Let us now try the truth of the affirmation of Strauss, as applying to
the authorship of the SECOND GOSPEL. Nobody knows who Mark was: John,
whose surname was Mark. There is no historical identity about Mark;
nothing to connect him, in any way, with the history—if you call it a
"history"—which, you say, he wrote, about Christ. There is no
circumstantial evidence for Mark's authorship of the Gospel which bears
his name. Let us see. What does Paul call Mark?
I need not take up your time by discussing any question about Paul's
testimony on these points of Christian evidence. There is not a sceptical
school in Germany or France that does not acknowledge Paul's existence and
activity as a Christian preacher and missionary. Their language translated
into our mother-English is, "That's the fellow that has done all the
mischief! If it had not been for Paul, we should very likely never have
heard of this Jesus Christ. The early fanaticism might have died out had
it not been for him, and for his incessant activity in preaching and
those letters to the churches," and so on. So we need not spend time, just
now, in discussing Paul's credibility or authority as a witness.
Again, I say, What does Paul call Mark? "Sister's son to Barnabas." Barnabas, or "the son of consolation," that Levite convert to
Christianity from the island of Cyprus, who had land, and sold it, and
laid the money at the feet of the apostles, when, just after the day of
Pentecost, they had "all things common." This is Mark's uncle, and as the
uncle is much attached to Paul, the nephew becomes the companion of both;
and, long after, Mark is often mentioned as a companion and assistant of
Paul, even when the uncle is not with them.
But Peter also knows Mark, and mentions Mark in his first epistle: "The
Church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and
so also doth Marcus my son." Babylon, which Eusebius tells us meant Rome. That spiritual Babylon depicted with such intensely vivid power in the
Book of Revelation. That Rome is the "Babylon" from which Peter writes, I
feel fully persuaded, notwithstanding the contrary opinion of some
scholars; and that the early Christians used the Apocalypse and its
phraseology, and expected the fulfilment of some of its prophecies in
their own days, as is evident from Justin Martyr, who, although he never
mentions the name of an evangelist, tells us that "John, one of the apostles of Christ," wrote the
When Peter calls Mark his son, he is understood to mean
that Mark was his spiritual son, because Mark was converted under his
preaching, say the Fathers. And so Peter becomes a friend and
intimate of this Levite family of Christians. You may see that he
was so esteemed; for, on the night that Peter is released from prison by
the angel, he goes and finds the Christians at midnight, holding a
prayer-meeting shall I say?—at the house of "Mary the mother of John,
whose surname was Mark;" that is to say, also at the house of Barnabas's sister. So, then, although the
second evangelist was not, like the first, one of the twelve apostles, yet
he is in the midst of their assemblies, and the assemblies of their
friends, and must, therefore, have become fully acquainted with all the
circumstances and facts of the Gospel history which were rehearsed by the
apostles. But, suppose he had never seen a miracle by the Saviour, or
heard a parable from Him: suppose Mark had never seen Christ—though no
one has a right to say aught of the kind—yet, I repeat he was in a
situation to become fully acquainted with the facts of the Gospel history;
and therefore a very likely person to write a Gospel.
But the testimony of the Apostolic Fathers—Irenæus, Clement of
Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and others, the earliest and
most important Christian writers who succeeded the apostles and their
companions—I say the early testimony of the Christian Church respecting
the authorship of Mark's Gospel, although brief, is of such peculiar
importance that I beg your closest attention while I rehearse it to you. Mark they affirm, wrote his Gospel at Rome,—wrote down the substance of
Peter's preaching, at the request of the Christian Church in that city,
where he had acted as Peter's interpreter; and that the apostle knew of
it, and approved it. How short this information is, and yet how important
it is! and how it recalls to our recollection what we have just been
talking of,—Peter writing from the spiritual Babylon, that "eternal"
Rome, and telling us that his "son" Mark is with him!
Brief as this information is, it completely overthrows Strauss's
affirmation—"Nobody knows who, nobody knows where, and nobody knows
when." Mark's Gospel, it is clear, from the conjoint statement of so many
of the Fathers, was, like Matthew's, written before the destruction of
Jerusalem in the year 70, by the Roman army under Titus; a fact which may
also be clearly gathered from Mark's Gospel as well as from Matthew's. But
what is the peculiar statement of this testimony of the Fathers? That
Mark, who interpreted while Peter preached, wrote down the substance of
Peter's preaching. So that the second Gospel might be called the Gospel of
Peter, with almost greater propriety than it is called the Gospel of Mark.
"Peter's preaching?" says some one, who is disposed to be critical while
he listens to me; "Peter's preaching? You don't think it likely, do you,
that Peter's preaching at Rome resembled Mark's Gospel?"
Pray, my good friend, I would reply, how do you think Peter did preach at
Rome? Try to imagine it with something like verisimilitude. You know the
apostles could not take as a text a verse from the New Testament when it
was not written; they could not take a text, and divide it "first,"
"secondly," and "thirdly," according to the stiff old Aristotelian mode,
still followed by so many modern preachers; or go on to "nineteenthly," "twentiethly,"
and "lastly," like some of the good old Puritans.
Their first duty, you know, when they entered a new town or city, was to
remember their Divine Master's injunction, and "go first to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel!" If there were a Jewish synagogue in the place,
they had to carry their message thither first. And now, again, if there
were time to dwell upon it, how we might expatiate on that remarkable
Providence which had led the Jews, for some hundreds of years before, to
the cultivation of their mercantile habits! Alexander, 333 years before
Christ, gave them privileges when he founded the capital of Egypt, and
called it by his name. And when Paul, and Peter, and the rest went forth
as Christian missionaries, there was scarcely a port of importance on the
shores of the Mediterranean, or a city of rank in Greece, in Asia Minor,
and the Levant, but, most likely, a Jewish synagogue was to be found
there. So wondrously God had provided that a little soil should be
found wherever they went wherein the apostolic sowers could drop the first
seeds of Christian truth!
"Why did not the Jews believe in Christ?" two or three
notable London sceptics used to cry out, when I endeavoured to lay these
evidences before them in the year 1857. "Why do you tell lies in the
shape of asking questions?" I replied; "for some of you are very ingenious
in that art. You know, even while you ask that question, that
hundreds and thousands of the Jews believed in Christ. All the first
Christians were Jews. And it was not until Jews refused to listen to
their message that the apostles turned to offer Christ to the Gentiles."
Well, when, in his character as a Christian missionary, any
of the apostles, coming to a new place, entered a Jewish synagogue to
address his own countrymen, he might read, or call on another to read, a
passage in Hebrew from the Torah, or the Prophets, or the Psalms; and then
go on to show that it was a declaration relating to Jesus as the promised
Messiah. But when Peter preached to a mixed assembly of Jews and
Pagans at Rome, he could not act so absurdly as to cause a Hebrew writer
to be read to them. How would he have to preach? He would have
to tell his audience who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what He did.
How He proclaimed Himself to be the Saviour of men, how He compassionated
the sick and suffering, and healed them, how He fed the hungry multitude
miraculously, how boldly He reprehended the pride and hypocrisy of the
Pharisees, how openly He invited the multitude to turn from sin to
holiness, how lovingly He conducted Himself towards His disciples; but
how, at length, one of them betrayed Him, and He was seized, and treated
with vile indignity, and at last crucified. Just so; and all this is
But again, can we bring this home completely to our minds as
an exact truth—that Mark's Gospel is the substance of Peter's preaching?
I invite you to a critical inquiry, and want to rivet your attention to
it. For, to my mind, a critical inquiry demands a more determined
voluntary attention of the mind than even an argumentative and logical
inquiry; since, to some, it looks trivial, and others find that it tends
to dissipate the power of reasoning, by the scattered character of the
items it presents for considerate thought. What kind of a Gospel is
Mark's Gospel? You know the Gospels differ from each other in form
and manner of narration, and sometimes in the omission of some facts, or
the insertion of other facts. Whatever may be pronounced, at some
future period of the Church's history, to be the true theory of
inspiration (for, although eighteen centuries have passed away, the
Christian Church, as yet, has not pronounced what is the true
theory), it will be a theory which admits the fact that verbal inspiration
does not characterize every part of the Scriptures; since the Evangelists
certainly differ verbally: they by no means always employ the same words,
either when describing what Christ did, or what He said.
How does Mark differ, now, from the other Evangelists?
What is there that is peculiar to him, which an attentive reader cannot
fail to remark? It is this, that he often mentions some little fact
which is not mentioned by Matthew or Luke when they are relating the
parallel part of the Gospel history; and he also relates it in a striking
or graphic way. He has a strong tendency to notice facts. And
often his little fact, as we at first deemed it to be, is found to
be of more importance than it seemed to be. He did not introduce it,
we discover, through a trifling and merely garrulous tendency; but because
he estimates the full importance of facts. Now is this any mark of
What sort of a mind had Peter as it regards the tendency to
notice facts? What kind of a mind was Peter's? A quick,
impulsive, impetuous mind. Well, that is the kind of man who does
notice facts keenly. But we will not beg the question in that way.
What kind of a mind was Peter's as it regards the tendency to notice
facts? for you know all men are not alike in that respect. Some men
have very little tendency indeed to notice facts.
Suppose two friends of some member of my audience were to pay
him a visit, coming from a distance, and had never before been in this
town. You take them out to walk through the streets, and look about
them. One of them, very likely, will not have got to the end of a
single street before he yawns, and intimates that he would like to go into
some place of refreshment, and pass the time; for he sees nothing worth
looking at. But how very different is the behaviour of the other!
He is all curiosity about the age of the buildings, the form of house
architecture, and a hundred other items of observation. He notices
everything, and is never weary of inquiry and remark.
Or, take two men, and send them into a crowded room, and ask
them, when they come out of it, what they have seen. How different
may their answers be! "Seen!" replies one, "how seen? what
d'ye mean? what was there to see?" "Well, but," say you, "can't you
just tell us what you've seen?" "Bless me!" replies the man,
impatiently, "what was there to see?—a crowd of folks and a lot of chairs
and tables. What a ridiculous question you put to me!"
Now, if Charles Dickens had been the other man, he would have
never given you that answer. Chairs and tables? He would have
made them live! If there was a row of chairs and an old-fashioned
arm-chair standing in front of them, he would have likened it to some
peculiarly observant old fellow sitting squat and making notes upon the
company; he would have given the chairs grotesque human features. He
would have told you all about the crockery in the room, and all about the
colours and pictures upon it. If any man's nose in the room were
twisted a little to the right or left, or a man squinted, or there was
something odd in a lady's dress, he would have been able to tell you all
about it, and in a very piquant style too. If he had been but five
minutes in such a room, he could have made five pages of living and
attractive description out of what he had seen and noticed in it—five? ay,
I repeat, that we are very different people, compared one
with another, as it regards the tendency to notice facts. Now, was
Peter constitutionally a keen, an exact,—shall I say, even with all his
impulsiveness,—an imperturbable observer and noticer of facts? Let
us turn to one of the other Gospels, and see if we can discover that such
was the case. To what shall we turn? Let it be to something of
real importance in the Gospel history. Well, then, let us turn to
the morning of the resurrection; the events of that morning would test a
man's powers of observation, if he had any. What do we read of
Peter's conduct during that morning? Turn to Luke, and see what he
says about it; and then turn to John, and observe how pointedly he
corroborates Luke. But take especial notice of what John says; for
he is with Peter that morning. What does John say? That, when
Mary Magdalene returned from the sepulchre to tell Peter and John (most
likely knowing that they lodged together as friends—all the disciples
would not lodge in one house) that the stone was removed, and the Lord's
body was gone from the tomb, the two disciples ran to the sepulchre.
But that "the other disciple," meaning John himself, the other disciple
whom Jesus loved, "did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.
And he, stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying, yet
went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went
into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin
that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped
together in a place by ifself." And the Greek words more exactly
mean "neatly folded up in a place by itself."
What a singular power and tendency of mind—nay, what a
remarkable combination of seemingly opposite qualities in a mind—does this
little gem of a narrative discover to us! That Peter—the ever
impulsive Peter, who does not stoop down to look in, but goes in to
the sepulchre without hesitation—that Peter, with his mind all hurry and
perturbation with the news of the disappearance of his Master's body,
should be able to notice, so minutely and exactly, that fact about the
napkin. We can scarcely conceive of a more striking proof of a man's
possessing a strong, constitutional, and unconquerable tendency to notice
facts, and notice them strictly, even under circumstances most forcibly
calculated to distract and dissipate such a man's power and tendency.
Now let us return to the Gospel of Mark, and see if we can
discover in it the very characteristics of mind, the identical power and
tendency of mind, that we have just been describing. And let us take
in our hand the key which the Fathers give us to unlock the secret of the
authorship of the Second Gospel. They combine to assure us that it
contains the substance of Peter's preaching, written down by Mark, his
interpreter. If that becomes to us clear, as a fact, we shall, I
undertake to say, feel convinced we also discover personal traces of
Peter's feelings in the preaching which Mark has written down. And
that will be in accordance with our experience of human nature. It
will be just what we should expect to discover.
What shall we turn to, in Mark's Gospel, as likely to assist
us in our search? Let it be something of stirring importance in the
general Gospel narrative. Suppose we turn to the storm on the Lake
of Gennesaret. What do Matthew and Luke say of Christ in that scene
of peril? Simply, "He was asleep," and "He fell asleep." But
what do we read in Mark? "He was in the hinder part of the ship,
asleep on a pillow."
How comes this minuteness and particularity into the
narrative? one cannot help asking. What has the pillow in the
hinder part of the ship to do with the storm, and the peril of the
disciples, and the miracle that follows? How could any one think of
aught so unimportant, we ask, in the midst of such a scene? How
could Peter get time to think about it—for, remember, it is written down
from his preaching—while he cried out, no doubt with the other terrified
disciples, "Lord, save us! we perish"? How could Peter call to mind
aught so apparently unimportant, while listening to the awful Being who
arose, and said, "Peace, be still!" and there was a great calm? How
their blood must have become chill with awe, and how "the hair of their
flesh must have stood up"—as the expression is in Homer and the Book of
job while they said, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and
the sea obey him?"
We must seek the answer to our inquiry in our knowledge of
common human nature. To see how all the commentators are puzzled with this
"pillow in the hinder part of the ship" is most amusing. It quite
confounds all their learned heads. The Greek word
προσκεφάλαιου is, literally, a pillow.
But the commentators have taken every imaginable sort of round-about way
to explain it. Yet I feel, let all the commentators in the world say
what they will, I must come to nature here. I feel instinctively
that the cause of this particularity is personal. The boat must have
been Peter's own. He is spoken of as the boat-owner, during the
miraculous draught of fishes. Ah! Peter would be fond of having his
Master in his own boat. And whenever poor Peter, who had denied his
Master, and felt ever-during self-condemnation for it, rehearsed the
account of the storm in his preaching, he would never forget where his
dear Lord slept "on the pillow in the hinder part of the ship;" for it
would be a consolation to his sorrowing mind to remember that he had
always provided a pillow for his dear Master's head, in his boat, and,
most likely, had not one himself; for it is "the pillow" in the Greek, not
"a pillow," showing pretty clearly that there was but one pillow in the
Let us turn to another striking proof that the Second Gospel
is the substance of Peter's preaching. What does the angel say to
the women at the sepulchre, on the morning of our Lord's resurrection,
according to Matthew?" Go and tell His disciples that He goeth
before them into Galilee." "Go and tell His disciples;" that is, all
His disciples. Matthew relates what the angel said in a general way.
But whenever Peter related what was told him by the women to whom the
angel spoke, if he himself were personally named by the angel, he would
not fail to remember it. So thus Mark gives Peter's recollection:
"Go your way, tell His disciples, and Peter, that He goeth before
you into Galilee." As if the angel meant, "Peter denied his Master;
but his Master has forgiven the heart-broken penitent already. Don't
forget poor Peter! Go your way, tell His disciples, and Peter,
that He goeth before you into Galilee." One sees at once that the
information comes from poor grateful Peter.
We have just now mentioned Peter's denial of his beloved
Master. Let us stay for a moment or two, and contrast Mark's
narrative of the circumstances with the narratives of the other
Evangelists, and see if we cannot again bring it home as a conclusive fact
and a circumstantial reality to our minds, that Mark's Gospel is the
substance of Peter's preaching. This time, be it remembered, we have
the four Evangelists for comparison. How does the general narrative
begin? With the account of the institution of the Last Supper—that
meal of hallowed sweetness which they could never forget to the end of
their lives. The soul of Christ must have been already "sorrowful
even unto death;" yet He speaks with such wondrous love and tenderness
that they feel as if they had never had so much of heaven upon earth since
they were born as they experience in that hour. And He suddenly
breaks the rapt and holy calm they are all sharing, but one, with the
startling declaration, "One of you that eateth with me shall betray me"!
And then follow the inquiring alarm, "Is it I?—Is it I?" and Christ's
further declaration, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night;"
and Peter's self-confident assertion, "Although all should be offended,
yet will not I;" and the pointed prophecy of the Saviour, "Verily I say
unto thee, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice!"
Such are the words in Matthew; and they are of the same
import in Luke and John. But what are the words in Mark? He
gives us the words of Peter himself, in his customary preaching; and every
word was so deeply stamped in Peter's memory that he cannot forget any
word that the Saviour uttered! and he must give the very words
themselves: he cannot state them generally—"Before the cock crow twice
thou shalt deny me thrice." And then, says Mark, "But he spake the
more vehemently—if I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee."
Peter, in his preaching, cannot cease to take home to himself his guilt.
He can never forgive himself, even when his Master has forgiven him.
The narrative in the other three Gospels informs us that the cock crew, in
general terms, and repeats the words "Verily I say unto thee, before the
cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice," as recurring to Peter's guilty
memory; but in Mark the characteristic particularity of the narrative is
kept up. The cock crows once—and then a second time—and then Peter
remembers his Lord had said, "Before the cock crow twice thou shalt
deny me thrice."
Do not let us dismiss this item of our critical enquiry in
such haste as to forget that the other three Evangelists meant what
Mark has expressed. There were two cock-crowings which were noted by
the ancients as the announcements of the morning; and the second was more
especially called "the cock-crowing"—though the two crowings were often
And what does Mark say of Peter's conduct, just after the
denial of his Master? "When he thought thereon, he wept." "When he
thought?" Who could tell what were Peter's thoughts,
except himself? That little item of information could only come from
Peter himself. But what do Matthew and Luke say? That Peter
"went out and wept bitterly." Ah, poor Peter would not say "I wept
bitterly"—though Matthew and Luke's informant knew that he did: Peter
never thought he had wept bitterly enough.
There is another kind of proof which I wish you could feel to
be as forcible as I feel it to be. Why do not you young men learn to
read your Greek Testament? It is as easy as learning A, B, C.
You can make no estimate of the enjoyment it would give you to be able to
read the Gospels in Greek, and compare them one with another. A
little skill in Greek would enable you to discover that Mark's Greek is
the rudest—to speak plainly—in the New Testament. Peter's skilful
and diligent interpreter has fully succeeded in his endeavour to embody in
the Greek, the style and manner of an impulsive and energetic
extemporary preacher. Men who read, or speak what they have
written, to their audiences, you know, usually display a change and
variety of words and expressions. Not so with off-hand, impetuous
speakers. They use the same words often; and so did Peter, as Mark
I may instance the frequent use of one word—εύθέως—"immediately,"
or "straightway," or "forthwith," as our good translators have variously
given it. The word occurs 37 or 38 times in St. Mark's Gospel; 11
times in his very first chapter. In St. Matthew it occurs but 15
times; in St. Luke only 5 times; while St. John has it only thrice.
38 times this one word occurs in St. Mark, and only 23 times in all the
other three Gospels put together. "And straightway Jesus did so and
so—and immediately he did so and so—and forthwith he did so and so."
The phrase and manner of an energetic speaker. Mark had interpreted
for Peter during his preaching, so often, that he produces the exact
mannerism of Peter's delivery, in writing down, from memory, the substance
of Peter's preaching.
But it is the graphic power, which Strauss half-sneeringly
terms the "dramatic tendency" of St. Mark, and his ever-present habit of
being particular even to minuteness in his relation of facts, which is his
distinguishing characteristic—just as we learn from the narrative of the
Resurrection, that this was the constitutional tendency, or instinct one
might say, of the mind of Peter. This minute particularity and
exactness sometimes make one smile: for instance, when Christ bells his
disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, Matthew and Luke tell
us how the poor disciples, with their customary dulness, "began to reason
among themselves—It is because we have taken no bread." But what
adds Mark? "Neither had they in the ship with them more than one
loaf." Peter had been looking into the "locker," as our sailors
would say. It was most likely, again, his own boat; and he had felt
uneasy about the meal, which was drawing nigh. Just like Peter:
I must not dwell longer on the Second Evangelist. But
let me just notice very hastily how there is no mention of our Lord's
genealogy, or his miraculous birth, in Mark; and Peter would feel that
neither of these relations,—nor the denunciations of Bethsaida, Chorazin
and Capernaum, and the comparison of them to Tyre, Sidon and Sodom,—would
be likely to impress the minds of the pagan Romans, while he preached to
them. Christ's temptation is also described in a single verse; and
Peter was not likely to dwell on that fact before such an audience.
Mark also, very naturally, as Peter's interpreter, gives the
very words that the preacher spoke in his native Syriac: "Talitha cumi," "Ephphatha,"
"Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani:" these being the very words uttered by the
Saviour. But what most clearly demonstrates the fact that the Second
Gospel is a record of what was spoken to Gentiles, and not to Jews is,
that it explains Jewish phrases and customs. Surely, it would have
been like carrying coals to Newcastle, to say, at Jerusalem—"Corban,
that is to say, a gift; the preparation, that is, the day before
the Sabbath; defiled, that is to say, with unwashed hands."
"For, the Pharisees and all the Jews except they wash their hands oft, eat
not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from
the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things
there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and
pots, brazen vessels, and of tables (or beds)."
Let me entreat you to observe, before we leave the Second
Evangelist, how Mark's reproduction of his spiritual father's preaching,
demonstrates to us the heartfelt modesty of Peter's true character; for it
omits what Matthew tells of Peter—how he walked on the water to meet his
Lord, how Christ blessed him, and gave him the keys, and how Christ sent
him to get the temple-money from the mouth of the fish;—what Luke tells
us—that Christ prayed specially for Peter; and what John tells us—how
Peter cast himself into the sea to meet Jesus after the Resurrection,—how
Christ gave Peter charge to feed his lambs and his sheep, and how Christ
predicted Peter's martyrdom.
In conclusion, I think I may say without fear of
contradiction, Strauss cannot truly say that nobody knows who wrote the
Second Gospel: nobody knows who Mark was: nobody knows when his Gospel was
written, or where it was written.
Let us now approach the THIRD EVANGELIST.
I shall not make so large a demand upon your time, in the cases of St.
Luke and St. John, as in that of St. Mark. What reply are we able to
make to the assertions of Strauss, that nobody knows who Luke was,
or when or where the Third Gospel was written? Is Luke
a mere man in the moon, a shadow without any historical identity? Is
the author of the Third Gospel a mere ignoramus, who knows nothing about
the history of Christ, and therefore can tell us nothing? If that be
the opinion of Strauss, we immediately reply, it was not the opinion of
In the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we have
the author speaking in the first person plural, as we say: "we
endeavoured to go into Macedonia"—"we came with a straight course to
Samothracia"—"we were in that city—that is to say, Philippi—certain days,"
and so on. The author is with Paul; is one who obeys the divine
signal given to Paul of the man of Macedonia, in a vision saying "Come
over and help us;" and so; doubtless, hears Paul preach the first
Christian sermon ever preached in Europe. Further on in the Acts of
the Apostles, he tells us he was with Paul in the voyage he made amongst
the Greek islands, and to Tyre, and Ptolemais and Cesarea; and how he went
with him to Jerusalem. "The day following," the author of the Acts
himself also tells us, he went in with Paul to "James, and all the elders
were present." He is thus a personal eye-witness of the real
existence of the Apostles of Christ; and, undoubtedly, would hear them
speak in that meeting at Jerusalem and give their advice to Paul.
As we draw nearer the end of the Acts of the Apostles, the
author of it informs us that he sailed with Paul in that long and
dangerous voyage in the Mediterranean by Cyprus and Crete, and across the
Adriatic to Malta, and from thence to Syracuse, and thence to Rome, and
there he concludes by describing to us how Paul, as a prisoner, "dwelt two
whole year's in his own hired house," and preached Christ to all who would
come and hear him.
Whoever the author of this Acts of the Apostles may be, he
is, like the Apostle to whom he is attached, a man of earnestness and of
action, and is a very likely man to write, not only this stirring
narrative of the life of Paul, preceded by a brief account of the doings
of Christ's earlier disciples, but to write some account of the life of
Christ himself. And he points us to the fact that he did write such
an account in the very first words of the Acts of the Apostles, "The
former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to
do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up," and so on. We
turn to the "former treatise." How does it begin?
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to
set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely
believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the
beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word; it seemed good to
me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very
first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou
mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been
So then, the author of the Third Gospel begins it with the
bold challenge that he had "perfect understanding of all things from the
very first." Strauss must have been very bold, must he not? if he
really asserted that Luke knew nothing of the history of Christ, had no
certain information, or could give us none, about Christ's words and
deeds. For that Λουας, or Luke, is
the name of the author of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the Third
Gospel, we have the direct testimony of Irenæus
and Tertullian, in the close of the second century, and their evidence is
corroborated by the testimonies of Origen, Eusebius, and numerous Fathers
that follow. Justin Martyr, also, let it be observed, repeatedly
quotes St. Luke's Gospel as well as St. Matthew's, and he wrote in the
first half of the second century. Justin does not mention the name
either of Luke or of Matthew, but it is certain that he quotes both
Gospels very frequently. He does not mention either of their names,
because their names would be not only unknown to the persons he addresses,
but would be no evidence to them of the truth of what he was writing to
One stray thought before I pass on. Marcion, in the
second century, attempted the mischievous prank of mutilating the Gospel
of Luke, and pretended that the Christian Church did not read the
genuine Gospel: Tertullian's book against the mutilator has come down
to us, and it contains this strong sentence after he has enumerated
several Churches which were founded by the apostles: "I affirm, then, that
in those churches, and not in those only which were founded by the
apostles, but in all which have fellowship with them, that the Gospel of
Luke which we so steadfastly defend has been received from its first
publication." You see, my friends, the belief of the early Church in
the genuineness and authenticity of the gospels was not allowed to lie in
their minds as an idle, slumbering persuasion. They were put upon
their metal to defend their precious possession of these Gospels even in
the second century of our era. And, 'pon honour, I think they were
all the better Christians for it.
Irenæus tells his readers
that he who rejects Luke will be convicted of throwing away the Gospel of
which he professes himself a disciple. "For there are many, and
those very necessary parts of the gospel which we know by Luke's means,"
says Irenæus. And then he goes on
to mention the facts and parable recorded by Luke which are not recorded
by the other Evangelists—such as the information respecting the Holy
Family and the Family of John the Baptist in Luke's opening chapters; the
testimony of Simeon and Anna; Christ's questioning of the doctors when he
was but twelve years of age; the age of our Lord when He was baptized; the
miraculous draught of fishes; the cure of the woman who had been bowed
down with an infirmity of eighteen years; the cure of the man with the
dropsy on the Sabbath day; the parable of the man who knocked at the door
in the night time for bread; the deed of the woman that was a sinner in
kissing his feet and anointing Him in the house of the Pharisee; the
parables of the rich man who hoarded up his increase, and of the creditor
who had two debtors; the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; the
conversion of Zaccheus the publican; the parable of the publican and
Pharisee praying in the temple; the healing of the ten lepers; the
parables of the judge who yielded to the importunate widow; and of the
barren fig-tree. And is all this attested by one who wrote in the
latter half of the second century? Can there be a stronger proof
that the Gospel of Luke, which Irenæus
had in his hands seventeen hundred years ago, and only 150 years after
Christ died and rose again, was the same Gospel of Luke that we have in
our hands now?
The attachment of St. Luke to St. Paul seems to have been
very strong and true. In the great apostle's last letter which has
reached us—the second epistle to Timothy—which is believed to have been
written from his last Roman prison, but a few months before his martyrdom,
in the year 68—St. Paul urges Timothy to come to him and bring Mark with
him; for Demas, he sorrowfully says, has forsaken him through love of the
present world, and Crescens and Titus are gone. "Only Luke," he
adds, touchingly,—"only Luke is with me." Luke is also mentioned by
St. Paul as one of his fellow-labourers" in his letter to Philemon; but,
you will remember that, in St. Paul's letter to the Colossian Church, Luke
is mentioned with others as among the friends who visit him in his first
Roman prison, and he is called "Luke, the beloved physician." He is
not called a painter. That Popish story is only an invention
of the fourteenth century. It has no foundation whatever in the
testimony of the ancients. Eusebius and Jerome, in the fourth
century, assert that Luke was a physician of Antioch: the city, you know,
where the followers of Jesus were first called "Christians."
"A physician?" some one will say, "a physician? Then
Luke ought to be a better scholar than mere fishermen." Just so.
And St. Luke's Greek is the best Greek of the Gospels. You know it
could not be expected that Jews should speak or write what is called
classic Greek. If they wrote or spoke in Greek words, the mode and
term of expression would indicate a Jewish not a Greek cast of thought.
Thus the New Testament is always said to consist of Hebraistic or
Hellenistic Greek. Luke's Greek, however, is purer than the Greek of
the other Gospels; nay, the four verses which I quoted to you from our
authorised version, the four verses with which Luke's Gospel begins are,
in the original, the purest and most classic Greek in the entire New
Testament. Let me not forget to say that these four verses are
followed by a passage of considerable length which you must not include in
the character I have just given of Luke's Greek. From the 5th verse
of the first chapter to the end of the second chapter, Luke's style is so
Hebraistic, that it has been shrewdly conjectured by some scholars that we
have here a document entrusted to him by the Holy Family, and he
translates it for us, preserving the peculiar cast of thought, as much as
possible, in his Greek translation from the Hebrew.
St. Paul does not include Luke among those "who are of the
circumcision," when he calls him "the beloved physician." Luke is
therefore a Gentile, "born at Antioch," says Eusebius; and he does not
give the genealogy of Christ in the way that Matthew gives it, that is to
say, by shewing that Jesus was descended from David and Abraham, and thus
was the Messiah the Jews had been taught to look for. Instead of
this, he imitates the Gentile method of tracing genealogies, and beginning
with Christ himself, traces his line up to Adam. I cannot take up
your time here by shewing how the differences in the two genealogies are
to be explained; but I can refer you to a book which I have read over four
times with the increasing satisfaction that it solves the whole
difficulty. Let me recommend all who have any unsettledness on this
question to read the work of a venerable clergyman still living, the
Reverend Lord Arthur Hervey.
Talking of difficulties in the Gospels, let me also note that
the objection so often urged against the Third Gospel, respecting Cyrenius,
or Quirinus, being Governor of Syria, when the taxing or enrolment was
first made, which caused Joseph and Mary to go up from Nazareth, in
Galilee, to Bethlehem, to be taxed or enrolled, has also been swept away
by a great living scholar. It was always alleged that since the
government of Syria by Quirinus did not commence till 10, or as some said
12 years after the birth of Christ,—the author of the Third Gospel was
not, and could not be Luke, the companion of Paul; but some compiler in
the second or third century who was not 'well up' in his chronology.
Even the critical Strauss sings that old song. Now, however, Dr.
Zumpt of Berlin, whose reputation as a scholar stands among the foremost
of our time, has shown, to the satisfaction of all who are best qualified
to judge, that Publius Sulpicius Quirinus was governor of Syria from the
year 4 before Christ, to the year 1 after Christ; and again from A.D. 6 to
But Luke was a physician, we have seen from the testimony of
St. Paul himself, and the tradition reported by Eusebius and Jerome. And
none of you can read Luke's Gospel thoughtfully, and regard the testimony
and report as untrue. St. Luke records more miracles of healing than any
of the other evangelists; he takes more time to describe them; and
evidently feels more interest in describing them than any of the other
evangelists. Nay, but we can come nearer to the proof that it was a
physician who wrote the Third Gospel; only here again, I am straitened in
attempting to give you the proof, because you young men who might so
easily do it, will not learn to read your Greek Testament. St. Luke uses
words which are not in the other Evangelists; neither are they words
common to Xenophon and Thucydides, and other socalled classic writers.
They are medical words, such as παροξυσμος,
ιασις, which are in use by Greek medical writers only.
You will remember, how, in the Acts of the Apostles, when
Elymas the sorcerer opposed God's work, he was told by Paul he should be
blind for a season; "and immediately," the narrative goes on, "there fell
on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking some one to lead
him by the hand "—the very picture presented so livingly in one of
Raffaelle's cartoons. The word translated mist—άχλύς—is
explained by Galen, a Greek medical writer who comes after Luke's time:
and he says that those who are afflicted with the disorder of the eye so
called "seem to see through a sort of mist or fog." The peculiar
word rendered 'surfeiting' in the 21St chapter of St. Luke—κραιπάλη—is
used by Hippocrates, another well-known Greek medical writer.
Again: Matthew, Mark, and John do not describe the persons
stricken with the palsy in the manner that Greek medical writers describe
them. The three Evangelists always use the word paralytic —παραλυτικός.
St. Luke uses the mode of expression common to Greek medical men—παραλελυμένος—the
perfect participle of the passive voice, meaning 'paralysed.'
Another remarkable token that it is the hand of a physician who is
employing the pen in the Third Gospel, is the use of the term
συνεχομένη—'seized with' or 'taken with,'
in the way that the Greek' medical writers use it. Thus we read in
St. Luke, that Simon's wife's mother was 'taken with' a great fever; and
the Greek word I have just mentioned is employed again in the Acts of the
Apostles, to describe the sickness of the father of Publius 'the chief man
of the island' of Melita or Malta.
But St. Luke was a gentleman as well as a physician. He
will not let his profession down. When the earnest, unpolished Peter
preached, we learn from Mark's Gospel, that he described the woman who had
an issue of blood twelve years as one who "had suffered many things of
many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered,
but rather grew worse." St. Luke does not deny that she "could not
be healed of any"; but he does not say she grew worse: he will not let his
profession down. Nor does he give the rough hint that Peter seems to
give that it is a suffering experiment to put yourself into the
hands of physicians. Dr. Frend also shows us that the educated
physician, St: Luke, employs a more temperate word, in the delicate Greek,
to show how the lady expended her wealth on physicians, than the rough,
boisterous word used by Peter, which indicates luxurious and riotous
waste, and is the word used by St. Luke to express the wasteful spending
of the Prodigal Son.
In conclusion, let me say that several of the Fathers say
that Luke wrote his Gospel in Greece. Luke's Gospel being called by
himself "the former treatise," must have been written before his "Acts of
the Apostles." And as the "Acts" does not relate Paul's martyrdom,
but leaves Paul in his first imprisonment at Rome, under Nero, we must
conclude, with the judicious Lardner, that Luke left Paul, for a time, at
Rome, and went into Greece to compose, or finish the composition of his
Gospel, and the "Acts," not later than A.D. 64 or 65.
I think I am now entitled to affirm that neither Strauss, nor
any other rejector of Christianity, can be proclaiming truth, when he says
nobody knows who Luke was; nobody knows who wrote the Gospel now
called by his name; nobody knows when it was written; nobody knows
where it was written.
We come at last to the FOURTH GOSPEL.
On the ungenuineness of this most glorious record of our Saviour, the
critical Strauss is very strong and positive. We must understand him
as declaring, very determinedly, that nobody knows who the author
of the Fourth Gospel was; nobody knows who wrote it; nobody knows
when it was written, or where it was written.
"Not know who John was?" every grateful Christian will
exclaim. "What! that disciple that Jesus loved, not know who he was?
He who leaned on Jesus' breast at supper: he who could ask his Lord a
question when others hardly felt courage to ask it; he who was with his
Lord everywhere—in the Mount of Transfiguration—in the garden of
Gethsemane—in the hall of judgment—by the very cross itself, and received
there the express charge from his crucified Lord to take care of Jesus'
mother? Why, if St. John had not written a Gospel, we should
scarcely have thought the Gospels complete.
But is there unmistakeable evidence that it was our
John—John, the beloved disciple—who was the author of the Fourth Gospel?
Be it understood that so generally and universally has the Christian
church, all along, regarded the evidence for this fact as unmistakeable,
that no discussions were raised upon it until of late years. The
industrious Lardner quotes the testimonies to John's authorship of the
Fourth Gospel from Irenæus, and
Athenagoras, and Theophilus of Antioch, and Clement of Alexandria, and
Tertullian, in the second century; and from Origen, and Eusebius, and
Epiphanius, and Augustine, and Chrysostom in the third and fourth
centuries; and from many later writers.
"John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned upon His breast,
published a Gospel, while he dwelt at Ephesus, in Asia," says Irenæus.
"These things the Holy Scriptures teach us, and all who were moved by the
Spirit; among whom John says, 'In the beginning was the Logos, and the
Logos was with God,'" so says Theophilus of Antioch. "In the last
place," says Clement of Alexandria, "John, observing that the things
obvious to the senses had been clearly set forth in those Gospels
(Matthew, Luke, and Mark, as he arranges them), being urged by his
friends, and divinely moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel."
What these three Fathers thus write in the second century, be
it remembered, was the belief of thousands and tens of thousands of
Christian believers in their own age. We may feel as sure, from these
clear expressions in their writings, that the Christians living in the
century immediately after Christ's death believed the Fourth Gospel was
written by our John—the John who leaned on Jesus' breast at supper, as we
can feel sure of the clearest and strongest, and most unimpugnable facts
of all past history-.
These three writers lived in the latter half of the second
century; but there are undoubted quotations from John's Gospel in Justin
Martyr, who lived in the first half of that century. Justin does not
mention the name of John as a gospel writer any more than the name of
Matthew or Luke; but Justin speaks of "the Logos having been made flesh,"
and says this was Christ—a doctrine he could only derive from John's
Gospel. Justin also quotes the words of John the Baptist, as given
in the first chapter of St. John: "I am not the Christ; but I am the voice
of one crying in the wilderness." He was evidently acquainted with
the words, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," from the observations
he makes about the early Christians not keeping the Jewish sabbath; and it
is equally evident that he had read the third chapter of John's gospel,
when he quotes Christ's words, "Unless ye be born again, ye cannot enter
the kingdom of heaven; and adds, "it is evidently impossible for those
once born to enter into their mother's womb"—an affirmative embodiment of
the question of Nicodemus.
The early Christian writers unite in assuring us that, after
the death of Jesus' mother, the beloved disciple went to live in Asia
Minor; and that he had the care of seven churches, Ephesus being his
centre. His banishment to the Isle of Patmos is commonly stated to
have occurred in the reign of Domitian, which would be late in the first
century; but there are some scholars who place it earlier, and believe the
Revelation was written as early as any of the Four Gospels. The
Fathers assure us that John wrote his Gospel and Epistles at Ephesus, and
died there in the hundredth year of his age, about the year 100, and in
the third year of the emperor Trajan. Many affecting traits of the
behaviour and piety of the Beloved Disciple in his old age are recorded by
The Gospel of John, you know, is often called the
Supplementary Gospel; but that is too feeble a name for it. No
doubt, John purposed to supply some parts of the Gospel history that had
not been related by the Synoptics, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke are now so
frequently called. But he had other great and independent purposes
in writing his Gospel. I say, in "writing" his Gospel; for it does
not follow that he could not write because he was the son of a fisherman.
His father, Zebedee, had "servants" attending to his boats; and John seems
to have been free from any absolute necessity to labour. Peter had
his wife and his wife's mother to sustain; and neither he nor Andrew—nor,
perhaps, any other of the chosen Twelve, save John—were constantly with
I beg to recommend a little book to you. It is entitled
"The Facts of the Four Gospels." Mr. Frederic Seebohm is the author;
and although I do not know him I feel very thankful to him for writing
that most excellent little book. The fact that John only accompanied
Jesus in his early visits to Jerusalem, and that the twelve did not go
with Jesus to that city until He went thither to die, is made very clear
by Mr. Seebohm; and he also furnishes an abundance of most pellucidly
clear illustrations on other points of the Gospel history.
The narratives of the three Evangelists, the synoptics are
confined very much to Christ's life in Galilee. For Peter in his
preaching would confine himself to what he personally knew, and so would
Matthew. And Luke's informants seem to have been apostles and
Galilean disciples. The fourth Evangelist had therefore as a
necessary part of his task to complete the history by informing us of the
earlier visits of Jesus to Jerusalem.
But he had other great purposes. First, he corrects the
gnostic errors of his age. The leader against whose false
doctrines respecting the logos and the pleroma, or "fulness," St. John
directs the opening of his Gospel, is said to have been Cerinthus.
As he lived in the close of the first century, John's Gospel could not
have been published earlier than about the year 98, the time which is
usually assigned to it.
Above all other aims John had to produce what Clement of
Alexandria so aptly terms "a spiritual Gospel." He therefore shows
us how the Saviour proclaimed His own Divinity, and the fitness and
fulness of His salvation for men.
John must have had the synoptical Gospels before him, but he
seldom touches their narratives. Yet when he does approach them, he
usually adds something they had all omitted. It is so in the
narrative of the miracle of the five barley loaves and two fishes with
which Christ fed the five thousand: it is so in the narrative of Mary's
anointing Christ's feet with the spikenard; it is so above all when the
Evangelists come to the solemn closing scenes of the Crucifixion and
Serious questioning you know has often arisen and still
exists in some quarters respecting the truth of John's narrative wherein
it is utterly new, as compared with the synoptical Gospels. Strauss
and Renan have unceremoniously denied the truth of that part of John's
record, which relates that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It is
a fiction of a later time they assert, or why was not such an
all-important miracle related by Matthew, Mark and Luke?
The answer, and I believe the true answer, is suggested by
Grotius, the friend of Milton; that Lazarus was alive during the time that
the three Evangelists were writing their records, and they would not
mention Lazarus to draw any attention to him, because the enemies of
Christ were seeking to kill him. An old writer says he withdrew from
Jerusalem at the persuasion of the Apostles and became a missionary in
Armenia, where he preached Christ, and declared the fact that Christ had
raised him from the dead. When John published his Gospel at the
close of the first century, Lazarus was dead, and John gave the history of
his Divine Master's crowning miracle to the world.
Paley in his noble "Evidences," singles out the ninth chapter
of John's Gospel as a master-piece of writing for its inimitable
verisimilitude—a long word from the Latin, but a very expressive
word—meaning "likeness to truth." You cannot read that chapter
without feeling that it is the composition of an earnest eye and ear
witness. But to my mind the verisimilitude is fully as evident and
apparent in John's record of the raising of Lazarus and all its
circumstantials, as in his relation of the miraculous giving of sight to
the man who had been born blind by the Saviour.
I forbear to make further remarks on the fourth Gospel; and
think you will agree with me that Strauss has no truth on his side when he
asserts that nobody knows who wrote it—nobody knows who John was—nobody
knows when his Gospel was written, or where it was written.
THE CONCLUDING EVIDENCES.
We have now brought out the circumstantial evidence
for the authenticity, genuineness, and authorship of the four Gospels, for
the historical identity and real human existence of their authors, and
above all, for the competence of the Evangelists to write the Gospels that
bear their names. I have not performed my task as it might be
performed with more time and more research; but my own conscientious
conviction is that Strauss has not an inch of ground to stand upon, when
he denies that we know who wrote the Gospels, when they were written, and
where they were written. His "Mythical System" which held me in
bondage for twelve years, I feel has utterly lost its hold upon me—and I
say it, thankfully.
I do not forget, however, that I evoked the presence of that
intelligent and candid sceptic; and let us suppose, if you please, that he
is still present.
"Yes, sir," he will be saying, "I am here; but you have not
changed my convictions. I give you credit for your own belief that
all is in favour of your conclusions; but I have no such belief. I
tell you again that I do not believe in miracles; and so I hold that the
Gospel miracles were never performed; and that your "Gospel History" is no
history at all. You may believe—I do not doubt that you honestly
believe—the Gospels were written by the identical persons you think you
have pointed out, and that they were written when and where you think you
have succeeded in shewing they were written. On the contrary, I hold
that the theory of Strauss is not only a very probable theory, but that it
is a most veritable theory: that it is the true way of accounting for the
existence of these four ancient pieces of writing, called the Gospels of
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
"I am not disposed to deny that these books were in existence
in the middle of the latter half of the second century: that is to say in
the year 175. I do not question for one moment that which is granted
by Strauss and all the existing school of freethinkers, and by Bolingbroke
and the candid and scholarly freethinkers of the last century. But
then, as Strauss shrewdly observes, 142 years—from A.D. 33 to A.D. 175—is
ample time for the formation of these legendary books. I make no
doubt that some four persons, who were companions, or associates of the
companions, of this extraordinary and highly gifted enthusiast, Jesus of
Nazareth, began to write these books: wrote some part of them: some
comparatively short part. And that by the natural tendency of
mankind in the state of ignorance, which is, universally, a state of
childish wonder and superstition, the belief in the marvellous gradually
expanded in the minds of the very early Christians; and accounts of
miracles were not only framed and credited, but added, in writing to the
first sketches of Gospels. Other and still more marvellous stories
would be added to these; and so, by successive accretions of marvels,
these Four Gospels, as they are called, came to be what we see they are
now, in the course of those 142 years, or by the year 175.
"And I further hold"—continues our sceptical friend—"that it
is just as Strauss says: you may see the growth of the mythical element in
these books, if you will read them with the critical faculty, and not with
a blind and unexamining credence. When Jesus is related to have
raised the dead, in the two earlier Gospels, it is a very unimportant and
unimpressive affair. He enters a room where a maiden has just
deceased, and restores her to life. The mythical element grows in
the Third Gospel. The widow's son of Nain is raised to life upon the
very bier on which he had lain dead and was being carried, a corpse, to
the grave. But what a startling increase of the legendary spirit
there is when we come to the Fourth and last of these remarkable ancient
books! Your "John," as you call him, gives us the account of the
Resurrection of Lazarus: a man who had not only been dead some time before
he was interred, but who had been four days in the grave, and whose body,
by his own sister's account, was now in a state of decomposition.
"Doubtless, that story is one of very late formation.
It could only have found belief among very ignorant and credulous people;
or among people who had given themselves up so thoroughly to the reception
of marvellous tales that they could almost believe anything. I
should think it very probable that it is one of the latest accretions of
the marvellous to these ancient books. I don't at all think it
unlikely that it was added to them very nearly as late as the very year
175 that has been mentioned."
Now, let us enquire into the possibility of what our
sceptical friend advances as being true, namely, that the account of the
resurrection of Lazarus in the Gospel of St. John is merely a marvellous
tale which was added to that Gospel about, or nearly, as late as the year
175. And first, please bear it in mind that this is no question
about printed books. Printed books: what, in A.D. 175? You
know there was no printed book till more than a thousand years after that
date. Please also bear it in mind that there was no collected New
Testament at that time, it is not till years after that date that we learn
there was a collected New Testament in use among the Christian Churches.
In the year 175 the Four Gospels formed a volume—a written volume—by
themselves. The Epistles of St. Paul also formed a written volume by
themselves. The other books of the New Testament were still loose,
in the form of tracts: they were not gathered into a third volume.
Now, how many copies of the one volume which contained the Four Gospels
might there be in existence in the year 175?
"Stop; sir," says some one, "there is a previous question,
namely—What was the price of written books? You know, since the
majority of professing Christians must be thought of as poor, they
could not have many books among them, if books were dear, at that period
of the world's history."
Let me entreat you to disabuse your minds of that belief, if
you have believed that books were dear in the second century. They
were dear in the tenth century, when scarcely anybody could write and
read: they were dear in the 9th, 8th, 7th and 6th centuries; and they were
not cheap in the 5th. But books were really cheap in the second
century. Thousands wrote books for a living, since there were many
readers in the highly civilised period of the reigns of the "Good
Emperors," as they were called.
Now, how many copies of the written volume containing the
Four Gospels, may we fairly suppose, there were in existence in the year
175? You remember, Gibbon reckoned there were six millions of
professing Christians in existence about the time that Constantine began
to patronise Christianity—the year 313. Well, if there were six
millions in 313, there would not be more than three millions, one would
think, in 175. Now, among how many professing Christians shall we
allot one copy of this volume? Andrews Norton, an American scholar
and critic of eminence, thinks we should allot one copy to every 50; and
he thinks that a fair supposition, especially when we take into account
the zeal of the ancient Christians and the high value they placed upon the
Gospels. Perhaps, some one among my audience may say it is not
likely that one copy would be found among every 50; better suppose one
copy among every 100. Oh, but I would be more liberal still, and
would say let us allot one written copy of the volume containing the Four
Gospels among every 200 professing Christians. Now divide your three
millions by 200, and what is the result? 15,000. 15,000
copies—written copies of the volume containing the Four Greek Gospels, in
existence in the year 175.
Now comes the decisive question—How to get a false story so
long as the account of the resurrection of Lazarus into 15,000 written
copies of the volume containing the four Gospels, in the year 175?
You know, if any of you possessed a scarce printed book—a book which had
been long out of print—and you were to say, 'I should like to have this
book put into print again, and to have a story that I have written put
into it and printed as if it had been an original part of the book; I can
afford it, and I will have it done.' And suppose you gave all into a
printer's hands, and ordered 100,000 copies of the book to be struck off.
Well, that would spread the story as widely as the original book itself,
and at once!
But, consider now, supposing some person living at Antioch,
or Ephesus, invented the account of the resurrection of Lazarus, and wrote
it down in his own copy of the volume containing the four Gospels, that
would not write it down in the volume possessed by any Christian living in
Jerusalem, or in Rome, or at Corinth, or at Philippi, or at Thessalonica,
or in any place where there was a Christian Church. The man who
invented the story could not get it written down in the copy possessed by
his next door neighbour; if his neighbour did possess a copy, without
obtaining that neighbour's leave. How, then, to get the leave of
15,000 persons scattered over France, Italy, Greece, the Isles of the
Archipelago, Asia Minor, the Holy Land, Egypt, and Northern Africa—15,000
professing Christians (for none else dared possess the Gospels), carrying
their lives in their hands, and exposed to death—how, I say, to get the
leave of 15,000 zealous believers in what they held to be Divine Truth, to
write down a false and unauthorised story in their copies of the Gospels?
The very supposition is absurd—preposterously absurd.
"Well, I must confess," says our sceptical friend, "that I
overshot the bolt in supposing the feat I described could be accomplished
so late as A.D. 175. Yes, yes; it was an extreme, too extreme, a
supposition; I grant that. But, sir, it could be accomplished, and
doubtless was accomplished at some time earlier than that. You say
the Gospel of St. John was originally published about A.D. 98. Well,
sir, from 98 to 175 is 77 years. During such a period of time as
that—some time during the 77 years, I say, there must have been ample
opportunity for inserting the imaginary story of the resurrection of
Lazarus in the Fourth Gospel, and successfully passing it off as a really
original and authentic and genuine part of that Gospel. No doubt of
Now, let us see if there be any likelihood of truth in this
amended position, as he deems it, of our sceptical friend.
Who among the Fathers, did we say, were living in the last quarter of the
second century? You may remember that we named as pre-eminent,
Tertullian, Irenæus, and Clement of
Alexandria. Of the three, let us take Irenæus.
He was martyred at Vienne in France, for he was one of the early bishops
of Lyons. About the year 175, the best critical scholars agree, Irenæus
wrote his book against heretics. That book has come down to us.
Listen to a few extracts from this book, I pray you:—
"Matthew, among the Hebrews, published a Gospel in their
own language; while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel at Rome, and
founding a Church there. And after their departure (death), Mark,
the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself, delivered to us in writing
what Peter had preached; and Luke the companion of Paul, recorded the
Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord,
who leaned upon his breast, likewise published a Gospel while he dwelt at
Ephesus in Asia."
Then he gives some fanciful reasons why there should only be
four Gospels—such as that there are four quarters of the world, four
cardinal winds, &c.—but all that was according to the fanciful taste of
the time. I don't know but that our time is quite as fanciful, only
our fancies are of another kind. Listen, I pray, to the remaining
"The Gospel according to John declares His (Christ's)
princely, complete, and glorious generation from the Father, saying 'In
the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was
God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.'
The Gospel according to Luke, being of a priestly character, begins with
Zacharias the priest offering incense to God. Matthew proclaims His
human generation, saying, 'the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of
David, the son of Abraham.' Mark begins with the prophetic Spirit,
which came down from above to men, saying, "The beginning of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ; as it is written in Isaiah the Prophet."
If you have listened to the extracts I have just read from
Irenæus, you will not wonder that our
sceptical Lord Bolingbroke, in his time, together with Strauss and all
sceptics who are scholars in our time, avow their belief that our Four
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were in existence and were
received by the Christian Church as early as the year 175.
But what more about Irenæus?
He tells us that he learnt his Christianity from the venerable Polycarp,
who was bishop of Smyrna— the 'blessed Polycarp,' Irenæus
calls him; and he declares he has such a regard for his instructor, (who
was afterwards a martyr for Christ when he was ninety years old) that he
can still mentally see and hear him, "his walks, the complexion of his
life, and the form of his body, and his conversations with the people, and
his familiar intercourse with John, as he was accustomed to tell, as also
his familiarity with those that had seen the Lord."
Irenæus gives us more
accounts of Polycarp and his "familiar intercourse" with the beloved
disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast at supper, but let these suffice.
Now, when was the alleged interpolation made in the Gospel of St. John?
In the lifetime of that apostle himself? that apostle from whom Polycarp
learned so much about Christ? that apostle whose prolonged life was so
marked by increased attachment to his Lord? I say; was the alleged
interpolation made in John's own lifetime? Who can, for one moment,
imagine that it was? What would the interpolator expect the beloved
disciple to say about it?
"Resurrection of Lazarus!" he would have exclaimed; "where
did you get such a story? Here is the Gospel that God has inspired
me to write. His holy spirit has brought to my mind the very words
of my Saviour at that sweet supper. But you will find no story about
any resurrection of Lazarus in it? Who has dared to forge such a
tale? There never was any resurrection of Lazarus, or I should have
known of it. I was with my Master in Jerusalem, I was with Him in
Galilee, I was with Him on the Lake of Gennesaret, I was with Him in the
Mount of Transfiguration, I was with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, I
stood by His cross, and received the care of his dear mother from him ere
He died, and I tell you there never was any resurrection of Lazarus.
You must not have a false story like that in your books—away with it!"
We feel sure that no interpolator could have succeeded in
getting a false account of the resurrection of Lazarus into St.
John's Gospel during St. John's lifetime, and securing its reception by
the Christian Church. Then, since the amended supposition of
our sceptical friend is that the interpolation could certainly be
successfully made somewhere between the years 98 and 175, could it
possibly have been made in the lifetime of Polycarp? But what would
the interpolator have felt sure that Polycarp would have said about it?
for he could scarcely expect that Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, one of
the "seven churches" mentioned in the Apocalypse, would not hear of
"Resurrection of Lazarus!" Polycarp would have said ; "where
have you got that story? Do you say you are reading it out of a copy of
the Gospel written by my teacher? Look! here is my copy of St. John's
Gospel; I had it from the hand of an Ephesian copyist who made it with St.
John's original Gospel before him. You see there is no such story here.
Not a trace of it. Brethren, remember : what our Lord said—that false and
deluding teachers should come. You must not have that false story in your
books—away with it : We can die for truth, and we may have to die for it
to-morrow ; but we cannot die for falsehood."
Who, after even one moment's consideration, does not feel
sure that the supposed interpolation would be impossible in the lifetime
of Polycarp? Then, lastly, could it be made in the lifetime of Irenæus?
Remember, he was living in A.D. 175. But what would Irenæus
have said when he saw the false story, or heard it read? And one
cannot conceive it possible that such an interpolation should be made
without Irenæus having a knowledge of it,
for he was a man of action, and a traveller. He went to Rome with a
message from the Christian Churches of France before he became Bishop of
Lyons, and entered into correspondence with various persons in different
parts of the Christian world relative to the doctrines and customs of the
Church; he was no novice to whom the news of an interpolation in the
Gospel of St. John would, very likely, never reach. What would Irenæus
"Resurrection of Lazarus—what resurrection? what
Lazarus? Here is my copy of St. John's Gospel. I had it from
my martyred teacher, the holy Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of the
beloved disciple, and often heard the substance of this very gospel from
St. John's own mouth. You will find no such story here. We
never heard of it before. It was not left us as a testimony of
either St. John or any other apostle. Away with it! You must
not have a false story in your books. We can die for truth, and we
may have to die for it tomorrow; but we cannot die for falsehood."
Again, I say, who, after one moment's consideration, does not
feel sure that the account of the resurrection of Lazarus could not have
been got into the copies of St. John's Gospel in the lifetime of Irenæus?
And who does not feel that the connection of the names of Irenæus,
and Polycarp, and St. John forms a chain of testimony—self corroborative
testimony—in itself of the truth of the Gospel History? There are
but three personal links in the chain, can you break one of them?
No; you feel it is impossible to do that; the links are so inseparably
inter-welded and connected. And what is the full force of this
self-corroborative testimony? That Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
were the identical persons we understand them to have been; that they were
real and competent testifiers to the truth of what they relate; that they
gave up their lives to the spreading of this testimony; and that they
exposed their lives to danger every, day rather than desist from spreading
this their testimony.
There cannot be stronger testimony of any facts than this
testimony of theirs. If their testimony be not true, there is no
true testimony in the world of any facts whatever: there are no facts!
But sane men do not come to such a conclusion; sane men do not throw away
such testimony as this. The world would then have not a single page
of history to read, and would cut itself off from the possibility of
learning anything from the written records of the past. True history
is the most valuable boon bequeathed to us by the past generations of men;
and these four gospels are the most valuable boon of all, for, thank God!
they who wrote them were under the especial direction and holy guidance of
I can imagine, after all that has been said, some one present
who is still entangled in the net of unbelief, will be saying—"I should
have liked your proofs better if they had not been so one-sided; if they
had not all been given by Christians. Your 'evidences,' as you call
them, are all 'part and parcel of the same thing,' as they say in old
Yorkshire. If you could give me some kind of 'evidence' from men who
were not Christians, that the early 'history,' as it is called, of
Christianity, and the existence of Christ himself, are facts, I should be
more disposed to say the 'evidence' is worthy of belief."
But who could be expected to write a Life of Christ save a
Christian? Who would write the life of a champion of Atheism in our
day? A bishop of the established church could not be expected to do
it. A Methodist minister would not write it. The theme could
be no attraction save to a sceptical writer. And the "Life of
Jesus," to form a solid rest for our belief, must be the work of those who
were with him and saw and heard him.
Yet there is corroborative evidence for the truth of the
early Christian history, and—by deduction—we may also say for the reality
of Christ's existence, to be drawn from ancient sources which are not
Christian. Some of you, no doubt, will be well acquainted with what
Pliny and his friend Tacitus say about the ancient Christians. In
the year 110, Pliny, the friend of the Emperor Trajan, becomes proconsul
of Bithynia and Pontus, provinces near the Black Sea, and, at that time,
abounding with Christians. The Christians were considered to have
violated Trajan's law against secret societies, and many were brought up
to the tribunal of Pliny for judgment. He could discover no crime of
which they were guilty. But he tells Trajan that he learned from
their own confessions, that they were accustomed to meet together on a
certain day of the week (Sunday); that they sang together a hymn in praise
of their God, Christ; and that they bound one another to abstain from
theft, adultery, falsehood, and so on.
Tacitus plainly tells us that, in the year 63—(the very year
it is believed in which Peter and Paul were martyred at Rome)—Nero set
Rome on fire; laid the blame on the Christians; crucified some of them;
exposed others to be torn in pieces by dogs, after they had been sown up
in skins of wild beasts; and put others to death by having fire set to
them after they had been covered with pitch, or sown up in pitched shirts.
Tacitus, as one might expect from a heathen philosopher, calls
Christianity an "execrable superstition," but affirms that it was derived
from Christ, who was put to death in Judea under Pontius Pilate. Is
not this something like corroborative evidence from an enemy of the truth
of the early Christian history?
The satirist, Juvenal, who lived under Nero, alludes to the
burnings of the Christians in their pitched shirts, and so does his
brother satirist, Martial. Suetonius, writing of what took place under the
Emperor Claudius, in 53, is also understood to make mention of Christ.
Nor let it be forgotten that the Emperor Julian, Hierocles
and Porphyry, who professedly wrote against Christianity, never for a
moment called in question the existence of Christ, or the fact that he had
wrought miracles. And Celsus, who was the cotemporary of Irenæus
and Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, in his work against
Christianity, which was answered by Origen, proves for us that the Gospels
were then in existence, for he quotes them over and over again, and shews
that Christians valued them highly.
To my own mind, the fulfilment of our Lord's prophecy
respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, is one of the most striking
proofs of the truth of Christianity. Not only Josephus, but Tacitus
himself helps us to survey the dire picture in its reality, which had been
so clearly described by Christ 37 years before "the eagles gathered where
the carcase was"—before the eagled legions under Titus came to surround
the doomed city; 37 years before "the abomination of desolation spoken of
by Daniel the Prophet," was seen "standing in the holy place;" 37 years
before "Jerusalem was compassed with armies" and the "desolation" thereof
came, and therewith came such "days of affliction" as had "not been from
the creation of the world."
In the year 70 the prophecy was fulfilled to the very letter.
Not one stone was left upon another of that gorgeous temple which Herod
had so recently beautified. In spite of resistance almost
unparalleled in its madness, the Romans burst in upon the nearly famished
defenders of the city. Titus issued a commandment that the Jews, as
a nation, should cease to exist; that their city should be razed to its
foundations, and should never again be called "Jerusalem." And its
name was not restored till the reign of Constantine.
And its condition and the condition of the Jews, even now,
are standing proofs of the truth of Christ's prophecy. The site of
the temple is devoted to the religion of their persecutors, and yet a
crowd of despised, crouching Jews cling to the quarter, near the ruined
walls, where they are allowed to live. Once a week they are
permitted to enter "the Place of Wailing," where they turn towards a wall
of bevelled stones which belonged to their ancient city, and kiss the very
stones with tears, while they pray for Jerusalem! Oh, who does not
long for the conversion and restoration of God's ancient people?
Yonder is the "Mount Zion" of David, and yonder is the other
mount whereon stood the Courts of the House of the Lord; but there is no
temple of Jehovah now! There is no more "holy of holies;" no more
golden candlestick. Yonder is the figure of it in Rome, on the
triumphal arch of Titus, for he displayed it among the spoils as he
entered Rome. There is no table of shewbread; no altar of incense;
no ark of the covenant; no vail of the Temple; no high-priest ; no
assemblages of priests;—and no sacrifce! And Passover time
returns, and they keep it yearly—but there is no Paschal Lamb killed
and eaten! The Jews have ceased to sacrifice, have ceased to
kill the Paschal Lamb, in every part of the world!
Why have they ceased? You ask them, and they are
dumbfounded. They do not see that God has caused them to cease, for
the real sacrifice has now been offered up, and the real Paschal Lamb has
been slain. From China to the Cape of Good Hope,—from England,
across the Atlantic, to the New World—the Hebrew is to be found, with his
peculiar and still unaltered physiognomy—for his picture remains on the
walls of the tombs of the old Egyptian kings. He belongs to the
people "scattered and peeled"—dwelling yet on the earth as a warning to
rebellious men, and a living proof of the truth of prophecy.
I just now mentioned the martyrdom of Peter and Paul.
Who can ponder on Paul's history without feeling that it must be regarded
as part of the evidence for the truth of Christianity? Paul's
existence and course of life, and the writing of his letters to the
Christian Churches, are held to be facts by all the German and French
schools of scepticism; and that "Reverend" Robert Taylor that I mentioned
to you, who some fifty years ago was a favourite of the London
freethinkers, holds by the same facts. But what a puzzling
contradiction it seems for men to acknowledge the reality of the life and
recorded acts of Paul as facts, and yet to deny the truth of Christianity.
What! Paul a real man and Christ a myth? Paul a
real existence; Paul, who wrote so much about Christ so soon after his
death and resurrection; Paul a real existing man, and Christ's existence a
fable? Paul, who held the clothes of Stephen, the first Christian
martyr, while they stoned him to death? Then Stephen was also a real
existing man, who died, praying, "Lord Jesus! receive my spirit!"
Paul, the glorious half-missionary, half-mechanic, who crossed the
Mediterranean and the Adriatic, and visited so many shores preaching
Christ, and yet there never was any Christ to preach? Paul, a real
living man, who had seen and conversed with Peter, and James, and John;
then they were all real living men. How came they to say what they
did about Christ if He never existed? How came they to speak of His
miracles to the people who must have seen Christ's wondrous acts, if ever
He performed them? Must they not have expected the people to say,
"You are impostors! no such miracles were ever performed!" Yet no
one said this. Even the worst enemies of Christ did not deny His
miracles, though they attributed them to Satanic agency.
What motive could the apostles have for deceiving the world?
How came they to say that Christ had done such wondrous deeds of power and
goodness, and that they had witnessed them, if He either never existed, or
never performed His miracles? They could not be mistaken if they
possessed the natural senses of men. They could not be mistaken
either about Christ's personal identity after He rose from the dead.
It was only on the Friday He was crucified, and the resurrection took
place early on Sunday morning, and in the same evening He appeared to them
and conversed with them. They could not have forgotten His form and
features so soon—the form and features they knew so well.
Could their motive for deception have been a selfish and
ambitious one? Is it possible that the men who had piety and purity
perpetually on their lips were false-hearted schemers? "Did they go about
lying to teach virtue?" to use Paley's masculine thought.
Look at the conduct of the apostles after Pentecost, and
then, unless we are as senseless as stones, we must, without a grain of
doubt, be convinced of their honesty. During Christ's lifetime they
never fully understood who their Master was, what He came to do, or what
they had to do themselves. They were always looking for Him to begin
His open part as a temporal Messiah. They expected Him to drive the
Romans away, sit on David's throne at Jerusalem, and let them sit on His
right hand and His left hand. That was still their dream even after
His resurrection. The last question to Him on earth was, "Lord, wilt
Thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?" That is to
say, Wilt Thou drive the Romans away and sit on David's throne, and let us
sit on Thy right hand and left?
You know what the Lord replied—"It is not for you to know the
times or the seasons which the Father has put in His power." He did
not encourage their prurient curiosity any more than He indulged their
earthly spirit. And I take the liberty to say, that I think Christ
would have snubbed some of these "second coming" people, if He had lived
in our day. I mean the people who will have their favourite belief
for breakfast, dinner, and supper, and who say no minister preaches the
Gospel unless he proclaims the "second coming" in every sermon. I do
not mean that there is to be no second coming of Christ, but I think He
Himself would check the absurd heat there is in some people's minds on
this point if He were living in our day.
Manifestly, He did not encourage their wish when the apostles
put their last question to Him, but told them to go into the world and
preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. "And, lo!" said He,
"I am with you to the end of the world." He was with them:
that was to be their encouragement and support, not the hot and restless
expectations about His "second coming." And they were to wait at
Jerusalem, not for His "second coming;" but for the descent of the
Holy Spirit, who should guide them and show them what they had to do.
"A cloud received Him from their sight"—the Schekinah,
one feels persuaded, it must have been—and away they went to Jerusalem,
their hearts burning full of love to their dear Lord, and their souls full
of faith in Him. They continued all with one accord in prayer, and
were together in one place, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them in
the form of distributed (not "cloven") tongues of fire, and they
arose and spake with tongues, and the multitude who crowded upon them and
heard them expressed great amazement.
Now, when the "baptism of fire" had been received, the
apostles knew what they had to do; they understand it now. They know
their work is to be a spiritual work, and they set about it in thorough
earnest, and the infant church is at once composed of three thousand
souls. Listen to Peter, who has become the speaker among the
apostles; listen to him addressing the wondering crowd after the healing
of the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple; listen to him and
remember that some of that very crowd might have cried, "Crucify Him!" in
Pilate's ears but a few weeks before.
"Ye denied the Holy One and the just, and
desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life,
whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses. Repent
therefore, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing
shall come from the presence of the Lord!"
"The priest and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees,
came upon" the Apostles as they taught and "laid hands on them, and put
them in hold unto the next day." And when, the next day, they are
brought up before the high priest and his friends, they testify, while the
restored lame man stands beside them—"By the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by
him, doth this man stand before you whole."
The high priest and his friends cannot deny that a "notable
miracle" has been wrought, so they let them go after a little threatening.
But the work of the "unlearned and ignorant men," as they were deemed,
spreads till it shakes Jerusalem, and the high priest and his friends of
the sect of the Sadducees are "filled with indignation," and seize the
Apostles and put them this time in the common prison. "But the angel
of the Lord, by night, opened the prison doors and brought them forth, and
said, go, stand and speak in the Temple to the people all the words of
this life." And so, when the officers found the prison locked and
bolted next morning but the prisoners gone, the high authorities are in an
"Did we not straitly command you," says the high priest to
the apostles when they are once more brought before him, "that you should
not teach in this name? and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your
doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood upon us!"
"We ought to obey God rather than men," answers Peter and the
other apostles. What a change in Peter! Lately, when left to
himself—for God has to leave us to ourselves when we grow over-confident,
in order that we may discover our weakness—when left to himself, I say, a
poor servant maid frightened him, and he denied his Master. See him
now, when the Holy Spirit fills his soul! "We ought to obey God
rather than men," he says to the high priest. He cares neither for
high priest or low priest, nor would he have cared for the whole
Sanhedrim, if they had been present frowning upon him.
"And when they had beaten them and commanded them again not
to speak in the name of Jesus, they let them go." But the apostles
"departed from the presence of the council; rejoicing that they were
counted worthy to suffer shame for His name!" No more thought about
sitting on His right hand and left—no zest for worldly honour. They
know it is to be suffering and persecution to the end; but they rejoice
that they are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name, and can
shout—"Welcome the shame—welcome the suffering—welcome the persecution!"
Did any apostle ever say before he died, "It is all a sham.
Christ never rose from the dead. It was only a juggle that we
contrived that we might get something by it!" What; the men who were
stoned in the street—hunted from city to city—and some of them put to
death? Oh, nay; their saying was of another kind. "Do what you
will with us. Cast us to the lions—burn us alive—crucify us, as you
crucified our Master, take our lives in what way you choose, but we still
tell you Christ is risen from the dead. We have seen Him, and spoken
with Him, and received his command to preach His name. And we must
tell it, and we will tell it, for we feel the power of His resurrection in
our own souls!"
And they did tell it, and God helped them, and the truth of
Christ spread over many lands, and it is spreading still; and thank God it
has spread to us, and I trust many of us feel its power. Oh, let us
all try to spread it still more. Will you, young men, get these
evidences into your minds, and rehearse them in the ears of your sceptical
acquaintances? Will some of you devote yourselves to a new mission,
and live solely to spread these evidences? I have felt myself alone
for these fourteen years, while constantly traversing this our loved
British ground in every direction. There ought to be at least one
hundred men in these realms devoting themselves entirely to this work.
Will some of you young men—I ask again, and ask earnestly—prepare
yourselves for this championship of the truth of Christ? Get these
evidences into your minds, I entreat you; but above all, get "Christ
formed in your hearts, the hope of glory." That will make you eager
and valiant soldiers for your Lord. May God make us all His true
soldiers, and enable us to fight the good fight of faith, that at last we
may win the crown of life, for Christ's sake.
Printed by Watson and Hazell, London and Aylesbury.