Essays on "Supernatural Religion"
by J. B. Lightfoot
II. THE SILENCE OF EUSEBIUS.
'It is very important,' says the author of _Supernatural Religion_, when commencing his critical investigations, 'that the silence of early writers should receive as much attention as any supposed allusions to the Gospels.' [32:1] In the present article I shall act upon this suggestion. In one province more especially, relating to the external evidences for the Gospels, silence occupies a prominent place. This mysterious oracle will be interrogated, and, unless I am mistaken, the response elicited will not be at all ambiguous.
To EUSEBIUS we are indebted for almost all that we know of the lost ecclesiastical literature of the second century. This literature was very considerable. The Expositions of Papias, in five books, and the Ecclesiastical History of Hegesippus, likewise in five books, must have been full of important matter bearing on our subject. The very numerous works of Melito and Claudius Apollinaris, of which Eusebius has preserved imperfect lists [32:2], ranged over the wide domain of theology, of morals, of exegesis, of apologetics, of ecclesiastical order; and here again a flood of light would probably have been poured on the history of the Canon, if time had spared these precious documents of Christian antiquity. Even the extant writings of the second century, however important they may be from other points of view, give a very inadequate idea of the relation of their respective authors to the Canonical writings. In the case of Justin Martyr for instance, it is not from his Apologies or from his Dialogue with Trypho that we should expect to obtain the fullest and most direct information on this point. In works like these, addressed to Heathens and Jews, who attributed no authority to the writings of Apostles and Evangelists, and for whom the names of the writers would have no meaning, we are not surprised that he refers to those writings for the most part anonymously and with reserve. On the other hand, if his treatise against Marcion (to take a single instance) had been preserved, we should probably have been placed in a position to estimate with tolerable accuracy his relation to the Canonical writings. But in the absence of all this valuable literature, the notices in Eusebius assume the utmost importance, and it is of primary moment to the correctness of our result that we should rightly interpret his language. Above all, it is incumbent on us not to assume that his silence means exactly what we wish it to mean. Eusebius made it his business to record notices throwing light on the history of the Canon. The first care of the critic therefore should be to inquire with what aims and under what limitations he executed this portion of his work.
Now, our author is eloquent on the silence of Eusebius. His fundamental assumption is that where Eusebius does not mention a reference to or quotation from any Canonical book in any writer of whom he may be speaking, there the writer in question was himself silent. This indeed is only the application of a general principle which seems to have taken possession of our author's mind. The argument from silence is courageously and extensively applied throughout these volumes. It is unnecessary to accumulate instances, where 'knows nothing' is substituted for 'says nothing,' as if the two were convertible terms; for such instances are countless. But in the case of Eusebius the application of the principle takes a wider sweep. Not only is it maintained that A knows nothing of B, because he says nothing of B; but it is further assumed that A knows nothing of B, because C does not say that A says anything of B. This is obviously an assumption which men would not adopt in common life or in ordinary history; still less is it one to which a competent jury would listen for a moment: and therefore a prudent man may well hesitate before adopting it.
With what unflinching boldness our author asserts his position, will appear from the following passages:--
Of Hegesippus he writes [35:1]:--
'The care with which Eusebius searches for every trace of the use of the books of the New Testament in early writers, and his anxiety to produce any evidence concerning their authenticity, render his silence upon the subject almost as important as his distinct utterance when speaking of such a man as Hegesippus.'
And again [35:2]:--
'It is certain that Eusebius, who quotes with so much care the testimony of Papias, a man of whom he speaks disparagingly, regarding the Gospels _and the Apocalypse_ [35:3], would not have neglected to have availed himself of the evidence of Hegesippus, for whom he has so much respect, had that writer furnished him with any opportunity.'
And again [35:1]:--'As Hegesippus does not [35:2] mention any Canonical work of the New Testament etc.' And in the second volume he returns to the subject [35:3]:--
'It is certain that, had he (Hegesippus) mentioned [35:4] our Gospels, and we may say particularly the Fourth, the fact would have been recorded by Eusebius.'
Similarly he says of Papias[35:5]:--
'Eusebius, who never fails to enumerate [35:6] the works of the New Testament to which the Fathers refer, does not pretend [35:7] that Papias knew either the Third or Fourth Gospels.'
And again, in a later passage [35:8]:--
'Had he (Papias) expressed any recognition [35:9] of the Fourth Gospel, Eusebius would certainly have mentioned the fact, and this silence of Papias is strong presumptive evidence against the Johannine Gospel.'
And a little lower down [35:10]:--
'The presumption therefore naturally is that, as Eusebius did not mention the fact, he did not find any reference to the Fourth Gospel in the work of Papias.' [35:11]
So again, our author writes of Dionysius of Corinth [35:12]:--
'No quotation from, or allusion to, any writing of the New Testament occurs in any of the fragments of the Epistles still extant; nor does Eusebius make mention of any such reference in the Epistles which have perished [35:13], which he certainly would not have omitted to do had they contained any.'
And lower down [36:1]:--
'It is certain that had Dionysius mentioned [36:2] books of the New Testament, Eusebius would, as usual, have stated the fact.'
Of this principle and its wide application, as we have seen, the author has no misgivings. He declares himself absolutely certain about it. It is with him _articulus stantis aut cadentis critices_. We shall therefore do well to test its value, because, quite independently of the consequences directly flowing from it, it will serve roughly to gauge his trustworthiness as a guide in other departments of criticism, where, from the nature of the case, no test can be applied. In the land of the unverifiable there are no efficient critical police. When a writer expatiates amidst conjectural quotations from conjectural apocryphal Gospels, he is beyond the reach of refutation. But in the present case, as it so happens, verification is possible, at least to a limited extent; and it is important to avail ourselves of the opportunity.
In the first place then, Eusebius himself tells us what method he intends to pursue respecting the Canon of Scripture. After enumerating the writings bearing the name of St Peter, as follows;--(l) The First Epistle, which is received by all, and was quoted by the ancients as beyond dispute; (2) The Second Epistle, which tradition had not stamped in the same way as Canonical ([Greek: endiathŕkon], 'included in the Testament'), but which nevertheless, appearing useful to many, had been studied ([Greek: espoudasthŕ]) with the other Scriptures; (3) The Acts, Gospel, Preaching, and Apocalypse of Peter, which four works he rejects as altogether unauthenticated and discredited--he continues [37:1]:--
'But, as my history proceeds, I will take care ([Greek: prourgou poiŕsomai]), along with the successions (of the bishops), to indicate what Church writers (who flourished) from time to time have made use of any of the disputed books ([Greek: antilegomen˘n]), and what has been said by them concerning the Canonical ([Greek: endiathŕk˘n]) and acknowledged Scriptures, and anything that (they have said) concerning those which do not belong to this class. Well, then, the books bearing the name of Peter, of which I recognise ([Greek: egn˘n]) one Epistle only as genuine and acknowledged among the elders of former days ([Greek: palai]), are those just enumerated ([Greek: tosauta]). But the fourteen Epistles of Paul are obvious and manifest ([Greek: prodŕloi kai sapheis]). Yet it is not right to be ignorant of the fact that some persons have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it was disputed by the Church of the Romans as not being Paul's. And I will set before (my readers) on the proper occasions ([Greek: kata kairon]) what has been said concerning this (Epistle) also by those who lived before our time ([Greek: tois pro hŕmon]).'
He then mentions the Acts of Paul, which he 'had not received as handed down among the undisputed books,' and the Shepherd of Hermas, which 'had been spoken against by some' and therefore 'could have no place among the acknowledged books,' though it had been read in churches and was used by some of the most ancient writers. And he concludes:--
'Let this suffice as a statement ([Greek: eis parastasin ... eirŕsth˘]) of those Divine writings which are unquestionable, and those which are not acknowledged among all.'
This statement, though not so clear on minor points as we could wish, is thoroughly sensible and quite intelligible in its main lines. It shows an appreciation of the conditions of the problem. Above all, it is essentially straightforward. It certainly does not evince the precision of a lawyer, but neither on the other hand does it at all justify the unqualified denunciations of the uncritical character of Eusebius in which our author indulges. The exact limits of the Canon were not settled when Eusebius wrote. With regard to the main body of the writings included in our New Testament there was absolutely no question; but there existed a margin of _antilegomena_ or disputed books, about which differences of opinion existed, or had existed. Eusebius therefore proposes to treat these two classes of writings in two different ways. This is the cardinal point of the passage. Of the antilegomena he pledges himself to record when any ancient writer _employs_ any book belonging to their class ([Greek: tines hopoiais kechrŕntai]); but as regards the undisputed Canonical books he only professes to mention them, when such a writer has something to _tell about them_ ([Greek: tina _peri_ t˘n endiathŕk˘n eirŕtai]). Any _anecdote_ of interest respecting them, as also respecting the others ([Greek: t˘n mŕ toiout˘n]), will be recorded. But in their case he nowhere leads us to expect that he will allude to mere _quotations_, however numerous and however precise [38:1].
This statement is inserted after the record of the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, and has immediate and special reference to their writings. The Shepherd of Hermas is only mentioned incidentally, because (as Eusebius himself intimates) the author was supposed to be named in the Epistle to the Romans. But the occasion serves as an opportunity for the historian to lay down the general principles on which he intends to act. Somewhat later, when he arrives at the history of the last years of St John, he is led to speak of the writings of this Apostle also; and as St John's Gospel completes the tetrad of Evangelical narratives, he inserts at this point his account of the Four Gospels. This account concludes as follows [39:1]:--
'Thus much ([Greek: tauta]) we ourselves (have to say) concerning these (the Four Gospels); but we will endeavour more particularly ([Greek: oikeioteron]) on the proper occasions ([Greek: kata kairon]) by quoting the ancient writers to set forth what has been said by anyone else ([Greek: tois allois]) also concerning them. Now, of the writings of John, the first (former, [Greek: protera]) of his Epistles also is acknowledged as beyond question alike among our contemporaries ([Greek: tois nun]) and among the ancients, while the remaining two are disputed. But respecting the Apocalypse opinions are drawn in opposite directions, even to the present day, among most men ([Greek: tois pollois]). Howbeit it also shall receive its judgment ([Greek: epikrisin]) at a proper season from the testimonies of the ancients.'
After this follows the well-known passage in which he sums up the results at which he has arrived respecting the Canon. With this passage, important as it is in itself, I need not trouble my readers.
Here again it will be seen that the same distinction as before is observed. Of the Gospels the historian will only record anecdotes concerning them. On the other hand, in the case of the Apocalypse mere references and quotations will be mentioned because they afford important data for arriving at a decision concerning its Canonical authority.
Hitherto we have discovered no foundation for the superstructure which our author builds on the silence of Eusebius. But the real question, after all, is not what this historian professes to do, but what he actually does. The original prospectus is of small moment compared with the actual balance-sheet, and in this case time has spared us the means of instituting an audit to a limited extent. With Papias and Hegesippus and Dionysius of Corinth, any one is free to indulge in sweeping assertions with little fear of conviction; for we know nothing, or next to nothing, of these writers, except what Eusebius himself has told us. But Eusebius has also dealt with other ancient writings in relation to the Canon, as, for instance, those of Clement of Rome, of Ignatius, of Polycarp, of IrenŠus, and others; and, as these writings are still extant, we can compare their actual contents with his notices. Here a definite issue is raised. If our author's principle will stand this test, there is a very strong presumption in its favour; if it will not, then it is worthless.
Let us take first the Epistle of CLEMENT OF ROME. This Epistle contains several references to Evangelical narratives--whether oral or written, whether our Canonical Gospels or not, it is unnecessary for the present to discuss [40:1]. It comprises a chapter relating to the labours and martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul [40:2]. It also, as our author himself allows (accepting the statement of Tischendorf), 'here and there ... makes use of passages from Pauline Epistles.' [40:3] It does more than this; it mentions definitely and by name St Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, alluding to the parties which called themselves after Paul and Cephas and Apollos [40:4]. Of all this Eusebius says not a word. He simply remarks that Clement, by
'putting forward ([Greek: paratheis]) many thoughts of the (Epistle) to the Hebrews, and even employing some passages from it word for word ([Greek: autolexei]), shows most clearly that the document [Greek: sungramma] was not recent (when he wrote).' [40:5]
This is strictly true, as far as it goes; the passages are too many and too close to leave any doubt about their source; but the Epistle to the Hebrews is not directly named, as the Epistle to the Corinthians is.
The IGNATIAN EPISTLES deserve to be considered next. The question of their genuineness does not affect the present inquiry; for the seven letters contained in what is commonly called the Short Greek recension, whether spurious or not, were confessedly the same which Eusebius read; and to these I refer. For the sake of convenience I shall call the writer Ignatius, without prejudging the question of authorship. Ignatius then presents some striking coincidences with our Synoptic Gospels (whether taken thence or not, I need not at present stop to inquire), _e.g._ 'Be thou wise as a serpent in all things, and harmless always as a dove,' [41:1] 'The tree is manifest by its fruit,' [41:2] 'He that receiveth, let him receive.' [41:3] He likewise echoes the language of St John, _e.g._ 'It (the Spirit) knoweth whence it cometh and whither it goeth,' [41:4] 'Jesus Christ ... in all things pleased Him that sent Him,' [41:5] with other expressions. He also refers to the examples of St Peter and St Paul. [41:6] He describes the Apostle of the Gentiles as 'making mention of' the Ephesians 'in every part of his letter' (or 'in every letter' [41:7]). These letters moreover contain several passages which are indisputable reminiscences of St Paul's Epistles [41:8]. Yet of all this Eusebius says not a word. All the information which he gives respecting the relation of Ignatius to the Canon is contained in this one sentence [41:9]:--
'Writing to the SmyrnŠans, he has employed expressions (taken) I know not whence, recording as follows concerning Christ:--
"And I myself know and believe that He exists in the flesh after the resurrection. And when He came to Peter and those with him ([Greek: pros tous peri Petron]), He said unto them, 'Take hold, feel me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit' [literally, 'demon,' [Greek: daimonion as˘maton]]; and immediately they touched Him, and believed."'
It should be added that, though Eusebius does not know the source of this reference, Jerome states that it came from the Gospel of the Hebrews [42:1].
Now let us suppose that these Epistles were no longer extant, and that we interpreted the silence of Eusebius on the same principle which our author applies to Papias and Hegesippus and Dionysius of Corinth. 'Here,' we should say, 'is clearly a Judaising Christian--an Ebionite of the deepest hue. He recognises St Peter as his great authority. He altogether ignores St Paul. He knows nothing of our Canonical Gospels, and he uses exclusively the Gospel of the Hebrews. Thus we have a new confirmation of the TŘbingen theory respecting the origin of the Christian Church. The thing is obvious to any impartial mind. Apologetic writers must indeed be driven to straits if they attempt to impugn this result.' It so happens that this estimate of Ignatius would be hopelessly wrong. He appeals to St Paul as his great example [42:2]. His Christology is wholly unlike the Ebionite, for he distinctly declares the perfect deity as well as the perfect humanity of Christ [42:3]. And he denounces the Judaisers at length and by name [42:4]. What then is the value of a principle which, when applied in a simple case, leads to conclusions diametrically opposed to historical facts?
From Ignatius we pass to POLYCARP. Here again the genuineness of the Epistle bearing this Father's name does not affect the question; for it is confessedly the same document which Eusebius had before him. In Polycarp's Epistle [42:5] also there are several coincidences with our Gospels. There is a hardly disputable embodiment of words occurring in the Acts. There are two or three references to St Paul by name. Once he is directly mentioned as writing to the Philippians. There are obvious quotations from or reminiscences of Romans, 1, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, not to mention other more doubtful coincidences. Of all this again Eusebius 'knows nothing.' So far as regards the Canon, he does not think it necessary to say more than that 'Polycarp in his aforesaid ([Greek: dŕl˘theisŕ]) writing ([Greek: graphŕ]) to the Philippians, which is in circulation ([Greek: pheromenŕ]) to the present day, has used certain testimonies from the First (former) Epistle of Peter [43:1]. Here again, we might say, is a Judaiser, the very counterpart of Papias. This inference indeed would be partially, though only partially, corrected by the fact that Eusebius in an earlier place [43:2], to illustrate his account of Ignatius, quotes from Polycarp's Epistle a passage in which St Paul's name happens to be mentioned. But this mention (so far as regards the matter before us) is purely accidental; and the sentence relating to the Canon entirely ignores the Apostle of the Gentiles, with whose thoughts and language nevertheless this Epistle is saturated.
When we turn from Polycarp to JUSTIN MARTYR, the phenomena are similar. This Father introduces into his extant writings a large number of Evangelical passages. A few of these coincide exactly with our Canonical Gospels; a much larger number have so close a resemblance that, without referring to the actual text of our Gospels, the variations would not be detected by an ordinary reader. Justin Martyr professes to derive these sayings and doings from written documents, which he styles _Memoirs of the Apostles_, and which (he tells his heathen readers) 'are called Gospels [43:3].' His expressions and arguments moreover in some passages recall the language of St Paul's Epistles [43:4]. Of all this again Eusebius 'knows nothing.' So far as regards the Canon of the New Testament, he contents himself with stating that Justin 'has made mention ([Greek: memnŕtai]) of the Apocalypse of John, clearly saying that it is (the work) of the Apostle.' [43:5]
His mode of dealing with THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH is still more instructive. Among the writings of this Father, he mentions one work addressed _To Autolycus_, and another _Against the Heresy of Hermogenes_ [44:1]. The first is extant: not so the other. In the extant work Theophilus introduces the unmistakeable language of Romans, 1, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, not to mention points of resemblance with other Apostolic Epistles which can hardly have been accidental [44:2]. He has one or two coincidences with the Synoptic Gospels, and, what is more important, he quotes the beginning of the Fourth Gospel by name, as follows [44:3]:--
'Whence the Holy Scriptures and all the inspired men ([Greek: pneumatophoroi]) teach us, one of whom, John, says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," showing that at the first ([Greek: en pr˘tois]) God was alone, and the Word in Him. Then he says, "And the Word was God; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made."'
This quotation is direct and precise. Indeed even the most suspicious and sceptical critics have not questioned the adequacy of the reference [44:4]. It is moreover the more conspicuous, because it is the one solitary instance in which Theophilus quotes directly and by name any book of the New Testament. Here again Eusebius is altogether silent. But of the treatise no longer extant he writes, that in it 'he (Theophilus) has used testimonies from the Apocalypse of John.' [44:5] This is all the information which he vouchsafes respecting the relation of Theophilus to the Canon.
One example more must suffice. IRENĂUS [44:6] in his extant work on heresies quotes the Acts again and again, and directly ascribes it to St Luke. He likewise cites twelve out of the thirteen Epistles of St Paul, the exception being the short letter to Philemon. These twelve he directly ascribes to the Apostle in one place or another, and with the exception of 1 Timothy and Titus he gives the names of the persons addressed; so that the identification is complete. The list of references to St Paul's Epistles alone occupies two octavo pages of three columns each in the index to Stieren's _IrenŠus_. Yet of all this Eusebius 'knows nothing.' In a previous chapter indeed he happens to have quoted a passage from IrenŠus, relating to the succession of the Roman bishops, in which this Father states that Linus is mentioned by St Paul 'in the Epistle to Timothy;' [45:1] but the passage relating to the Canon contains no hint that IrenŠus recognised the existence of any one of St Paul's Epistles; and from first to last there is no mention of the Acts. The language of Eusebius here is highly characteristic as illustrating his purpose and method. He commences the chapter by referring back to his original design, as follows [45:2]:--
'Since, at the commencement of our treatise, we have made a promise, saying that we should adduce at the proper opportunities the utterances of the ancient elders and writers of the Church, in which they have handed down in writing the traditions that reached them concerning the Canonical ([Greek: endiathŕk˘n]) writings, and IrenŠus was one of these, let me now adduce his notices also, and first those relating to the sacred Gospels, as follows.'
He then quotes a short passage from the third book, giving the circumstances under which the Four Gospels were written. Then follow two quotations from the well-known passage in the fifth book, in which IrenŠus mentions the date and authorship of the Apocalypse, and refers to the number of the beast. Eusebius then proceeds:--
'This is the account given by the above-named writer respecting the Apocalypse also. And he has made mention too of the First Epistle of John, adducing very many testimonies out of it; and likewise also of the First (former) Epistle of Peter. And he not only knows, but even receives the writing of the 'Shepherd,' saying, 'Well then spake the writing' [or 'scripture,' [Greek: hŕ graphŕ]] 'which says, "First of all believe that God is One, even He that created all things;"' and so forth.'
This is all the information respecting the Canon of the New Testament which he adduces from the great work of IrenŠus. In a much later passage [46:1], however, he has occasion to name other works of this Father no longer extant; and of one of these he remarks that in it 'he mentions the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the so-called Wisdom of Solomon, adducing certain passages from them.'
From these examples, combined with his own prefatory statements, we feel justified in laying down the following canons as ruling the procedure of Eusebius:--
(1) His main object was to give such information as might assist in forming correct views respecting the Canon of Scripture.
(2) This being so, he was indifferent to any quotations or references which went towards establishing the canonicity of those books which had never been disputed in the Church. Even when the quotation was direct and by name, it had no value for him.
(3) To this class belonged (i) the Four Gospels; (ii) the Acts; (iii) the thirteen Epistles of St Paul.
(4) As regards these, he contents himself with preserving any anecdotes which he may have found illustrating the circumstances under which they were written, _e.g._ the notices of St Matthew and St Mark in Papias, and of the Four Gospels in IrenŠus.
(5) The Catholic Epistles lie on the border-land between the _Homologumena_ and the _Antilegomena_, between the universally acknowledged and the disputed books. Of the Epistles of St John for instance, the First belonged to the one class, the Second and Third to the other. Of the Epistles of St Peter again, the First was acknowledged, the Second disputed. The Catholic Epistles in fact occupy an exceptional position.
Respecting his treatment of this section of the Canon he is not explicit in his opening statement, and we have to infer it from his subsequent procedure. As this however is uniform, we seem able to determine with tolerable certainty the principle on which he acts. He subjects all the books belonging to this section to the same law. For instance, he mentions any references to 1 John and 1 Peter (_e.g._ in Papias, Polycarp, and IrenŠus), though in the Church no doubt was ever entertained about their genuineness and authority. He may have thought that this mention would conduce to a just estimate of the meaning of silence in the case of disputed Epistles, as 2 Peter and 2, 3 John.
(6) The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse still remain to be considered. Their claim to a place in the Canon is, or has been, disputed: and therefore he records every decisive notice respecting either of them, _e.g._ the quotations from the Epistle to the Hebrews in Clement of Rome and IrenŠus, and the notices of the Apocalypse in Justin and Melito [47:1] and Apollonius [47:2], and Theophilus and IrenŠus. So too, he records any testimony, direct or indirect, bearing the other way, _e.g._ that the Roman presbyter Gaius mentions only thirteen Epistles of St Paul, 'not reckoning the Epistle to the Hebrews with the rest.' [47:3]
(7) With regard to the books which lie altogether outside the Canon, but which were treated as Scripture, or quasi-scripture, by any earlier Church writer, he makes it his business to record the fact. Thus he mentions the one quotation in IrenŠus from the Shepherd of Hermas; he states that Hegesippus employs the Gospel according to the Hebrews; he records that Clement of Alexandria in the _Stromateis_ has made use of the Epistles of Barnabas and Clement, and in the _Hypotyposeis_ has commented on the Epistle of Barnabas and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter [47:4].
It will have appeared from the above account, if I mistake not, that his treatment of this subject is essentially frank. There is no indication of a desire to make out a case for those writings which he and his contemporaries received as Canonical, against those which they rejected. The Shepherd of Hermas is somewhere about two-thirds the length of the whole body of the thirteen Epistles of St Paul. He singles out the one isolated passage from Hermas in IrenŠus, though it is quoted anonymously; and he says nothing about the quotations from St Paul, though they exceed two hundred in number, and are very frequently cited by name.
It is necessary however, not only to investigate his principles, but also to ascertain how far his application of these principles can be depended upon. And here the facts justify us in laying down the following rules for our guidance:--
(i) As regards the anecdotes containing information relating to the books of the New Testament he restricts himself to the narrowest limits which justice to his subject will allow. His treatment of IrenŠus makes this point clear. Though he gives the principal passage in this author relating to the Four Gospels [48:1], he omits to mention others which contain interesting statements directly or indirectly affecting the question, _e.g._ that St John wrote his Gospel to counteract the errors of Cerinthus and the Nicolaitans [48:2]. Thus too, when he quotes a few lines alluding to the unanimous tradition of the Asiatic elders who were acquainted with St John [48:3], he omits the context, from which we find that this tradition had an important bearing on the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel, for it declared that Christ's ministry extended much beyond a single year, thus confirming the obvious chronology of the Fourth Gospel against the apparent chronology of the Synoptists.
(ii) As regards the quotations and references the case stands thus. When Eusebius speaks of 'testimonies' in any ancient writer taken from a Scriptural book, we cannot indeed be sure that the quotations were direct and by name (this was certainly not the case in some), but we may fairly assume that they were definite enough, or numerous enough, or both, to satisfy even a sceptical critic of the modern school. This is the case, for instance, with the quotations from the Epistle to the Hebrews in Clement of Rome, and those from the First Epistle of St Peter in Polycarp. _In no instance which we can test does Eusebius give a doubtful testimony._ On the other hand he omits several which might fairly be alleged, and have been alleged by modern writers, as, for instance, the coincidence with 1 John in Polycarp [49:1]. He may have passed them over through inadvertence, or he may not have considered them decisive.
I am quite aware that our author states the case differently; but I am unable to reconcile his language with the facts. He writes as follows [49:2]:--
'He (Eusebius) states however, that Papias "made use of testimonies from the First Epistle of John, and likewise from that of Peter." As Eusebius, however, does not quote the passages from Papias, we must remain in doubt whether he did not, as elsewhere, assume from some similarity of wording that the passages were quotations from these Epistles, whilst in reality they might not be. Eusebius made a similar statement with regard to a supposed quotation in the so-called Epistle of Polycarp (^5) upon very insufficient grounds.' [49:3]
For the statement 'as elsewhere' our author has given no authority, and I am not aware of any.
The note to which the number in the text (^5) refers is 'Ad Phil. vii.; Euseb. _H.E._ iv. 14.'
I cannot help thinking there is some confusion here. The passage of Eusebius to which our author refers in this note relates how Polycarp 'has employed certain testimonies from the First (former) Epistle of Peter.' The chapter of Polycarp, to which he refers, contains a reference to the First Epistle of St John, which has been alleged by modern writers, but is not alleged by Eusebius. This same chapter, it is true, contains the words 'Watch unto prayer,' which present a coincidence with 1 Pet. iv. 7. But no one would lay any stress on this one expression: the strong and unquestionable coincidences are elsewhere. Moreover our author speaks of a single 'supposed quotation,' whereas the quotations from I Peter in Polycarp are numerous. Thus in c. 1 we have 'In whom, not having seen, ye believe, and believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,' from 1 Pet. i. 8: in c. 2, 'Girding up your loins,' from 1 Pet. i. 13 (comp. Ephes. vi. 14); 'Having believed on Him that raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave Him glory,' from 1 Pet. i. 21; 'Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,' from 1 Pet. iii. 9: in c. 5, 'Every lust warreth against the Spirit,' from 1 Pet. ii. 11: in c. 8, 'Who bore our sins with His own body ([Greek: to idi˘ s˘mati]) on the tree,' from 1 Pet. ii. 24; 'Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,' from 1 Pet. ii. 22: in c. 10, 'Lovers of the brotherhood,' from 1 Pet. ii. 17; 'Be ye all subject one to another,' from 1 Pet. v. 5; 'Having your conversation unblamable among the Gentiles, that from your good works both ye may receive praise, and the Lord may not be evil spoken of in you,' from 1 Pet. ii. 12 (comp. iv. 14 in the received text). I am quite at a loss to conceive how any one can speak of these numerous and close coincidences as 'very insufficient grounds.' And though our author elsewhere, as, for instance, in the quotations from the Fourth Gospel in Tatian and in the Clementine Homilies [50:1], has resisted evidence which (I venture to think) would satisfy any jury of competent critics, yet I cannot suppose that he would hold out against such an array of passages as we have here, and I must therefore believe that he has overlooked the facts. I venture to say again that, in these references to early writers relating to the Canon, Eusebius (where we are able to test him) _never overstates the case_. I emphasize this assertion, because I trust some one will point out my error if I am wrong. If I am not shown to be wrong, I shall make use of the fact hereafter [50:2].
This investigation will have thrown some light upon the author's sweeping assertions with respect to the arbitrary action which he supposes to have presided over the formation of the Canon, and still more on his unqualified denunciations of the uncritical spirit of Eusebius. But such was not my immediate purpose.
_Hypotheses non fingimus._ We have built no airy castles of criticism on arbitrary _Ó priori_ assumptions as to what the silence of Eusebius must mean. We have put the man himself in the witness-box; we have confronted him with facts, and cross-examined him; thus we have elicited from him his principles and mode of action. I may perhaps have fallen into some errors of detail, though I have endeavoured to avoid them, but the main conclusions are, I believe, irrefragable. If they are not, I shall be obliged to any one who will point out the fallacy in my reasoning; and I pledge myself to make open retractation, when I resume these papers in a subsequent number. If they are, then the reader will not fail to see how large a part of the argument in _Supernatural Religion_ has crumbled to pieces.
Our author is quite alive to the value of a system of 'positively enunciating.' [51:1] 'A good strong assertion,' he says, 'becomes a powerful argument, since few readers have the means of verifying its correctness.' [51:2] His own assertions, which I quoted at the outset of this investigation, are certainly not wanting in strength, and I have taken the liberty of verifying them. Any English reader may do the same. Eusebius is translated, and so are the Ante-Nicene Fathers.
I now venture on a statement which might have seemed a paradox if it had preceded this investigation, but which, coming at its close, will, if I mistake not, commend itself as a sober deduction from facts. _The silence of Eusebius respecting early witnesses to the Fourth Gospel is an evidence in its favour._ Its Apostolic authorship had never been questioned by any Church writer from the beginning, so far as Eusebius was aware, and therefore it was superfluous to call witnesses. It was not excused, because it had not been accused. In short, the silence of Eusebius here means the very opposite to that which our author assumes it to mean.
If any one demurs to this inference, let him try, on any other hypothesis, to answer the following questions:--
(1) How is it that, while Eusebius alleges repeated testimonies to the Epistle to the Hebrews, he is silent from first to last about the universally acknowledged Epistles of St Paul, such as Romans, 1, 2 Corinthians, and Galatians?
(2) How is it that he does not mention the precise and direct testimony in Theophilus to the Gospel of St John, while he does mention a reference in this same author to the Apocalypse?
And this explanation of the silence of Eusebius, while it is demanded by his own language and practice, alone accords with the known facts relating to the reception of the Fourth Gospel in the second century. Its theology is stamped on the teaching of orthodox apologists; its authority is quoted for the speculative tenets of the manifold Gnostic sects, Basilideans, Valentinians, Ophites; its narrative is employed even by a Judaising writer like the author of the Clementines. The phenomena which confront us in the last quarter of the second century are inexplicable, except on the supposition that the Gospel had had a long previous history. How else are we to account for such facts as that the text already exhibits a number of various readings, such as the alternative of 'only begotten God' for 'the only begotten Son' in i. 18, and 'six' for 'five' in iv. 18, or the interpolation of the descent of the angel in v. 3, 4; that legends and traditions have grown up respecting its origin, such as we find in Clement of Alexandria and in the Muratorian fragment [52:1]; that perverse mystical interpretations, wholly foreign to the simple meaning of the text, have already encrusted it, such as we meet with in the commentary of Heracleon? How is it that ecclesiastical writers far and wide receive it without misgiving at this epoch--IrenŠus in Gaul, Tertullian in Africa, Clement in Alexandria, Theophilus at Antioch, the anonymous Muratorian writer perhaps in Rome? that they not only receive it, but assume its reception from the beginning? that they never betray a consciousness that any Church or Churchman had ever questioned it? The history of the first three-quarters of the second century is necessarily obscure owing to the paucity of remains. A flood of light is suddenly poured in during the remaining years of the century. Our author is content to grope in the obscurity: any phantoms may be conjured up here; but the moment the light is let in, he closes his eyes and can see nothing. He refuses altogether to discuss IrenŠus, though IrenŠus was a disciple of Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of St John. Even if it be granted that the opinion of IrenŠus, as an isolated individual, is not worth much, yet the wide-spread and traditional belief which underlies his whole language and thoughts is a consideration of the highest moment: and IrenŠus is only one among many witnesses. The author's treatment of the external evidences to the Fourth Gospel is wholly vitiated by his ignoring the combined force of such facts as these. A man might with just as much reason assert that a sturdy oak sapling must have sprung up overnight, because circumstances had prevented him from witnessing its continuous growth.
The author of _Supernatural Religion_ was kind enough to send me an early copy of his fourth edition, and I sincerely thank him for his courtesy. Unfortunately it arrived too late for me to make any use of it in my previous article. With one exception however, I have not noticed that my criticisms are affected by any changes which may have been made. But this single exception is highly important. A reader, with only the fourth edition before him, would be wholly at a loss to understand my criticism, and therefore some explanation is necessary.
In my former article [53:1] I pointed out that the author had founded a charge of 'falsification' against Dr Westcott on a grammatical error of his own. He had treated the infinitive and indicative moods as the same for practical purposes; he had confused the oblique with the direct narrative; he had maintained that the passage in question (containing a reference to St John) was IrenŠus' own, whereas the grammar showed that IrenŠus was repeating the words of others; and consequently, he had wrongly accused Dr Tischendorf and Dr Westcott, because in their translations they had brought out the fact that the words did not belong to IrenŠus himself.
I place the new note relating to Dr Westcott side by side with the old [54:1]:--
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
'Having just observed that a note | 'Canon Westcott, who quotes
in this place, in previous | this passage in a note (_On the
editions, has been understood as | Canon_ p. 61, note 2), translates
an accusation against Dr Westcott | here, "This distinction of dwelling,
of deliberate falsification of | they taught, exists" etc.
the text of IrenŠus, we at once | The introduction of "they taught"
withdraw it with unfeigned regret | here is most unwarrantable; and
that the expressions used could | being inserted, without a word
bear an interpretation so far | of explanation or mark showing
from our intention. _We desired | its addition by the translator, in
simply to object to the insertion | a passage _upon whose interpretation
of "they taught"_ (_On the Canon_ | there is difference of opinion_,
p. 61, note 2), without some | and whose origin is in dispute, it
indication, in the absence of the | amounts to a falsification of the
original text, that these words | text. Dr Westcott neither gives
were merely supplementary and | the Greek nor the ancient Latin
conjectural. The source _of the | version for comparison.'
indirect passage_ is, of course, |
matter of argument, and we make |
it so; but it seems to us that |
the introduction of specific |
words like these, without |
explanation of any kind, conveys |
to the general reader too |
positive a view of the case. We |
may perhaps be permitted to say |
that we fully recognise Dr |
Westcott's sincere love of truth, |
and feel the most genuine respect |
for his character.' |
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
'Now, in the quotation from | 'Now in the quotation from
IrenŠus given in this passage, | IrenŠus given in this passage,
_Tischendorf renders the oblique | _Tischendorf deliberately falsifies
construction_ by inserting "say | the text_ by inserting "say they;"
they," referring to the Presbyters | and, as he does not give the
of Papias; and, as he does not | original, the great majority of
give the original, he should at | readers could never detect how
least have indicated that these | he thus adroitly contrives to
words are supplementary. We | strengthen his argument. As
shall endeavour' [55:2] etc. | regards the whole statement of
| the case we must affirm that it
| misrepresents the facts. We
| shall endeavour' etc.
Lower down he mentions how IrenŠus 'continues with a quotation from Isaiah his own train of reasoning,' adding in the early editions--'and it might just as well be affirmed that IrenŠus found the quotation from the Prophet in Papias as that which we are considering.' [56:1] As the reference to Isaiah is in the indicative, whereas the clause under consideration is in the infinitive, this was equivalent to saying that the one mood is just as good as the other, where it is a question of the direct or oblique narrative. This last sentence is tacitly removed in the fourth edition.
In the translation of the infinitive [Greek: einai de tŕn diastolŕn] we notice this difference:--
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
But ... there is this distinction.' | 'But there is to be this
The translation of the passage containing these oblique infinitives is followed by the author's comment, which is altered thus:--
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
'Now it is impossible for anyone | 'Now it is impossible for anyone
who attentively considers the whole | who attentively considers the whole
of this passage, and who makes | of this passage, and who makes
himself acquainted with the manner | himself acquainted with the manner
in which IrenŠus conducts his | in which IrenŠus conducts his
argument, and interweaves it _with | argument, and interweaves it _with
quotations, to assert that the | texts of Scripture, to doubt that
phrase we are considering_ must | the phrase we are considering is
have been taken from a book | introduced by IrenŠus himself_,
referred to three chapters earlier, | and is in no case a quotation
and _was not introduced by IrenŠus | from the work of Papias.'
from some other source_.' |
Here the author has tacitly withdrawn an interpretation which a few weeks before he declared to be beyond the reach of doubt, and has substituted a wholly different one for it. He then proceeds:--
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
'In the passage from the | 'The passage from the commencement
commencement of the second | of the second paragraph (ž 2) is
paragraph IrenŠus enlarges upon, | an enlargement or comment on what
and illustrates, what "the | the Presbyters say regarding the
Presbyters say" regarding the | blessedness of the Saints, and
blessedness of the Saints, _by | IrenŠus illustrates the distinction
quoting the view held_ as to the | between those bearing fruit
distinction between those bearing | thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and one
fruit thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and | hundred-fold, so often represented
one hundred-fold, and _the | in the Gospel, _by the saying_
interpretation given of the saying_ | regarding "many mansions" being
regarding "many mansions."' | prepared in Heaven.'
After this our author, in the earlier editions, quotes a number of passages from IrenŠus to support his view that the words in question are direct and not oblique, because they happen to begin with [Greek: dia touto]. It is unfortunate that not one of them is in the infinitive mood, and therefore they afford no illustration of the point at issue.
'These,' he there adds, 'are _all direct quotations by IrenŠus_, as is _most certainly_ that which we are considering, which is introduced in precisely the same way. That this is the case is further _shown_ etc.... and it is rendered _quite certain_ by the fact that' etc.
All these false parallels are withdrawn in the fourth edition and the sentence is rewritten. We are now told that '_the source of his_ (IrenŠus') _quotation is quite indefinite, and may simply be the exegesis of his own day_ [57:1].' So then it was a quotation after all, and the old interpretation, though declared to be 'most certain' and 'quite certain' in two consecutive sentences, silently vanishes to make room for the new. But why does the author allow himself to spend nine octavo pages over the discussion of this one passage, freely altering sentence after sentence to obliterate all traces of his error, without any intimation to the reader? Had not the public a right to expect more distinctness of statement, considering that the author had been led by this error to libel the character of more than one writer? Must not anyone reading the apology to Dr Westcott, contained in the note quoted above, necessarily carry off a wholly false impression of the facts?
I add one other passage for comparison:--
FOURTH EDITION. | EARLIER EDITIONS.
'We have disposed of his alternative | 'We have disposed of his
that the quotation being by "the | alternative that the quotation,
Presbyters" was more ancient even | being by "the Presbyters," was
than Papias, by showing that it | more ancient even than Papias,
_may be referred to IrenŠus himself | by showing that it _must be
quoting probably from | attributed to IrenŠus himself_,
contemporaries_, and that there is | and that there is no ground for
no ground for attributing it to the | attributing it to the Presbyters
Presbyters at all.' [58:1] | at all.'
Surely this writer might have paused before indulging so freely in charges of 'discreet reserve,' of 'disingenuousness,' of 'wilful and deliberate evasion,' and the like.
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