Page images
PDF
EPUB

4. If again we examine the contents of the Gospel, we are certainly not justified in concluding that Peter's hand has been directly employed in its compilation in its present form. The various mentions, and omissions of mention, of incidents in which that Apostle is directly concerned, are such as to be in no way consistently accounted for on this hypothesis. For let it be allowed that a natural modesty might have occasionally led him to omit matters tending to his honour,—yet how are we to account for his omitting to give an exact detail of other things at which he was present, and of which he might have rendered the most precise and circumstantial account? This has been especially the case in the narrative of the day of the Resurrection, not to mention numerous other instances which will be noticed in the Commentary. Besides, the above hypothesis regarding his suppressions cannot be consistently carried out. A remarkable instance to the contrary may be seen, ch. xvi. 7, where “ tell his disciples and Peter” stands for “ tell his disciples" in Matthew.

5. We are led to the same conclusion by a careful comparison of the contents of this Gospel with those of Matthew and Luke. We find that it follows the same great cycle of apostolic teaching ;-that its narratives are derived in many cases from the same sources ;—that it is improbable that any individual Apostle should have moulded and fashioned a record which keeps so much to the beaten track of the generallyreceived Evangelic history. His own individual remembrances must unavoidably have introduced additions of so considerable an amount as to have given to the Gospel more original matter than it at present possesses.

6. But while unable to conceive any influence directly exerted by Peter over the compilation of the Gospel, I would by no means deny the possibility of the derivation of some narratives in it from that Apostle, and recognize in such derivation the ground of the above testimonies. The peculiarly minute and graphic precision (presently, s viii. to be further spoken of) which distinguishes this Evangelist, seems to claim for hím access in many cases to the testimony of some eye-witness where the other two Evangelists have not had that advantage. I have pointed out these cases where they occur, in the Commentary; and have not hesitated in some of them to refer conjecturally to Peter as the source of the narration.

7. The inference to be drawn from what has preceded is, that,—the general tradition of the ancients, which ascribed to Mark a connexion with Peter as his secretary or interpreter, being adopted, as likely to be founded on fact, yet the idea of any considerable or direct influence of Peter over the writing of the Gospel is not borne out by the work itself. We may so far recognize in it one form of the probable truth ;-—it is likely that Mark, from continual intercourse with and listening to Peter,

35]

c 2

and possibly from preservation of many of his narrations entire, may have been able, after his death, or at all events when separated from him, to preserve in his Gospel those vivid and original touches of description and filling-out of the incidents, which we now discover in it. Further than this I do not think we are authorized in assuming; and even this is conjectural only.

SECTION III.

FOR WHAT READERS AND WITH WHAT OBJECT IT WAS WRITTEN.

1. Internal evidence is very full as to the class of readers for whom Mark compiled his Gospel : the Gentile Christians are clearly pointed out by the following indications :

(a) The omission of all genealogical notices of our Lord's descent.

(6) The general abstinence from Old Testament citations, except in reporting discourses of our Lord (ch. i. 2, 3 is the only exception, xv. 28 being rejected as spurious).

(c) The appending of interpretations to the Hebrew or Aramaic terms occurring in the narrative (ch. v. 41 ; vii. 11, 34).

(d) The explanations of Jewish customs, as for example ch. vii. 3, 4.

(e) Remarkable insertions or omissions in particular places: as, e. g. “ for all the nations,” ch. xi. 17, which words are omitted in Matthew and Luke :--no mention of the Jewish law:-omission of the limitations of the mission of the Apostles in Matt. x. (common, however, also to Luke).

2. It is true that too much stress must not be laid on single particulars of this sort, as indicating design, where the sources of the Gospels were so scattered and fragmentary. But the concurrence of all these affords a very strong presumption that that class of readers was in the view of the Evangelist, in whose favour all these circumstances unite. See Introduction to Matthew, $ iii. 2.

SECTION IV.

AT WHAT TIME IT WAS WRITTEN.

1. The most direct testimony on this head is that of Irenæus (see above, ş ii. 1, b), that it was after the deaths of Peter and Paul. This would place its date, at all events, after the year 63 (see Introd. to Acts, chronological table). But here, as in the case of the other Gospels, very little can be with any certainty inferred. We have conflicting

traditions (see above, ş ii.), and the Gospel itself affords us no clue whatever.

2. One thing only we may gather from the contents of the three first Gospels,—that none of them could have been originally written after the destruction of Jerusalem. Had they been, the omission of all allusion to so signal a fulfilment of our Lord's prophecies would be inexplicable. In the case indeed of Luke, we can approximate nearer than this (see below, ch. iv. § 4); but in those of Matthew and Mark, this is all which can be safely assumed as to the time of their first publication ;—that it was after the dispersion or even the death of most of the Apostles, and before the investment of Jerusalem by the Roman armies under Titus in the year 70.

SECTION V.

AT WHAT PLACE IT WAS WRITTEN.

Of this we have no trustworthy evidence. Most ancient writers (Clement, Eusebius, Jerome, Epiphanius, &c.) mention Rome ; but apparently in connexion with the idea of Mark having written under the superintendence of Peter. Chrysostom mentions Alexandria ; but no Alexandrine writer confirms the statement. In modern times, Storr has advanced an hypothesis that Mark wrote at Antioch, which he grounds, but insufficiently, on a comparison of ch. xv. 21, with Acts xi. 20.

dence of one with Epiph. evideno,

dece of Peter. the idea of &c.) mentiane

SECTION VI.

IN WHAT LANGUAGE IT WAS WRITTEN.

1. There has never been any reasonable doubt that Mark wrote in Greek. The two Syriac versions contain a marginal note, that Mark preached in Rome in Latin : and four of the later manuscripts of the Gospel append a notice to the same effect. This statement, however, is destitute of probability from any external or internal evidence, and is only one more assumption from the hypothetical publication in Rome under the superintendence of Peter, and for Roman converts.

2. Many writers of the Romish Church have defended the hypothesis of a Latin original, being biassed by a wish to maintain the authority of the Vulgate : and a pretended part of the original autograph of the Evangelist is still shewn in the Library of St. Mark's church at Venice; which, however, has been detected to be merely part of an ancient Latin MS. of the four gospels. 3. If Mark wrote in Latin, it is almost inconceivable that the original

intendention from tjxternal

should have perished so early that no ancient writer should have made mention of the fact. For Latin was the language of a considerable and increasing body of Christians, -unlike Hebrew, which was little known, and belonged (but even this is doubtful) to a section of converts few in number :- yet ancient testimony is unanimous to Matthew's having written in Hebrew,—while we have not one witness to Mark having written in Latin.

SECTION VII.

GENUINENESS OF THE GOSPEL.

1. This has never been called in question, till very recently, by some of the German critics on, as it appears to me, wholly insufficient grounds. They allege that the testimony of Papias (see above, § ii. 1, a) does not apply to the contents of our present Gospel, but that some later hand has worked up and embellished the original simple and unarranged notices of Mark, which have perished.

2. But neither do the words of Papias imply any such inference as that Mark's notices must have been simple and unarranged ; nor, if they did, are they of any considerable authority in the matter. It is enough that from the very earliest time the Gospel has been known as that of Mark; confirmed as this evidence is by the circumstance, that this name belongs to no great and distinguished founder of the Church, to whom it might naturally be ascribed, but to one, the ascription to whom can hardly be accounted for, except by its foundation in matter of fact.

3. On the genuineness of the remarkable fragment at the end of the Gospel, see notes there.

SECTION VIII.

ITS STYLE AND CHARACTER.

1. Of the three first Gospels, that of Mark is the most distinct and peculiar in style. By far the greater part of those graphic touches which describe the look and gesture of our Lord, the arrangement or appearance of those around Him, the feelings with which He contemplated the persons whom He addressed, are contained in this Gospel. While the matters related are fewer than in either Matthew or Luke, Mark, in by far the greater number of common narrations, is the most copious, and rich in lively and interesting detail.

2. In one part only does Mark appear as an abridger of previously well-known facts; viz., in ch. i. 1-13, where,—his object being to detail the official life of our Lord,-he hastens through the previous great events,—the ministry of John, the baptism and temptation of Christ. But even in the abrupt transitions of this section, there is wonderful graphic power, presenting us with a series of life-like pictures, calculated to impress the reader strongly with the reality and dignity of the events related.

3. Throughout the Gospel, even where the narratives are the most copious, the same isolated character of each, the same abrupt transition from one to another, is observable. There is no attempt to bind on one section to another, or to give any sequences of events. But occasionally the very precision of the separate narratives of itself furnishes accurate and valuable chronological data :-e.g. the important one in ch. iv. 35, by which it becomes evident that the whole former part of Matthew's Gospel is out of chronological order.

4. Mark relates but few discourses. His object being to set forth Jesus as the Son OF GOD (see ch. i. 1), he principally dwells on the events of His official life. But the same characteristics mark his report of our Lord's discourses, where he relates them, as we have observed in the rest of his narrative. While the sequence and connexion of the longer discourses was that which the Holy Spirit peculiarly brought to the mind of Matthew, the Apostle from whom Mark's record is derived seems to have been deeply penetrated and impressed by the solemn iterations of cadence and expression, and to have borne away the very words themselves and tone of the Lord's sayings. See especially, as illustrating this, the wonderfully sublime reply, ch. ix. 39—50.

5. According to the view adopted and vindicated in the notes on ch. xvi. 9–20, the Gospel terminates abruptly with the words “for they were afraid,” ver. 8. That this was not intentionally done, but was a defect,—is apparent, by the addition, in apostolic times, of the authentic and most important fragment which now concludes the narrative.

6. I regard the existence of the Gospel of Mark as a gracious and valuable proof of the accommodation by the divine Spirit of the records of the life of our Lord to the future necessities of the Church. While it contains little matter of fact which is not related in Matthew and Luke, and thus, generally speaking, forms only a confirmation of their more complete histories, it is so far from being a barren duplicate of that part of them which is contained in it, that it comes home to every reader with all the freshness of an individual mind, full of the Holy Ghost, intently fixed on the great object of the Christian's love and worship, reverently and affectionately following and recording His positions, and looks, and gestures, and giving us the very echo of the tones with which He spoke. And thus the believing student feels, while treating of and studying this Gospel, as indeed he does of each in its turn, that, without venturing to compare with one another in value these rich and abiding gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church,—the

« PreviousContinue »