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ART. IV.A Harmony or Synoptical Arrangement of the Gospels; founded upon the most ancient Opinion respecting the Duration of our Saviour's Ministry, and exhibiting the Succession of Events in close Accordance with the Order of the two Apostolical Evangelists. With Dissertations, Notes, and Tables. By LANT CARPENTER, LL. D., Minister of the Gospel. Bristol: William Browne. 1835. 8vo. pp. cxlvii., 296., (xxvi.)
IN adjusting the chronological harmony of the gospel history, the first step is to select some one of the four canonical gospels, as a basis for the harmony; for the fact that numerous discrepancies occur in the order of events as related by the different evangelists, can hardly have eluded the observation of any cursory reader, much less that of any critical student. The most obvious principle of selection is that indicated in the title of the work now before us, a work purporting to be "in close accordance with the order of the two apostolical evangelists." Of course these, who were companions of the Saviour's journeyings and eyewitnesses of his doings, were more likely to give an accurately arranged report of them, than those, who must have depended for their knowledge on secondhand narratives, however authentic. But when we investigate the nature and design of John's Gospel, we find ourselves compelled to set it aside as an insufficient basis for a harmony. Even if what he has recorded be given in its just chronological order, his omissions are so frequent and extensive as to make his narrative an entirely disjointed and broken one. Nor does his design appear to have been such as to demand even the slightest reference to the order of time. His Gospel was a "tale of the affections," a selection from those scenes and conversations during the Saviour's life, which had appealed with the most power to his own loving and faithful breast, and by which he expected to enlist the most effectually the sympathy of his readers in his Master's cause, - a selection governed by no other principle, except one of these two virtually identical principles; the omission for the most part of what had been related by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the adoption of Judea Proper, instead of Galilee, as the chief scene of his narrative. Thus John's Gospel, so far from furnishing data for a Christian chronology, needs a chronology elsewhere
derived either to correct or to verify the arrangement of its disconnected portions.
We turn, then, to the three first evangelists for the basis we seek. And here, in abatement of Matthew's claims as an eyewitness, we are met at outset by the express purpose which Luke indicates in his introduction, to write "in order,' (xas.) But though this rendering of the original word be (καθεξῆς.) admissible, it is by no means necessary. The word is used by no other writer of the New Testament except St. Luke, and is used by him in the five instances in which it occurs in at least three, perhaps four, different senses. In Luke viii. 1, used substantively with To, it is rightly rendered afterwards; in Acts iii. 22, it is employed to denote a succession in order of time; in Acts xi. 4, it may refer to the order of time, but more probably implies systematically, methodically, while in Acts xviii. 23, it is an adverb of place. In St. Luke's proem, then, we are not restricted to the signification which our translators have given to the word, and there is one strong argument against it in the fact that Luke, though sometimes exceedingly precise in his note of time, yet often writes as if he were ignorant when events took place, and most manifestly groups together parables, which we can hardly suppose to have been uttered to the same audience. We would not object to Campbell's rendering,-"to write a particular account," or to Doddridge's,-"to write an orderly account." But we would prefer rendering the passage as follows. "It seemed good to me, having [first] traced out all things diligently from the beginning, afterwards to write to thee," &c.
The other principal argument employed by those who would adopt the Gospel of St. Luke as the basis of a harmony, rests on the fact, that Luke generally coincides with Mark, where he differs from Matthew, in the arrangement of events, so as to present in his favor an array of two witnesses against one. This circumstance, at least, shows that Mark's and Luke's arrangement could not have been fortuitous or arbitrary; but that they must have relied on some common oral or written authority. And to this authority we might feel bound to yield our assent, were it not that in one portion of the narrative, in which it is impossible that Matthew should have been mistaken, and in which he could have had no conceivable motive for misplacing events, Mark and Luke differ widely from his order. We refer to the transactions recorded in Matt. ix. in immediate
connexion with the call of that evangelist. According to him, it was from the festival at his own house, on the day of his summons to become a disciple, that Jesus was sent for to the house of Jairus, on his way to which he cured the timid invalid who had suffered twelve years from a hopeless malady. The cure of Jairus's daughter and of the diseased woman, are placed, by Mark and Luke, immediately after the restoration of the Gadarene demoniacs. But with regard to the transactions of that most momentous day of Matthew's life, his spiritual birth-day, we must admit Matthew to be a trustworthy witness. In one case, at least, then, we find Mark and Luke agreeing in a false chronology. We must therefore resort to some other theory than their chronological accuracy, to account for their agreement when they depart from Matthew's order; and the claims of the latter, as an eyewitness, remain unimpaired.
There is yet another consideration suggested by a comparison of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels, already hinted at, but which we will here give more at length in the words of the book before us, a consideration, which seems to us entirely subversive of Luke's claim to chronological accuracy.
"With fewer details respecting the facts which he has recorded than we often find in St. Luke's Gospel, St. Matthew commonly gives more definite indications of time and place. Throughout the whole of his Gospel, excepting in his record of the first days in Jerusalem at the last passover, that of the period following the mission of the Apostles, there is no difficulty in tracing the course of events on a map and by a calendar, without the aid of the other gospels. On the other hand, though St. Luke sometimes supplies a more distinct specification of time than the other gospels give, and shows, by chronological particularity, where it was attainable by him, (as in chap. iii. 1, 2, vi. 1, ix. 28, 37, 51,) that he made it an object of inquiry, yet the attentive reader may find several indications of his not possessing all the information as to time and place which we can derive from the other gospels: for instance, he does not advert to the special commencement of our Lord's public preaching in Galilee, as taking place immediately after the imprisonment of the Baptist; and though, from St. Matthew we know that the cure of the paralytic took place at Capernaum, on our Lord's return from the country of the Gadarenes, and just before he called Matthew himself to attend his ministry, yet Luke, though he mentions circumstances which Matthew does not, speaks of it (ch. v. 17) as being on one of the days, and gives no clue to the place where it was wrought." p. lix.
So far we see ample cause for adopting Matthew's order. But the first three gospels present so many curious and at first sight perplexing phenomena, both of coincidence and of discrepancy, that we cannot but deem it the first business of the evangelical harmonist to select, defend, and establish some theory of their origin, which shall comprehend and elucidate all these phenomena. And herein lies the main deficiency of the work under review. We infer from here and there a random hint that our author adopts Eichhorn's documentary theory, as developed and illustrated by Bishop Marsh. But if this be the case, he has left his readers in the dark with regard alike to its grounds and its features. As the subject is one of equal interest and importance, we trust that we shall be pardoned, if, in order to the cursory discussion of it, we defer, for a few pages, the ostensible purpose of this article.
We have already referred to the discrepancy in the order of events between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. A similar discrepancy may be observed in the unessential minutiæ of the narrative; and in these also, Mark and Luke generally coincide, when they differ from Matthew. Thus (to draw our illustration from the contents of a chapter to which we have made previous reference, Matt. ix.), Matthew omits, Mark and Luke both mention the circumstance, of the paralytic's being let down through the roof; - Mark and Luke both designate Matthew under the name of Levi, the son of Alpheus;- according to Matthew, the ruler of the synagogue (whom he does not name) represents his daughter as already dead, while Mark and Luke (who both call him Jairus) represent her as yet living when her father applied to Jesus.
But notwithstanding these discrepancies, there is a far greater verbal coincidence between these three writers, not only in the record of discourses, but of events, than we commonly find in the works of independent historians. In Mark's Gospel there are but twenty-four verses, which may not be found, almost word for word in Matthew's or Luke's; and in very numerous instances there is an entire verbal coincidence between Mark and Luke, or Matthew. There is yet another singular circumstance. Luke is satisfactorily proved to have been a heathen, or at least, a Hellenist by birth, he is uniformly said by early Christian writers to have been a man of liberal education; his Acts of the Apostles is far more pure, elegant, and classical, as a specimen of Greek composition, than any
other book in the New Testament; and the brief proem of his Gospel is marked by an almost Attic chasteness in the choice and arrangement of words. But yet his Gospel is no less full of Hebraisms, of unclassical combinations and foreign idioms, than is Matthew's; and there are several rare and peculiar words and idioms that are common to both of them. Thus they both use πτερύγιον, an Alexandrinism, ἐπιούσιος, a word found nowhere else, and which, Origen says, was coined by the evangelists,yagoquiáxior in a sense, in which classical authors do not employ it, iniquozo in a peculiar sense, referred by Michaelis to a Syriac idiom, &c.
To account for these phenomena three classes of theories have been framed.
1. Many earlier and more recent authors have supposed that our three evangelists, though writing independently of each other, made use of a common document or documents. The first author to whom the idea seems to have occurred, was Le Clerc. It was adopted in different forms by various subsequent writers, but found very little currency or favor in the theological world, until it made its appearance in Eichhorn's complex and artificial theory, best known, perhaps, to many of our readers as given with but slight modifications by Marsh in his Michaelis. According to Eichhorn, these three Gospels were chiefly translated and compiled from preëxistent documents in the Aramaic dialect. He supposes, one principal document, which contained in the simplest form the events and discourses found in all three, one common to Matthew and Mark, one to Mark and Luke, concurrent, but distinct narratives by different hands of the events that are 'common and peculiar to Matthew and Luke, a separate Gnomology, to which Luke alone had access, besides various minor written and oral sources. The first thought that suggests itself on the examination of this ingenious theory is, that it creates as many difficulties as it removes, that the queries which it raises without satisfying, are as numerous as the phenomena for which it accounts. Thus we are constrained at once to inquire whether, if such documents ever existed, it is credible that no trace of their having existed should be now discernible,- that the early fathers, on most points so minute, should have passed them over in silence, —that Origen and Eusebius, who not only give us a list of the sacred writings, but speak also of the sources whence Mark and Luke derived their information, should have made.