can be no doubt that, coming after the statement that the work was written in the Hebrew dialect, hermêneuein can only mean simple translation. Some maintain that the passage implies the existence of many written translations, amongst which very probably was ours; whilst others affirm that the phrase merely signifies that, as there was no recognised translation, each one who had but an imperfect knowledge of the language, yet wished to read the work, translated the Hebrew for himself as best he could. Some consider that Papias or the Presbyter uses the verb in the past tense, hêrmêneuse, as contrasting the time when it was necessary for each to interpret as best he could with the period when, from the existence of a recognised translation, it was no longer necessary for them to do so, whilst others deny that any written translation of an authentic character was known to Papias at all. Now, the words in Papias are merely: "Matthew composed the logia in the Hebrew dialect, [293:4] and everyone interpreted them as he was able." The statement is perfectly simple and direct, and it is, at least, quite clear that it conveys the fact that when the work was composed translation was requisite, and, as each one translated "as he was able," that no recognised translation existed to which all might have recourse. There is no contrast either necessarily or probably implied in the use of the past tense. The composition of the logia being, of course, referred to in the past tense, the same tense is simply continued in completing the sentence. The purpose is obviously to convey the fact that the work was composed in the Hebrew language. But even if it be taken that Papias intentionally uses the past tense in reference to the time when translations did not exist, nothing is gained. Papias may have known of many translations, but there is absolutely not a syllable which warrants the conclusion that he was acquainted with an authentic Greek version, although it is possible that he may have known of the existence of some Greek translations of no authority. The words used, however, imply that, if he did, he had no respect for any of them.

Thus the account of Papias, supported by the perfectly unanimous testimony of the Fathers, declares that the work composed by Matthew was written in the Hebrew or Aramaic dialect. The only evidence which asserts that Matthew wrote any work at all distinctly asserts that he wrote it in Hebrew. It is quite impossible to separate the statement of the authorship from that regarding the language. The two points are so indissolubly united that they stand or fall together. If it be denied that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, it cannot be asserted that he wrote at all. It is therefore perfectly certain from this testimony that Matthew cannot be declared the direct author of the Greek canonical Gospel bearing his name. At the very best it can only be a translation, by an unknown hand, of a work the original of which was early lost. None of the earlier Fathers ever ventured a conjecture as to how, when, or by whom the translation was effected. Jerome explicitly states that the translator of the work was unknown. The deduction is clear: our Greek Gospel, in so far as it is associated with Matthew at all, cannot at the utmost be more than a translation, but as the work of an unknown translator there cannot, in the absence of the original, or of satisfactory testimony of its accuracy, be any assurance that the translation faithfully renders the work of Matthew, or accurately conveys the sense of the original. All its Apostolical authority is gone. Even Michaelis long ago recognised this: "If the original text of Matthew be lost, and we have nothing but a Greek translation, then, frankly, we cannot ascribe any divine inspiration to the words; yea, it is possible that in various places the true meaning of the Apostle has been missed by the translator." [294:1] This was felt and argued by the Manicheans in the fourth century, [295:1] and by the Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation. [295:2] A wide argument might be opened out as to the dependence of the other two Gospels on this unauthenticated work.

The dilemma, however, is not yet complete. It was early remarked that our first canonical Gospel bears no real marks of being a translation at all, but is evidently an original, independent Greek work. Even men like Erasmus, Calvin, Cajetan, and Oecolampadius began to deny the statement that our Gospels showed any traces of Hebrew origin, and the researches of later scholars have so fully confirmed their doubts that few now maintain the primitive belief in a translation. We do not propose here to enter fully into this argument. It is sufficient to say that the great majority of competent critics declare that our first canonical Gospel is no translation, but an original Greek text; whilst of those who consider that they find in it traces of translation and of Hebrew origin, some barely deny the independent originality of the Greek Gospel, and few assert more than substantial agreement with the original, with more or less variation and addition often of a very decided character. The case, therefore, stands thus: The whole of the evidence which warrants our believing that Matthew wrote any work at all, distinctly, invariably, and emphatically asserts that he wrote that work in Hebrew or Aramaic; a Greek Gospel, therefore, as connected with Matthew, can only be a translation by an unknown hand, whose accuracy we have not, and never have had, the means of verifying. Our Greek Gospel, however, being an independent original Greek text, there is no ground whatever for ascribing it even indirectly to Matthew at all, the whole evidence of antiquity being emphatically opposed, and the Gospel itself laying no claim, to such authorship.

One or other of these alternatives must be adopted for our first Gospel, and either is absolutely fatal to its direct Apostolic origin. Neither as a translation from the Hebrew nor as an original Greek text can it claim Apostolic authority. This has been so well recognised, if not admitted, that some writers, with greater zeal than discretion, have devised fanciful theories to obviate the difficulty. These maintain that Matthew himself wrote both in Hebrew and in Greek, or at least that the translation was made during his own lifetime and under his own eye, and so on. There is not, however, a particle of evidence for any of these assertions, which are merely the arbitrary and groundless conjectures of embarrassed apologists.

It is manifest that upon this evidence both those who assert the Hebrew original of Matthew's work and those who maintain that our Gospel is not a translation, but an original Greek composition, should logically deny its apostolicity. We need not say that this is not done, and that for dogmatic and other foregone conclusions many profess belief in the Apostolic authorship of the Gospel, although in doing so they wilfully ignore the facts, and in many cases merely claim a substantial, but not absolute, Apostolic origin for the work. A much greater number of the most able and learned critics, however, both from external and internal evidence, deny the Apostolic origin of our first canonical Gospel.

There is another fact to which we may briefly refer, which, from another side, shows that the work of Matthew, with which Papias was acquainted, was different from our Gospel. In a fragment from the fourth book of his lost work, which is preserved to us by Oecumenius and Theophylact, Papias relates the circumstances of the death of Judas Iscariot in a manner which is in contradiction to the account in the first Gospel. In Matthew 27:5 the death of the traitor is thus related: "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed and went and hanged himself." [296:1] The narrative in Papias is as follows: "Judas walked about in this world a great example of impiety; for his body having swollen so that, on an occasion when a waggon was moving on its way he could not pass it, he was crushed by the waggon, and his bowels gushed out." [296:2] Theophylact, in connection with this passage, adds other details, also apparently taken from the work of Papias; as, for instance, that, from his excessive corpulency, the eyes of Judas were so swollen that they could not see, and so sunk in his head that they could not be perceived even by the aid of the optical instruments of physicians; and that the rest of his body was covered with running sores and maggots, and so on in the manner of the early Christian ages, whose imagination conjured up the wildest "special providences" to punish the enemies of the faith. As Papias expressly states that he eagerly inquired what the Apostles and, amongst them, what Matthew said, we may conclude that he would not have deliberately contradicted the account given by that Apostle, had he been acquainted with any work attributed to him which contained it.

It has been argued, from some very remote and imaginary resemblance between the passage from the preface to the work of Papias quoted by Eusebius with the prologue to Luke, that Papias was acquainted with that Gospel; but nothing could be more groundless than such a conclusion based upon such evidence, and there is not a word in our fragments of Papias which warrants such an assertion. Eusebius does not mention that Papias knew either the third or fourth Gospel. Is it possible to suppose that if Papias had been acquainted with those Gospels he would not have asked for information about them from the Presbyters, or that Eusebius would not have recorded it as he did that regarding the works ascribed to Matthew and Mark? Eusebius states, however, that Papias "made use of testimonies from the first Epistle of John and, likewise, from that of Peter." [297:1] As Eusebius, however, does not quote the passages from Papias, we must remain in doubt whether he did not, as elsewhere, assume from some similarity of wording that the passages were quotations from these Epistles, whilst in reality they might not be. Andrew, a Cappadocian bishop of the fifth century, mentions that Papias, amongst others of the Fathers, considered the Apocalypse inspired. [297:2] No reference is made to this by Eusebius, but, although from his Millenarian tendencies it is very probable that Papias regarded the Apocalypse with peculiar veneration as a prophetic book, this evidence is too vague and isolated to be of much value.

We find, however, that Papias, like Hegesippus and others of the Fathers, was acquainted with the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Eusebius says: "He (Papias) has likewise related another history of a woman accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews." [297:3] This is generally believed to be the episode inserted in the later MSS. of the fourth Gospel, 8:1-11.

Whatever books Papias knew, however, it is certain, from his own express declaration, that he ascribed little importance to them, and preferred tradition as a more beneficial source of information regarding evangelical history. "For I held that what was to be derived from books," he says, "did not so profit me as that from the living and abiding voice." [297:4] If, therefore, it could even have been shown that Papias was acquainted with any of our canonical Gospels, it must, at the same time, have been admitted that he did not recognise them as authoritative documents. It is manifest from the evidence adduced, however, that Papias did not know our Gospels. It is not possible that he could have found it better to inquire "what John or Matthew, or what any other of the disciples of the Lord ... say" if he had known of Gospels such as ours, and believed them to have been actually written by those Apostles, deliberately telling him what they had to say. The work of Matthew, which he mentions, being, however, a mere collection of discourses of Jesus, he might naturally inquire what the Apostle [298:1] himself said of the history and teaching of the Master. The evidence of Papias is, in every respect, most important. He is the first writer who mentions that Matthew and Mark were believed to have written any works at all; but, whilst he shows that he does not accord any canonical authority even to the works attributed to them, his description of those works and his general testimony come with crushing force against the pretensions made on behalf of our Gospels to Apostolic origin and authenticity.

< Previous Section      Contents      Home      Top of Page      Next section >