Catholic Encyclopedia: The Four Gospels
Gospel of St. Matthew

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The earliest Christian communities looked upon the books of the Old Testament as Sacred Scripture, and read them at their religious assemblies. That the Gospels, which contained the words of Christ and the narrative of His life, soon enjoyed the same authority as the Old Testament, is made clear by Hegesippus (Eusebius, Church History IV.22.3), who tells us that in every city the Christians were faithful to the teachings of the law, the prophets, and the Lord. A book was acknowledged as canonical when the Church regarded it as Apostolic, and had it read at her assemblies. Hence, to establish the canonicity of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we must investigate primitive Christian tradition for the use that was made of this document, and for indications proving that it was regarded as Scripture in the same manner as the Books of the Old Testament.

The first traces that we find of it are not indubitable, because post-Apostolic writers quoted the texts with a certain freedom, and principally because it is difficult to say whether the passages thus quoted were taken from oral tradition or from a written Gospel. The first Christian document whose date can be fixed with comparative certainty (95-98), is the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians. It contains sayings of the Lord which closely resemble those recorded in the First Gospel (Clement, 16:17 = Matthew 11:29; Clem., 24:5 = Matthew 13:3), but it is possible that they are derived from Apostolic preaching, as, in chapter xiii, 2, we find a mixture of sentences from Matthew, Luke, and an unknown source. Again, we note a similar commingling of Evangelical texts elsewhere in the same Epistle of Clement, in the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, in the Epistle of Polycarp, and in Clement of Alexandria. Whether these these texts were thus combined in oral tradition or emanated from a collection of Christ's utterances, we are unable to say.
  • The Epistles of St. Ignatius (martyred 110-17) contain no literal quotation from the Holy Books; nevertheless, St. Ignatius borrowed expressions and some sentences from Matthew ("Ad Polyc.", 2:2 = Matthew 10:16; "Ephesians", 14:2 = Matthew 12:33, etc.). In his "Epistle to the Philadelphians" (v, 12), he speaks of the Gospel in which he takes refuge as in the Flesh of Jesus; consequently, he had an evangelical collection which he regarded as Sacred Writ, and we cannot doubt that the Gospel of St. Matthew formed part of it.
  • In the Epistle of Polycarp (110-17), we find various passages from St. Matthew quoted literally (12:3 = Matthew 5:44; 7:2 = Matthew 26:41, etc.).
  • The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles (Didache) contains sixty-six passages that recall the Gospel of Matthew; some of them are literal quotations (8:2 = Matthew 6:7-13; 7:1 = Matthew 28:19; 11:7 = Matthew 12:31, etc.).
  • In the so-called Epistle of Barnabas (117-30), we find a passage from St. Matthew (xxii, 14), introduced by the scriptural formula, os gegraptai, which proves that the author considered the Gospel of Matthew equal in point of authority to the writings of the Old Testament.
  • The "Shepherd of Hermas" has several passages which bear close resemblance to passages of Matthew, but not a single literal quotation from it.
  • In his "Dialogue" (xcix, 8), St. Justin quotes, almost literally, the prayer of Christ in the Garden of Olives, in Matthew 26:39-40.
  • A great number of passages in the writings of St. Justin recall the Gospel of Matthew, and prove that he ranked it among the Memoirs of the Apostles which, he said, were called Gospels (I Apol., lxvi), were read in the services of the Church (ibid., i), and were consequently regarded as Scripture.
  • In his Plea for the Christians 12.11, Athenagoras (177) quotes almost literally sentences taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:44).
  • Theophilus of Antioch (Ad Autol., III, xiii-xiv) quotes a passage from Matthew (v, 28, 32), and, according to St. Jerome (In Matt. Prol.), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.
  • We find in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs--drawn up, according to some critics, about the middle of the second century--numerous passages that closely resemble the Gospel of Matthew (Test. Gad, 5:3; 6:6; 5:7 = Matthew 18:15, 35; Test. Joshua 1:5, 6 = Matthew 25:35-36, etc.), but Dr. Charles maintains that the Testaments were written in Hebrew in the first century before Jesus Christ, and translated into Greek towards the middle of the same century. In this event, the Gospel of Matthew would depend upon the Testaments and not the Testaments upon the Gospel. The question is not yet settled, but it seems to us that there is a greater probability that the Testaments, at least in their Greek version, are of later date than the Gospel of Matthew, they certainly received numerous Christian additions.
  • The Greek text of the Clementine Homilies contains some quotations from Matthew (Hom. 3:52 = Matthew 15:13); in Hom. xviii, 15, the quotation from Matthew 13:35, is literal.
  • Passages which suggest the Gospel of Matthew might be quoted from heretical writings of the second century and from apocryphal gospels--the Gospel of Peter, the Protoevangelium of James, etc., in which the narratives, to a considerable extent, are derived from the Gospel of Matthew.
  • Tatian incorporated the Gospel of Matthew in his "Diatesseron"; we shall quote below the testimonies of Papias and St. Irenæus. For the latter, the Gospel of Matthew, from which he quotes numerous passages, was one of the four that constituted the quadriform Gospel dominated by a single spirit.
  • Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, ii) asserts, that the "Instrumentum evangelicum" was composed by the Apostles, and mentions Matthew as the author of a Gospel (De carne Christi, xii).
  • Clement of Alexandria (Stromata III.13) speaks of the four Gospels that have been transmitted, and quotes over three hundred passages from the Gospel of Matthew, which he introduces by the formula, en de to kata Matthaion euangelio or by phesin ho kurios.

It is unnecessary to pursue our inquiry further. About the middle of the third century, the Gospel of Matthew was received by the whole Christian Church as a Divinely inspired document, and consequently as canonical. The testimony of Origen ("In Matt.", quoted by Eusebius, Church History III.25.4), of Eusebius (op. cit., III, xxiv, 5; xxv, 1), and of St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", iii, "Prolog. in Matt.,") are explicit in this respect. It might be added that this Gospel is found in the most ancient versions: Old Latin, Syriac, and Egyptian. Finally, it stands at the head of the Books of the New Testament in the Canon of the Council of Laodicea (363) and in that of St. Athanasius (326-73), and very probably it was in the last part of the Muratorian Canon. Furthermore, the canonicity of the Gospel of St. Matthew is accepted by the entire Christian world.

Authenticity of the First Gospel

The question of authenticity assumes an altogether special aspect in regard to the First Gospel. The early Christian writers assert that St. Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew; this Hebrew Gospel has, however, entirely disappeared, and the Gospel which we have, and from which ecclesiastical writers borrow quotations as coming from the Gospel of Matthew, is in Greek. What connection is there between this Hebrew Gospel and this Greek Gospel, both of which tradition ascribes to St. Matthew? Such is the problem that presents itself for solution. Let us first examine the facts.

Testimony of Tradition

According to Eusebius (Church History III.39.16), Papias said that Matthew collected (synetaxato; or, according to two manuscripts, synegraphato, composed) ta logia (the oracles or maxims of Jesus) in the Hebrew (Aramaic) language, and that each one translated them as best he could.

Three questions arise in regard to this testimony of Papias on Matthew: (1) What does the word logia signify? Does it mean only detached sentences or sentences incorporated in a narrative, that is to say, a Gospel such as that of St. Matthew? Among classical writers, logion, the diminutive of logos, signifies the "answer of oracles", a "prophecy"; in the Septuagint and in Philo, "oracles of God" (ta deka logia, the Ten Commandments). It sometimes has a broader meaning and seems to include both facts and sayings. In the New Testament the signification of the word logion is doubtful, and if, strictly speaking, it may be claimed to indicate teachings and narratives, the meaning "oracles" is the more natural. However, writers contemporary with Papias--e.g. St. Clement of Rome (Ad Cor., liii), St. Irenæus (Against Heresies I.8.2), Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I) and Origen (De Principiis IV.11)--have used it to designate facts and sayings. The work of Papias was entitled "Exposition of the Oracles" [logion] of the Lord", and it also contained narratives (Eusebius, Church History III.39.9). On the other hand, speaking of the Gospel of Mark, Papias says that this Evangelist wrote all that Christ had said and done, but adds that he established no connection between the Lord's sayings (suntaxin ton kuriakon logion). We may believe that here logion comprises all that Christ said and did. Nevertheless, it would seem that, if the two passages on Mark and Matthew followed each other in Papias as in Eusebius, the author intended to emphasize a difference between them, by implying that Mark recorded the Lord's words and deeds and Matthew chronicled His discourses. The question is still unsolved; it is, however, possible that, in Papias, the term logia means deeds and teachings.

(2) Second, does Papias refer to oral or written translations of Matthew, when he says that each one translated the sayings "as best he could"? As there is nowhere any allusion to numerous Greek translations of the Logia of Matthew, it is probable that Papias speaks here of the oral translations made at Christian meetings, similar to the extemporaneous translations of the Old Testament made in the synagogues. This would explain why Papias mentions that each one (each reader) translated "as best he could".

(3) Finally, were the Logia of Matthew and the Gospel to which ecclesiastical writers refer written in Hebrew or Aramaic? Both hypotheses are held. Papias says that Matthew wrote the Logia in the Hebrew (Hebraidi) language; St. Irenæus and Eusebius maintain that he wrote his gospel for the Hebrews in their national language, and the same assertion is found in several writers. Matthew would, therefore, seem to have written in modernized Hebrew, the language then used by the scribes for teaching. But, in the time of Christ, the national language of the Jews was Aramaic, and when, in the New Testament, there is mention of the Hebrew language (Hebrais dialektos), it is Aramaic that is implied. Hence, the aforesaid writers may allude to the Aramaic and not to the Hebrew. Besides, as they assert, the Apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel to help popular teaching. To be understood by his readers who spoke Aramaic, he would have had to reproduce the original catechesis in this language, and it cannot be imagined why, or for whom, he should have taken the trouble to write it in Hebrew, when it would have had to be translated thence into Aramaic for use in religious services. Moreover, Eusebius (Church History III.24.6) tells us that the Gospel of Matthew was a reproduction of his preaching, and this we know, was in Aramaic. An investigation of the Semitic idioms observed in the Gospel does not permit us to conclude as to whether the original was in Hebrew or Aramaic, as the two languages are so closely related. Besides, it must be borne in mind that the greater part of these Semitisms simply reproduce colloquial Greek and are not of Hebrew or Aramaic origin. However, we believe the second hypothesis to be the more probable, viz., that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic.

Let us now recall the testimony of the other ecclesiastical writers on the Gospel of St. Matthew. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., III, i, 2) affirms that Matthew published among the Hebrews a Gospel which he wrote in their own language. Eusebius (Church History V.10.3) says that, in India, Pantænus found the Gospel according to St. Matthew written in the Hebrew language, the Apostle Bartholomew having left it there. Again, in Church History VI.25.3-4, Eusebius tells us that Origen, in his first book on the Gospel of St. Matthew, states that he has learned from tradition that the First Gospel was written by Matthew, who, having composed it in Hebrew, published it for the converts from Judaism. According to Eusebius (Church History III.24.6), Matthew preached first to the Hebrews and, when obliged to go to other countries, gave them his Gospel written in his native tongue. St. Jerome has repeatedly declared that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew ("Ad Damasum", xx; "Ad Hedib.", iv), but says that it is not known with certainty who translated it into Greek. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Epiphanius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, etc., and all the commentators of the Middle Ages repeat that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Erasmus was the first to express doubts on this subject: "It does not seem probable to me that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, since no one testifies that he has seen any trace of such a volume." This is not accurate, as St. Jerome uses Matthew's Hebrew text several times to solve difficulties of interpretation, which proves that he had it at hand. Pantænus also had it, as, according to St. Jerome ("De Viris Ill.", xxxvi), he brought it back to Alexandria. However, the testimony of Pantænus is only second-hand, and that of Jerome remains rather ambiguous, since in neither case is it positively known that the writer did not mistake the Gospel according to the Hebrews (written of course in Hebrew) for the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew. However all ecclesiastical writers assert that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, and, by quoting the Greek Gospel and ascribing it to Matthew, thereby affirm it to be a translation of the Hebrew Gospel.

Examination of the Greek Gospel of St. Matthew

Our chief object is to ascertain whether the characteristics of the Greek Gospel indicate that it is a translation from the Aramaic, or that it is an original document; but, that we may not have to revert to the peculiarities of the Gospel of Matthew, we shall here treat them in full.

The Language of the Gospel

St. Matthew used about 1475 words, 137 of which are apax legomena (words used by him alone of all the New Testament writers). Of these latter 76 are classical; 21 are found in the Septuagint; 15 (battologein biastes, eunouchizein etc.) were introduced for the first time by Matthew, or at least he was the first writer in whom they were discovered; 8 words (aphedon, gamizein, etc.) were employed for the first time by Matthew and Mark, and 15 others (ekchunesthai, epiousios, etc.) by Matthew and another New Testament writer. It is probable that, at the time of the Evangelist, all these words were in current use. Matthew's Gospel contains many peculiar expressions which help to give decided colour to his style. Thus, he employs thirty-four times the expression basileia ton ouranon; this is never found in Mark and Luke, who, in parallel passages, replace it by basileia tou theou, which also occurs four times in Matthew. We must likewise note the expressions: ho pater ho epouranions, ho en tois ouranois, sunteleia tou alonos, sunairein logon, eipein ti kata tinos, mechri tes semeron, poiesai os, osper, en ekeino to kairo, egeiresthai apo, etc. The same terms often recur: tote (90 times), apo tote, kai idou etc. He adopts the Greek form Ierisiluma for Jerusalem, and not Ierousaleu, which he uses but once. He has a predilection for the preposition apo, using it even when Mark and Luke use ek, and for the expression uios David. Moreover, Matthew is fond of repeating a phrase or a special construction several times within quite a short interval (cf. ii, 1, 13, and 19; iv, 12, 18, and v, 2; viii, 2-3 and 28; ix, 26 and 31; xiii, 44, 4.5, and 47, etc.). Quotations from the Old Testament are variously introduced, as: outos, kathos gegraptai, ina, or opos, plerothe to rethen uto Kuriou dia tou prophetou, etc. These peculiarities of language, especially the repetition of the same words and expressions, would indicate that the Greek Gospel was an original rather than a translation, and this is confirmed by the paronomasiæ (battologein, polulogia; kophontai kai ophontai, etc.), which ought not to have been found in the Aramaic, by the employment of the genitive absolute, and, above all, by the linking of clauses through the use of men . . . oe, a construction that is peculiarly Greek. However, let us observe that these various characteristics prove merely that the writer was thoroughly conversant with his language, and that he translated his text rather freely. Besides, these same characteristics are noticeable in Christ's sayings, as well as in the narratives, and, as these utterances were made in Aramaic, they were consequently translated; thus, the construction men . . . de (except in one instance) and all the examples of paronomasia occur in discourses of Christ. The fact that the genitive absolute is used mainly in the narrative portions, only denotes that the latter were more freely translated; besides, Hebrew possesses an analogous grammatical construction. On the other hand, a fair number of Hebraisms are noticed in Matthew's Gospel (ouk eginosken auten, omologesei en emoi, el exestin, ti emin kai soi, etc.), which favour the belief that the original was Aramaic. Still, it remains to be proved that these Hebraisms are not colloquial Greek expressions.

General character of the Gospel

Distinct unity of plan, an artificial arrangement of subject-matter, and a simple, easy style--much purer than that of Mark--suggest an original rather than a translation. When the First Gospel is compared with books translated from the Hebrew, such as those of the Septuagint, a marked difference is at once apparent. The original Hebrew shines through every line of the latter, whereas, in the First Gospel Hebraisms are comparatively rare, and are merely such as might be looked for in a book written by a Jew and reproducing Jewish teaching. However, these observations are not conclusive in favour of a Greek original. In the first place, the unity of style that prevails throughout the book, would rather prove that we have a translation. It is certain that a good portion of the matter existed first in Aramaic--at all events, the sayings of Christ, and thus almost three-quarters of the Gospel. Consequently, these at least the Greek writer has translated. And, since no difference in language and style can be detected between the sayings of Christ and the narratives that are claimed to have been composed in Greek, it would seem that these latter are also translated from the Aramaic. This conclusion is based on the fact that they are of the same origin as the discourses. The unity of plan and the artificial arrangement of subject-matter could as well have been made in Matthew's Aramaic as in the Greek document; the fine Greek construction, the lapidary style, the elegance and good order claimed as characteristic of the Gospel, are largely a matter of opinion, the proof being that critics do not agree on this question. Although the phraseology is not more Hebraic than in the other Gospels, still it not much less so. To sum up, from the literary examination of the Greek Gospel no certain conclusion can be drawn against the existence of a Hebrew Gospel of which our First Gospel would be a translation; and inversely, this examination does not prove the Greek Gospel to be a translation of an Aramaic original.

Quotations from the Old Testament

It is claimed that most of the quotations from the Old Testament are borrowed from the Septuagint, and that this fact proves that the Gospel of Matthew was composed in Greek. The first proposition is not accurate, and, even if it were, it would not necessitate this conclusion. Let us examine the facts. As established by Stanton ("The Gospels as Historical Documents", II, Cambridge, 1909, p. 342), the quotations from the Old Testament in the First Gospel are divided into two classes. In the first are ranged all those quotations the object of which is to show that the prophecies have been realized in the events of the life of Jesus. They are introduced by the words: "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet," or other similar expressions. The quotations of this class do not in general correspond exactly with any particular text. Three among them (ii, 15; viii, 17; xxvii, 9, 10) are borrowed from the Hebrew; five (ii, 18; iv, 15, 16; xii, 18-21; xiii, 35; xxi, 4, 5) bear points of resemblance to the Septuagint, but were not borrowed from that version. In the answer of the chief priests and scribes to Herod (ii, 6), the text of the Old Testament is slightly modified, without, however, conforming either to the Hebrew or the Septuagint. The Prophet Micheas writes (5:2): "And thou Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda"; whereas Matthew says (ii, 6): "And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda". A single quotation of this first class (iii, 3) conforms to the Septuagint, and another (i, 23) is almost conformable. These quotations are to be referred to the first Evangelist himself, and relate to facts, principally to the birth of Jesus (i, ii), then to the mission of John the Baptist, the preaching of the Gospel by Jesus in Galilee, the miracles of Jesus, etc. It is surprising that the narratives of the Passion and the Resurrection of Our Lord, the fulfilment of the very clear and numerous prophecies of the Old Testament, should never be brought into relation with these prophecies. Many critics, e.g. Burkitt and Stanton, think that the quotations of the first class are borrowed from a collection of Messianic passages, Stanton being of opinion that they were accompanied by the event that constituted their realization. This "catena of fulfilments of prophecy", as he calls it, existed originally in Aramaic, but whether the author of the First Gospel had a Greek translation of it is uncertain. The second class of quotations from the Old Testament is chiefly composed of those repeated either by the Lord or by His interrogators. Except in two passages, they are introduced by one of the formula: "It is written"; "As it is written"; "Have you not read?" "Moses said". Where Matthew alone quotes the Lord's words, the quotation is sometimes borrowed from the Septuagint (v, 21 a, 27, 38), or, again, it is a free translation which we are unable to refer to any definite text (v, 21 b, 23, 43). In those Passages where Matthew runs parallel with Mark and Luke or with either of them, all the quotations save one (xi, 10) are taken almost literally from the Septuagint.

Analogy to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke

From a first comparison of the Gospel of Matthew with the two other Synoptic Gospels we find
  • that 330 verses are peculiar to it alone; that it has between 330 and 370 in common with both the others, from 170 to 180 with Mark's, and from 230 to 240 with Luke's;
  • that in like parts the same ideas are expressed sometimes in identical and sometimes in different terms; that Matthew and Mark most frequently use the same expressions, Matthew seldom agreeing with Luke against Mark. The divergence in their use of the same expressions is in the number of a noun or the use of two different tenses of the same verb. The construction of sentences is at times identical and at others different.
  • That the order of narrative is, with certain exceptions which we shall later indicate, almost the same in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

These facts indicate that the three Synoptists are not independent of one another. They borrow their subject-matter from the same oral source or else from the same written documents. To declare oneself upon this alternative, it would be necessary to treat the synoptic question, and on this critics have not vet agreed. We shall, therefore, restrict ourselves to what concerns the Gospel of St. Matthew. From a second comparison of this Gospel with Mark and Luke we ascertain:
  • that Mark is to be found almost complete in Matthew, with certain divergences which we shall note;
  • that Matthew records many of our Lord's discourses in common with Luke;
  • that Matthew has special passages which are unknown to Mark and Luke.

Let us examine these three points in detail, in an endeavour to learn how the Gospel of Matthew was composed.

(a) Analogy to Mark
  • Mark is found complete in Matthew, with the exception of numerous slight omissions and the following pericopes: Mark 1:23-28, 35-39; 4:26-29; 7:32-36; 8:22-26; 9:39-40; 12:41-44. In all, 31 verses are omitted.
  • The general order is identical except that, in chapters 5-13, Matthew groups facts of the same nature and sayings conveying the same ideas. Thus, in Matthew 8:1-15, we have three miracles that are separated in Mark; in Matthew 8:23-9:9, there are gathered together incidents otherwise arranged in Mark, etc. Matthew places sentences in a different environment from that given them by Mark. For instance, in 5:15, Matthew inserts a verse occurring in Mark 4:21, that should have been placed after 13:23, etc.
  • In Matthew the narrative is usually shorter because he suppresses a great number of details. Thus, in Mark, we read: "And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm", whereas in Matthew the first part of the sentence is omitted. All unnecessary particulars are dispensed with, such as the numerous picturesque features and indications of time, place, and number, in which Mark's narrative abounds.
  • Sometimes, however, Matthew is the more detailed. Thus, in 12:22-45, he gives more of Christ's discourse than we find in Mark 3:20-30, and has in addition a dialogue between Jesus and the scribes. In chapter 13, Matthew dwells at greater length than Mark 4 upon the object of the parables, and introduces those of the cockle and the leaven, neither of which Mark records. Moreover, Our Lord's apocalyptic discourse is much longer in Matthew 24-25 (97 verses), than in Mark 13 (37 verses).
  • Changes of terms or divergences in the mode of expression are extremely frequent. Thus, Matthew often uses eutheos, when Mark has euthus; men . . . de, instead of kai, as in Mark, etc.; the aorist instead of the imperfect employed by Mark. He avoids double negatives and the construction of the participle with eimi; his style is more correct and less harsh than that of Mark; he resolves Mark's compound verbs, and replaces by terms in current use the rather unusual expressions introduced by Mark, etc.
  • He is free from the lack of precision which, to a slight extent, characterizes Mark. Thus, Matthew says "the tetrarch" and not "the king" as Mark does, in speaking of Herod Antipas; "on the third day" instead.of "in three days". At times the changes are more important. Instead of "Levi, son of Alpheus," he says: "a man named Matthew"; he mentions two demoniacs and two blind persons, whereas Mark mentions only one of each, etc.
  • Matthew extenuates or omits everything which, in Mark, might be construed in a sense derogatory to the Person of Christ or unfavourable to the disciples. Thus, in speaking of Jesus, he suppresses the following phrases: "And looking round about on them with anger" (Mark 3:5); "And when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him. For they said: He is beside himself" (Mark 3:21), etc. Speaking of the disciples, he does not say, like Mark, that "they understood not the word, and they were afraid to ask him" (ix, 3 1; cf. viii, 17, 18); or that the disciples were in a state of profound amazement, because "they understood not concerning the loaves; for their heart was blinded" (vi, 52), etc. He likewise omits whatever might shock his readers, as the saying of the Lord recorded by Mark: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (ii, 27). Omissions or alterations of this kind are very numerous. It must, however, be remarked that between Matthew and Mark there are many points of resemblance in the construction of sentences (Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Matthew 26:47 = Mark 14:43, etc.); in their mode of expression, often unusual. and in short phrases (Matthew 9:16 = Mark 2:21; Matthew 16:28 = Mark 9:1; Matthew 20:25 = Mark 10:42); in some pericopes, narratives, or discourses, where the greater part of the terms are identical (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 26:36-38 = Mark 14:32-34; Matthew 9:5-6 = Mark 2:9-11), etc.

(b) Analogy to Luke

A comparison of Matthew and Luke reveals that they have but one narrative in common, viz., the cure of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13 = Luke 7:1-10). The additional matter common to these Evangelists, consists of the discourses and sayings of Christ. In Matthew His discourses are usually gathered together, whereas in Luke they are more frequently scattered. Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke have in common the following discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, the Sermon in the Plain, Luke 6); the Lord's exhortation to His disciples whom He sends forth on a mission (Matthew 10:19-20, 26-33 = Luke 12:11-12, 2-9); the discourse on John the Baptist (Matthew 11 = Luke 7); the discourse on the Last Judgment (Matthew 24; Luke 17). Moreover, these two Evangelists possess in common a large number of detached sentences, e.g., Matthew 3:7b-19:12 = Luke 3:7b-9, 17; Matthew 4:3-11 = Luke 4:3-13; Matthew 9:37-38 = Luke 10:2; Matthew 12:43-45 = Luke 11:24-26 etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp. 134-70). However, in these parallel passages of Matthew and Luke there are numerous differences of expression, and even some divergences in ideas or in the manner of their presentation. It is only necessary to recall the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 = Luke 6:20b-25): in Matthew there are eight beatitudes, whereas in Luke there are only four, which, while approximating to Matthew's In point of conception, differ from them in general form and expression. In addition to having in common parts that Mark has not, Matthew and Luke sometimes agree against Mark in parallel narratives. There have been counted 240 passages wherein Matthew and Luke harmonize with each other, but disagree with Mark in the way of presenting events, and particularly in the use of the same terms and the same grammatical emendations. Matthew and Luke omit the very pericopes that occur in Mark.

( c) Parts peculiar to Matthew

These are numerous, as Matthew has 330 verses that are distinctly his own. Sometimes long passages occur, such as those recording the Nativity and early Childhood (i, ii), the cure of the two blind men and one dumb man (ix, 27-34), the death of Judas (xxvii, 3-10), the guard placed at the Sepulchre (xxvii, 62-66), the imposture of the chief priests (xxviii, 11-15), the apparition of Jesus in Galilee (xxviii, 16-20), a great portion of the Sermon on the Mount (v, 17-37; vi, 1-8; vii, 12-23), parables (xiii, 24-30; 35-53; xxv, 1-13), the Last Judgment (xxv, 31-46), etc., and sometimes detached sentences, as in xxiii, 3, 28, 33; xxvii, 25, etc. (cf. Rushbrooke, "Synopticon", pp.171-97). Those passages in which Matthew reminds us that facts in the life of Jesus are the fulfilment of the prophecies, are likewise noted as peculiar to him, but of this we have already spoken.

These various considerations have given rise to a great number of hypotheses, varying in detail, but agreeing fundamentally. According to the majority of present critics--H. Holtzmann, Wendt, Jülicher, Wernle, von Soden, Wellhausen, Harnack, B. Weiss, Nicolardot, W. Allen, Montefiore, Plummer, and Stanton--the author of the First Gospel used two documents: the Gospel of Mark in its present or in an earlier form, and a collection of discourses or sayings, which is designated by the letter Q. The repetitions occurring in Matthew (v, 29, 30 = xviii, 8, 9; v, 32 xix, 9; x, 22a = xxiv, 9b; xii, 39b = xvi, 4a, etc.) may be explained by the fact that two sources furnished the writer with material for his Gospel. Furthermore, Matthew used documents of his own. In this hypothesis the Greek Gospel is supposed to be original. and not the translation of a complete Aramaic Gospel. It is admitted that the collection of sayings was originally Aramaic, but it is disputed whether the Evangelist had it in this form or in that of a Greek translation. Critics also differ regarding the manner in which Matthew used the sources. Some would have it that Matthew the Apostle was not the author of the First Gospel, but merely the collector of the sayings of Christ mentioned by Papias. "However", says Jülicher, "the author's individuality is so strikingly evident in his style and tendencies that it is impossible to consider the Gospel a mere compilation". Most critics are of a like opinion. Endeavours have been made to reconcile the information furnished by tradition with the facts resulting from the study of the Gospel as follows: Matthew was known to have collected in Aramaic the sayings of Christ, and, on the other hand, there existed at the beginning of the second century a Gospel containing the narratives found in Mark and the sayings gathered by Matthew in Aramaic. It is held that the Greek Gospel ascribed to Matthew is a translation of it, made by him or by other translators whose names it was later attempted to ascertain.

To safeguard tradition further, while taking into consideration the facts we have already noted, it might be supposed that the three Synoptists worked upon the same catechesis, either oral or written and originally in Aramaic, and that they had detached portions of this catechesis, varying in literary condition. The divergences may be explained first by this latter fact, and then by the hypothesis of different translations and by each Evangelist's peculiar method of treating the subject-matter, Matthew and Luke especially having adapted it to the purpose of their Gospel. There is nothing to prevent the supposition that Matthew worked on the Aramaic catechesis; the literary emendations of Mark's text by Matthew may have been due to the translator, who was more conversant with Greek than was the popular preacher who furnished the catechesis reproduced by Mark. In reality, the only difficulty lies in explaining the similarity of style between Matthew and Mark. First of all, we may observe that the points of resemblance are less numerous than they are said to be. As we have seen, they are very rare in the narratives at all events, much more so than in the discourses of Christ. Why, then, should we not suppose that the three Synoptists, depending upon the same Aramaic catechesis, sometimes agreed in rendering similar Aramaic expressions in the same Greek words? It is also possible to suppose that sayings of Christ, which in the three Synoptic Gospels (or in two of them) differed only in a few expressions, were unified by copyists or other persons. To us it seems probable that Matthew's Greek translator used Mark's Greek Gospel, especially for Christ's discourses. Luke, also, may have similarly utilized Matthew's Greek Gospel in rendering the discourses of Christ. Finally, even though we should suppose that Matthew were the author only of the Logia, the full scope of which we do not know, and that a part of his Greek Gospel is derived from that of Mark, we would still have a right to ascribe this First Gospel to Matthew as its principal author.

Other hypotheses have been put forth. In Zahn's opinion, Matthew wrote a complete Gospel in Aramaic; Mark was familiar with this document, which he used while abridging it. Matthew's Greek translator utilized Mark, but only for form, whereas Luke depended upon Mark and secondary sources, but was not acquainted with Matthew. According to Belser, Matthew first wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, a Greek translation of it being made in 59-60, and Mark depended on Matthew's Aramaic document and Peter's preaching. Luke made use of Mark, of Matthew (both in Aramaic and Greek), and also of oral tradition. According to Camerlynck and Coppieters, the First Gospel in its present form was composed either by Matthew or some other Apostolic writer long before the end of the first century, by combining the Aramaic work of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.

Plan and contents of the First Gospel

The author did not wish to compose a biography of Christ, but to demonstrate, by recording His words and the deeds of His life, that He was the Messias, the Head and Founder of the Kingdom of God, and the promulgator of its laws. One can scarcely fail to recognize that, except in a few parts (e.g. the Childhood and the Passion), the arrangement of events and of discourses is artificial. Matthew usually combines facts and precepts of a like nature. Whatever the reason, he favours groups of three (thirty-eight of which may be counted)--three divisions in the genealogy of Jesus (i, 17), three temptations (iv, 1-11), three examples of justice (vi, 1-18), three cures (viii, 1-15), three parables of the seed (xiii, 1-32), three denials of Peter (xxvi, 69-75), etc.; of five (these are less numerous)--five long discourses (v-vii, 27; x; xiii, 1-52; xviii; xxiv-xxv), ending with the same formula (Kai egeneto, ote etelesen ho Iesous), five examples of the fulfilment of the law (v, 21-48), etc.; and of seven--seven parables (xiii), seven maledictions (xxiii), seven brethren (xxii, 25), etc. The First Gospel can be very naturally divided as follows:-

Introduction (1-2)
The genealogy of Jesus, the prediction of His Birth, the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, the Massacre of the Innocents, the return to Nazareth, and the life there.

The public ministry of Jesus (3-25)
This may be divided into three parts, according to the place where He exercised it.

In Galilee (3-18)

(a) Preparation for the public ministry of Jesus (3:1 to 4:11)

John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus, the Temptation, the return to Galilee.

(b) The preaching of the Kingdom of God (4:17 to 18:35)

(1) the preparation of the Kingdom by the preaching of penance, the call of the disciples, and numerous cures (iv, 17-25), the promulgation of the code of the Kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount (v, I-vii, 29);

(2) the propagation of the Kingdom in Galilee (viii, I-xviii, 35). He groups together:
  • the deeds by which Jesus established that He was the Messias and the King of the Kingdom: various cures, the calming of the tempest, missionary journeys through the land, the calling of the Twelve Apostles, the principles that should guide them in their missionary travels (viii, 1-x, 42);
  • various teachings of Jesus called forth by circumstances: John's message and the Lord's answer, Christ's confutation of the false charges of the Pharisees, the departure and return of the unclean spirit (xi, 1-xii, 50);
  • finally, the parables of the Kingdom, of which Jesus makes known and explains the end (xiii, 3-52).

(3) Matthew then relates the different events that terminate the preaching in Galilee: Christ's visit to Nazareth (xiii, 53-58), the multiplication of the loaves, the walking on the lake, discussions with the Pharisees concerning legal purifications, the confession of Peter at Cæsarea, the Transfiguration of Jesus, prophecy regarding the Passion and Resurrection, and teachings on scandal, fraternal correction, and the forgiveness of injuries (xiv, 1-xviii, 35).

Outside Galilee or the way to Jerusalem (19-20)

Jesus leaves Galilee and goes beyond the Jordan; He discusses divorce with the Pharisees; answers the rich young man, and teaches self-denial and the danger of wealth; explains by the parable of the labourers how the elect will be called; replies to the indiscreet question of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and cures two blind men of Jericho.

In Jerusalem (21-25)

Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem; He curses the barren fig tree and enters into a dispute with the chief priests and the Pharisees who ask Him by what authority He has banished the sellers from the Temple, and answers them by the parables of the two sons, the murderous husbandmen, and the marriage of the king's son. New questions are put to Jesus concerning the tribute, the resurrection of the dead, and the greatest commandment. Jesus anathematizes the scribes and Pharisees and foretells the events that will precede and accompany the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the world.

The Passion and the Resurrection of Jesus (26-28)

The Passion (26-27)

Events are now hurrying to a close. The Sanhedrin plots for the death of Jesus, a woman anoints the feet of the Lord, and Judas betrays his Master. Jesus eats the pasch with His disciples and institutes the Eucharist. In the Garden of Olives, He enters upon His agony and offers up the sacrifice of His life. He is arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter denies Christ; Judas hangs himself. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and crucified; He is buried, and a guard is placed at the Sepulchre (xxvi, 1-xxvii, 66).

The Resurrection (28)

Jesus rises the third day and appears first to the holy women at Jerusalem, then in Galilee to His disciples, whom He sends forth to propagate throughout the world the Kingdom of God.

Object and doctrinal teaching of the First Gospel

Immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, Peter preached that Jesus, crucified and risen, was the Messias, the Saviour of the World, and proved this assertion by relating the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. This was the first Apostolic teaching, and was repeated by the other preachers of the Gospel, of whom tradition tells us that Matthew was one. This Evangelist proclaimed the Gospel to the Hebrews and, before his departure from Jerusalem, wrote in his mother tongue the Gospel that he had preached. Hence the aim of the Evangelist was primarily apologetic. He wished to demonstrate to his readers, whether these were converts or still unbelieving Jews, that in Jesus the ancient prophecies had been realized in their entirety. This thesis includes three principal ideas:
  • Jesus is the Messias, and the kingdom He inaugurates is the Messianic kingdom foretold by the prophets;
  • because of their sins, the Jews, as a nation, shall have no part in this kingdom
  • the Gospel will be announced to all nations, and all are called to salvation.

Jesus as Messias

St. Matthew has shown that in Jesus all the ancient prophesies on the Messias were fulfilled. He was the Emmanuel, born of a Virgin Mother (1:22-23), announced by Isaias (7:14); He was born at Bethlehem (ii, 6), as had been predicted by Micheas (v, 2), He went to Egypt and was recalled thence (ii, 15) as foretold by Osee (11:1). According to the prediction of Isaias (40:3), He was heralded by a precursor, John the Baptist (iii, 1 sqq.); He cured all the sick (viii, 16 so.), that the Prophecy of Isaias (53:4) might be fulfilled; and in all His actions He was indeed the same of whom this prophet had spoken (xiii, 1). His teaching in parables (13:3) was conformable to what Isaias had said (6:9). Finally, He suffered, and the entire drama of His Passion and Death was a fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture (Isaiah 53:3-12; Psalm 21:13-22). Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messias by His approbation of Peter's confession (16:16-17) and by His answer to the high priest (26:63-64). St. Matthew also endeavours to show that the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus Christ is the Messianic Kingdom. From the beginning of His public life, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (4:17); in the Sermon on the Mount He promulgates the charter of this kingdom, and in parables He speaks of its nature and conditions. In His answer to the envoys of John the Baptist Jesus specifically declares that the Messianic Kingdom, foretold by the Prophets, has come to pass, and He describes its characteristics: "The blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." It was in these terms, that Isaias had described the future kingdom (35:5-6). St. Matthew records a very formal expression of the Lord concerning the coming of the Kingdom: "But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (xii, 28). Moreover, Jesus could call Himself the Messias only inasmuch as the Kingdom of God had come.

Exclusion of Jews from messianic kingdom

The Jews as a nation were rejected because of their sins, and were to have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven. This rejection had been several times predicted by the prophets, and St. Matthew shows that it was because of its incredulity that Israel was excluded from the Kingdom, he dwells on all the events in which the increasing obduracy of the Jewish nation is conspicuous, manifested first in the princes and then in the hatred of the people who beseech Pilate to put Jesus to death. Thus the Jewish nation itself was accountable for its exclusion from the Messianic kingdom.

Universal proclamation of the Gospel

That the pagans were called to salvation instead of the Jews, Jesus declared explicitly to the unbelieving Israelites: "Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof" (xxi, 43); "He that soweth the good seed, is the Son of man. And the field is the world" (xiii, 37-38). "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come" (xxiv, 14). Finally, appearing to His Apostles in Galilee, Jesus gives them this supreme command: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations" (xxviii 18, 19). These last words of Christ are the summary of the First Gospel. Efforts have been made to maintain that these words of Jesus, commanding that all nations be evangelized, were not authentic, but in a subsequent paragraph we shall prove that all the Lord's sayings, recorded in the First Gospel, proceed from the teaching of Jesus.

Destination of the Gospel

The ecclesiastical writers Papias, St. Irenæus, Origen, Eusebius, and St. Jerome, whose testimony has been given above (II, A), agree in declaring that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jews. Everything in this Gospel proves, that the writer addresses himself to Jewish readers. He does not explain Jewish customs and usages to them, as do the other Evangelists for their Greek and Latin readers, and he assumes that they are acquainted with Palestine, since, unlike St. Luke he mentions places without giving any indication of their topographical position. It is true that the Hebrew words, Emmanuel, Golgotha, Eloi, are translated, but it is likely that these translations were inserted when the Aramaic text was reproduced in Greek. St. Matthew chronicles those discourses of Christ that would interest the Jews and leave a favourable impression upon them. The law is not to be destroyed, but fulfilled (v, 17). He emphasizes more strongly than either St. Mark or St. Luke the false interpretations of the law given by the scribes and Pharisees, the hypocrisy and even the vices of the latter, all of which could be of interest to Jewish readers only. According to certain critics, St. Irenæus (Fragment xxix) said that Matthew wrote to convert the Jews by proving to them that Christ was the Son of David. This interpretation is badly founded. Moreover, Origen (In Matt., i) categorically asserts that this Gospel was published for Jews converted to the Faith. Eusebius (Church History III.24) is also explicit on this point, and St. Jerome, summarizing tradition, teaches us that St. Matthew published his Gospel in Judea and in the Hebrew language, principally for those among the Jews who believed in Jesus, and did not observe even the shadow of the Law, the truth of the Gospel having replaced it (In Matt. Prol.). Subsequent ecclesiastical writers and Catholic exegetes have taught that St. Matthew wrote for the converted Jews. "However," says Zahn (Introd. to the New Testament, II, 562), "the apologetical and polemical character of the book, as well as the choice of language, make it extremely probable that Matthew wished his book to be read primarily by the Jews who were not yet Christians. It was suited to Jewish Christians who were still exposed to Jewish influence, and also to Jews who still resisted the Gospel".

Date and place of composition

Ancient ecclesiastical writers are at variance as to the date of the composition of the First Gospel. Eusebius (in his Chronicle), Theophylact, and Euthymius Zigabenus are of opinion that the Gospel of Matthew was written eight years, and Nicephorus Callistus fifteen years, after Christ's Ascension--i.e. about A.D. 38-45. According to Eusebius, Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew when he left Palestine. Now, following a certain tradition (admittedly not too reliable), the Apostles separated twelve years after the Ascension, hence the Gospel would have been written about the year 40-42, but following Eusebius (Church History III.5.2), it is possible to fix the definitive departure of the Apostles about the year 60, in which event the writing of the Gospel would have taken place about the year 60-68. St Irenæus is somewhat more exact concerning the date of the First Gospel, as he says: "Matthew produced his Gospel when Peter and Paul were evangelizing and founding the Church of Rome, consequently about the years 64-67." However, this text presents difficulties of interpretation which render its meaning uncertain and prevent us from deducing any positive conclusion.

In our day opinion is rather divided. Catholic critics, in general, favour the years 40-45, although some (e.g. Patrizi) go back to 36-39 or (e.g. Aberle) to 37. Belser assigns 41-42; Conély, 40-50; Schafer, 50-51; Hug, Reuschl, Schanz, and Rose, 60-67. This last opinion is founded on the combined testimonies of St. Irenæus and Eusebius, and on the remark inserted parenthetically in the discourse of Jesus in chapter xxiv, 15: "When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place": here the author interrupts the sentence and invites the reader to take heed of what follows, viz.: "Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains." As there would have been no occasion for a like warning had the destruction of Jerusalem already taken place, Matthew must have written his Gospel before the year 70 (about 65-70 according to Batiffol). Protestant and Liberalistic critics also are greatly at variance as regards the time of the composition of the First Gospel. Zahn sets the date about 61-66, and Godet about 60-66; Keim, Meyer, Holtzmann (in his earlier writings), Beyschlag, and Maclean, before 70, Bartiet about 68-69; W. Allen and Plummer, about 65-75; Hilgenfeld and Holtzmann (in his later writings), soon after 70; B. Weiss and Harnack, about 70-75; Renan, later than 85, Réville, between 69 and 96, Jülicher, in 81-96, Montefiore, about 90-100, Volkmar, in 110; Baur, about 130-34. The following are some of the arguments advanced to prove that the First Gospel was written several years after the Fall of Jerusalem. When Jesus prophesies to His Apostles that they will be delivered up to the councils, scourged in the synagogues, brought before governors and kings for His sake; that they will give testimony of Him, will for Him be hated and driven from city to city (x, 17-23) and when He commissions them to teach all nations and make them His disciples, His words intimate, it is claimed, the lapse of many years, the establishment of the Christian Church in distant parts, and its cruel persecution by the Jews and even by Roman emperors and governors. Moreover, certain sayings of the Lord--such as: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church" (16:18), "If he [thy brother] will not hear them: tell the Church" (xviii, 10)--carry us to a time when the Christian Church was already constituted, a time that could not have been much earlier than the year 100. The fact is, that what was predicted by Our Lord, when He announced future events and established the charter and foundations of His Church, is converted into reality and made coexistent with the writing of the First Gospel. Hence, to give these arguments a probatory value it would be necessary either to deny Christ's knowledge of the future or to maintain that the teachings embodied in the First Gospel were not authentic.

Historic value of the First Gospel

Of the narratives

Apart from the narratives of the Childhood of Jesus, the cure of the two blind men, the tribute money, and a few incidents connected with the Passion and Resurrection, all the others recorded by St. Matthew are found in both the other Synoptists, with one exception (viii, 5-13) which occurs only in St. Luke. Critics agree in declaring that, regarded as a whole, the events of the life of Jesus recorded in the Synoptic Gospels are historic. For us, these facts are historic even in detail, our criterion of truth being the same for the aggregate and the details. The Gospel of St. Mark is acknowledged to be of great historic value because it reproduces the preaching of St. Peter. But, for almost all the events of the Gospel, the information given by St. Mark is found in St. Matthew, while such as are peculiar to the latter are of the same nature as events recorded by St. Mark, and resemble them so closely that it is hard to understand why they should not be historic, since they also are derived from the primitive catechesis. It may be further observed that the narratives of St. Matthew are never contradictory to the events made known to us by profane documents, and that they give a very accurate account of the moral and religious ideas, the manners and customs of the Jewish people of that time. In his recent work, "The Synoptic Gospels" (London, 1909), Montefiore, a Jewish critic, does full justice to St. Matthew on these different points. Finally all the objections that could possibly have been raised against their veracity vanish, if we but keep in mind the standpoint of the author, and what he wished to demonstrate. The comments we are about to make concerning the Lord's utterances are also applicable to the Gospel narratives. For a demonstration of the historic value of the narratives of the Holy Childhood, we recommend Father Durand's scholarly work, "L'enfance de Jésus-Christ d'après les évangiles canoniques" (Paris, 1907).

Of the discourses

The greater part of Christ's short sayings are found in the three Synoptic Gospels and consequently spring from the early catechesis. His long discourses, recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, also formed part of an authentic catechesis, and critics in general are agreed in acknowledging their historic value. There are, however some who maintain that the Evangelist modified his documents to adapt them to the faith professed in Christian communities at the time when he wrote his Gospel. They also claim that, even prior to the composition of the Gospels, Christian faith had altered Apostolic reminiscences. Let us first of all observe that these objections would have no weight whatever, unless we were to concede that the First Gospel was not written by St. Matthew. And even assuming the same point of view as our adversaries, who think that our Synoptic Gospels depend upon anterior sources, we maintain that these changes, whether attributable to the Evangelists or to their sources (i.e. the faith of the early Christians), could not have been effected.

The alterations claimed to have been introduced into Christ's teachings could not have been made by the Evangelists themselves. We know that the latter selected their subject-matter and disposed of it each in his own way, and with a special end in view, but this matter was the same for all three, at least for the whole contents of the pericopes, and was taken from the original catechesis, which was already sufficiently well established not to admit of the introduction into it of new ideas and unknown facts. Again, all the doctrines which are claimed to be foreign to the teachings of Jesus are found in the three Synoptists, and are so much a part of the very framework of each Gospel that their removal would mean the destruction of the order of the narrative. Under these conditions, that there might be a substantial change in the doctrines taught by Christ, it would be necessary to suppose a previous understanding among the three Evangelists, which seems to us impossible, as Matthew and Luke at least appear to have worked independently of each other and it is in their Gospels that Christ's longest discourses are found. These doctrines, which were already embodied in the sources used by the three Synoptists, could not have resulted from the deliberations and opinions of the earliest Christians. First of all, between the death of Christ and the initial drawing up of the oral catechesis, there was not sufficient time for originating, and subsequently enjoining upon the Christian conscience, ideas diametrically opposed to those said to have been exclusively taught by Jesus Christ. For example, let us take the doctrines claimed, above all others, to have been altered by the belief of the first Christians, namely that Jesus Christ had called all nations to salvation. It is said that the Lord restricted His mission to Israel, and that all those texts wherein He teaches that the Gospel should be preached throughout the entire world originated with the early Christians and especially with Paul. Now, in the first place, these universalist doctrines could not have sprung up among the Apostles. They and the primitive Christians were Jews of poorly developed intelligence, of very narrow outlook, and were moreover imbued with particularist ideas. From the Gospels and Acts it is easy to see that these men were totally unacquainted with universalist ideas, which had to be urged upon them, and which, even then, they were slow to accept. Moreover, how could this first Christian generation, who, we are told, believed that Christ's Second Coming was close at hand, have originated these passages proclaiming that before this event took place the Gospel should be preached to all nations? These doctrines do not emanate from St. Paul and his disciples. Long before St. Paul could have exercised any influence whatever over the Christian conscience, the Evangelical sources containing these precepts had already been composed. The Apostle of the Gentiles was the special propagator of these doctrines, but he was not their creator. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he understood that the ancient prophecies had been realized in the Person of Jesus and that the doctrines taught by Christ were identical with those revealed by the Scriptures.

Finally, by considering as a whole the ideas constituting the basis of the earliest Christian writings, we ascertain that these doctrines, taught by the prophets, and accentuated by the life and words of Christ, form the framework of the Gospels and the basis of Pauline preaching. They are, as it were, a kind of fasces which it would be impossible to unbind, and into which no new idea could be inserted without destroying its strength and unity. In the prophecies, the Gospels the Pauline Epistles, and the first Christian writings an intimate correlation joins all together, Jesus Christ Himself being the centre and the common bond. What one has said of Him, the others reiterate, and never do we hear an isolated or a discordant voice. If Jesus taught doctrines contrary or foreign to those which the Evangelists placed upon His lips, then He becomes an inexplicable phenomenon, because, in the matter of ideas, He is in contradiction to the society in which He moved, and must be ranked with the least intelligent sections among the Jewish people. We are justified, therefore, in concluding that the discourses of Christ, recorded in the First Gospel and reproducing the Apostolic catechesis, are authentic. We my however, again observe that, his aim being chiefly apologetic, Matthew selected and presented the events of Christ's life and also these discourses in a way that would lead up to the conclusive proof which he wished to give of the Messiahship of Jesus. Still the Evangelist neither substantially altered the original catechesis nor invented doctrines foreign to the teaching of Jesus. His action bore upon details or form, but not upon the basis of words and deeds.

Appendix: decisions of the Biblical Commission

The following answers have been given by the Biblical Commission to inquiries about the Gospel of St. Matthew: In view of the universal and constant agreement of the Church, as shown by the testimony of the Fathers, the inscription of Gospel codices, most ancient versions of the Sacred Books and lists handed down by the Holy Fathers, ecclesiastical writers, popes and councils, and finally by liturgical usage in the Eastern and Western Church, it may and should be held that Matthew, an Apostle of Christ, is really the author of the Gospel that goes by his name. The belief that Matthew preceded the other Evangelists in writing, and that the first Gospel was written in the native language of the Jews then in Palestine, is to be considered as based on Tradition.

The preparation of this original text was not deferred until after the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the prophecies it contains about this might be written after the event; nor is the alleged uncertain and much disputed testimony of Irenaeus convincing enough to do away with the opinion most conformed to Tradition, that their preparation was finished even before the coming of Paul to Rome. The opinion of certain Modernists is untenable, viz., that Matthew did not in a proper and strict sense compose the Gospel, as it has come down to us, but only a collection of some words and sayings of Christ, which, according to them, another anonymous author used as sources.

The fact that the Fathers and all ecclesiastical writers, and even the Church itself from the very beginning, have used as canonical the Greek text of the Gospel known as St. Matthew's, not even excepting those who have expressly handed down that the Apostle Matthew wrote in his native tongue, proves for certain that this very Greek Gospel is identical in substance with the Gospel written by the same Apostle in his native language. Although the author of the first Gospel has the dogmatic and apologetic purpose of proving to the Jews that Jesus is the Messias foretold by the prophets and born of the house of David, and although he is not always chronological in arranging the facts or sayings which he records, his narration is not to be regarded as lacking truth. Nor can it be said that his accounts of the deeds and utterances of Christ have been altered and adapted by the influence of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the conditions of the growing Church, and that they do not therefore conform to historical truth. Notably unfounded are the opinions of those who cast doubt on the historical value of the first two chapters, treating of the genealogy and infancy of Christ, or on certain passages of much weight for certain dogmas, such as those which concern the primacy of Peter (xvi, 17-19), the form of baptism given to the Apostles with their universal missions (xxviii, 19-20), the Apostles' profession of faith in Christ (xiv, 33), and others of this character specially emphasized by Matthew.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Gospel of Saint Mark
Taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia

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The subject will be treated under the following heads:
  • Contents, selection and arrangement of matter
  • Authorship
  • Original language, vocabulary, and style
  • State of text and integrity
  • Place and date of Composition
  • Destination and purpose
  • Relation to Matthew and Luke

Contents, selection and arrangement of matter

The Second Gospel, like the other two Synoptics, deals chiefly with the Galilean ministry of Christ, and the events of the last week at Jerusalem. In a brief introduction, the ministry of the Precursor and the immediate preparation of Christ for His official work by His Baptism and temptation are touched upon (i, 1-13); then follows the body of the Gospel, dealing with the public ministry, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus (i, 14-xvi, 8); and lastly the work in its present form gives a summary account of some appearances of the risen Lord, and ends with a reference to the Ascension and the universal preaching of the Gospel (xvi, 9-20). The body of the Gospel falls naturally into three divisions: the ministry in Galilee and adjoining districts: Phoenicia, Decapolis, and the country north towards Cæarea Philippi (i, 14-ix, 49); the ministry in Judea and (kai peran, with B, Aleph, C*, L, Psi, in x, 1) Peræa, and the journey to Jerusalem (x, 1-xi, 10); the events of the last week at Jerusalem (xi, 11-xvi, 8).

Beginning with the public ministry (cf. Acts 1:22; 10:37), St. Mark passes in silence over the preliminary events recorded by the other Synoptists: the conception and birth of the Baptist, the genealogy, conception, and birth of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, etc. He is much more concerned with Christ's acts than with His discourses, only two of these being given at any considerable length (iv, 3-32; xiii, 5-37). The miracles are narrated most graphically and thrown into great prominence, almost a fourth of the entire Gospel (in the Vulg., 164 verses out of 677) being devoted to them, and there seems to be a desire to impress the readers from the outset with Christ's almighty power and dominion over all nature. The very first chapter records three miracles: the casting out of an unclean spirit, the cure of Peter's mother-in-law, and the healing of a leper, besides alluding summarily to many others (i, 32-34); and, of the eighteen miracles recorded altogether in the Gospel, all but three (ix, 16-28; x, 46-52; xi, 12-14) occur in the first eight chapters. Only two of these miracles (vii, 31-37; viii, 22-26) are peculiar to Mark, but, in regard to nearly all, there are graphic touches and minute details not found in the other Synoptics. Of the parables proper Mark has only four: the sower (iv, 3-9), the seed growing secretly (iv, 26-29), the mustard seed (iv, 30-32), and the wicked husbandman (xii, 1-9); the second of these is wanting in the other Gospels. Special attention is paid throughout to the human feelings and emotions of Christ, and to the effect produced by His miracles upon the crowd. The weaknesses of the Apostles are far more apparent than in the parallel narratives of Matt. and Luke, this being, probably due to the graphic and candid discourses of Peter, upon which tradition represents Mark as relying.

The repeated notes of time and place (e.g., i, 14, 19, 20, 21, 29, 32, 35) seem to show that the Evangelist meant to arrange in chronological order at least a number of the events which he records. Occasionally the note of time is wanting (e.g. i, 40; iii, 1; iv, 1; x, 1, 2, 13) or vague (e.g. ii, 1, 23; iv, 35), and in such cases he may of course depart from the order of events. But the very fact that in some instances he speaks thus vaguely and indefinitely makes it all the more necessary to take his definite notes of time and sequence in other cases as indicating chronological order. We are here confronted, however, with the testimony of Papias, who quotes an elder (presbyter), with whom he apparently agrees, as saying that Mark did not write in order: "And the elder said this also: Mark, having become interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately everything that he remembered, without, however, recording in order what was either said or done by Christ. For neither did he hear the Lord, nor did he follow Him, but afterwards, as I said, (he attended) Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs (of his hearers), but had no design of giving a connected account of the Lord's oracles [v. l. "words"]. So then Mark made no mistake [Schmiedel, "committed no fault"], while he thus wrote down some things (enia as he remembered them; for he made it his one care not to omit anything that he had heard, or set down any false statement therein" (Eusebius, Church History III.39). Some indeed have understood this famous passage to mean merely that Mark did not write a literary work, but simply a string of notes connected in the simplest fashion (cf. Swete, "The Gospel according to Mark", pp. lx-lxi). The present writer, however, is convinced that what Papias and the elder deny to our Gospel is chronological order, since for no other order would it have been necessary that Mark should have heard or followed Christ. But the passage need not be understood to mean more than that Mark occasionally departs from chronological order, a thing we are quite prepared to admit. What Papias and the elder considered to be the true order we cannot say; they can hardly have fancied it to be represented in the First Gospel, which so evidently groups (e.g. viii-ix), nor, it would seem, in the Third, since Luke, like Mark, had not been a disciple of Christ. It may well be that, belonging as they did to Asia Minor, they had the Gospel of St. John and its chronology in mind. At any rate, their judgment upon the Second Gospel, even if be just, does not prevent us from holding that Mark, to some extent, arranges the events of Christ's like in chronological order.


All early tradition connects the Second Gospel with two names, those of St. Mark and St. Peter, Mark being held to have written what Peter had preached. We have just seen that this was the view of Papias and the elder to whom he refers. Papias wrote not later than about A.D. 130, so that the testimony of the elder probably brings us back to the first century, and shows the Second Gospel known in Asia Minor and attributed to St. Mark at that early time. So Irenæus says: "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing what was preached by Peter" (Against Heresies III.1 and III.10.6). St. Clement of Alexandria, relying on the authority of "the elder presbyters", tells us that, when Peter had publicly preached in Rome, many of those who heard him exhorted Mark, as one who had long followed Peter and remembered what he had said, to write it down, and that Mark "composed the Gospel and gave it to those who had asked for it" (Eusebius, Church History VI.14). Origen says (ibid., VI, xxv) that Mark wrote as Peter directed him (os Petros huphegesato auto), and Eusebius himself reports the tradition that Peter approved or authorized Mark's work (Church History II.15). To these early Eastern witnesses may be added, from the West, the author of the Muratorian Fragment, which in its first line almost certainly refers to Mark's presence at Peter's discourses and his composition of the Gospel accordingly (Quibus tamen interfuit et ita posuit); Tertullian, who states: "The Gospel which Mark published (edidit is affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was" ("Contra Marc.", IV, v); St. Jerome, who in one place says that Mark wrote a short Gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome, and that Peter authorized it to be read in the Churches ("De Vir. Ill.", viii), and in another that Mark's Gospel was composed, Peter narrating and Mark writing (Petro narrante et illo scribente--"Ad Hedib.", ep. cxx). In every one of these ancient authorities Mark is regarded as the writer of the Gospel, which is looked upon at the same time as having Apostolic authority, because substantially at least it had come from St. Peter. In the light of this traditional connexion of the Gospel with St. Peter, there can be no doubt that it is to it St. Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, refers (Dialogue with Trypho 106), when he says that Christ gave the title of "Boanerges" to the sons of Zebedee (a fact mentioned in the New Testament only in Mark 3:17), and that this is written in the "memoirs" of Peter (en tois apopnemaneumasin autou--after he had just named Peter). Though St. Justin does not name Mark as the writer of the memoirs, the fact that his disciple Tatian used our present Mark, including even the last twelve verses, in the composition of the "Diatessaron", makes it practically certain that St. Justin knew our present Second Gospel, and like the other Fathers connected it with St. Peter.

If, then, a consistent and widespread early tradition is to count for anything, St. Mark wrote a work based upon St. Peter's preaching. It is absurd to seek to destroy the force of this tradition by suggesting that all the subsequent authorities relied upon Papias, who may have been deceived. Apart from the utter improbability that Papias, who had spoken with many disciples of the Apostles, could have been deceived on such a question, the fact that Irenæus seems to place the composition of Mark's work after Peter's death, while Origen and other represent the Apostle as approving of it (see below, V), shows that all do not draw from the same source. Moreover, Clement of Alexandria mentions as his source, not any single authority, but "the elders from the beginning" (ton anekathen presbuteron--Eusebius, Church History VI.14). The only question, then, that can be raised with any shadow of reason, is whether St. Mark's work was identical with our present Second Gospel, and on this there is no room for doubt. Early Christian literature knows no trace of an Urmarkus different from our present Gospel, and it is impossible that a work giving the Prince of the Apostles' account of Christ's words and deeds could have disappeared utterly, without leaving any trace behind. Nor can it be said that the original Mark has been worked up into our present Second Gospel, for then, St. Mark not being the actual writer of the present work and its substance being due to St. Peter, there would have been no reason to attribute it to Mark, and it would undoubtedly have been known in the Church, not by the title it bears, but as the "Gospel according to Peter".

Internal evidence strongly confirms the view that our present Second Gospel is the work referred to by Papias. That work, as has been seen, was based on Peter's discourses. Now we learn from Acts (1:21-22; 10:37-41) that Peter's preaching dealt chiefly with the public life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. So our present Mark, confining itself to the same limits, omitting all reference to Christ's birth and private life, such as is found in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke, and commencing with the preaching of the Baptist, ends with Christ's Resurrection and Ascension. Again (1) the graphic and vivid touches peculiar to our present Second Gospel, its minute notes in regard to (2) persons, (3) places, (4) times, and (5) numbers, point to an eyewitness like Peter as the source of the writer's information.

Thus we are told (1) how Jesus took Peter's mother-in-law by the hand and raised her up (i, 31), how with anger He looked round about on His critics (iii, 5), how He took little children into His arms and blessed them and laid His hands upon them (ix, 35; x, 16), how those who carried the paralytic uncovered the roof (ii, 3, 4), how Christ commanded that the multitude should sit down upon the green grass, and how they sat down in companies, in hundred and in fifties (vi, 39-40); (2) how James and John left their father in the boat with the hired servants (i, 20), how they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John (i, 29), how the blind man at Jericho was the son of Timeus (x, 46), how Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus (xv, 21); (3) how there was no room even about the door of the house where Jesus was (ii, 2), how Jesus sat in the sea and all the multitude was by the sea on the land (iv, 1), how Jesus was in the stern of the boat asleep on the pillow (iv, 38); (4) how on the evening of the Sabbath, when the sun had set, the sick were brought to be cured (i, 32), how in the morning, long before day, Christ rose up (i, 35), how He was crucified at the third hour (xv, 25), how the women came to the tomb very early, when the sun had risen (xvi, 2); (5) how the paralytic was carried by four (ii, 3), how the swine were about two thousand in number (v. 13), how Christ began to send forth the Apostles, two and two (vi, 7). This mass of information which is wanting in the other Synoptics, and of which the above instances are only a sample, proved beyond doubt that the writer of the Second Gospel must have drawn from some independent source, and that this source must have been an eyewitness. And when we reflect that incidents connected with Peter, such as the cure of his mother-in-law and his three denials, are told with special details in this Gospel; that the accounts of the raising to life of the daughter of Jaïrus, of the Transfiguration, and of the Agony in the Garden, three occasions on which only Peter and James and John were present, show special signs of first-hand knowledge (cf. Swete, op. cit., p. xliv) such as might be expected in the work of a disciple of Peter (Matthew and Luke may also have relied upon the Petrine tradition for their accounts of these events, but naturally Peter's disciple would be more intimately acquainted with the tradition); finally, when we remember that, though the Second Gospel records with special fullness Peter's three denials, it alone among the Gospels omit all reference to the promise or bestowal upon him of the primacy (cf. Matthew 16:18-19; Luke 22:32; John 21:15-17), we are led to conclude that the eyewitness to whom St. Mark was indebted for his special information was St. Peter himself, and that our present Second Gospel, like Mark's work referred to by Papias, is based upon Peter's discourse. This internal evidence, if it does not actually prove the traditional view regarding the Petrine origin of the Second Gospel, is altogether consistent with it and tends strongly to confirm it.

Original language, vocabulary, and style

It has always been the common opinion that the Second Gospel was written in Greek, and there is no solid reason to doubt the correctness of this view. We learn from Juvenal (Sat., III, 60 sq.; VI, 187 sqq.) and Martial (Epig., XIV, 58) that Greek was very widely spoken at Rome in the first century. Various influences were at work to spread the language in the capital of the Empire. "Indeed, there was a double tendency which embraced at once classes at both ends of the social scale. On the one hand among slaves and the trading classes there were swarms of Greek and Greek-speaking Orientals. On the other hand in the higher ranks it was the fashion to speak Greek; children were taught it by Greek nurses; and in after life the use of it was carried to the pitch of affectation" (Sanday and Headlam, "Romans", p. lii). We know, too, that it was in Greek St. Paul wrote to the Romans, and from Rome St. Clement wrote to the Church of Corinth in the same language. It is true that some cursive Greek manuscripts of the tenth century or later speak of the Second Gospel as written in Latin (egrathe Romaisti en Rome, but scant and late evidence like this, which is probably only a deduction from the fact that the Gospel was written at Rome, can be allowed on weight. Equally improbable seems the view of Blass (Philol. of the Gosp., 196 sqq.) that the Gospel was originally written in Aramaic. The arguments advanced by Blass (cf. also Allen in "Expositor", 6th series, I, 436 sqq.) merely show at most that Mark may have thought in Aramaic; and naturally his simple, colloquial Greek discloses much of the native Aramaic tinge. Blass indeed urges that the various readings in the manuscripts of Mark, and the variations in Patristic quotations from the Gospel, are relics of different translations of an Aramaic original, but the instances he adduces in support of this are quite inconclusive. An Aramaic original is absolutely incompatible with the testimony of Papias, who evidently contrasts the work of Peter's interpreter with the Aramaic work of Matthew. It is incompatible, too, with the testimony of all the other Fathers, who represent the Gospel as written by Peter's interpreter for the Christians of Rome.

The vocabulary of the Second Gospel embraces 1330 distinct words, of which 60 are proper names. Eighty words, exclusive of proper names, are not found elsewhere in the New Testament; this, however, is a small number in comparison with more than 250 peculiar words found in the Gospel of St. Luke. Of St. Mark's words, 150 are shared only by the other two Synoptists; 15 are shared only by St. John (Gospel); and 12 others by one or other of the Synoptists and St. John. Though the words found but once in the New Testament (apax legomena) are not relatively numerous in the Second Gospel, they are often remarkable; we meet with words rare in later Greek such as (eiten, paidiothen, with colloquialisms like (kenturion, xestes, spekoulator), and with transliterations such as korban, taleitha koum, ephphatha, rabbounei (cf. Swete, op. cit., p. xlvii). Of the words peculiar to St. Mark about one-fourth are non-classical, while among those peculiar to St. Matthew or to St. Luke the proportion of non-classical words is only about one-seventh (cf. Hawkins, "Hor. Synopt.", 171). On the whole, the vocabulary of the Second Gospel points to the writer as a foreigner who was well acquainted with colloquial Greek, but a comparative stranger to the literary use of the language.

St. Mark's style is clear, direct, terse, and picturesque, if at times a little harsh. He makes very frequent use of participles, is fond of the historical present, of direct narration, of double negatives, of the copious use of adverbs to define and emphasize his expressions. He varies his tenses very freely, sometimes to bring out different shades of meaning (vii, 35; xv, 44), sometimes apparently to give life to a dialogue (ix, 34; xi, 27). The style is often most compressed, a great deal being conveyed in very few words (i, 13, 27; xii, 38-40), yet at other times adverbs and synonyms and even repetitions are used to heighten the impression and lend colour to the picture. Clauses are generally strung together in the simplest way by kai; de is not used half as frequently as in Matthew or Luke; while oun occurs only five times in the entire Gospel. Latinisms are met with more frequently than in the other Gospels, but this does not prove that Mark wrote in Latin or even understood the language. It proves merely that he was familiar with the common Greek of the Roman Empire, which freely adopted Latin words and, to some extent, Latin phraseology (cf. Blass, "Philol. of the Gosp.", 211 sq.), Indeed such familiarity with what we may call Roman Greek strongly confirms the traditional view that Mark was an "interpreter" who spent some time at Rome.

State of text and integrity

The text of the Second Gospel, as indeed of all the Gospels, is excellently attested. It is contained in all the primary unical manuscripts, C, however, not having the text complete, in all the more important later unicals, in the great mass of cursives; in all the ancient versions: Latin (both Vet. It., in its best manuscripts, and Vulg.), Syriac (Pesh., Curet., Sin., Harcl., Palest.), Coptic (Memph. and Theb.), Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic; and it is largely attested by Patristic quotations. Some textual problems, however, still remain, e.g. whether Gerasenon or Gergesenon is to be read in v, 1, eporei or epoiei in vi, 20, and whether the difficult autou, attested by B, Aleph, A, L, or autes is to be read in vi, 20. But the great textual problem of the Gospel concerns the genuineness of the last twelve verses. Three conclusions of the Gospel are known: the long conclusion, as in our Bibles, containing verses 9-20, the short one ending with verse 8 (ephoboumto gar), and an intermediate form which (with some slight variations) runs as follows: "And they immediately made known all that had been commanded to those about Peter. And after this, Jesus Himself appeared to them, and through them sent forth from East to West the holy and incorruptible proclamation of the eternal salvation." Now this third form may be dismissed at once. Four unical manuscripts, dating from the seventh to the ninth century, give it, indeed, after xvi, 9, but each of them also makes reference to the longer ending as an alternative (for particulars cf. Swete, op. cit., pp. cv-cvii). It stands also in the margin of the cursive Manuscript 274, in the margin of the Harclean Syriac and of two manuscripts of the Memphitic version; and in a few manuscripts of the Ethiopic it stands between verse 8 and the ordinary conclusion. Only one authority, the Old Latin k, gives it alone (in a very corrupt rendering), without any reference to the longer form. Such evidence, especially when compared with that for the other two endings, can have no weight, and in fact, no scholar regards this intermediate conclusion as having any titles to acceptance.

We may pass on, then, to consider how the case stands between the long conclusion and the short, i.e. between accepting xvi, 9-20, as a genuine portion of the original Gospel, or making the original end with xvi, 8. In favour of the short ending Eusebius ("Quaest. ad Marin.") is appealed to as saying that an apologist might get rid of any difficulty arising from a comparison of Matthew 28:1 with Mark 16:9, in regard to the hour of Christ's Resurrection, by pointing out that the passage in Mark beginning with verse 9 is not contained in all the manuscripts of the Gospel. The historian then goes on himself to say that in nearly all the manuscripts of Mark, at least, in the accurate ones (schedon en apasi tois antigraphois . . . ta goun akribe, the Gospel ends with xvi, 8. It is true, Eusebius gives a second reply which the apologist might make, and which supposes the genuineness of the disputed passage, and he says that this latter reply might be made by one "who did not dare to set aside anything whatever that was found in any way in the Gospel writing". But the whole passage shows clearly enough that Eusebius was inclined to reject everything after xvi, 8. It is commonly held, too, that he did not apply his canons to the disputed verses, thereby showing clearly that he did not regard them as a portion of the original text (see, however, Scriv., "Introd.", II, 1894, 339). St. Jerome also says in one place ("Ad. Hedib.") that the passage was wanting in nearly all Greek manuscripts (omnibus Græciæ libris poene hoc capitulum in fine non habentibus), but he quotes it elsewhere ("Comment. on Matt."; "Ad Hedib."), and, as we know, he incorporated it in the Vulgate. It is quite clear that the whole passage, where Jerome makes the statement about the disputed verses being absent from Greek manuscripts, is borrowed almost verbatim from Eusebius, and it may be doubted whether his statement really adds any independent weight to the statement of Eusebius. It seems most likely also that Victor of Antioch, the first commentator of the Second Gospel, regarded xvi, 8, as the conclusion. If we add to this that the Gospel ends with xvi, 8, in the two oldest Greek manuscripts, B and Aleph, in the Sin. Syriac and in a few Ethiopic manuscripts, and that the cursive Manuscript 22 and some Armenian manuscripts indicate doubt as to whether the true ending is at verse 8 or verse 20, we have mentioned all the evidence that can be adduced in favour of the short conclusion. The external evidence in favour of the long, or ordinary, conclusion is exceedingly strong. The passage stands in all the great unicals except B and Aleph--in A, C, (D), E, F, G, H, K, M, (N), S, U, V, X, Gamma, Delta, (Pi, Sigma), Omega, Beth--in all the cursives, in all the Latin manuscripts (O.L. and Vulg.) except k, in all the Syriac versions except the Sinaitic (in the Pesh., Curet., Harcl., Palest.), in the Coptic, Gothic, and most manuscripts of the Armenian. It is cited or alluded to, in the fourth century, by Aphraates, the Syriac Table of Canons, Macarius Magnes, Didymus, the Syriac Acts of the Apostles, Leontius, Pseudo-Ephraem, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom; in the third century, by Hippolytus, Vincentius, the "Acts of Pilate", the "Apostolic Constitutions", and probably by Celsus; in the second, by Irenæus most explicitly as the end of Mark's Gospel ("In fine autem evangelii ait Marcus et quidem dominus Jesus", etc.--Mark xvi, 19), by Tatian in the "Diatessaron", and most probably by Justin ("Apol. I", 45) and Hermas (Pastor, IX, xxv, 2). Moreover, in the fourth century certainly, and probably in the third, the passage was used in the Liturgy of the Greek Church, sufficient evidence that no doubt whatever was entertained as to its genuineness. Thus, if the authenticity of the passage were to be judged by external evidence alone, there could hardly be any doubt about it.

Much has been made of the silence of some third and fourth century Father, their silence being interpreted to mean that they either did not know the passage or rejected it. Thus Tertullian, SS. Cyprian, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Cyril of Alexandria are appealed to. In the case of Tertullian and Cyprian there is room for some doubt, as they might naturally enough to be expected to have quoted or alluded to Mark 16:16, if they received it; but the passage can hardly have been unknown to Athanasius (298-373), since it was received by Didymus (309-394), his contemporary in Alexandria (P.G., XXXIX, 687), nor to Basil, seeing it was received by his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa (P.G., XLVI, 652), nor to Gregory of Nazianzus, since it was known to his younger brother Cæsarius (P.G., XXXVIII, 1178); and as to Cyril of Alexandria, he actually quotes it from Nestorius (P.G., LXXVI, 85). The only serious difficulties are created by its omission in B and Aleph and by the statements of Eusebius and Jerome. But Tischendorf proved to demonstration (Proleg., p. xx, 1 sqq.) that the two famous manuscripts are not here two independent witnesses, because the scribe of B copies the leaf in Aleph on which our passage stands. Moreover, in both manuscripts, the scribe, though concluding with verse 8, betrays knowledge that something more followed either in his archetype or in other manuscripts, for in B, contrary to his custom, he leaves more than a column vacant after verse 8, and in Aleph verse 8 is followed by an elaborate arabesque, such as is met with nowhere else in the whole manuscript, showing that the scribe was aware of the existence of some conclusion which he meant deliberately to exclude (cf. Cornely, "Introd.", iii, 96-99; Salmon, "Introd.", 144-48). Thus both manuscripts bear witness to the existence of a conclusion following after verse 8, which they omit. Whether B and Aleph are two of the fifty manuscripts which Constantine commissioned Eusebius to have copies for his new capital we cannot be sure; but at all events they were written at a time when the authority of Eusebius was paramount in Biblical criticism, and probably their authority is but the authority of Eusebius. The real difficulty, therefore, against the passage, from external evidence, is reduced to what Eusebius and St. Jerome say about its omission in so many Greek manuscripts, and these, as Eusebius says, the accurate ones. But whatever be the explanation of this omission, it must be remembered that, as we have seen above, the disputed verses were widely known and received long before the time of Eusebius. Dean Burgon, while contending for the genuineness of the verses, suggested that the omission might have come about as follows. One of the ancient church lessons ended with Mark 16:8, and Burgon suggested that the telos, which would stand at the end of such lesson, may have misled some scribe who had before him a copy of the Four Gospels in which Mark stood last, and from which the last leaf, containing the disputed verses, was missing. Given one such defective copy, and supposing it fell into the hands of ignorant scribes, the error might easily be spread. Others have suggested that the omission is probably to be traced to Alexandria. That Church ended the Lenten fast and commenced the celebration of Easter at midnight, contrary to the custom of most Churches, which waited for cock-crow (cf. Dionysius of Alexandria in P.G., X, 1272 sq.). Now Mark 16:9: "But he rising early", etc., might easily be taken to favour the practice of the other Churches, and it is suggested that the Alexandrians may have omitted verse 9 and what follows from their lectionaries, and from these the omission might pass on into manuscripts of the Gospel. Whether there be any force in these suggestions, they point at any rate to ways in which it was possible that the passage, though genuine, should have been absent from a number of manuscripts in the time of Eusebius; while, on the other and, if the verses were not written by St. Mark, it is extremely hard to understand how they could have been so widely received in the second century as to be accepted by Tatian and Irenæus, and probably by Justin and Hermas, and find a place in the Old Latin and Syriac Versions.

When we turn to the internal evidence, the number, and still more the character, of the peculiarities is certainly striking. The following words or phrases occur nowhere else in the Gospel: prote sabbaton (v. 9), not found again in the New Testament, instead of te[s] mia[s] [ton] sabbaton (v. 2), ekeinos used absolutely (10, 11, 20), poreuomai (10, 12, 15), theaomai (11, 14), apisteo (11, 16), meta tauta and eteros (12), parakoloutheo and en to onomati (17), ho kurios (19, 20), pantachou, sunergeo, bebaioo, epakoloutheo (20). Instead of the usual connexion by kai and an occasional de, we have meta de tauta (12), husteron [de] (14), ho men oun (19), ekeinoi de (20). Then it is urged that the subject of verse 9 has not been mentioned immediately before; that Mary Magdalen seems now to be introduced for the first time, though in fact she has been mentioned three times in the preceding sixteen verses; that no reference is made to an appearance of the Lord in Galilee, though this was to be expected in view of the message of verse 7. Comparatively little importance attached to the last three points, for the subject of verse 9 is sufficiently obvious from the context; the reference to Magdalen as the woman out of whom Christ had cast seven devils is explicable here, as showing the loving mercy of the Lord to one who before had been so wretched; and the mention of an appearance in Galilee was hardly necessary. the important thing being to prove, as this passage does, that Christ was really risen from the dead, and that His Apostles, almost against their wills, were forced to believe the fact. But, even when this is said, the cumulative force of the evidence against the Marcan origin of the passage is considerable. Some explanation indeed can be offered of nearly every point (cf. Knabenbauer, "Comm. in Marc.", 445-47), but it is the fact that in the short space of twelve verse so many points require explanation that constitutes the strength of the evidence. There is nothing strange about the use, in a passage like this, of many words rare with he author. Only in the last character is apisteo used by St. Luke also (Luke 24:11, 41), eteros is used only once in St. John's Gospel (xix, 37), and parakoloutheo is used only once by St. Luke (i, 3). Besides, in other passages St. Mark uses many words that are not found in the Gospel outside the particular passage. In the ten verses, Mark 4:20-29, the writer has found fourteen words (fifteen, if phanerousthai of xvi, 12, be not Marcan) which occur nowhere else in the Gospel. But, as was said, it is the combination of so many peculiar features, not only of vocabulary, but of matter and construction, that leaves room for doubt as to the Marcan authorship of the verses.

In weighing the internal evidence, however, account must be take of the improbability of the Evangelist's concluding with verse 8. Apart from the unlikelihood of his ending with the participle gar, he could never deliberately close his account of the "good news" (i, 1) with the note of terror ascribed in xvi, 8, to some of Christ's followers. Nor could an Evangelist, especially a disciple of St. Peter, willingly conclude his Gospel without mentioning some appearance of the risen Lord (Acts 1:22; 10:37-41). If, then, Mark concluded with verse 8, it must have been because he died or was interrupted before he could write more. But tradition points to his living on after the Gospel was completed, since it represents him as bringing the work with him to Egypt or as handing it over to the Roman Christians who had asked for it. Nor is it easy to understand how, if he lived on, he could have been so interrupted as to be effectually prevented from adding, sooner or later, even a short conclusion. Not many minutes would have been needed to write such a passage as xvi, 9-20, and even if it was his desire, as Zahn without reason suggests (Introd., II, 479), to add some considerable portions to the work, it is still inconceivable how he could have either circulated it himself or allowed his friends to circulate it without providing it with at least a temporary and provisional conclusion. In every hypothesis, then, xvi, 8, seems an impossible ending, and we are forced to conclude either that the true ending is lost or that we have it in the disputed verses. Now, it is not easy to see how it could have been lost. Zahn affirms that it has never been established nor made probable that even a single complete sentence of the New Testament has disappeared altogether from the text transmitted by the Church (Introd., II, 477). In the present case, if the true ending were lost during Mark's lifetime, the question at once occurs: Why did he not replace it? And it is difficult to understand how it could have been lost after his death, for before then, unless he died within a few days from the completion of the Gospel, it must have been copied, and it is most unlikely that the same verses could have disappeared from several copies.

It will be seen from this survey of the question that there is no justification for the confident statement of Zahn that "It may be regarded as one of the most certain of critical conclusions, that the words ephobounto gar, xvi, 8, are the last words in the book which were written by the author himself" (Introd., II, 467). Whatever be the fact, it is not at all certain that Mark did not write the disputed verses. It may be that he did not; that they are from the pen of some other inspired writer, and were appended to the Gospel in the first century or the beginning of the second. An Armenian manuscript, written in A.D. 986, ascribes them to a presbyter named Ariston, who may be the same with the presbyter Aristion, mentioned by Papias as a contemporary of St. John in Asia. Catholics are not bound to hold that the verses were written by St. Mark. But they are canonical Scripture, for the Council of Trent (Sess. IV), in defining that all the parts of the Sacred Books are to be received as sacred and canonical, had especially in view the disputed parts of the Gospels, of which this conclusion of Mark is one (cf. Theiner, "Acta gen. Conc. Trid.", I, 71 sq.). Hence, whoever wrote the verses, they are inspired, and must be received as such by every Catholic.

Place and date of composition

It is certain that the Gospel was written at Rome. St. Chrysostom indeed speaks of Egypt as the place of composition ("Hom. I. on Matt.", 3), but he probably misunderstood Eusebius, who says that Mark was sent to Egypt and preached there the Gospel which he had written (Church History II.16). Some few modern scholars have adopted the suggestion of Richard Simon ("Hist. crit. du Texte du N.T.", 1689, 107) that the Evangelist may have published both a Roman and an Egyptian edition of the Gospel. But this view is sufficiently refuted by the silence of the Alexandrian Fathers. Other opinions, such as that the Gospel was written in Asia Minor or at Syrian Antioch, are not deserving of any consideration.

The date of the Gospel is uncertain. The external evidence is not decisive, and the internal does not assist very much. St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Tertullian, and St. Jerome signify that it was written before St. Peter's death. The subscription of many of the later unical and cursive manuscripts states that it was written in the tenth or twelfth year after the Ascension (A.D. 38-40). The "Paschal Chronicle" assigns it to A.D. 40, and the "Chronicle" of Eusebius to the third year of Claudius (A.D. 43). Possibly these early dates may be only a deduction from the tradition that Peter came to Rome in the second year of Claudius, A.D. 42 (cf. Eusebius, Church History II.14; Jerome, "De Vir. Ill.", i). St. Irenæus, on the other hand, seems to place the composition of the Gospel after the death of Peter and Paul (meta de ten touton exodon--Against Heresies III.1). Papias, too, asserting that Mark wrote according to his recollection of Peter's discourses, has been taken to imply that Peter was dead. This, however, does not necessarily follow from the words of Papias, for Peter might have been absent from Rome. Besides, Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius, Church History VI.14) seems to say that Peter was alive and in Rome at the time Mark wrote, though he gave the Evangelist no help in his work. There is left, therefore, the testimony of St. Irenæus against that of all the other early witnesses; and it is an interesting fact that most present-day Rationalist and Protestant scholars prefer to follow Irenæus and accept the later date for Mark's Gospel, though they reject almost unanimously the saint's testimony, given in the same context and supported by all antiquity, in favour of the priority of Matthew's Gospel to Mark's. Various attempts have been made to explain the passage in Irenæus so as to bring him into agreement with the other early authorities (see, e.g. Cornely, "Introd.", iii, 76-78; Patrizi, "De Evang.", I, 38), but to the present writer they appear unsuccessful if the existing text must be regarded as correct. It seems much more reasonable, however, to believe that Irenæus was mistaken than that all the other authorities are in error, and hence the external evidence would show that Mark wrote before Peter's death (A.D. 64 or 67).

From internal evidence we can conclude that the Gospel was written before A.D. 70, for there is no allusion to the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, such as might naturally be expected in view of the prediction in xiii, 2, if that event had already taken place. On the other hand, if xvi, 20: "But they going forth preached everywhere", be from St. Mark's pen, the Gospel cannot well have been written before the close of the first Apostolic journey of St. Paul (A.D. 49 or 50), for it is seen from Acts 14:26 and 15:3, that only then had the conversion of the Gentiles begun on any large scale. Of course it is possible that previous to this the Apostles had preached far and wide among the dispersed Jews, but, on the whole, it seems more probable that the last verse of the Gospel, occurring in a work intended for European readers, cannot have been written before St. Paul's arrival in Europe (A.D. 50-51). Taking the external and internal evidence together, we may conclude that the date of the Gospel probably lies somewhere between A.D. 50 and 67.

Destination and purpose

Tradition represents the Gospel as written primarily for Roman Christians (see above, II), and internal evidence, if it does not quite prove the truth of this view, is altogether in accord with it. The language and customs of the Jews are supposed to be unknown to at least some of the readers. Hence terms like Boanerges (iii, 17), korban (vii, 11), ephphatha (vii, 34) are interpreted; Jewish customs are explained to illustrate the narrative (vii, 3-4; xiv, 12); the situation of the Mount of Olives in relation to the Temple is pointed out (xiii, 3); the genealogy of Christ is omitted; and the Old Testament is quoted only once (i, 2-3; xv, 28, is omitted by B, Aleph, A, C, D, X). Moreover, the evidence, as far as it goes, points to Roman readers. Pilate and his office are supposed to be known (15:1--cf. Matthew 27:2; Luke 3:1); other coins are reduced to their value in Roman money (xii, 42); Simon of Cyrene is said to be the father of Alexander and Rufus (xv, 21), a fact of no importance in itself, but mentioned probably because Rufus was known to the Roman Christians (Romans 16:13); finally, Latinisms, or uses of vulgar Greek, such as must have been particularly common in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, occur more frequently than in the other Gospels (v, 9, 15; vi, 37; xv, 39, 44; etc.).

The Second Gospel has no such statement of its purpose as is found in the Third and Fourth (Luke 1:1-3; John 20:31). The Tübingen critics long regarded it as a "Tendency" writing, composed for the purpose of mediating between and reconciling the Petrine and Pauline parties in the early Church. Other Rationalists have seen in it an attempt to allay the disappointment of Christians at the delay of Christ's Coming, and have held that its object was to set forth the Lord's earthly life in such a manner as to show that apart from His glorious return He had sufficiently attested the Messianic character of His mission. But there is no need to have recourse to Rationalists to learn the purpose of the Gospel. The Fathers witness that it was written to put into permanent form for the Roman Church the discourses of St. Peter, nor is there reason to doubt this. And the Gospel itself shows clearly enough that Mark meant, by the selection he made from Peter's discourses, to prove to the Roman Christians, and still more perhaps to those who might think of becoming Christians, that Jesus was the Almighty Son of God. To this end, instead of quoting prophecy, as Matthew does to prove that Jesus was the Messias, he sets forth in graphic language Christ's power over all nature, as evidenced by His miracles. The dominant note of the whole Gospel is sounded in the very first verse: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God" (the words "Son of God" are removed from the text by Westcott and Hort, but quite improperly--cf. Knabenb., "Comm. in Marc.", 23), and the Evangelist's main purpose throughout seems to be to prove the truth of this title and of the centurion's verdict: "Indeed this man was (the) son of God" (xv, 39).

Relation to Matthew and Luke

The three Synoptic Gospels cover to a large extent the same ground. Mark, however, has nothing corresponding to the first two chapters of Matthew or the first two of Luke, very little to represent most of the long discourses of Christ in Matthew, and perhaps nothing quite parallel to the long section in Luke 9:51-18:14. On the other hand, he has very little that is not found in either or both of the other two Synoptists, the amount of matter that is peculiar to the Second Gospel, if it were all put together, amounting only to less than sixty verses. In the arrangement of the common matter the three Gospels differ very considerably up to the point where Herod Antipas is said to have heard of the fame of Jesus (Matthew 13:58; Mark 4:13; Luke 9:6). From this point onward the order of events is practically the same in all three, except that Matthew (xxvi, 10) seems to say that Jesus cleansed the Temple the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and cursed the fig tree only on the following day, while Mark assigns both events to the following day, and places the cursing of the fig tree before the cleansing of the Temple; and while Matthew seems to say that the effect of the curse and the astonishment of the disciples thereat followed immediately. Mark says that it was only on the following day the disciples saw that the tree was withered from the roots (Matthew 21:12-20; Mark 11:11-21). It is often said, too, that Luke departs from Mark's arrangement in placing the disclosure of the traitor after the institution of the Blessed Eucharist, but it, as seems certain, the traitor was referred to many times during the Supper, this difference may be more apparent than real (Mark 14:18-24; Luke 22:19-23). And not only is there this considerable agreement as to subject-matter and arrangement, but in many passages, some of considerable length, there is such coincidence of words and phrases that it is impossible to believe the accounts to be wholly independent. On the other hand, side by side with this coincidence, there is strange and frequently recurring divergence. "Let any passage common to the three Synoptists be put to the test. The phenomena presented will be much as follows: first, perhaps, we shall have three, five, or more words identical; then as many wholly distinct; then two clauses or more expressed in the same words, but differing in order; then a clause contained in one or two, and not in the third; then several words identical; then a clause or two not only wholly distinct, but apparently inconsistent; and so forth; with recurrences of the same arbitrary and anomalous alterations, coincidences, and transpositions.

The question then arises, how are we to explain this very remarkable relation of the three Gospels to each other, and, in particular, for our present purpose, how are we to explain the relation of Mark of the other two? For a full discussion of this most important literary problem see SYNOPTICS. It can barely be touched here, but cannot be wholly passed over in silence. At the outset may be put aside, in the writer's opinion, the theory of the common dependence of the three Gospels upon oral tradition, for, except in a very modified form, it is incapable by itself alone of explaining all the phenomena to be accounted for. It seems impossible that an oral tradition could account for the extraordinary similarity between, e.g. Mark 2:10-11, and its parallels. Literary dependence or connexion of some kind must be admitted, and the questions is, what is the nature of that dependence or connexion? Does Mark depend upon Matthew, or upon both Matthew and Luke, or was it prior to and utilized in both, or are all three, perhaps, connected through their common dependence upon earlier documents or through a combination of some of these causes? In reply, it is to be noted, in the first place, that all early tradition represents St. Matthew's Gospel as the first written; and this must be understood of our present Matthew, for Eusebius, with the work of Papias before him, had no doubt whatever that it was our present Matthew which Papias held to have been written in Hebrew (Aramaic). The order of the Gospels, according to the Fathers and early writers who refer to the subject, was Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Clement of Alexandria is alone in signifying that Luke wrote before Mark (Eusebius, Church History VI.14), and not a single ancient writer held that Mark wrote before Matthew. St. Augustine, assuming the priority of Matthew, attempted to account for the relations of the first two Gospels by holding that the second is a compendium of the first (Matthæum secutus tanquam pedisequus et breviator--"De Consens. Evang.", I, ii). But, as soon as the serious study of the Synoptic Problem began, it was seen that this view could not explain the facts, and it was abandoned. The dependence of Mark's Gospel upon Matthew's however, though not after the manner of a compendium, is still strenuously advocated. Zahn holds that the Second Gospel is dependent on the Aramaic Matthew as well as upon Peter's discourses for its matter, and, to some extent, for its order; and that the Greek Matthew is in turn dependent upon Mark for its phraseology. So, too, Besler ("Einleitung in das N.T.", 1889) and Bonaccorsi ("I tre primi Vangeli", 1904). It will be seen at once that this view is in accordance with tradition in regard to the priority of Matthew, and it also explains the similarities in the first two Gospels. Its chief weakness seems to the present writer to lie in its inability to explain some of Mark's omissions. It is very hard to see, for instance, why, if St. Mark had the First Gospel before him, he omitted all reference to the cure of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13). This miracle, by reason of its relation to a Roman officer, ought to have had very special interest for Roman readers, and it is extremely difficult to account for its omission by St. Mark, if he had St. Matthew's Gospel before him. Again, St. Matthew relates that when, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus had come to the disciples, walking on water, those who were in the boat "came and adored him, saying: Indeed Thou art [the] Son of God" (Matthew 14:33). Now, Mark's report of the incident is: "And he went up to them into the ship, and the wind ceased; and they were exceedingly amazed within themselves: for they understood not concerning the loaves, but their heart was blinded" (Mark 6:51-52). Thus Mark makes no reference to the adoration, nor to the striking confession of the disciples that Jesus was [the] Son of God. How can we account for this, if he had Matthew's report before him? Once more, Matthew relates that, on the occasion of Peter's confession of Christ near Cæsarea Philippi, Peter said: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). But Mark's report of this magnificent confession is merely: "Peter answering said to him: Thou art the Christ" (Mark 8:29). It appears impossible to account for the omission here of the words: "the Son of the living God", words which make the special glory of this confession, if Mark made use of the First Gospel. It would seem, therefore, that the view which makes the Second Gospel dependent upon the First is not satisfactory.

The prevailing view at the present among Protestant scholars and not a few Catholics, in America and England as well as in Germany, is that St. Mark's Gospel is prior to St. Matthew's, and used in it as well as in St. Luke's. Thus Gigot writes: "The Gospel according to Mark was written first and utilized by the other two Synoptics" ("The New York Review", Sept.-Dec., 1907). So too Bacon, Yale Divinity School: "It appears that the narrative material of Matthew is simply that of Mark transferred to form a framework for the masses of discourse" . . . "We find here positive proof of dependence by our Matthew on our Mark" (Introd. to the N.T., 1905, 186-89). Allen, art. "Matthew" in "The International Critical Commentary", speaks of the priority of the Second to the other two Synoptic Gospels as "the one solid result of literary criticism"; and Burkitt in "The Gospel History" (1907), 37, writes: "We are bound to conclude that Mark contains the whole of a document which Matthew and Luke have independently used, and, further, that Mark contains very little else beside. This conclusion is extremely important; it is the one solid contribution made by the scholarship of the nineteenth century towards the solution of the Synoptic Problem". See also Hawkins, "Horæ Synopt." (1899), 122; Salmond in Hast., "Dict. of the Bible", III, 261; Plummer, "Gospel of Matthew" (1909), p. xi; Stanton, "The Gospels as Historical Documents" (1909), 30-37; Jackson, "Cambridge Biblical Essays" (1909), 455.

Yet, notwithstanding the wide acceptance this theory has gained, it may be doubted whether it can enable us to explain all the phenomena of the first two, Gospels; Orr, "The Resurrection of Jesus" (1908), 61-72, does not think it can, nor does Zahn (Introd., II, 601-17), some of whose arguments against it have not yet been grappled with. It offers indeed a ready explanation of the similarities in language between the two Gospels, but so does Zahn's theory of the dependence of the Greek Matthew upon Mark. It helps also to explain the order of the two Gospels, and to account for certain omissions in Matthew (cf. especially Allen, op. cit., pp. xxxi-xxxiv). But it leaves many differences unexplained. Why, for instance, should Matthew, if he had Mark's Gospel before him, omit reference to the singular fact recorded by Mark that Christ in the desert was with the wild beasts (Mark 1:13)? Why should he omit (Matthew 4:17) from Mark's summary of Christ's first preaching, "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15), the very important words "Believe in the Gospel", which were so appropriate to the occasion? Why should he (iv, 21) omit oligon and tautologically add "two brothers" to Mark 1:19, or fail (4:22) to mention "the hired servants" with whom the sons of Zebedee left their father in the boat (Mark 1:20), especially since, as Zahn remarks, the mention would have helped to save their desertion of their father from the appearance of being unfilial. Why, again, should he omit viii, 28-34, the curious fact that though the Gadarene demoniac after his cure wished to follow in the company of Jesus, he was not permitted, but told to go home and announce to his friends what great things the Lord had done for him (Mark 5:18-19). How is it that Matthew has no reference to the widow's mite and Christ's touching comment thereon (Mark 12:41-44) nor to the number of the swine (Matthew 8:3-34; Mark 5:13), nor to the disagreement of the witnesses who appeared against Christ? (Matthew 26:60; Mark 14:56, 59).

It is surely strange too, if he had Mark's Gospel before him, that he should seem to represent so differently the time of the women's visit to the tomb, the situation of the angel that appeared to them and the purpose for which they came (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6). Again, even when we admit that Matthew is grouping in chapters viii-ix, it is hard to see any satisfactory reason why, if he had Mark's Gospel before him, he should so deal with the Marcan account of Christ's earliest recorded miracles as not only to omit the first altogether, but to make the third and second with Mark respectively the first and third with himself (Matthew 8:1-15; Mark 1:23-31; 40-45). Allen indeed. (op. cit., p. xv-xvi) attempts an explanation of this strange omission and inversion in the eighth chapter of Matthew, but it is not convincing. For other difficulties see Zahn, "Introd.", II, 616-617. On the whole, then, it appears premature to regard this theory of the priority of Mark as finally established, especially when we bear in mind that it is opposed to all the early evidence of the priority of Matthew. The question is still sub judice, and notwithstanding the immense labour bestowed upon it, further patient inquiry is needed.

It may possibly be that the solution of the peculiar relations between Matthew and Mark is to be found neither in the dependence of both upon oral tradition nor in the dependence of either upon the other, but in the use by one or both of previous documents. If we may suppose, and Luke 1:1, gives ground for the supposition, that Matthew had access to a document written probably in Aramaic, embodying the Petrine tradition, he may have combined with it one or more other documents, containing chiefly Christ's discourses, to form his Aramaic Gospel. But the same Petrine tradition, perhaps in a Greek form, might have been known to Mark also; for the early authorities hardly oblige us to hold that he made no use of pre-existing documents. Papias (apud Eus., Church History III.39) speaks of him as writing down some things as he remembered them, and if Clement of Alexandria (ap. Eus., Church History VI.14) represents the Romans as thinking that he could write everything from memory, it does not at all follow that he did. Let us suppose, then, that Matthew embodied the Petrine tradition in his Aramaic Gospel, and that Mark afterwards used it or rather a Greek form of it somewhat different, combining with it reminiscences of Peter's discourses. If, in addition to this, we suppose the Greek translator of Matthew to have made use of our present Mark for his phraseology, we have quite a possible means of accounting for the similarities and dissimilarities of our first two Gospels, and we are free at the same time to accept the traditional view in regard to the priority of Matthew. Luke might then be held to have used our present Mark or perhaps an earlier form of the Petrine tradition, combining with it a source or sources which it does not belong to the present article to consider.

Of course the existence of early documents, such as are here supposed, cannot be directly proved, unless the spade should chance to disclose them; but it is not at all improbable. It is reasonable to think that not many years elapsed after Christ's death before attempts were made to put into written form some account of His words and works. Luke tells us that many such attempts had been made before he wrote; and it needs no effort to believe that the Petrine form of the Gospel had been committed to writing before the Apostles separated; that it disappeared afterwards would not be wonderful, seeing that it was embodied in the Gospels. It is hardly necessary to add that the use of earlier documents by an inspired writer is quite intelligible. Grace does not dispense with nature nor, as a rule, inspiration with ordinary, natural means. The writer of the Second Book of Machabees states distinctly that his book is an abridgment of an earlier work (2 Maccabees 2:24, 27), and St. Luke tells us that before undertaking to write his Gospel he had inquired diligently into all things from the beginning (Luke 1:1).

There is no reason, therefore, why Catholics should be timid about admitting, if necessary, the dependence of the inspired evangelists upon earlier documents, and, in view of the difficulties against the other theories, it is well to bear this possibility in mind in attempting to account for the puzzling relations of Mark to the other two synoptists.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Gospel of Saint Luke
Taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia

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The subject will be treated under the following heads:

I. Biography of Saint Luke;
II.Authenticity of the Gospel;
III. Integrity of the Gospel;
IV. Purpose and Contents;
V. Sources of the Gospel: Synoptic Problem;
VI. Saint Luke's Accuracy;
VII. Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene;
VIII. Who Spoke the Magnificat?
IX. The Census of Quirinius;
X. Saint Luke and Josephus.

Biography of Saint Luke

The name Lucas (Luke) is probably an abbreviation from Lucanus, like Annas from Ananus, Apollos from Apollonius, Artemas from Artemidorus, Demas from Demetrius, etc. (Schanz, "Evang. des heiligen Lucas", 1, 2; Lightfoot on "Col.", iv, 14; Plummer, "St. Luke", introd.)

The word Lucas seems to have been unknown before the Christian Era; but Lucanus is common in inscriptions, and is found at the beginning and end of the Gospel in some Old Latin manuscripts (ibid.). It is generally held that St. Luke was a native of Antioch. Eusebius (Church History III.4.6) has: Loukas de to men genos on ton ap Antiocheias, ten episteuen iatros, ta pleista suggegonos to Paulo, kai rots laipois de ou parergos ton apostolon homilnkos--"Lucas vero domo Antiochenus, arte medicus, qui et cum Paulo diu conjunctissime vixit, et cum reliquis Apostolis studiose versatus est." Eusebius has a clearer statement in his "Quæstiones Evangelicæ", IV, i, 270: ho de Loukas to men genos apo tes Boomenes Antiocheias en--"Luke was by birth a native of the renowned Antioch" (Schmiedel, "Encyc. Bib."). Spitta, Schmiedel, and Harnack think this is a quotation from Julius Africanus (first half of the third century). In Codex Bezæ (D) Luke is introduced by a "we" as early as Acts 11:28; and, though this is not a correct reading, it represents a very ancient tradition. The writer of Acts took a special interest in Antioch and was well acquainted with it (Acts 11:19-27; 13:1; 14:18-21, 14:25, 15:22, 23, 30, 35; 18:22). We are told the locality of only one deacon, "Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch", 6:5; and it has been pointed out by Plummer that, out of eight writers who describe the Russian campaign of 1812, only two, who were Scottish, mention that the Russian general, Barclay de Tolly, was of Scottish extraction. These considerations seem to exclude the conjecture of Renan and Ramsay that St. Luke was a native of Philippi.

St. Luke was not a Jew. He is separated by St. Paul from those of the circumcision (Colossians 4:14), and his style proves that he was a Greek. Hence he cannot be identified with Lucius the prophet of Acts 13:1, nor with Lucius of Romans 16:21, who was cognatus of St. Paul. From this and the prologue of the Gospel it follows that Epiphanius errs when he calls him one of the Seventy Disciples; nor was he the companion of Cleophas in the journey to Emmaus after the Resurrection (as stated by Theophylact and the Greek Menologium). St. Luke had a great knowledge of the Septuagint and of things Jewish, which he acquired either as a Jewish proselyte (St. Jerome) or after he became a Christian, through his close intercourse with the Apostles and disciples. Besides Greek, he had many opportunities of acquiring Aramaic in his native Antioch, the capital of Syria. He was a physician by profession, and St. Paul calls him "the most dear physician" (Colossians 4:14). This avocation implied a liberal education, and his medical training is evidenced by his choice of medical language. Plummer suggests that he may have studied medicine at the famous school of Tarsus, the rival of Alexandria and Athens, and possibly met St. Paul there. From his intimate knowledge of the eastern Mediterranean, it has been conjectured that he had lengthened experience as a doctor on board ship. He travailed a good deal, and sends greetings to the Colossians, which seems to indicate that he had visited them.

St. Luke first appears in the Acts at Troas (16:8 sqq.), where he meets St. Paul, and, after the vision, crossed over with him to Europe as an Evangelist, landing at Neapolis and going on to Philippi, "being assured that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them" (note especially the transition into first person plural at verse 10). He was, therefore, already an Evangelist. He was present at the conversion of Lydia and her companions, and lodged in her house. He, together with St. Paul and his companions, was recognized by the pythonical spirit: "This same following Paul and us, cried out, saying: These men are the servants of the most high God, who preach unto you the way of salvation" (verse 17). He beheld Paul and Silas arrested, dragged before the Roman magistrates, charged with disturbing the city, "being Jews", beaten with rods and thrown into prison. Luke and Timothy escaped, probably because they did not look like Jews (Timothy's father was a gentile). When Paul departed from Philippi, Luke was left behind, in all probability to carry on the work of Evangelist. At Thessalonica the Apostle received highly appreciated pecuniary aid from Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16), doubtless through the good offices of St. Luke. It is not unlikely that the latter remained at Philippi all the time that St. Paul was preaching at Athens and Corinth, and while he was travelling to Jerusalem and back to Ephesus, and during the three years that the Apostle was engaged at Ephesus. When St. Paul revisited Macedonia, he again met St. Luke at Philippi, and there wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

St. Jerome thinks it is most likely that St. Luke is "the brother, whose praise is in the gospel through all the churches" (2 Corinthians 8:18), and that he was one of the bearers of the letter to Corinth. Shortly afterwards, when St. Paul returned from Greece, St. Luke accompanied him from Philippi to Troas, and with him made the long coasting voyage described in Acts 20. He went up to Jerusalem, was present at the uproar, saw the attack on the Apostle, and heard him speaking "in the Hebrew tongue" from the steps outside the fortress Antonia to the silenced crowd. Then he witnessed the infuriated Jews, in their impotent rage, rending their garments, yelling, and flinging dust into the air. We may be sure that he was a constant visitor to St. Paul during the two years of the latter's imprisonment at Cæarea. In that period he might well become acquainted with the circumstances of the death of Herod Agrippa I, who had died there eaten up by worms" (skolekobrotos), and he was likely to be better informed on the subject than Josephus. Ample opportunities were given him, "having diligently attained to all things from the beginning", concerning the Gospel and early Acts, to write in order what had been delivered by those "who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2, 3). It is held by many writers that the Gospel was written during this time, Ramsay is of opinion that the Epistle to the Hebrews was then composed, and that St. Luke had a considerable share in it. When Paul appealed to Cæsar, Luke and Aristarchus accompanied him from Cæsarea, and were with him during the stormy voyage from Crete to Malta. Thence they went on to Rome, where, during the two years that St. Paul was kept in prison, St. Luke was frequently at his side, though not continuously, as he is not mentioned in the greetings of the Epistle to the Philippians (Lightfoot, "Phil.", 35). He was present when the Epistles to the Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon were written, and is mentioned in the salutations given in two of them: "Luke the most dear physician, saluteth you" (Colossians 4:14); "There salute thee . . . Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke my fellow labourers" (Philem., 24). St. Jerome holds that it was during these two years Acts was written.

We have no information about St. Luke during the interval between St. Paul's two Roman imprisonments, but he must have met several of the Apostles and disciples during his various journeys. He stood beside St. Paul in his last imprisonment; for the Apostle, writing for the last time to Timothy, says: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. . . . Make haste to come to me quickly. For Demas hath left me, loving this world. . . . Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:7-11). It is worthy of note that, in the three places where he is mentioned in the Epistles (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11) he is named with St. Mark (cf. Colossians 4:10), the other Evangelist who was not an Apostle (Plummer), and it is clear from his Gospel that he was well acquainted with the Gospel according to St. Mark; and in the Acts he knows all the details of St. Peter's delivery—what happened at the house of St. Mark's mother, and the name of the girl who ran to the outer door when St. Peter knocked. He must have frequently met St. Peter, and may have assisted him to draw up his First Epistle in Greek, which affords many reminiscences of Luke's style. After St. Paul's martyrdom practically all that is known about him is contained in the ancient "Prefatio vel Argumentum Lucæ", dating back to Julius Africanus, who was born about A.D. 165. This states that he was unmarried, that he wrote the Gospel, in Achaia, and that he died at the age of seventy-four in Bithynia (probably a copyist's error for Bœotia), filled with the Holy Ghost. Epiphanius has it that he preached in Dalmatia (where there is a tradition to that effect), Gallia (Galatia?), Italy, and Macedonia. As an Evangelist, he must have suffered much for the Faith, but it is controverted whether he actually died a martyr's death. St. Jerome writes of him (De Vir. III., vii). "Sepultus est Constantinopoli, ad quam urbem vigesimo Constantii anno, ossa ejus cum reliquiis Andreæ Apostoli translata sunt [de Achaia?]."

St. Luke its always represented by the calf or ox, the sacrificial animal, because his Gospel begins with the account of Zachary, the priest, the father of John the Baptist. He is called a painter by Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), and by the Menology of Basil II, A.D. 980. A picture of the Virgin in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, is ascribed to him, and can be traced to A.D. 847 It is probably a copy of that mentioned by Theodore Lector, in the sixth century. This writer states that the Empress Eudoxia found a picture of the Mother of God at Jerusalem, which she sent to Constantinople (see "Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). As Plummer observes, it is certain that St. Luke was an artist, at least to the extent that his graphic descriptions of the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Shepherds. Presentation, the Shepherd and lost sheep, etc., have become the inspiring and favourite themes of Christian painters.

St. Luke is one of the most extensive writers of the New Testament. His Gospel is considerably longer than St. Matthew's, his two books are about as long as St. Paul's fourteen Epistles: and Acts exceeds in length the Seven Catholic Epistles and the Apocalypse. The style of the Gospel is superior to any N.T. writing except Hebrews. Renan says (Les Evangiles, xiii) that it is the most literary of the Gospels. St. Luke is a painter in words. "The author of the Third Gospel and of the Acts is the most versatile of all New Testament writers. He can be as Hebraistic as the Septuagint, and as free from Hebraisms as Plutarch. . . He is Hebraistic in describing Hebrew society and Greek when describing Greek society" (Plummer, introd.). His great command of Greek is shown by the richness of his vocabulary and the freedom of his constructions.

Authenticity of the Gospel

Internal evidence

The internal evidence may be briefly summarized as follows:
  • The author of Acts was a companion of Saint Paul, namely, Saint Luke; and
  • the author of Acts was the author of the Gospel.

The arguments are given at length by Plummer, "St. Luke" in "Int. Crit. Com." (4th ed., Edinburgh, 1901); Harnack, "Luke the Physician" (London, 1907); "The Acts of the Apostles" (London, 1909); etc.

(1) The Author of Acts was a companion of Saint Paul, namely, Saint Luke

There is nothing more certain in Biblical criticism than this proposition. The writer of the "we" sections claims to be a companion of St. Paul. The "we" begins at Acts 16:10, and continues to 16:17 (the action is at Philippi). It reappears at 20:5 (Philippi), and continues to 21:18 (Jerusalem). It reappears again at the departure for Rome, 27:1 (Greek text), and continues to the end of the book.

Plummer argues that these sections are by the same author as the rest of the Acts:
  • from the natural way in which they fit in;
  • from references to them in other parts; and
  • from the identity of style.

The change of person seems natural and true to the narrative, but there is no change of language. The characteristic expressions of the writer run through the whole book, and are as frequent in the "we" as in the other sections. There is no change of style perceptible. Harnack (Luke the Physician, 40) makes an exhaustive examination of every word and phrase in the first of the "we" sections (xvi, 10-17), and shows how frequent they are in the rest of the Acts and the Gospel, when compared with the other Gospels. His manner of dealing with the first word (hos) will indicate his method: "This temporal hos is never found in St. Matthew and St. Mark, but it occurs forty-eight times in St. Luke (Gospels and Acts), and that in all parts of the work." When he comes to the end of his study of this section he is able to write: "After this demonstration those who declare that this passage was derived from a source, and so was not composed by the author of the whole work, take up a most difficult position. What may we suppose the author to have left unaltered in the source? Only the 'we'. For, in fact, nothing else remains. In regard to vocabulary, syntax, and style, he must have transformed everything else into his own language. As such a procedure is absolutely unimaginable, we are simply left to infer that the author is here himself speaking." He even thinks it improbable, on account of the uniformity of style, that the author was copying from a diary of his own, made at an earlier period. After this, Harnack proceeds to deal with the remaining "we" sections, with like results. But it is not alone in vocabulary, syntax and style, that this uniformity is manifest. In "The Acts of the Apostles", Harnack devotes many pages to a detailed consideration of the manner in which chronological data, and terms dealing with lands, nations, cities, and houses, are employed throughout the Acts, as well as the mode of dealing with persons and miracles, and he everywhere shows that the unity of authorship cannot be denied except by those who ignore the facts. This same conclusion is corroborated by the recurrence of medical language in all parts of the Acts and the Gospel.
That the companion of St. Paul who wrote the Acts was St. Luke is the unanimous voice of antiquity. His choice of medical language proves that the author was a physician. Westein, in his preface to the Gospel ("Novum Test. Græcum", Amsterdam, 1741, 643), states that there are clear indications of his medical profession throughout St. Luke's writings; and in the course of his commentary he points out several technical expressions common to the Evangelist and the medical writings of Galen. These were brought together by the Bollandists ("Acta SS.", 18 Oct.). In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for June, 1841, a paper appeared on the medical language of St. Luke. To the instances given in that article, Plummer and Harnack add several others; but the great book on the subject is Hobart "The Medical Language of St. Luke" (Dublin, 1882). Hobart works right through the Gospel and Acts and points out numerous words and phrases identical with those employed by such medical writers as Hippocrates, Arctæus, Galen, and Dioscorides. A few are found in Aristotle, but he was a doctor's son. The words and phrases cited are either peculiar to the Third Gospel and Acts, or are more frequent than in other New Testament writings. The argument is cumulative, and does not give way with its weakest strands. When doubtful cases and expressions common to the Septuagint, are set aside, a large number remain that seem quite unassailable. Harnack (Luke the Physician! 13) says: "It is as good as certain from the subject-matter, and more especially from the style, of this great work that the author was a physician by profession. Of course, in making such a statement one still exposes oneself to the scorn of the critics, and yet the arguments which are alleged in its support are simply convincing. . . . Those, however, who have studied it [Hobart's book] carefully, will, I think, find it impossible to escape the conclusion that the question here is not one of merely accidental linguistic coloring, but that this great historical work was composed by a writer who was either a physician or was quite intimately acquainted with medical language and science. And, indeed, this conclusion holds good not only for the 'we' sections, but for the whole book." Harnack gives the subject special treatment in an appendix of twenty-two pages. Hawkins and Zahn come to the same conclusion. The latter observes (Einl., II, 427): "Hobart has proved for everyone who can appreciate proof that the author of the Lucan work was a man practised in the scientific language of Greek medicine--in short, a Greek physician" (quoted by Harnack, op. cit.).

In this connection, Plummer, though he speaks more cautiously of Hobart's argument, is practically in agreement with these writers. He says that when Hobart's list has been well sifted a considerable number of words remains. "The argument", he goes on to say "is cumulative. Any two or three instances of coincidence with medical writers may be explained as mere coincidences; but the large number of coincidences renders their explanation unsatisfactory for all of them, especially where the word is either rare in the LXX, or not found there at all" (64). In "The Expositor" (Nov. 1909, 385 sqq.), Mayor says of Harnack's two above-cited works: "He has in opposition to the Tübingen school of critics, successfully vindicated for St. Luke the authorship of the two canonical books ascribed to him, and has further proved that, with some few omissions, they may be accepted as trustworthy documents. . . . I am glad to see that the English translator . . . has now been converted by Harnack's argument, founded in part, as he himself confesses, on the researches of English scholars, especially Dr. Hobart, Sir W. M. Ramsay, and Sir John Hawkins." There is a striking resemblance between the prologue of the Gospel and a preface written by Dioscorides, a medical writer who studied at Tarsus in the first century (see Blass, "Philology of the Gospels"). The words with which Hippocrates begins his treatise "On Ancient Medicine" should be noted in this connection: 'Okosoi epecheiresan peri iatrikes legein he graphein, K. T. L. (Plummer, 4). When all these considerations are fully taken into account, they prove that the companion of St. Paul who wrote the Acts (and the Gospel) was a physician. Now, we learn from St. Paul that he had such a companion. Writing to the Colossians (iv, 11), he says: "Luke, the most dear physician, saluteth you." He was, therefore, with St. Paul when he wrote to the Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians; and also when he wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy. From the manner in which he is spoken of, a long period of intercourse is implied.

(2) The Author of Acts was the Author of the Gospel

"This position", says Plummer, "is so generally admitted by critics of all schools that not much time need be spent in discussing it." Harnack may be said to be the latest prominent convert to this view, to which he gives elaborate support in the two books above mentioned. He claims to have shown that the earlier critics went hopelessly astray, and that the traditional view is the right one. This opinion is fast gaining ground even amongst ultra critics, and Harnack declares that the others hold out because there exists a disposition amongst them to ignore the facts that tell against them, and he speaks of "the truly pitiful history of the criticism of the Acts". Only the briefest summary of the arguments can be given here. The Gospel and Acts are both dedicated to Theophilus and the author of the latter work claims to be the author of the former (Acts 1:1). The style and arrangement of both are so much alike that the supposition that one was written by a forger in imitation of the other is absolutely excluded. The required power of literary analysis was then unknown, and, if it were possible, we know of no writer of that age who had the wonderful skill necessary to produce such an imitation. It is to postulate a literary miracle, says Plummer, to suppose that one of the books was a forgery written in Imitation of the other. Such an idea would not have occurred to anyone; and, if it had, he could not have carried it out with such marvellous success. If we take a few chapters of the Gospel and note down the special, peculiar, and characteristic words, phrases and constructions, and then open the Acts at random, we shall find the same literary peculiarities constantly recurring. Or, if we begin with the Acts, and proceed conversely, the same results will follow. In addition to similarity, there are parallels of description, arrangement, and points of view, and the recurrence of medical language, in both books, has been mentioned under the previous heading.

We should naturally expect that the long intercourse between St. Paul and St. Luke would mutually influence their vocabulary, and their writings show that this was really the case. Hawkins (Horæ Synopticæ) and Bebb (Hast., "Dict. of the Bible", s.v. "Luke, Gospel of") state that there are 32 words found only in St. Matt. and St. Paul; 22 in St. Mark and St. Paul; 21 in St. John and St. Paul; while there are 101 found only in St. Luke and St. Paul. Of the characteristic words and phrases which mark the three Synoptic Gospels a little more than half are common to St. Matt. and St. Paul, less than half to St. Mark and St. Paul and two-thirds to St. Luke and St. Paul. Several writers have given examples of parallelism between the Gospel and the Pauline Epistles. Among the most striking are those given by Plummer (44). The same author gives long lists of words and expressions found in the Gospel and Acts and in St. Paul, and nowhere else in the New Testament. But more than this, Eager in "The Expositor" (July and August, 1894), in his attempt to prove that St. Luke was the author of Hebrews, has drawn attention to the remarkable fact that the Lucan influence on the language of St. Paul is much more marked in those Epistles where we know that St. Luke was his constant companion. Summing up, he observes: "There is in fact sufficient ground for believing that these books. Colossians, II Corinthians, the Pastoral Epistles, First (and to a lesser extent Second) Peter, possess a Lucan character." When all these points are taken into consideration, they afford convincing proof that the author of the Gospel and Acts was St. Luke, the beloved physician, the companion of St. Paul, and this is fully borne out by the external evidence.

External evidence

The proof in favour of the unity of authorship, derived from the internal character of the two books, is strengthened when taken in connection with the external evidence. Every ancient testimony for the authenticity of Acts tells equally in favour of the Gospel; and every passage for the Lucan authorship of the Gospel gives a like support to the authenticity of Acts. Besides, in many places of the early Fathers both books are ascribed to St. Luke. The external evidence can be touched upon here only in the briefest manner. For external evidence in favour of Acts, see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

The many passages in St. Jerome, Eusebius, and Origen, ascribing the books to St. Luke, are important not only as testifying to the belief of their own, but also of earlier times. St. Jerome and Origen were great travellers, and all three were omnivorous readers. They had access to practically the whole Christian literature of preceding centuries; but they nowhere hint that the authorship of the Gospel (and Acts) was ever called in question. This, taken by itself, would be a stronger argument than can be adduced for the majority of classical works. But we have much earlier testimony. Clement of Alexandria was probably born at Athens about A.D. 150. He travelled much and had for instructors in the Faith an Ionian, an Italian, a Syrian, an Egyptian, an Assyrian, and a Hebrew in Palestine. "And these men, preserving the true tradition of the blessed teaching directly from Peter and James, John and Paul, the holy Apostles, son receiving it from father, came by God's providence even unto us, to deposit among us those seeds [of truth] which were derived from their ancestors and the Apostles". (Stromata I.1.11; cf. Euseb., Church History V.11). He holds that St. Luke's Gospel was written before that of St. Mark, and he uses the four Gospels just as any modern Catholic writer. Tertullian was born at Carthage, lived some time in Rome, and then returned to Carthage. His quotations from the Gospels, when brought together by Rönsch, cover two hundred pages. He attacks Marcion for mutilating St. Luke's Gospel. and writes: "I say then that among them, and not only among the Apostolic Churches, but among all the Churches which are united with them in Christian fellowship, the Gospel of Luke, which we earnestly defend, has been maintained from its first publication" (Adv. Marc., IV, v).

The testimony of St. Irenæus is of special importance. He was born in Asia Minor, where he heard St. Polycarp give his reminiscences of St. John the Apostle, and in his numerous writings he frequently mentions other disciples of the Apostles. He was priest in Lyons during the persecution in 177, and was the bearer of the letter of the confessors to Rome. His bishop, Pothinus, whom be succeeded, was ninety years of age when he gained the crown of martyrdom in 177, and must have been born while some of the Apostles and very many of their hearers were still living. St. Irenæus, who was born about A.D. 130 (some say much earlier), is, therefore, a witness for the early tradition of Asia Minor, Rome, and Gaul. He quotes the Gospels just as any modern bishop would do, he calls them Scripture, believes even in their verbal inspiration; shows how congruous it is that there are four and only four Gospels; and says that Luke, who begins with the priesthood and sacrifice of Zachary, is the calf. When we compare his quotations with those of Clement of Alexandria, variant readings of text present themselves. There was already established an Alexandrian type of text different from that used in the West. The Gospels had been copied and recopied so often, that, through errors of copying, etc., distinct families of text had time to establish themselves. The Gospels were so widespread that they became known to pagans. Celsus in his attack on the Christian religion was acquainted with the genealogy in St. Luke's Gospel, and his quotations show the same phenomena of variant readings.

The next witness, St. Justin Martyr, shows the position of honour the Gospels held in the Church, in the early portion of the century. Justin was born in Palestine about A.D. 105, and converted in 132-135. In his "Apology" he speaks of the memoirs of the Lord which are called Gospels, and which were written by Apostles (Matthew, John) and disciples of the Apostles (Mark, Luke). In connection with the disciples of the Apostles he cites the verses of St. Luke on the Sweat of Blood, and he has numerous quotations from all four.

Westcott shows that there is no trace in Justin of the use of any written document on the life of Christ except our Gospels. "He [Justin] tells us that Christ was descended from Abraham through Jacob, Judah, Phares, Jesse, David — that the Angel Gabriel was sent to announce His birth to the Virgin Mary — that it was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah . . . that His parents went thither [to Bethlehem] in consequence of an enrolment under Cyrinius — that as they could not find a lodging in the village they lodged in a cave close by it, where Christ was born, and laid by Mary in a manger", etc. (Westcott, "Canon", 104).

There is a constant intermixture in Justin's quotations of the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke. As usual in apologetical works, such as the apologies of Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Eusebius, he does not name his sources because he was addressing outsiders. He states, however, that the memoirs which were called Gospels were read in the churches on Sunday along with the writings of the Prophets, in other words, they were placed on an equal rank with the Old Testament. In the "Dialogue", cv, we have a passage peculiar to St. Luke. "Jesus as He gave up His Spirit upon the Cross said, Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit?' [Luke 23:46], even as I learned from the Memoirs of this fact also." These Gospels which were read every Sunday must be the same as our four, which soon after, in the time of Irenæus, were in such long established honour, and regarded by him as inspired by the Holy Ghost. We never hear, says Salmon, of any revolution dethroning one set of Gospels and replacing them by another; so we may be sure that the Gospels honoured by the Church in Justin's day were the same as those to which the same respect was paid in the days of Irenæus, not many years after.

This conclusion is strengthened not only by the nature of Justin's quotations, but by the evidence afforded by his pupil Tatian, the Assyrian, who lived a long time with him in Rome, and afterwards compiled his harmony of the Gospels, his famous "Diatessaron", in Syriac, from our four Gospels. He had travelled a great deal, and the fact that he uses only those shows that they alone were recognized by St. Justin and the Catholic Church between 130-150. This takes us back to the time when many of the hearers of the Apostles and Evangelists were still alive; for it is held by many scholars that St. Luke lived till towards the end of the first century.

Irenæus, Clement, Tatian, Justin, etc., were in as good a position for forming a judgment on the authenticity of the Gospels as we are of knowing who were the authors of Scott's novels, Macaulay's essays, Dickens's early novels, Longfellow's poems, no. xc of "Tracts for the Times" etc. But the argument does not end here. Many of the heretics who flourished from the beginning of the second century till A.D. 150 admitted St. Luke's Gospel as authoritative. This proves that it had acquired an unassailable position long before these heretics broke away from the Church. The Apocryphal Gospel of Peter, about A.D. 150, makes use of our Gospels. About the same time the Gospels, together with their titles, were translated into Latin; and here, again, we meet the phenomena of variant readings, to be found in Clement, Irenæus, Old Syriac, Justin, and Celsus, pointing to a long period of previous copying. Finally, we may ask, if the author of the two books were not St. Luke, who was he?

Harnack (Luke the Physician, 2) holds that as the Gospel begins with a prologue addressed to an individual (Theophilus) it must, of necessity, have contained in its title the name of its author. How can we explain, if St. Luke were not the author, that the name of the real, and truly great, writer came to be completely buried in oblivion, to make room for the name of such a comparatively obscure disciple as St. Luke? Apart from his connection, as supposed author, with the Third Gospel and Acts, was no more prominent than Aristarchus and Epaphras; and he is mentioned only in three places in the whole of the New Testament. If a false name were substituted for the true author, some more prominent individual would have been selected.

Integrity of the Gospel

Marcion rejected the first two chapters and some shorter passages of the gospel, and it was at one time maintained by rationalistic writers that his was the original Gospel of which ours is a later expansion. This is now universally rejected by scholars. St. Irenæus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius charged him with mutilating the Gospel; and it is known that the reasons for his rejection of those portions were doctrinal. He cut out the account of the infancy and the genealogy, because he denied the human birth of Christ. As he rejected the Old Testament all reference to it had to be excluded. That the parts rejected by Marcion belong to the Gospel is clear from their unity of style with the remainder of the book. The characteristics of St. Luke's style run through the whole work, but are more frequent in the first two chapters than anywhere else; and they are present in the other portions omitted by Marcion. No writer in those days was capable of successfully forging such additions. The first two chapters, etc., are contained in all the manuscripts and versions, and were known to Justin Martyr and other competent witnesses. On the authenticity of the verses on the Bloody Sweat, see AGONY OF CHRIST.

Purpose and contents

The Gospel was written, as is gathered from the prologue (i, 1-4), for the purpose of giving Theophilus (and others like him) increased confidence in the unshakable firmness of the Christian truths in which he had been instructed, or "catechized"--the latter word being used, according to Harnack, in its technical sense. The Gospel naturally falls into four divisions:
  • Gospel of the infancy, roughly covered by the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary (ch. i, ii);
  • ministry in Galilee, from the preaching of John the Baptist (iii, 1, to ix, 50);
  • journeyings towards Jerusalem (ix, 51-xix, 27);
  • Holy Week: preaching in and near Jerusalem, Passion, and Resurrection (xix, 28, to end of xxiv).

We owe a great deal to the industry of St. Luke. Out of twenty miracles which he records six are not found in the other Gospels: draught of fishes, widow of Naim's son, man with dropsy, ten lepers, Malchus's ear, spirit of infirmity. He alone has the following eighteen parables: good Samaritan, friend at midnight, rich fool, servants watching, two debtors, barren fig-tree, chief seats, great supper, rash builder, rash king, lost groat, prodigal son, unjust steward, rich man and Lazarus, unprofitable servants, unjust judge, Pharisee and publican, pounds. The account of the journeys towards Jerusalem (ix, 51-xix, 27) is found only in St. Luke; and he gives special prominence to the duty of prayer.

Sources of the Gospel; synoptic problem

The best information as to his sources is given by St. Luke, in the beginning of his Gospel. As many had written accounts as they heard them from "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word", it seemed good to him also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write an ordered narrative. He had two sources of information, then, eyewitnesses (including Apostles) and written documents taken down from the words of eyewitnesses. The accuracy of these documents he was in a position to test by his knowledge of the character of the writers, and by comparing them with the actual words of the Apostles and other eyewitnesses.

That he used written documents seems evident on comparing his Gospel with the other two Synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark. All three frequently agree even in minute details, but in other respects there is often a remarkable divergence, and to explain these phenomena is the Synoptic Problem. St. Matthew and St. Luke alone give an account of the infancy of Christ, both accounts are independent. But when they begin the public preaching they describe it in the same way, here agreeing with St. Mark. When St. Mark ends, the two others again diverge. They agree in the main both in matter and arrangement within the limits covered by St. Mark, whose order they generally follow. Frequently all agree in the order of the narrative, but, where two agree, Mark and Luke agree against the order of Matthew, or Mark and Matthew agree against the order of Luke; Mark is always in the majority, and it is not proved that the other two ever agree against the order followed by him. Within the limits of the ground covered by St. Mark, the two other Gospels have several sections in common not found in St. Mark, consisting for the most part of discourses, and there is a closer resemblance between them than between any two Gospels where the three go over the same ground. The whole of St. Mark is practically contained in the other two. St. Matthew and St. Luke have large sections peculiar to themselves, such as the different accounts of the infancy, and the journeys towards Jerusalem in St. Luke. The parallel records have remarkable verbal coincidences. Sometimes the Greek phrases are identical, sometimes but slightly different, and again more divergent. There are various theories to explain the fact of the matter and language common to the Evangelists. Some hold that it is due to the oral teaching of the Apostles, which soon became stereotyped from constant repetition. Others hold that it is due to written sources, taken down from such teaching. Others, again, strongly maintain that Matthew and Luke used Mark or a written source extremely like it. In that case, we have evidence how very closely they kept to the original. The agreement between the discourses given by St. Luke and St. Matthew is accounted for, by some authors, by saying that both embodied the discourses of Christ that had been collected and originally written in Aramaic by St. Matthew. The long narratives of St. Luke not found in these two documents are, it is said, accounted for by his employment of what he knew to be other reliable sources, either oral or written. (The question is concisely but clearly stated by Peake "A Critical Introduction to the New Testament", London, 1909, 101. Several other works on the subject are given in the literature at the end of this article.)

Saint Luke's accuracy

Very few writers have ever had their accuracy put to such a severe test as St. Luke, on account of the wide field covered by his writings, and the consequent liability (humanly speaking) of making mistakes; and on account of the fierce attacks to which he has been subjected.

It was the fashion, during the nineteenth century, with German rationalists and their imitators, to ridicule the "blunders" of Luke, but that is all being rapidly changed by the recent progress of archæological research. Harnack does not hesitate to say that these attacks were shameful, and calculated to bring discredit, not on the Evangelist, but upon his critics, and Ramsay is but voicing the opinion of the best modern scholars when he calls St. Luke a great and accurate historian. Very few have done so much as this latter writer, in his numerous works and in his articles in "The Expositor", to vindicate the extreme accuracy of St. Luke. Wherever archæology has afforded the means of testing St. Luke's statements, they have been found to be correct; and this gives confidence that he is equally reliable where no such corroboration is as yet available. For some of the details see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, where a very full bibliography is given.

For the sake of illustration, one or two examples may here be given:

(1) Sergius Paulus, Proconsul in Cyprus

St. Luke says (Acts 13) that when St. Paul visited Cyprus (in the reign of Claudius) Sergius Paulus was proconsul (anthupatos) there. Grotius asserted that this was an abuse of language, on the part of the natives, who wished to flatter the governor by calling him proconsul, instead of proprætor (antistrategos), which he really was; and that St. Luke used the popular appellation. Even Baronius (Annales, ad Ann. 46) supposed that, though Cyprus was only a prætorian province, it was honoured by being ruled by the proconsul of Cilicia, who must have been Sergius Paulus. But this is all a mistake. Cato captured Cyprus, Cicero was proconsul of Cilicia and Cyprus in 52 B.C.; Mark Antony gave the island to Cleopatra; Augustus made it a prætorian province in 27 B.C., but in 22 B.C. he transferred it to the senate, and it became again a proconsular province. This latter fact is not stated by Strabo, but it is mentioned by Dion Cassius (LIII). In Hadrian's time it was once more under a proprætor, while under Severus it was again administered by a proconsul. There can be no doubt that in the reign of Claudius, when St. Paul visited it, Cyprus was under a proconsul (anthupatos), as stated by St. Luke. Numerous coins have been discovered in Cyprus, bearing the head and name of Claudius on one side, and the names of the proconsuls of Cyprus on the other. A woodcut engraving of one is given in Conybeare and Howson's "St. Paul", at the end of chapter v. On the reverse it has: EPI KOMINOU PROKAU ANTHUPATOU: KUPRION--"Money of the Cyprians under Cominius Proclus, Proconsul." The head of Claudius (with his name) is figured on the other side. General Cesnola discovered a long inscription on a pedestal of white marble, at Solvi, in the north of the island, having the words: EPI PAULOU ANTHUPATOU--"Under Paulus Proconsul." Lightfoot, Zochler, Ramsay, Knabenbauer, Zahn, and Vigouroux hold that this was the actual (Sergius) Paulus of Acts 13:7.

(2) The Politarchs in Thessalonica

An excellent example of St. Luke's accuracy is afforded by his statement that rulers of Thessalonica were called "politarchs" (politarchai--Acts 17:6, 8). The word is not found in the Greek classics; but there is a large stone in the British Museum, which was found in an arch in Thessalonica, containing an inscription which is supposed to date from the time of Vespasian. Here we find the word used by St. Luke together with the names of several such politarchs, among them being names identical with some of St. Paul's converts: Sopater, Gaius, Secundus. Burton in "American Journal of Theology" (July, 1898) has drawn attention to seventeen inscriptions proving the existence of politarchs in ancient times. Thirteen were found in Macedonia, and five were discovered in Thessalonica, dating from the middle of the first to the end of the second century.

(3) Knowledge of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe

The geographical, municipal, and political knowledge of St. Luke, when speaking of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, is fully borne out by recent research (see Ramsay, "St. Paul the Traveller", and other references given in EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS).

(4) Knowledge of Philippian customs

He is equally sure when speaking of Philippi, a Roman colony, where the duumviri were called "prætors" (strategoi--Acts 16:20, 35), a lofty title which duumviri assumed in Capua and elsewhere, as we learn from Cicero and Horace (Sat., I, v, 34). They also had lictors (rabsouchoi), after the manner of real prætors.

(5) References to Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth

His references to Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, are altogether in keeping with everything that is now known of these cities. Take a single instance: "In Ephesus St. Paul taught in the school of Tyrannus, in the city of Socrates he discussed moral questions in the market-place. How incongruous it would seem if the methods were transposed! But the narrative never makes a false step amid all the many details as the scene changes from city to city; and that is the conclusive proof that it is a picture of real life" (Ramsay, op. cit., 238). St. Luke mentions (Acts 18:2) that when St. Paul was at Corinth the Jews had been recently expelled from Rome by Claudius, and this is confirmed by a chance statement of Suetonius. He tells us (ibid., 12) that Gallio was then proconsul in Corinth (the capital of the Roman province of Achaia). There is no direct evidence that he was proconsul in Achaia, but his brother Seneca writes that Gallio caught a fever there, and went on a voyage for his health. The description of the riot at Ephesus (Acts 19) brings together, in the space of eighteen verses, an extraordinary amount of knowledge of the city, that is fully corroborated by numerous inscriptions, and representations on coins, medals, etc., recently discovered. There are allusions to the temple of Diana (one of the seven wonders of the world), to the fact that Ephesus gloried in being her temple-sweeper her caretaker (neokoros), to the theatre as the place of assembly for the people, to the town clerk (grammateus), to the Asiarchs, to sacrilegious (ierosuloi), to proconsular sessions, artificers, etc. The ecclesia (the usual word in Ephesus for the assembly of the people) and the grammateus or town-clerk (the title of a high official frequent on Ephesian coins) completely puzzled Cornelius a Lapide, Baronius, and other commentators, who imagined the ecclesia meant a synagogue, etc. (see Vigouroux, "Le Nouveau Testament et les Découvertes Archéologiques", Paris, 1890).

(6) The Shipwreck

The account of the voyage and shipwreck described in Acts (27 and 28) is regarded by competent authorities on nautical matters as a marvellous instance of accurate description (see Smith's classical work on the subject, "Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul" (4th ed., London, 1880). Blass (Acta Apostolorum, 186) says: "Extrema duo capita habent descriptionem clarissimam itineris maritimi quod Paulus in Italiam fecit: quæ descriptio ab homine harum rerum perito judicata est monumentum omnium pretiosissimum, quæ rei navalis ex tote antiquitate nobis relicta est. V. Breusing, 'Die Nautik der Alten' (Bremen, 1886)." See also Knowling "The Acts of the Apostles" in "Exp. Gr. Test." (London, 1900).

Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene

Gfrörer, B. Bauer, Hilgenfeld, Keim, and Holtzmann assert that St. Luke perpetrated a gross chronological blunder of sixty years by making Lysanias, the son of Ptolemy, who lived 36 B.C., and was put to death by Mark Antony, tetrarch of Abilene when John the Baptist began to preach (iii, 1). Strauss says: "He [Luke] makes rule, 30 years after the birth of Christ, a certain Lysanias, who had certainly been slain 30 years previous to that birth--a slight error of 60 years." On the face of it, it is highly improbable that such a careful writer as St. Luke would have gone out of his way to run the risk of making such a blunder, for the mere purpose of helping to fix the date of the public ministry. Fortunately, we have a complete refutation supplied by Schürer, a writer by no means over friendly to St. Luke, as we shall see when treating of the Census of Quirinius. Ptolemy Mennæus was King of the Itureans (whose kingdom embraced the Lebanon and plain of Massyas with the capital Chalcis, between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon) from 85-40 B.C. His territories extended on the east towards Damascus, and on the south embraced Panias, and part, at least, of Galilee. Lysanias the older succeeded his father Ptolemy about 40 B.C. (Josephus, "Ant.", XIV, xii, 3; "Bell Jud.", I, xiii, 1), and is styled by Dion Cassius "King of the Itureans" (XLIX, 32). After reigning about four or five years he was put to death by Mark Antony, at the instigation of Cleopatra, who received a large portion of his territory (Josephus, "Ant.", XV, iv, 1; "Bel. Jud.", I, xxii, 3; Dion Cassius, op. cit.).

As the latter and Porphyry call him "king", it is doubtful whether the coins bearing the superscription "Lysanias tetrarch and high priest" belong to him, for there were one or more later princes called Lysanias. After his death his kingdom was gradually divided up into at least four districts, and the three principal ones were certainly not called after him. A certain Zenodorus took on lease the possessions of Lysanias, 23 B.C., but Trachonitis was soon taken from him and given to Herod. On the death of Zenodorus in 20 B.C., Ulatha and Panias, the territories over which he ruled, were given by Augustus to Herod. This is called the tetrarchy of Zenodorus by Dion Cassius. "It seems therefore that Zenodorus, after the death of Lysanias, had received on rent a portion of his territory from Cleopatra, and that after Cleopatra's death this 'rented' domain, subject to tribute, was continued to him with the title of tetrarch" (Schürer, I, II app., 333, i). Mention is made on a monument, at Heliopolis, of "Zenodorus, son of the tetrarch Lysanias". It has been generally supposed that this is the Zenodorus just mentioned, but it is uncertain whether the first Lysanias was ever called tetrarch. It is proved from the inscriptions that there was a genealogical connection between the families of Lysanias and Zenodorus, and the same name may have been often repeated in the family. Coins for 32, 30, and 25 B.C., belonging to our Zenodorus, have the superscription, "Zenodorus tetrarch and high priest.' After the death of Herod the Great a portion of the tetrarchy of Zenodorus went to Herod's son, Philip (Jos., "Ant.", XVII, xi, 4), referred to by St. Luke, "Philip being tetrarch of Iturea" (Luke 3:1).

Another tetrarchy sliced off from the dominions of Zenodorus lay to the east between Chalcis and Damascus, and went by the name of Abila or Abilene. Abila is frequently spoken of by Josephus as a tetrarchy, and in "Ant.", XVIII, vi, 10, he calls it the "tetrarchy of Lysanias". Claudius, in A.D. 41, conferred "Abila of Lysanias" on Agrippa I (Ant., XIX, v, 1). In a. D. 53, Agrippa II obtained Abila, "which last had been the tetrarchy of Lysanias" (Ant., XX., vii, 1). "From these passages we see that the tetrarchy of Abila had belonged previously to A.D. 37 to a certain Lysanias, and seeing that Josephus nowhere previously makes any mention of another Lysanias, except the contemporary of Anthony and Cleopatra, 40-36 B.C. . . . criticism has endeavoured in various ways to show that there had not afterwards been any other, and that the tetrarchy of Abilene had its name from the older Lysanias. But this is impossible" (Schürer, 337). Lysanias I inherited the Iturean empire of his father Ptolemy, of which Abila was but a small and very obscure portion. Calchis in Coele-Syria was the capital of his kingdom, not Abila in Abilene. He reigned only about four years and was a comparatively obscure individual when compared with his father Ptolemy, or his successor Zenodorus, both of whom reigned many years. There is no reason why any portion of his kingdom should have been called after his name rather than theirs, and it is highly improbable that Josephus speaks of Abilene as called after him seventy years after his death. As Lysanias I was king over the whole region, one small portion of it could not be called his tetrarchy or kingdom, as is done by Josephus (Bel. Jud., II, xii, 8). "It must therefore be assumed as certain that at a later date the district of Abilene had been severed from the kingdom of Calchis, and had been governed by a younger Lysanias as tetrarch" (Schürer, 337). The existence of such a late Lysanias is shown by an inscription found at Abila, containing the statement that a certain Nymphaios, the freedman of Lysanias, built a street and erected a temple in the time of the "August Emperors". Augusti (Sebastoi) in the plural was never used before the death of Augustus, A.D. 14. The first contemporary Sebastoi were Tiberius and his mother Livia, i.e. at a time fifty years after the first Lysanias. An inscription at Heliopolis, in the same region, makes it probable that there were several princes of this name. "The Evangelist Luke is thoroughly correct when he assumes (iii, 1) that in the fifteenth year of Tiberius there was a Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene" (Schürer, op. cit., where full literature is given; Vigouroux, op. cit.).

Who spoke the Magnificat?

Lately an attempt has been made to ascribe the Magnificat to Elizabeth instead of to the Blessed Virgin. All the early Fathers, all the Greek manuscripts, all the versions, all the Latin manuscripts (except three) have the reading in Luke 1:46: Kai eipen Mariam--Et ait Maria [And Mary said]: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, etc. Three Old Latin manuscripts (the earliest dating from the end of the fourth cent.), a, b, l (called rhe by Westcott and Hort), have Et ait Elisabeth. These tend to such close agreement that their combined evidence is single rather than threefold. They are full of gross blunders and palpable corruptions, and the attempt to pit their evidence against the many thousands of Greek, Latin, and other manuscripts, is anything but scientific. If the evidence were reversed, Catholics would be held up to ridicule if they ascribed the Magnificat to Mary. The three manuscripts gain little or no support from the internal evidence of the passage. The Magnificat is a cento from the song of Anna (1 Samuel 2), the Psalms, and other places of the Old Testament. If it were spoken by Elizabeth it is remarkable that the portion of Anna's song that was most applicable to her is omitted: "The barren hath borne many: and she that had many children is weakened." See, on this subject, Emmet in "The Expositor" (Dec., 1909); Bernard, ibid. (March, 1907); and the exhaustive works of two Catholic writers: Ladeuze, "Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique" (Louvain, Oct., 1903); Bardenhewer, "Maria Verkündigung" (Freiburg, 1905).

The census of Quirinius

No portion of the New Testament has been so fiercely attacked as Luke 2:1-5. Schürer has brought together, under six heads, a formidable array of all the objections that can be urged against it. There is not space to refute them here; but Ramsay in his "Was Christ born in Bethlehem?" has shown that they all fall to the ground:--

(1) St. Luke does not assert that a census took place all over the Roman Empire before the death of Herod, but that a decision emanated from Augustus that regular census were to be made. Whether they were carried out in general, or not, was no concern of St. Luke's. If history does not prove the existence of such a decree it certainly proves nothing against it. It was thought for a long time that the system of Indictions was inaugurated under the early Roman emperors, it is now known that they owe their origin to Constantine the Great (the first taking place fifteen years after his victory of 312), and this in spite of the fact that history knew nothing of the matter. Kenyon holds that it is very probable that Pope Damasus ordered the Vulgate to be regarded as the only authoritative edition of the Latin Bible; but it would be difficult to Prove it historically. If "history knows nothing" of the census in Palestine before 4 B.C. neither did it know anything of the fact that under the Romans in Egypt regular personal census were held every fourteen years, at least from A.D. 20 till the time of Constantine. Many of these census papers have been discovered, and they were called apographai, the name used by St. Luke. They were made without any reference to property or taxation. The head of the household gave his name and age, the name and age of his wife, children, and slaves. He mentioned how many were included in the previous census, and how many born since that time. Valuation returns were made every year. The fourteen years' cycle did not originate in Egypt (they had a different system before 19 B.C.), but most probably owed its origin to Augustus, 8 B.C., the fourteenth year of his tribunitia potestas, which was a great year in Rome, and is called the year I in some inscriptions. Apart from St. Luke and Josephus, history is equally ignorant of the second enrolling in Palestine, A.D. 6. So many discoveries about ancient times, concerning which history has been silent, have been made during the last thirty years that it is surprising modern authors should brush aside a statement of St. Luke's, a respectable first-century writer, with a mere appeal to the silence of history on the matter.

(2) The first census in Palestine, as described by St. Luke, was not made according to Roman, but Jewish, methods. St. Luke, who travelled so much, could not be ignorant of the Roman system, and his description deliberately excludes it. The Romans did not run counter to the feelings of provincials more than they could help. Jews, who were proud of being able to prove their descent, would have no objection to the enrolling described in Luke 2. Schürer's arguments are vitiated throughout by the supposition that the census mentioned by St. Luke could be made only for taxation purposes. His discussion of imperial taxation learned but beside the mark (cf. the practice in Egypt). It was to the advantage of Augustus to know the number of possible enemies in Palestine, in case of revolt.

(3) King Herod was not as independent as he is described for controversial purposes. A few years before Herod's death Augustus wrote to him. Josephus, "Ant.", XVI, ix., 3, has: "Cæsar [Augustus] . . . grew very angry, and wrote to Herod sharply. The sum of his epistle was this, that whereas of old he used him as a friend, he should now use him as his subject." It was after this that Herod was asked to number his people. That some such enrolling took place we gather from a passing remark of Josephus, "Ant.", XVII, ii, 4, "Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good will to Cæsar [Augustus], and to the king's [Herod's] government, these very men [the Pharisees] did not swear, being above six thousand." The best scholars think they were asked to swear allegiance to Augustus.

(4) It is said there was no room for Quirinius, in Syria, before the death of Herod in 4 B.C. C. Sentius Saturninus was governor there from 9-6 B.C.; and Quintilius Varus, from 6 B.C. till after the death of Herod. But in turbulent provinces there were sometimes times two Roman officials of equal standing. In the time of Caligula the administration of Africa was divided in such a way that the military power, with the foreign policy, was under the control of the lieutenant of the emperor, who could be called a hegemon (as in St. Luke), while the internal affairs were under the ordinary proconsul. The same position was held by Vespasian when he conducted the war in Palestine, which belonged to the province of Syria--a province governed by an officer of equal rank. Josephus speaks of Volumnius as being Kaisaros hegemon, together with C. Sentius Saturninus, in Syria (9-6 B.C.): "There was a hearing before Saturninus and Volumnius, who were then the presidents of Syria" (Ant., XVI, ix, 1). He is called procurator in "Bel. Jud.", I, xxvii, 1, 2. Corbulo commanded the armies of Syria against the Parthians, while Quadratus and Gallus were successively governors of Syria. Though Josephus speaks of Gallus, he knows nothing of Corbulo; but he was there nevertheless (Mommsen, "Röm. Gesch.", V, 382). A similar position to that of Corbulo must have been held by Quirinius for a few years between 7 and 4 B.C.

The best treatment of the subject is that by Ramsay "Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?" See also the valuable essays of two Catholic writers: Marucchi in "Il Bessarione" (Rome, 1897); Bour, "L'lnscription de Quirinius et le Recensement de S. Luc" (Rome, 1897). Vigouroux, "Le N. T. et les Découvertes Modernes" (Paris, 1890), has a good deal of useful information. It has been suggested that Quirinius is a copyist's error for Quintilius (Varus).

Saint Luke and Josephus

The attempt to prove that St. Luke used Josephus (but inaccurately) has completely broken down. Belser successfully refutes Krenkel in "Theol. Quartalschrift", 1895, 1896. The differences can be explained only on the supposition of entire independence. The resemblances are sufficiently accounted for by the use of the Septuagint and the common literary Greek of the time by both. See Bebb and Headlam in Hast., "Dict. of the Bible", s. vv. "Luke, Gospel" and "Acts of the Apostles", respectively. Schürer (Zeit. für W. Th., 1876) brushes aside the opinion that St. Luke read Josephus. When Acts is compared with the Septuagint and Josephus, there is convincing evidence that Josephus was not the source from which the writer of Acts derived his knowledge of Jewish history. There are numerous verbal and other coincidences with the Septuagint (Cross in "Expository Times", XI, 5:38, against Schmiedel and the exploded author of "Sup. Religion"). St. Luke did not get his names from Josephus, as contended by this last writer, thereby making the whole history a concoction. Wright in his "Some New Test. Problems" gives the names of fifty persons mentioned in St. Luke's Gospel. Thirty-two are common to the other two Synoptics, and therefore not taken from Josephus. Only five of the remaining eighteen are found in him, namely, Augustus Cæsar, Tiberius, Lysanias, Quirinius, and Annas. As Annas is always called Ananus in Josephus, the name was evidently not taken from him. This is corroborated by the way the Gospel speaks of Caiphas. St. Luke's employment of the other four names shows no connection with the Jewish historian. The mention of numerous countries, cities, and islands in Acts shows complete independence of the latter writer. St. Luke's preface bears a much closer resemblance to those of Greek medical writers than to that of Josephus. The absurdity of concluding that St. Luke must necessarily be wrong when not in agreement with Josephus is apparent when we remember the frequent contradictions and blunders in the latter writer.

Appendix: Biblical Commission decisions

The following answers to questions about this Gospel, and that of St. Mark, were issued, 26 June, 1913, by the Biblical Commission. That Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, and Luke, a doctor, the assistant and companion of Paul, are really the authors of the Gospels respectively attributed to them is clear from Tradition, the testimonies of the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers, by quotations in their writings, the usage of early heretics, by versions of the New Testament in the most ancient and common manuscripts, and by intrinsic evidence in the text of the Sacred Books. The reasons adduced by some critics against Mark's authorship of the last twelve versicles of his Gospel (xvi, 9-20) do not prove that these versicles are not inspired or canonical, or that Mark is not their author. It is not lawful to doubt of the inspiration and canonicity of the narratives of Luke on the infancy of Christ (i-ii), on the apparition of the Angel and of the bloody sweat (xxii, 43-44); nor can it be proved that these narratives do not belong to the genuine Gospel of Luke.

The very few exceptional documents attributing the Magnificat to Elizabeth and not to the Blessed Virgin should not prevail against the testimony of nearly all the codices of the original Greek and of the versions, the interpretation required by the context, the mind of the Virgin herself, and the constant tradition of the Church.

It is according to most ancient and constant tradition that after Matthew, Mark wrote his Gospel second and Luke third; though it may be held that the second and third Gospels were composed before the Greek version of the first Gospel. It is not lawful to put the date of the Gospels of Mark and Luke as late as the destruction of Jerusalem or after the siege had begun. The Gospel of Luke preceded his Acts of the Apostles, and was therefore composed before the end of the Roman imprisonment, when the Acts was finished (Acts 28:30-31). In view of Tradition and of internal evidence it cannot be doubted that Mark wrote according to the preaching of Peter, and Luke according to that of Paul, and that both had at their disposal other trustworthy sources, oral or written.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Gospel of St. John
Taken from the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia

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This subject will be considered under the following heads:

I. Contents and Scheme of the Gospel;
II. Distinctive Peculiarities;
III. Authorship;
IV. Circumstances of the Composition;
V. Critical Questions Concerning the Text;
VI. Historical Genuineness;
VII. Object and Importance.

Contents and scheme of the Gospel

According to the traditional order, the Gospel of St. John occupies the last place among the four canonical Gospels. Although in many of the ancient copies this Gospel was, on account of the Apostolic dignity of the author inserted immediately after or even before the Gospel of St. Matthew, the position it occupies today was from the beginning the most usual and the most approved. As regards its contents, the Gospel of St. John is a narrative of the life of Jesus from His baptism to His Resurrection and His manifestation of Himself in the midst of His disciples. The chronicle falls naturally into four sections:
  • the prologue (i, 1-18), containing what is in a sense a brief epitome of the whole Gospel in the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word;
  • the first part (i, 19-xii, 50), which recounts the public life of Jesus from His baptism to the eve of His Passion,
  • the second part (xiii-xxi, 23), which relates the history of the Passion and Resurrection of the Saviour;
  • a short epilogue (xxi, 23-25), referring to the great mass of the Saviour's words and works which are not recorded in the Gospel.

When we come to consider the arrangement of matter by the Evangelist, we find that it follows the historical order of events, as is evident from the above analysis. But the author displays in addition a special concern to determine exactly the time of the occurrence and the connection of the various events fitted into this chronological framework. This is apparent at the very beginning of his narrative when, as though in a diary he chronicles the circumstances attendant on the beginning of the Saviour's public ministry, with four successive definite indications of the time (i, 29, 35, 43, ii, 1). He lays special emphasis on the first miracles: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee" (ii, 11), and "This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee" (iv, 54). Finally, he refers repeatedly throughout to the great religious and national festivals of the Jews for the purpose of indicating the exact historical sequence of the facts related (ii, 13; v, 1; vi, 4; vii, 2; x, 22; xii, 1, xiii, 1).

All the early and the majority of modern exegetes are quite justified, therefore, in taking this strictly chronological arrangement of the events as the basis of their commentaries. The divergent views of a few modern scholars are without objective support either in the text of the Gospel or in the history of its exegesis.

Distinctive peculiarities

The Fourth Gospel is written in Greek, and even a superficial study of it is sufficient to reveal many peculiarities, which give the narrative a distinctive character. Especially characteristic is the vocabulary and diction. His vocabulary is, it is true, less rich in peculiar expressions than that of Paul or of Luke: he uses in all about ninety words not found in any other hagiographer. More numerous are the expressions which are used more frequently by John than by the other sacred writers. Moreover, in comparison with the other books of the New Testament, the narrative of St. John contains a very considerable portion of those words and expressions which might be called the common vocabulary of the Four Evangelists.

What is even more distinctive than the vocabulary is the grammatical use of particles, pronouns, prepositions, verbs, etc., in the Gospel of St. John. It is also distinguished by many peculiarities of style, — asyndeta, reduplications, repetitions, etc. On the whole, the Evangelist reveals a close intimacy with the Hellenistic speech of the first century of our era. which receives at his hands in certain expressions a Hebrew turn. His literary style is deservedly lauded for its noble, natural, and not inartistic simplicity. He combines in harmonious fashion the rustic speech of the Synoptics with the urban phraseology of St. Paul.

What first attracts our attention in the subject matter of the Gospel is the confinement of the narrative to the chronicling of events which took place in Judea and Jerusalem. Of the Saviour's labours in Galilee John relates but a few events, without dwelling on details, and of these events only two — the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (vi, 1-16), and the sea-voyage (vi, 17-21) — are already related in the Synoptic Gospels.

A second limitation of material is seen in the selection of his subject-matter, for compared with the other Evangelists, John chronicles but few miracles and devotes his attention less to the works than to the discourses of Jesus. In most cases the events form, as it were, but a frame for the words, conversation, and teaching of the Saviour and His disputations with His adversaries. In fact it is the controversies with the Sanhedrists at Jerusalem which seem especially to claim the attention of the Evangelist. On such occasions John's interest, both in the narration of the circumstances and in the recording of the discourses and conversation of the Saviour, is a highly theological one. With justice, therefore, was John conceded even in the earliest ages of Christianity, the honorary title of the "theologian" of the Evangelists. There are, in particular, certain great truths, to which he constantly reverts in his Gospel and which may be regarded as his governing ideas, special mention should be made of such expressions as the Light of the World, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, etc. Not infrequently these or other phrases are found in pithy, gnomic form at the beginning of a colloquy or discourse of the Saviour, and frequently recur, as a leitmotif, at intervals during the discourse (e.g. vi, 35, 48, 51, 58; x, 7, 9; xv, 1, 5; xvii, 1, 5; etc.).

In a far higher degree than in the Synoptics, the whole narrative of the Fourth Gospel centres round the Person of the Redeemer. From his very opening sentences John turns his gaze to the inmost recesses of eternity, to the Divine Word in the bosom of the Father. He never tires of portraying the dignity and glory of the Eternal Word Who vouchsafed to take up His abode among men that, while receiving the revelation of His Divine Majesty, we might also participate in the fullness of His grace and truth. As evidence of the Divinity of the Saviour the author chronicles some of the great wonders by which Christ revealed His glory, but he is far more intent on leading us to a deeper understanding of Christ's Divinity and majesty by a consideration of His words, discourses, and teaching, and to impress upon our minds the far more glorious marvels of His Divine Love.


If we except the heretics mentioned by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.11.9) and Epiphanius (Haer., li, 3), the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel was scarcely ever seriously questioned until the end of the eighteenth century. Evanson (1792) and Bretschneider (1820) were the first to run counter to tradition in the question of the authorship, and, since David Friedrich Strauss (1834-40) adopted Bretschneider's views and the members of the Tübingen School, in the wake of Ferdinand Christian Baur, denied the authenticity of this Gospel, the majority of the critics outside the Catholic Church have denied that the Fourth Gospel was authentic. On the admission of many critics, their chief reason lies in the fact that John has too clearly and emphatically made the true Divinity of the Redeemer, in the strict metaphysical sense, the centre of his narrative. However, even Harnack has had to admit that, though denying the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel, he has sought in vain for any satisfactory solution of the Johannine problem: "Again and again have I attempted to solve the problem with various possible theories, but they led me into still greater difficulties, and even developed into contradictions." ("Gesch. der altchristl. Lit.", I, pt. ii, Leipzig, 1897, p. 678.)

A short examination of the arguments bearing on the solution of the problem of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel will enable the reader to form an independent judgment.

Direct historical proof

If, as is demanded by the character of the historical question, we first consult the historical testimony of the past, we discover the universally admitted fact that, from the eighteenth century back to at least the third, the Apostle John was accepted without question as the author of the Fourth Gospel. In the examination of evidence therefore, we may begin with the third century, and thence proceed back to the time of the Apostles.

The ancient manuscripts and translations of the Gospel constitute the first group of evidence. In the titles, tables of contents, signatures, which are usually added to the text of the separate Gospels, John is in every case and without the faintest indication of doubt named as the author of this Gospel. The earliest of the extant manuscripts, it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century, but the perfect unanimity of all the codices proves to every critic that the prototypes of these manuscripts, at a much earlier date, must have contained the same indications of authorship. Similar is the testimony of the Gospel translations, of which the Syrian, Coptic, and Old Latin extend back in their earliest forms to the second century.

The evidence given by the early ecclesiastical authors, whose reference to questions of authorship is but incidental, agrees with that of the above mentioned sources. St. Dionysius of Alexandria (264-5), it is true, sought for a different author for the Apocalypse, owing to the special difficulties which were being then urged by the Millennarianists in Egypt; but he always took for granted as an undoubted fact that the Apostle John was the author of the Fourth Gospel. Equally clear is the testimony of Origen (d. 254). He knew from the tradition of the Church that John was the last of the Evangelists to compose his Gospel (Eusebius, Church History VI.25.6), and at least a great portion of his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, in which he everywhere makes clear his conviction of the Apostolic origin of the work has come down to us. Origen's teacher, Clement of Alexandria (d. before 215-6), relates as "the tradition of the old presbyters", that the Apostle John, the last of the Evangelists, "filled with the Holy Ghost, had written a spiritual Gospel" (Eusebius, op. cit., VI, xiv, 7).

Of still greater importance is the testimony of St. Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons (d. about 202), linked immediately with the Apostolic Age as he is, through his teacher Polycarp, the disciple of the Apostle John. The native country of Irenaeus (Asia Minor) and the scene of his subsequent ministry (Gaul) render him a witness of the Faith in both the Eastern and the Western Church. He cites in his writings at least one hundred verses from the Fourth Gospel, often with the remark, "as John, the disciple of the Lord, says". In speaking of the composition of the Four Gospels, he says of the last: "Later John, the disciple of the Lord who rested on His breast, also wrote a Gospel, while he was residing at Ephesus in Asia" (Adv. Haer., III, i, n. 2). As here, so also in the other texts it is clear that by "John, the disciple of the Lord," he means none other than the Apostle John.

We find that the same conviction concerning the authorship of the Fourth Gospel is expressed at greater length in the Roman Church, about 170, by the writer of the Muratorian Fragment (lines 9-34). Bishop Theophilus of Antioch in Syria (before 181) also cites the beginning of the Fourth Gospel as the words of John (Ad Autolycum, II, xxii). Finally, according to the testimony of a Vatican manuscript (Codex Regin Sueci seu Alexandrinus, 14), Bishop Papias of Hierapolis in Phrygia, an immediate disciple of the Apostle John, included in his great exegetical work an account of the composition of the Gospel by St. John during which he had been employed as scribe by the Apostle.

It is scarcely necessary to repeat that, in the passages referred to, Papias and the other ancient writers have in mind but one John, namely the Apostle and Evangelist, and not some other Presbyter John, to be distinguished from the Apostle. (See SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST.)

Indirect external evidence

In addition to the direct and express testimony, the first Christian centuries testify indirectly in various ways to the Johannine origin of the Fourth Gospel. Among this indirect evidence the most prominent place must be assigned to the numerous citations of texts from the Gospel which demonstrate its existence and the recognition of its claim to form a portion of the canonical writings of the New Testament, as early as the beginning of the second century. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who died under Trajan (98-117), reveals in the quotations, allusions, and theological views found in his Epistles, an intimate acquaintance with the Fourth Gospel. In the writings of the majority of the other Apostolic Fathers, also, a like acquaintance with this Gospel can scarcely be disputed, especially in the case of Polycarp, the "Martyrium of Polycarp", the "Epistle to Diognetus", and the "Pastor" of Hermas (cf. the list of quotations and allusions in F. X. Funk's edition of the Apostolic Fathers).

In speaking of St. Papias, Eusebius says (Church History III.39.17) that he used in his work passages from the First Epistle of St. John. But this Epistle necessarily presupposes the existence of the Gospel, of which it is in a way the introduction or companion work. Furthermore, St. Irenæus (Adv. Haer., V, xxxii, 2) cites a sentence of the "presbyters" which contains a quotation from John 14:2, and, according to the opinion of those entitled to speak as critics, St. Papias must be placed in the front rank of the presbyters.

Of the second-century apologists, St. Justin (d. about 166), in an especial manner, indicates by his doctrine of the Logos, and in many passages of his apologies the existence of the Fourth Gospel. His disciple Tatian, in the chronological scheme of his "Diatessaron", follows the order of the Fourth Gospel, the prologue of which he employs as the introduction to his work. In his "Apology" also he cites a text from the Gospel.

Like Tatian, who apostatized about 172 and joined the Gnostic sect of the Encratites, several other heretics of the second century also supply indirect testimony concerning the Fourth Gospel. Basilides appeals to John 1:8 and 2:4. Valentine seeks support for his theories of the ons in expressions taken from John; his pupil Heracleon composed, about 160, a commentary on the Fourth Gospel, while Ptolemy, another of his followers, gives an explanation of the prologue of the Evangelist. Marcion preserves a portion of the canonical text of the Gospel of St. John (xiii, 4-15; xxxiv, 15, 19) in his own apocryphal gospel. The Montanists deduce their doctrine of the Paraclete mainly from John 15 and 16. Similarly in his "True Discourse" (about 178) the pagan philosopher Celsus bases some of his statements on passages of the Fourth Gospel.

On the other hand, indirect testimony concerning this Gospel is also supplied by the oldest ecclesiastical liturgies and the monuments of early Christian art. As to the former, we find from the very beginning texts from the Fourth Gospel used in all parts of the Church, and not infrequently with special predilection. Again, to take one example, the raising of Lazarus depicted in the Catacombs forms, as it were, a monumental commentary on the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of St. John.

The testimony of the Gospel itself

The Gospel itself also furnishes an entirely intelligible solution of the question of authorship.

(1) The general character of the work

In the first place from the general character of the work we are enabled to draw some inferences regarding its author. To judge from the language, the author was a Palestinian Jew, who was well acquainted with the Hellenic Greek of the upper classes. He also displays an accurate knowledge of the geographical and social conditions of Palestine even in his slightest incidental references. He must have enjoyed personal intercourse with the Saviour and must even have belonged to the circle of his intimate friends. The very style of his chronicle shows the writer to have been an eyewitness of most of the events. Concerning the Apostles John and James the author shows a thoroughly characteristic reserve. He never mentions their names, although he gives those of most of the Apostles, and once only, and then quite incidentally, speaks of "the sons of Zebedee" (21:2). On several occasions, when treating of incidents in which the Apostle John was concerned, he seems intentionally to avoid mentioning his name (John 1:37-40; 18:15, 16; cf. 20:3-10). He speaks of John the precursor nine times without giving him the title of "the Baptist", as the other Evangelists invariably do to distinguish him from the Apostle. All these indications point clearly to the conclusion that the Apostle John must have been the author of the Fourth Gospel.

(2) The express testimony of the author

Still clearer grounds for this view are to be found in the express testimony of the author. Having mentioned in his account of the Crucifixion that the disciple whom Jesus loved stood beneath the Cross beside the mother of Jesus (John 19:26 sqq.), he adds, after telling of the Death of Christ and the opening of His side, the solemn assurance: "And he that saw it hath given testimony; and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true: that you also may believe" (xix, 35). According to the admission of all John himself is the "disciple whom the Lord loved". His testimony is contained in the Gospel which for many consecutive years he has announced by word of mouth and which he now sets down in writing for the instruction of the faithful. He assures us, not merely that this testimony is true, but that he was a personal witness of its truth. In this manner he identifies himself with the disciple beloved of the Lord who alone could give such testimony from intimate knowledge. Similarly the author repeats this testimony at the end of his Gospel. After again referring to the disciple whom Jesus loved, he immediately adds the words: "This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true" (John 21:24). As the next verse shows, his testimony refers not merely to the events just recorded but to the whole Gospel. It is more in accordance with the text and the general style of the Evangelist to regard these final words as the author's own composition, should we prefer, however, to regard this verse as the addition of the first reader and disciple of the Apostle, the text constitutes the earliest and most venerable evidence of the Johannine origin of the Fourth Gospel.

(3) Comparison of the Gospel to the Johannine epistles

Finally we can obtain evidence Concerning the author from the Gospel itself, by comparing his work with the three Epistles, which have retained their place among the Catholic Epistles as the writings of the Apostle John. We may here take for granted as a fact admitted by the majority of the critics, that these Epistles are the work of the same writer, and that the author was identical with the author of the Gospel. In fact the arguments based on the unity of style and language, on the uniform Johannine teaching, on the testimony of Christian antiquity, render any reasonable doubt of the common authorship impossible. At the beginning of the Second and Third Epistles the author styles himself simply "the presbyter" — evidently the title of honour by which he was commonly known among the Christian community. On the other hand, in his First Epistle, he emphasizes repeatedly and with great earnestness the feet that he was an eyewitness of the facts concerning the life of Christ to which he (in his Gospel) had borne testimony among the Christians: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the word of life: for the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath appeared to us: that which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you" (1 John 1:1-3; cf. 4:14). This "presbyter" who finds it sufficient to use such an honorary title without qualification as his proper name, and was likewise an eye- and earwitness of the incidents of the Saviour's life, can be none other than the Presbyter John mentioned by Papias, who can in turn be none other than John the Apostle (cf. SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST).

We can therefore, maintain with the utmost certainty that John the Apostle, the favourite disciple of Jesus, was really the author of the Fourth Gospel.

Circumstances of the composition

Passing over the intimate circumstances with which early legend has clothed the composition of the Fourth Gospel, we shall discuss briefly the time and place of composition, and the first readers of the Gospel.

As to the date of its composition we possess no certain historical information. According to the general opinion, the Gospel is to be referred to the last decade of the first century, or to be still more precise, to 96 or one of the succeeding years. The grounds for this opinion are briefly as follows:
  • the Fourth Gospel was composed after the three Synoptics;
  • it was written after the death of Peter, since the last chapter - especially xxi, 18-19 presupposes the death of the Prince of the Apostles;
  • it was also written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, for the Evangelist's references to the Jews (cf. particularly xi, 18; xviii, 1; xix, 41) seem to indicate that the end of the city and of the people as a nation is already come;
  • the text of xxi, 23, appears to imply that John was already far advanced in years when he wrote the Gospel;
  • those who denied the Divinity of Christ, the very point to which St. John devotes special attention throughout his Gospel, began to disseminate their heresy about the end of the first century;
  • finally, we have direct evidence concerning the date of composition. The so-called "Monarchian Prologue" to the Fourth Gospel, which was probably written about the year 200 or a little later, says concerning the date of the appearance of the Gospel: "He [sc. the Apostle John] wrote this Gospel in the Province of Asia, after he had composed the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos". The banishment of John to Patmos occurred in the last year of Domitian's reign (i.e. about 95). A few months before his death (18 September, 96), the emperor had discontinued the persecution of the Christians and recalled the exiles (Eusebius, Church History III.20.5-7). This evidence would therefore refer the composition of the Gospel to A.D. 96 or one of the years immediately following.
The place of
composition was, according to the above-mentioned prologue, the province of Asia. Still more precise is the statement of St. Irenaeus, who tells us that John wrote his Gospel "at Ephesus in Asia" (Against Heresies III.1.2). All the other early references are in agreement with these statements.

The first readers of the Gospel were the Christians of the second and third generations in Asia Minor. There was no need of initiating them into the elements of the Faith; consequently John must have aimed rather at confirming against the attacks of its opponents the Faith handed down by their parents.

Critical questions concerning the text

As regards the text of the Gospel, the critics take special exception to three passages, 5:3-4; 7:53-8:11; and 21.

John 5:3-4

The fifth chapter tells of the cure of the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida in Jerusalem. According to the Vulgate the text of the second part of verse three and verse four runs as follows: ". . . waiting for the moving of the water. And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond, and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water, was made whole, of whatsoever infirmity he lay under." But these words are wanting in the three oldest manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Sinaiticus (aleph), and Codex Bez (D), in the original text of the palimpsest of St. Ephraem ©, in the Syrian translation of Cureton, as well as in the Coptic and Sahidic translations, in some minuscules, in three manuscripts of the Itala, in four of the Vulgate, and in some Armenian manuscripts. Other copies append to the words a critical sign which indicates a doubt as to their authenticity. The passage is therefore regarded by the majority of modern critics, including the Catholic exegetes, Schegg, Schanz, Belser, etc., as a later addition by Papias or some other disciple of the Apostle.

Other exegetes, e.g. Corluy, Comely, Knabenbauer, and Murillo, defend the authenticity of the passage urging in its favour important internal and external evidence. In the first place the words are found in the Codex Alexandrinus (A), the emended Codex Ephraemi ©, in almost all minuscule manuscripts, in six manuscripts of the Itala, in most of the codices of the Vulgate, including the best, in the Syrian Peshito, in the Syrian translation of Philoxenus (with a critical mark), in the Persian, Arabic, and Slavonic translations, and in some manuscripts of the Armenian text. More important is the fact that, even before the date of our present codices, the words were found by many of the Greek and Latin Fathers in the text of the Gospel. This is clear from Tertullian [On Baptism 1 (before 202)], Didymus of Alexandria [De Trin., II, xiv (about 381)], St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine [Sermo xv (al. xii), De verbis Evangelii S. Joannis), although the last-mentioned, in his tractate on the Gospel of St. John, omits the passage.

The context of the narrative seems necessarily to presuppose the presence of the words. The subsequent answer of the sick man (v. 7), "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me", could scarcely be intelligible without verse 4, and the Evangelist is not accustomed to omit such necessary information from his text. Thus both sides have good grounds for their opinions, and no final decision on the question, from the standpoint of the textual critic, seems possible.

John 7:53-8:11

This passage contains the story of the adulteress. The external critical evidence seems in this ease to give still clearer decision against the authenticity of this passage. It is wanting in the four earliest manuscripts (B, A, C, and aleph) and many others, while in many copies it is admitted only with the critical mark, indicative of doubtful authenticity. Nor is it found in the Syrian translation of Cureton, in the Sinaiticus, the Gothic translation, in most codices of the Peshito, or of the Coptic and Armenian translations, or finally in the oldest manuscripts of the Itala. None of the Greek Fathers have treated the incident in their commentaries, and, among Latin writers, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Hilary appear to have no knowledge of this pericope.

Notwithstanding the weight of the external evidence of these important authorities, it is possible to adduce still more important testimony in favour of the authenticity of the passage. As for the manuscripts, we know on the authority of St. Jerome that the incident "was contained in many Greek and Latin codices" (Contra Pelagium, II, xvii), a testimony supported today by the Codex Bez of Canterbury (D) and many others. The authenticity of the passage is also favoured by the Vulgate, by the Ethiopians Arabic, and Slavonic translations, and by many manuscripts of the Itala and of the Armenian and Syrian text. Of the commentaries of the Greek Fathers, the books of Origen dealing with this portion of the Gospel are no longer extant; only a portion of the commentary of St. Cyril of Alexandria has reached us, while the homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Fourth Gospel must be considered a treatment of selected passages rather than of the whole text. Among the Latin Fathers, Sts. Ambrose and Augustine included the pericope in their text, and seek an explanation of its omission from other manuscripts in the fact that the incident might easily give rise to offense (cf. especially Augustine, "De coniugiis adulteris", II, vii). It is thus much easier to explain the omission of the incident from many copies than the addition of such a passage in so many ancient versions in all parts of the Church. It is furthermore admitted by the critics that the style and mode of presentation have not the slightest trace of apocryphal origin, but reveal throughout the hand of a true master. Too much importance should not be attached to variations of vocabulary, which may be found on comparing this passage with the rest of the Gospel, since the correct reading of the text is in many places doubtful, and any such differences of language may be easily harmonized with the strongly individual style of the Evangelist.

It is thus possible, even from the purely critical standpoint, to adduce strong evidence in favour of the canonicity and inspired character of this pericope, which by decision of the Council of Trent, forms a part of the Holy Bible.

John 21

Concerning the last chapter of the Gospel a few remarks will suffice. The last two verses of the twentieth chapter indicate clearly indeed that the Evangelist intended to terminate his work here: "Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name" (xx, 30 sq.). But the sole conclusion that can be deduced from this is that the twenty-first chapter was afterwards added and is therefore to be regarded as an appendix to the Gospel. Evidence has yet to be produced to show that it was not the Evangelist, but another, who wrote this appendix. The opinion is at present fairly general, even among critics, that the vocabulary, style, and the mode of presentation as a whole, together with the subject-matter of the passage reveal the common authorship of this chapter and the preceding portions of the Fourth Gospel.

Historical genuineness

Objections raised against the historical character of the Fourth Gospel

The historical genuineness of the Fourth Gospel is at the present time almost universally denied outside the Catholic Church. Since David Friedrich Strauss and Ferdinand Christian Baur this denial has been postulated in advance in most of the critical inquiries into the Gospels and the life of Jesus. Influenced by this prevailing tendency, Alfred Loisy also reached the point where he openly denied the historicity of the Fourth Gospel; in his opinion the author desired, not to write a history, but to clothe in symbolical garb his religious ideas and theological speculations.

The writings of Loisy and their rationalistic prototypes, especially those of the German critics, have influenced many later exegetes, who while wishing to maintain the Catholic standpoint in general, concede only a very limited measure of historical genuineness to the Fourth Gospel. Among this class are included those who acknowledge as historical the main outlines of the Evangelist's narrative, but see in many individual portions only symbolical embellishments. Others hold with H. J. Holtzmann that we must recognize in the Gospel a mixture of the subjective, theological speculations of the author and the objective, personal recollections of his intercourse with Christ, without any possibility of our distinguishing by sure criteria these different elements. That such a hypothesis precludes any further question as to the historical genuineness of the Johannine narrative, is evident, and is indeed candidly admitted by the representatives of these views.

On examining the grounds for this denial or limitation of the historical genuineness of John we find that they are drawn by the critics almost exclusively from the relation of the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptic narrative. On comparison three points of contrast are discovered: (1) with respect to the events which are related; (2) in regard to the mode of presentation; and (3) in the doctrine which is contained in the narrative.

(1) The events related

As regards the events related, the great contrast between John and the Synoptists in the choice and arrangement of materials is especially accentuated. The latter show us the Saviour almost exclusively in Galilee, labouring among the common people: John, on the other hand, devotes himself chiefly to chronicling Christ's work in Judea, and His conflicts with the Sanhedrists at Jerusalem. An easy solution of this first difficulty is found in the special circumstances attending the composition of the Fourth Gospel. John may - in fact must - have assumed that the Synoptic narrative was known to his readers at the end of the first century. The interest and spiritual needs of these readers demanded primarily that he supplement the evangelical story in such a manner as to lead to a deeper knowledge of the Person and Divinity of the Saviour, against which the first heresies of Cerinthus, the Ebionites, and the Nicolaites were being already disseminated in Christian communities. But it was chiefly in His discussions with the Scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem that Christ had spoken of His Person and Divinity. In his Gospel, therefore John made it his primary purpose to set down the sublime teachings of Our Saviour, to safeguard the Faith of the Christians against the attacks of the heretics. When we come to consider the individual events in the narrative, three points in particular are brought forward:
  • the duration of Christ's public ministry extends in the Fourth Gospel over at least two years, probably indeed over three years, and some months. However, the Synoptic account of the public life of Jesus can by no means be confined within the narrow space of one year, as some modern critics contend. The three earliest Evangelists also suppose the space of at least two years and some months.
  • The purification of the Temple is referred by John to the beginning of the Saviour's ministry, while the Synoptists narrate it at the close. But it is by no means proven that this purification occurred but once. The critics bring forward not a single objective reason why we should not hold that the incident, under the circumstances related in the Synoptics, as well as those of the Fourth Gospel, had its historical place at the beginning and at the end of the public life of Jesus.
  • Notwithstanding all the objections brought forward, John is in agreement with the Synoptists as to the date of the Last Supper. It occurred on Thursday, the thirteenth day of Nisan, and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, the fourteenth. The fact that according to John, Christ held the Supper with His Apostles on Thursday, while, according to the Synoptists, the Jews ate the paschal lamb on Friday, is not irreconcilable with the above statement. The most probable solution of the question lies in the legitimate and widespread custom, according to which, when the fifteenth of Nisan fell on the Sabbath, as it did in the year of the Crucifixion, the paschal lamb was killed in the evening hours of the thirteenth of Nisan and the paschal feast celebrated on this or the following evening, to avoid all infringement of the strict sabbatic rest.

(2) The mode of presentation

As regards the mode of presentation, it is especially insisted that the great sublimity of the Fourth Gospel is difficult to reconcile with the homely simplicity of the Synoptics. This objection, however, entirely disregards the great differences in the circumstances under which the Gospels were written. For the Christians of the third generation in Asia living in the midst of flourishing schools, the Fourth Evangelist was forced to adopt an entirely different style from that employed by his predecessors in writing for the newly-converted Jews and pagans of the earlier period.

Another difficulty raised is the fact that the peculiar Johannine style is found not only in the narrative portions of the Gospel, but also in the discourses of Jesus and in the words of the Baptist and other personages. But we must remember that all the discourses and colloquies had to be translated from Aramaic into Greek, and in this process received from the author their distinctive unity of style. Besides in the Gospel, the intention is by no means to give a verbatim report of every sentence and expression of a discourse, a sermon, or a disputation. The leading ideas alone are set forth in exact accordance with the sense, and, in this manner, also, they come to reflect the style of the Evangelist. Finally, the disciple surely received from his Master many of the distinctive metaphors and expressions which imprint on the Gospel its peculiar character.

(3) The doctrinal content

The difference in doctrinal content lies only in the external forms and does not extend to the truths themselves. A satisfactory explanation of the dogmatic character of John's narrative, as compared with the stress laid on the moral side of the discourses of Jesus by the Synoptists, is to be found in the character of his first readers, to which reference has already been repeatedly made. To the same cause, also, must be ascribed the further difference between the Gospels namely, why John makes his teaching centre around the Person of Jesus, while the Synoptics bring into relief rather the Kingdom of God. At the end of the first century there was no need for the Evangelist to repeat the lessons concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, already amply treated by his predecessors. His was the especial task to emphasize, in opposition to the heretics, the fundamental truth of the Divinity of the Founder of this Kingdom, and by chronicling those words and works of the Redeemer in which He Himself had revealed the majesty of His glory, to lead the faithful to a more profound knowledge of this truth.

It is superfluous to say that in the teaching itself, especially regarding the Person of the Redeemer, there is not the slightest contradiction between John and the Synoptists. The critics themselves have to admit that even in the Synoptic Gospels Christ, when He speaks of His relations with the Father, assumes the solemn "Johannine" mode of speech. It will be sufficient to recall the impressive words: "And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22).

(4) Positive Evidence for the Historical Genuineness of the Gospel

The reasons urged against the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel are devoid of all conclusive force. On the other hand, its genuineness is vouched for by the whole character of the narrative. From the very beginning the events are portrayed with the precision of an eyewitness; the most minute subsidiary circumstances are mentioned; not the least suggestion can be found that the author had any other object in mind than the chronicling of the strict historical truth. A perusal of the passages describing the call of the first disciples (i, 35-51), the Marriage at Cana (ii, 1-11), the conversation with the Samaritan woman (iv, 3-42), the healing of the man born blind (ix, 1-41), the raising of Lazarus (xi, 1-47), is sufficient to convince one that such a chronicle must necessarily lead the readers into error, if the events which are described be otherwise than true in the historical sense.

To this must be added the express assertion made repeatedly by the Evangelist that he speaks the truth and claims for his words unqualified belief (19:35; 20:30 sq.; 21:24; 1 John 1:1-4). To reject these assurances is to label the Evangelist a worthless impostor, and to make of his Gospel an unsolvable historical and psychological enigma.

And finally, the verdict of the entire Christian past has certainly a distinct claim to consideration in this question, since the Fourth Gospel has always been unhesitatingly accepted as one of the chief and historically credible sources of our knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ. With entire justice, therefore, have the contrary views been condemned in clauses 16-18 of the Decree "Lamentabili" (3 July, 1907) and in the Decree of the Biblical Commission of 29 May, 1907.

Object and importance

The intention of the Evangelist in composing the Gospel is expressed in the words which we have already quoted: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (xx, 31). He wished also by his work to confirm the faith of the disciples in the Messianic character and the Divinity of Christ. To attain his object, he selected principally those discourses and colloquies of Jesus in which the self-revelation of the Redeemer laid clearest emphasis on the Divine Majesty of His Being. In this manner John wished to secure the faithful against the temptations of the false learning by means of which the heretics might prejudice the purity of their faith. Towards the narrative of the earlier Evangelists John's attitude was that of one who sought to fill out the story of the words and works of the Saviour, while endeavouring to secure certain incidents from misinterpretation. His Gospel thus forms a glorious conclusion of the joyous message of the Eternal Word. For all time it remains for the Church the most sublime testimony of her faith in the Son of God, the radiant lamp of truth for her doctrine, the never-ceasing source of loving zeal in her devotion to her Master, Who loves her even to the end.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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