Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

been proved to the satisfaction of all reasonable men. What then ? What bearing, we ask, has this upon the question of the inspiration of the evangelists ? S. Stephen, when he was chosen to be a deacon, was, we read, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, Acts vi. 5; but he was not an evangelist; he was not inspired to write a gospel - was not inspired, so far as we know, in the sense in which the Church uses the term of the writers of Scripture. He delivered an address before the Sanhedrim, full of testimony to the truth of the whole of the Old Testament, and to the holy and all-pervading influence of that Blessed Spirit, who, though He spake, and still speaks by the prophets, wicked men have always gainsaid and resisted. But that S. Stephen, in delivering this powerful and convincing refutation of infidelity, was himself preserved from all possibility of error, is what we are not told in the Bible, and what, therefore, we decline to affirm. If Dean Alford could show that S. Luke has written down what S. Stephen did not say, that, indeed, would be to the point, and would form a very valid argument against the inspiration of the Bible. But nothing of this kind can be maintained; and S. Stephen's statements, whether they are determined to be free from error or full of error, will leave the evidence for the inspiration of the evangelists just where it is.

But there is a slight misstatement in this paragraph yet unnoticed. Dean Alford tells us that Stephen spoke his apology full of the Holy Ghost ; but that is not exactly what S. Luke tells us. Having concluded the address of Stephen to the Sanhedrim, he says, When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and gnashed upon him with their teeth ; but Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God. S. Luke, it will be observed, does not couple the fulness of the Holy Ghost with the address which Stephen delivered, but with the looking up into heaven, and the glorious and marvellous vision which he was then enabled to behold. Dean Alford's manner of reference is calculated to deceive. When we adduce Scripture for the purpose of argument, it is better to set it forth exactly as it stands.

Prolegomena, p. 19.There is not one of the Harmonists who has not altered the arrangement, either of Matthew or of Mark and Luke, so as to bring the visit to the Gadarenes into the same part of the evangelic history. But if the arrangement itself were matter of divine inspiration, then have we no right 'to vary it in the slightest degree. Certainly, we have no right. Not a single verse or clause must be moved from the place in which the sacred writers fixed it. We dare not, in any part of Scripture, vary either arrangement or language. Not one word, one syllable, letter, jot or tittle, may man change of that which God the Holy Ghost has indited. It is the first duty of the Church to preserve intact and incorrupt that sacred writing. But Harmonists are not those who have attempted alteration of the Bible. We read of some who in old times made the word of God of none effect; but even against them there is no accusation of altering the word. It were well, indeed, if Christian critics had always been as scrupulous as Jewish scribes and Rabbis. Within the last half-century the Gospels have been published in a dozen texts widely differing from each other. Variations have been introduced in great abundance, not on the authority of church or synod, or body of learned men, but just as the conceit of individual scholarship dictated. Dean Alford has in this very commentary made many considerable omissions, not a few additions, and alterations and transpositions by the thousand, in those Scriptures which were received by his forefathers with pious reverence, and which, in the opinion of persons competent to judge, by no means require any such sweeping emendation. No doubt he has done all this with good intention, in ignorance, and through trusting to guides unworthy to be trusted. But he would have applied his hand less rashly to the sacred text, if he had thought it thoroughly inspired both in word and in arrangement. He tells us plainly and repeatedly that he does not think it to be so. But suppose that he should be mistaken in his opinion, and that'orthodox Harmonists' should, when all is finally made known, prove to be right! Orthodoxy and harmony, though they sometimes meet with a sneer, are really, in their proper meaning, excellent things; for true and righteous judgements, and perfect concord of design and operation, are essential parts of the Divine unity itself.

It is extremely difficult to find any coherence in Dean Alford's argument. He assures us that Harmonists have altered the arrangement of S. Matthew's Gospel, while at the same time they hold that arrangement to be matter of Divine inspiration. Whether Harmonists hold this arrangement to be inspired, is more than in all cases I can tell ; but even if some of them do not, and think it to have proceeded from S. Matthew's own unprompted mind, one is quite sure, that they would be unanimous in regarding S. Matthew as much wiser than themselves, and would esteem his own arrangement of his work' far better than any which they could possibly suggest. Orthodox Harmonists do not think so meanly of S. Matthew, and none have ever dreamed of altering his arrangement. Probably what is meant is this, that they have taken parts of his gospel, which they believe, and give very strong and solid reasons for believing, that S. Matthew did not arrange in chronological order, and have placed them in that order. And by so doing they have been able to remove many of those seeming discrepancies which Dean Alford finds insurmountable objections to the accuracy and veraciousness of the inspired writers. Nor is this the only or even the principal advantage to be derived from their labours. The character and actions of our Lord receive wonderful illustration when events are set in their proper sequence, and assigned to the true period and circumstances in which they occurred. If we read independently of such considerations, we fail to see the extraordinary appropriateness of our Lord's doings and sayings, and deprive ourselves of views of His wisdom, condescension, sympathy, and touching benevolence which are fitted to leave the most salutary impressions on our hearts. And surely it is lawful for any man to put the several facts and statements of Scripture in any order and juxtaposition which may honestly seem to him to bring out more clearly and fully the truths which they were intended to convey. Harmonists do not propose their

arrangement of the visit to the Gadarenes, to take our author's instance, as S. Matthew's arrangement, nor claim for their chronology the absolute truth which they acknowledge in the evangelist's narrative. They propose their schemes with submission to the judgement of the Church catholic, and with deference to the opinions of their fellow-Christians, who bring knowledge and

a

fair dealing to the examination of their theories. Dean Alford must perceive that in charging Harmonists with a violation of their own principles, he has here put forward an invention of bis own, childish in the extreme.

One might almost suppose, from the manner of his observations, not only that Christians were prohibited from comparing Scripture with Scripture, but that the evangelists were precluded from arranging their facts on any other principle than that of strictly chronological order, and that even inspiration itself could not have seen wise reasons for the adoption of a different method.

Prolegomena, p. 454, note on Luke iv. 44. — “The reading Judæa must, on any intelligible critical principles, be adopted. '... And our narrative is thus brought into the most start‘ling discrepancy with that of S. Mark.' Dean Alford deserves the reputation of exceeding in boldness all who have preceded him in textual criticism. And certainly the Church has seen many very bold and very rash critics. I do not find this reading Judæa in the text of Griesbach, or Lachmann, or Tischendorf, or in any

other edition of the Greek Gospels in my possession. Apparently Dean Alford is the first who has inserted it in the printed Scriptures. The startling discrepancy it brings out was, perhaps, a temptation too strong to be resisted. The strange reading is announced with much authority and positiveness. It must be adopted! Why? To enter fully into the question would go beyond the design of my little book. But I will remark thus much. Out of twenty-one manuscripts written in uncials, sixteen, and out of two or three hundred written in minuscules, all except about twenty bave Galilee. Of the versions, the later Syriac and the Coptic only have Judæa, and of these the Syriac, in its margin, and the Coptic in one of its best manuscripts have Galilee. There can be no reasonable question that we ought to retain Galilee in our Bibles.

Prolegomena, p. 447, note on Luke iv. 14-32.—Here the chronological order of Luke's history begins to be confused, and the first evident marks occur of indefiniteness, which, I believe, characterises this Gospel. P. 448, Luke iv. 16.—“A fair com' parison of our verses, 16-24, with Matthew xiii. 53-58, Mark • vi. 1-6, entered on without bias, and conducted solely from

6

[ocr errors]

6

6

'the narratives themselves, surely can hardly fail to convince us of their identity.' "That he should have been thus treated at

his first visit, and then marvelled at their unbelief on his second, * is utterly impossible. Let the student investigate the case with diligence, and, on the contrary, he will be convinced that S. Luke's history is not confused here; that the events narrated by him are not identical with those narrated by Matthew and Mark ; that there are two visits to Nazareth recorded, not one only; that the two visits were separated by a considerable interval of time; and that which Dean Alford alleges to be utterly impossible was nevertheless actually true.

The question of the regularity of S. Luke's Gospel is important, and we will therefore examine Dean Alford's objections at length. He asserts that the evangelical accounts refer to the same one visit, and that it occurs after the teaching by parables, and when our Lord had been residing long in Capernaum.' It is agreed that the visit to Nazareth described by Matthew and Mark did then take place. The best Harmonists fix the time to the autumn of the year 28, the second of our Lord's ministry. But they maintain that the visit described by S. Luke was totally different, that it was made in the spring of the year 27, when our Lord was entering on His public ministry in Galilee, and that between these two visits some sixteen or eighteen months intervened.

This separation of the visits is entirely in accordance with the general principles which Harmonists hold. They conceive that the evangelists wrote their narratives upon well-considered. plans, to which they strictly adhered ; that the three later evangelists arranged their matter in chronological order, and that from them no passage can be adduced, which, properly speaking, is an exception to this order, and that, therefore, the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John require no transposition whatever; but that their several portions, when rightly divided, fit exactly into each other, and form one consecutive narrative of what they have either singly or together recorded. Dean Alford holds that the arrangements of the evangelists are arbitrary, and have no plan, or none of which we can discover the principle, and that their statements are loose, inaccurate and contradictory. Both parties concur in this, that the evangelists

« VorigeDoorgaan »