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A general Disertation, or Proof, concerning the Canonical Ax
thority of the Four Gospels.
EFORE I enter upon the proof of the Canonical autho.
rity of each of the Gospels in particular, it will be very ferviceable to my design to observe and shew, that the primi. tive Christians bave expressly acknowledged only four Gospels; and those four Gospels which we now receive under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to be genuine and Canonical. I shall produce the several testimonies which I have observed, according to the order of time in which the writers lived ; and among these it will not be amiss to place,
1. St. JoHN. I. The testimony of St. John the Apostle ; concerning whom we are told by Eusebius a, That when the three Gospels (of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were published and known to every body, St. John at length saw them, approved them, and confirmed the truth of them; but (owned) that they were defective as to the account of those things which were done by our Saviour at the beginning of his ministry-For which reason John, being desired by his friends, supplied the defects of the three others, and wrote his Gospel to inform us of that time, and the things which were done by our Saviour in it, viz. before the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Now hence it follows;
1. That before St. John wrote his Gospel, the Christians of that first age owned and received no other than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; although it is certain there were many other false Gospels extant at that time, as I have elsewhere proved.
2. That these three were universally received and approved.
3. That they were with just reason fo approved, because St. John also did approve them.
Besides this testimony of Eusebius, I find in a very old book, intitled, Μαρτύριον Τιμοθέα του Αποσόλε, i. e. The Martyrdom of Timothy the Apostle, of which we have an extract in Photius (Cod. ccliv.); «That when, after the death of Domitian, “ Nerva became Emperor, John returned to Ephesus, from « which place he had been banished by Domitian, he then " took the several books which contained the history of our “ Saviour's sufferings and miracles and doctrines, and were “ now translated into several different languages, reviewed " them, rectified them, and joined himself to the former three
Evangelists (by writing his Gospel).” I confess I cannot
• Το προαναγραφέντων τριών εις έν τούτων ένεκα φησί τον απόσυλον παντας ήδη και εις αυτόν Αέα δεδο- Ιωάννην, τον υπο των προτέρων ευαίμένων, αποδεξαθα μέν φασίν αλή- γελιών παρασιωπηθέντα χρόνον, και θειαν αυτούς επιμαρτυρήσαντα μό- τα κατά τέτον πεπραγμένα τω Σωτην δε άρα λείπεται τη γραφή την τήρι (ταύτα δ' ήν τα προ της του περί των εν πρώτοις και κατ' αρχήν τα Βαπτικού καθείρξεως) το κατ' αυτόν κηρύγματος υπο του Χρισέ πεπραγ ευαγγελία παραδεναι. Ηift. Eccl. μένων διήγησιν -- Παρακληθελα δή 1. 3. c. 24.
certainly determine the age of this book. There is a book extant, intitled The Martyrdom of Timothy, which goes under the name of Polycrates, a Bishop of Ephesus, in the latter end of the second century, out of which Photius seems to have made this extract; and if this be true, it makes the history more valid: but it must be owned that several learned men are of opinion this book was not made by Polycrates, into which it is not my business here to enquire.
2. St. POLYCARP. II. The testimony of Polycarp, who, according to Trenæus“, was not only instructed by the Apostles, and acquainted with many who had seen Chrift, but placed by the Apostles in Afia, as Bishop of Smyrna, whom, says he, I also saw when I was young. He (Polycarp) expressly mentions together our four Gospels and their authors thus : « b It was not without “ reason that the Evangelists began their Gospels different
ways; though the design of each of them was the same. “ Matthew, because he wrote to the Hebrews, began with the
genealogy of Christ, that he might evidence Christ to be “ descended of that family, which all the Prophets had foretold 66 he should descend from. John being fixed among the “ Ephesians, who as Gentiles were ignorant of the law, be
gan his Gospel with an account of the cause of our redemp« tion, viz. that God would have his Son become incarnate
* Και Πολύκαρπος δε ου μόνον qua eum nafciturum univerfi Proυπό αποστόλων μαθητευθείς, και συν
phetæ cecinerant. Joannes autem αναγραφείς πολλούς τους τον Χριστόν
ad Ephesum conftitutus, qui legem
tanquam ex Gentibus ignorabant, a έωρακόσιν, αλλά και υπό αποστόλων
caufa noftræ redemptionis Evange. καταναθείς εις την Ασίαν εν τη εν lii sumplit exordium ; quæ caufa ex Σμύρνη εκκλησία επίσκοπος, αν και
eo apparet, quod filium fuum Deus ημείς έωράκαμεν εν τη πρώτη ημών pro nostra salute voluit incarnari. inoxią. Adv. Hærei. 1. 3. c. 3.
Lucas vero a Zachariæ facerdotio et apud Euseb. l. 4. C. 14:
incipit, ut ejus filii miraculo nativiRationabiliter Evangelista prin
tatis, et tanti prædicatoris officio, cipiis diversis utuntur, quanvis una
Divinitatem Christi gentibus declaeademque evangelizandi eorum pro
raret. Unde et Marcus antiqua probetur intentio.“ Matthæus, ut He
phetici mysterii competentia advenbræis fcribens, genealogiæ Christi
tui Christi declarat, ut non nova, ordinem texuit, ut oftenderet ab ea
sed antiquitus prolata ejus PrædiChriftum descendiffe progenie, de
“ for our salvation. Luke begins with the priesthood of Za“ charias, that by the account of his son's miraculous birth, “ and his being so considerable a preacher, he might evidence “ the divinity of Christ to the Gentiles. Mark began his « Gospel with the explication of some antient prophecies re« lating to the coming of Christ, that his Gospel might apr
pear no new thing, but the same as had been of old.” For this fragment of Polycarp we are obliged to Feuardentius, who in his notes on Irenæus, l. 3. c. 3. published it with some other fragments of Polycarp out of a very antient manufcript of Victor Capuanus's Catena, upon the four Evangelifts, which Catena he there promises to publish ; but whether he did or no, I know not. Victor Capuanus lived, according to Feuardentius, in the year of Christ 480. Johan. Jacob. Grynæus (Præfat. in Orthodoxographa) places him sooner, viz. A. D. 455; but Bellarmine a, and Dr. Cave", place him near a hundred years later, viz. in the year 540, and 545, as also does Dr. Milc.
3. TATIAN. III. That there were only the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, received in the middle part of the second century, is evident from Tatian's Harmony, which was made about that time. He was a scholar of Justin Martyr, and συνάφειάν τινα και συναγωγήν εκ οίδ' όπως των ευαγγελίων συνθείς, το δια τεσσάρων τούτο προσωνόμασεν ο και παρά τισιν εισέτι νύν φέρεται (Euseb. Hift. Eccl. lib. 4. C. 29.) compiled a certain harmony of the Gospels, and called it, The Gospel of the Four ; which is even to this day in the hands of some. The fame account is also in Epiphanius, Hæref. 46. n. 1. There can be no reasonable doubt but that these four were the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; for not only the number agrees, but these were the only four Gospels that ever were reduced to a harmony. Besides, if the above-mentioned Victor Capuanus is to be credited, the Harmony of Tatian is still extant; for that which he published in the fifth or fixth cen