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by Matthew Poole
The whole revelation of the will of God to the children of men is usually called The Bible, that is, The book, (for the word Bible derives from the Greek Βιβλος or Βιβλιον), with a note of eminency, being indeed the Book of books, so as Luther said well that he should wish all his books burned if he could know that men by them would be kept from reading the Scriptures. And to distinguish this from other books, we have (in the ordinary titles of our Bibles) added Holy, with respect to the authority, the matter, and end of it. This sacred book, with us Christians, is usually divided into the Old and New Testament: indeed the term Testament doth not so properly belong to the law and the prophets, as to the books of the evangelists, the Acts, and Epistles, &c. The title of New Testament in Greek is, της διαθης απαντα; that is, the whole of the new disposition, or new law, or new covenant, or new testament. The word originally and primarily signifieth a disposition of things. In regard that, amongst men, things are ordered, or disposed, by a law, or by contract, or covenant, or by will and testament, the word hath been used to signify any of these. But in regard that until a testator be dead a testament is of no force, Christ having not come nor died before all the law and the prophets were finished, (I mean the writings containing the law, and what other holy men wrote by inspiration from God, which the Jews call the prophets, or the holy writings), it is not so proper (but that use hath now obtained) to call those writings by the name of a Testament; especially considering, that a part of them (which contained the ceremonial law) was abolished by the Testator's death, and another great part of them fulfilled in his coming and dying. The name therefore of Testament doth most properly belong to the books of the evangelists, the Acts, and Epistles, which do not only contain the new law, (so far as it is new, either in respect of the full interpretation of the mortal law, or in respect of the law concerning the worship of God under the gospel, and the government of the church), but also the new covenant, which though made with Adam, first revealed to him, Genesis 3:15, yet is more fully revealed in those books, and they are indeed the last will and testament of our blessed Lord and Saviour. These books do obviously divide themselves into the Gospels, the Acts of the apostles, the Epistles of the apostles, and the Revelation. The evangelists, or Gospels, are four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, whose books are called the Gospels, that is, books containing the good tidings (for so the word ευαγγελιον signifies) which was brought to all people by the coming, life, and death of Christ, the history of which, as also his resurrection and ascension into heaven, they relate. So as they are not called evangelists, as the term signifieth such an extraordinary officer as is mentioned Ephesians 4:2, such a one as Philip was, Acts 21:8, and Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:5; but as they were evangelical historiographers, writing the history, as well as publishing the mystery, of the gospel. Of these, Matthew and John were apostles, the other two only disciples to the apostles. In the account they give us of Christ, what he did, and what he said, we are not to expect either a full account of all he did or spake, (we are assured of the contrary, John 21:25) nor yet an exact account of every speech in any one sermon, or all the circumstances of any of his actions: we must conceive of them, not as exact notaries, but such who wrote from their memories (not without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). Hence it is manifest, that although they do not contradict one another, (that indeed were incompetent with the Spirit of truth, their common guide), yet one evangelist hath what another hath not, and in the same piece of his history one hath more circumstances than another: and hardly any of them relate all things in the same order of time in which they were spoke or done, but set them down as their memory did serve them, keeping to the substance, and being less careful as to circumstances; so as where more evangelists relate the same history or sermon, what all say must be taken in to complete the history or discourse, so far as the Holy Spirit thought fit Christians should be acquainted with it; which is the method I have taken in my notes upon the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Matthew was the son of Alphaeus, Mark 2:14, called also Levi: by his employment he was a publican, that is, one who gathered custom for the Romans (which sort of people were generally hated, and perhaps none of the most honest men). Christ called him from the receipt of custom to be his disciple, Matthew 9:10; Mark 2:14-15. He was sent out as one of the twelve apostles, Matthew 10:3, so as he was both an eye and ear witness of what he wrote. What became of him after Christ's ascension I cannot tell, not knowing what credit is to be given to what ecclesiastical historians say in the case who wrote three or four hundred years after. The time of his writing this Gospel is as uncertain; some say eight, some nine, some fifteen years after Christ's ascension. It hath been a question, also, whether he wrote in Hebrew or Greek: it is most probable that he (as the other evangelists) wrote it in Greek, though it hath been once or twice translated into Hebrew. Those who as to that question have a curiosity to know what is written on both sides, (not to mention other books), may read enough in Mr. Pool's Prolegomena to this Gospel in his Synopsis Criticorum. The matter of his Gospel is principally the history of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Saviour. The passages after his resurrection and before his ascension are most fully related by St. John. Luke more fully relates the history of his birth, and what went before it. The history of the wise men coming from the east to inquire for Christ is related by Matthew alone; so are some parables, as that of the virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, &c.
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27