« PreviousContinue »
ing from himself, is in analogy with the practice of Paul, who always in his Epistles speaks of himself by his new and Christian appellation. (On the doubts raised in ancient times respecting the identity of Matthew and Levi, see note on Matt. ix. 9.)
3. The Apostle Matthew is described by Clement of Alexandria as belonging to the ascetic Judaistic school of early Christians. Nothing is known of his apostolic labours out of Palestine, which Eusebius mentions generally. Later writers fix the scene of them in Ethiopia," but also include in their circle Macedonia, and several parts of Asia. Heracleon, as cited by Clement of Alexandria, relates that his death was natural. This is implicitly confirmed by Clement himself, and by Origen and Tertullian, who mention only Peter, Paul, and James the greater, as martyrs among the Apostles.
ITS ORIGINAL LANGUAGE.
On this point, which cannot be supposed of great interest to the English reader, he may be contented to be informed thus much, that it has been disputed among biblical scholars, whether this Gospel was originally composed in Hebrew, or in Greek :that the testimony of the early Church is unanimous, that it was written in Hebrew :—but that some doubt is thrown upon the sufficiency of this testimony, from a probability that some at least of the Fathers mistook the apocryphal “Gospel according to the Hebrews” for the Gospel of St. Matthew :and that the phænomena of the Gospel itself are strongly against the idea that it was written originally in any other language than that in which we now possess it: viz. in Greek: which, be it remembered, was the commonly spoken language in Palestine, and throughout the East.
For the further treatment of the question, I must refer to my Greek Testament, Vol. I., Prolegomena, ch. ii. § ii.
FOR WHAT READERS AND WITH WHAT OBJECT IT WAS WRITTEN.
1. An opinion has generally prevailed, both in ancient and modern times, that Matthew originally drew up his Gospel for the use of the Jewish converts in Palestine. And internal notices tend to confirm this inference. We have fewer interpretations of Jewish customs, laws, and localities, than in the two other Gospels. The whole narrative proceeds more upon a Jewish view of matters, and is concerned more to establish that point, which to a Jewish convert would be most important, that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Hence the commencement of His genealogy from Abraham and David ; hence the frequent notice of the necessity of this or that event happening, because it was so foretold by the Prophets; hence the constant opposition of our Lord's spiritually ethical teaching to the carnal formalistic ethics of the Scribes and Pharisees.
2. But we must not think of the Gospel as a systematic treatise drawn up with this end continually in view. It only exercised a very general and indirect influence over the composition, not excluding narratives, sayings, and remarks which had no such tendency, or even partook of an opposite one.
3. Grecian readers were certainly also in the view of the Apostle ; and in consequence, he adds interpretations and explanations, such, for example, as ch. i. 23 ; xxvii. 8, 33, 46, for their information.
4. In furtherance of the design above mentioned, we may discern (with the caution given in 2) a more frequent and consistent reference to the Lord as a King, and to his Messianic kingdom, than in the other Gospels. Designing these remarks not as a complete Introduction to the Gospels, but merely as subsidiary to the following Commentary, I purposely do not give instances of these characteristics, but leave them to be gathered by the student as he proceeds.
AT WHAT TIME IT WAS WRITTEN.
The testimony of the early Church is unanimous, that Matthew wrote first among the Evangelists. Clement of Alexandria, who dissented from the present order of our Gospels, yet placed those of Matthew and Luke first. Origen's testimony is, that tradition in his time reported Matthew to have written first. And Irenæus relates that Matthew wrote his Gospel while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the Church in Rome. Without adopting this statement, we may remark that it represents a date, to which internal chronological notices are not repugnant. It seems, from ch. xxvii. 8, and xxviii. 15, that some considerable time had elapsed since the events narrated; while, from the omission of all mention of the destruction of Jerusalem, it would appear that the Gospel was published before that event. All these marks of time are, however, exceedingly vague, especially when other notices are taken into account, which place the Gospel eight years after the Ascension (so Theophylact and Euthymius); fifteen years after the Ascension (Nicephorus):—at the time of the stoning of Stephen (Cosmas Indicopleustes).
ITS STYLE AND CHARACTER.
1. The Gospel of Matthew is written in the same form of diction which pervades the other Gospels, the Hebraistic or Hellenistic Greek. This dialect resulted from the dispersion of the Greek language by the conquests of Alexander, and more especially from the intercourse of Jews with Greeks in the city of Alexandria. It is that of the LXX version of the Old Testament; of the apocryphal books ; and of the writings of Philo and Josephus. In these two latter, however, it is not so marked, as in versions from the Hebrew, or books aiming at a Hebraistic character.
2. Of the three Gospels, that of Matthew presents the most complete example of the Hebraistic diction and construction, with perhaps the exception of the first chapter of Luke. And from what has been above said respecting its design, this would naturally be the case.
3. The internal character of this Gospel also answers to what we know of the history and time of its compilation. Its marks of chronological sequence are very vague, and many of them are hardly perhaps to be insisted on at all. When compared with the more definite notices of Mark and Luke, its order of events is sometimes superseded by theirs. It was to be expected, in the earliest written accounts of matters so important, that the object should rather be to record the things done, and the sayings of our Lord, than the precise order in which they took place.
4. It is in this principal duty of an Evangelist that Matthew stands pre-eminent; and especially in the report of the longer discourses of our Lord. It was within the limits of his purpose in writing, to include all the descriptions of the state and hopes of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven which Jesus gave during his ministry. This seems to have been the peculiar gift of the Spirit to him,—to recall and deliver down, in their strictest verbal connexion, such discourses as the Sermon on the Mount, ch. V.-vii.; the apostolic commission, ch. x. ; the discourse concerning John, ch. xi. ; that on blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, ch. xii.; the series of parables, ch. xiii. ; that to the Apostles on their divisions, ch. xviii. ; and in their fulness, the whole series of polemical discourses and prophetic parables in ch, xxi.—xxv.
5. It has been my endeavour in the following Commentary, to point out the close internal connexion of the longer discourses, and to combat the mistake of those critics who suppose them to be no more than collections of shorter sayings associated together from similarity of subject or character.
OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK.
1. As in the case of the two other Gospels, we are dependent entirely on traditional sources for the name of the author. It has been universally believed to be Marcus : and further, that he was the same person who, in Acts xii. 12, 25; xv. 37, is spoken of as John whose surname was Mark: in xiii. 5, 13, as John: in xv. 39, as Mark: also in Col. iv. 10: 2 Tim. iv. 11: Philem. 24. The few particulars gleaned respecting him from Scripture are, that his mother's name was Mary (Acts xii. 12); and that she was sister to the Apostle Barnabas (Col. iv. 10); that she dwelt in Jerusalem (Acts, ibid.); that he was converted to Christianity by the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. v. 13); that he became the minister and companion of Paul and Barnabas, in their first missionary journey (Acts xii. 25); and was the cause of the variance and separation of these Apostles on their second (Acts xv. 37—40),—Barnabas wishing to take him again with them, but Paul refusing, because he had departed from them before the completion of the former journey (Acts xiii. 13). He then became the companion of Barnabas in his journey to Cyprus (Acts xv. 39). We find him however again with Paul (Col. iv. 10), and an allusion apparently made in the words there to some previous stain on his character, which was then removed ; see also Philem. 24: 2 Tim. iv. 11. Lastly, we find him with Peter (1 Pet. v. 13). From Scripture we know no more concerning him. But an unanimous tradition of the ancient Christian writers represents him as the “interpreter” of Peter : i.e. the secretary or amanuensis, whose office it was to commit to writing the orally-delivered instructions and narrations of the Apostle. See authorities quoted in § ii., below.
2. Tradition brings him with Peter to Rome (but apparently only on the authority of 1 Pet. v. 13); and thence to Alexandria. He is said to have become first bishop of the Church in that city, and to have suffered martyrdom there. All this, however, is exceedingly uncertain.
ITS ORIGIN. 1. It was universally believed in the ancient Church, that Mark's Gospel was written under the influence, and almost by the dictation, of Peter.
(a) Eusebius quotes from Papias, as a testimony of John the presbyter, “Mark was the interpreter of Peter, and wrote down accurately whatever he recollected.”
(6) The same author says, “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, has delivered down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.” This he quotes from Irenæus ; and further that this took place after the deaths of Peter and Paul.
(c) The same author relates, on the authority of Clement and Papias, that the hearers of Peter at Rome, unwilling that his teaching should be lost to them, besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter, to commit to writing the substance of that teaching ; that the Apostle, being informed supernaturally of the work in which Mark was engaged, “was pleased with the earnestness of the man, and authorized the writing according to the request of the Church.” This account is manifestly inconsistent with the former.
(d) Eusebius gives yet another account, citing the very passage of Clement above referred to: that Peter, knowing of Mark's work when it was completed and published, “neither forbade it nor encouraged it.”
(e) The same author elsewhere says, “ Thus says Peter concerning himself: for all things found in Mark are said to have been memorials of the discourses of Peter."
(f) Tertullian relates: “The Gospel which Mark put forth is affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was.”
(9) Jerome writes : “Paul then had Titus for his interpreter, as also St. Peter had Mark, whose Gospel was composed by him writing at Peter's dictation.”
2. The above testimonies must now be examined as to how far we are bound to receive them as decisive. We may observe that the matter to which they refer is one which could, from its nature, have been known to very few persons; viz. the private and unavowed influence of an Apostle over the writer. (For I reject at once the account which makes Peter authorize the Gospel, from no such authorization being apparent, which it certainly would have been, had it ever existed.) Again, the accounts cited are most vague and inconsistent as to the extent and nature of this influence,-some stating it to have been no more than that Peter preached, and Mark, after his death, collected the substance of his testimony from memory; others making it extend even to the dictation of the words by the Apostle.
3. It is obvious that all such accounts must be judged according to the phænomena presented by the Gospel itself. Now we find, in the title of the Gospel, a presumption that no such testimony of Peter is here presented to us, as we have of Matthew in the former Gospel. Had such been the case, we should have found it called the Gospel according to Peter, not according to Mark.