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already cited, it seems that there was but one opinion among the ancients in regard to this matter. With one voice they inform us, that it was written in Hebrew; or in the vernacular tongue of the Jews, which in the Scriptures, and by the Christian Fathers, is called Hebrew. This language is now called Syro-Chaldaic, or Western Aramean, but it consisted chiefly of words derived from a Hebrew origin, and was, in fact, the Hebrew, corrupted by a large mixture of foreign words, and by various changes in the prefixes and affixes of the words. This was the language in which Jesus Christ spoke and delivered all his discourses; and which the Apostles were accustomed to speak from their childhood.
Although the Greek language was understood by all the learned in Judea at this time, and by many of the people, yet it was not the vernacular language of the Jews dwelling in Palestine. In a book composed for the immediate use of the churches in Judea, it was necessary that it should be in that language which they all understood; which was neither pure Hebrew nor Greek. The testimony of the Fathers is, therefore, strengthened by a consideration of the nature of the case. And if it were not so, yet when the judgment of modern critics stands opposed to the universal testimony of the ancients, in regard to a matter of fact, which occurred not long before their time, there ought to be no hesitation which is most deserving of credit.
There is, however, one difficulty attending this opinion, which is, that it supposes that the original of this Gospel is lost, and that we have nothing but a translation, which opinion would lessen its Canonical authority.
It must be confessed, that this is a consequence of a serious kind, and one which ought not to be received respecting any Canonical book without necessity. But does this conclusion necessarily follow from the admission, that this Gospel was originally composed in the Hebrew language? Might there not have been a version immediately prepared by the writer himself, or by some other person under his superintendence? This being the first Gospel that was composed, it would naturally be in great request with all Christians who knew of its existence; and as none but the Jewish Christians could understand it as first published, it is exceedingly probable, that a request was made of the author to publish an edition of it in Greek also, by those who did not understand the Hebrew; or by such as were going to preach the Gospel in countries where the Greek language was in common use.
It has been considered a strong objection to the Hebrew original of this Gospel, that no person whose writings have come down to us, has intimated that he had ever seen it; and from the earliest times it seems to have existed in the Greek language. But this fact is perfectly accordant with the supposition now made; for the desolation of Judea, and dispersion of the Jewish Christians, having taken place within a few years after the publication of Matthew's Gospel, the copies of the original Hebrew would be confined to the Jewish converts; and as other Christians had copies in the Greek, of equal authenticity with the Hebrew, no inquiries would be made after the latter. These Jewish Christians, after their removal, dwindled away in a short time, and a large part of them became erroneous in their faith; and though they retained the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, they altered and corrupted it, to suit their own heretical opinions. There is reason to believe, that the Gospel of the Nazarenes was the identical Gospel of Matthew, which, in process of time, was greatly mutilated and corrupted by the Ebionites. Of this Gospel much is said by the Fathers, and in the proper place we shall give some account of it.
The only remaining objection, of any weight, against the ancient opinion, is, that the Gospel according to Matthew, as we now have it, has no appearance of being a translation, but has the air and style of an original. But if the hypothesis suggested above be adopted, this objection also will vanish; for according to this, the Greek is an original, as well as the Hebrew, it having been written by Matthew himself, or by some disciple under his direction. But whether the Greek of St Matthew was written by himself or not, it is certain, that it was not later than the Apostolic age, and received the approbation of Apostles or Apostolic men, which is sufficient to establish its authenticity.*
The learned world have been nearly equally divided on the question, whether Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew or Greek. In favour of the former opinion, may be cited, Bellarmine, Grotius, Casaubon, Walton, Tomline, Cave, Hammond, Mill, Harwood, Owen, Campbell, A. Clarke, Simon, Tillemont, Pritius, Du Pin, Calmet, Michaelis, Marsh, and others. In favour of the Greek origin of this Gospel the names are not less numerous, nor less respectable. Among these may be mentioned, Erasmus, Paræus, Calvin, Le Clerc, Fabricius, Pfeiffer, Lightfoot, Beausobre, Basnage, Wetstein, Rumpous, Whitby, Edelman, Hoffman, Moldenhawer, Viser, Masch, Harles, Jones, Jortin, Lardner, Hey, Hales, Hewlett, and others.
The two opinions were supported by a weight of argument and authority so nearly balanced, that Dr Hey, Dr Townson, and a few others,
GOSPEL OF MARK-ON WHAT OCCASION PUBLISHED-ASCRIBED TO THE DICTATION OF PETER BY ALL THE FATHERS.
THE author of the second Gospel, as they stand in the Canon, was Mark; the same who is mentioned in the First Epistle of Peter v, 13; but whether he was the same as John Mark, of Jerusalem, who travelled for a while with Paul and Barnabas, has been doubted by Grotius, Cave, Dupin, and Tillemont; but the common opinion is in its favour, and the objections to it are not of much weight; and as there is no clear evidence, that there were two persons of this name mentioned in Scripture, I shall consider all that is said of Mark as having reference to the same person.
Paul was offended at him because he declined accompanying him and Barnabas on the whole tour which they took to preach the Gospel; for, when they came to Perga, Mark departed from them, and returned to Jerusalem. And when Paul and Barnabas were about to undertake a second journey together, the latter insisted on taking Mark, as their minister, but Paul would by no means consent to it, because he had forsaken them on their first mission. This difference of opinion gave rise to a sharp altercation, which terminated in the separation of these venerable colleagues. Mark now travelled with Barnabas, but, probably, soon afterwards attached himself to Peter, with whom he seems to have continued until the death of that Apostle.
But Paul himself seems to have been reconciled to Mark, and to have valued his assistance in the work of the ministry; for, in his second Epistle to Timothy, he writes, “Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable unto me for the ministry.' He also mentions him in his Epistle to Philemon.†
have adopted a middle course, viz. the opinion stated above, that there were two originals; by which theory all difficulties are removed. The only objection is, the want of evidence. Horne and Townsend have adopted this opinion. See Horne's Introd. vol. iv, part ii, c. ii, sec. ii, p. 267.
* 2 Tim. iv, 11.
+ Phil. 24.
When this Gospel was composed, has not been particularly mentioned by any ancient author, except that it is said to have been after Peter came to Rome, which could not be much earlier than A. D. 62, or A.D. 63. It is stated, that Mark was requested by the brethren at Rome to put down in writing the substance of Peter's preaching; and on this account, this Gospel among the primitive Christians was as familiarly known by the name of the Gospel of Peter, as of Mark. This circumstance has led some to assert that Mark wrote his Gospel in Latin, as this was the language of Rome; but in those days almost all the Romans understood Greek; and the Jewish converts, who composed a large portion of the first churches, understood Greek much better than Latin. But there is no need to argue this point. There is no ancient author who testifies that Mark wrote in Latin. The testimony is uniform that he wrote in Greek.
Baronius is almost the only learned man who has advocated the Latin original of the Gospel of Mark, and he has nothing to produce in favour of this opinion from antiquity, except the subscription to the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions of the New Testament, where, at the end of Mark's Gospel, it is said, "He spoke and preached in Latin at Rome;" but this does not say that he wrote his Gospel in Latin.
But these subscriptions are of very little authority in matters of this kind. No one knows when, or by whom, they were placed there; and although three versions are mentioned, they make up no more than one witness, for probably all the others borrowed this inscription from the Syriac.
AUGUSTINE called Mark, "the abridger of Matthew;" and it must be confessed, that he often uses the same words, and tells more pre concisely what the other had related more copiously; yet there is satisfactory evidence, that Mark's Gospel is an original work. There are many things which are not in the Gospel of Matthew, and some mentioned by that Evangelist are here related with additional circumstances.
All authors do not agree that Mark wrote his Gospel at Rome, but some think at Alexandria: the former opinion, however, was received by the Fathers with almost universal
Some of the testimonies of the Fathers respecting this Gospel will now be given.
EUSEBIUS, out of PAPIAS, and a lost work of CLEMENT of Alexandria, relates, "That when Peter, in the reign of Claudius, had come to Rome, and had defeated Simon Ma
gus, the people were so inflamed with love for the Christian truths, as not to be satisfied with the hearing of them, unless they also had them written down. That accordingly, they, with earnest entreaties applied themselves to Mark, the companion of Peter, and whose Gospel we now have, praying him that he would write down for them, and leave with them, an account of the doctrines which had been preached to them; that they did not desist in their request, till they had prevailed on him, and procured his writing that which is now the Gospel of Mark. That when Peter came to know this, he was, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, pleased with the request of the people, and confirmed the Gospel which was written for the use of the churches."
The same EUSEBIUS relates, in another part of his works, what PAPIAS had testified concerning Mark's Gospel, "That Mark, who was Peter's interpreter, exactly wrote down whatsoever he remembered, though not in the same order of time in which the several things were said or done by Christ; for he neither heard nor followed Christ, but was a companion of Peter, and composed his Gospel, rather with the intent of the people's profit, than writing a regular history; so that he is in no fault, if he wrote some things according to his memory, he designing no more than to omit nothing which he had heard, and to relate nothing false."†
Another testimony, from CLEMENT of Alexandria, is given by Eusebius, in which it is said, "When Peter was publicly preaching the gospel at Rome, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, many of the converts desired Mark, as having been long a companion of Peter, and who well remembered what he preached, to write down his discourses; that upon this he composed his Gospel, and gave it to those who made this request, which, when Peter knew, he neither obstructed nor encouraged the work."‡
IRENEUS says, "That after the death of Peter and Paul, who had been preaching at Rome, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote down what he had heard him preach."
TERTULLIAN informs us, "That the Gospel published by Mark may be reckoned Peter's, whose interpreter he was."
ORIGEN adds, "That Mark wrote his Gospel according to the dictates of Peter."
JEROME tells us, "That Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote a short Gospel, from what he had heard of Ecc. Hist. Lib. iii, c. 39.
Ecc. Hist. Lib. ii, c. 15.
Lib. vi, c. 14.