Vol. 1, Chapter XII. The New Testament

74. Literature

Comp. the Lit. on the Life of Christ, § 14, and on the Apostolic Age, § 20.

1. The Critical Editions of the Greek Testament by Lachmann (1842-50, 2 vols.); Tischendorf (ed. octava critica major, 1869-72, 2 vols., with Prolegomena by C. R. Gregory, Part I., Leipz., 1884); Tregelles (1857-79); Westcott and Hort (1881, with a vol. of Introd. and Appendix. Cambridge and New York, revised ed. 1888).

Lachmann laid the foundation; Tischendorf and Tregelles greatly enlarged and carefully sifted the critical apparatus; Westcott and Hort restored the cleanest text from the oldest attainable Sources; all substantially agree in principle and result, and give us the ancient uncial instead of the mediaeval cursive text.

Two bilingual editions also deserve special mention in connection with the recent revision of Luther’s and King James’s versions. Oskar von Gebhardt, Novum Testamentum Graece et Germanice, Lips., 1881, gives the last text of Tischendorf (with the readings of Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort below) and the revised translation of Luther. His Greek text is also separately issued with an “Adnotatio critica,” not contained in the diglott edition. The Greek-English New Testament, containing Westcott and Hort’s Greek Text and the Revised English Version on opposite pages, with introduction by Schaff. New York (Harper & Brothers), 1882, revised ed. 1888.

II. The historico-critical Introductions, or literary Histories of the New Testament by Hug, De Wette, Credner, Guericke, Horne, Davidson, Tregelles, Grau, Hilgenfeld, Aberle, (R. Cath.), Bleek (4th ed. by Mangold, 1886), Reuss (6th ed. 1887), Holtzmann (2d ed. 1886), Weiss (1886), Salmon (3d ed. 1888).

III. Thiersch: Herstellung des historischen Standpunktes für die Kritik der neutestamentl. Schriften. Erlangen, 1845. (Against Baur and the Tübingen School.) — Edward C. Mitchell: Critical Handbook to the New Test. (on Authenticity, Canon, etc.). Lond. and Andover, 1880; French translation, Paris, 1882. — J. P. Lange: Grundriss der Bibelkunde. Heidelberg, 1881. — Philip Schaff: Companion to the Greek Testament and the English Version. N. Y. and Lond., 1883, 3d ed. revised 1888. — G. D. Ladd: The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, N. York, 1883, 2 vols. The same, abridged, 1888.

IV. The works quoted below on the Gospels and Epistles.

V. On the Canon of the New Test., the works of Kirchhofer (Quellensammlung, etc. Zürich, 1844, Engl. transl. enlarged by Charteris: Canonicity, etc. Edinb., 1881); Credner (Zur Gesch. des Kanon. Halle, 1847; Geschichte des Neutest. Kanon, herausg. von Volkmar. Berlin, 1860); Gaussen (Engl. transl., London, 1862; abridged transl. by Kirk, Boston, 1862); Tregelles (Canon Muratorianus. Oxford, 1867); Sam. Davidson (Lond., 1878, 3d ed., 1880); Westcott (Cambridge and London, 1855; 6th ed., 1889); Reuss (Histoire du canon des S. Écritures. Strasb., 2d ed., 1864); Ad. Harnack (Das muratorische Fragment und die Entstehung einer Sammlung Apost.-katholischer Schriften, in Brieger’s “Zeitschrift f. Kirchengeschichte,” 1879, III., 358 sqq.; comp. 595 sqq.); F. Overbeck (Zur Geschichte des Kanons. Chemnitz, 1880); Réville (French, 1881); Theod. Zahn (Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentl. Kanons, Part I-III., 1881-84; and Geschichte des Kanons d. N. T., Leipz., 1888 sqq., 3 vols). Comp. Harnack: Das N. T. um das Jahr. 200, Freiburg, 1889 (against Zahn), and Zahn’s reply, Leipz., 1889.

Gregory: Prolegomena to Tischendorf, Pt. II., 1890. (Pt. III. will complete this work.)

Schaff: Companion to the Greek Testament, 4th ed. revised, 1892.

Salmon: Introduction to the New Testament, 5th ed., 1890.,

Holtzmann: Introduction to the New Testament, 3d ed., 1892.

F. Godet: Introduction au Nouveau Testament. Neuchatel, 1893. The first volume contains the Introduction to the Pauline Epistles; the second and third will contain the Introduction to the Gospels, the Catholic Epp. and the Revelation. To be translated.


75. Rise of the Apostolic Literature

Christ is the book of life to be read by all. His religion is not an outward letter of command, like the law of Moses, but free, quickening spirit; not a literary production, but a moral creation; not a new system of theology or philosophy for the learned, but a communication of the divine life for the redemption of the whole world. Christ is the personal Word of God, the eternal Logos, who became flesh and dwelt upon earth as the true Shekinah, in the veiled glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. He spoke; and all the words of his mouth were, and still are, spirit and life. The human heart craves not a learned, letter-writing, literary Christ, but a wonder-working, cross-bearing, atoning Redeemer, risen, enthroned in heaven, and ruling the world; furnishing, at the same time, to men and angels an unending theme for meditation, discourse, and praise.

So, too, the Lord chose none of his apostles, with the single exception of Paul, from the ranks of the learned; he did not train them to literary authorship, nor give them, throughout his earthly life, a single express command to labor in that way. Plain fishermen of Galilee, unskilled in the wisdom of this world, but filled with the Holy Spirit of truth and the powers of the world to come, were commissioned to preach the glad tidings of salvation to all nations in the strength and in the name of their glorified Master, who sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and has promised to be with them to the end of time.

The gospel, accordingly, was first propagated and the church founded by the personal oral teaching and exhortation, the “preaching,” “testimony,” “word,” “tradition,” of the apostles and their disciples; as, in fact, to this day the living word is the indispensable or, at least, the principal means of promoting the Christian religion. Nearly all the books of the New Testament were written between the years 50 and 70, at least twenty years after the resurrection of Christ, and the founding of the church; and the Gospel and Epistles of John still later.

As the apostles’ field of labor expanded, it became too large for their personal attention, and required epistolary correspondence. The vital interests of Christianity and the wants of coming generations demanded a faithful record of the life and teaching of Christ by perfectly reliable witnesses. For oral tradition, among fallible men, is liable to so many accidental changes, that it loses in certainty and credibility as its distance from the fountain-head increases, till at last it can no longer be clearly distinguished from the additions and corruptions collected upon it. There was great danger, too, of a wilful distortion of the history and doctrine of Christianity by Judaizing and paganizing errorists, who had already raised their heads during the lifetime of the apostles. An authentic written record of the words and acts of Jesus and his disciples was therefore absolutely indispensable, not indeed to originate the church, but to keep it from corruption and to furnish it with a pure standard of faith and discipline.

Hence seven and twenty books by apostles and apostolic men, written under the special influence and direction of the Holy Spirit. These afford us a truthful picture of the history, the faiths, and the practice of primitive Christianity, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

The collection of these writings into a canon, in distinction both from apocryphal or pseudo-apostolic works, and from orthodox yet merely human productions, was the work of the early church; and in performing it she was likewise guided by the Spirit of God and by a sound sense of truth. It was not finished to the satisfaction of all till the end of the fourth century, down to which time seven New Testament books (the “Antilegomena” of Eusebius), the second Epistle of Peter, the second and third Epistles of John, the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James and Jude, and in a certain sense also the Apocalypse of John, were by some considered of doubtful authorship or value. But the collection was no doubt begun, on the model of the Old Testament canon, in the first century; and the principal books, the Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Epistles of Paul, the first Epistle of Peter, and the first of John, in a body, were in general use after the middle of the second century, and were read, either entire or by sections, in public worship, after the manner of the Jewish synagogue, for the edification of the people.

The external testimony of tradition alone cannot (for the Protestant Christian) decide the apostolic origin and canonical character of a book; it must be confirmed by the internal testimony of the book itself. But this is not wanting, and the general voice of Christendom for these eighteen hundred years has recognized in the little volume, which we call the New Testament, a book altogether unique in spiritual power and influence over the mind and heart of man, and of more interest and value than all the ancient and modern classics combined. If ever God spoke and still speaks to man, it is in this book.


76. Character of the New Testament

In these inspired writings we have, not indeed an equivalent, but a reliable substitute for the personal presence and the oral instruction of Christ and his apostles. The written word differs from the spoken only in form; the substance is the same, and has therefore the same authority and quickening power for us as it had for those who heard it first. Although these books were called forth apparently by special and accidental occasions, and were primarily addressed to particular circles of readers and adapted to peculiar circumstances, yet, as they present the eternal and unchangeable truth in living forms, they suit all circumstances and conditions. Tracts for the times, they are tracts for all times; intended for Jews and Greeks of the first century, they have the same interest for Englishmen and Americans of the nineteenth century. They are to this day not only the sole reliable and pure fountain of primitive Christianity, but also the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice. From this fountain the church has drunk the water of life for more than fifty generations, and will drink it till the end of time. In this rule she has a perpetual corrective for an her faults, and a protective against all error. Theological systems come and go, and draw from that treasury their larger or smaller additions to the stock of our knowledge of the truth; but they can never equal that infallible word of God, which abideth forever.

“Our little systems have their day,

They have their day and cease to be;

They are but broken lights of Thee,

And Thou, O God, art more than they.”

The New Testament evinces its universal design in its very, style, which alone distinguishes it from all the literary productions of earlier and later times. It has a Greek body, a Hebrew soul, and a Christian spirit which rules both. The language is the Hellenistic idiom; that is, the Macedonian Greek as spoken by the Jews of the dispersion in the time of Christ; uniting, in a regenerated Christian form, the two great antagonistic nationalities and religions of the ancient world. The most beautiful language of heathendom and the venerable language of the Hebrews are here combined, and baptized with the spirit of Christianity, and made the picture of silver for the golden apple of the eternal truth of the gospel. The style of the Bible in general is singularly adapted to men of every class and grade of culture, affording the child the simple nourishment for its religious wants, and the profoundest thinker inexhaustible matter of study. The Bible is not simply a popular book, but a book of all nations, and for all societies, classes, and conditions of men. It is more than a book, it is an institution which rules the Christian world.

The New Testament presents, in its way, the same union of the divine and human as the person of Christ. In this sense also “the word became flesh, and dwells among us.” As Christ was like us in body, soul, and spirit, sin only excepted, so the Scriptures, which “bear witness of him,” are thoroughly human (though without doctrinal and ethical error) in contents and form, in the mode of their rise, their compilation, their preservation, and transmission; yet at the same time they are thoroughly divine both in thoughts and words, in origin, vitality, energy, and effect, and beneath the human servant-form of the letter, the eye of faith discerns the glory of “the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The apostolic writings are of three kinds: historical, didactic, and prophetic. To the first class belong the Gospels and Acts; to the second, the Epistles; to the third, the Revelation. They are related to each other as regeneration, sanctification, and glorification; as foundation, house, and dome. Jesus Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all. In the Gospels he walks in human form upon the earth, and accomplishes the work of redemption. In the Acts and Epistles he founds the church, and fills and guides it by his Spirit. And at last, in the visions of the Apocalypse, he comes again in glory, and with his bride, the church of the saints, reigns forever upon the new earth in the city of God.

This order corresponds with the natural progress of the Christian revelation and was universally adopted by the church, with the exception of a difference in the arrangement of the Epistles. The New Testament was not given in the form of a finished volume, but the several books grew together by recognition and use according to the law of internal fitness. Most of the ancient Manuscripts, Versions, and Catalogues arrange the books in the following order: Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse. Some put the Pauline Epistles before the Catholic Epistles. Our English Bible follows the order of the Latin Vulgate.


77. Literature on the Gospels

I. Harmonies of the Gospels

They begin with Tatian’s Diatessaron, a.d. 170. See lists of older works in Fabricius, Bibl. Gr., III. 212; Hase, Leben Jesu, pp. 22-31 (fifth ed.); Robinson, Harmony, pp. v. and vi.; Darling, Cyclopedia Bibliog. (I. Subjects, cols. 761-767); and McClintock and Strong (Cyclop., IV. 81). We give the chief works from Griesbach to Rushbrooke.

Griesbach (Synopsis, Halle, 1774, etc., 1822); Newcome (Dublin, 1778 and often; also Andover, 1834); Jos. Priestley (in Greek, London, 1778; in English, 1780); Jos. White (Diatessaron, Oxford, 1799, 1803); De Wette and Lücke (1818, 1842); Rödiger (1829, 1839); Greswell (Harmonia Evangelica, 1830, 5th ed. Oxford, 1856; Dissertations upon an Harmony, etc., 2d ed., Oxford, 1837, 4 vols.); Macbride (Diatessaron, Oxford, 1837); Wieseler (Chronolog. Synopse, Hamb., 1843); Krafft (d. 1845; Chronologie u. Harmonie der 4 Evang. Erlangen, 1848; edit. by Burger); Tischendorf (Synopsis Evang. Lips., 1851, 1854; 4th ed., 1878); Rud. Anger (Lips., 1852); Stroud (comprising a Synopsis and a Diatessaron, London, 1853) E. Robinson (A Harmony of the Four Gospels in Greek, according to the text of Hahn, Boston, 1845, 1851; revised ed., 1862; in English, 1846); James Strong (in English, New York, 1852; in Greek, 1854); R. Mimpriss (London, 1855); Douglas (1859); Sevin (Wiesbaden, 1866); Fr. Gardiner (A Harmony of the Four Gospels in Greek, according to the text of Tischendorf, with a Collation of the Textus Receptus, etc. Andover, 1876; also his Diatessaron, The Life of our Lord in the Words of the Gospels, Andover, 1871); J. R. Gilmore and Lyman Abbott (The Gospel History: being a Complete Chronological Narrative of the Life of our Lord, New York, 1881); W. G. Rushbrooke (Synopticon: an Exposition of the Common Matter in the Synoptic Gospels, Cambridge, 1880-81, 2 parts; the Greek text of Tischendorf, corrected from Westcott and Hort). The last work is unique and superbly printed. It marks the differences of the narratives by different types and color, namely, the matter common to all Evangelists in red type, the matter common to each pair in black spaced type or capitals, the matter peculiar to each in ordinary black type. It furnishes the best basis for a detailed comparison and critical analysis.

Robinson’s Harmony, revised edition, by M B. Riddle (Professor in Allegheny Theological Seminary), New York, 1885.


II. Critical Discussions

Nathaniel Lardner (1684-1768, a dissenting minister of great learning): The Credibility of the Gospel History. First published in 17 vols. 8vo, London, 1727-1757, and in his collected Works, ed. by A. Kippis, London, 1788 (in 11 vols.), vols. I.-V. Unsurpassed for honest and solid learning, and still valuable.

J. G. Eichhorn (d. 1827): Allgem. Bibliothek der Bibl. Liter., vol. V. (1794), pp. 759 sqq. Einleitung in das N. Testament., 1804, vol. I., 2d ed., 1820. Here he brought out his new idea of an Urevangelium.

Herbert Marsh (Bishop of Peterborough, d. 1839): An Illustration of the Hypothesis proposed in the Dissertation on the Origin and Composition of our Three First Canonical Gospels. Cambridge, 1803. Also his translation of J. D. Michaelis: Introduction to the New Test., with a Dissertation on the Origin and Composition of the Three First Gospels. London, 1802. A modification of Eichhorn’s hypothesis.

Fr. Schleiermacher: Kritischer Versuch über die Schriften des Lucas. Berlin, 1817 (Werke I. 2, pp. 1-220); trans. by Thirlwall, Lond., 1825. Comp. his Einleitung in das N. Testament. (posthumous).

J. C. L. Gieseler: Historisch-kritischer Versuch über die Entstehung und die frühesten Schicksale der schriftlichen Evangelien. Leipz., 1818.

Andrews Norton (a conservative Unitarian, died at Cambridge, 1853): The Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels. Boston, 1837; 2d ed., Cambridge, Mass., 1846-1848, 3 vols. Abridged ed. in 1 vol., Boston (Am. Unitar. Assoc.), 1867 and 1875. By the same: Internal Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels (posthumous). Boston. 1855. With special reference to Strauss.

Fr. Bleek (d. 1859): Beiträge zur Evangelien-Kritik. Berlin, 1846.

F. Chr. Baur (d. 1860): Kritische Untersuchungen über die kanonischen Evangelien. 1847. Comp. the first volume of his Church History (Germ. ed., pp. 22 sqq., 148 sqq.).

Isaac Da Costa: The Four Witnesses: being a Harmony of the Gospels on a New Principle. Transl. (from the Dutch) by David Scott, 1851; New York ed., 1855. Against Strauss.

Ad. Hilgenfeld (Tübingen School): Die Evangelien nach ihrer Entstehung und geschichtl. Bedeutung. Leipz., 1854. His Einleitung, 1875.

Canon Westcott: Introduction to the Study of the Gospels. London and Boston, 1860; 7th ed., London, 1888. Very useful.

Const. Tischendorf (d. 1874): Wann wurden unsere Evangelien verfasst? Leipz., 4th ed., 1866 (Engl. transl. by W. L. Gage, Boston, 1868).

H. Jul. Holtzmann: Die synoptischen Evangelien, ihr Ursprung und geschichtl. Charakter. Leipz., 1863. See also his art. Evangelien in Schenkel’s “Bibel-Lex.,” II. 207, and two articles on the Synoptic Question in the “Jahrbücher für Protest. Theol.,” 1878, pp. 145 sqq. and 533 sqq.; but especially his Einleitung in das N. T., 2d ed., 1886.

C. Weizsäcker (successor of Dr. Baur, but less radical): Untersuchungen über die evang. Gesch., ihre Quellen, etc. Gotha, 1864.

Gustave d’Eichthal: Les Évangiles. Paris, 1863. 2 vols.

L. A. Sabatier: Essai sur les Sources de la vie de Jésus. Paris, 1866.

Andrew Jukes: The Characteristic Differences of the Four Gospels. London, 1867.

Edward A. Thomson: The Four Evangelists; with the Distinctive Characteristics of their Gospels. Edinburgh, 1868.

C. A. Row: The Historical Character of the Gospels Tested by an Examination of their Contents. 1865-67. The Jesus of the Evangelists. London, 1868.

Karl Wieseler: Beiträge zur richtigen Würdigung der Evangelien und der evangel. Geschichte. Gotha, 1869.

Supernatural Religion (anonymous). London, 1873, 7th ed., 1879, vol. I., Part II., pp. 212 sqq., and vol. III. Comp. the careful review and refutation of this work by Bishop Lightfoot in a series of articles in the “Contemporary Review,” 1875, sqq.

P. Godet: The Origin of the Four Gospels. In his “Studies on the New Test.,” 1873. Engl. transl. by W. H. Lyttelton. London, 1876. See also his Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, Introd. and Appendix, Eng. trans. from 2d French ed. Edinb., 1875.

W. Sanday: The Gospels in the Second Century. London, 1876.

Bernhard Weiss (Professor in Berlin): Das Marcusevangelium und seine synoptischen Parallelen. Berlin, 1872. Das Matthäusevangelium und seine Lucas-Parallelen erklärt. Halle, 1876. Two very thorough critical works. Comp. also his reply to Holtzmann in the “Jahrbücher for Protest. Theologie,” 1878; and his Einleitung in’s N. T., 1886.

D. S. Gregory: Why Four Gospels? or, the Gospels for all the World. New York, 1877.

E. Renan: Les évangiles et la seconde génération Chrétienne. Paris, 1877.

Geo. P. Fisher (Professor in New Haven): The Beginnings of Christianity. New York, 1877. Chs. VIII.-XII. Also several articles on the Gospels in the “Princeton Review” for 1881.

Wm. Thomson (Archbishop of York): The Gospels. General Introduction to Speaker’s “Com. on the New Test.,” vol. I., pp. xiii.-lxxv. London and New York, 1878.

Edwin A. Abbott (Head Master, City of London School): Gospels, in the ninth edition of the “Encyclopedia Britannia,” vol. X., pp. 789-843. Edinburgh and New York, 1879.

Fred. Huidekoper (Unitar. Theol. Seminary, Meadville, Pa.): Indirect Testimony of History to the Genuineness of the Gospels. New York, 2d ed., 1879.

John Kennedy (D. D.): The Four Gospels: their Age and Authorship. Traced from the Fourth Century into the First. London; Am. ed., with an introduction by Edwin W. Rice. Philadelphia, 1880 (Am. Sunday School Union).

J. H. Scholten: Das Paulinische Evangelium. Transl. from the Dutch by E. B. Redepenning. Elberfeld, 1881.

C. Holsten: Die drei ursprünglichen, noch ungeschriebenen Evangelien. Leipzig, 1883 (79 pages). A modification of Baur’s tendency-hypothesis. Holsten assumes three forms of the original oral Gospel — the Pauline, the Petrine, and the Judaistic.

Norton, Tischendorf, Wieseler, Ebrard, Da Costa, Westcott, Lightfoot, Sanday, Kennedy, Thomson, Godet, Ezra Abbot, and Fisher are conservative and constructive, yet critical; Baur, Hilgenfeld, Holtzmann, Keim, Renan, Scholten, Davidson, and the author of “Supernatural Religion” are radical but stimulating and negatively helpful especially Baur, Reim, and Renan. Bleek, Ewald, Reuss, Meyer, and Weiss occupy independent middle ground, but all defend the genuineness of John except Reuss, who hesitates.


III. Commentaries

1. Ancient Works: Origen (in Math., Luc., etc., fragmentary); Chrysostom (Hom. in Matth., ed. Fr. Field, 1839); Jerome (in Matth.; in Luc.); Augustine (Quaestionum Evangeliorum libri II.); Theophylact (Comment, in 4 Evang., Gr. et Lat.); Euthymius Zigabenus (Com. in 4 Evang., Gr. et Lat.); Thomas Aquinas (Catena aurea in Evan .; English edition by Pusey, Keble, and Newman. Oxford, 1841-45, 4 vols.).

2. Since the Reformation: Calvin (Harmonia, and Ev. Joa., 1553; Engl. ed., Edinb., 1846, 3 vols.); Maldonatus (R. Cath., Com. in quatuor Evang., 1615); Pasquier Quesnel (Jansenist; The Four Gospels, French and English, several editions); John Lightfoot (Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae in quatuor Evangelistas, and Harmonia quatuor Evangelistarum tum inter se, tum cum Veteri Testamento, in his Opera. London, 1684; also Leipz., 1675; Rotterdam, 1686; London, 1825); J. Macknight (Harm. of the Four Gospels, with Paraphrase and Notes. London, 1756; 5th ed., 1819, 2 vols.); George Campbell (d. 1796; The Four Gospels, with Dissertations and Notes. Aberdeen, 1814, 4 vols.; Andover, 1837, 2 vols.).

3. In the nineteenth century: Olshausen (d. 1839; 3d ed., 1837 sqq. revised and completed by Ebrard and others; Engl. transl., Edinb. and Now York); De Wette (d. 1849; Exeget. Handbuch zum N. T., 1837; 5th ed. by Brückner and others, 1863 sqq.); Bleek (d. 1859; Synopt. Erklärung der 3 ersten Evang., 1862, 2 vols.); Meyer (d. 1874; 6th ed., 1876-80, Matthew by Meyer Mark, Luke and John revised by Weiss); Lange (Am. ed. enlarged, New York and Edinb., 1864 sqq., 3 vols.); Alford (d. 1871; 6th ed., 1868; new ed., 1877); Wordsworth (5th ed., 1866); Jos. A. Alexander (d. 1859; Mark and Matthew, the latter unfinished); McClellan (The Four Gospels, with the Chronological and Analytical Harmony. London, 1875); Keil (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, 1877-1881); Morison (Matthew and Mark, the latter in a third ed., 1882); Godet (Luke and John, French and English), Strack and Zöckler (1888). For English readers: Speaker’s Com., Ellicott’s Com., Schaff’s Revision Com., 1882, etc.

Comp. a list of Com. on the Gospels in the English transl. of Meyer on Matthew (Edinb., 1877, pp. xxiv.-xliii).