By W. Sanday, M.A.
Dr. Lightfoot has shown, with admirable fulness and precision, that the object of Eusebius was only to note quotations in the case of books the admission of which into the Canon had been or was disputed. In the case of works, such as the four Gospels, that were universally acknowledged, he only records what seem to him interesting anecdotes or traditions respecting their authors or the circumstances under which they were composed. This distinction Dr. Lightfoot has established, not only by a careful examination of the language of Eusebius, but also by comparing his statements with the actual facts in regard to writings that are still extant, and where we are able to verify his procedure. After thus testing the references in Eusebius to Clement of Rome, the Ignatian Epistles, Polycarp, Justin, Theophilus of Antioch, and Irenaeus, Dr. Lightfoot arrives, by a strict and ample induction, at the conclusion that the silence of Eusebius in respect to quotations from any canonical book is so far an argument _in its favour_ that it shows the book in question to have been generally acknowledged by the early Church. Instead of being a proof that the writer did not know the work in reference to which Eusebius is silent, the presumption is rather that he did, like the rest of the Church, receive it. Eusebius only records what seems to him specially memorable, except where the place of the work in or out of the Canon has itself to be vindicated.
But if this holds good, then most of what is said against the use of the Gospels by Hegesippus falls to the ground. Eusebius expressly says [Endnote 140:1] that Hegesippus made occasional use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews ([Greek: ek te tou kath' Hebraious euangeliou ... tina tithaesin]). But apart from the conclusion referred to above, the very language of Eusebius ([Greek: tithaesin tina ek]) is enough to suggest that the use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews was subordinate and subsidiary. Eusebius can hardly have spoken in this way of '_the_ Gospel of which Hegesippus made use' in all the five books of his 'Memoirs.' The expression tallies exactly with what we should expect of a work used _in addition to_ but not _to the exclusion_ of our Gospels. The fact that Eusebius says nothing about these shows that his readers would take it for granted that Hegesippus, as an orthodox Christian, received them.
With this conclusion the fragments of the work of Hegesippus that have come down to us agree. The quotations made in them are explained most simply and naturally, on the assumption that our Gospels have been used. The first to which we come is merely an allusion to the narrative of Matt. ii; 'For Domitian feared the coming of the Christ as much as Herod.' Those therefore who take the statement of Eusebius to mean that Hegesippus used only the Gospel according to the Hebrews are compelled to seek for the account of the Massacre of the Innocents in that Gospel. It appears however from Epiphanius that precisely this very portion of the first Gospel was wanting in the Gospel according to the Hebrews as used both by the Ebionites and by the Nazarenes. 'But if it be doubtful whether some forms of that Gospel contained the two opening chapters of Matthew, it is certain that Jerome found them in the version which he translated' [Endnote 141:1]. I am afraid that here, as in so many other cases, the words 'doubtful' and 'certain' are used with very little regard to their meanings. In support of the inference from Jerome, the author refers to De Wette, Schwegler, and an article in a periodical publication by Ewald. De Wette expressly says that the inference does _not_ follow ('Aus Comm. ad Matt. ii. 6 ... lässt sich _nicht_ schliessen dass er hierbei das Evang. der Hebr. verglichen habe.... Nicht viel besser beweisen die St. ad Jes. xi. 1; ad Abac. iii. 3') [Endnote 141:2]. He thinks that the presence of these chapters in Jerome's copy cannot be satisfactorily proved, but is probable just from this allusion in Hegesippus--in regard to which De Wette simply follows the traditional, but, as we have seen, erroneous assumption that Hegesippus used only the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Schwegler [Endnote 141:3] gives no reasons, but refers to the passages quoted from Jerome in Credner. Credner, after examining these passages, comes to the conclusion that 'the Gospel of the Nazarenes did _not_ contain the chapters' [Endnote 141:4]. Ewald's periodical I cannot refer to, but Hilgenfeld, after an elaborate review of the question, decides that the chapters were omitted [Endnote 141:5]. This is the only authority I can find for the 'certainty that Jerome found them' in his version.
On the whole, then, it seems decidedly more probable (certainties we cannot deal in) that the incident referred to by Hegesippus was missing from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. That Gospel therefore was not quoted by him, but, on the contrary, there is a presumption that he is quoting from the Canonical Gospel. The narrative of the parallel Gospel of St. Luke seems, if not to exclude the Massacre of the Innocents, yet to imply an ignorance of it.
The next passage that appears to be quotation occurs in the account of the death of James the Just; 'Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus the Son of Man? He too sits in heaven on the right hand of the great Power and will come on the clouds of heaven' ([Greek: Ti me eperotate peri Iaesou tou huiou tou anthropou? kai autos kathaetai en to ourano ek dexion taes megalaes dunameos, kai mellei erchesthai epi ton nephelon tou ouranou]). It seems natural to suppose that this is an allusion to Matt. xxvi. 64, [Greek: ap' arti opsesthe ton huion tou anthropou kathaemenon ek dexion taes dunameos, kai erchomenon epi ton vephelon tou ouranou]. The passage is one that belongs to the triple synopsis, and the form in which it appears in Hegesippus shows a preponderating resemblance to the version of St. Matthew. Mark inserts [Greek: kathaemenon] between [Greek: ek dexion] and [Greek: taes dunameos], while Luke thinks it necessary to add [Greek: tou theou]. The third Evangelist omits the phrase [Greek: epi ton nephelon tou ouranou], altogether, and the second substitutes [Greek: meta] for [Greek: epi]. In fact the phrase [Greek: epi ton vephelon] occurs in the New Testament only in St. Matthew; the Apocalypse, like St. Mark, has [Greek: meta] and [Greek: epi] only with the singular.
In like manner, when we find Hegesippus using the phrase [Greek: prosopon ou lambaneis], this seems to be a reminiscence of Luke xx. 21, where the synoptic parallels have [Greek: blepeis].
A more decided reference to the third Gospel occurs in the dying prayer of St. James; [Greek: parakalo, kurie thee pater, aphes autois; ou gar oidasiti poiousin], which corresponds to Luke xxiii. 34, [Greek: pater, aphes autois; ou gar oidasin ti poiousin]. There is the more reason to believe that Hegesippus' quotation is derived from this source that it reproduces the peculiar use of [Greek: aphienai] in the sense of 'forgive' without an expressed object. Though the word is of very frequent occurrence, I find no other instance of this in the New Testament [Endnote 143:1], and the Clementine Homilies, in making the same quotation, insert [Greek: tas hamartias auton]. The saying is well known to be peculiar to St. Luke. There is perhaps a balance of evidence against its genuineness, but this is of little importance, as it undoubtedly formed part of the Gospel as early as Irenaeus, who wrote much about the same time as Hegesippus.
The remaining passage occurs in a fragment preserved from Stephanus Gobarus, a writer of the sixth century, by Photius, writing in the ninth. Referring to the saying 'Eye hath not seen,' &c., Gobarus says 'that Hegesippus, an ancient and apostolical man, asserts--he knows not why--that these words are vainly spoken, and that those who use them give the lie to the sacred writings and to our Lord Himself who said, "Blessed are your eyes that see and your ears that hear,"' &c. 'Those who use these words' are, we can hardly doubt, as Dr. Lightfoot after Routh has shown [Endnote 144:1], the Gnostics, though Hegesippus would seem to have forgotten I Cor. ii. 9. The anti-Pauline position assigned to Hegesippus on the strength of this is, we must say, untenable. But for the present we are concerned rather with the second quotation, which agrees closely with Matt. xiii. 26 ([Greek: humon de makarioi hoi ophthalmoi hoti blepousin, kai ta ota humon hoti akouousin]). The form of the quotation has a slightly nearer resemblance to Luke x. 23 ([Greek: makarioi hoi ophthalmoi hoi blepontes ha blepete k.t.l.]), but the marked difference in the remainder of the Lucan passage increases the presumption that Hegesippus is quoting from the first Gospel [Endnote 144:2].
The use of the phrase [Greek: ton theion graphon] is important and remarkable. There is not, so far as I am aware, any instance of so definite an expression being applied to an apocryphal Gospel. It would tend to prepare us for the strong assertion of the Canon of the Gospels in Irenaeus; it would in fact mark the gradually culminating process which went on in the interval which separated Irenaeus from Justin. To this interval the evidence of Hegesippus must be taken to apply, because though writing like Irenaeus under Eleutherus (from 177 A.D.) he was his elder contemporary, and had been received with high respect in Rome as early as the episcopate of Anicetus (157-168 A.D.).
The relations in which Hegesippus describes himself as standing to the Churches and bishops of Corinth and Rome seem to be decisive as to his substantial orthodoxy. This would give reason to think that he made use of our present Gospels, and the few quotations that have come down to us confirm that view not inconsiderably, though by themselves they might not be quite sufficient to prove it.
There is one passage that may be thought to point to an apocryphal Gospel, 'From these arose false Christs, false prophets, false apostles;' which recalls a sentence in the Clementines, 'For there shall be, as the Lord said, false apostles, false prophets, heresies, ambitions.' It is not, however, nearer to this than to the canonical parallel, Matt. xxiv. 24 ('There shall arise false Christs and false prophets').
In turning from Hegesippus to Papias we come at last to what seems to be a definite and satisfactory statement as to the origin of two at least of the Synoptic Gospels, and to what is really the most enigmatic and tantalizing of all the patristic utterances.
Like Hegesippus, Papias may be described as 'an ancient and apostolic man,' and appears to have better deserved the title. He is said to have suffered martyrdom under M. Aurelius about the same time as Polycarp, 165-167 A.D. [Endnote 145:1] He wrote a commentary on the Discourses or more properly Oracles of the Lord, from which Eusebius extracted what seemed to him 'memorable' statements respecting the origin of the first and second Gospels. 'Matthew,' Papias said [Endnote 146:1], 'wrote the oracles ([Greek: ta logia]) in the Hebrew tongue, and every one interpreted them as he was able.' 'Mark, as the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered that was said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor attended upon Him, but later, as I said, upon Peter, who taught according to the occasion and not as composing a connected narrative of the Lord's discourses; so that Mark made no mistake in writing down some things as he remembered them. For he took care of one thing, not to omit any of the particulars that he heard or to falsify any part of them.'
* * * * *
Let us take the second of these statements first. According to it the Gospel of St. Mark consisted of notes taken down, or rather recollected, from the teaching of Peter. It was not written 'in order,' but it was an original work in the sense that it was first put in writing by Mark himself, having previously existed only in an oral form.
Does this agree with the facts of the Gospel as it appears to us now? There is a certain ambiguity as to the phrase 'in order.' We cannot be quite sure what Papias meant by it, but the most natural conclusion seems to be that it meant chronological order. If so, the statement of Papias seems to be so far borne out that none of the Synoptic Gospels is really in exact chronological order; but, strange to say, if there is any in which an approach to such an order is made, it is precisely this of St. Mark. This appears from a comparison of the three Synoptics. From the point at which the second Gospel begins, or, in other words, from the Baptism to the Crucifixion, it seems to give the outline that the other two Gospels follow [Endnote 147:1]. If either of them diverges from it for a time it is only to return. The early part of St. Matthew is broken up by the intrusion of the so-called Sermon on the Mount, but all this time St. Mark is in approximate agreement with St. Luke. For a short space the three Gospels go together. Then comes a second break, where Luke introduces his version of the Sermon on the Mount. Then the three rejoin and proceed together, Matthew being thrown out by the way in which he has collected the parables into a single chapter, and Luke later by the place which he has assigned to the incident at Nazareth. After this Matthew and Mark proceed side by side, Luke dropping out of the ranks. At the confession of Peter he takes his place again, and there is a close agreement in the order of the three narratives. The incident of the miracle-worker is omitted by Matthew, and then comes the insertion of a mass of extraneous matter by Luke. When he resumes the thread of the common narrative again all three are together. The insertion of a single parable on the part of Matthew, and omissions on the part of Luke, are the only interruptions. There is an approximate agreement of all three, we may say, for the rest of the narrative. We observe throughout that, in by far the preponderating number of instances, where Matthew differs from the order of Mark, Luke and Mark agree, and where Luke differs from the order of Mark, Matthew and Mark agree. Thus, for instance, in the account of the healings in Peter's house and of the paralytic, in the relation of the parables of Mark iv. 1-34 to the storm at sea which follows, of the healing of Jairus' daughter to that of the Gadarene demoniac and to the mission of the Twelve in the place of Herod's reflections (Mark vi. 14-16), in the warning against the Scribes and the widow's mite (Mark xii. 38-44), the second and third Synoptics are allied against the first. On the other hand, in the call of the four chief Apostles, the death of the Baptist, the walking on the sea, the miracles in the land of Gennesareth, the washing of hands, the Canaanitish woman, the feeding of the four thousand and the discourses which follow, the ambition of the sons of Zebedee, the anointing at Bethany, and several insertions of the third Evangelist in regard to the last events, the first two are allied against him. While Mark thus receives such alternating support from one or other of his fellow Evangelists, I am not aware of any clear case in which, as to the order of the narratives, they are, united and he is alone, unless we are to reckon as such his insertion of the incident of the fugitive between Matt. xxvi. 56, 57, Luke xxii. 53, 54.
It appears then that, so far as there is an order in the Synoptic Gospels, the normal type of that order is to be found precisely in St. Mark, whom Papias alleges to have written not in order.
But again there seems to be evidence that the Gospel, in the form in which it has come down to us, is not original but based upon another document previously existing. When we come to examine closely its verbal relations to the other two Synoptics, its normal character is in the main borne out, but still not quite completely. The number of particulars in which Matthew and Mark agree together against Luke, or Mark and Luke agree together against Matthew, is far in excess of that in which Matthew and Luke are agreed against Mark. Mark is in most cases the middle term which unites the other two. But still there remains a not inconsiderable residuum of cases in which Matthew and Luke are in combination and Mark at variance. The figures obtained by a not quite exact and yet somewhat elaborate computation [Endnote 149:1] are these; Matthew and Mark agree together against Luke in 1684 particulars, Luke and Mark against Matthew in 944, but Matthew and Luke against Mark in only 334. These 334 instances are distributed pretty evenly over the whole of the narrative. Thus (to take a case at random) in the parallel narratives Matt. xii. 1-8, Mark ii. 23-28, Luke vi. 1-5 (the plucking of the ears on the Sabbath day), there are fifty-one points (words or parts of words) common to all three Evangelists, twenty-three are common only to Mark and Luke, ten to Mark and Matthew, and eight to Matthew and Luke. In the next section, the healing of the withered hand, twenty points are found alike in all three Gospels, twenty-seven in Mark and Luke, twenty-one in Mark and Matthew, and five in Matthew and Luke. Many of these coincidences between the first and third Synoptics are insignificant in the extreme. Thus, in the last section referred to (Mark iii. 1-6=Matt. xii. 9-14=Luke vi. 6-11), one is the insertion of the article [Greek: taen] ([Greek: sunagogaen]), one the insertion of [Greek: sou] ([Greek: taen cheira sou]), two the use of [Greek: de] for [Greek: kai], and one that of [Greek: eipen] for [Greek: legei]. In the paragraph before, the eight points of coincidence between Matthew and Luke are made up thus, two [Greek: kai aesthion] (=[Greek kai esthiein]), [Greek: eipon] (=[Greek: eipan]), [Greek: poiein, eipen, met' autou] (=[Greek: sun auto]), [Greek: monous] (=[Greek: monois]). But though such points as these, if they had been few in number, might have been passed without notice, still, on the whole, they reach a considerable aggregate and all are not equally unimportant. Thus, in the account of the healing of the paralytic, such phrases is [Greek epi klinaes, apaelthen eis ton oikon autou], can hardly have come into the first and third Gospels and be absent from the second by accident; so again the clause [Greek: alla ballousin (blaeteon) oinon neon eis askous kainous]. In the account of the healing of the bloody flux the important word [Greek: tou kraspedou] is inserted in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark; in that of the mission of the twelve Apostles, the two Evangelists have, and the single one has not, the phrase [Greek: kai therapeuein noson (nosous]), and the still more important clause [Greek: lego humin anektoteron estai (gae) Sodomon ... en haemera ... ae tae polei ekeinae]: in Luke ix. 7 (= Matt. xiv. 1) Herod's title is [Greek: tetrarchaes], in Mark vi. 14 [Greek: basileus]; in the succeeding paragraph [Greek: hoi ochloi aekolouthaesan] and the important [Greek: to perisseuon (-san)] are wanting in the intermediate Gospel; in the first prophecy of the Passion it has [Greek: apo] where the other two have [Greek: hupo], and [Greek: meta treis haemeras] where they have [Greek: tae tritae haemera]: in the healing of the lunatic boy it omits the noticeable [Greek: kai diestrammenae]: in the second prophecy of the Passion it omits [Greek: mellei], in the paragraph about offences, [Greek: elthein ta skandala ...ouai...di hou erchetai]. These points might be easily multiplied as we go on; suffice it to say that in the aggregate they seem to prove that the second Gospel, in spite of its superior originality and adhesion to the normal type, still does not entirely adhere to it or maintain its primary character throughout. The theory that we have in the second Gospel one of the primitive Synoptic documents is not tenable.
No doubt this is an embarrassing result. The question is easy to ask and difficult to answer--If our St. Mark does not represent the original form of the document, what does represent it? The original document, if not quite like our Mark, must have been very nearly like it; but how did any writer come to reproduce a previous work with so little variation? If he had simply copied or reproduced it without change, that would have been intelligible; if he had added freely to it, that also would have been intelligible: but, as it is, he seems to have put in a touch here and made an erasure there on principles that it is difficult for us now to follow. We are indeed here at the very _crux_ of Synoptic criticism.
For our present purpose however it is not necessary that the question should be solved. We have already obtained an answer on the two points raised by Papias. The second Gospel _is_ written in order; it is _not_ an original document. These two characteristics make it improbable that it is in its present shape the document to which Papias alludes.
Does his statement accord any better with the phenomena of the first Gospel? He asserts that it was originally written in Hebrew, and that the large majority of modern critics deny to have been the case with our present Gospel. Many of the quotations in it from the Old Testament are made directly from the Septuagint and not from the Hebrew. There are turns of language which have the stamp of an original Greek idiom and could not have come in through translation. But, without going into this question as to the original language of the first Gospel, a shorter method will be to ask whether it can have been an original document at all? The work to which Papias referred clearly was such, but the very same investigation which shows that our present St. Mark was not original, tells with increased force against St. Matthew. When a document exists dealing with the same subject-matter as two other documents, and those two other documents agree together and differ from it on as many as 944 separate points, there can be little doubt that in the great majority of those points it has deviated from the original, and that it is therefore secondary in character. It is both secondary and secondary on a lower stage than St. Mark: it has preserved the features of the original with a less amount of accuracy. The points of the triple synopsis on which Matthew fails to receive verification are in all 944; those on which Mark fails to receive verification 334; or, in other words, the inaccuracies of Matthew are to those of Mark nearly as three to one. In the case of Luke the proportion is still greater-- as much as five to one.
This is but a tithe of the arguments which show that the first Gospel is a secondary composition. An original composition would be homogeneous; it is markedly heterogeneous. The first two chapters clearly belong to a different stock of materials from the rest of the Gospel. A broad division is seen in regard to the Old Testament quotations. Those which are common to the other two Synoptists are almost if not quite uniformly taken from the Septuagint; those, on the other hand, which seem to belong to the reflection of the Evangelist betray more or less distinctly the influence of the Hebrew [Endnote 153:1]. Our Gospel is thus seen to be a recension of another original document or documents and not an original document itself.
Again, if our St. Matthew had been an original composition and had appeared from the first in its present full and complete form, it would be highly difficult to account for the omissions and variations in Mark and Luke. We should be driven back, indeed, upon all the impossibilities of the 'Benutzungs-hypothese.' On the one hand, the close resemblance between the three compels us to assume that the authors have either used each other's works or common documents; but the differences practically preclude the supposition that the later writer had before him the whole work of his predecessor. If Luke had had before him the first two chapters of Matthew he could not have written his own first two chapters as he has done.
Again, the character of the narrative is such as to be inconsistent with the view that it proceeds from an eye-witness of the events. Those graphic touches, which are so conspicuous in the fourth Gospel, and come out from time to time in the second, are entirely wanting in the first. If parallel narratives, such as the healing of the paralytic, the cleansing of the Temple, or the feeding of the five thousand, are compared, this will be very clearly seen. More; there are features in the first Gospel that are to all appearance unhistorical and due to the peculiar method of the writer. He has a way of reduplicating, so to speak, the personages of one narrative in order to make up for the omission of another [Endnote 154:1]. For instance, he is silent as to the healing of the demoniac at Capernaum, but, instead of this, he gives us two Gadarene demoniacs, at the same time modifying the language in which he describes this latter incident after the pattern of the former; in like manner he speaks of the healing of two blind men at Jericho, but only because he had passed over the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida. Of a somewhat similar nature is the adding of the ass's colt to the ass in the account of the Triumphal Entry. There are also fragmentary sayings repeated in the Gospel in a way that would be natural in a later editor piecing together different documents and finding the same saying in each, but unnatural in an eye- and ear-witness drawing upon his own recollections. Some clear cases of this kind would be Matt. v. 29, 30 (= Matt. xviii. 8, 9) the offending member, Matt. v. 32 (= Matt. xix. 9) divorce, Matt. x. 38, 39 (= Matt. xvi. 24, 25) bearing the cross, loss and gain; and there are various others.
These characteristics of the first Gospel forbid us to suppose that it came fresh from the hands of the Apostle in the shape in which we now have it; they also forbid us to identify it with the work alluded to by Papias. Neither of the two first Gospels, as we have them, complies with the conditions of Papias' description to such an extent that we can claim Papias as a witness to them.
* * * * *
But now a further enquiry opens out upon us. The language of Papias does not apply to our present Gospels; will it apply to some earlier and more primary state of those Gospels, to documents _incorporated in_ the works that have come down to us but not co-extensive with them? German critics, it is well known, distinguish between 'Matthäus'--the present Gospel that bears the name of St. Matthew--and 'Ur-Matthäus,' or the original work of that Apostle, 'Marcus'--our present St. Mark--and 'Ur-Marcus,' an older and more original document, the real production of the companion of St. Peter. Is it to these that Papias alludes?
Here we have a much more tenable and probable hypothesis. Papias says that Matthew composed 'the oracles' ([Greek: ta logia]) in the Hebrew tongue. The meaning of the word [Greek: logia] has been much debated. Perhaps the strictest translation of it is that which has been given, 'oracles'--short but weighty and solemn or sacred sayings. I should be sorry to say that the word would not bear the sense assigned to it by Dr. Westcott, who paraphrases it felicitously (from his point of view) by our word 'Gospel' [Endnote 155:1]. It is, however, difficult to help feeling that the _natural_ sense of the word has to be somewhat strained in order to make it cover the whole of our present Gospel, and to bring under it the record of facts to as great an extent as discourse. It seems at least the simplest and most obvious interpretation to confine the word strictly or mainly to discourse. 'Matthew composed the discourses (those brief yet authoritative discourses) in Hebrew.'
At this point we are met by a further coincidence. The common matter in the first three Gospels is divided into a triple synopsis and a double synopsis--the first of course running through all three Gospels, the second found only in St. Matthew and St. Luke. But this double synopsis is nearly, though not quite, confined to discourse; where it contains narration proper, as in the account of John the Baptist and the Centurion of Capernaum, discourse is largely mingled with it. But, if the matter common to Matthew and Luke consists of discourse, may it not be these very [Greek: logia] that Papias speaks of? Is it not possible that the two Evangelists had access to the original work of St. Matthew and incorporated its material into their own Gospels in different ways? It would thus be easy to understand how the name that belonged to a special and important part of the first Gospel gradually came to be extended over the whole. Bulk would not unnaturally be a great consideration with the early Christians. The larger work would quickly displace the smaller; it would contain all that the smaller contained with additions no less valuable, and would therefore be eagerly sought by the converts, whose object would be rather fulness of information than the best historical attestation. The original work would be simply lost, absorbed, in the larger works that grew out of it.
This is the kind of presumption that we have for identifying the Logia of Papias with the second ground document of the first Gospel--the document, that is, which forms the basis of the double synopsis between the first Gospel and the third. As a hypothesis the identification of these two documents seems to clear up several points. It gives a 'local habitation and a name' to a document, the separate and independent existence of which there is strong reason to suspect, and it explains how the name of St. Matthew came to be placed at the head of the Gospel without involving too great a breach in the continuity of the tradition. It should be remembered that Papias is not giving his own statement but that of the Presbyter John, which dates back to a time contemporary with the composition of the Gospel. On the other hand, by the time of Irenaeus, whose early life ran parallel with the closing years of Papias, the title was undoubtedly given to the Gospel in its present form. It is therefore as difficult to think that the Gospel had no connection with the Apostle whose name it bears, as it is impossible to regard it as entirely his work. The Logia hypothesis seems to suggest precisely such an intermediate relation as will satisfy both sides of the problem.
There are, however, still difficulties in the way. When we attempt to reconstruct the 'collection of discourses' the task is very far from being an easy one. We do indeed find certain groups of discourse in the first Gospel--such as the Sermon on the Mount ch. v-vii, the commission of the Apostles ch. x, a series of parables ch. xiii, of instructions in ch. xviii, invectives against the Pharisees in ch. xxvi, and long eschatological discourses in ch. xxiv and xxv, which seem at once to give a handle to the theory that the Evangelist has incorporated a work consisting specially of discourses into the main body of the Synoptic narrative. But the appearance of roundness and completeness which these discourses present is deceptive. If we are to suppose that the form in which the discourses appear in St. Matthew at all nearly represents their original structure, then how is it that the same discourses are found in the third Gospel in such a state of dispersion? How is it, for instance, that the parallel passages to the Sermon on the Mount are found in St. Luke scattered over chapters vi, xi, xii, xiii, xiv, xvi, with almost every possible inversion and variety of order? Again, if the Matthaean sections represent a substantive work, how are we to account for the strange intrusion of the triple synopsis into the double? What are we to say to the elaborately broken structure of ch. x? On the other hand, if we are to take the Lucan form as nearer to the original, that original must have been a singular agglomeration of fragments which it is difficult to piece together. It is easy to state a theory that shall look plausible so long as it is confined to general terms, but when it comes to be worked out in detail it will seem to be more and more difficult and involved at every step. The Logia hypothesis in fact carries us at once into the very nodus of Synoptic criticism, and, in the present state of the question, must be regarded as still some way from being established.
The problem in regard to St. Mark and the triple synopsis is considerably simpler. Here the difficulty arises from the necessity of assuming a distinction between our present second Gospel and the original document on which that Gospel is based. I have already touched upon this point. The synoptical analysis seems to conduct us to a ground document greatly resembling our present St. Mark, which cannot however be quite identical with it, as the Canonical Gospel is found to contain secondary features. But apart from the fact that these secondary features are so comparatively few that it is difficult to realise the existence of a work in which they, and they only, should be absent, there is this further obstacle to the identification even of the ground document with the Mark of Papias, that even in that original shape the Gospel still presented the normal type of the Synoptic order, though 'order' is precisely the characteristic that Papias says was, in this Gospel, wanting.
Everywhere we meet with difficulties and complexities. The testimony of Papias remains an enigma that can only be solved--if ever it is solved--by close and detailed investigations. I am bound in candour to say that, so far as I can see myself at present, I am inclined to agree with the author of 'Supernatural Religion' against his critics [Endnote 159:1], that the works to which Papias alludes cannot be our present Gospels in their present form.
What amount of significance this may have for the enquiry before us is a further question. Papias is repeating what he had heard from the Presbyter John, which would seem to take us up to the very fountainhead of evangelical composition. But such a statement does not preclude the possibility of subsequent changes in the documents to which it refers. The difficulties and restrictions of local communication must have made it hard for an individual to trace all the phases of literary activity in a society so widely spread as the Christian, even if it had come within the purpose of the writer or his informant to state the whole, and not merely the essential part, of what he knew.
Table of Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
eBooksHome | Inspirational Articles | General Essays | Sermons | Library - Home | Baselios Church Home
A service of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio
Copyright © 2009-2011 - ICBS Group. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Website designed, built, and hosted by International Cyber Business Services, Inc., Hudson, Ohio