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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

- Matthew

by William Robertson Nicoll











THE Expositor’s Greek Testament is intended to do for the present generation the work accomplished by Dean Alford’s in the past. Of the influence of Dean Alford’s book there is no need to speak. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the success and usefulness of Dean Alford’s commentary in putting English-speaking students into possession of the accumulated results of the labours of scholars up to the time it was published. He made the best critical and exegetical helps, previously accessible only to a few readers, the common privilege of all educated Englishmen. Dean Alford himself would have been the first to say that he undertook a task too great for one man. Though he laboured with indefatigable diligence, twenty years together, from 1841 to 1861, were occupied in his undertaking. Since his time the wealth of material on the New Testament has been steadily accumulating, and no one has as yet attempted to make it accessible in a full and comprehensive way.

In the present commentary the works have been committed to various scholars, and it is hoped that the completion will be reached within five years from the present date, if not sooner. As the plan of Alford’s book has been tested by time and experience, it has been adopted here with certain modifications, and it is hoped that as the result English-speaking students will have a work at once up to date and practically useful in all its parts.

It remains to add that the commentators have been selected from various churches, and that they have in every case been left full liberty to express their own views. The part of the editor has been to choose them, and to assign the limits of space allowed to each book. In this assignment the judgment of Dean Alford has appeared to be sound in the main, and it has been generally followed.



IN this Commentary on the Synoptical Gospels I give to the public the fruit of studies carried on for many years. These Gospels have taken a more powerful and abiding hold of me than any other part of the Scriptures. I have learnt much from them concerning Christ in the course of these years; not a little since I began to prepare this work for the press. I have done my best to communicate what I have learned to others. I have also laid under contribution previous commentators, ancient and modern, while avoiding the pedantic habit of crowding the page with long lists of learned names. I have not hesitated to introduce quotations, in Latin and Greek, which seemed fitted to throw light on the meaning. These, while possessing interest for scholars, may be passed over by English readers without much loss, as their sense is usually indicated.

In the critical notes beneath the Greek Text I have aimed at making easily accessible to the reader the results of the labours of scholars who have made the text the subject of special study; especially those contained in the monumental works of Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort. Readers are requested to peruse what has been stated on that subject in the Introduction, and, in using the commentary, to keep in mind that I have always made what I regard as the most probable reading the basis of comment, whether I have expressly indicated my opinion in the critical notes or not.

In these days one who aims at a competent treatment of the Evangelic narratives must keep in view critical methods of handling the story. I have tried to unite some measure of critical freedom and candour with the reverence of faith. If, in spite of honest endeavour, I have not succeeded always in realising this ideal, let it be imputed to the lack of skill rather than of good intention.

I rise from this task with a deepened sense of the wisdom and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. If what I have written help others to a better understanding of His mind and heart, I shall feel that my labour has not been in vain.

I enjoyed the benefit of Mr. MacFadyen’s (of the Free Church College, Glasgow) assistance in reading the proofs of the second half of the work, and owe him earnest thanks, not only for increased accuracy in the printed text, but for many valuable suggestions.

The works of Dr. Gould on Mark and Dr. Plummer on Luke, in the International Critical Commentary , appeared too late to be taken advantage of in this commentary.










1. The three first Gospels, bearing the names of Matthew, Mark and Luke, have, during the present century, been distinguished by critics from the fourth by the epithet synoptical . The term implies that these Gospels are so like one another in contents that they can be, and for profitable study ought to be, viewed together. That such is the fact is obvious to every reader. A single perusal suffices to shew that they have much in common in contents, arrangement and phraseology; and a comparison with the fourth Gospel only deepens the impression. There everything appears different the incidents related, the thoughts ascribed to Jesus, the terms in which they are expressed, the localities in which the Great Personage who is the common subject of all the four narratives exercised His remarkable teaching and healing ministries.

2. Yet while these three Gospels present obtrusive resemblances, they also exhibit hardly less obtrusive differences. The differences are marked just because the books are on the whole so like one another. One cannot help asking: Seeing they are so like, why are they not more like? Why do they differ at all? Or the question may be put the other way: Seeing there are so many idiosyncrasies in each Gospel, how does it come about that notwithstanding these they all bear an easily recognisable family likeness? The idiosyncrasies, though not always so obvious as the resemblances, are unmistakable, and some of them stare one in the face. Each Gospel, e.g. , has some matter peculiar to itself; the first and the third a great deal. Then, while in certain parts of their narratives they follow the same order, in other places they diverge widely. Again, one cannot but be struck with the difference between the three records in regard to reporting the words of Jesus. Mark gives comparatively few: Matthew and Luke very many, and these for the most part very weighty and remarkable, insomuch that one wonders how any one undertaking to write a history of Christ’s life could overlook them. Matthew and Luke again, while both giving much prominence to the words of Jesus, differ very widely in their manner of reporting them. The one collects the sayings into masses, apparently out of regard to affinity of thought; the other disperses them over his pages, and assigns to them distinct historical occasions.

3. These resemblances and differences, with many others not referred to, inevitably raise a question as to their cause. This is the synoptical problem , towards the solution of which a countless number of contributions have been made within the last hundred years. Many of these have now only a historical or antiquarian interest, and it would serve no useful purpose to attempt here an exhaustive account of the literature connected with this inquiry. While not insensible to the fascination of the subject, even on its curious side, as an interesting problem in literary criticism, yet I must respect the fact that we in this work are directly concerned with the matter only in so far as it affects exegesis. The statement therefore now to be made must be broad and brief.

4. All attempts at solution admit of being classified under four heads. First may be mentioned the hypothesis of oral tradition . This hypothesis implies that before our Gospels there were no written records of the ministry of Jesus, or at least none of which they made use. Their only source was the unwritten tradition of the memorabilia of that ministry, having its ultimate origin in the public preaching and teaching of the Apostles, the men who had been with Jesus. The statements made by the Apostles from time to time, repeated and added to as occasion required, caught up by willing ears, and treasured up in faithful memories: behold all that is necessary, according to the patrons of this hypothesis, to account for all the evangelic phenomena of resemblance and difference. The resemblances are explained by the tendency of oral tradition, especially in non-literary epochs and peoples, to become stereotyped in contents and even in phraseology, a tendency much helped by the practice of catechetical instruction, in which the teacher dictates sentences which his pupils are expected to commit to memory. 1 [1] The differences are accounted for by the original diversity in the memorabilia communicated by different Apostles, by the measure of fluidity inseparable from oral tradition due to defective memory, and of course in part also by the peculiar tastes, aims and individualities of the respective evangelists. This hypothesis has been chiefly in favour among English scholars, though it can likewise boast of influential supporters among continental critics, such as Gieseler and Godet. It points to a vera causa , and cannot be wholly left out of account in an endeavour to explain how written records of the evangelic tradition arose. There was a time doubtless when what was known of Jesus was on the lip only. How long that primitive phase lasted is matter of conjecture; some say from 30 to 60 A.D. It seems probable that the process of transferring from the lip to the page began considerably sooner than the later of these dates. When Luke wrote, many attempts had been made to embody the tradition in a written form (Luke 1:1 ). This points to a literary habit which would naturally exert its power without delay in reference to any matter in which men took an absorbing interest. And when this habit prevails writers are not usually content to remain in ignorance of what others have done in the same line. They want to see each other’s notes. The presumption therefore is that while oral tradition in all probability was a source for our evangelists, it was not the only source, probably not even the chief source. There were other writings about the acts, and words, and sufferings of Jesus in existence before they wrote; they were likely to know these, and if they knew them they would not despise them, but rather use them so far as serviceable. In Luke’s case the existence of such earlier writings, and his acquaintance with them, are not mere presumptions but facts; the only point on which there is room for difference of opinion is how far he took advantage of the labours of his predecessors. That he deemed them unsatisfactory, at least defective, may be inferred from his making a new contribution; that he drew nothing from them is extremely improbable. Much can be said for the view that among these earlier writings known to Luke was our Gospel of Mark, or a book substantially identical with it in contents, and that he used it very freely.

[1]On the function of catechists as helping to stereotype the evangelic tradition vide Wright, The Composition of the Four Gospels , 1890. Mr. Wright is a thorough believer in the oral tradition.

5. The last observation naturally leads up to the second hypothesis, which is that the authors of the synoptical Gospels used each other’s writings, each successive writer taking advantage of earlier contributions, so that the second Gospel (in time) borrowed from the first, and the third from both first and second. Which borrowed from which depends of course on the order of time in which the three Gospels appeared. Six permutations are possible, and every one of them has had its advocates. One of the most interesting, in virtue of the course it ran, is: Matthew, Luke, Mark. This arrangement was contended for by Griesbach, and utilised by Dr. Ferdinand Christian Baur in connection with his famous Tendency-criticism. Griesbach founded on the frequent duality in Mark’s style, that is to say, the combination of phrases used separately in the same connection in the other synoptical Gospels: e.g. , “at even when the sun did set” (1:32). In this phenomenon, somewhat frequently recurring, he saw conclusive proof that Mark had Matthew and Luke before him, and servilely copied from both in descriptive passages. Baur’s interest in the question was theological rather than literary. Accepting Griesbach’s results, he charged Mark not only with literary dependence on his brother evangelists, whence is explained his graphic style, but also with studied theological neutrality, eschewing on the one hand the Judaistic bias of the first Gospel, and on the other the Pauline or universalistic bias of the third; both characteristics, the literary dependence and the studied neutrality, implying a later date. Since then a great change of view has taken place. For some time the prevailing opinion has been that Mark’s Gospel is the earliest not the latest of the three, and this opinion is likely to hold its ground. Holtzmann observes that the Mark hypothesis is a hypothesis no longer, [2] meaning that it is an established fact. And he and many others recognise in Mark, either as we have it or in an earlier form, a source for both the other synoptists, thereby acknowledging that the hypothesis of mutual use likewise has a measure of truth.

[2] Hand-Commentar , p. 3.

6. The third hypothesis is that of one primitive Gospel from which all three synoptists drew their material. The supporters of this view do not believe that the evangelists used each other’s writings. Their contention is that all were dependent on one original document, an Urevangelium as German scholars call it. This primitive Gospel was, ex hypothesi , comprehensive enough to cover the whole ground. From it all the three evangelists took much in common, hence their agreement in matter and language in so many places. But how about their divergencies? How came it to pass that with the same document before them they made such diverse use of it? The answer is: it was due to the fact that they used, not identical copies of one document, but different recensions of the same document. By this flight into the dark region of conjectural recensions, whereof no trace remains, the Urevangelium hypothesis was self-condemned to oblivion. With it are associated the honourable names of Lessing and Eichhorn.

7. The fourth and last hypothesis was propounded by Schleiermacher. He took for his starting-point the word διήγησις in the introduction of Luke’s Gospel, and found in it the hint that not in one primitive Gospel of comprehensive character was the source exploited by our Gospels to be found, but rather in many Gospelets containing a record of some words or deeds of Jesus with which the writer had become acquainted, and which he specially desired to preserve. Each of our evangelists is to be conceived as having so many of these diegeses or Gospelets in his possession, and constructing out of them a larger connected story. In so far as they made use of copies of the same diegesis , there would be agreement in contents and style; in so far as they used Gospelets peculiar to their respective collections, there would be divergence; and of course diversity in the order of narration was to be expected in writings compiled from a handful of unconnected leaflets of evangelic tradition. In spite of the great name of its author, this hypothesis has found little support as an attempt to account for the whole phenomena of the Gospels. As a subordinate suggestion to explain the presence in any of the synoptists of elements peculiar to himself, it is worthy of consideration. Some of the particulars, e.g. , peculiar to Luke may have been found by him not in any large collection, but in a leaflet, as others may have been derived not from written sources large or small, but from a purely oral source in answer to local inquiries.

8. None of the foregoing hypotheses is accepted by itself as a satisfactory solution of the synoptical problem by any large number of competent critics at the present time. The majority look for a solution in the direction of a combination of the second and third hypotheses under modified forms. To a certain extent they recognise use of one Gospel in another, and there is an extensive agreement in the opinion that for the explanation of the phenomena not one but at least two primitive documents must be postulated. In these matters certainty is unattainable, but it is worth while making ourselves acquainted with what may be called the most probable working hypothesis. With this view I offer here a brief statement as to the present trend of critical opinion on the subject in question.

9. It is a familiar observation that, leaving out of account the reports of the teaching of Jesus contained in the first and third Gospels, the matter that remains, consisting of narratives of actions and events, is very much the same in all the three synoptists. Not only so, the remainder practically consists of the contents of the second Gospel. It seems as if Matthew and Luke had made Mark the framework of their story, and added to it new material. This accordingly is now believed by many to have been the actual fact. The prevailing idea is that our Mark, or a book very like it in contents, was under the eye of the compilers of the first and third Gospels when they wrote, and was used by both as a source, not merely in the sense that they took from it this and that, but in the sense of adopting it substantially as it was, and making it the basis of their longer and more elaborate narratives. This crude statement of course requires qualification. What took place was not that the compilers of the first and third Gospels simply transcribed the second, page by page, as they found it in their manuscript, reproducing its contents in the original order, and each section verbatim . If that had been the case the synoptical problem would have been greatly simplified, and there would hardly have been room for difference of opinion. As the case stands the order of narration is more or less disturbed, and there are many variations in expression. The question is thus raised: On the hypothesis that Mark was a source for Matthew and Luke, in respect of the matter common to all the three, how came it to pass that the writers of the first and third Gospels deviated so much, and in different ways, from their common source in the order of events and in style? The general answer to the question, so far as order is concerned, is that the additional matter acted as a disturbing influence. The explanation implies that, when the disturbing influence did not come into play, the original order would be maintained. Advocates of the hypothesis try to show that the facts answer to this view; that is to say, that Mark’s order is followed in Matthew and Luke, except when disturbance is explicable by the influence of the new material. One illustration may here be given from Matthew. Obviously the “Sermon on the Mount” exercised a powerful fascination on the mind of the evangelist. From the first he has it in view, and he desires to bring it in as soon as possible. Therefore, of the incidents connected with the commencement of the Galilean ministry reported in Mark, he relates simply the call of the four fisher Apostles, as if to furnish the Great Teacher with disciples who might form an audience for the great Discourse. To that call he appends a general description of the Galilean ministry, specifying as its salient features preaching or teaching and healing. Then he proceeds to illustrate each department of the ministry, the teaching by the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 7, the healing by a group of miracles contained in chapters 8 and 9, including the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law, the wholesale cures on the Sabbath evening, and the healing of the leper, all reported in the first chapter of Mark. Of course, in regard neither to the sermon nor to the group of miracles can the first Gospel lay claim to chronological accuracy. In the corresponding part of his narrative, Luke follows Mark closely, reporting the cure of the demoniac in the synagogue of Capernaum, of Peter’s mother-in-law, of many sick people on the Sabbath evening, and of the leper in the same order. There is only one deviation. The call of Peter, which in Luke replaces that of the four, Peter and Andrew, James and John, comes between the Sabbath evening cures and the cure of the leper.

The variations in style raise a much subtler question, which can only be dealt with adequately by a detailed comparative exegesis, such as that so admirably exemplified in the great work of Dr. Bernhard Weiss on the Gospel of Mark and its synoptical parallels. [3] Suffice it to say here that it is not difficult to suggest a variety of causes which might lead to literary alteration in the use of a source. Thus, if the style of the source was peculiar, markedly individualistic, colloquial, faulty in grammar, one can understand a tendency to replace these characteristics by smoothness and elegance. The style of Mark is of the character described, and instances of literary correction in the parallel accounts can easily be pointed out. Another cause in operation might be misunderstanding of the meaning of the source, or disinclination to adopt the meaning obviously suggested. Two illustrative instances may be mentioned. In reporting the sudden flight of Jesus from Capernaum in the early morning, Mark makes Him say to the disciples in connection with the reason for departure, “to this end came I forth,” i.e. , from the town . In Luke this is turned into, “therefore was I sent,” i.e. , into the world . [4] In the incident of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Mark makes Jesus bid the two disciples say to the owner of the colt, ‘straightway He (Jesus) will send it back,” i.e. , return it to its owner when He has had His use of it. In Matthew this is turned into, “straightway he (the owner) will send them (the ass and her colt)”. [5] Yet another source of verbal alteration might be literary taste acting instinctively, leading to the substitution of one word or phrase for another, without conscious reason.

[3] Das Marcusevangelium und seine synoptischen Parallelen , 1872.

[4] Mark 1:38 , Luke 4:43 .

[5] Mark 11:3 , Matthew 21:3 .

10. Thus far of the matter common to the three Gospels, or what may be called the triple tradition. But Matthew and Luke contain much more than this, the additional matter in both consisting mainly of words and discourses of Jesus. Each Gospel has not a little peculiar to itself, but there is a large amount of teaching material common to the two, and though this common element is very differently reproduced as to historic connection and grouping, yet there is such a pervading similarity in thought and expression as to suggest forcibly the hypothesis of a second source as its most natural explanation. Assuming that the first and third evangelists borrowed their narrative of events from Mark, and that what needs accounting for is mainly the didactic element, it would follow that this hypothetical second source consisted chiefly, if not exclusively, of sayings spoken by the Lord Jesus. Whether both evangelists possessed this source in the same form, and had each his own way of using it, as dictated by his plan, or whether it came into their hands in different recensions, formed under diverse influences, and meant to serve distinct purposes, are questions of subordinate moment. The main question is: Did there exist antecedent to the composition of our first and third Gospels a collection of the words of Christ, which both evangelists knew and used in compiling their memoirs of Christ’s public ministry? Modern critics, such as Weiss, Wendt, Holtzmann, Jülicher, concur in answering this question in the affirmative. The general result is that for the explanation of the phenomena presented by the synoptical Gospels, modern criticism postulates two main written sources: a book like our canonical Mark, if not identical with it, as the source of the narratives common to the three Gospels, and another book containing sayings of Jesus, as the source of the didactic matter common to Matthew and Luke.

11. These conclusions, which might be reached purely by internal inspection, are confirmed by the well-known statements of Papias, who flourished in the first quarter of the second century, concerning books about Christ written by Mark and Matthew. They are to this effect: “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, wrote carefully, though not in order, as he remembered them, the things spoken or done by Christ”. “Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted these as he could.” [6] The statements point to two books as the fountains of evangelic written tradition, containing matter guaranteed as reliable as resting on the authority of two apostles, Peter and Matthew. The first of the two books is presumably identical with our canonical Mark. It is not against this that Papias represents Mark’s work as including things spoken as well as done by Christ. For this is true of canonical Mark. Though, by comparison with Matthew and Luke, Mark is extremely meagre in the didactic element, yet he does report many very remarkable sayings of Jesus. But what of the other book? Is it to be identified with our Matthew? Primâ facie one would say no, because the Matthew of Papias is a book of Logia , which we naturally take to mean a book of oracles, or weighty words spoken by the Lord Jesus. But, on the other hand, it might be argued that Logia is simply a designation from the more prominent or characteristic part, and by no means excludes such narratives of events as we find in canonical Matthew. Indeed, it might be said that it would be difficult to compile a collection of sayings that should be interesting or even intelligible without the introduction of more or less narrative, if it were only by way of preface or historical setting. Granting that the leading aim was to report words, a minimum amount of narrative would still be necessary to make the report effective. And it might be added that it is, in many instances, only a minimum of narrative that we find in canonical Matthew, his historic statements being generally meagre in comparison with those in Mark and Luke. Hence, not a few critics and apologists still hold by the old tradition which practically identified the Logia of Papias with the Matthew of the New Testament. But the Logia , according to Papias, was written in Hebrew, and our canonical Matthew is in Greek which does not wear the aspect of a translation. This difficulty defenders of the old view do not find insurmountable. Yet the impression left on one’s mind by such apologetic attempts is that of special pleading, or perhaps, one ought to say, of an honourable bias in favour of a venerable tradition, and of a theory which gives us, in canonical Matthew, a work proceeding directly from the hand of an apostle. If that theory could be established, the result would be highly satisfactory to many who at present stand in doubt. Meantime we must be content to acquiesce, provisionally, in a hypothesis, according to which we have access to the apostle Matthew’s contribution only at second hand, in a Gospel from another unknown author which has absorbed a large portion, if not the whole, of the apostolic document. Even on this view we have the satisfaction of feeling that the three synoptists bring us very near to the original eye and ear witnesses. The essential identity, amid much diversity in form, of the words ascribed to our Lord in the two Gospels which draw upon the Logia , inspires confidence that the evangelic reports of these words, though secondary, are altogether reliable.

[6] Eusebii, Historia Ecclesiastica , lib. iii., c. 39.

12. We cannot but wonder that a work so precious as the Logia of Matthew was allowed to perish, and earnestly wish that, if possible, it might even yet be restored. Attempts at gratifying this natural feeling have recently been made, and conjectural reconstructions of the lost treasure lie before us in such works as that of Wendt on the Teaching of Jesus , [7] and of Blair on the Apostolic Gospel . [8] A critical estimate of these essays cannot here be given. Of course they are tentative; nevertheless they are interesting, and even fascinating to all who desire to get behind the existing records, and as near to the actual words of our Lord as possible. And, though an approach to a consensus of opinion may never be reached, the discussion is sure to bear fruit in a more intimate acquaintance with the most authentic forms of many of our Lord’s sayings. As another aid to so desirable a result, one must give a cordial welcome to such works as that of Resch on Extracanonical Parallel Texts to the Gospels . [9] Resch believes it possible, through the use of Codex Bezae, the old Latin and Syriac versions, and quotations from the Gospels in the early fathers, to get behind the text of our canonical Gospels, and to reach a truer reflection in Greek of the Hebrew original in the case of many sayings recorded in the Logia of Matthew. There will be various estimates of the intrinsic value of his adventurous attempt. Personally, I am not sanguine that much will come out of it. But one cannot be sorry that it has been made, and by one who thoroughly believes that he is engaged in a fruitful line of inquiry. It is well to learn by exhaustive experiment how much or how little may be expected from that quarter.

[7] Wendt, Die Lehre Jesu , Erster Theil. This part of Wendt’s work has not been translated. His exposition of Christ’s words has been translated by Messrs. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh.

[8] The Apostolic Gospel, with a Critical Reconstruction of the Text , by J. Fulton Blair, 1896. Mr. Blair’s critical position differs widely from Wendt’s, and his Apostolic Gospel contains much more besides sayings.

[9] Aussercanonische Paralleltexte zu den Evangelien .

13. Among those who accept the hypothesis of the two sources a difference of opinion obtains on two subordinate points, viz. , first, the relation between the two sources used in Matthew and Luke, and, second, the relation between these two Gospels. Did Mark know and use the Logia , and did Matthew know Luke, or Luke Matthew? Dr. Bernhard Weiss answers the former question in the affirmative and the latter in the negative. From certain phenomena brought to light by a comparative study of the synoptists, he thinks it demonstrable that in many parts of his narrative Mark leans on an older written source, whose accounts of evangelic incidents are reproduced in a more faithful manner in the companion Gospels, and especially in Matthew. This source he takes to be the Logia of the apostle Matthew. It follows from this, of course, that the Logia was not a mere collection of sayings, but a book containing histories as well, such narratives, e.g. , as those relating to the palsied man, the feeding of the 5000, and the blind man at Jericho. The phenomena on which Weiss rests his case are of two kinds. One group consists of minute agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark in narratives common to the three, as, e.g. , in the use of the words ἰδού and ἐπὶ κλίνης in the opening sentence of the story of the palsied man. The inference is that these phrases are taken from the Logia , implying of course that the story was there for those who chose to use it. The other group consists of sayings of Jesus found in Mark’s Gospel, and reproduced also in Matthew and Luke in nearly identical form, yet not taken, it is held, from Mark, but from the Logia . The contention is that the close similarity can be accounted for only by the assumption that Mark, as well as his brother evangelists, took the words from the Logia . An instance in point may be found in the respective accounts of the reply of Jesus to the charge of being in league with Beelzebub. Wendt dissents from the inference of Weiss in both classes of cases. The one group of facts he explains by assuming that Luke had access to the first canonical gospel; in the second group he sees simply accidental correspondences between independent traditions preserved respectively in the Logia and in Mark. [10]

[ 10] Die Lehre Jesu , Erster Theil, pp. 191 3. On the question whether the third evangelist used canonical Matthew, vide the Abhandlung of Edward Simons, Bonn, 1880.


1. The Gospels primâ facie wear the aspect of books aiming at giving a true if not a full account of the life, and more especially of the public career, of Jesus Christ, the Author of the Christian faith. For Christians, writings having such an aim must possess unique interest. There is nothing an earnest believer in Christ more desires to know than the actual truth about Him: what He said, did, and experienced. How far do the books, the study of which is to engage our attention, satisfy this desire? To what extent are they historically reliable?

2. The question has been recently propounded and discussed: What interest did the apostolic age take in the evangelic history? and the conclusion arrived at that the earthly life of Jesus interested it very little. [11] Now, there can be no doubt that, comparing that age with the present time, the statement is true. We live in an age when the historical spirit is in the ascendant, creating an insatiable desire to know the origins of every movement which has affected, to any extent, the fortunes of humanity. Moreover, Christianity has undergone an evolution resulting in types of this religion which are, on various grounds, unsatisfactory to many thoughtful persons. Hence has arisen a powerful reaction of which the watchword is “Back to Christ,” and to which additional intensity has been given by the conviction that modern types of Christianity, whether ecclesiastical, philosophical, or pietistic, all more or less foster, if they do not avow, indifference to the historic foundations of the faith. We have thus a religious as well as a scientific reason for our desire to know the actual Jesus of history. In the primitive era, faith was free to follow its native tendency to be content with its immediate object, the Risen Lord , and to rely on the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit as the source of all knowledge necessary for a godly life. This indifference might conceivably pass into hostility. Faith might busy itself in transforming unwelcome facts so as to make the history serve its purpose. For the historic interest and the religious are not identical. Science wants to know the actual facts; religion wants facts to be such as will serve its ends. It sometimes idealises, transforms, even invents history to accomplish this object. We are not entitled to assume, à priori , that apostolic Christianity entirely escaped this temptation. The suggestion that the faith of the primitive Church took hold of the story of Jesus and so transfigured it that the true image of Him is no longer recoverable, however sceptical, is not without plausibility. The more moderate statement that the apostolic Church, while knowing and accepting many facts about Jesus, was not interested in them as facts, but only as aids to faith, has a greater show of reason. It might well be that the teaching of Jesus was regarded not so much as a necessary source of the knowledge of truth, but rather as a confirmation of knowledge already possessed, and that the acts and experiences of Jesus were viewed chiefly in the light of verifications of His claim to be the Messiah. It does not greatly matter to us what the source of interest in the evangelic facts was so long as they are facts; if the primitive Church in its traditions concerning Jesus was simply utilising and not manufacturing history. There is good reason to believe that in the main this is the true state of the case. Not only so, there are grounds for the opinion that the historic spirit interest in facts as facts was not wanting even amid the fervour of the apostolic age. It may be worth while to mention some of these, seeing they make for the historicity of the main body of the evangelic tradition concerning the words, deeds, and sufferings of Jesus as these are recorded, e.g. , in the Gospel of Mark.

[11] Vide Von Soden’s essay in the Theologische Abhandlungen, Carl von Weizsäcker Gewidmet , 1892.

3. In this connection it deserves a passing notice that there existed in the primitive Church a party interested in the fact-knowledge of Jesus, the knowledge of Christ “after the flesh” in Pauline phrase, a Christ party. From the statement made by St. Paul in the text from which the phrase just quoted is taken, it has been inferred that the apostle was entirely indifferent to the historical element. [12] The inference seems to me hasty; but, be this as it may, what I am now concerned to point out is that, if St. Paul undervalued the facts of the personal ministry, there were those who did not. There was a party who made acquaintance with these facts a necessary qualification for the apostleship, and on this ground denied that St. Paul was an apostle. The assumption underlying the Tübingen tendency-criticism is that there were two parties in the apostolic Church interested in misrepresenting Jesus in different directions, one virtually making Him a narrow Judaist, the other making Him a Pauline universalist, neither party being worthy of implicit trust. This hypothesis presents a somewhat distorted view of the situation. It would be nearer the truth to say that there was a party interested in facts and another interested chiefly in ideas . The one valued facts without seeing their significance; the other valued ideas without taking much trouble to indicate the fact-basis. To the bias of the former party we might be indebted for knowledge of many facts in the life of Jesus, the significance of which was not understood by the transmitters of the tradition.

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:16 .

4. Even within the Pauline party there were those who were interested in facts and in some measure animated by the historical spirit. So far from regarding Paulinists in general as idealists, we ought probably to regard St. Paul, in his passion for ideas and apparent indifference to biographic detail, as an exception; and to think of the majority of his followers as men who, while sympathising with his universalism, shared in no small measure the common Jewish realism. Of this type was Luke . The absencc from his Gospel of even the rudiments of a doctrine of atonement, so conspicuous a topic in the Pauline epistles, will be remarked on hereafter; meantime I direct attention simply to its opening sentence. That prefatory statement is full of words and phrases breathing the fact-loving spirit: Πεπληροφορημένων πραγμάτων , ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς αὐτόπται καὶ ὑπηρέται , ἀκριβῶς , ἀσφάλειαν . The author wants to deal with facts believed; he wishes, as far as possible, to be guided by the testimony of eye-witnesses; he means to take pains in the ascertainment of the truth, that the friend for whose benefit he writes may attain unto certainty. The question here is not how far he succeeded in his aim; the point insisted on is the aim itself, the historical spirit evinced. Luke may have been unconsciously influenced to a considerable extent by religious bias, preconceived opinion, accepted Christian belief, and therefore not sufficiently critical, and too easily satisfied with evidence; but he honestly wanted to know the historic truth. And in this desire he doubtless represented a class, and wrote to meet a demand on the part of Christians who felt a keen interest in the memorabilia of the Founder, and were not satisfied with the sources at command on account of their fragmentariness, or occasional want of agreement with each other. [13]

[ 13] Von Soden, in the essay above referred to, takes no notice of Luke’s preface.

5. The peculiar character of the apostle who stood at the head of the primitive Jewish Church has an important bearing on the question of historicity. For our knowledge of Peter we are not wholly dependent on the documents whose historicity is in question. We have a rapid pencil-sketch of him in the epistles of St. Paul, easily recognisable as that of the same man of whom we have a more finished picture in the Gospels. A genial, frank, impulsive, outspoken, generous, wide-hearted man; not preoccupied with theories, illogical, inconsistent, now on one side, now on the other; brave yet cowardly, capable of honest sympathy with Christian universalism, yet under pressure apt to side with Jewish bigots. A most unsatisfactory, provoking person to deal with for such a man as St. Paul, with his sharply defined position, thorough-going adherence to principle, and firm resolute will. Yes, but also a very satisfactory source of first-hand traditions concerning Jesus; an excellent witness, if a weak apostle. A source , a copious fountain of information he was bound to be. We do not need Papias to tell us this. This disciple, open-hearted and open-mouthed, must speak concerning his beloved Master. It will not be long before everybody knows what he has to tell concerning the ministry of the Lord. Papias reports that in Mark’s Gospel we have the literary record of Peter’s testimony. The statement is entirely credible. Peter would say more than others about Jesus; he would say all in a vivid way, and Mark’s narrative reflects the style of an impressionable eye-witness. If it be a faithful report of Peter’s utterances the general truth of its picture of Jesus may be implicitly relied on. For Peter was not a man likely to be biassed by theological tendency. What we expect from him is rather a candid recital of things as they happened, without regard to, possibly without perception of, their bearing on present controversies; a rough, racy, unvarnished story, unmanipulated in the interest of ideas or theories, which are not in this man’s line. How far the narratives of the second Gospel bear out this character will appear hereafter.

6. The other fact mentioned by Papias, viz. , that the apostle Matthew was the source of the evangelic tradition relating to the words of Jesus, has an important bearing on historicity. Outside the Gospels we have no information concerning this disciple such as we have of Peter in the Pauline letters. But we may safely assume the truth of the Gospel accounts which represent him as having been a tax-gatherer before he was called to discipleship. The story of his call, under the name of Matthew or Levi, is told in all the three synoptists, as is also the significant incident of the feast following at which Jesus met with a large company of publicans. There is reason to believe that in calling this disciple our Lord had in view not merely ultimate service as an apostle, but immediate service in connection with the meeting with the publicans; that, in short, Jesus associated Matthew with Himself that He might use him as an instrument for initiating a mission to the class to which he had belonged. But if the Master might call a fit man to discipleship for one form of immediate service, He might call him for more than one. Another service the ex-publican might be able to render was that of secretary. In his old occupation he would be accustomed to writing, and it might be Christ’s desire to utilise that talent for noting down things worthy of record. The gift would be most in demand in connection with the teaching of the Master. The preservation of that element could not be safely trusted to memories quite equal to the retention of remarkable healing acts, accompanied by not less remarkable sayings. The use of the pen at the moment might be necessary. And of all the members of the disciple-circle the ex-publican was the likeliest man for that service. We are not surprised, therefore, that the function assigned to Matthew in connection with the evangelic tradition is the preservation of the Logia . That is just the part he was fitted to perform. As little are we surprised that Mark’s Gospel, based on Peter’s recollections, contains so little of the teaching. Peter was not the kind of man to take notes, nor were discourses full of deep thought the kind of material he was likely to remember. What would make an indelible impression on him would be, not thought, but extraordinary deeds, accompanied by striking gestures, original brief replies to embarrassing questions and the like; just such things as we find reported in the second Gospel.

From Matthew the publican might be expected not only a record of Christ’s teaching as distinct from His actions, but an impartial record. We should not suspect him any more than Peter of theological bias; least of all in the direction of Judaism. As a Galilean he belonged to a half-Gentile community, and as a publican he was an outcast for orthodox Jews. It was probably the humane spirit and wide sympathies of Jesus that drew him from the receipt of custom. If, therefore, we find in the Logia any sayings ascribed to Jesus of a universalistic character we do not feel in the least tempted to doubt their authenticity. If, on he other hand, we meet with words of an apparently opposite character we are not greatly startled and ready to exclaim, Behold the hand of an interpolator! We rather incline to see in the combination of seemingly incongruous elements the evidence of candid chronicling. It is the case of an honest reporter taking down this and that without asking himself whether this can be reconciled with that. That a deep, many-sided mind like that of Jesus might give birth to startling paradoxes is no wise incredible. Therefore, without undertaking responsibility for every expression, one may without hesitation endorse the sentiment of Jülicher, “that Jewish and anti-Jewish, revolutionary and conservative, new and old, freedom and narrowness in judgment, sensuous hopes and a spiritualism blending together present and future, meet together, by no means weakens our impression that Jesus really here speaks”. [14]

[ 14] Einleitung in das Neue Testament , p. 231.

7. The mere fact of the preservation of Mark’s Gospel is not without a bearing on the question of historicity. In its own way it testifies to the influence of the historic as distinct from the religious spirit in the early period of the Christian era. It would not have been at all surprising if that Gospel had fallen out of existence, seeing that its contents have been absorbed into the more comprehensive Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Assuming the correctness of modern critical views, the Logia of the Apostle Matthew has disappeared; how did it come about that the second Gospel did not disappear also, especially in view of its defects, as they would be regarded, comparing it with the longer narratives of the same type? Whether the authors of the first and third Gospels aimed at superseding the Logia and Mark is a question that need not be discussed. From Luke’s preface it might plausibly be inferred that he did aspire at giving so full and satisfactory an account of the life of Jesus as should render earlier attempts superfluous. If he did, he was not successful. The Gospel without the story of the infancy, and the Sermon on the Mount, and the detailed appearances after the resurrection, survived. It might be undervalued. There is evidence of preference and partiality for one Gospel as against another in Patristic literature. Clement of Alexandria, true to his philosophy, undervalued all the synoptists as compared with the fourth Gospel, because they showed merely the body of Jesus, while the fourth Gospel showed His spirit . Augustine regarded Mark as a mere pedissequus to Matthew, en laquais , as D’Eichthal irreverently but not incorrectly renders the word. [15] Still Mark held his place, mere lackey to Matthew though some supposed him to be. The reason might be in part that he had got too strong a hold before the companion Gospels appeared, to be easily dislodged, and had to be accepted in spite of defects and apparent superfluousness. But I think there was also a worthier reason, a certain diffused thankfulness for every scrap of information concerning the Lord Jesus, especially such as was believed to rest on apostolic testimony. Mark’s Gospel passed for a report of St. Peter’s reminiscences of the Master; therefore by all means let it be preserved, though it contained no account of the childhood of Jesus, and very imperfect reports of His teaching and of the resurrection. It was apostolic, therefore to be respected; as apostolic it was trustworthy, therefore to be valued. In short, the presence of the second Gospel in the New Testament, side by side with Matthew and Luke, is a witness to the prevalence in the Church of the first century of the historical spirit acting as a check on the religious spirit, whose instinctive impulse would be to obliterate traces of discrepancy, and to suppress all writings relating to the Christian origins which in their presentation of Jesus even seemed to sink below the level of the Catholic faith.

[15] Vide his work Les Évangiles , p. 66.

8. The foregoing five considerations all tend to make a favourable impression as to the historicity of the evangelic tradition in general. More special considerations are needful when the tradition is broken up into distinct divisions. The tradition consists of three layers. Faith would make three demands for information concerning its object: what did He teach? what did He do? how did He suffer? Some think that the first and most urgent demand would be for information concerning the teaching, and that only in the second place would there grow up a desire for narratives of facts and experiences. According to Holtzmann the order was: first the Logia , then the passion-drama, then the anecdotes of memorable acts. [16] I should be inclined to invert the order of the first two items, and to say: the Passion, the Logia , the memorable incidents. But the more important question is: how far can the evangelic records concerning these three departments of the tradition be trusted? Only a few hints can be given by way of answer here.

[16] vide Hand-Commentar , pp. 13 17.

9. The narratives of the Passion, given in all the four Gospels with disproportionate fulness, have lately been subjected to a searching analysis in a sceptical spirit rivalling that of Strauss. Dr. Brandt, [17] after doing his utmost to shake our faith in the trust worthiness of these pathetic records, still leaves to us eight particulars, which even he is constrained to recognise as historical. These are: betrayal by one of the twelve; desertion by all of them; denial by Peter; death sentence under the joint responsibility of Jewish rulers and Roman procurator; assistance in carrying the cross rendered by Simon of Cyrene; crucifixion on a hill called Golgotha; the crime charged indicated by the inscription, “King of the Jews”; death, if not preceded by a prayer for the murderers, or by the despairing cry, “My God, my God,” at least heralded by a loud voice. In these particulars we have the skeleton of the story, all that is needful to give the Passion tragic significance, and even to form a basis for theological constructions. The items omitted, the process before the Sanhedrim, the interviews with Pilate and Herod, the mockery of the soldiers, the preferential release of Barabbas, the sneers of passers-by, the two thieves, the parting of the raiment, the words from the cross, the preternatural accompaniments of death, are all more or less of the nature of accessories, enhancing greatly the impressiveness of the picture, suggesting additional lessons, but not altering the character of the event as a whole.

[17] Die Evangelische Geschichte und der Ursprung des Christenthums , 1893.

But even accessories are important, and not to be lightly given over to the tender mercies of sceptical critics. The reasons assigned for treating them as unhistoric are not convincing. They come mostly under three heads: The influence of Old Testament prophecy, the absence of witnesses, and the bias manifest in the accounts of the trial against the Jews and in favour of the Gentiles. By reference to the first a whole group of incidents, including the cry, “Eli, Eli,” are summarily disposed of. Texts taken from Psalms 22:0 and Isaiah 53:0 created corresponding facts. This is a gratuitous assumption. The facts suggested the prophecies, the prophecies did not create the facts. The facts were there, and the primitive disciples looked out for Messianic oracles to suit them, by way of furnishing themselves with an apologetic for the thesis, Jesus is the Christ. In some cases the links of proof are weak; no one could have thought of the texts unless the facts had been there to suggest them. The plea of lack of witnesses applies to what took place between Jesus and the various authorities before whom He appeared: the High Priests, Pilate, Herod. Who, it is asked, were there to see or hear? Who likely to be available as witnesses for the evangelic tradition? We cannot tell; yet it is possible there was quite sufficient evidence, though also possible, doubtless, that the evangelists were not in all cases able to give exact verifiable information, but were obliged to give simply the best information obtainable. This, at least, we may claim for them, that they did their best to ascertain the facts. As to the alleged prejudice leading to unfair distribution of blame for our Lord’s death between the Jewish authorities and the Roman governor, we may admit that there were temptations to such partiality, arising out of natural dislike of the Jews and unequally natural desire to win the favour of those who held the reins of empire. Yet on the whole it may be affirmed that the representation of the evangelists is intrinsically credible as in harmony with all we know about the principal actors in the great tragedy.

10. With regard to the teaching , it is of course obvious that all recorded sayings of Jesus do not possess the same attestation. Some words are found in all three synoptists, some in two, and not a few in only one. Yet in many instances we can feel as sure of the authenticity of sayings found in a single Gospel as of that of sayings occurring in all the three. Who can doubt, e.g. , that the word, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” emanated from the great Master? It is well in this connection to have before our minds the rules by which judgment should be guided. The following canons may legitimately be relied on:

( a ) Sayings supported by full synoptical attestation may be regarded as in substance authentic.

( b ) Sayings unsupported by full synoptical attestation may be regarded as authentic when their absence from a particular Gospel can be explained by its plan, or by the idiosyncrasy of its author. This covers not a few omissions by Luke.

( c ) Sayings found only in a single Gospel may be accepted as authentic when they sympathise with and form a natural complement to other well-attested sayings. This remark applies to the sayings in Luke 7:47 ; Luke 15:7 , concerning the connection between little forgiveness and little love, and about the joy of finding things lost, which are complementary to the saying in all three synoptists: “the whole need not a physician;” the three sayings together constituting a full apology for the relations between Jesus and the sinful.

( d ) All sayings possess intrinsic credibility which suit the general historical situation. This applies to Christ’s antipharisaic utterances, an element very prominent in Matthew, and very much restricted in Luke.

( e ) All sayings may be accepted as self-attested and needing no other attestation which bear the unmistakable stamp of a unique religious genius, rise above the capacity of the reporters, and are reported by them simply as unforgettable memories of the great Teacher handed down by a faithful tradition.

The chief impulse to collecting the sayings of Jesus was not a purely historical interest, but a desire to find in the words of the Master what might serve as a rule to believers for the guidance of their life. Hence may be explained the topical grouping of sayings in Matthew and Luke, especially in the former, e.g. , in the tenth chapter, whose rubric might be: a directory for the mission work of the church; and in the eighteenth, which might be headed: how the members of the Christian brotherhood are to behave towards each other. The question suggests itself, Would the influence of the practical aim be confined to grouping ? Would it not extend to modifications, expansions, additions, even inventions, that the words of the Master might cover all present requirements and correspond fully to present circumstances and convictions? On this topic Weizsäcker makes the following statement: “From the beginning the tradition consisted not in mere repetition, but in repetition combined with creative activity. And from the nature of the case this activity increased as time went on. Elucidations grew into text. The single saying was multiplied with the multiplication of its uses, or the words were referred to a definite case and correspondingly modified. Finally, words were inserted into the text of Jesus’ sayings, especially in the form of instances of narrative, which were only meant to make His utterances more distinct.” [18] This may seem to open a door to licence, but second thoughts tend to allay our fears. The aim itself supplied a check to undue freedom. Just because disciples desired to follow the Master and make His words their law, they would wish to be sure that the reported sayings gave them the thoughts of Jesus at least, if not His ipsissima verba . Then there is reason to believe that the process of fixing the tradition was substantially completed when the memory of Jesus was recent, and the men who had been with Him were at hand to guide and control the process. Weizsäcker remarks that very little of the nature of accretion originated elsewhere than in the primitive church, and that the great mass of the evangelic tradition was formed under the influence of the living tradition. [19] That is to say, the freedom of the apostolic age was controlled by knowledge and reverence. It was known what the Master had taught, and great respect was cherished for His authority. If there was no superstitious concern as to literal accuracy, there was a loyal solicitude that the meaning conveyed by words should be true to the mind of Christ.

[18] The Apostolic Age , vol. ii., p. 62.

[19] Ibid.

11. The incidents of the Healing Ministry, which form the bulk of the narrative of events, are complicated with the question of miracle . Those for whom it is an axiom that a miracle is impossible are tempted to pronounce on that ministry the summary and sweeping verdict, unhistorical . This is not a scientific procedure. The question of fact should be dealt with separately on its own grounds, and the question of explicability taken up only in the second place. There are good reasons for believing that the healing ministry, miraculous or not miraculous, was a great fact in the public career of Jesus. Healing is associated with teaching in all general notices of our Lord’s work. Nine acts of healing, some of them very remarkable, are reported in all the synoptical Gospels. The healing element in the ministry is so interwoven with the didactic that the former cannot be eliminated without destroying the whole story. This is frankly acknowledged by Harnack, who, if he does not doubt the reality of miracles, attaches very little apologetic value to them. [20] The occasional notices in the Gospels of contemporary opinions, impressions, and theories regarding Christ’s actions speak to something extraordinary over and above the preaching and teaching. Mark’s graphic report of the impression produced by Christ’s first appearance in the synagogue of Capernaum may be cited as an instance. “What is this? A new teaching! with authority He commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” [21] This is a veritable reminiscence, and it points to a double surprise created by an original style of preaching, and by an unprecedented power. Still more significant are the theories invented to explain away the power. The Pharisees accounted for it, as displayed in the cure of demoniacs, by the suggestion of an alliance with Beelzebub. Herod said: “It is John whom I beheaded risen from the dead and exercising the power of the spirit world”. The one theory was malevolent, the other absurd, but the point to be noticed is the existence of the theories. Men do not theorise about nothing. There were remarkable facts urgently demanding explanation of some sort.

[20] History of Dogma , vol. i., p. 65, note 3.

[21] Mark 1:27 .

The healing acts of Jesus then, speaking broadly, were to begin with facts. How they are to be explained, and what they imply as to the Person of the Healer, are questions for science and theology. It is not scientific to neglect the phenomena as unworthy of notice. As little is it scientific to make the solution easy by under-statement of the facts to be explained, as, e.g. , by viewing demoniacal possession as an imaginary disease. Demoniacal possession might be an imaginary explanation of certain classes of diseases, but the diseases themselves were serious enough, as serious as madness and epilepsy, which appear to have formed the physical basis of the malady.

Finally, it is not to be supposed that these healing acts, though indubitable facts, have no permanent religious value. Their use in the evidences of Christianity may belong to an antiquated type of apologetic, but in other respects their significance is perennial. Whether miraculous or not, they equally reveal the wide-hearted benevolence of Jesus. They throw a side light on His doctrine of God and of man, and especially on His conception of the ideal of life. The healing ministry was a tacit but effective protest against asceticism and the dualism on which it rests, and a proof that Jesus had no sympathy with the hard antithesis between spirit and flesh.

12. Before leaving the topic of historicity, it may be well here to refer to a line of evidence which, though not worked out, has been suggestively sketched by Professor Sanday in his Bampton Lectures on Inspiration . The thesis to be proved is “that the great mass of the narrative in the first three Gospels took its shape before the destruction of Jerusalem, i.e. , within less than forty years of the events”. [22] “Was there ever,” asks Dr. Sanday, “an easier problem for a critic to decide whether the sayings and narratives which lie before him came from the one side of this chasm or the other?” Among the instances he cites are such as these: “If, therefore, thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and then rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee,” etc. “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing,’ etc. “See thou tell no man, but go thy way, show thyself to the priest,” etc. That is to say, the altar, the temple, the priesthood are still in existence. This is not decisive as to the date of our Gospels, but it is decisive as to much of the material contained in them having assumed fixed shape, either in oral or in written form, before the great crisis of Israel.

[22] Page 283.

13. Historicity, be it finally noted, is not to be confounded with absolute accuracy, or perfect agreement between parallel accounts. Harmonistic is a thing of the past. It was a well-meant discipline, but it took in hand an insoluble problem, and it unduly magnified the importance of a solution, even if it had been possible. Questions as to occasions on which reported words and acts of Jesus were spoken or done, as to the connections between sayings grouped together in one Gospel, dispersed in the pages of another, as to the diverse forms of sayings in parallel reports, are for us now secondary. The broad question we ask as to the words of Jesus is: have we here, in the main, words actually spoken by Jesus, once or twice, now or then, in this connection or in that, in separate aphorisms or in connected discourse, in the form reported by this or that evangelist, or in a form not exactly reproduced by any of them, yet conveying a sense sufficiently reflected in all the versions? Is the Lord’s prayer the Lord’s at whatever time given to His disciples? Is the “Sermon on the Mount” made up of real utterances of Jesus, whether all spoken at one time, as Matthew’s report seems to imply, or on various occasions, as we should infer from Luke’s narrative? Did Jesus actually say: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” whether with the addition, “to repentance,” as it stands in Luke, or without, as in the genuine text of the same Logion in Matthew and Mark? Did He speak the parable of the lost sheep whether in Matthew’s form or in Luke’s, or in a form differing verbally from both to disciples, to Pharisees, or perhaps to neither, but to publicans, yet conveying in some form and to some audience the great thought that there was a passion in His heart and in the heart of God for saving lost men? It is greatly to be desired that devout readers of the Gospels should be emancipated from legal bondage to the theological figment of inerrancy. Till this is done, it is impossible to enjoy in full the Gospel story, or feel its essential truth and reality.




1. The second Gospel has no account of the birth and infancy of Jesus. The narrative opens with the prelude to the public ministry, the preaching and baptism of the prophet John; and the sequel consists of a rapid sketch of that ministry in a series of graphic tableaux from its commencement in Galilee to its tragic close in Jerusalem. This fact alone raises a presumption in favour of Mark’s claim to be the earliest of the three synoptical Gospels. Other considerations pointing in the same direction are its comparative brevity and the meagreness of its account of Christ’s teaching. This Gospel wears the aspect of a first sketch of the memorable career of one who had become an object of religious faith and love to the circle of readers for whose benefit it was written. As such it is entitled to precedence in an introduction to the three synoptists, though, in our detailed comments, we follow the order in which they are arranged in the New Testament. It is convenient to take Mark first for this further reason, that from its pages we can form the clearest idea of the general course of our Lord’s history after He entered on His Messianic calling. In none of the three Gospels can we find a definite chronological plan, but it is possible from any one of them to form a general idea of the leading stages of the ministry, and most easily and clearly from the second.

2. The first stage was the synagogue ministry. After His baptism in the Jordan and His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned to Galilee and began to preach the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God”. [23] The synagogue was the scene of this preaching. The first appearance of Jesus in a synagogue was in Capernaum, where He at once made a great impression both by His discourse and by the cure of a demoniac. [24] This was simply the commencement of a preaching tour in the synagogues of Galilee. Jesus made no stay in Capernaum. He left the town the day after He preached in its synagogue, very early in the morning. [25] He left so early in the day because He feared detention by the people. He left in such haste because He knew that He could preach in the synagogues only by the consent of the authorities, which might soon be withheld through sinister influence. This synagogue preaching naturally formed the first phase in Christ’s work. The synagogue presented a ready opportunity of coming into contact with the people. Any man might speak there with the permission of the ruler. But he could speak only so long as he was a persona grata , and Jesus, conscious of the wide cleavage in thought and feeling between Himself and the scribes, could not but fear that He would not remain such long. It was now or never, at the outset or not at all, so far as the synagogue was concerned.

[23] Mark 1:14 .

[24] Mark 1:27 .

[25] Mark 1:35 .

3. How long this synagogue ministry lasted is not expressly indicated. A considerable period is implied in the statement: “He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee”. [26] It is not necessary to take this strictly, especially in view of the populousness of Galilee and the multitude of its towns large and small, as indicated by Josephus. [27] But the statement must be taken in earnest so far as to recognise that Jesus had a deliberate plan for a synagogue ministry in Galilee, and that He carried it out to a considerable extent. It is not improbable that it was interrupted by the influence of the scribes, whom we find lying in wait for Him on His return from the preaching tour to Capernaum. [28]

[ 26] Mark 1:39 .

[27] Josephus gives the number of towns at 204, the smallest having 15,000 inhabitants. Vide his Vita , chap. 45, and Bell. Jude 1:3 ; Jude 1:2-3 .

[28] Mark 2:1 .

4. With the anecdote in which the scribes figure as captious critics of Jesus a new phase in the story begins. The keynote of the first chapter is popularity ; that of the next is opposition . In this juxtaposition the evangelist is not merely aiming at dramatic effect, but reflecting in his narrative a real historical sequence. The popularity and the opposition were related to each other as cause and effect. It is true that having once entered on this second topic, he groups together a series of incidents illustrating the hostile attitude of the scribes, which have a topical rather than a temporal connection, in this probably following the example of his voucher, Peter. These extend from Mark 2:1 to Mark 3:6 , constituting the second division of the story, Mark 1:14-45 being the first. The two together set before us the two forces whose action and interaction can be traced throughout the drama, and whose resultant will be the cross: the favour of the people, the ill-will of their religious leaders.

5. Within the second group of anecdotes illustrating the hostility of the scribes, a place is assigned to an incident which ought not to be regarded as a mere subordinate detail under that general category, but rather as pointing to another phase of our Lord’s activity co-ordinate in importance with the preaching in the synagogues. I refer to the meeting with the publicans , and in connection with that the call of Levi or Matthew. [29] That action of Jesus had a decisive effect in alienating the scribes, but meantime this is not the thing to be emphasised. We have to recognise in this new movement a second stage in the ministry of Jesus. First, preaching in the synagogues to the Jews of respectable character and good religious habit; next, a mission to the practically excommunicated, non-synagogue-going, socially outcast part of the community. Mark, more than his brother evangelists, shows his sense of the importance and significance of this new departure, especially by the observation: “there were many (publicans and sinners), and they followed Him”. [30] That is to say, the class was large enough to demand special attention, and they were inviting attention and awakening interest in them by the interest they on their side were beginning to take in Jesus and His work. Without doubt this mission to the publicans bulked much larger in fact than it does in the pages of the evangelists or in the thoughts of average readers of the Gospels, and it must be one of the cares of the interpreter to make it appear in its true dimensions. [31] There is nothing in the Gospels more characteristic of Jesus, or of deeper, more lasting significance as to the nature and tendency of the Christian faith.

[29] Mark 2:13-17 .

[30] Mark 2:15 .

[31] Vide notes on this section in Matthew and in Mark.

6. The third stage in the ministry of Jesus was the formation of a disciple-circle . Of the beginnings of this movement Mark gives us a glimpse in Mark 1:16-20 , where he reports the call of the four fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John; and in the words Jesus is reported to have spoken to the first pair of brothers there is a clear indication of a purpose to gather about Him a band of men not merely for personal service but in order to training for a high calling. Levi’s call, reported in chap. 2, is another indication of the same kind. But it is in the section of the Gospel beginning at Mark 3:7 , and extending to Mark 6:13 , that the disciples properly come to the front. An intention on the part of the evangelist to give them prominence is betrayed in the pointed way in which he refers to them in Mark 3:7 : “And Jesus with the disciples withdrew towards the sea”. [32] A little further on in the same chapter we read of the retirement of Jesus to the mountain with a band of disciples, out of which He selects an inner circle of twelve . [33] And at various points in this division of the Gospel the disciple-band is referred to in a way to indicate that they are assuming a new importance to the mind of Jesus. [34]

[ 32] μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν stands before ἀνεχώρησεν in the best texts.

[33] Mark 3:13 .

[34] Vide Mark 3:31-35 ; Mark 4:10-25 ; Mark 6:7-13 .

7. This importance was due in part to dissatisfaction with the result of the general ministry among the people. Jesus had preached often, and healed many, in synagogue and highway, and had become in consequence the idol of the masses who gathered in increasing numbers from all quarters, and crowded around Him wherever He went, as we read in Mark 3:7-12 . But this popularity did not gratify Him; it rather bored Him. He did not weary in well-doing, but He was disappointed with the outcome. This disappointment found expression in the parable of the sower, which was really a critical estimate of the synagogue ministry to this sad effect: much seed sown; little fruit. From this comparatively fruitless ministry among the many, Jesus turned with yearning to the susceptible few in hope to find in them a good soil that should bring forth ripe fruit, thirty, sixty, or even an hundred fold. After a long enough time had elapsed to make it possible to form an estimate of the spiritual situation, He judged that in a disciple-circle lay His only chance of deep permanent influence. Hence He naturally sought to extricate Himself from the crowd, and to get away from collisions with unsympathetic scribes, that He might have leisure to indoctrinate the chosen band in the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Leisure, quiet, retirement that more and more was His aim.

8. This desire for opportunity to perform the functions of a master is made more apparent by Mark than by the two other synoptists. He comes far short of them in his report of Christ’s teaching, but he brings out much more clearly than they Christ’s desire for undisturbed intercourse with the twelve, the reasons for it, and the persistent efforts of the Master to accomplish His object. It is from his pages we learn of the escapes of Jesus from the crowds and from the scribes. These escapes, as reported by Mark, take place in all directions possible for one whose work lay on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee: towards the hill behind, towards the eastern shore, towards the northern borderland. Five in all are mentioned: one to the hill; [35] two to the eastern shore, first in an eastward, [36] then in a northerly direction; [37] two to the north, first to the borders of Tyre and Sidon, [38] next to the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi. [39] All had the same end in view: the instruction of the disciples. It was in connection with the first that the “Sermon on the Mount,” or the Teaching on the Hill, though not mentioned by Mark, was doubtless communicated. The second and third attempts, the flights across the lake, were unsuccessful, being frustrated in the first case by an accidental meeting with a demoniac, and in the second by the determination of the multitude not to let Jesus get away from there. Therefore, to make sure, the Master had to retire with His disciples to the northern limits of the land, and even beyond them, into Gentile territory, that there He might, undisturbed, talk to His disciples about the crisis that He now clearly perceived to be approaching.

[35] Mark 3:13 .

[36] Mark 4:35 .

[37] Mark 6:30 .

[38] Mark 7:24 .

[39] Mark 8:27 .

9. These last flights of Jesus take us on to a point in the story considerably in advance of the end of the third section, Mark 6:13 . The material lying between this place and Mark 8:27 shows us the progress of the drama under the ever-intensifying influence of the two great forces, popularity and hostility. The multitude grows ever larger till it reaches the dimensions of 5000, [40] and the enmity of the scribes becomes ever more acute as the divergence of the ways of Jesus from theirs becomes increasingly manifest, and His abhorrence of their doctrines and spirit receives more unreserved expression. [41] After the encounter with the scribes occasioned by the neglect of the disciple-circle to comply with Rabbinical customs in the matter of ceremonial ablutions, Jesus felt that it was a mere question of time when the enmity of His foes would culminate in an effort to compass His death. What He had now to do therefore was to prepare Himself and His disciples for the end. Accordingly, Mark reports that after that incident Jesus went thence into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, desiring that no one should know. [42] He could not be hid even there, and so to make sure of privacy He seems to have made a wide excursion into heathen territory, through Tyre and Sidon, possibly across the mountains towards Damascus, and so through Decapolis back to Galilee. [43] Then followed, after an interval, the excursion to Caesarea Philippi, for ever memorable as the occasion on which Peter confessed his belief that his Master was the Christ, and the Master began to tell His disciples that He was destined ere long to suffer death at the hands of the scribes. [44]

[ 40] Mark 6:44 .

[41] Mark 7:1-23 .

[42] Mark 7:24 .

[43] Mark 7:31 .

[44] Mark 8:27-33 .

10. From that point onwards Mark relates the last scenes in Galilee, the departure to the south, with the incidents on the way, the entry into Jerusalem, with the stirring incidents of the Passion Week, and, finally, the tragic story of the crucifixion. Throughout this later part of his narrative it is evident that the one great theme of conversation between Jesus and His disciples was the cross: His cross and theirs, the necessity of self-sacrifice for all the faithful, the rewards of those who loyally bear their cross, and the penalties appointed for those whose ruling spirit is ambition. [45]

[ 45] Vide chap. Mark 9:33-50 ; Mark 10:23-45 .


1. The outstanding characteristic of Mark is realism . I have in view here, not the graphic, descriptive, literary style which is generally ascribed to Mark, but the unreserved manner in which he presents the person and character of Jesus and of the disciples. He states facts as they were, when one might be tempted not to state them at all, or to exhibit them in a subdued light. He describes from the life, avoiding toning down, reticence, generalised expression, or euphemistic circumlocution. In this respect there is a great contrast between the second Gospel and the third, and it is only when we have made ourselves acquainted with the peculiarities of the two Gospels that we are able fully to appreciate those of either. The difference is this. Luke’s whole style of presentation is manifestly influenced by the present position of Jesus and the disciples: Jesus the risen and exalted Lord, the disciples Apostles. For Mark Jesus is the Jesus of history, and the disciples are simply disciples. Luke writes from the view-point of reverential faith, Mark from that of loving vivid recollection. It is impossible by rapid citation of instances to give an adequate idea of these distinguishing features; all that can be done is to refer to a few examples in explanation of what I mean. In Mark’s pages, Jesus before He begins His public career is a carpenter . [46] At the temptation He is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. [47] His first appearance in the synagogue of Capernaum is so remarkable that people say to each other: “What is this? A new teaching! With authority commandeth He even unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” [48] Early the following morning He makes what has the aspect of an unaccountable and undignified flight from Capernaum. [49] By-and-by, when He is fully engrossed in His teaching and healing ministries, His relatives come to rescue Him from His enthusiasm, deeming Him beside Himself. [50] On the day of the parable-discourse from the boat He makes another flight, He saying to the disciples: Let us go over to the other side; they promptly obeying orders suddenly given and carrying Him off from the crowd, even as He was. [51] Towards the end, on the ascent to Jerusalem, Jesus goes before the disciples, and His manner is such that those who follow are amazed. [52] When He sends for the colt on which He rides into the Holy City, He bids the two disciples promise to the owner that the colt will be returned when He has had His use of it. [53]

[ 46] Mark 6:3 .

[47] Mark 1:12 .

[48] Mark 1:27 .

[49] Mark 1:35-38 .

[50] Mark 3:21 .

[51] Mark 4:35 .

[52] Mark 10:32 .

[53] Mark 11:3 .

2. The realism of Mark makes for its historicity. It is a guarantee of first-hand reports, such as one might expect from Peter. Peter reverences his risen Lord as much as Luke or any other man. But he is one of the men who have been with Jesus, and he speaks from indelible impressions made on his eye and ear, while Luke reports at second-hand from written accounts for the most part. The same realism is a strong argument in favour of Mark’s priority. It speaks to an early date before the feeling of decorum had become controlling as it is seen to be in Luke’s Gospel. Mark is the archaic Gospel, written under the inspiration not of prophecy like Matthew, or of present reverence like Luke, but of fondly cherished past memories. In it we get nearest to the true human personality of Jesus in all its originality and power, and as coloured by the time and the place. [54] And the character of Jesus loses nothing by the realistic presentation. Nothing is told that needed to be hid. The homeliest facts reported by the evangelist only increase our interest and our admiration. One who desires to see the Jesus of history truly should con well the pages of Mark first, then pass on to Matthew and Luke.

[54] Vide Holtzmann, Hand Commentar , p. 7.

3. By comparison with the companion Gospels Mark lacks a conspicuous didactic aim. The purpose of the writer seems to be mainly just to tell what he knows about Jesus. Some have tried to show that this Gospel is an endeavour to read into the evangelic history the ideas of Paulinism. [55] Others have maintained that the purpose of the writer is to observe a studied, calculated neutrality between Paulinism and Judaism. [56] These opposite views may be left to destroy each other. Others, again, have found in the book a contribution towards establishing Christians in the faith that Jesus was the Messiah, when that faith was tried by a delayed second coming. [57] A didactic programme has been supposed to be hinted at in the opening words: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and attempts have been made to show that in the sequel this programme is steadily kept in view. I am by no means anxious to negative these last suggestions; all I say is that the didactic purpose is not prominent. The writer seems to say, not: “These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” but more simply: “These are written that ye may know Jesus”. This also makes for the historicity and early date of the archaic Gospel.

[55] So Pfleiderer in his Urchristenthum .

[56] So Baur and other members of the Tübingen school.

[57] So Bernhard Weiss, vide Das Mareusevangelium , Einleitung, p. 23.

4. Among the more obvious characteristics of Mark’s literary style are the use of dual phrases in descriptive passages, a liking for diminutives, occasional Latinisms, the frequent employment of εὐθύς in narrative and of the historical present, both tending to vividness and giving the impression of an eye-witness. The rough vigour and crude grammar frequently noticeable in Mark’s reports strengthen this impression. The style is colloquial rather than literary. To this in part is due the unsatisfactory state of the text. Mark’s roughness and originality were too much for the scribes. They could not rest till they had smoothed down everything to commonplace. Harmonising propensities also are responsible for the multiplicity of variants, the less important Gospel being forced into conformity with the more important.


1. The Gospel itself contains no indication as to who wrote it. That the writer was one bearing the name of Mark rests solely on an ecclesiastical tradition whose reliableness there has been no disposition to question. The Mark referred to has been from the earliest times till now identified with the Mark named in Acts 12:12 , as the son of a Mary; in Mark 12:5 ; Mark 12:13 , as the attendant of Paul and Barnabas on their mission journey; and in Mark 15:39 , as the travelling companion of Barnabas alone after he had separated from Paul; also, in Colossians 4:10 , as the cousin ( ἀνεψιός ) of Barnabas; and, finally, in 2 Timothy 4:11 , and Philemon 1:24 , as rendering useful services to Paul.

2. The explanations of Jewish customs, e.g. , ceremonial washings (Mark 7:3-4 ), and words such as Talitha cumi and Ephphatha, and the technical term “common” or “unclean” (Mark 5:41 , Mark 7:34 , Mark 7:2 ), point to non-Jewish readers; and the use of Latinisms is most naturally accounted for by the supposition that the book was written among and for Roman Christians.

3. The dates of the Gospels generally have been a subject of much controversy, and the endless diversity of opinion means that the whole matter belongs largely to the region of conjecture. The very late dates assigned to these writings by the Tübingen school are now generally abandoned. By many competent critics the Synoptical Gospels are placed well within the first century, say, between the years 60 and 80. To condescend upon a precise year is impossible. One cannot even determine with absolute confidence whether the earliest of them, i.e. , Mark, was written before or after the destruction of Jerusalem. The point of practical importance is not the date at which a Gospel was composed, but the historical value of its materials. In this respect the claims of Mark, as we have seen, stand high. [58]

[ 58] On the Appendix of Mark, Mark 16:9-20 , vide Notes ad loc.




1. As has been stated in Matthew 1:0 , the bulk of Mark’s narrative is substantially taken up into Matthew’s longer story. But to that narrative of the archaic Gospel is added much new material, consisting mainly of the teaching of our Lord. This teaching as reproduced in the first Gospel consists not of short pregnant sentences such as Mark has preserved, but of connected discourses of considerable length the longest and the most important being that familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount”. Whether this connected character is due to the Teacher or to the evangelist has been disputed, the bias of critical opinion being strongly in favour of the latter alternative. Extreme views on either side are to be avoided. That Jesus uttered only short pithy sayings is a gratuitous assumption. In connection with deliberate efforts to instruct the disciples, the presumption is in favour of continuous discourse. On the other hand, in some of the discourses reported in Matthew, e.g. , that in Matthew 10:0 on apostolic duties and tribulations, agglomeration is apparent. To what Jesus said to the twelve in sending them forth on their Galilean mission the evangelist, naturally and not inappropriately, adds weighty words which bear on the more momentous mission of the apostles as the propagandists in the wide world of the Christian faith. A similar instance of editorial combination of kindred matter only topically connected may be found in the parabolic discourse (Matthew 13:0 ). Matthew’s seven parables were doubtless all spoken by Jesus, but not that day. The parables spoken from the boat were probably all of one type, presenting together a critical review of Christ’s past ministry among the people. On the other hand, I am inclined to think that the contents of chaps. 18 and 23 for the most part belong to the respective occasions with which they are connected in the Gospel. The call for careful admonition to the twelve at Capernaum was urgent, and the Master would have much to say to His offending disciples. Then nothing could be more fitting than that Jesus should at the close of His life deliver a final and full testimony against the spurious sanctity which He had often criticised in a fragmentary way, and which was now at last to cause His death.

2. The main interest of the question now under consideration revolves around the “Sermon on the Mount”. That a discourse of some length was delivered on the mountain Luke’s report proves. Luke, even in this case, breaks up much of Matthew’s connected matter into short separate utterances, but yet he agrees with Matthew in ascribing to Jesus something like an oration. Though much abbreviated, his report of the discourse is still a discourse. The only question is which of the two comes nearer the original in length and contents. Now, the feeling is a very natural one that Jesus could hardly have spoken so long a discourse as Matthew puts into His mouth at one time, and to a popular audience. But two questions have to be asked here. Did Jesus address a popular audience? Did He speak all at one time in the sense of a continuous discourse of one hour or two hours’ length? I am strongly inclined to answer both questions in the negative. Jesus addressed Himself to disciples ; His discourse was teaching , not popular preaching Didache , not Kerygma . And the time occupied in communicating that teaching was probably a week rather than an hour. Matthew’s report, in chaps. 5 7, in that case will have to be viewed as a summary of what the Great Teacher said to His disciples in a leisurely way on sundry topics relating to the Kingdom of Heaven, during a season of retreat on the summit of the hills to the west of the Galilean Lake. Instead of calling it the Sermon on the Mount, we should more properly designate it the Teaching on the Hill . [59]

[ 59] For further remarks on this point vide Notes on the Sermon at the beginning and throughout.

3. The insertion of great masses of didactic matter into the framework of Mark’s narrative weakens our sense of the progress of the history in reading Matthew. The didactic interest overshadowed the historical in the evangelist’s own mind, with the result that his story does not present the aspect of a life-drama steadily moving on, but rather that of a collection of discourses furnished with slight historical introductions. The “Sermon on the Mount” comes upon us before we are prepared for it. To appreciate it fully we must realise that before it was spoken Jesus had preached in many synagogues and to many street crowds, and that a long enough time had elapsed for the Preacher to feel that His ministry had been to a large extent fruitless, and that to establish and perpetuate His influence He must now devote Himself to the careful instruction of a disciple-circle. The miscellaneousness of the parable-collection in Matthew 13:0 hides from us the fact that that day Jesus was sitting in judgment on His own past ministry and pronouncing on it the verdict: Much seed, little fruit; so justifying Himself for attending henceforth less to the many and more to the few.

4. While the connections of Matthew’s discourses are topical rather than temporal, and the sense of progress in his narrative is comparatively weak, there is a manifest correspondence between the discourses he imputes to Jesus and the whole circumstances of the times in which Jesus lived. This remark applies especially to the criticism of Pharisaism, which occupies so prominent a place in the first Gospel, as compared, e.g. , with the third, in which that element retires comparatively into the background. Keen conflict between our Lord and the Scribes and Pharisees was inevitable, and the amount of controversial material in the first Gospel speaks strongly in favour of its fidelity to fact in this part of its record, even as the unique quality of the anti-Pharisaic sayings ascribed to Jesus bears witness to their originality. In the Teaching on the Hill the references to Scribism and Pharisaism are, as was fitting, the criticised parties not being present, didactic rather than controversial, but there can be little doubt that Jesus would take occasion there to indicate the difference between His religious ideas and those in vogue at the time. Here it is not Matthew that adds, but Luke that omits.

5. It has been maintained that Matthew’s account of our Lord’s teaching is not uniform in character is, indeed, so discrepant as to suggest different hands writing in diverse interests and with conflicting theological attitudes. D’Eichthal, e.g. , is of opinion that the primitive Matthew was the earliest written Gospel, and that its contents were much the same as those found in canonical Mark; but that, through being the earliest, it had exceptional authority, and was therefore liable to be added to with a view to furnishing it with support in the teaching of Christ for developing Christianity. [60] D’Eichthal counts as many as forty-five “Annexes” gradually introduced in this way, including the history of the infancy, many parables, numerous passages bearing on the Person of Christ, the Church, the Resurrection, the Second Advent, etc. From this questionable honour of becoming “a place of deposit” for new material, as Dr. Estlin Carpenter calls it, [61] Mark, according to D’Eichthal, was protected by its greater obscurity and inferior authority; hence its modest dimensions and superior reliableness in point of fidelity to actual historic truth.

[60] Les Évangiles .

[61] The First Three Gospels , p. 370.

This theory is plausible, and we are not entitled to say à priori that it has no foundation in fact. Additions to the Gospels might creep in before they became canonical, as they crept in afterwards through the agency of copyists. The sayings about the indestructibility of the law (Matthew 5:17-19 ) and the founding of the Church (Matthew 16:18-19 ) might possibly be examples in point. But possibility is one thing, probability another. To prove diversity of hand or successive deposits of evangelic tradition by men living at different times, and acting in the interest of distinct or even opposing tendencies, it is not enough to point to apparently conflicting elements and exclaim: “Behold a Gospel of contradictions”. [62] On this topic I may refer readers to what has been already stated in discussing the subject of the historicity of the Gospels. And I may here add that it would not be difficult to conceive a situation for which the Gospel might have been written by one man, as it now stands. Dr. Weiss, indeed, has successfully done this in his work on the Gospel of Matthew and its parallels in Luke. He conceives the Gospel, substantially as we have it, to have been written shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish State, when the faith of Jewish Christians in the Messiahship of Jesus would be sorely shaken by the events: the promised Messianic Kingdom passing away irretrievably from Israel and taking up its abode among Gentiles. The Gospel that was to meet this situation would have to show that Jesus was indeed the Messianic King, in whose history many prophetic oracles found their fulfilment; that He did His utmost to found the kingdom in Israel, but was frustrated by the unbelief of the people, and especially of its rulers; that, therefore, the kingdom was driven forth from Jewish soil, and was now to be found mainly in the Gentile Church, and there had been left to Israel only an inheritance of woe; that though Jesus had predicted this doom He nevertheless loved His people, had loyally and lovingly sought her good, had spoken with reverence of her God-given law (while treating with disrespect Rabbinical traditions), and honoured it by personal observance. This hypothesis fairly meets the requirements of the case. It covers the phenomena of the Gospel, and it is compatible with unity of plan and authorship. [63]

[ 62] Dr. Estlin Carpenter, in the above work, p. 363, remarks: “Truly has the first Gospel been called a ‘Gospel of contradictions’ ”.

[63] Vide Weiss, Das Matthäus-Evangelium und seine Lucas-parallelen , p. 39.


1. The most outstanding characteristic of the first Gospel is that it paints the life-image of Jesus in prophetic colours . While in Mark Jesus is presented realistically as a man, in Matthew He is presented as the Christ , verified as such by the applicability of many prophetic oracles to the details of His childhood, His public ministry, and His last sufferings.

2. If the realism of Mark makes for the historicity of this Gospel, the prophetic colouring so conspicuous in Matthew need not detract from the historicity of its accounts. This feature may be due in part to the personal idiosyncrasy of the writer and in part to his didactic aim. He may have set himself to verify the thesis, Jesus the Christ, for his own satisfaction, or it may have been necessary that he should do so in order to strengthen the faith of his first readers. In either case the presumption is that the operation he was engaged in consisted in discovering prophetic texts to answer facts ready to his hand, not in first making a collection of texts and then inventing facts corresponding to them. The facts suggested the texts, the texts did not create the facts, though in some instances they might influence the mode of stating facts. In this connection it is important to note that the evangelist applies his prophetic method to the whole of his material, including that which is common to him with Mark. He has his prophetic oracles ready to be attached as labels to events which Mark reports simply as matters of fact. Thus Mark’s dry statement, “they went into Capernaum,” [64] referring to Jesus and His followers proceeding northwards from the scene of the baptism, in Matthew’s hands assumes the character of a solemn announcement of an epoch-making event, whereby an ancient oracle concerning the appearing of a great light in Galilee of the Gentiles received its fulfilment. [65] Again, Mark’s matter-of-fact report of the extensive healing function in Capernaum on the Sabbath evening is in Matthew adorned with a beautiful citation from Isaiah’s famous oracle concerning the suffering servant of Jehovah. [66] Once more, to Mark’s simple statement that Jesus withdrew Himself to the sea after the collision with the Pharisees occasioned by the healing on a Sabbath of the man with a withered hand, the first evangelist attaches a fine prophetic picture, as if to show readers the true Jesus as opposed to the Jesus of Pharisaic imagination. [67] From these instances we see his method. He is not inventing history, but enriching history with prophetic emblazonments for apologetic purposes, or for increase of edification. Such is the fact, we observe, when we have it in our power to control his statements by comparison with Mark’s; such we may assume to be the fact when we have not that in our power, as, e.g. , in the narrative relating to the birth and infancy of Jesus, in which prophetic citations are unusually abundant. The question as to the historicity of that narrative has its own peculiar difficulties, into which I do not here enter. The point I wish to make is that the numerous prophetic references cast no additional shadow of doubt on its historicity. Here too the evangelist is simply attaching prophetic oracles to what he regards as historic data. If invention has been at work it has not been in his imagination. This is manifest even from the very weakness of some of the citations, such as “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” “Rachel weeping for her children,” and “He shall be called a Nazarene”. Who could ever have thought of these unless there had been traditional data accepted by the Christian community (and by the writer of the Gospel) as facts? The last citation is especially far-fetched. It is impossible to say whence it is taken; it could never have entered into the mind of any one unless the fact of the settlement in Nazareth had been there to begin with, creating a desire to find for it also, if at all possible, some prophetic anticipation.

[64] Mark 1:21 .

[65] Matthew 4:12-17 .

[66] Matthew 8:17 .

[67] Matthew 12:15-21 . Cf. Mark 3:7 .

These prophetic passages served their purpose in the apologetic of the apostolic age. For us now their value is not apologetic, except indeed in a way not contemplated by the evangelist. Their occasional weakness as proofs of the Messiahship of Jesus can be utilised in the manner above hinted at in support of the historicity of the evangelic tradition. But the chief permanent value of these citations lies in the light they throw on the evangelist’s own conception of Jesus. We see from them that he thought of Jesus as the Light of Galilee, the sympathetic Bearer of humanity’s heavy burden, the Beloved of God, the Peacemaker, the Friend of weakness, the Man who had it in Him by gifts and graces to perform a Christ’s part for all the world. Truly a noble conception, which lends perennial interest to the texts in which it is embodied.

3. In the foregoing remarks I have anticipated to a certain extent what relates to the question of didactic aim. That the first Gospel has such an aim is obvious from the careful manner in which the prophetic argument is elaborated. The purpose is to confirm Jewish Christians in the faith that Jesus is the Christ. The purpose is revealed in the very first sentence and in the genealogy to which it forms a preface. “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David , the Son of Abraham .” The Son of David first, because on that hangs the Messianic claim; the Son of Abraham likewise, because that makes Him a Jew, a fellow-countryman of those for whose benefit the Gospel is written. The genealogy is the first contribution to the apologetic argument. The logic of it is this: “The Psalms and Prophets predict the coming of a great Messianic King who shall be a descendant of the house of David; this genealogy shows that Jesus possessed that qualification for Messiahship. He is the rod out of the stem of Jesse.” Whoever compiled the genealogy did it under the impression that physical descent from David was indispensable to Jesus being the Christ. But it does not follow that the genealogy was manufactured to serve that purpose. The descent from David might be a well-known fact utilised for an apologetic aim. For us, though a fact, it is of no vital consequence. Our faith that Jesus is the Christ does not rest on any such external ground, but on spiritual fitness to be the world’s Saviour. We reverse the logic of the Jewish Church. They reasoned: because David’s Son, therefore the Christ. We reason: because the Christ, therefore David’s Son, at least in spirit. [68]

[ 68] Vide notes on Matthew 1:0 .

4. In speaking of the literary characteristics of Matthew it is necessary to keep in mind that some of these may come from the Logia of the apostle Matthew, and that others may be due to the evangelist. Critics ascribe to the apostolic source certain phrases of frequent recurrence, such as καὶ ἰδού , ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν , ὁ πατὴρ ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς . Among the features of the evangelist’s own style they recognise the frequent use of such words as τότε , λέγων , προσελθών , ὄχλοι , ἀποκριθείς , ἀναχωρεῖν , λεγόμενος , and such phrases as τί σοι δοκεῖ , συμβούλιον λαμβάνειν , κατʼ ὄναρ , ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ . [69] By comparison with Mark, the style of this Gospel is smooth and correct.

[69] Vide Weiss, Matthäus-Evangelium , pp. 23 4.


1. If the views of modern critics as to the relation of the first Canonical Gospel to the Logia , compiled by the apostle Matthew, be well founded, then that apostle was not its author. Who the evangelist was is unknown. That he was a Jew is highly probable, that he was a Palestinian Jew has been generally assumed; but Weiss calls this in question. That he wrote in Greek is held to be proved by the use which he makes of the Septuagint in his citations of Old Testament prophecy, and by traces of dependence on the Greek Gospel of Mark. But the view that our Greek Gospel of Matthew is a translation by some unknown hand from a book with the same contents in the Hebrew tongue still has its advocates, among whom may be mentioned Schanz, of Tübingen. [70]

[ 70] Vide his Commentar über das Evangelium des heiligen Matthäus : Einleitung.

2. The destination of the Gospel was in all probability to a community of Jewish Christians, whose faith it was designed to strengthen. How it was fitted to serve this end has been indicated in Section I. § 5.

3. The probable date is shortly after the destruction of the Jewish State. Some things have been supposed to imply a much later date, e.g. , the commission to the disciples in chapter Matthew 28:18 , with its explicit Trinity, its pronounced universalism, and its doctrine of a spiritual presence. On these points the reader is referred to the commentary.




1. Luke’s Gospel includes much of the narrative of Mark and large portions of the didactic matter contained in Matthew. There are numerous omissions in both departments, but on the other hand also considerable additions, especially in the didactic element. The third evangelist has greatly enriched the treasure of the parables, for it is in this important division of our Lord’s teaching that his peculiar contribution chiefly lies. The amount of new matter suffices to raise the question as to its source. It can hardly be thought that the author of the first Gospel would have omitted so much valuable material, had it lain before his eye in the Logia . The hypothesis of a third source, therefore, readily suggests itself a collection of reminiscences distinct from Mark and the book of Logia , whence Luke drew such beautiful parables as the Good Samaritan , the Selfish Neighbour and the Unjust Judge , the Prodigal Son , the Unjust Steward, Lazarus and Dives , and the Pharisee and Publican . The chapters on the infancy and on the resurrection, so entirely different from the corresponding chapters in Matthew, might suggest a fourth source, unless we suppose that the third included these.

2. The distribution of the material in this Gospel arrests attention. In the early part of the history, from chapters Luke 4:31 to Luke 6:16 , the author follows pretty closely in the footsteps of Mark. Then comes in a digression, extending from Luke 6:17 to Luke 8:3 , containing a version of the Sermon on the Mount, the stories of the Centurion and the Widow of Nain, the Message of the Baptist with relative discourse, and the woman in Simon’s house. Thereafter Luke’s narrative again flows in Mark’s channel from the parable of the Sower onwards to the end of the Galilean ministry, as reported in the second Gospel (Mark 4:1 to Mark 9:50 . Luke 8:4 to Luke 9:50 ), only that the whole group of incidents contained in Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:26 is omitted in Luke. Then at Luke 9:51 begins another longer digression, extending from that point to Luke 18:14 , consisting mainly of didactic matter, and containing the larger number of Luke’s peculiar contributions to the evangelic tradition. Thereafter our author joins the company of Mark once more, and keeps beside him to the end of the Passion history. [71]

[ 71] In the main, that is to say; for Luke’s Passion history contains a number of peculiar elements.

3. This lengthy insertion destroys the sense of progress in the story. The stream widens out into a lake, within which any movement perceptible is rather circular than rectilinear. It is a dogmatic section, and any indications of time and place it contains are of little value for determining sequence or pointing out the successive stages of the journey towards Jerusalem mentioned in Luke 9:51 . It may be affirmed, indeed, that throughout this Gospel the interest in historic sequence or in the causal connection of events is weak. Sometimes, as in the incident of Christ’s appearance in the synagogue of Nazareth, the author, consciously and apparently with deliberate intention, departs from the chronological order. [72] Whatever, therefore, he meant by καθεξῆς in his preface, he cannot have intended to say that he had made it a leading aim to arrange his material as far as possible in the true order of events. Still less can it have been his purpose so to set forth his story that it should appear a historic drama in which all events prepare for and steadily lead up to the final catastrophe. When at Luke 9:22 we find Jesus announcing for the first time that “the Son of Man must suffer many things,” it takes us by surprise. No reason has appeared in the previous narrative why it should come to that. It has indeed been made clear by sundry indications at chapter Luke 5:21 ; Luke 5:30 ; Luke 5:33 ; Luke 6:7-11 ; Luke 7:34 ; Luke 7:50 that there was not a good understanding between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees; but from Luke’s narrative by itself we could not have gathered that matters were so serious. Two important omissions and one transposition are largely responsible for this. Luke leaves out the collision between Jesus and the Pharisees in reference to the washing of hands (Mark 7:1-23 .Matthew 15:1-20; Matthew 15:1-20 ), and the demand for a sign (Mark 8:11 .Matthew 16:1; Matthew 16:1 ); and he throws the blasphemous insinuation of a league with Beelzebub into chapter 11, beyond the point at which he introduces the first announcement of the Passion. Therefore, the necessity ( δεῖ ) of that tragic issue is not apparent in the sense that it is the inevitable result of causes which have been shown to be in operation. For Luke the δεῖ refers exclusively to the prophetic oracles which predicted Messiah’s sufferings. Jesus must die if these oracles are to be fulfilled. And for him it is a matter of course, and so he treats it in his narrative. The announcement of the Passion is not brought in as a new departure in Christ’s communication with His disciples, as in the companion narratives, with indication of the place and solemn introductory phrase: “He began to teach them”. It is reported in a quite casual way, as if it possessed no particular importance. In connection with this it may be noted that Luke gives a very defective report of those words of our Lord concerning His death which may be said to contain the germs of a theory as to its significance. For particulars readers are referred to the notes.

[72] Matthew 4:16-25 ; vide v . 23.


1. One very marked feature of this Gospel is what, for want of a better word, may be called the idealisation of the characters of Jesus and the disciples. These are contemplated not in the light of memory, as in Mark, but through the brightly coloured medium of faith. The evangelist does not forget that the Personages of whom he writes are now the Risen Lord, and the Apostles of the Church. Jesus appears with an aureole round His head, and the faults of the disciples are very tenderly handled. The truth of this statement can be verified only by a detailed study of the Gospel, and readers will find indications of proof at appropriate places in the notes. It applies equally to the Master and to His disciples, though Von Soden, in the article already referred to, states that the tendency in question appears mainly in the presentation of the conduct of the disciples; drawing from the supposed fact the precarious inference that the Apostolic Church cared little or nothing for the earthly history of Jesus. [73] The delicate treatment of the disciples is certainly very apparent. Luke, as Schanz remarks, ever spares the twelve; especially Peter. The stern word, “Get thee behind me,” is not in this Gospel. The narrative of the denial is an interesting subject of study in this connection. But the whole body of the disciples are treated with equal consideration. Their faults ignorance, weak faith, mutual rivalries are acknowledged, yet touched with sparing hand. Some narratives in which these faults appear very obtrusively, e.g. , the conversation about the leaven of the Pharisees, the ambitious request of James and John, and the anointing in Bethany, are omitted, as is also the flight of all the disciples at the apprehension of their Master. The weak faith of the disciples is very mildly characterised. “Where is your faith?” asks Jesus in the storm on the lake, in Luke’s version of the story, instead of uttering the reproachful word: “Why are ye cowardly? Have ye not yet faith?” Their failure to watch in the garden of Gethsemane is apologetically described as sleeping for sorrow . In his portraiture of the Lord Jesus the evangelist gives prominence to the attributes of power, benevolence, and saintliness. The pictorial effect is brought out by omission, emphasis, and understatement. Among the omissions are the realistic word about that which defileth, about “dogs” in the story of the woman of Canaan which is wholly wanting, and the awful cry on the Cross: “My God, my God!” Among the things emphasised are those features in acts of healing which show the greatness of Christ’s might and of the benefit conferred. Peter’s mother-in-law suffers from a great fever; and the leper is full of leprosy. The hand restored on the Sabbath is the right hand, the centurion’s servant is one dear to him, the son of the widow of Nain is an only son, the daughter of Jairus an only daughter, the epileptic boy at the hill of Transfiguration an only child. The holiness of Jesus is made conspicuous by the prominence given to prayer in connection with critical occasions, and by understatement where the incidents related might to ill-instructed minds seem to compromise that essential characteristic. Luke’s narratives of the cleansing of the temple and the agony in Gethsemane may be referred to as striking illustrative instances of the latter. To the same category may be referred the treatment by Luke of the anti-Pharisaic element in Christ’s teaching. Much is omitted, and what is retained is softened by being given, much of it, not as spoken about , but as spoken to , Pharisees by Jesus as a guest in their houses. [74]

[ 73] Vide Theologische Abhandlungen , p. 138.

[74] Luke 7:36-50 ; Luke 11:37-52 ; Luke 14:1-24 .

2. The influence of the Christian consciousness of the time in which he wrote is traceable not only in Luke’s presentation of the characters of Jesus and His disciples, but in his account of Christ’s teaching. He seems to have in view throughout the use of the Lord’s words for present guidance. Weizsäcker has endeavoured to analyse the didactic element in the third Gospel into doctrinal pieces bearing on definite religious questions and interests of the primitive Church. [75] This may be carried too far, but the idea is not altogether baseless. In this Gospel the so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is really a Sermon ( Kerygma not Didache ) delivered to a Christian congregation with all the local and temporary matter eliminated and only the universal and perennial retained. The same adaptation to present and general use is apparent in the words, καθʼ ἡμέραν , added to the law of cross-bearing (Luke 9:23 ).

[75] Vide his Umtersuchungen über die Evangelische Geschichte , and his Apostolic Age , vol. ii.

3. The question may be asked whether this adaptation of the matter of the evangelic tradition to present conceptions and needs is to be set down to the account of Luke as editor, or is to be regarded as already existing in the documents he used. On this point there may be room for difference of opinion. J. Weiss in his commentary on Luke (Meyer, eighth edition) inclines to the latter alternative. Thus, in reference to Luke’s mild version of Peter’s denial, he remarks: “A monstrous minimising of the offence if Luke had Mark’s account before him”; and he accordingly thinks he had not, but used instead a Jewish Christian source, giving a mitigated account of Peter’s sin. Of such a source he finds traces throughout Luke’s Gospel, following in the footsteps of Dr. Paul Feine, who had previously endeavoured to establish the existence of a precanonical Luke, i.e. , a first attempt to work up into a single volume the evangelic traditions in Mark, the Logia , and other sources, after the manner of the third Gospel. [76] This may be a perfectly legitimate hypothesis for solving certain literary problems connected with this Gospel, and the argument by which Feine seeks to establish it is entitled on its merits to serious consideration. But I hardly think it suffices to account for all the traces of editorial discretion in Luke’s Gospel. It does not matter what documents Luke used; he exercised his own judgment in using them. If he did not, his relation to the work of redacting the memoirs of Jesus becomes so colourless that one fails to see what occasion there was for that imposing prefatory announcement in the opening sentence. A primitive Luke was ready to his hand, and he did not even contribute to it the colour of his own religious personality. Intention, bias, purpose to utilise the material for edification of believers were all there before he began. He did what? Added, perhaps, a few anecdotes and sayings gleaned from other sources, oral or written!

[76] Eine vorkanonische Überlieferung des Lukas in Evangelium und Apostel, geschichte , 1891.

4. Notwithstanding this pervading regard to what may be comprehensively called edification , the author of the third Gospel cannot justly be charged with indifference to historic truth. He professes in his preface to have in view acribeia , and the profession is to be taken in earnest. But he is writing not as a mere chronicler, but as one seeking to promote the religious welfare of those for whom he writes, and so must strive to combine accuracy, fidelity to fact, with practical utility. The task is a delicate one, and execution without error of judgment not easy. Even where mistakes are made, they are not to be confounded with bad faith. Nor should it be forgotten that Luke’s peculiarities can be utilised for the apologetic purpose of establishing the general credibility of the evangelic tradition. Luke omits much. But it does not follow that he did not know. He may omit intentionally what he knows but does not care to report. Luke often understates. What a writer tones down he is tempted to omit. By simply understating, instead of omitting, he becomes a reluctant and therefore reliable witness to the historicity of the matter so dealt with. Luke often states strongly. Either he adds particulars from fuller information or he exaggerates for a purpose. Even in the latter case he witnesses to the truth of the basal narrative. A writer who has ideas to embody is tempted to invent when he cannot find what will suit his purpose. Luke did not invent but at most touched up stories given to his hand in trustworthy traditions.

5. The author of the third Gospel avowedly had a didactic aim. He wrote, so it appears from the preface, to confirm in the faith a friend called “most excellent ( κράτιστε ) Theophilus,” expecting probably that the book would ultimately be useful for a wider circle. But there is no trace of a dominant theological or controversial aim. The writer, e.g. , is not a Paulinist in the controversial sense of the word. He is doubtless in sympathy with Christian universalism, as appears from his finishing the quotation from Isaiah beginning with, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” and ending with, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6 ). Yet, in other places, e.g. , in the history of the infancy, the salvation brought by Jesus is conceived of as belonging to Israel, the chosen people ( τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ , Luke 1:68 ; cf. Luke 2:10 ; Luke 7:16 ; Luke 13:16 ; Luke 19:9 ). The author is not even Paulinist in a theological sense, as the absence from his pages of most of the words of Jesus bearing on a theory of atonement, already remarked on, sufficiently proves. He appears to be an eclectic, rather than a man whose mind is dominated by a great ruling idea. Distinct, if not conflicting, tendencies or religious types find houseroom in his pages: Pauline universalism, Jewish particularism, Ebionitic social ideals, the blessedness of poverty, the praise of almsgiving. Geniality, kindliness of temper, is the personal characteristic of the evangelist. And if there is one thing more than another he desires to inculcate on his readers it is the graciousness of Christ. “Words of grace” (Luke 4:22 ) is his comprehensive title for the utterances of Jesus, and his aim from first to last is to show the Saviour as the friend of the sinful and the social outcast, and even of those who suffer justly for their crimes (Luke 7:36-50 ; Luke 19:1-10 ; Luke 23:39-43 ).

6. The literary aspect of this Gospel is a complex phenomenon. At times, especially in the preface, one gets the impression of a writer having at his command a knowledge of Greek possible only for one to whom it was his native tongue an expert at once in the vocabulary and the grammatical structure of that language. But far oftener the impression is that of a Jew thinking in Hebrew and reflecting Hebrew idiom in phrase and construction. Hebraisms abound, especially in the first two chapters. Two explanations are possible: That the author was really a Jew, that his natural style was Hebrew-Greek, in which case it would have to be shown that the preface was no such marvellous piece of classicism after all; or that he was a Gentile well versed in Greek, but somewhat slavish in his copious use of Jewish-Christian sources, such as the primitive Luke for which Feine contends.


1. The author of the third Gospel was also the author of the Acts of the Apostles, as appears in Matthew 1:1 of the latter work, where the name of Theophilus recurs. Neither book bears the name of the writer, but uniform ancient tradition ascribes it to Luke, the companion of Paul, and by occupation a physician (Colossians 4:11 ). From the preface to the Gospel we gather that he had no personal knowledge of Jesus, but was entirely dependent on oral and written tradition.

2. From the prefaces of the Gospel and the book of Acts we learn that the author wrote for the immediate benefit of a single individual, apparently a man of rank, say a Roman knight. It is not necessary to infer that a larger circle of readers was not contemplated either by the writer or by the first recipient of his work.

3. The date cannot be definitely fixed. Opinion ranges from A.D. 63 to the early years of the second century. As late a date as say A.D. 90 is compatible with the writer being, in his younger years, a companion of St. Paul in his later missionary movements. The still later date of A.D. 100 or 105 would be required if it were certain, which it is not, that the writer used the Antiquities of Josephus, which were published about the year 93 94. Dr. Sanday, in his work entitled Inspiration , expresses the view that Acts was written about A.D. 80, and the Gospel some time in the five years preceding.




The Greek text given in this work is that known as the Textus Receptus , on which the Authorised Version of the New Testament is based. Representing the Greek text as known to Erasmus in the sixteenth century, and associated with the names of two famous printers, Stephen and Elzevir, whose editions (Stephen’s 3rd, 1550, Elzevir’s 2nd, 1633) were published when the apparatus at command for fixing the true text was scanty, and when the science of textual criticism was unborn, it may seem to be entirely out of date. But it is an important historical monument, and it is the Greek original answering to the English Testament still largely in use in public worship and in private reading. Moreover, while the experts in modern criticism have done much to provide a purer text, their judgments in many cases do not accord, and their results cannot be regarded as final. It is certain, however, that the texts prepared by such scholars as Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, and the company of experts to whom we are indebted for the Revised Version, are incomparably superior to that of Stephen or of Elzevir, and that they must be taken into account by every competent commentator. That means that to the text must be annexed critical notes showing all important various readings, with some indication of the documentary authority in their favour, and of the value attached thereto by celebrated editors. This accordingly has been done, very imperfectly of course, still it is hoped sufficiently for practical purposes. Variations not affecting the sense, but merely the spelling or grammatical forms of words, have been for the most part disregarded. There are many variations in the spelling of proper names, of which the following are samples:

Ναζαρέθ Ναζαπἑτ Ματθαῖος Μαθθαῖος Δαβίδ Δανείδ Ἠλίας Ἠλείας Καπερναούμ Καφαρναούμ Γεθσημανὴ Γεθσημανεί Ἰωάννης Ἰωάνης Ἰεριχώ Ἰερειχώ Μωσῆς Μωυσῆς Πιλάτος Πειλᾶτος Among other insignificant variations may be mentioned the presence or absence of ν final in verbs ( ἔλεγε , ἔλεγεν ); the omission or insertion of μ ( λήψομαι , λήμψομαι ); the assimilation or non-assimilation of ἐν and σὺν in compound verbs ( συζητεῖν , συνζητεῖν ; ἐκκακεῖν , ἐνκακεῖν ); the doubling of μ , ν , ρ or the reverse ( μαμμωνᾶς , μαμωνᾶς ; γέννημα , γένημα ; ἐπιρράπτει , ἐπιράπτει ); the conjunction or disjunction of syllables ( οὐκ ἔτι , οὐκέτι ); οὕτως for οὕτω ; the aorist forms εἶπον , ἦλθον , etc., replaced by forms in α ( εἶπαν , ἦλθαν ); single or double augment in certain verbs ( ἐδυνάμην , ἠδυνάμην ; ἔμελλον , ἤμελλον ).


1. Up till 1831 editors of the New Testament in Greek had been content to follow in the wake of the Textus Receptus , timidly adding notes indicating good readings which they had discovered in the documents accessible to them in their time. Lachmann in that year inaugurated a new critical era by printing a text constructed directly from ancient documents without the intervention of any printed edition. It is not given to pioneers to finish the work they begin, and Lachmann’s effort judged by present-day tests was far from perfect. “This great advance was marred by too narrow a selection of documents to be taken into account, and too artificially rigid an employment of them, and also by too little care in obtaining precise knowledge of some of their texts” (Westcott and Hort’s New Testament, Introduction , p. 13). Tischendorf in Germany and Tregelles in England worthily followed up Lachmann’s efforts, and made important contributions towards the ascertainment of the true text by adopting as their main guides the most ancient MSS., in place of the later documents which had formed the basis of the early printed editions. The critical editions of the Greek New Testament by these scholars appeared about the same time; Tischendorf’s eighth edition (the important one which supersedes the earlier) bearing the date 1869, and the work of Tregelles being published in 1870. The characteristic feature of Tischendorf’s edition is the predominant importance attached to the great Codex Sinaiticus ( [77] ), with the discovery of which his name is connected. The defect common to it with the edition of Tregelles is failure to deal on any clear principle with the numerous instances in which the ancient texts on which they placed their reliance do not agree. All goes smoothly when Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus ( [78] ) and Codex Bezae ( [79] ) and the most ancient versions bear the same testimony; but what is to be done when the trusted guides follow divergent paths?

[77] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[78] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[79] Codex Bezae

2. It is by the answer which they have given to this question that Westcott and Hort have made an epoch-making contribution to the science of Biblical Criticism in the first volume of their monumental work, The New Testament in the Original Greek , published in 1881. Following up hints thrown out by earlier investigators, like Bengel and Griesbach, they discriminated three types of text prevalent in ancient times, before the period of eclectic revision which fixed to a great extent the character of the text in actual use throughout the Middle Ages and on to the dawn of modern criticism. To these types they gave the names Western, Alexandrian , and Neutral . The last epithet is to be understood only when viewed in relation to the other two. The Western and Alexandrian types of text had very well-marked characteristics. The Western was paraphrastic , the Alexandrian literary . The tendency of the one was to alter the primitive text by explanatory additions with a view to edification, made by men who combined to a certain extent the functions of copyist and commentator. The tendency of the other was to improve the text from a literary point of view by scholarly refinements. The neutral text is neutral in the sense of avoiding both these tendencies and aiming steadily at the faithful reproduction of the exemplar assumed to approach in its text as near as possible to the autographs. A text adhering honestly to this programme ought to be the most reliable guide to the original Greek Testament as it proceeded from the hands of the writers, making due allowance for errors in the exemplar and for mistakes in transcription. The result of investigation has been to justify this expectation.

3. The main representative of the Western text is Codex Bezae ( [80] ), containing the Gospels and the Acts. Of the Alexandrian text there is no pure example. This divergent stream broke up into rills, and lost itself as a mere element in mixed texts, like those of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Ephraemi ( [81] ). It is important to note by the way that these names do not denote local prevalence. The Western text was not merely Western. This divergent stream overflowed its banks and spread itself widely over the Church, reaching even the East. Hence traces of its influence are to be found not merely in the old Latin versions, but also in the Syriac versions, e.g. , in what is called the Curetonian Syriac, and in the recently discovered Syriac version of the Four Gospels, which may be distinguished as the Sinaitic Syriac. Of the neutral text, the great, conspicuous, honourable monument is Codex Vaticanus (B), containing the Gospels, Acts, and Catholic epistles, and the epistles of St. Paul, as far as Hebrews 9:14 ; and being, especially in the Gospels, a nearly pure reproduction of a text uninfluenced by the tendencies of the Western and Alexandrian texts respectively. To this MS., belonging like Codex Sinaiticus to the fourth century, Westcott and Hort, after applying to it all available tests, assign the honour of being on the whole the nearest approach to the original verity in existence, always worthy of respect and often deserving to be followed when it stands alone against all comers. A very important conclusion if it can be sustained.

[80] Codex Bezae

[81] Codex Ephraemi

4. In recent years a certain reaction against the critical results of Westcott and Hort has been manifesting itself to the effect of imputing to them an overweening estimate of Codex [82] , analogous to that of Tischendorf for Codex [83] . Some scholars, such as Resch in Germany and Ramsay in this country, are disposed to insist that more value should be set on Codex [84] ; the former finding in it the principal witness for the text of the Gospels in their precanonical stage, the assumption being that when the four-Gospel canon was constructed the text underwent a certain amount of revision. The real worth of this Codex is one of the unsettled questions of New Testament textual criticism. Interesting contributions have been made to the discussion of the question, such as those of J. Rendel Harris, and more may be expected.

[82] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[83] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[84] Codex Bezae


1. The fixation of the true text is not a simple matter like that of following a single document, however trustworthy, like Codex [85] . Every editor may have his bias in favour of this or that MS., but all editors recognise the obligation to take into account all available sources of evidence not merely the great uncial MSS. of ancient dates, but the cursives of later centuries, and, besides Greek MSS. of both kinds containing the whole or a part of the New Testament, ancient versions, Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, etc., and quotations in the early Fathers. The evidence when fully adduced is a formidable affair, demanding much space for its exhibition (witness Tischendorf’s eighth edition in two large octavos), and the knowledge of an expert for its appreciation. In such a work as the present the space cannot be afforded nor can the knowledge be expected even in the author, not to say in his readers. Full knowledge of the critical data through first-hand studies belongs to specialists only, who have made the matter the subject of lifelong labour. All one can do is to utilise intelligently their results. But because all cannot be specialists it is not profitless to have a juryman’s acquaintance with the relative facts. It is the aim of the critical notes placed beneath the Greek text to aid readers to the attainment of such an acquaintance, and to help them to form an intelligent opinion as to the claims of rival readings to represent the true text. Fortunately, this can be done without adducing a very long array of witnesses.

[85] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

2. For it turns out that there are certain groups of witnesses which often go together, and whose joint testimony is very weighty. Westcott and Hort have carefully specified these. They may here be indicated:

For the Gospels the most important and authoritative group is [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] 33.

[86] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[87] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[88] Codex Ephraemi

[89] Codex Bezae

[90] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

In this group [91] and 33 have hitherto not been referred to. [92] (Codex Regius), though belonging to the eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with [93] and [94] . 33 belongs to the cursive class (which are indicated by figures), but is a highly valuable Codex, though, like all cursives, of late date. In his Prolegomena to Tischendorf’s New Testament, Dr. Caspar René Gregory quotes (p. 469) with approval the opinion of Eichhorn that this is the “queen of the cursives”. In the above group, it will be noticed, representatives of the different ancient types Western, Alexandrian, Neutral ( [95] , [96] , [97] , [98] ) are united. When they agree the presumption that we have the true text is very strong.

[91] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[92] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[93] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[94] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[95] Codex Bezae

[96] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[97] Codex Ephraemi

[98] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

When [99] falls out we have still a highly valuable group in [100] [101] [102] [103] 33.

[99] Codex Bezae

[100] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[101] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[102] Codex Ephraemi

[103] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

When [104] [105] and 33 drop out there remains a very trustworthy combination in [106] [107] [108] .

[104] Codex Bezae

[105] Codex Ephraemi

[106] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[107] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[108] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

There are, besides these, several binary combinations of great importance. The following is the list given by Westcott and Hort for the Gospels:

[109] [110] , [111] [112] , [113] [114] , [115] [116] , [117] [118] , [119] [120] , [121] [122] , [123] 33, and for St. Mark [124] [125] . In these combinations some new documents make their appearance.

[109] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[110] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[111] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[112] Codex Ephraemi

[113] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[114] Greek text of the Graeco-Thebaic fragments of St. Luke and St. John (century v., ancient and non-Western).

[115] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[116] fragments of St. Luke (cent. viii., comparatively pure, though showing mixture)

[117] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[118] Codex Bezae

[119] Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century, a chief representative of the “Syrian” text, that is, the revised text formed by judicious eclectic use of all existing texts, and meant to be the authoritative New Testament.

[120] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[121] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[122] cod. Dublinensis. 6th century (fragments of Matthew).

[123] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[124] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[125] Codex Sangallensis, a Graeco-Latin MS. of the tenth century, and having many ancient readings, especially in Mark.

T stands for the Greek text of the Graeco-Thebaic fragments of St. Luke and St. John (century v., ancient and non-Western).

Ξ = fragments of St. Luke (cent. viii., comparatively pure, though showing mixture).

A is the well-known Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century, a chief representative of the “Syrian” text, that is, the revised text formed by judicious eclectic use of all existing texts, and meant to be the authoritative New Testament. This Codex contains nearly the whole New Testament except Matthew as far as chapter 25:5. For the Gospels it is of no independent value as a witness to the true text, but its agreements with [126] are important.

[126] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Δ = Codex Sangallensis, a Graeco-Latin MS. of the tenth century, and having many ancient readings, especially in Mark.

To these authorities has to be added, as containing ancient readings, and often agreeing with the best MSS., Codex Purpureus Rossanensis ( Σ ), published in 1883, edited by Oscar Von Gebhardt; of the sixth century, containing Matthew and Mark in full. Due note has been taken of the readings of this MS.

The foregoing represent the chief authorities referred to in the critical notes. In these notes I have not uniformly indicated my personal opinion. But in the commentary I have always adopted as the subject of remark the most probable reading. Reference to modern editors has been chiefly restricted to Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort, meaning thereby no depreciation of the work done by others, but simply recognising these as the most important.

MSS. were corrected from time to time. Corrected copies are referred to by critics by letters or figures: thus, [127] [128] (4th cent.), [129] [130] (6th cent.), [131] [132] (7th cent.), [133] 2 (4th cent.), [134] 3 (10th cent.).

[127] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the fourth century.

[128] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the fourth century.

[129] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the sixth century.

[130] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the sixth century.

[131] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the seventh century.

[132] Corrections of א introduced by a scribe of the seventh century.

[133] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[134] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Besides the above-named documents the following uncials are occasionally referred to in the critical notes:

E cod. Basiliensis. 8th century (Gospels nearly entire).

G cod. Seidelii. 9th or 10th century (Gospels defective).

I cod. palimps. Petropolitanus. 5th and 6th centuries (fragments of Gospels).

K cod. Cyprius. 9th century (Gospels complete).

M cod. De Camps, Paris, 9th century (Gospels complete).

N cod. Purpureus. 6th century (fragments of all the Gospels).

P cod. Guelpherbytanus I. 6th century (fragments of all the Gospels).

Q cod. Guelpherbytanus II. 5th century (fragments from Luke and John).

R cod. Nitriensis, London. 6th century (fragments of Luke).

S cod. Vaticanus 354. 10th century (four Gospels complete).

U cod. Nanianus Venetus. 9th or 10th century (Gospels entire).

V cod. Mosquensis. 9th century (contains Matt. and Mk., and Lk. nearly complete).

X cod. Monacensis. 9th or 10th century (fragments of all the Gospels).

Z cod. Dublinensis. 6th century (fragments of Matthew).

Γ cod. Oxoniensis et Petropolitanus. 10th century (four Gospels, Matthew and Mark defective).

Λ cod. Oxoniensis Tisch [135] 9th century (Luke and John entire).

[135]isch. Tischendorf.

Π cod. Petropolitanus Tisch [136] 9th century (Gospels nearly complete).

[136]isch. Tischendorf.

Φ cod. Beratinus. 5th century (Matthew and Mark with lacunae).



The following list of works includes only those chiefly consulted. Many others are occasionally referred to in the notes.

1. To the pre-Reformation period belong

ORIGEN’S Commentary on Matthew . Books x. xvii. in Greek (Matthew 13:36 to Matthew 22:33 ), the remainder in a Latin translation (allegorical method of interpretation).

CHRYSOSTIOM’S Homilies on Matthew . The Greek text separately edited in three vols. by Dr. Field (well worth perusal).

JEROME’S Commentarius in Matthaeum (a hasty performance, but worth consulting).

AUGUSTINE. De Sermone Domini in monte .

THEOPHYLACTUS (12th century, Archbishop in Bulgaria). Commentarii in quatuor Evangelistas, Graece .

EUTHYMIUS ZIGABENUS (Greek monk, 12th century). Commentarius in quatuor Evangelia, Graece et Latine . Ed. C. F. Matthaei, 1793, (a choice work).

2. From the sixteenth century downwards

CALVIN. Commentarii in Harmoniam ex Evangelistis tribus … compositam .

BEZA. Annotationes in Novum Testamentum . 1556.

MALDONATUS. Commentarii in quatuor Evangelistas (Catholic). 1596.

PRICAEI (Price). Commentarii in varios N. T. libros (including Matthew and Luke; philological, with classical examples, good). 1660.

GROTIUS. Annotationes in N. T. (erudite and still worth consulting). 1644.

LIGHTFOOT. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae . 1644.

HEINSIUS. Sacrarum exercitationum ad N. T. libri xx. 1665.

RAPHEL. Annotationes Philologicae in N. T., ex Xenophonte, Polybio, Arriano et Herodoto . 1747.

OLEARIUS. Observationes sacrae ad Evangelium Matthaei . 1713.

WOLF. Curae philologicae et criticae in N. T. Five vols. 1741.

SCHÖTTGEN. Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae in N. T. 1733.

WETSTEIN. Novum Testamentum Graecum (full of classic citations). 1751.

BENGEL. Gnomon Novi Testamenti (unique). 1734.

PALAIRET (French pastor at London, † 1765). Observationes philologico-criticae in sacros N. T. libros . 1752.

KYPKE. Observations sacrae in N. T. libros . 1755.

ELSNER. Observationes sacrae in N. T. libros (the three last named, like Pricaeus, abound in classic examples). 1767.

LOESNER. Observationes ad N. T. e Philone Alexandrino (of the same class as Raphel). 1777.

KUINOEL. Commentarius in libros N. T. historicos . 1807.

FRITZSCHE. Evangelium Matthaei recensuit . 1826.

FRITZSCHE. Evangelium Marci recensuit (both philological). 1830.

DE WETTE. Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zum N. T. 1836 48.

BORNEMANN. Scholiae in Lucae Evangelium . 1830.

ALFORD. The Greek Testament . Four vols. 1849 61.

FIELD. Otium Norvicense . 1864.

BLEEK. Synoptische Erklärung der drei ersten Evangelien . 1862.

MEYER. Commentary on the New Testament . Sixth edition (T. & T. Clark).

MEYER. Eighth edition by Dr. Bernhard Weiss ( Matthew and Mark , largely Weiss). 1890 92.

MEYER. Eighth edition by J. Weiss (son of Bernhard Weiss; Luke , also largely the editor’s work). 1892.

WEISS. Das Marcusevangelium und seine synoptisehen Parallelen (a contribution to comparative exegesis in the interest of his critical views on the synoptical problem). 1872.

WEISS. Das Matthäusevangelium und seine Lucas-parallelen (a work of similar character). 1876.

LUTTEROTH. Essai d’Interprétation de quelques parties de l’Evangile selon Saint Matthieu . 1864 76.

SCHANZ. Commentar über das Evangelium des heiligen Matthäus . 1879.

SCHANZ. Commentar über das Evangelium des heiligen Marcus . 1881.

SCHANZ. Commentar über das Evangelium des heiligen Lucas (these three commentaries by Schanz, a Catholic theologian, are good in all respects, specially valuable for patristic references). 1883.

GODET. Commentaire sur l’Evangile de Saint Luke 3:0 me edition. 1888 89.

HAHN. Das Evangelium des Lucas . Two vols. 1892 94.

HOLTZMANN. Die Synoptiker in Hand-Commentar zum Neuen Testament (advanced but valuable). 1892.

The Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges; Matthew, Mark, and Luke . 1891 93.

The well-known lexical and grammatical helps, including Grimm, Cremer, Winer, and Buttman, have been consulted. Frequent reference has been made to Burton’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament (T. & T. Clark, 1894), both because of its excellence and its accessibility to students.

A new edition of Winer’s Grammatik (the eighth) by Schmiedel is in course of publication; also of Kühner by Blass.

In the notes, the matter common to the three Gospels is most fully treated in Matthew, the notes in the other two Gospels being at these points supplementary and comparative.

The marginal references to passages of Scripture are simply supplementary to those in the notes.

It is hoped that most abbreviations used will need no special explanation, but the following table may be helpful:

Mt. = Matthew

Mk. = Mark.

Lk. = Luke.

O. T. = Old Testament

N. T. = New Testament.

Sept. = Septuagint.

A. V. = Authorised Version.

R. V. = Revised Version.

C. N. T. = Cambridge New Testament.

Tisch. = Tischendorf.

Treg. = Tregelles.

W. H. = Westcott and Hort.

Ws. = Weiss (Dr. Bernhard).

Egypt. = Egyptian versions ( viz. , the two following).

Cop. = Coptic (called Memphitic by W. H [137] ).

[137] Westcott and Hort.

Sah. = Sahidic (called Thebaic by W. H [138] ).

[138] Westcott and Hort.

Syrr. = Syriac versions.

Pesh. = Peshito (= Syrian Vulgate).

Syr. Cur. = Curetonian Syriac. (For Greek equivalent vide Baethgen’s Evangelienfragmente .)

Syr. Sin. = Sinaitic Syriac (recently discovered).

Latt. = Latin versions.

Vulg. = Vulgate (Jerome’s revision of old Latin version).

Vet. Lat. = Vetus Latina (Old Latin, referred to also as It. = Itala). The codices of the old Latin are distinguished by the letters a, b, c , etc.

Minusc. = Minusculi (Codices), another name for cursives.



[ 139] ο βασιλευς omitted in א B, found in Most modern editors omit.

THE TITLE. The use of the word εὐαγγέλιον in the sense of a book may be as old as the Teaching of the twelve Apostles ( Didache , 8, 11, 15. Vide Sanday, Bampton Lectures , 1893, p. 317, n. 1). The word passed through three stages in the history of its use. First, in the older Greek authors (Hom., Od. ξ , 152, 166), a reward for bringing good tidings; also a thank-offering for good tidings brought (Arist., Eq. 656). Next, in later Greek, the good tidings itself (2 Samuel 18:20 ; 2 Samuel 18:22 ; 2 Samuel 18:25 , in Sept [140] In 2 Samuel 4:10 , εὐαγγέλια occurs in the earliest sense). This sense pervades the N. T. in reference to the good news of God, the message of salvation. Finally, it came very naturally to denote the books in which the Gospel of Jesus was presented in historic form, as in the Didache and in Justin M., Apol. i. 66, Dial. con. Tryp. 100. In the titles of the Gospels the word retains its second sense, while suggesting the third. εὐαγγ . κατὰ Μ . means the good news as reduced to writing by M. κατὰ is not = of, nor κατὰ Ματθαῖον = Ματθαίου , as if the sense were: The book called a “Gospel” written by Matthew. ( vide Fritzsche against this the older view, supported by Kuinoel.)

[140] Septuagint.



[1] βασιλευς omitted in א B, found in Most modern editors omit.

THE TITLE. The use of the word εὐαγγέλιον in the sense of a book may be as old as the Teaching of the twelve Apostles ( Didache , 8, 11, 15. Vide Sanday, Bampton Lectures , 1893, p. 317, n. 1). The word passed through three stages in the history of its use. First, in the older Greek authors (Hom., Od. ξ , 152, 166), a reward for bringing good tidings; also a thank-offering for good tidings brought (Arist., Eq. 656). Next, in later Greek, the good tidings itself (2 Samuel 18:20 ; 2 Samuel 18:22 ; 2 Samuel 18:25 , in Sept [2] In 2 Samuel 4:10 , εὐαγγέλια occurs in the earliest sense). This sense pervades the N. T. in reference to the good news of God, the message of salvation. Finally, it came very naturally to denote the books in which the Gospel of Jesus was presented in historic form, as in the Didache and in Justin M., Apol. i. 66, Dial. con. Tryp. 100. In the titles of the Gospels the word retains its second sense, while suggesting the third. εὐαγγ . κατὰ Μ . means the good news as reduced to writing by M. κατὰ is not = of, nor κατὰ Ματθαῖον = Ματθαίου , as if the sense were: The book called a “Gospel” written by Matthew. ( vide Fritzsche against this the older view, supported by Kuinoel.)

[2] Septuagint.

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