« PreviousContinue »
ledged to be, in his opinion, “highly probable”), it may at least be supposed to have precluded the “ absolute necessity” of a Gospel in the Greek language by that Evangelist, if not of all other posterior Gospels in that
language, for the particular purpose of correction, b whomsoever written. And yet this consequence, o, flows so obviously from his own decisions, concerning the time when, and the language in which St. Matthew wrote, and is so well adapted in every respect to supersede the necessity of having recourse to the hypothesis, that Luke wrote purposely to correct the inaccuracies, and to silence the idle stories of the many, is unaccountably overlooked by the professor, among all his speculations concerning the contents of those early documents, and St. Luke's motive in writing. If a Gospel was written by an eye-witness, and in the Hebrew language, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, eight years after the Ascension, would not a Jew in any dubious case whatever, have had recourse to such a document, in preference to any other, and have acquiesced in its decision ? And yet our professor seems to expect we should believe, that St. Luke, who, by what he says in the preface, does not appear to have been an eye-witness of any of the facts recorded by him, nor to have written under the influence of the Holy Spirit; and who, by the professor's account, could neither have been one of the circumcision, nor acquanted with the law of Moses, nor with the purport of Hebrew punctuation, undertook “ of his own accord, and his own authority, after a lapse of twenty years, to correct, by a Greek publication, the inaccuracies of those many Hebrew writers, and to silence their idle stories, and with a view too to divest a Jewish high-priest in particular, of the prejudices which their erroneous accounts had excited in him, and a highriest too, it should be observed, whose nearest relatives É. been principally concerned in the most important part of the affair which they had recorded, and who, if he had not been in some measure an agent in the affair himself, appears to have been of age sufficient to be interested in it: and strange to say, this unauthorised and unqualified advocate for accuracy and truth, for some reason or other, (an inscrutable one, no doubt,) not only followed their arrangement of facts, notwithstanding it differed from that by St. Matthew, but even adopted one inaccuracy, concerning an important docU u 2 trine
trine from those many, and inserted several others in his work, one of which, if he did not derive it from the many, he must have had from some written document, as it was occasioned by his inattention to Hebrew punctuation !” Such is the account which the professor has given us of St. Luke's motive for writing his Gospel ; and which, inconsistent as it is, both be and some of our learned countrymen seem to expect us to believe.
Being still as much at a loss as ever to account for St. Luke's motive for writing his Gospel ; let us now try to obtain some satisfactory information concerning this point, by our own researches, and for this purpose let us, agreeably to the professor's proposal, at page 267, have recourse to St. Luke's preface. In the preface, it may be expected, that the Evangelist has given us some general information concerning his reason for writing. And as he begins it with telling us, that many had employed their pens on the same subject, before he undertook to write; it may, of course, be also expected, that he has given us soine information relative to this particular point. To what part then of this short introduce tiou should we principally direct our attention? The professor it seems was inclined to think, that we need not give ourselves the trouble to look any farther, than just the beginning of it, for all the information on this point necessary. For, after having referred us to it, he tells us that the motive which our Evangelist assigned for writing a Gospel was;
a Gospel was; “ to use his own words, the following” Erednega
- peyarwy. He seems to have considered these words as forming a perfect sentence. He gives himself no concern to enquire, whether they are connected with any other; nor how they would sound is taken together with the following, viz. xatws roge. He has not referrerl us to any other part of the exordium for an explanation of these words. He seems to have thought that full satisfaction as to the point in question, may be derived from these only. And though he seems to admit, that they are not to be considered as an explicit declaration of the Evangelist's purpose, yet he seems to contend, that but one couclusion can be drawn froin them, by any reasonable person : viz." that his intention was to correct the inaccuracies of the accounts, which were then in circulation, and to deliver to Theophilus à ure and genuine document, in order to silence several idle stories, which might have
prejudiced Théophilus against the Christian religion.” But do these words appear to form any thing like a perfect sentence? Do they not rather seem to be intended to excite an expectation of some further declaration of his mind? And when taken in connexion with the following; do they help to excite in us a much better opinion of the contents of those early Gospels? Besides, ought we not to attend carefully to the whole of this short exordium to discover his motive, and to other parts of it rather than the beginning, and particularly to the conclusion? Does not this seem to afford us a more express intimation concerning his motive, than the words adduced by the professor ? We find that our Evangelist then told his honourable friend, that he had determined to do it ivar
-20%a2en.c" that he might be assured (not of the uncertainty, but) of the certainty of the reports to which he had been attentive.” He seems to speak of reports in general.---He does not clearly appear to have intended to make any distinction between verbal and written.He does not say, that he had taken up his pen to convince his friend of the fallacy of any written reports, and of the certainty, of verbal.--Now, if this be the true meaning of the word now in this place, what reason have we to doubt of the credibility of those written reports before alluded to ? Can it be supposed, that any viva voce reports could have been more aceurate than those which had been recorded ? Surely we may well suppose, that the more learned among the first Christians, were not less attentive to the nature of the reports which they undertook to propagate, than their less learned brethren; and that they would by no means presume to circulate such reports among their own countrymen in Judæa and Galilee, as their less learned countrymen would not venture to attest in foreign parts. A concern for their own credit, as well as for the credit of the sect of which they had become members, may well be supposed to have restrained them from committing to writing, even dubious reports, and much more so incredible or idle stories and falsehood to sọ considerable an amount, that it was “absolutely necessary to correct them.” And could it even be supposed, that any among the first Christians, could have been so treacherous to their Lord, as to to circulate such fabulous 'accounts beyond the limits of Judæa, yet credulity itself will never be induced to believe, that
they would have dared to do it for the benefit of the inhabitants of the very country, where the facts which they had recorded were said to have happened. If those numerous first Gospel writers endeavoured to state facts “even as they delivered them, who," &c. as Luke seems to have said they did, their misrepresentations could have been only owing to their misapprehension; which any person, who lived in a country, which resonnded with innumerable reports concerning the same astonishing series of events, which had so recently taken place, would surely have been very ready to excuse. However, could it be made to appear, that not one of their productions could be “ relied on with 'safety,'' would it not be a sad reflection on the more learned among the first publishers of christianity?
Should we, however, admit that the introductory part of the preface which the professor has adduced, as containing a satisfactory account of St. Luke's motive for writing may be considered as implying something of the sort, what ought we to understand by it? Immediately after he has quoted it, we perceive, instead of attending to its purport, he has taken upon him to assert, that our Evangelist must certainly have had objections to make to the accounts of these many; and, that we must conclude that Luke's intention was to correct the inaccuracies of those accounts, and to silence several idle stories contained in them. But how does all this ap. pear by the words which he has thought proper to adduce? Does the Evangelist at all appear to have intimated by them, that he had such objections to make to any of their accounts, as the professor has presumed to tell us he must have had to most of them ai least, if not to all ? Or even any objections whatever ? Does the word avatašaobar appear to convey any thing like the imputation of careless composition? Or the word Astanga pognuevwn like that of idle stories having formed any part of their compositions ? Does not the Evangelist seem rather to speak of it as a thing well known to his friend, that they had one and all endeavoured to give an orderly exhibition of things, and of such things as were most assuredly believed by Luke himself, and by the rest of his companions in the faith? And does he not immediately after seem to say, that they had endeavoured to report them," even as they had received
them?” And does he not furthermore appear to intimate, that those many, who had anticipated his own performance had, as wellas himself, derived their information from the eye-witnesses of and attendants on the Logos? What else ought we to understand by those several expressions επιχειρησαν αναταξασθαι,-πεπληροφορημενων εν ημιν, and selws magedoo as Menu 05, &c. He surely may be thought 10 "have given all of them credit for at least a sincere intention to collect genuine information ; to arrange
such information as they could procure in historical order; and to state every particular as nearly as they could according to their apprehension of each.
By extending his enquiries concerning this point a' little beyond the limits which he has prescribed to himself, he might have perceived that there is at least some reason to think that the Evangelist has asserted, that the eye-witnesses of and attendants on the Logos, had delivered those very facts which were most assuredly believed by Christians in general, to the many in common with himself; and by attending closely to the purport of the very words to which he has himself appealed, and taking them in conjunction with others, apparently not intended to be separated from them, he might have descried something like an intimation, that those many had endeavoured to record the same facts in due order, and as they had received them from those eye-witnesses and attendants. But with the most minute attention to every part of this preface, he would not have perceived any thing like an expostulation with Theophilus on the subject of his apostacy, nor the least animadversion on the supposed cause of it. In short, had the professor paid due attention to the whole of this short preface, or even to the very part which he has thought proper to adduce, he would have found, that there is no great occasion to have recourse to conjecture on this point, and very litle reason for that which he has made.
But without having recourse to the supposition, that those early documents were very erroneous, he tells us, 'tis impossible to account for Luke's motive in writing. “ To the accounts of those many (says he) St. Luke must certainly have had some objections to make, for no man would argue thus : since several persons have delivered accounts of Christ, on which perfect reliance may be placed, I have likewise thought proper to write