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Ch. CLIV. The author of the imperfect work upon St. Matthew was a bishop and an Arian, who wrote in Latin in the sixth century. From his quotations it appears, that he received all the books of the New Testament that we do. He has likewise quoted divers apocryphal books; but, as it seems, not as books of authority. He has some remarkable passages concerning the time and occasion of writing the gospels of St. Matthew and St. John.
Ch. CLV. Victor Tununensis an African bishop, who wrote a Chronicle ending at the year 566, says, that when Messala was consul, that is, in the year of Christ 506, at Constantinople, • by order of the emperor Anastasius, the holy gospels being written by illiterate evangelists, * were censured and corrected.'
Some have hence argued, that the copies of the New Testament, of the gospels at least, have not come down to us pure and uncorrupted, as they were originally written, but were altered at the time above mentioned.
In answer to which it has been observed by us, agreeably to what had been already said by divers learned men, first, that it was impossible in the sixth century to effect an alteration in the sense or words of the gospels, or any books of the New Testament; forasmuch as there were at that time in every part of the known world, in Europe, Asia, and Africa, numerous copies of the books of the New Testament, in the original Greek, and in the Syriac, Latin, and other languages, into which they had been translated. Secondly, that no alteration was made in the gospels or other sacred books is hence apparent; that our present copies agree with the quotations of ancient Greek and Latin authors, and with the translations made before the time of Anastasius. Thirdly, the story of Victor deserves no regard, because he is singular. No other writer has mentioned it beside Isidore of Seville, who transcribed him ; whereas, if such an attempt had been made by Anastasius, and any books had been published with alterations, it would have made a great noise in the world, and would have occasioned a general outcry. The emperor Anastasius was far from being popular in his government. There are extant writings of .contemporaries, as well as of others, in which he is freely and grievously reproached; nevertheless there is no notice taken of this affair, which would have given greater and more general offence to Christians than any other.
Ch. CLVI. Gregory the first, bishop of Rome, received all the books of the New Testament, as of authority, which we do, and no other. Some in his time doubted of the genuineness of the second epistle of St. Peter; but he shews their doubts to be unreasonable. His general titles and divisions of the sacred scriptures are these : • The Old and New Testament, consisting of the Law and the Prophets, the Gospels and Acts, and Words of Apostles; the * Law and the Prophets, Gospel and Apostles. He says, “Whoever was writer of the scrip* tures, the Holy Ghost was the author.'... And, the doctrine of the scripture surpasseth • beyond comparison all other learning and instruction whatever. In the scriptures,' he says " there are obscure and difficult things to exercise the more knowing, plain things to nourish
weak minds ;' and he assures his hearers, that the more the scriptures are read and meditated upon, the more easy and delightful they will be.' A. D. 590.
Ch. CLVII. Isidore bishop of Seville in Spain has several catalogues of the books of the Old and New Testament. He says, that Matthew wrote his gospel the first, in Judea ; then Mark in Italy; Luke the third evangelist, in Achaia ; and John the last, in Ephesus. The first and last relate what they had heard Christ speak, or seen him perform; the other two, placed between them, relate what they had heard from apostles: the Acts of the apostles contain the history of the infancy of the church; the writer is the evangelist Luke; which, he says, is well known. Divers other things deserving notice may be seen in his chapter. A. D. 596.
Ch. CLVIII. Leontius, who for some time was an advocate at Constantinople, afterwards retired and lived a monk in Palestine. He has a catalogue of the scriptures, wherein the books of the Old and New Testament are recited distinctly and agreeably. His catalogue of the books of the Old Testament is much the same with that of the Jews : his catalogues of the books of the New Testament contains all which are now received by us, and no other.
Here is no notice taken of the Constitutions, or Recognitions, or Clementines, or any other Christian writings as of authority. The scriptures of the New Testament are divided by him into six books: the first book contains Matthew and Mark; the second Luke and John; the third is the Acts of the apostles; the fourth the Catholic epistles, being seven in number; the fifth book is the fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul; the sixth is the Revelation of John. These,
says he, are the ancient and the new books, which are received in the church as canonical.' And soon after he says, the period next after Christ's ascension, is treated of in the Acts of • the apostles. The following period reaches from the death of the apostles to the reign of • Constantine; the affairs of which have been related by several ecclesiastical historians, as · Eusebius and Theodoret, whom we are not obliged to receive: for beside the Acts of the apostles, no such writings are appointed to be received by us.' A. D. 610.
Ch. CLIX. Venerable Bede, besides many other works, wrote commentaries upon all the books of the New Testament now received. His prologue to the seven catholic epistles may be seen at large in his chapter. A. D. 701.
Ch. CLX. John Damascenus monk and presbyter, though a native of Damascus wrote in Greek, and is supposed to represent the sentiment of the Greek Christians of his time. He has catalogues of the Old and New Testament, which are recited by us in his chapter, with remarks. His general titles and divisions of the books of scripture, and his respect for them, appear in such expressions as these : All things which are delivered to us by the law and the
prophets, the apostles and evangelists, we receive, acknowledge, and venerate, seeking not • any thing beyond what has been taught by them.' Again : .We cannot think, or say any thing • of God, besides what is divinely taught and revealed to us by the divine oracles of the Old • and New Testament. A. D. 730.
Ch. CLXI. Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, received the same scriptures of the Old and New Testament which are now generally received by us. Beside other works, he wrote Commentaries upon the Psalms, the Prophets, and St. Paul's epistles. This great critic, and fine writer, was a great admirer of the apostle Paul, and has celebrated his manly and unaffected eloquence.
Ch. CLXII. Oecumenius bishop of Tricca in Thessaly received the same books of the New Testament that we do. He wrote Commentaries upon the Acts, St. Paul's fourteen epistles, and the seven Catholic epistles. Upon Acts xiii. 13, he says, this John, who is also called • Mark, nephew to Barnabas, wrote the gospel according to him, and was also disciple of Peter, • of whom he says in his epistle, “ Mark, my son, saluteth you.” And upon Acts xv. 13, he says, "this James, appointed bishop of Jerusalem by the Lord, was son of Joseph, (meaning
by a former wife] and brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh. For other things the reader is referred to the chapter itself. A. D. 950.
Ch. CLXIII. Theophylact, archbishop of the chief city in Bulgaria, received all the books of the New Testament that we do, excepting the book of the Revelation; concerning which his judgment does not now appear to us. He wrote Commentaries upon the four gospels, the Acts, and St. Paul's fourteen epistles. He says, • There are four evangelists, two of whom, • Matthew and John, were apostles of Christ; the other two, Mark and Luke, were of the • number of Christ's seventy disciples : Mark was a companion and disciple of Peter, Luke of • Paul. Matthew first wrote a gospel in the Hebrew language, for the use of the Hebrew • believers, eight years after Christ's ascension ; Mark wrote ten years after our Lord's ascen
sion, having been instructed by Peter ; Luke fifteen, and John two and thirty years after our • Saviour's ascension. Afterwards, • Mark wrote at Rome, ten years after Christ's ascension, • at the request of the believers there, being the disciple of Peter, whom he calls his son spiri• tually: his name was John; he was nephew to Barnabas, and for a while was also companion • of Paul.' He likewise says, that Mark's gospel was said to be Peter's: he says, that Luke, who wrote the gospel and the Acts, was a native of Antioch, and by profession a physician. In his preface to St. Matthew's gospel he writes to this purpose: . And was not one evangelist • sufficient? Yes. Nevertheless, for making the truth more manifest, four were permitted to * write: for when you see these four, not conferring together, nor meeting in the same place, • but separate from each other, writing the same things as with one mouth, are you not led to • admire the truth of the gospel, and to say, that they spake by the Holy Ghost? Do not say * to me, that they do not agree in every thing...For they agree in the necessary and principal things; and if they agree in such things, why should you wonder that they vary in lesser matters ? They are the more credible for not agreeing in all things; for then it would have • been thought, that they had met and consulted together: but now one has written what • another has omitted ; and therefore they seem to differ in some things. A. D. 1070.
Ch. CLXIV. Euthymius, a monk at Constantinople, besides other works, wrote Commen
taries upon the Psalms, and the four gospels; collected chiefly out of Chrysostom, and other ancient writers. According to him Matthew wrote eight, Mark ten, Luke fifteen years after Christ's ascension ; but the evangelist John did not write his gospel till many years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Here ends this part of :ny design ; for my intention was to write at large the history of all, or almost all, the Christian writers of the first four centuries, with their testimony to the books of the New Testament: forasmuch as it is universally allowed, that witnesses near the time of any events are the most credible and material : that has filled ten volumes. Afterward I intended to write briefly, the history of the principal writers, from the end of the fourth century, as low as Theophylact and Euthymius, to the end of the eleventh, or the beginning of the twelfth century, with their testimony likewise to the scriptures of the New Testament; which has been performed in the eleventh volume alone of the former edition.
Ch. CLXV. The chapter of Nicephorus Callisti, who lived not before the fourteenth century, more than two hundred years after the writers last mentioned, (without taking notice of any of the authors in that space) was added only by way of conclusion, as containing the sum of our argument, and of what was to be proved by us. For that learned monk, in his Ecclesiastical History, referring to what had been said by Eusebius concerning the books of the New Testament, and having mentioned those which had been all along universally acknowledged, and then the epistle to the Hebrews, and those of the Catholic epistles, which had been doubted of by some, and the Revelation, adds, · But though there were for a while doubts about these, we know that • at length they have been received by all the churches under heaven with a firm assent.'a And he says, that all others were rejected from being part of sacred scripture. By which we are assured, that all the books of the New Testament which are now received by us were generally received in those times; and that there were not then, nor ever had been, any books of authority among Christians beside them.
And now I hope that there needs not any long harangue to shew the force of our argument. In the first part of this work it was shewn, that there is not any thing in the books of the New Testament, however strictly canvassed, inconsistent with their supposed time and authors; which alone (as was formerly shewn at large) affords good reason to believe, that they were written by persons who lived before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the seventieth year of our Lord's nativity, according to the common computation.
In this second part we have had express and positive evidence, that these books were written by those whose names they bear, even the apostles of Jesus Christ, who was crucified at Jerusalem in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, when Pontius Pilate was governor in Judea, and their well known companions and fellow labourers. It is the concurring testimony of early and later ages, and of writers of all countries in the several parts of the known world, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and of men of different sentiments in divers respects ; for we have had before us the testimony of those called heretics, especially in the third and fourth centuries, as well as catholics. These books were received from the beginning with the greatest respect, and have been publicly and solemnly read in the assemblies of Christians throughout the world in every age from that time to this. They were early translated into the languages of divers countries and people: they were quoted by way of proof in all arguments of a religious nature, and were appealed to on both sides in all points of controversy that arose among Christians themselves; they were likewise recommended to the perusal of others as containing the authentic account of the Christian doctrine ; and many commentaries have been written upon them, to explain and illustrate them; all which affords full assurance of their genuineness and integrity. If these books had not been written by those to whom they are ascribed, and if the things related in them had not been true, they could not have been received from the beginning: if they contain a true account of things, the Christian religion is from God, and cannot but be embraced by serious and attentive men, who impartially examine, and are willing to be determined by evidence.
Much has been said by some in late times about spurious and apocryphal books, composed in the early days of Christianity. I hope, that all objections of that sort have been answered or obviated in the preceding volumes ; nevertheless I shall put together some observations, concerning them, in this conclusion.
** See particularly, besides other places, the history of the Manichees, Vol. ii. p. 228-232. and the chapter of Eusebius of Cæsarea, Vol. ii. p. 385–388.
1. Those books were not much used by the primitive Christians.
There are no quotations of any of them in the apostolical fathers; by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp; whose writings reach from about the year of our Lord 70, to the year 108. . I say this confidently, because I think it has been proved.
Irenæus quotes not any of these books: he mentions some of them, but he never quotes them. The same may be said of Tertullian : he has mentioned a book, called • Acts of Paul • and Thecla,' but it is only to condemn it. Clement of Alexandria . and Origen have mentioned and quoted several such books; but never as of authority, and sometimes with express marks of dislike, as may be seen at large in their chapters. Eusebius quotes no such books in any of his works. He has mentioned them indeed; but how? Not by way of approbation ; but to shew, that they were of little or no value, and that they never were received by the sounder part of Christians. Athanasius mentions not any of them by name; he only passeth a severe censure upon them in general: nor do these books ever come in the way of Jerom but he shews signs of his displeasure. I may not allow myself to go any lower; nor can it be expected.
I only farther add here, that these books were always obscure, and little known. That & the gospel according to the Egyptians was very obscure, appears from Clement's manner of quoting, it: and we saw manifest proof of the obscurity of the gospel of Peter in Serapion's censure of it. Eusebius, having given an account of the two epistles of St. Peter, proceeds, . But the book 6 entitled his Acts, and that called the Gospel according to him, and that styled his Preaching, .and the Revelation under his name, we know that they have not been delivered down to us in • the number of catholic writings, forasmuch as no ecclesiastical writer of the ancients, or of our « time, has made use of testimonies out of them.' In another place he says, · Hek had given a
catalogue of such books of scripture, as according to the ecclesiastical tradition are true, genuine, and universally acknowledged, and of others that are controverted, and yet appear to . have been known to many; that by this means we may know these from such as have been • published by heretics under the names of apostles, as containing the gospels of Peter, and • Thomas, and Matthias, and some others; and the Acts of Andrew and John, and other apostles : • which books none of the ecclesiastical writers in the succession of the apostles have vouchsafed • to mention. Our author's expressions are very strong : but we may hence conclude, that little notice had been taken of these books by ancient writers.
2. These books do not overthrow the evangelical history, but confirm it.
As formerly' said, • These apocryphal books confirm the history of the genuine and authentic scriptures of the New Testament... They are written in the names of such, as our authentic
scriptures say, were apostles or companions of apostles. They all suppose the dignity of our • Lord's person, and a power of working miracles, together with a high degree of authority, to • have been conveyed by him to his apostles.'
Every one who observes that these books are called Gospels, or Preachings of Peter, Paul, Thomas, Matthias, Bartholomew, or Acts of Paul, Andrew, John, and other apostles, must suppose that the composers did not intend to disparage them, whatever they might do in the event. No, they had great respect for them, and knew that other Christians had the like: therefore by recording traditions, which they pretended to have received, concerning the discourses and miracles of Christ and his apostles, they endeavoured to recommend some particular opinions, which they had embraced. The presbyter, who was convicted of having composed the Acts of Paul and Thecla, as we are assured bym Tertullian, alleged, that he had done it out of love to Paul. Serapion, bishop of Antioch, about the year 200, in his censure of the gospel of Peter, says : · Having " read it over, we have found, that the main part of the book is agreeable to the right doctrine of our Saviour. But there are some other things, which we have noted. In the Recognitions, which probably are the same° as the Acts, Travels, Circuits of Peter, are references to the gospels, the Acts, and some of the epistles of the New Testament, and the truth of the
• See here p. 102. and Vol. i. p. 303, 304. 323, 324.
See Vol. i. p. 434, 435. d Ibid. p. 407...
· P. 552 ... 562. See here p. 117. and Vol. ii. p. 400. & Vol. i. 408.
Ib. p. 415.
i See Vol. ii. p. 232. m See Vol.i.
435. o P. 465.. 467.
n P. 415.
principal facts of it is supposed; as may be seen in our extracts out of that * work. It is now generally supposed, upon the ground of some things said by • Irenæus and the author of the additions to Tertullian's book of Prescriptions, that the Valentinians had a book called the
Gospel of Truth,' or 'the Gospel of Valentius :'•nevertheless the Valentinians received all the books of the New Testament, as we are assured both by • Tertullian and Irenæus. Mill thinks, that Valentinus was singular in this : I rather think it was the common method. Jerom & men. tions a book entitled the Gospel of Apelles :' and yet it cannot be questioned, that Apelles received the scriptures of the New Testament; though, perhaps, after the manner of his master Marcion, with rasures and mutilations. The Anabaticon, or Revelation of Paul, was founded upon what the apostle says, 2 Cor. xii. 1, 2, as Epiphanius“ supposeth. I make no question but that the composers of these writings received the books of the New Testament, and allowed the truth of the things contained in them, though they understood them differently from other Christians. Some of the authors of these works might reject the scriptures of the Old Testament, but it is likely, that most of them received the same books of the New Testament which were received by the catholic Christians of their times, and allowed them a like authority. Accordingly the Manichees and Priscillianists, who made use of apocryphal books, received all the books of the New Testament which other Christians did ; at least this is allowed of the Priscillianists. They therefore, who out of a regard to these books, or the great number of them, attempt to set aside, or diminish the authority of the books of the New Testament, now commonly received, are not countenanced by those who in ancient times made the most of them, and sliewed them the greatest respect, and go beyond the intention even of the authors themselves.
3. Few or none of these books were composed before the beginning of the second century.
There should be an exception made for the gospel according to the Hebrews; which probably, was either St. Matthew's gospel, in his original Hebrew, with some additions of no bad tendency; or, as I rather think, a Hebrew translation of St. Matthew's Greek original, with the additions before mentioned: undoubtedly that gospel appeared in the first century,
The Acts of Paul and Thecla likewise must have been composed before the end of the first century, or in the very beginning of the second, if the presbyter who composed them was censured for so doing by St. John, as' Jerom says : but that particular is not mentioned by Tertullian.
St. Luke speaks of • many,' who before him had “undertaken’ to write histories of our Saviour ; but those histories being slight and defective, presently disappeared, as I imagine, after the publication of St. Luke's gospel, and those of the other two evangelists, who wrote about the same time with him. I do not think that those histories or narrations are quoted by any remaining author.
The gospel according to the Egyptians is first quoted by< Clement of Alexandria, near the end of the second century. The same gospel is supposed to be quoted, or referred to, in the fragment of an epistle ascribed to Clement of Rome; but I think it manifestly not his, and not written before the third century.
It is not needful for me to enlarge any farther now; but if there were occasion I suppose it might be shewn to be probable, that none of the other apocryphal books, of which we are now speaking, were composed until after the beginning of the second century.
As they were not composed before that time, they might well refer to the commonly received books of the New Testament, as most of them certainly do; and particularly the Acts of Paul and Thecla, though so early a work, as was formerly shewn: so that these writings, which some have supposed to weaken the credit of our books of the New Testament, do really bear testimony to them.
I might add here (what the readers of this work may easily recollect) that Christian writings
Peculiare autem Valentino id erat, quod unâ cum evangelio proprio, integro instrumento’ uteretur, teste Tertulliano, Prol, num 266.
& Præf. in Comm. sup. Matth. T. iv.p. 1.
Ibid. p. 407, 408.
304, m Ib. p. 448... 449.