Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

- Matthew

by Editor - Joseph Exell

General Introduction to the New Testament.

The preparation for the gospel

Christianity cannot be separated from the past. It was not an accident or an afterthought, but foreknown before the foundation of the world. The Incarnation as it is seen now is the central point of all history … The Gospel was no sudden or solitary message. The legend of Pallas is the very converse of the Nativity. Christianity is in one sense as ancient as the Creation, resting on a foundation wide as the world and old as time. Step by step the groundwork of the Church was laid in the silent depths, and at last, when all was now ready, it rose above the earth, that all men might consciously combine to rear the spiritual temple of the living God. What is true of the subject of the Gospel is true in a less complete degree of the record. The writings of the New Testament are not a separate and exceptional growth, but the ripe fruit of minds which had been matured through long ages of various fortunes and manifold influences. The very language in which they are written is in some sense an epitome of ancient history. For it was the will of Providence that the people whom He destined to become the special depository of His revelations should not only develop their individual character, but also by contact with Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome, assimilate the foreign elements necessary to the perfection of their work. The history of the Jews thus becomes, as it were, the key to the history of the world; and, by regarding the various stages through which it passed, it is possible to distinguish the various constituents which combined to form the character of the apostles and to prepare men for their teaching. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that the Old Testament is itself the Divine introduction to the New. In the records of the religious life of the Jews, in the settling of worship and the widening of hope, it is possible to see the foreshadowings of apostolic doctrine, while the vicissitudes of their national history exhibit most clearly the growing purposes of God … A retrospect of the manifold vicissitudes of their history will show the rich variety of discipline by which the Jews had been moulded, and the work which they were fitted to perform in the apostolic age. The spirit of the law and the prophets had been embodied in every great typical form. The several phases of partial and independent development were now completed. Judaism had existed in the face of the most varied nationalities, and had gained an elasticity of shape without losing its distinctness of principle. But each concrete system which was substituted for the faithful anticipation of the Messianic times led in the end to disappointment and confusion, and the scattered exiles were unable to spiritualize the nations among whom they sojourned. The hierarchy which seemed so full of life in the age of Ezra, at last degenerated into a mere sect. The kingdom which had been thought to herald the final triumph of the nation ended in a foreign usurpation. The alliance with Greek philosophy had led on the one hand to an Epicurean indifference, on the other to an unpractical mysticism. But meanwhile the principles which lay at the basis of these partial efforts had gained a substantive existence, and were silently working in the whole people. The truths which had been felt once, still lived even under the ruins of the systems which had been reared upon them. Law, freedom, thought, an intense national pride, and a world-wide dispersion, a past bright with the glories of a Divine presence, a present lost in humiliation, a future crowded with pictures of certain triumphs, combined to fashion a people ready to receive and propagate a universal Gospel. A missionary nation was waiting to be charged with the heavenly commission, and a world was unconsciously prepared to welcome it. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

The name-New Testament

The term, “New Testament,” is unquestionably connected with the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord Himself designates the Eucharist the New Covenant in His blood, and this name is strictly correct. The New Testament fellowship of believers reconciled to God by Christ, which, so to speak, commences in, and is introduced by baptism, is completed and appears outwardly in the Holy Supper. In the Eucharist the Lord carries out that New Covenant with the Church which is founded upon His holy life and His Word, upon His atoning death, His victory, and on the conversion of individual believers. While the celebration of the Eucharist is a remembrance of the first foundation of the Church, it ever inaugurates anew the formation of the Church, and also serves for its manifestation. Hence the writings which record the foundation of this new and eternal Covenant are themselves called the New Covenant, the New Testament. Lastly, this designation indicates the connection and the contrast between these writings and those of the Old Covenant. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

The New Testament

The New Testament is not one book, but seven and twenty pieces by eight or nine authors, writing at different times, nearly always for different readers, for the most part under differing circumstances, and so from different points of view. Not until nearly the end of the fourth century do we find a list of New Testament books exactly corresponding with that in our Bibles. During that period these writings had been circulated singly, or in special collections of a few pieces together; but in A.D. 397, at the Council of Carthage, the whole volume as we have it received recognition as the authoritative literature of Christian revelation. When our Lord ascended, His apostles and disciples began to preach and to form Christian congregations, at first in Palestine, then in more distant countries. It was for the guidance of these infant congregations that the earliest writings of the New Testament were composed. The first in date are almost certainly some of St. Paul’s Epistles. The historic part of the volume would not be needed till a later time. (J. R. Lumby, D. D.)

Relation between old and new testaments.-

The-new is a continuation of the old. Not two separate trees of life, but one and the same, with the Pentateuch for its deep roots, and then a grand old trunk of history, from which go out strong boughs of Hebrew poem and prophecy. It had a time of rest, during which it added nothing to its growth; but then it began again to spring upwards in a solid stem of the history of Christ and the early Church, and to throw out new branches of apostolic teaching, till the loftiest point was reached in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and so the Scripture was complete. Through Holy Writ, from Genesis to Revelation, run the same great thoughts-God a just God and a Saviour-man a sinner, man a saint-angels of God, the devil and his angels-sin, death, righteousness, life-the peace and strength of faith-the sovereignty of grace-sacrifice, priesthood, redemption by blood, prayer, love, hope, obedience, holiness-judgment to come. In treating of these; the New Testament is not a beginning of revelation, but strictly a continuation, while not a repetition, of the Old.

Structural resemblance.

1. Look at the arrangement of each.

(1) Histories.

(2) Reasonings and teachings.

(3) Prophecies and visions. From all the sacred books of the East, the Bible is distinguished by the large proportion of narrative in each of its grand divisions, so that all its reflections, arguments, and admonitions rest on a basis of veritable facts.

2. We find something quite unique in the way of Divine expression throughout the Scriptures; the same voice of majesty-the same method of teaching by history and biography rather than by argumentation-the same calmness and unflinching fidelity of narrative-the same sounding forth of mercy and of judgment-and the same fearless reproof of all unrighteousness and ungodliness.

The new testament is an advance upon the old.

1. AS respects the messengers of God. It may be that Luke is no greater than Samuel, or Peter than David, or Paul than Isaiah, or John than Ezekiel or Daniel; but their writings have a certain advance in dignity, from the fact that they followed the manifestation of the Son of God, and were composed to publish the preciousness and develop the teachings of Him who spake as never man spake.

2. In the light and fulness of the revelation itself (2 Corinthians 3:1-18). Shadows have given place to substance; elements and rudiments to perfection; minute regulations to profound principles; patterns of heavenly things to heavenly things themselves. In the old time, there was dimness as of light coming through a veil; in the new time we have unveiled faces, and God’s own marvellous light. The heavens seem to open more fully and brightly over us; and, because Jesus is there, we can look steadfastly up into heaven. Herein is implied no disparagement of the Old Testament, but simply the recognition of the fact that the Bible is a progressive book, and that the second division, containing more advanced and developed truth, is to rule our interpretation and use of the first division; not the first to determine the meaning of the second. There has been a bettering as well as a lengthening of revelation regarding theology, ethics, and worship. God is the same God in both Testaments; but in the New, God is more known-duty more exalted-holiness in principles and motives based on fellowship with God in light-love is shown to be the sphere in which the God of light and the children of light abide-and worship is through free access to the Father, by one Spirit, through Christ Jesus. (Donald Fraser, D. D.)

Formation of the New Testament

A distinct conception of the spirit of the apostolic age is necessary for a right understanding of the relation of the Gospel to the Gospels-of the Divine message to the lasting record-at the rise of Christianity. Experience has placed in so clear a light the fulness and comprehensiveness of the Christian Scriptures that it is natural to suppose that they must have occupied from the first the position which the Church has assigned to them. But this idea is an anachronism both in fact and in thought. The men who were enabled to penetrate most deeply into the mysteries of the new revelation, and to apprehend with the most vigorous energy the change which it was destined to make in the world, seem to have placed little value upon a written witness to words and acts which still, as it were, lived among them. They felt, as none else ever can feel, the greatness of the crisis in which they were placed, and the calm progress of common life appeared to be for ever interrupted by the spiritual revolution in which they were called to take part. The “coming age” to which they looked was not one of arduous conflict, but of completed triumph. The close of the old dispensation, and the consummation of the new, were combined in one vision. The outward fashion of the world-the transitory veil which alone remained-was passing away. The long development of a vast future was concentrated in the glory of its certain issue. But while everything shows that the apostles made no conscious provision for the requirements of after times, in which the life of the Lord would be the subject of remote tradition, they were enabled to satisfy a want which they did not anticipate … It was most unlikely that men, who had been accustomed to a system of training generally, if not exclusively, oral, should have formed any design of committing to writing a complete account of the history or of the doctrines of the Gospel. The whole influence of Palestinian habits was most adverse to such an undertaking. The rules of scriptural interpretation, the varied extensions of the law, and the sayings of the elders, were preserved either by oral tradition or perhaps, in some degree, in secret rolls, till the final dispersion of the Jewish nation led to the compilation of the Mishna. Nothing less than the threatened destruction of the traditional faith occasioned the abandonment of the great rule of the schools. “Commit nothing to writing,” was the characteristic principle of the earlier Rabbins, and even those who, like Gamaliel, were familiar with Greek learning faithfully observed it. Nor could it be otherwise. The Old Testament was held to be the single and sufficient source of truth and wisdom, the reflection of Divine knowledge, and the embodiment of human feeling. The voice of the teacher might enforce or apply its precepts, but it admitted no definite additions … Tradition was dominant in the schools, and from the schools it passed to the nation; for the same influence which affected the character of the teachers must have been felt still more powerfully by the great mass of the Jews. In their case the want of means was added to the want of inclination … To descend one step further: the art of writing itself was necessarily rare among the peasantry, and the instinct of composition proportionately rarer. If, then, the first Christians were writers, it could only have been by the providential influence of circumstances, while they were oral teachers by inclination and habit. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Text of the New Testament

We might have expected, had we been framing the history of a revealed religion according to our wishes or a priori assumptions, that, so far as it depended on written records, those records would be preserved through successive ages as an authentic standard of appeal. Facts are, however, against all such theories of what ought to have been. Not a single autograph original of any book is known to exist now, nor does any writer of the second or third century say that he had seen such an original. Failing this, we might have fallen back on the notion that each transcriber of the books would be guarded by a supernatural guidance against the usual chances of transcription; that each translator would be taught how to convey the meaning of the original without error in the language of his version. Here also we have to accept facts as we find them. There has been no such perpetual miracle as this theory would require, extending as it does extend, when pushed to its logical conclusions, to the infallibility of every compositor in a printer’s office who had to set the type of a Bible in any language. Manuscripts vary, versions differ, printed Bibles are not always free from error. Here also we trace the law in things spiritual which we recognize in things natural.

“The Father, from whose gift all good things flow, No easy path hath oped His truth to know.”

Here, also, the absence of any immunity from error has tried men’s faith and roused them to labour, and labour has received its reward. Accepting probability as the only attainable result, the probability which they have actually attained is scarcely distinguishable from certainty. Experience shows that, had they begun with postulating infallibility somewhere, and accepting its supposed results, inquiry would have ceased, criticism would have slumbered, and errors would have crept in and multiplied without restraint. Dealing, then, with facts, we have to realize to ourselves in what way copies of the books of the New Testament were multiplied. It is obvious that, prior to the invention of printing, two methods of such multiplication were possible. A man might place a MS. before him, and copy it with his own hand, or he might dictate it to one or more writers. The former was probably the natural process when Christians were few and poor, when it was a labour of love to transcribe a Gospel or an Epistle for a friend or a church. The latter became natural, in its turn, when the books were in sufficient demand to be sold by booksellers, or when Christian societies were sufficiently organized, as, e.g., in monasteries, to adopt the methods of the trade. Each process had its own special forms of liability to error. Any one who has corrected a proof-sheet will be able to take a measure of what they are in the former. Any one who has had experience of the results of a dictation lesson can judge what they are in the latter. We may assume that in most cases, where the work was done systematically, there would be a process for correcting the errors of transcription, analogous to that of correcting the errors of the press now. MSS. of the New Testament, as a matter of fact, often bear traces of such correction by one or more hands. (Dean Plumtre.)

English Versions

Our Saxon forefathers, like the rest of Western Christendom, had only portions of the Bible in the vernacular. The Vulgate was in the hands of the clergy, the lay people knew mainly the Psalms and the Gospels in their native speech. It was not till Wycliffe’s Bible appeared (circa 1383) that the whole of either the New or Old Testament was given to the English in one uniform version. This Bible (like all the Saxon and English versions which preceded it) was a translation from the Latin of the Vulgate, and of course bears many marks that it is the version of a version. Being made a full century before the invention of printing, it was never circulated except in MS. Before, however, the new art, which should multiply copies without limit, was half a century old, God raised up one who has stamped his impress on the English Bible so completely that no time seems likely to efface it. William Tyndale, born about the time when the first printed book came forth in England, early conceived the thought of making a new translation of the Bible. At first he tried to compass the work in his own land. But there was no place for him there. So, driven abroad, he laboured successively in Hamburg, Cologne, and Worms, at which last-named city he put forth two editions of the New Testament in 1525. He published afterwards various other Old Testament translations, and six editions of his New Testament were issued daring his lifetime. The next translator was Miles Coverdale, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, who had been a fellow-worker with Tyndale. He completed his version in 1535, and issued it with a dedication to Henry VIII. A second edition was published two years later, and this was followed in the same year by a composite version, under the name of T. Matthew, but really the work of Tyndale’s friend, John Rogers. In this Bible was incorporated all that Tyndale had left unprinted of the Old Testament, his New Testament of 1535, and only the remaining portions of the Old Testament and Apocrypha printed from Coverdale. This was a great advance on all the editions before it, but the mind of Cromwell, the king’s vicegerent, longed to bring the English Scriptures to still greater perfection. And no less anxious was Coverdale. So, at Cromwell’s request, he undertook to revise Matthew’s Bible; and his work, printed partly in Paris, and the remainder in London, appeared in 1539, and is known as the Great Bible. A copy of this was, by royal injunction, set up in every church of the kingdom. In the same year was sent forth another revision of Matthew’s Bible, made by a learned lawyer named Taverner, but the Great Bible soon threw it into the shade. After this we have no English Bible put forth for a long time. The exiles from England at Geneva issued, in 1557, a New Testament, which appears to have been the work of Whittingham, Calvin’s brother-in-law, and the whole Bible was completed by him and his fellow-labourers in 1560. This Geneva Bible was popular for home reading, as it was furnished with a marginal commentary. In 1568, through the exertions of Archbishop Parker, was published what is known as the Bishops’ Bible, because several prelates took part in this revision; and in 1611 there appeared what we speak of as the Authorized Version, prepared at the instigation of King James I. Since then no public revision was put forth for 270 years, till the Revised New Testament was issued on 17th May, 1891. (J. R. Lumby, D. D.)

The oral gospel

Both from the nature of their charge and the character of their hearers, the apostles sought other means of fulfilling their great commission than such as books afforded. Their Master enjoined on them during His presence and at the moment of His departure to preach the Gospel. And while they fulfilled the office for which they were fitted no less by habit than by the effusion of the Holy Spirit, they could not have felt that more was needed for the permanent establishment of the Christian society. “How shall men believe without a preacher?” is the truest explanation of the feeling and hope of the apostles. They cherished the lively image of the Lord’s life and teaching without any written outline from His hand; and they might well hope that the Spirit which preserved the likeness in their hearts might fix it in the hearts of others … It must not, however, be supposed that this tendency to preach rather than to write was any drawback to the final completeness of the apostolic Gospel. It was, in fact, the very condition and pledge of its completeness. Naturally speaking, the experience of oral teaching was required in order to bring within the reach of writing the vast subject of the life of Christ; and it cannot be urged that any extraordinary provision was made for the fulfilment of a task which is now rightly felt to have been of the utmost importance. The Gospel was a growth, not an instantaneous creation. The Gospels were the results, and not the foundation of the apostolic preaching. The wide growth of the Church furnished the apostles with an adequate motive for adding a written record to the testimony of their living words; and the very form of the Gospels was only determined by the experience of teaching. The work of an evangelist was thus not the simple result of Divine inspiration or of human thought, but rather the complex issue of both when applied to such a selection of Christ’s words and works as the varied phases of the apostolic preaching had shown to be best suited to the wants of men. The primary Gospel was proved, so to speak, in life, before it was fixed in writing. Out of the countless multitude of Christ’s acts, those were selected and arranged during the ministry of twenty years which were seen to have the fullest representative significance for the exhibition of His Divine life. The oral collection thus formed became in every sense coincident with the “Gospel”; and our Gospels are the permanent compendium of its contents … Even in the sub-apostolic age the same general feeling survived, though it was modified by the growing organization of the Christian Church. The knowledge of the teaching of Christ and of the details of His life was generally derived from tradition and not from writings. The Gospels were not yet distinguished by this their prophetic title. The Old Testament was still the great storehouse from which the Christian teacher derived the sources of consolation and conviction. And at the close of the second century Irenaeus, after speaking of the Scriptures-the sum of the apostolic teaching-as “the foundation and pillar of our faith,” speaks of “ a tradition manifested in the whole world,” and “ kept in the several churches through the succession of the presbyters.” In one respect the testimony of Irenaeus-the connecting link of the east and west-is extremely important, as distinctly recognizing the historic element in the apostolic tradition. The great outlines of the life of Christ were received, he says, by barbarous nations without written documents by ancient tradition: and this combination of facts and doctrine existed from the first. “The Gospel”-the sum, that is, of the oral teaching-in the language of Ignatius represents “ the flesh (σάρξ) of Jesus.” The Saviour’s personal presence -was perpetuated in the living voice of His Church. At a still earlier time the whitings of the New Testament contain abundant proof that the “ Gospel” of the first age was not an abstract statement of dogmas, but a vivid representation of the truth as seen in the details of the Saviour’s life. The Acts of the Apostles and the apostolic letters-the first preaching and the subsequent instruction of the Churches-show that the facts of the life of Christ were the rule by which the work of the Christian teacher was measured. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Oral teaching as the source of the gospels

From the day of Pentecost the apostles began the work of preaching the Gospel, which was in a short time to overspread the world; but it is certain that for many years not one of the four Gospels existed out of which they might preach. So zealous were the apostles in their work that they divested themselves of the labour of ministering to the poor, in order that they might “give themselves continually unto prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:1-15.). Prayer and preaching were the business of their lives. Now, their preaching must in great part have consisted, from the nature of the case, of a recital of the facts of the life of Jesus Christ. They had been the eyewitnesses of a wonderful life, of acts and sufferings which it concerned the world to know. Many of their hearers had never heard of Jesus; many others had received false accounts of One whom it suited the rulers of the Jews to denounce as an impostor. The ministry of the Lord had taken place chiefly in Galilee, but the first preaching was in Judea. It would, therefore, be necessary to lay a groundwork of facts, before there could be inferences from, and applications of those facts. The preaching would be more akin to the daily lessons in a modern service, than to the sermon (See, e.g., Acts 10:34-43; Acts 13:16-41). Now, there would be a tendency to preserve one form and order in this historical preaching. The account of some miracle would be told again and again in one form of words, and the narrative of a journey would follow the same order of events, and the events selected would be always the same. Thus there would grow up a body and form of preaching, preserved, at first, only in the memory of those who preached anti heard, of which the life and words of Jesus formed the subjects, and which tended to be not merely in substance but in details, one and the same everywhere, with a resemblance closer and more marked in proportion as the words and events were more important. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

The unwritten gospel

It may be looked upon as an ascertained result of criticism, that the Gospels were all written within the first century; none earlier than about A.D. 60, none later than about A.D. 80. This historical fact will seem strange to certain modern notions. Consider for a moment how the matter really stands. Let us put ourselves in imagination back to Pentecost. In those her bridal days, the young Church was filled, not with new wine, but with a holy and heavenly enthusiasm. The light of the everlasting morning had not yet ceased to flood her spires and battlements. Her tabernacle was yet on the holy hills, and the cry rose to her lips, “Lord! it is good for us to be here.” With loins girded and lamps burning, she waited for her Lord’s coming, and strained her eyes towards the eternal dawn. She was the “ Pilgrim of Eternity”; and the song which she rolled out strong and grand against the winter sky was, “Arise we and depart: for this is not our rest.” It maybe that she had not special days of commemoration, Christmas or Good Friday, Easter or Ascension. But she lived upon her Lord’s birth and death, upon His resurrection and ascension. She needed no book of His λόγια, of His discourses, or His works. There were those with her who had seen Him on the mountain of Transfiguration; who had heard Him say, “Peace be unto you,” on the great Easter Sunday; and had felt joy deepening within them, as they looked upon the atoning wounds … It seems to be as certain as anything of the kind can be, that an unwritten traditional life of Jesus, graven upon the living heart of the Church, preceded the written life. In this, startling as it seems at first hearing to some, there is no derogation from the honour of the written word. No ark of the New Covenant overlaid round about with gold kept in its side the book of the -New Law. There was not, as in Bacon’s fine romance of Atlantis, the pillar and cross of light, breaking up and casting itself into a firmament of many stars, and the branch of palm covering the ark of cedar which floated upon the calm mysterious sea, with the volume of the Gospels shrouded in its depths. Yet the Holy Spirit guided the memories, and freely used the intelligences of apostles and their disciples, that His Church might know the certainty of those things wherein she had been instructed; and that across the gulf of ages, and the mists of history, down to the end of time, the eyes of Christians might see the authentic lineaments of the King in His beauty. (Bishop Wm. Alexander.)

Origin of the gospels

Two things may be regarded as certain in the history of our religion: first, that it spread with extraordinary rapidity-that within twenty or thirty years of our Lord’s death the Gospel had travelled far outside the borders of Palestine, so that there were Christians in widely separated cities; and secondly, that the main subject of the preaching of every missionary of the Church was Jesus Christ (Acts 5:42; Acts 11:20; 2 Corinthians 4:5). Whatever were the dissensions in the early Church, of which we now hear so much, they did not affect this point (Philippians 1:15). The zeal of the first disciples made every Christian a missionary into whatever town he went; and the work of the missionary was to preach a Person. Consequently the preacher must have been prepared to answer the questions, Who was this Jesus whom you preach? What did He do? What did He teach? And since the preachers could rarely answer these questions from their personal knowledge, it was a necessity for their work that they should be furnished with authentic answers resting on a higher authority than their own. We cannot doubt, then, that the first age of the Church must have had its Gospels. (George Salmon, D. D.)

The earliest account of the origin of a “ Gospel” is that which Papias has given on the authority of the Elder John. Papias was himself a “direct hearer” of this John, and John was “a disciple of the Lord” (if the text of Papias be correct), or, at any rate, contemporary with the later period of the apostolic age. “This also the Elder used to say. Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately all that he remembered (or that he [Peter] mentioned: ἐμνηόνευσεν); though he did not [record] in order that which was either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him; but subsequently, as I said, [attached himself to: Peter, who used to frame his teaching to meet the wants of his hearers, but not as making a connected narrative of the Lord’s discourses. So Mark committed no error, as he wrote down some particulars just as he recalled them to mind (or as he Peter narrated them). For he took heed to one thing, to omit none of the facts that he heard, and to make no false statement in this account of them.” (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

The transition from the earliest oral gospel to the specific forms which it afterwards assumed is capable of being easily realized. The great steps in the process are still marked in the Gospels themselves. The Gospel of St. Mark, conspicuous for its vivid simplicity, seems to be the most direct representation of the first evangelic tradition, the common foundation on which the others were reared. In essence, if not in composition, it is the oldest; and the absence of the history of the infancy brings its contents within the limits laid down by St. Peter (Acts 1:21-22) for the extent of the apostolic testimony. The great outline thus drawn admitted of the introduction of large groups of facts or discourses combined to illustrate or enforce some special lesson. In this way the common tradition gained its special characters, but still remained a tradition, gaining fixity and distinctness till it was at last embodied in writing. For the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke represent the two great types of recension to which it may be supposed that the simple narrative was subjected. St. Luke presents the Hellenic, and St. Matthew (Greek) the later Hebraic form of the tradition, and in its present shape the latter seems to give the last authentic record of the primitive Gospel. Yet in both these a common tradition furnished the centre and basis on which the after works were built up. The original principles of combination regulated the later additions, anal clear resemblance of shape remained in the fuller narrative. In this way the successive remoulding of the oral Gospel according to the peculiar requirements of different classes of hearers furnishes a natural explanation of the general similarity in form and substance between the several Gospels, combined with peculiarities and differences in arrangement Read contents. The assumption of a common oral source is equally capable of explaining the phenomena of the language of the Gospels. The words of the Lord and the questions proposed to Him would necessarily first be fixed, while the narrative by which they were introduced remained more free. Single phrases would be impressed with peculiar force; and the recurrence of strange words in the same connection in the different evangelists, even when the construction of the sentence is changed, seems scarcely to admit of a simple explanation except on the admission of a traditional record. And while the free development of common materials gave fall scope for variations in detail, as well as for interpolations of fresh matter, it included the preservation of language hallowed by long use in its well-known shape. Nor is it an unimportant fact that in this respect also St. Mark occupies the mean position between the other evangelists, as would naturally be the case if he represents most closely the original from which they started. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

To consider the four gospels as regular biographies of our lord is an error which has logically led to serious consequences. The Gospel is, in the strictest sense, one εὐαγγέλιον τετράμορφον. But the four evangelists represent that great life, as four painters might represent a vast range of mountains from four different points of view. Each, having his materials fully before him, arranges and moulds them according to certain leading thoughts, certain fundamental conceptions. (Bishop William Alexander.)

The central figure

The Bible centres in the story of a life which was so filled with the Holy Ghost that this Man became the symbol of the Most High, the sacrament of His Being and Presence, the sacred shrine of Deity. As when the long-drawn travail of instrumentation labours through the opening movements of the ninth symphony, with a strain too fine for any voicing save by man, there bursts at length upon the tumultuous storm of sound the clear, high song of joy from human lips; so from the mounting efforts of a nation’s insufficient utterance there rises at last a voice which takes up every groaning of the spirit in humanity into the perfect beauty of a Human Life Divine. The life of the Son of Man is the Hight of men-light for our minds and warmth for our hearts. In the power in whom we live, anal move, and have our being, we see “ Our Father who art in heaven.” In the laws of life we read the methods of His schooling of our souls. In the sorrows of life we receive His disciplinings. In the sins that cling so hard upon us we feel the evils of our imperfection, from which He is seeking to deliver us through His training of our spirits. In the shame of sin we are conscious of the guilt that His free forgiveness wipes away, when we turn saying, “Father, I have sinned.” In death we face the doorway to some other room of the Father’s house, where, it may be just beyond the threshold, our dear ones wait for us! In Christ Himself we own our heave-sent Teacher, Master, Saviour, Friend; our Elder Brother, who in our sinful flesh lives our holy aspirations, and, smiling, beckons us to follow Him, whispering in our ears-“To them that receive Me, I give power to become the sons of God.” The power of the Bible is-Christ. (R. Heber Newton.)

Titles of the gospels

Renan observes that the formalae “according to Matthew,” “according to Mark,” etc., indicate that the earliest opinion was, not that these stories were written from (me end to the other by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but only that they contain traditions emanating from these respective sources anal guaranteed by their authority. But, assuredly, if that had been what was intended by the phrase “according to,” the second and third Gospels would have been known as the Gospel according to Peter and the Gospel according to Paul. The account of Papias, that Mark did nothing but record narrations of Peter concerning our Lord, was received with general belief by the early Church. And it was just as generally believed that the third Gospel rested on the authority of St. Paul. Some ancient interpreters even understand the phrase “according to my Gospel” (Romans 2:16; Rom 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:14), to refer to the Gospel according to St. Luke. Clearly, then, if the phrase “ according to “ had been understood to imply anything less than actual authorship, the Church would never have been content to designate these Gospels by the names of those who transmitted the tradition at second-hand, but would have named them more honourably after the great apostles on whose authority they were believed to rest. It is plain, then, that the phrase indicates only the Church’s sense of the unity of the fourfold narrative, the same good tidings being contained in all, only presented differently by different hands. Hence it follows that the titles of our Gospels afford internal evidence of their antiquity. They must, in any case, be earlier than Justin Martyr (A.D. 150). In Justin’s time the word Gospel had acquired its technical meaning; for he uses it in the plural number, and says that the memoirs of the apostles were called Gospels. The titles, on the contrary, bespeak a time when the word Gospel had acquired no such technical meaning, and when the appellation “evangelist” was not confined to the authors of four books. All the apostles and other preachers of the new religion had the same message of good tidings to deliver. Whatever might be the diversity of form in their teaching, all preached “the Gospel.” Further, these titles regarded in another point of view prove their own historic character. If they had been arbitrarily chosen, we may be sure that persons of greater distinction in the history of the Church would have been selected. Matthew is one of the least prominent of the apostles, and the dignity of apostleship is not even claimed for Mark and Luke. It would have been so easy to claim a more distinguished authorship for the Gospels, that we have the less right to refuse credence to what is actually claimed: namely, that the two evangelists just named, though not apostles, and possibly not even eye-witnesses themselves, were in immediate contact with apostles and eye-witnesses. (George Salmon, D. D.)

The gospel narratives: their scope

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in four books, each giving His Gospel “according to” a particular writer. The books have come to be called in common speech the four Gospels … No attempt at a complete biography, in the modern sense of the word, has been made in any of the cases. Of the first thirty years of Christ’s life on earth, and of His training for His brief ministry in that time, there is hardly any record. Evidently the writers did not consider that a continuous record of growth and training, of youthful aspirations and of self-consecration to a future work, belonged to their purpose. With the baptism of Jesus commences the more complete narrative of His life … The Gospels present a history of the salvation of mankind by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and not a minute and exact life of the Saviour. Not a complete life; but the life as it bore on the belief and convictions of the people of God. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

The number of gospels-four

I daresay you have heard of the reasons given by Irenaeus why there are exactly four Gospels, neither more nor less. He argues that the Gospel is the pillar of the Church; the Church is spread over the whole world; the world has four quarters; therefore it is fitting there should also be four Gospels. Again, the Gospel is the Divine breath, or wind of life, for men; there are four chief winds; therefore, four Gospels. He builds another argument on the fourfold appearance of the cherubim. The cherubim, he says, are fourfold, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. The first beast was like a lion, signifying His commanding and kingly dignity; the second like a calf, signifying His priestly office; the third like a man, denoting His incarnation; the fourth like an eagle, denoting the Holy Spirit flying over the Church. Like these are the Gospels. John, who begins with the Godhead and descent from the Father, is the lion; Luke, who begins with the priesthood and sacrifice of Zacharias, is the calf; Matthew, who begins with His human genealogy, the man; Mark, the eagle, who commences with the announcement of the prophetic spirit-“the beginning of the Gospel as it is written by Isaiah the prophet.” You are aware, I daresay, that-this is not the appointment of the four beasts to the Gospels which ultimately prevailed in the West, John being usually represented as the eagle; Matthew as the man; Luke as the ox; and Mark as the lion. But Irenaeus goes on to say that Christ’s dealings with the world are fourfold. To the patriarchs the word of God came directly; to those under the Law through the priestly office; Christ Himself came as man; since then He has dealt with the Church by His Spirit overshadowing the Church with His wings. Thus the Gospel also is fourfold, and those destroy its fundamental conception who make the number either greater or less; either desiring to seem to have found out more than the truth, or rejecting part of God’s dispensation … We are not concerned with the validity of his mystical explanations;… but, at any rate, they prove that towards the end of the second century the Church held the belief that the four Gospels are to be venerated as inspired records of our Saviour’s life, and that no others can be placed on a level with these. (George Salmon, D. D.)



In the lists of the apostles of Jesus (Matthew 10:1-42.; Mark 3:1-35.; Luke 6:1-49.; and Acts 1:1-26.) there is an apostle of the name of Matthew; in Matthew 10:3 he is called a “publican.” There is every probability that the account of the calling of Matthew (Matthew 9:9) refers to the same person who bears the name of Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). The facts are the same, and occur in the same connection, in all three narratives. He may have been called Levi before he became an apostle, and Matthew afterwards: there is nothing unusual in the assuming a new name on some important change of position; Peter and Paul are examples of this … There is not a word about the later life and ministry of Matthew in the Acts, nor in any other part of the New Testament … Clement of Alexandria says that he was given to ascetic practices, and that he preached the Gospel to the Hebrews for fifteen years after the ascension. Eusebius mentions that he then went to other parts of the world. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

The details of St. Matthew’s life which have been preserved are very scanty.

There can, however, be little doubt that the Matthew of the first Gospel is the same as the Levi of the second and third, though the persons were distinguished even in very early times. The change of name, which seems to have coincided with the crisis in the life of the apostle, and probably bore some reference to it, finds a complete parallel in the corresponding changes in the cases of St. Peter and St. Paul, even if it appear strange that no passing notice of the identification occurs in the catalogues of the apostles. According to the present text of St. Mark (Mark 2:14), Levi (Matthew) is called the son of Alpheus; and in the absence of any further mark of distinction, it has been usual to identify this Alphaeus with the father of James; in which case St. Matthew would have been nearly related by birth to our Lord. His occupation was that of a collector of dues (ὁτελώνης) on the sea of Galilee; and this alone shows that he cannot have observed the traditions of the Pharisaic school. At a later time he is described as a rigorous ascetic, living on seeds and fruits and herbs without flesh, as if by a natural reaction he had exchanged the licence of his former life for the sternest self-denial; but this austerity, which was rather that of an Essene than of a Pharisee, appears as part of his practice and not of his teaching; nor can it have been without influence on the progress of the Christian faith that the Hebrew evangelist was one who, if it was only on the narrow stage of a Galilean town, had yet ventured beyond the strict limits of national hope. St. Paul, who was trained in the most straitest sect of his religion, when once convinced, hastened to the opposite pole of truth: St. Matthew, passing to the new faith by a less violent transition, naturally retained a firmer hold on his earlier belief. His apostolic commission tended to strengthen this feeling; for, according to a very early tradition, he remained at Jerusalem with the other apostles for twelve years after the death of the Lord, busy among his own countrymen. When this work was ended he preached the gospel to others; but no trustworthy authority mentions the scene of his missionary labours, which in later times were popularly placed in Ethiopia. The mention of his martyrdom is found only in legendary narratives, and is opposed to the best evidence, which represents him to have died a natural death. These notices, however slight, yet contribute in some measure to mark the fitness of St. Matthew for fulfilling a special part in the representation of the Gospel. The time and place at which he wrote further impress upon his work a distinctive character. The Hebrew Christians, during a succession of fifteen bishops, outwardly observed the customs of their fathers, and for them he was inspired to exhibit in the teaching of Christ the antitypes of the Mosaic law, to portray the earthly form and theocratic glory of the new dispensation, and to unfold the glorious consummation of the kingdom of heaven, faintly typified in the history of his countrymen. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Matthew was a “portitor.”

The Roman taxes being usually in the hands of Roman knights, these high personages farmed the customs out to local men, “portitores,” who, having to pay a fixed sum for the privilege of collecting, squeezed as much as they could in addition out of the people. The police winked at the extortion; there was seldom any redress, but the “ portitor,” or collector, was generally hated. He was employed by the knight much as the hangman is employed by the sheriff, to do the dirty work. His prey were the rich and middle classes-out of the dregs of the people he could not raise very much. He was glad, probably, at times to take refuge with them, and they would be flattered by the attentions of a richer man, however looked askance at by his social equals. At any rate Matthew had a certain following among the lower orders, and a good many of them rose up and followed him when he rose up from the receipt of custom and followed Christ. What became of him afterwards we can but vaguely conjecture. To the end, if we are to judge by a certain bias in the Gospel which bears his name, he remained a Jew, with a double conscience-fall of Jewish ardour, respect for the Temple, attentive to ceremony, though disliking the Pharisees-indeed, they may have suffered from his exactions, and reciprocated his hatred-wholly changed in heart, he was but half changed in mind. He records with reverence many sayings which must have remained strange and unintelligible to him. Although writing or editing after Paul’s death, he probably had no idea of Paul’s importance. To him Christianity is still the work of the twelve. He is the type of the transition period between Judaism and Christianity, and his value lies wholly in his memory and the abundance of Logia which early passed current under his name, and have found a place in the Gospel which is sealed by it. We shall associate Matthew of Capernaum, in Galilee, most correctly with the inner circle at Jerusalem-the friends and family of Jesus. He may have left the doomed city in their company, and taken refuge with the saintly little group at Pella, beyond Jordan. There, in converse with the mother of Jesus, who kept so many sayings in her heart, with Nicodemus, and Cleophas, and Nathaniel, and now and then one or more of the twelve. Matthew may have collected sundry “libelli,” or booklets, and formed a record supplemented from his own memory. Living mostly with Jews, he would recognize in Jesus the Jewish Messiah, and lay special stress on that; but the value of the Gospel is not in its theory, which is ill-defined, or its incident, which is largely derived from Mark, but in its words-they are spirit and they are life-they inspire the real Gospel according to Matthew. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)


The ancient authorities tell us that it was written while Peter and Paul preached in Rome (Irenaeus), and that Matthew wrote first of all (Origen, and Clement of Alexandria) … There is nothing in the Gospel to hint to us that Jerusalem had already fallen, that the temple was destroyed. The flight of the disciples (Matthew 24:15-20) had not yet taken place. In the great prophecy of Jesus, wherein the typical destruction of Jerusalem appears hardly distinguishable in point of perspective of time from the judgment of the whole world, there would surely be some word of comment from the evangelist, if one great portion had been completed, and had passed out of prophecy into history, whilst the other remained yet unfulfilled. On the other hand, it is probable that the destruction of the city was not far off. A considerable time between the events of the Lord’s life and the writing must have elapsed, or there would be no force in the words, “until this day” (Matthew 27:8; Matthew 28:15) … Upon the whole, we are pushed by probabilities on either side towards a date somewhere about 63-65. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

State of Palestine when this gospel was written. The social and political condition of Palestine at that time (63-65) threatened a great crisis. Society was fast declining into anarchy, and there seemed no help from any quarter. There was cogent reason for desiring to secure in a permanent form, for the Jewish converts, the Gospel facts which had so long been preached to them from oral tradition, and perhaps from separate and fragmentary narratives. After the death of Claudius, it needed no great foresight to discern the peril that beset the Jewish nation. Felix, “amidst every kind of cruelty and lust, exercised the royal office with the soul and spirit of a slave.” Long years of mutual distrust between the conquerors and a proud and sullen race, had made government almost impossible. Two years of honest endeavour on the part of Festus (60-62) could do little to recall Judea from this anarchy. His successor Albinus (62-64) was a mere robber, bent on getting gold from any quarter by any means. When he was recalled, he opened the doors of all the prisons, and “left the prisons empty, but the land filled with thieves.” As the candle flame casts a shadow from the lime-light, so did the villany of Albinus appear dull by the light of his successor’s misdeeds. Gessius Florus (64-66) was a mere brigand, who had crept into the kingly seat. Josephus can hardly find words to describe his conduct. The misery of the people under this evil succession must have been great: their endurance taxed to the utmost. It was impossible that this should last. The clouds were gathering so thick that they must at last explode in thunder, and the bolts of heaven must fall. It was probably in this time of feverish expectation that the Gospel before us was brought into a written shape. With a society about to part asunder, with the constant fear of persecution, the disciples must have become convinced that the precious deposit of the Gospel must no longer be trusted to tradition alone. Matthew is departing; others have gone. And therefore the apostle gathers into a Gospel the treasure of preaching that the Church possessed. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)


From the first half of the second century downwards, it was the general belief that Matthew wrote for his own people, a Jew for the Jews, and that he wrote in the Aramaic, or late Hebrew, language. There are, however, strong reasons to question this … The general conclusions that seem warranted at present are, that the existence of a Gospel according to the Hebrews, attributed to St. Matthew, is assured by the general voice of ancient tradition; that this Gospel was seen, in one of its two forms, by Jerome, and by him translated into Greek; that the tradition as to its authorship is mainly traceable to Papias; that, so far as this Gospel is known to us, it is not the same as our St. Matthew; that it is probably a secondary work, and possibly a translation from Greek sources; that, whatever be the case with the Hebrew Gospel, we have in the canonical St. Matthew a work that has been received from the earliest times as the writing of the apostle, and that it is not a translation from any Hebrew source. The Gospel, then, was written in Greek. (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

There is not the least difficulty in believing that Matthew might have written a Gospel in Greek, even on the supposition that he intended it only for the use of the Christians in Palestine; and the first Gospel” contains internal evidence that it was meant to have a wider circulation. On the other hand, the proof to be derived from Josephus of the literary use of the Aramaic language in his time makes it equally easy to accept evidence of the existence of an apostolic Hebrew Gospel, if only decisive evidence for its existence were forthcoming. But it does not appear that any of the witnesses had themselves seen such a Gospel, and there is no evidence of the existence of any Greek text but the one which was universally regarded as authoritative. Cureton imagined that he could gain evidence for the Hebrew original of St. Matthew from the Syriac version which he published, and which he contended had not been made from Greek, but from the original Aramaic. I cannot help thinking that if there had existed in use among Hebrew-speaking Christians what was known to be the real original Gospel written by St. Matthew, such a corrupt version of it as that circulated among the Nazarenes could not have gained acceptance; and that the origin of the latter Gospel is more easily explained if we suppose that it was in Greek the facts of the Gospel history had been authoritatively published, and if we regard the Nazarene Gospel as an attempt made by one not very scrupulous about accuracy to present these facts to those who spoke Aramaic. For these reasons, and on account of the signs of originality which are presented by the Greek Gospel, I am disposed to pronounce in favour of the Greek original of St. Matthew. (George Salmon, D. D.)

All early writers agree in affirming that St. Matthew wrote in Hebrew (Aramaic), and owing to them this belief gained universal currency till the era of the Reformation. At the same time all equally agree in accepting the Greek Gospel as the Gospel of St. Matthew, without noticing the existence of any doubt as to its authenticity … But on the other side, it is argued, from internal evidence, that the present Gospel bears no marks of being a translation, that several details in it point to a late and not to an early date, and that there is no evidence to show that any one who mentions the Hebrew original had seen it. The last objection is evidently unreasonable. Till it can be shown that the writers quoted are untrustworthy generally, it is purely arbitrary to reject their statement because it is not sufficiently explicit. The two other facts are perfectly consistent with a belief in the Hebrew original and in the Greek St. Matthew. The oral Gospel probably existed from the first, both in Aramaic and in Greek, and in this way a preparation for a Greek representative of the Hebrew Gospel was at once found. The parts of the Aramaic oral Gospel which were adopted by St. Matthew already existed in the Greek counterpart. The change was not so much a version as a substitution; and frequent coincidence with common parts of St. Mark and St. Luke, which were derived from the same oral Greek Gospel, was a necessary consequence. Yet it may have happened that as long as the Hebrew and Greek churches were in close connection, perhaps till the destruction of Jerusalem, no authoritative Greek Gospel of St. Matthew, i.e., such a revision of the Greek oral Gospel as would exactly answer to St. Matthew’s revision of the Aramaic, was committed to writing. When, however, the separation between the two sections grew more marked, the Greek Gospel was written, not indeed as a translation, but as a representation of the original, as a Greek oral counterpart was already current; and, at the same time, those few additional notes were added which imply a later date than the substance of the book (Matthew 28:15). By whose hand the Greek Gospel was drawn up is wholly unknown. The traditions which assign it to St. John or St. James are without any foundation in early writers. (B. F. Westcott, D. D.)

Contents and structure

The work is carefully constructed. Apart from the account of the childhood, the ministry falls into two portions-the official life in Galilee and the preparation for the Crucifixion-the Baptism being the introduction to one of these, and the Transfiguration to the other. Each of them begins with a formal announcement of the evangelist: “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17); and “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21). The one of these stages leads naturally up to the other. Jesus teaches long, and works wonders of love, and then takes account with the apostles of the result of all this activity before He unfolds the history of His suffering. “Whom do men say that I am?” During the latter stage, that of the cross, the activity and the preaching recede before the shadow of the coming events. In the former stage the Sermon on the Mount is put out of its place (comp. Luke), and made the opening of the ministry, for it is the new law of the new “kingdom of heaven,” and must be brought into the most prominent place. Then follow (chaps. 8. and 9.) proofs of His wonder-working power; then the sending forth by the Shepherd of the people, the apostles to the children of Israel, to whom the new kingdom was offered (chap. 10.) The effect of His work on various classes and places now shows itself: John is in doubt (Matthew 11:1-6); the people are perverse (Matthew 11:18-19); Chorazin and Bethsaida are harder to convince than Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 11:20-22); the Pharisees, cramped and confined by the glosses of the law, cannot understand the Gospel liberty even a little (Matthew 12:1-50.). Now a group of parables of the Kingdom of God seems to be the opening of a fresh period, the structure being somewhat the same. First, these parables, answering to the Sermon on the Mount; then, new miracles, and even more conspicuous-the two feedings of the multitudes with a little bread (chaps. 14; 15.); and, lastly, a fresh account of the results of the teaching, as shown by various minds: “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” (Matthew 16:13). “But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). This second section has probably for its chief scene a new missionary circuit round Galilee. St. Luke places the parable of the Sower in the beginning of such a journey, when, accompanied by the twelve, and now by certain women also, who had been healed of evil spirits, He passed through the land, carrying with Him the glad tidings of God (Luke 8:1-5). Throughout the first great section (chaps. 4.-xvi.) the purpose never flags or changes: this kingdom of Messiah is preached to the Jews who were its heirs: thus it was preached, thus it was enforced, and thus received by the ungrateful people; whilst of the darker lessons of the second part the disciples understood nothing at the end of the first. “Be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee” (Matthew 16:22). The second section, opening with the Transfiguration-the witness from heaven-has its sermon too; but this time the circle is narrower to which it is addressed; the disciples who now learn the doctrine of suffering and the cross, are to learn the ethics of suffering also: in the child’s humility (Matthew 18:3-4); in the tender consideration for the smallest and weakest (Matthew 18:10-14); in the constant forgiveness of wrongs (Matthew 18:21-35)-the strength of His ministers would lie. Miracles follow (chaps. 19; 20.), but they are not so prominent now in the narrative. Again and again the gloomy prophecy of His death is pressed home to the disciples (Matthew 16:22; Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:17-19; Matthew 26:1-2); until at last the fulfilment comes. All the world of Judea passes, for a kind of judgment, before His judgment seat; scribe and Pharisee, and the doomed Jerusalem, wherein these rule so perversely, are utterly condemned (chap. 23.); and through the smoke anal fire of the city’s destruction may be seen the grand lines of a greater judgment (chaps. 24; 26.). (Archbishop Wm. Thomson.)

Leading ideas

This Gospel follows two fundamental conceptions.

1. It is the Gospel of the Discourses. Many chapters are filled with the record of Christ’s teaching. I need only indicate the Sermon on the Mount; the instruction to the pestles on their first Mission; the cluster of the parables of the Kingdom; the eightfold woe in chap. 21.; the eschatological predictions and parables in chaps. 24. and 25. A brief answer may suffice to certain questions which have been asked, apparently for the purpose of disturbing simple Christians in the quiet enjoyment of their Master’s words. How do you know that it is, indeed, the very echo of His voice which comes to you across the gulf of time? Was there a reporter in the apostolic company who could write short-hand, and take sufficient notes? Are not these Discourses like the speeches in Thucydides or Livy? As Christians, we are satisfied with that sentence, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, shall teach you all things”-that is, all things not of the first creation, which is the object of science, but of the second, which is the object of revelation:-“and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” There is no tablet like a loving memory, no remembrancer like God the Holy Ghost.

2. It is the Gospel of Types in history, in law, in worship, accomplishing themselves, unrecognized by those to whom they specially pertained. It is the Gospel of Prophecy, accumulating and interweaving its marvellous coincidences (sometimes in dark sayings, like those of the thirty pieces of silver- Mat 27:9, cf. Zechariah 11:12-13, and of the going before the disciples into Galilee- Mat 26:31-32, cf. Zechariah 13:7) round the birth and life, the death anal resurrection of Jesus. It is the Gospel of the Christ, crowning the aspirations of saints and seers, but not the carnal expectations of the Jews. It is the Gospel of true Judaism, as opposed to the corrupt Judaism of priests and scribes, of Pharisees and Sadducees. This is written on its forefront: “The Book of the Generation” (Matthew 1:1); net “the History of the Childhood,” but the “Liber de Originibus Jests,” Jesus the Messiah, the Child of Abraham, in whom all families are to be blessed; the Royal Heir of David’s throne, yet rejected by the Sews. (Bishop Wm. Alexander.)

This gospel is not the life of a dead man. It is the specimen of an Eternal Life manifested upon earth for a while, by which we came to know in some measure what He is who is our Lord. This is why it is that be leave off reading the daily less son or chapter is to forget Christ, and with Him home and goodness. This is why men in the evening of their days, as they look back with bitter self-accusation, remember that the time which they most deplore coincided exactly with the time when, by shutting up their New Testament, they shut out Christ’s presence from their lives. Yet, thank God, we know Him, or we may know Him. We may know Him as the leper knew Him; as Peter did, when, with the spray in his hair and the storm-light on his face, he cried, “Lord! save me”; as Galilee knew Him, when He went about doing good. Still above the clouds that hang over the Church and the world, He is the Light, the Dawn and Morning Star of each new era, until the final revelation, when, over the last clouds going up from a burning world, the Sign shall appear. (Bishop Wm. Alexander.)

Ads FreeProfile