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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

Introduction to NT , part 1 – via Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz


(or Special Canonics)
… By …Day-22-Lyric-Art_Advent_3840x2160



Grand Rapids, Mich.



This little work on New Testament Introduction is the result of labor done in and for the class-room, and is primarily intended for my own students. It is not and does not pretend to be a work of original research, but depends in a large measure on the labors of such men as Davidson, Reuss, Weiss, Westcott, Lightfoot, Godet, Holtzmann, Jülicher, Zahn, e. a. The indebtedness to these will be evident from its pages.
In method of treatment I have partly gone my own way, both in virtue of principles that are not generally recognized in works of Introduction and for practical considerations. As far as the limits of the work allowed, the directions given by Dr. Kuyper in his Encyclopaedia of Sacred Theology have been followed; not only the human but also the divine side of the Sacred Scriptures has been treated.
It has been my constant endeavor in writing this book, to make it a work that would introduce the students to the books of the New Testament, as they have in fact been transmitted to the Church, and not as some critic or other would have them be. Hence critical questions, though not disregarded, do not loom as large on its pages as they often do in works on Introduction; the positive constructive element has a decided precedence over the apologetic; and the human factor that operated in the origin and composition of the Scriptures, is not studied to the neglect of the divine.
A limited number of copies was printed, partly in deference to the expressed wish of some of my present and past students, and partly because I desire to use it as a text-book in the future, there being none of the smaller works on Introduction, such as those of Dods, Pullan, Kerr, Barth, Peake e. a., however excellent some of them may be in their own way, that gave me what I desired. If the book may in some small measure be instrumental in leading others to a greater appreciation and an ever better understanding of the New Testament writings, I shall be very grateful indeed.
Grand Rapids, Mich., November 30, 1915.




1 Name and Idea
2 Function
3 Leading Principles
4 Encyclopaedic Place
5 Historical Review
6 Select Literature

The Gospels in General:

1 The Title of the Gospels
2 The Number of the Gospels recognized in the Early Church
3 The Literary Character of the Gospels
4 The Synoptic Problem
5 The Relation of the Gospel of John to the Synoptics
6 The Inspiration of the Gospels
7 The Canonical Significance of the Gospels as a Whole

The Gospels Separately:

1 The Gospel of Matthew
2 The Gospel of Mark
3 The Gospel of Luke
4 The Gospel of John

The Acts of the Apostles

The Epistles in General:

1 The Epistolary Form in Biblical Literature.
2 The Inspiration of the Epistles
3 The Canonical Significance of the Epistles in General
4 Classification

The Epistles of Paul:—Paul

1 The Epistle to the Romans
2 The first Epistle to the Corinthians
3 The second Epistle to the Corinthians
4 The Epistle to the Galatians
5 The Epistle to the Ephesians
6 The Epistle to the Philippians
7 The Epistle to the Colossians
8 The first Epistle to the Thessalonians
9 The second Epistle to the Thessalonians
10 The Pastoral Epistles—Authorship
11 The first Epistle to Timothy
12 The second Epistle to Timothy
13 The Epistle to Titus
14 The Epistle to Philemon

The Epistle to the Hebrews

The General Epistles:

1 The General Epistle of James
2 The first General Epistle of Peter
3 The second General Epistle of Peter
4 The first General Epistle of John
5 The second and third General Epistles of John
6 The General Epistle of Jude

The Revelation of John




The name Introduction or Isagogics (from the Greek εἰσαγωγή) did not always denote what it does today. As it is used by the monk Adrianus (circa 440) and by Cassiodorus (circa 570), it designates a conglomeration of linguistic, rhetorical, archæological, geographical and historical matter such as might be helpful in the interpretation of Scripture. In course of time the connotation of the word changed. Michaelis (1750) was the first one to employ it in something like its present sense, when he entitled his work, devoted to the literary historical questions of the New Testament, Einleitung in die göttlichen Schriften des neuen Bundes. The study of Introduction was gradually limited to an investigation of the origin, the composition, the history, and the significance of the Bible as a whole (General Introduction), or of its separate books (Special Introduction). But as a designation of this discipline the name Introduction did not meet with general approval. It was pointed out—and correctly so—that the name is too comprehensive, since there are other disciplinæ that introduce to the study of the Bible; and that it does not express the essential character of the discipline, but only one of its practical uses.
Several attempts have been made to supply a name that is more in harmony with the central contents and the unifying principle of this study. But opinions differed as to the essential character of the discipline. Some scholars, as Reuss, Credner and Hupfeld, emphasizing its historical nature, would designate it by a name something like that already employed by Richard Simon in 1678, when he styled his work, “Critical History of the Old Testament. Thus Hupfeld says: “Der eigentliche und allein richtige Name der Wissenschaft in ihrem heutigen Sinn ist demnach Geschichte der heiligen Schriften Alten und Neuen Testaments.” Begriff und Methode des sogenannten biblischen Einleitung p. 12. Reuss arranged his work entirely on this principle. It was objected however, by several scholars that a history of the Biblical literature is now, and perhaps for all time an impossibility and that such a treatment necessarily leads to a co-ordination of the canonical and the apocryphal books. And this is just what we find in the History of Reuss. Hence the great majority of New Testament scholars, as Bleek, Weiss, Davidson, Holtzmann, Jülicher, Zahn e. a. prefer to retain the old name, either with or without the qualification, “historical-critical.”
Another and important stricture on the name suggested by Hupfeld, is that it loses sight of the theological character of this discipline. Holtzmann correctly says: “Als Glied des Organismus der theologischen Wissenschaften ist die biblische Einleitung allerdings nur vom Begriffe des Kanons aus zu begreifen, nur in ihm findet sie ihre innere Einheit,” Historisch-critische Einleitung in das Neue Testament p. 11. This consideration also leads Kuyper to prefer the name, Special Canonics. Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid III p. 22 ff. Ideally this name is probably the best; it is certainly better than the others, but for practical reasons it seems preferable to abide by the generally recognized name Introduction. There is no serious objection to this, if we but remember its deficiency, and bear in mind that verba valent usu.

What is the proper function of this discipline? According to De Wette it must answer the questions: “Was ist die Bibel, und wie ist sie geworden was sie ist?” Hupfeld objects to the first question that it has no place in a historical inquiry; hence he would change it a little and state the problem as follows: “Was waren die unter den Namen des Bibel vereinigten Schriften ursprünglich, und wie sind sie geworden was sie jetzt sind?” Begriff u. Meth. p. 13. It is now generally understood and admitted that the study must investigate the questions of the authorship, the composition, the history, the purpose and the canonicity of the different books of the Bible.
A difference of opinion becomes apparent, however, as soon as we ask, whether the investigation should be limited to the canonical books, or should include the Apocrypha as well. The answer to that question will necessarily depend on one’s standpoint. They who regard Introduction as a purely historical study of Hebrew and Old Christian literature, will hold with Räbiger and Reuss that the apocryphal books must also receive due consideration. On the other hand, they who desire to maintain the theological character of this discipline and believe that it finds its unity in the idea of the canon, will exclude the Apocrypha from the investigation.
A similar difference obtains with reference to the question, whether it is only the human or also the divine side of the canonical books that should be the object of study. It is perfectly obvious that, if the discipline be regarded as a purely historical one, the divine factor that operated in the composition of the books of the Bible and that gives them their permanent canonical significance, cannot come in consideration. The Word of God must then be treated like all purely human compositions. This is the stand taken by nearly all writers on Introduction, and Hupfeld believes that even so it is possible to maintain the theological character of the discipline. Begriff u. Meth. p. 17. It appears to us, however, that this is impossible, and with Kuyper we hold that we should not only study the human, but should also have regard to the divine side of the Biblical books, notably to their inspiration and canonical significance.
Lastly the conception of the final aim of this study also varies. Many scholars are of the opinion that it is the final purpose of Introduction to determine in a historico-critical way what part of the Biblical writings are credible and therefore really constitute the Word of God. Human reason is placed as an arbiter over the divine Revelation. This, of course, cannot be the position of those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This belief is our starting point and not our goal in the study of Introduction. Thus we begin with a theological postulate, and our aim is to set forth the true character of Scripture, in order to explain, why the Church universal honors it as the Word of God; to strengthen the faith of believers; and to vindicate the claims of the canonical books over against the assaults of Rationalism.
To define: Introduction is that Bibliological discipline that investigates the origin, composition, history and purpose of the Scriptural writings, on their human side; and their inspiration and canonical significance, on the divine side.

There are certain fundamental principles that guide us in our investigation, which it is desirable to state at the outset, in order that our position may be perfectly clear. For the sake of brevity we do not seek to establish them argumentatively.
1. For us the Bible as a whole and in all its parts is the very Word of God, written by men indeed, but organically inspired by the Holy Spirit; and not the natural product of the religious development of men, not merely the expression of the subjective religious consciousness of believers. Resting, as it ultimately does, on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, no amount of historical investigation can shake this conviction.
2. This being our position, we unflinchingly accept all that the various books of the Bible tell us concerning their authorship, destination, composition, inspiration, etc. Only in cases where the text is evidently corrupt, will we hesitate to accept their dicta as final. This applies equally to all parts of the Word of God.
3. Since we do not believe that the Bible is the result of a purely natural development, but regard it as the product of supernatural revelation, a revelation that often looks beyond the immediate present, we cannot allow the so-called zeitgeschichtliche arguments the force which they are often supposed to have.
4. While it is the prevailing habit of many New Testament scholars to discredit what the early Church fathers say respecting the books of the Bible, because of the uncritical character of their work, we accept those early traditions as trustworthy until they are clearly proven unreliable. The character of those first witnesses warrants this position.
5. We regard the use of working-hypotheses as perfectly legitimate within certain limits. They may render good service, when historical evidence fails, but even then may not go contrary to the data at hand, and the problematic character of the results to which they lead must always be borne in mind.
6. It is not assumed that the problems of New Testament Introduction are insignificant, and that all the difficulties that present themselves can easily be cleared up. Whatever our standpoint, whatever our method of procedure in studying these problems, we shall sometimes have to admit our ignorance, and often find reason to confess that we know but in part.

There is little uniformity in Theological Encyclopædias with respect to the proper place of this discipline. They all correctly place it among the Exegetical (Bibliological) group of Theological disciplinæ, but its relation to the other studies of that group is a matter of dispute. The most usual arrangement is that of Hagenbach, followed in our country by Schaff, Crooks and Hurst and Weidner, viz.: Biblical Philology, dealing with the words, and Biblical Archæology, in its broadest sense, with the things of the Bible; Biblical Introduction, treating of the fortunes, and Biblical Criticism, supplying the test of Scripture; Biblical Hermeneutics, relating to the theory, and Biblical Exegesis, pertaining to the practice of interpretation. The order of Räbiger is unusual: Hermeneutics, Linguistics, Criticism, Antiquities, Biblical History, Isagogics, Exegesis, and Biblical theology. The disposition of Kuyper and Cave is preferable to either one of these. They place Introduction (Canonics) first, as pertaining to the formal side of Scripture as a book, and then let the studies follow that have reference to the formal and material side of the contents of the Bible.

Although the beginnings of New Testament Isagogics are already found in Origen, Dionysius and Eusebius; and in the time of the Reformation some attention was devoted to it by Pagninus, Sixtus of Siene and Serarius among the Roman Catholics; by Walther of the Lutherans; and by the Reformed scholars Rivetus and Heidegger;—Richard Simon is generally regarded as the father of this study. His works were epoch-making in this respect, though they had reference primarily to the language of the New Testament. He minimized the divine element in Scripture. Michaelis, who in his, Einleitung in die göttlichen Schriften des neuen Bundes, 1750, produced the first Introduction in the modern sense, though somewhat dependent on Simon, did not altogether share his rationalistic views. Yet in the succeeding editions of his work he gradually relaxed on the doctrine of inspiration, and attached no value to the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti.
The next significant contribution to the science was made by Semler in his, Abhandlung von freier Untersuchung des Kanons, 1771–75. He broke with the doctrine of inspiration and held that the Bible was not, but contained the Word of God, which could be discovered only by the inner light. All questions of authenticity and credibility had to be investigated voraussetzungslos. Eichhorn also departed decidedly from traditional views and was the first to fix attention on the Synoptic problem, for which he sought the solution in his Urevangelium, 1804–27. At the same time the Johannine problem was placed in the foreground by several scholars, especially by Bretschneider, 1820. An acute defender of the traditional views arose in the Roman Catholic scholar Hug, who fought the rationalistic critics with their own weapons.
Meanwhile the Mediating school made its appearance under the leadership of Schleiermacher. The critics belonging to that school sought a mean between the positions of Rationalism and the traditional views. They were naturally divided into two sections, the naturalistic wing, inclining towards the position of Semler and Eichhorn; and the evangelical wing, leaning decidedly toward traditionalism. Of the first class De Wette was the ablest exponent, though his work was disappointing as to positive results; while Credner, following in general the same line, emphasized the historical idea in the study of Introduction. The other wing was represented by Guericke, Olshausen and Neander.
The Tübingen school of New Testament criticism took its rise with F. C. Baur, 1792–1860 who applied the Hegelian principle of development to the literature of the New Testament. According to him the origin of the New Testament, too, finds its explanation in the three-fold process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. There was action, reaction and compromise. Paul defended his position in the four great epistles (Romans, I and II Corinthians and Galatians), the only genuine productions of the apostle. This position is assailed by the Apocalypse, the sole work of John. And all the other writings of the New Testament were written by others than their reputed authors in the interest of reconciliation, the fourth Gospel and the first Epistle of John issuing in the blending of the different parties. Among the immediate followers of Baur we have especially Zeller, Schwegler and Köstlin. The further adherents of the school, such as Hilgenfeld, Holsten and Davidson, modified the views of Baur considerably; while later German scholars, as Pfleiderer, Hausrath, Holtzmann, Weizsäcker and Jülicher, broke with the distinctive Tübingen theory and indulged independently in rationalistic criticism. The wildest offshoot of the Tübingen school was Bruno Bauer, who rejected even the four epistles regarded as genuine by F. C. Baur. He had no followers in Germany, but of late his views found support in the writings of the Dutch school of Pierson, Naber, Loman and Van Manen, and in the criticism of the Swiss scholar Steck.
Opposition to the radicalism of the Tübingen school became apparent in two directions. Some scholars, as Bleek, Ewald Reuss, without intending a return to the traditional standpoint discarded the subjective element of the Tübingen theory, the Hegelian principle of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in connection with the supposed second century struggle between Petrine and Pauline factions. Ritschl also broke away from the Tübingen tendency, but substituted an equally subjective principle of criticism by applying his favorite Werthurtheile to the authentication of the books of the Bible. He had, as he claimed, no interest in saving mere objective statements. What had for him the value of a divine revelation was regarded as authentic. Some of his most prominent followers are Harnack, Schürer and Wendt.
An evangelical reaction against the subjective Tübingen vagaries also made its appearance in Ebrard, Dietlein, Thiersch, Lechler and the school of Hofmann, who himself defended the genuineness of all the New Testament books. His disciples are Luthardt, Grau, Nösgen and Th. Zahn. The works of Beischlag and B. Weiss are also quite conservative. Moreover the writings of such men as Lightfoot, Westcott, Ellicott, Godet, Dods, Pullan e. a. maintain with great ability the traditional position respecting the books of the New Testament.

Including the Works referred to in the Text. In order that the list may serve as a guide for students, both the edition and the value of the books are indicated.

ALEXANDER, The Canon of the Old and New Testaments, Philadelphia 1851. Conservative.
ANDREWS, The Life of our Lord upon the Earth, New York 1894. Excellent for chronological and historical discussions.
BALJON, Geschiedenis van de Boeken des Nieuwen Verbonds, Groningen 1901. Scholarly with a liberal point of view.
BARTH, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Gütersloh 1908; 2d edit. since published. Conservative and good.
BAUR, Church History of the first three Centuries, London 1878–79. Brilliant but written with a rationalistic tendency.
BERNARD, The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament, New York 1864; 4th edit. 1878. A conservative and valuable work.
BLASS, Crammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch, Göttingen 1911. Supercedes Winer and Buttmann, but does not render them worthless. An excellent work.
BLEEK, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, 4th edit. by Mangold, Berlin 1886. Eng. transl. by W. Urwick, London 1870. One of the best works on N. T. Introd. Standpoint, moderately liberal.
BUCKLEY, Introduction to the Synoptic Problem, London 1912. Proceeds on the Combinations-hypothese.
CLARK, GEO. W., Harmony of the Acts of the Apostles, Philadelphia 1897. A very useful work.
DAVIDSON, S., Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, London 1894. Scholarly, but extremely rationalistic and verbose.
DAVIS, A Dictionary of the Bible, Philadelphia 1903. The best one volume Dictionary of the Bible.
DEISSMANN, Light from the Ancient East, London 1911. Very valuable for the new light it sheds on the language of the N. T.
DEISSMANN, St. Paul, a Study in Social and Religious History, London 1912. A vivid and delightful portrayal of Paul and his world.
DODS, An Introduction to the New Testament, London. A useful manual.
FARRAR, The Life and Work of St. Paul, London 1879. Instructive and written in a beautiful style, but not always characterized by sobriety.
GODET, Introduction to the New Testament, I Pauline Epistles, Edinburgh 1894; II The Collection of the Four Gospels and the Gospel of St. Matthew, Edinburgh 1899. Scholarly and conservative; devotes much space to the contents of the books.
GODET, Bijbelstudiën over het Nieuwe Testament, Amsterdam. Contains introductions to the Gospels and the Apocalypse.
GREGORY, D. S., Why Four Gospels, New York 1907. The work of a conservative scholar, valuable in differentiating the Gospels.
GREGORY, C. R., Canon and Text of the New Testament, New York 1907. A scholarly and moderately conservative work.
HASTINGS, Dictionary of the Bible, dealing with its Language, Literature and Contents, New York 1900–04. Contains valuable introductions to the books of the Bible. Those pertaining to the New Testament are characterized by greater moderation than those relating to the Old; the latter are often extremely rationalistic, the former usually moderately conservative.
HAUSRATH, History of New Testament Times: The Life of Jesus 2 vols., Edinburgh 1878–80; The Life of the Apostles 4 vols., Edinburgh 1895. A learned work, full of information, but extremely rationalistic.
HILL, Introduction to the Life of Christ, New York 1911. A concise statement of the problems that enter into a study of the Life of Christ.
HOLDSWORTH, Gospel Origins. New York 1913. Though differing somewhat from the work of Buckley, it also advocates the Combinations-hypothese.
HOLTZMANN, Historisch-critische Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Freiburg 1892. Perhaps the most important representative of the rationalistic position in New Testament study. Very learned, and rich in historical matter.
JÜLICHER, Einleitung in des Neue Testament, Leipzig 1906. A scholarly work, written from the rationalistic point of view.
KING, The Theology of Christ’s Teaching, New York 1903. Conservative and very instructive; weak in genetic treatment.
KERR, Introduction to New Testament Study, New York 1892. A conservative manual.
KUYPER, Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, Amsterdam 1894.
LUTHARDT, St. John the Author of the Fourth Gospel, Edinburgh 1875. An able conservative defense, containing a large Bibliography by C. R. Gregory.
MCGIFFERT, The Apostolic Age, New York 1910. A scholarly but rationalizing work.
MOFFAT, An Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament. New York 1911. Very able, but vitiated by rationalistic principles.
NORTON, Genuineness of the Gospels (abridged), Boston 1890. An able defense of the Gospels. The author adheres to the Traditions-hypothese.
PEAKE, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, New York 1910. Well written, able, but following the line of negative criticism.
PULLAN, The Books of the New Testament, London 1901. A very useful manual; conservative.
PURVES, Christianity in the Apostolic Age, New York 1900. The work of a scholar. In point of view the antipode of McGiffert’s book.
RAMSAY, Historical Commentary on the Galatians, London 1899.
RAMSAY, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, London 1903.
RAMSAY, The Church in the Roman Empire, London 1893.
RAMSAY, Luke the Physician (and other Studies), New York 1908. The works of Ramsay have a charm of their own: they are original and informing, based on large historical and archæological knowledge, and, on the whole, written in a conservative spirit.
REAL-ENCYOLOPÆDIE, Hauck, Leipzig 1896–1909. Contains very valuable material for New Testament study, but many of its articles are marred by their destructive tendency.
REUSS, History of the New Testament, Boston 1884. The work of a great scholar; its method is peculiar; its standpoint moderately rationalistic.
SALMON, Historical Introduction to the Books of the New Testament, New York 1889. The antipode of Davidson’s Introduction; very able, but suffering from want of method.
SCHÜRER, Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, Leipzig 1901–1911. The greatest work on the subject, but, on account of its liberal tendency, to be used with care.
SIMCOX, Writers of the New Testament, London 1890. Contains a lucid discussion of the style of the N. T. writers.
STEVENS, Johannine Theology, New York 1894.
STEVENS, Pauline Theology, New York 1903. Both works are stimulating and helpful, but must be used with discrimination.
URQUHART, The Bible, its Structure and Purpose, New York 1904.
URQUHART, The New Biblical Guide, London. Written by a staunch defender of the Bible, in popular style. Often helpful, especially the last work, in clearing up difficulties; but sometimes too confident and fanciful.
VAN MELLE, Inleiding tot het Nieuwe Testament, Utrecht 1908. A very good manual; conservative in spirit.
VON SODEN, Urchristliche Literaturgeschichte, Berlin 1905. Rationalistic.
WEISS, Manual of Introduction to the New Testament, London 1888. One of the best Introductions to the New Testament. Moderately conservative.
WEISS, Theology of the New Testament, Edinburgh 1892–3. On the whole the best work on the subject.
WESTCOTT, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, Boston 1902. Very helpful in differentiating the Gospels; defends the Traditions-hypothese.
WESTCOTT, The Canon of the New Testament, London 1881. One of the best works on the Canon of the N. T.
WESTCOTT and HORT, The New Testament in the original Greek; Introduction and Appendix, New York 1882. The indispensible companion to the Greek Testament, if one desires the reasons for the readings adopted.
WREDE, The Origin of the New Testament, London 1909. Very brief and radical.
WRIGHT, A Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek, London 1903. The most able presentation of the Traditions- hypothese.
ZAHN, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, Leipzig 1900; 3. Aufl. 1906; Eng. transl. Edinburgh 1909. A work of immense learning; the best on N. T. Introduction from the conservative side.

ALEXANDER, Commentaries on Matthew, New York 1867; Mark, New York 1870; Acts 4th edit. New York 1884. Valuable works, containing sound learning and thoroughly conservative.
ALFORD, The Greek Testament, Cambridge 1894; Vol I, 7th edit.; Vol. II, 7th edit.; Vol. III, 5th edit.; Vol. IV, 5th edit. A truly great work; brief, lucid, scholarly, conservative, embodying the results of German scholarship, yet with a measure of independence, though in some parts leaning rather much on Meyer. Still very useful, though not up to date. Contains valuable Prolegomena.
BARDE, Kommentaar op de Handelingen der Apostelen, Kampen 1910. A good commentary, written in a conservative spirit.
BEET, Commentaries on Romans, 10th edit.; I and II Corinthians, 7th edit.; Galatians, 6th edit.; and Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 3d edit., all London 1891–1903. Good commentaries by a Methodist scholar; conservative, but must be used with care, especially in passages pertaining to election, the doctrine of the last things, e. a.
BIESTERVELD, De Brief van Paulus aan de Colossensen, Kampen 1908. An excellent work.
BROWN, J., Expositions of Galatians, Edinburgh 1853; Hebrews, Edinburgh 1862; and I Peter, Edinburgh 1866. Sound works of a Puritan divine, learned but somewhat diffuse.
CALVIN, Commentaries in Opera, Vols. 24–55. There is a fairly good English translation of the Calvin Translation Society. Calvin was undoubtedly the greatest exegete among the Reformers. The value of his exegetical work is generally recoguized by present day scholars.
EADIE, Commentaries on Galatians, 1869; Ephesians, 1883; Colossians, 1884; Philippians, 1884; Thessalonians, 1877, all at Edinburgh. Able and reliable works of a Presbyterian scholar.
EDWARDS T. C., Commentary on I Corinthians, 3d edit. London 1897. A good and learned commentary, though sometimes a little over-strained.
ELLICOTT, Commentaries on I Corinthians, Andover 1889; Galatians, 1867; Ephesians, 1884; Philippians and Colossians, 1861; Thessalonians, 1866; Pastoral Epistles, 1869, all at London. Very able grammatical commentaries; conservative.
Expositor’s Greek Testament, London 1912. A very scholarly work on the order of Alford’s Greek Testament; being more recent, it supersedes the latter. Standpoint is on the whole moderately conservative; it contains valuable introductions.
GODET, Commentaries on Luke, 1875; John, 1877; Romans, 1886; I Corinthians, 1886–7, all at Edinburgh. Very able and reliable.
GREYDANUS, De Openbaring des Heeren aan Johannes, Doesburg. A good popular commentary.
HODGE, Commentaries on Romans, 2d edit. 1886; I Corinthians, 1860; II Corinthians, 1860; Ephesians, 1886. Admirable commentaries, especialy the one on Romans.
International Critical Commentary, New York, in course of publication. Some volumes of exceptional value; others of inferior merit. Characterized by a rationalistic tendency, especially the volumes on the O. T.
LANGE, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical. On the whole a useful work; New Testament far better than the Old. Often suffers for want of clearness, and sometimes loses itself in mystical speculations. Its Homiletical material has little value.
LIGHTFOOT, Commentaries on Galatians, 1895; Philippians, 1895; Colossians and Philemon, 1895, all at London. Very able commentaries, containing valuable dissertations. Conservative.
MEYER (Lünemann, Huther and Düsterdieck), Commentary on the New Testament, New York 1890. Meyer is recoguized as the prince of grammatical commentators. Parts of Vol. 8 and Vols. 9, 10, 11, contain the work of Lunemann, Huther and Dusterdieck, which though good, is not up to the standard of Meyer’s work. Standpoint: moderately conservative. Last German edition by Weiss, Haupt e. a. is no more the work of Meyer.
OLSHAUSEN, Commentary on the New Testament, New York 1860–72. Quite good. Excells in organic interpretation of Scripture; but its mysticism often runs wild.
Pulpit Commentary, London 1880 sqq. This, as its name indicates, is far more homiletical than exegetical; yet it contains some real exposition.
STIER, The Words of the Lord Jesus, New York 1864. Very useful, but often fanciful and diffuse; devout, but frequently characterized by too great a desire to find a deeper meaning in Scripture.
STRACK UND ZÖCKLER, Kurzgefasster Commentar zu den Schriften des Alten und Neuen Testaments, sowie zu den Apokryphen, Munchen 1886–93. One of the best recent German commentaries. Moderately conservative.
VINCENT, Word Studies in the New Testament, New York 1887–91. Contains some useful material.
WESTCOTT, Commentaries on the Gospel of John, 1890; the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1892; and the Epistles of John, 1905, all at London. All very scholarly and reliable.
ZAHN, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (several co-laborators), Erlangen 1903 sqq., still in course of publication. Will constitute one of the best conservative commentaries of the New Testament.




The shortest form of the title is κατὰ Ματθᾶιον, κατὰ Μάρχον, etc. The Textus Receptus and some of the Mnn. have τὸ κατὰ Ματθᾶιον εὐαγγέλιον; but the greater part of the Mjj. read εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ματθᾶιον, etc.
The word εὐαγγέλιον passed through three stages in the history of its use. In the older Greek authors it signified a reward for bringing good tidings; also, a thankoffering for good tidings brought. Next in later Greek it indicated the good news itself. And finally it was employed to denote the books in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented in historic form. It is used very extensively in the New Testament, and always in the second sense, signifying the good news of God, the message of salvation. This meaning is also retained in the title of the gospels. The first trace of the word as indicating a written gospel is found in the Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, discovered in 1873 and in all probability composed between the years 90 and 100 A. D. This contains the following exhortation in 15:3: “And reprove one another not in wrath but in peace, as ye have it in the Gospel. Here the word εὐαγγέλιον evidently refers to a written record. It is very explicitly and repeatedly applied to a written account of the life of Christ about the middle of the second century. The plural εὐαγγελία, signifying the four Gospels, is first found in Justin Martyr, about 152 A. D.
The expression κατὰ Ματθᾶιον, κατὰ Μάρχον, etc., has often been misinterpreted. Some maintained that κατὰ simply indicated a genitive relation, so that we should read: the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark, etc. But if this is the idea intended, why was not the simple genitive used, just as it is employed by Paul, when he expresses a similar idea, τὸ εὐαγγέλιὸν μου, Rom. 2:16; 16:25? Moreover, it cannot be maintained that the preposition κατὰ is equivalent to the Hebrew Lamedh of possession, for the Septuagint never renders this by κατὰ. Others inferred from the use of this expression that the Gospels were not written by the persons named, but were shaped after the Gospel as they preached it. But on this interpretation it seems very peculiar that the second and third Gospels were not called κατὰ Πέτρον and κατὰ Παῦλον, seeing that they were fashioned after their type of preaching. The expression must be explained from the Church’s consciousness that there is but one Gospel of Jesus Christ, and indicates that in these writings we have that Gospel, as it was shaped (i. e. in writing) by the persons whose names they bear.
That the early Church caught the idea of the unity of the Gospel is quite evident. It is true, the plural of εὐαγγέλιον is sometimes employed, but the singular prevails. Justin Martyr speaks of the Memoirs that are called Gospels, but he also expresses himself thus: “the precepts in what is called the Gospel,” “it is written in the Gospel.” Irenaeus in one of his writings states his theme as: “The Gospel is essentially fourfold.” Clement of Alexandria speaks of “the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel,” and Augustine, of “the four Gospels, or rather, the four books of the one Gospel.”
The English word Gospel is derived from the Anglo Saxon gŏdspell, composed of gŏd=God and spel=story, thus indicating the story of the life of God in human flesh. It is not improbable, however, that the original form of the Anglo-Saxon word was gōdspell, from gōd=good and spel=story, this being a literal translation of the Greek εὐαγγέλιον. It denotes the good tidings of salvation in Christ for a perishing world.

In view of the fact that the first Christian century produced many Gospels besides those which are included in our canon, and that many at the present day deny the authority of some or all of our Gospels, it is important to know, how many the early Church received as canonic. The apostolic fathers, though often quoting the Gospels do not mention their authors, nor do they enumerate them. They testify to the substance and canonicity of the Gospels therefore, but not, except indirectly, to their authenticity and number. In all probability the earliest evidence that the Church of the first ages accepted the four Gospels that we now possess as canonic, is furnished by the Peshito, which most likey dates from the first half of the second century. And being a translation, it points to the fact that even before its origin our four Gospels were received into the canon, while all others were left out. Another early witness is found in the Muratorian Fragment, a mutilated work of which the real character cannot now be determined, and that was probably written about 170 A. D. It commences with the last words of a sentence that seemingly belongs to a description of Mark’s Gospel, and then tells us that “Luke’s Gospel stands third in order, having been written by Luke, the physician, the companion of Paul.” After making this statement it proceeds to assign the fourth place to “the Gospel of John, a disciple of the Lord.” The conclusion seems perfectly warranted that the first two Gospels, of which the description is lost, are those of Matthew and Mark. An important witness, really the first one to a fourfold Gospel, i. e. to a Gospel that is four and yet one, is Tatian, the Assyrian. His Diatessaron was the first harmony of the Gospels. The exact date of its composition is not known; the meaning of its name is obviously [the Gospel] by the Four. This, no doubt, points to the fact that it was based on four Gospels, and also implies that these four were our canonical Gospels, since they constituted the only collection in existence that needed no other description than “the Four.” The testimony of Eusebius is in harmony with this, when he says: “Tatian, the former leader of the Encratites, having put together in some strange fashion a combination and collection of the Gospels, gave it the name of the Diatessaron, and the work is still partially current.” Church History, IV, 29. Very important testimony to our four Gospels is found in the writings of Irenaeus (c. 120–200) and of Tertullian (c. 150–130). The former was a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn had enjoyed the personal instruction of the apostle John. He preached the Gospel to the Gauls and in 178 succeeded Pothinus as bishop of Lyons. In one of his books he has a long chapter entitled: “Proofs that there can be neither more nor fewer than four Evangelists.” Looking at the Gospels as a unit, he called them “the Gospel with four Faces.” And he searched to find mystic reasons for this quadruple form, thus showing how strongly he and his age were persuaded that there were but four canonical Gospels. He compares the quadriform Gospel (τετράμορφον) to the four regions of the earth, to the four universal spirits, to the cherubim with four faces, etc. The testimony of Tertullian is equally explicit. This famous church father received a liberal education at Rome, lived on in heathen darkness until about his thirtieth or fortieth year, when he was converted and entered the ministry. Embittered by the treatment he received at the hands of the Church, he went into the fold of the Montanists about the beginning of the third century. He wrote numerous works in defense of the Christian religion. In his work against Marcion he says, after stating that the Gospel of Luke had been maintained from its first publication: “The same authority of the apostolic churches will uphold the other Gospels which we have in due succession through them and according to their usage, I mean those of [the apostles] Matthew and John; although that which was published by Mark may also be maintained to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was: for the narrative of Luke also is generally ascribed to Paul: since it is allowable that that which scholars publish should be regarded as their master’s work.” Just as those that went before him Tertullian appealed to the testimony of antiquity as proving the canonicity of our four Gospels and the other Scriptural books; and his appeal was never gainsaid. Another significant testimony is that of Origin, the great teacher of Alexandria, of whom Eusebius records that in the first book of his commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew he asserts that he knows of only four Gospels, as follows: “I have learnt by tradition concerning the four Gospels, which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God spread under heaven, that according to Matthew, who was once a publican but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first; … that according to Mark second; … that according to Luke third; … that according to John last of all.” Church History VI, 25. Eusebius himself, who was the first historian of the Christian Church, in giving a catalogue of the New Testament writings, says: “First then we must place the holy quaternion of the Gospels.”
From the testimony which we have now reviewed the conclusion seems perfectly warranted that the Church from the earliest times knew four and only four canonical Gospels; and that these four are the same that she has recognized ever since. It is true that the heretic Marcion acknowledged only the Gospel of Luke, and this in mutilated form, but his attitude toward the Gospels finds a ready explanation in his dogmatic bias.

The Gospels have a literary character all their own; they are sui generis. There is not another book or group of books in the Bible to which they can be compared. They are four and yet one in a very essential sense; they express four sides of the one εὐαγγέλιον of Jesus Christ. In studying them the question naturally arises, how we must conceive of them. Now we need not argue that they are not mere collections of myths and fables, with or without a historical basis, as many Rationalists would have us believe. Nor is it necessary to show at length that they are not four biographies of Jesus. If their authors intended them to be such, they would be very disappointing indeed. There is, however, another misconception against which we must warn, because it is quite prevalent in the circles of those who accept these writings unquestionably as a part of the Word of God, and since it is a positive hindrance to a true understanding of these priceless records. We refer to the conviction that the writers of the Gospels were minded to prepare for following generations more or less complete histories of the life of Christ. In reading these writings we soon find that, looked at as histories, they leave a great deal to be desired. In the first place they tell us comparatively little of that rich and varied life of Christ, of which they knew so much, Cf. John 20:30; 21:25. The historical facts narrated by John f. i. only represent the work of a few days. His Gospel would thus be a life of Jesus with yawning gaps. The same is true of the other Gospels. In the second place the materials, except those at the beginning and at the end of Christ’s life, are not arranged in chronological order. Any possible doubt that we may have on this point is soon dispelled, when we compare the Gospels. The same facts are often narrated in altogether different connections. Closely allied with this is a third feature that deserves attention. The casual relation of the important events that are narrated is not traced, except in a few instances, and yet this is just what one expects in histories. And finally if they were really meant to be histories, why was it necessary that we should have four of them?
The harmonists generally proceeded on the erroneous conception to which we refer. They were aware indeed that there were great lacunæ in all the Gospels, but thought they might remedy matters by supplying from one Gospel what was wanting in the other. Thus the relation of the Gospels to one another was conceived of as supplemental. But their work was doomed to failure; it did violence to the exquisite compositions on which they operated, and marred the characteristic beauty of those literary productions. They were always uncertain as to the true order of events, and did not know which one of the evangelists was the best chronological guide. Some preferred Matthew, others chose Mark, and still others followed Luke. And after all their efforts to combine the four Gospels into one continuous narrative with the facts arranged in the exact order in which they occurred, their work must be pronounced a failure. The Gospels are not histories of the life of Christ, nor do they, taken together, form one history.
But what are they, if they are neither biographies nor histories? They are four pen-pictures, or better, a fourfold portraiture of the Saviour; a fourfold representation of the apostolic κήρυγμα; fourfold witness regarding our Lord. It is said that the great artist Van Dyke prepared a threefold portrait of Charles I for the sculptor, that the latter might fashion an absolutely faithful likeness of the king. These three portraits were necessary; their differences and agreements were all required to give a true representation of the monarch. So it is in the case of the Gospels. Each one of them gives us a certain view of the Lord, and only the four taken together present to us his perfect likeness, revealing him as the Saviour of the world. The apostolic κήρυγμα had taken a wide flight. Its central content was the cross and the resurrection. But in connection with this the words and deeds of the Saviour and his history also formed the subject of the apostles, preaching. And when this apostolic κήρυγμα was reduced to writing, it was found necessary to give it a fourfold form, that it might answer to the needs of four classes of people, viz. to those of the Jews, to those of the Romans, to those of the Greeks and to those of the people who confessed Christ as Lord; needs that were typical of the spiritual requirements of all future ages. Matthew wrote for the Jews and characterized Christ as the great King of the house of David. Mark composed his Gospel for the Romans and pictured the Saviour as the mighty Worker, triumphing over sin and evil. Luke in writing his Gospel had in mind the needs of the Greeks and portrayed Christ as the perfect man, the universal Saviour. And John, composing his Gospel for those who already had a saving knowledge of the Lord and stood in need of a more profound understanding of the essential character of Jesus, emphasized the divinity of Christ, the glory that was manifested in his works. Each Gospel is complete in itself and acquaints us with a certain aspect of the Lord’s life. Yet it is only the fourfold Gospel that furnishes us with a complete, a perfect image of him whom to know is life eternal. And it is only, when we grasp the different features that are mirrored in the Gospels and see how they blend harmoniously in that noblest of all lives, the life of Christ, that we have found the true harmony of the Gospels.

The first three Gospels are known as the Synoptics, and their authors are called the Synoptists. The name is derived from the Greek σύν and ὄψις, and is applied to these Gospels, since they, as distinguished from the fourth, give us a common view of the life of our Lord. But notwithstanding the great similarity by which these Gospels are characterized, they also reveal very striking differences. This remarkable agreement on the one hand, and these manifest dissimilarities on the other, constitute one of the most difficult literary problems of the New Testament. The question is, whether we can account for the origin of these Gospels in such a manner that we can explain both the close resemblances and the often surprising differences.
In the first place the general plan of these Gospels exhibits a remarkable agreement. Only Matthew and Luke contain a narrative of the infancy of our Lord and their accounts of it are quite distinct; but the history of Christ’s public ministry follows very much the same order in all the Synoptics. They treat successively of the Lord’s preparation for the ministry, John the Baptist, the baptism, the temptation, the return to Galilee, the preaching in its villages and cities, the journey to Jerusalem, the entrance into the Holy City, the preaching there, the passion and the resurrection. The details that fit into this general plan are also arranged in quite a uniform manner, except in some places, especially of the first Gospel. The most striking differences in the arrangement of the material results from the narrative of a long series of events connected with the Galilean ministry, which is peculiar to Matthew and Mark, Matt. 14:22–16:12; Mark 6:45–8:26; and from the history of another series of events related to the journey to Jerusalem that is found only in Luke 9:51–18:14.
But there is not only similarity in the broad outlines of those Gospels; the particular incidents that are narrated are also in many cases the same in substance and similar if not identical in form. The amount of agreement that we find in this respect is represented by Norton, Genuineness of the Gospels p. 373, and by Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels p. 201, in the following manner: If the total contents of the Gospel is represented by 100, the following result is obtained:

Mark has
7 peculiarities and—93 coincidences
Matthew has
42 peculiarities and—58 coincidences
Luke has
59 peculiarities and—41 coincidences

If the extent of all the coincidences be represented by 100 their proportionate distribution will be:

Matthew, Mark and Luke
Matthew and Luke
Matthew and Mark
Mark and Luke

Still another estimate, viz. that by verses, is suggested by Reuss, History of the New Testament, I p. 177:

Matthew out of a total of 971 verses has 330 peculiar to him.
Mark out of a total of 478 verses has 68 peculiar to him.
Luke out of a total of 1151 verses has 541 peculiar to him.

The first two have 170 to 180 verses that are lacking in Luke; Matthew and Luke, 230 to 240 wanting in Mark; Mark and Luke about 50 wanting in Matthew. The number common to all three is 330 to 370.
The preceding statements refer to the subject-matter of the Synoptics. Taken by itself this might give us an exaggerated idea of the similarity of these Gospels. As a corrective it is necessary to bear in mind that the verbal coincidences, though they are remarkable indeed, are nevertheless considerably less than one would expect. Dr. Schaff and his son, after some calculations based on Rushbrooke’s Synopticon, get the following results:

“The proportion of words peculiar to the Synoptics is 28,000 out of 48,000, more than one-half.
In Matthew 56 words out of every 100 are peculiar.
In Mark 40 words out of every 100 are peculiar.
In Luke 67 words out of every 100 are peculiar.
The number of coincidences common to all three is less than the number of divergences.
Matthew agrees with the other two gospels in 1 word out of 7.
Mark agrees with the other two gospels in 1 word out of 4½.
Luke agrees with the other two gospels in 1 word out of 8.
But comparing the Gospels two by two, it is evident that Matthew and Mark have most in common, and Matthew and Luke are most divergent.
One-half of Mark is found in Matthew.
One-fourth of Luke is found in Matthew.
One-third of Mark is found in Luke.
The general conclusion from these figures is that all three Gospels widely diverge from the common matter, or triple tradition, Mark the least so and Luke the most (almost twice as much as Mark). On the other hand, both Matthew and Luke are nearer Mark than Luke and Matthew to each other.” Church History, I p. 597.
In connection with the preceding we should bear in mind that these verbal agreements are greatest, not in the narrative, but in the recitative parts of the Gospels. About one-fifth of them is found in the narrative portion of the Gospel, and four-fifths in the recital of the words of our Lord and others. This statement will create a false impression, however, unless we bear in mind the proportion in which the narrative parts stand to the recitative element, which is as follows:


From what has now been said it is perfectly clear that the Synoptics present an intricate literary problem. Is it possible to explain the origin in such a manner that both the resemblances and differences are accounted for? During the last century many scholars have applied themselves with painstaking diligence to the arduous task of solving this problem. The solution has been sought along different lines; several hypotheses have been broached, of which we shall name only the four most important ones.
In the first place there is what has been called (though not altogether correctly) the mutual dependence theory (Benützungshypothese, Augustine, Bengel, Bleek, Storr). According to this theory the one Gospel is dependent on the other, so that the second borrowed from the first and the third from both the first and the second. On this theory, of course, six permutations are possible viz.:

Matthew, Mark, Luke.
Matthew, Luke, Mark.
Mark, Matthew, Luke.
Mark, Luke, Matthew.
Luke, Matthew, Mark.
Luke, Mark, Matthew.

In every possible form this theory has found defenders, but it does not meet with great favor at present. True, it seems to account for the general agreement in a very simple manner, but serious difficulties arise, when one seeks to determine which one of the Gospels was first, which second and which third. This is perfectly evident from the difference of opinion among the adherents of this hypothesis. Again it fails to account for the divergencies; it does not explain why one writer adopts the language of his predecessor(s) up to a certain point, and then suddenly abandons it. Of late it is tacitly admitted, however, that it does contain an element of truth.
In the second place the hypothesis of oral tradition (Traditions-hypothese, Gieseler, Westcott, Wright), should be mentioned. This theory starts from the supposition that the Gospel existed first of all in an unwritten form. It is assumed that the apostles repeatedly told the story of Christ’s life, dwelling especially on the most important incidents of his career, and often reiterating the very words of their blessed Lord. These narratives and words were eagerly caught up by willing ears and treasured in faithful and retentive memories, the Jews making it a practice to retain whatever they learnt in the exact form in which they received it. Thus a stereotyped tradition arose which served as the basis for our present Gospels. Several objections have been urged against this theory. It is said that, as a result of the apostles’ preaching in the vernacular, the oral tradition was embodied in the Aramaic language, and hence cannot account for the verbal coincidences in the Greek Gospels. Again it is urged that the more stereotyped the tradition was, the harder it becomes to account for the differences between the Synoptics. Would anyone be apt to alter such a tradition on his own authority? Moreover this hypothesis offers no explanation of the existence of the two-fold, the triple and the double tradition, i. e. the tradition that is embodied in all three of the Gospels and that which is found only in two of them. The majority of scholars have now abandoned this theory, although it has ardent defenders even at present. And no doubt, it must be taken into account in the solution of this problem.
In the third place we have the hypothesis of one primitive Gospel (Urevangeliums-hypothese), from which all three of the Synoptists drew their material. According to G. E. Lessing this Gospel, containing a short account of the life of Jesus for the use of traveling missionaries, was written in the popular language of Palestine. Eichhorn, however, following him, held that it was translated into Greek, worked over and enriched in various ways, and soon took shape in several redactions, which became the source of our present Gospels. There is very little agreement among the defenders of this theory regarding the exact character of this original source. At present it finds little favor in scientific circles, but has been discarded for various reasons. There is absolutely no trace of such an original Gospel, nor any historical reference to it, which seems peculiar in view of its unique significance. And if the existence of such a source be postulated, how must the arbitrary alteration of it be explained, how did these different recensions come into existence. It is evident that by this theory the problem is not solved, but simply shifted to another place. Moreover while in its original form this hypothesis accounted very well for the agreement, but not for the differences found in the Synoptics, in its final form it was too artificial and too complicated to inspire confidence and to seem anything like a natural solution of the Synoptic problem.
In the fourth place the so-called double source, or two document theory (Combinations-hypothese, Weisse, Wilke, Holtzmann, Wendt) deserves mention, since it is the favorite theory of New Testament scholars today. This hypothesis holds that, in order to explain the phenomena of the Gospels, it is necessary to postulate the existence of at least two primitive documents, and recognizes the use of one Gospel in the composition of the others. The form in which this theory is most widely accepted at present is the following: The Gospel of Mark was the first one to be written and, either in the form in which we now have it, or in a slightly different form was the source of the triple tradition. For the double tradition, which is common to Matthew and Luke, these writers used a second source that, for want of definite knowledge regarding it, is simply called Q (from the German Quelle). This Q may have been the λόγια of Matthew mentioned by Papias, and was probably a collection of the sayings of our Lord. The differences between Matthew and Luke in the matter of the double tradition finds its explanation in the assumption that, while Matthew drew directly from Q, Luke derived the corresponding matter from Q and other sources, or from a primitive Gospel based on Q. On the last supposition the relation of Matthew and Luke to Q would be as follows:

But even so the use of some inferior sources by both Matthew and Luke must be assumed. The double source theory presupposes the existence of a rather large precanonical literature.
There are some evident objections to this theory also. The assumption that the λόγια of Matthew was anything else than the Hebrew or Aramaic original of our Greek Matthew is a baseless supposition; it has no historical foundation whatever. Furthermore the theory offers no explanation of the fact that the writers in some cases faithfully copied their original and in others altered the text rather freely or even departed from it entirely. And by postulating the development of a somewhat extensive Gospel literature previous to the composition of Matthew and Luke, it has naturally led to the position that our Gospels were written late, and therefore in all probability not by their reputed authors. Moreover it also requires us to believe that Luke included the Gospel of Mark in the number of the attempted Gospel stories which his Gospel was meant to supercede.
None of the theories broached up to the present time has proved satisfactory. There is still a great deal of uncertainty and confusion in the study of the Synoptic problem; we do not seem to be nearer to its solution now than we were fifty years ago. The great aim has always been to explain the origin of the Synoptics without taking into account the supernatural factor that entered into their composition. Now we do not doubt the value of these studies; they have already taught us a good many things regarding the origin of these Gospels; but they have proven themselves insufficient to lead to a final solution of the problem. It is, of course, folly to rule this problem out of existence by simply appealing to the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit. It is true, if one believes in the mechanical inspiration of the Bible, there is no Synoptic problem. This is quite different, however, for those who believe that the Scriptures have been inspired in an organic way. The more naturally we conceive of the origin of these writings, the better it is, if we only do not lose sight of the operation of the divine factor, of the directing, the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Kuyper, Encyclopedie III p. 51 f. It is hardly sufficient to say with Urquhart, New Biblical Guide VII p. 357, that the key to the problem is found in the fact that the Synoptic Gospels are all the work of one author, and that each book is serving a distinct purpose. Yet this statement contains two important truths that we should continually bear in mind.
In any attempt to account for the similarities of the synoptics great allowance should be made for the influence of oral tradition. It is very natural to suppose that, since the apostles for some time labored together at Jerusalem with Peter at the head, a particular, perhaps Petrine type of tradition became the common property of these early preachers and of their first hearers. And because the life of Christ entered as a very important element into the life of his apostles, and they felt the supreme significance of his words, it is also reasonable to assume that they aimed at inculcating the teachings of our Lord on their hearers in the exact form in which He gave it. It is equally rational to suppose that, at a comparatively early time, the desire to escape the uncertainty that always attends oral transmission, led to the composition of brief gospel narratives, containing especially the sayings and discourses of our Lord. These suppositions are entirely in harmony too with the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke: “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us, even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, etc.” Some of these early documents may have been written in Aramaic and others in Greek. The groundwork thus furnished and drawn upon by the writers of our Gospels, explains in a very natural way most of the agreements that are found in the Synoptics. And those that cannot be accounted for in that manner may have resulted directly from the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, who led the writers also in the choice of their words. These three Gospels are in a very real sense the work of one Author.
In seeking to explain the differences that are found in the Synoptical Gospels, we should bear in mind first of all that they are no histories, but memoirs, historical arguments. In composing them each one of the writers had his own purpose. Matthew, writing for the Jews, made it his aim to present Christ as the King, the great Son of David; Mark, intending his Gospel for the Romans, endeavored to draw a vivid picture of the powerful Worker, conquering the forces of evil; and Luke, addressing the Greeks and adjusting his Gospel to their needs, sought to describe Christ as the universal Saviour, as a person with wide sympathies. This diversity of aim accounts to a great extent for the variations exhibited in the Gospels, i. e. for omissions on the one hand and additions on the other, for differences in the distribution and arrangement of the material, etc. The writers of the Gospels selected from the great mass of early traditions the material that was suited to their purpose and used it to advantage. The difference between the Synoptics is not accidental, is not the result of the chance use of certain sources. And where the identical teachings of Christ are sometimes found in different forms, we should remember, first, that the Lord may have uttered the same truth at different times in varying forms; and secondly, that the Synoptists do not always give the identical words of the Saviour, but were so guided by the Holy Spirit that they do give an exact representation of the Lord’s teachings, perhaps in a form better adapted to their purpose than the original would have been. Cf. Kuyper, Dict. Dogm., Locus de Sacra Scriptura II p. 131 f.; Gregory, Why Four Gospels; Van Leeuwen, Literatuur en Schriftuur p. 14 ff.; Urquhart, New Biblical Guide VII p. 328–428.
For further study of the Synoptic Problem we refer to: Norton, Genuineness of the Gospels; Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels; Arthur Wright, A Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek; Holdsworth, Gospel Origins; Buckley, Introduction to the Synoptic Problem; Hill, Introduction to the Life of Christ; Reuss, History of the New Testament I p. 163–218 (where the most important German literature is referred to); and the various Introductions of Davidson, Weiss, Zahn, Jülicher, Salmon, e. a.

After pointing out the remarkable agreement between the synoptic Gospels and referring to some of the attempted explanations of this feature, we must consider the equally striking difference that exists between the Synoptics on the one hand and the Gospel of John on the other. This difference is so great that even untrained minds immediately feel it. Hence the question naturally arises: How can we account for it? This is in substance the Johannine problem. The differences that are found may conveniently be arranged under two heads: 1. Differences touching the external course of events in the Lord’s ministry; and 2. Differences in regard to the form and contents of Christ’s teaching.

I. Differences touching the external course of events in the Lord’s ministry
a. According to the Synoptics the principal scene of the Lord’s activity is Galilee. He repairs to this Northern province soon after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and apparently does not return to Judea until the last Passover. The representation that is found in the Gospel of John is quite different. Very little is said about the Galilean ministry, while the activity of Christ in Judea looms large on his pages. Most of the work of which John speaks was done at Jerusalem.
b. The first three Gospels mention but one Passover in their narrative of Christ’s public ministry, viz. that at the end of his life. This led many to the conviction that the Lord’s public ministry was limited to a period of one year. In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, we find three Passovers definitely mentioned, while a fourth is probably referred to in 5:1. Judging by this the length of the Lord’s ministry was at least two and possibly three years.
c. The people with whom Jesus deals primarily are not the same in the Synoptics and in the Gospel of John. In the first three Gospels we see Jesus moving along the Galilean peasantry and preaching to them the gospel of the Kingdom, while in the fourth the Jews (by which John means the leaders of the people, i. e. Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees) are generally in the foreground, and certain individuals, that are not named, or are merely names, in the Synoptics, are very prominent, such as Philip, Nathanael, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalena and Thomas.
d. The attitude of the Jews towards Jesus appears to be quite different in the synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel of John. According to the Synoptics Jesus meets with great success at first. The multitudes flock unto him, are delighted to hear him and marvel at his teachings and work. And it is only after He has clearly shown that He had not come to establish an earthly kingdom that their enthusiasm dies away, and that He begins to prepare his disciples for his coming suffering and death. The Gospel of John makes it appear that from the beginning of Christ’s ministry at Jerusalem the hearts of the Jews were filled with a hatred that gradually grew, reaching its highest pitch after the raising of Lazarus, and that finally issued in the crucifixion of the Lord of glory.
e. There are also several details in which the Gospel of John does not agree with the Synoptics. We shall only mention a couple of the most important examples. In the synoptic Gospels we find the cleansing of the temple at the end of Christ’s public ministry, while John places this at the very beginning. Then there is also a difference in the representation of the time of the Lord’s death. The Synoptics convey the impression that Christ ate the Passover in the evening of the 14th of Nisan, and was therefore crucified on the 15th; while the Gospel of John seems to say with equal explicitness that He ate it a day in advance of the regular time and died at the very hour, when the symbolic Paschal lamb was slain.

II. Differences in respect to the form and contents of our Lord’s teaching.
a. There is a striking diversity in the form in which the teaching of Jesus is cast. In the Synoptics we have short incisive sayings of the Lord, which in some cases are and in others are not connected with what immediately precedes or follows. In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, we find long and labored discourses, closely connected with the signs, the miracles of our Lord. The first three Gospels contain a goodly number of parables, which are strangely absent from the fourth Gospel, where we have have instead a few allegories, such as the Door of the Sheepfold, the good Shepherd, and the true Vine. The style of the Gospel of John too is quite different from that of the Synoptics. It is a more Hebraic style, in which the statements are brief, the construction is simple and the sentences are usually connected with the conjunction and. This style is carried through also in the discourses of Christ, so that in some cases it is very hard, if not impossible, to tell just where the words of the Lord come to an end and those of the evangelist begin, or vice versa. Notice this especially in the third chapter.
b. There is an equally great difference in the contents of the Lord’s teaching. In the Synoptics the central theme on which Christ dwells is the Kingdom of God. He speaks of its origin, its nature, its subjects, its King, its requirements, its righteousness, its enemies and its future glory. In vain do we turn to the fourth Gospel for a corresponding line of thought. The Kingdom of God is mentioned but once there, viz. in the conversation of our Lord with Nicodemus. Christ himself is the main theme of the discourses found in the Gospel of John. The Lord speaks of his heavenly origin, of his essential character and of his return to glory. He presents himself to the Jews as the Messiah the Son of God, the heavenly manna, the water of life, the true liberator, the light of the world, the good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life, etc. In the Synoptics we find that Jesus only occasionally, and then towards the end of his ministry, speaks of himself. In connection with this we may remark that the self-revelation of Christ both by his words and works differs greatly in the Synoptics and in the fourth Gospel. In the former Jesus begins by speaking of the Kingdom and makes little mention of the King. Only gradually does He reveal his true character and it is not until He is well along in the course of his public ministry that Peter is led up to the confession: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Only in the last week of his life does Jesus throw off all reserve and speaks clearly of himself as the Messiah sent from God. In the Gospel of John, however, everything is quite clear from the beginning. John the Baptist points to Christ as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;” to the Samaritan woman Jesus says: “I am He;” and to the Jews attending the unnamed feast he speaks clearly of the unique relation in which He stands to the Father. This is closely connected with another fact. In the synoptic Gospels the humanity of Christ is made very prominent. We behold him there primarily as the Saviour who has taken on our nature, shares in our infirmities, and is tempted even as we are, though without sin. The fourth Gospel, on the other hand, brings the divinity of Christ into strong relief. We notice this at the very beginning of the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It strikes us in the signs which Christ gave to reveal his glory, and in the discourses that speak at length of his essential nature, of his descending out of glory, his being in glory, and his returning to the glory that He possessed from the foundation of the world; and it rings in our ears as we listen to the confession of Thomas: “My Lord and my God.”
There are many critics at the present time who magnify these differences into discrepancies, and find in them a ground on which to reject the authorship of John. They maintain that the fourth Gospel is a treatise written with marked theological bias, inspired by the controversy about the person of Christ in the second century. The great stumbling-block for them is the very clear teaching contained in this Gospel respecting the divinity of Christ. This, they hold, could only be the fruit of theological preconceptions. And the great desire on the part of the author to establish this beyond the shadow of a doubt is said to explain a good many of the other special features that characterize this gospel. This explanation contains both a falsehood and a truth.
A careful study of the Gospel of John, a study that takes its true character in consideration, does not bear out the contention that several of the differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptics amount to discrepancies. Neither does it reveal differences that cannot be accounted for in a perfectly natural way. We desire to point out first of all that there are not only dissimilarities but also correspondences between these Gospels. The incidents that we find mentioned in all the Gospels are the following: The baptism of John, the feeding of the five thousand, the walking on the sea, the anointing at Bethany, the triumphal entry, the last supper, the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection. Of course in some cases the details of the narrative vary. Besides these parallel narratives there are many passages in which we find imagery, sayings or words that find their counterpart in the synoptic Gospels. Davidson says that about one-third of the matter in John agrees with that in the Synoptics.
It is evident from the foregoing that the diversity is greater than the similarity, and the great question is: How must we account for the differences? In pointing out the way in which we must look for a solution of this problem we call attention to several particulars.
1. We should not lose sight of the true character of John’s writing. Neither it nor the other Gospels are meant to be complete histories of what the Lord did and said during his life in the flesh. If this were its claim, it would be disappointing in the extreme, since all that John narrates happened in a few days. Like the Synoptics the Gospel of John is a pen-picture of the Lord, is a witness to him from a particular point of view, and represents a phase of the apostolic κήρυγμα. We must allow for the principle of selection and of selective arrangement in the composition of this work. It was John’s aim to describe the Lord from a particular point of view. Hence he chose from the great mass of apostolic tradition, whether oral or written, the materials that suited his purpose best, and arranged them in the most effective way, taking in consideration as much as possible the chronological order in which the events occurred. This general truth must be borne in mind continually, if we would understand the differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptics.
2. The great controlling factor, however, in the construction of this Gospel, was the aim of the writer. Therefore it is necessary that we have some understanding of this. Happily we need not guess at it, because John himself tells us what purpose he had in writing his Gospel. He says in 20:31: “But these things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” According to this statement the apostle had a twofold aim, the one theoretical and the other practical, the one his proximate, the other his ulterior aim. The theoretical aim of the evangelist was twofold: he wanted to show in a convincing manner that the historical Jesus was the Christ sent from God for the salvation of the world; and that this Christ was not a mere man, but the very Son of God, who in his pre-existent state shared in the divine glory, a glory which He radiated even while He dwelt among men in the form of a servant, and that would again shine forth in heavenly splendor after He had finished his task. It was the desire of the writer further, to present this Christ, this Son of God, to his readers in such a manner that they might be led to believe in him, and that they, being united to him the fountain of life by faith, might have life everlasting. With this end in view John, of course, selected those signs and discourses of the Lord that were best adapted to bring out his glory and to lead others to faith in him. He almost seems to tell us this himself, when he concludes his narrative of the first miracle performed by our Lord at Cana with the words: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed on Him.” John views the miracles of which he speaks as σημεῖα that exhibit the divine greatness of Christ. And he limits himself almost exclusively to those of which he can say definitely that they led men to believe on Christ, or of which Christ himself points out the symbolic significance in His discourses, as:
The changing of water into wine at Cana (“and his disciples believed on Him.”)
The healing of the ruler’s son at Cana (Capernaum) (“and himself believed and his whole house.”)
The healing of the impotent man at the pool Bethesda (Christ the restorer of life).
The feeding of the five thousand near Bethsaida (Christ the spiritual food, the heavenly manna).
The restoring of the blind man’s sight at Jerusalem (Christ the light of the world).
The raising of Lazarus at Bethany (Christ the resurrection and the life).
In harmony with his aim too the evangelist records such discourses of the Lord as serve to explain the σημεῖα, to bring, out the unique relation in which Christ stands to the Father, to accentuate Christ’s authority, to emphasize the divine character of his mission, etc. Moreover he introduces several individuals to show us how Jesus labored to bring them to the conviction that He was the Christ, the Son of God, as f. i. Nathanael, Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and Thomas.
Now if we bear these things in mind, many of the differences between this Gospel and the Synoptics are immediately explained. The aim of John being what it is, he naturally speaks of Christ rather than of the Kingdom of God, introduces whatever accentuates the divinity of our Lord, and brings out as much as possible that Christ revealed himself as the Messiah from the very beginning of his public career. But doing this in a historical way, he cannot represent the Galilean peasants but only the leaders of the Jews at Jerusalem as the recipients of this revelation, for it was only to them, who were versed in the Scriptures, that Christ spoke so explicitly from the outset, and it was primarily for them that He expressed his thought in profound discourses rather than in parables. This in turn determines the time of which John speaks in his gospel and also explains how it is that he mentions so many feasts, because it was almost exclusively on these occasions that Jesus visited Jerusalem and came in contact with the Scribes and the Chief Priests. It also sheds light on the difference in the attitude of the Jews toward Jesus. For a long time the Galileans were attached to Christ and marveled at his words and works; the spirit of opposition was aroused in them especially towards the end of Christ’s labors among them and mostly by the machinations of the Pharisees that came from Jerusalem. The leaders of the Jews in Judea, on the other hand, hated Jesus almost from the beginning of his public ministry. Their hatred kept pace with the knowledge they received of Christ.
3. Every attempt at solving the Johannine problem must also make allowance for the fact that John was acquainted with the other Gospels, and avoided as much as was conistent with his aim the repetition of facts that were already generally known. We have no doubt that John had read the other Gospels before he wrote his own. There are certain features in his Gospel that we can understand only on that supposition. According to 21:19 John wrote his Gospel after the death of Peter and therefore comparatively late. Now he certainly would not be such a stranger in his own world of thought as not to know the Gospels that had already been composed. Then we find that in several places the evangelist trusts to the previous knowledge of his readers. He does not describe the institution of the Lord’s supper in his Gospel; yet he clearly assumes in 6:51–58 that his readers were acquainted with it. Though he does not give a description of the ascension, he proceeds on the assumption that this fact is well known, 6:62; 20:17. Cf. further 1:40; 3:24; 6:70, etc. In several cases in which the persons introduced in the Gospel misunderstand the Lord, the writer does not deem it necessary to explain for his readers what Jesus really meant, because he knew that they themselves were able to correct the mistake, Cf. 7:35, 36; 3:4; 4:15; 6:52. It is a very weighty consideration in this connection too that John does not deign to answer objections that are brought against the Messiah ship of Christ. Notice f. i. 1:45, 46; 7:41, 42; 7:52. The evangelist does not give a single hint of the solution of the difficulty thus raised repeatedly. We can understand this only on the supposition that he was aware of the fact that his readers knew from the other Gospels how to solve the problem. John evidently read the other Gospels and this explains how he could avoid to such a great extent what they had already brought to the knowledge of the people.
4. Finally we must also bear in mind that the individuality of the author is stamped on his literary production. John was a profound meditative spirit, who drank deeply at the fountain of life. He searched for the mainspring of action in the career of our Saviour; he pondered on the hidden background of the mysterious, the wonderful life of his Master. He was the best qualified of all the apostles to describe the divine greatness of the Lord. And it was no small achievement of his, that he presented the profoundest truths in the most simple manner. The simplicity of its language is a very striking feature of the fourth Gospel. It is due in part, no doubt, to john’s idiosyncracy, and in part to his habit of contemplating Christianity in its most fundamental relations. It need not surprise us that we find the same style in the discourses of Christ, for in these also the style is to a great extent john’s. Neither John nor the other evangelists always give us the exact words of Jesus. It is true that he generally employs direct discourse in introducing the words of the Saviour, but this is merely an oriental custom and does not imply that the words were used exactly in that way. But the Spirit of God so guided the writer that he reproduces, though possibly in a slightly different form, the exact truths which Jesus sought to inculcate on his hearers. And this Spirit, which is also the Spirit of Christ, vouching for these words, makes them just as really the words of Christ, as if they had been an exact reproduction of the words Jesus had used in addressing the Jews.

During the past century the human origin of the Gospels has been carefully investigated. With a great deal of patience and ingenuity every chapter and verse of these writings has been scrutinized and referred to its supposed ultimate source. The discussion of the divine factor that operated in the composition of these books, however, has been conspicuously absent from these studies. And this neglect is not the result of chance, but of a very deliberate plan. A large number of scholars today do not believe in any special inspiration of these writings; others, who do not wish to deny their divine inspiration, nevertheless maintain that their claim to this prerogative should be waived in the historical investigation of their origin.
In the preceding century many were wont to label the Gospels sneeringly as fictitious narratives, written by a few religious fanatics, who deliberately lied about Jesus. This crude and baseless opinion does not meet with great favor today. People intuitively recoil from that position and feel that they must take a more respectful attitude towards the Gospels. They now regard these as the product of the reverent and in part unconscious invention of the Church; or as the expression of the corporate consciousness and the corporate mood of the first Christian community. Even so, of course, they are simply human productions that contain besides a large quota of truth a great deal of mythical and lengendary matter.
Over against this position we hold that the Gospels were written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that they are therefore absolutely trustworthy and authoritative accounts of the life of our Lord. They are inspired records. They constitute one of the most precious fruits of the apostolic inspiration, since they are one and all the literary embodiment of the apostolic κήρυγμα. The substance of what the apostles preached is contained in these writings. Now as well as the prophets in the old dispensation, the apostles in the new were inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is quite evident from the New Testament. Consider the promises which our Lord gave to His disciples: Matt. 10:19, 20,” … for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.” John 14:26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 16:13, 14, “Howbeit when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” Notice too that these promises found their initial fulfilment on the day of Pentecost. We read in Acts 2:4: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And after this day the apostles were conscious of being guided by the Spirit of God. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:11–13, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” And in 2 Cor. 13:2b, 3, “—and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare; since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.” These few passages, which might easily be multiplied, must suffice for the present.
Some who admit the inspiration of the prophets, do not believe the apostles were also inspired, because in their case they do not hear the familiar formula “thus saith the Lord,” nor behold the characteristic phenomena that accompanied the inspiration of the prophets. They do not distinguish between different kinds of inspiration. There are especially three points of difference between the inspiration of the prophets and that of the apostles.
1. Under the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit did not yet dwell in the Church, but operated on believers from without. So it was also in the case of the prophets. The Holy Spirit took possession of them, sometimes suppressed their personality to a certain degree, and then employed their consciousness for his purpose. In the new dispensation, however, He took up his abode in The Church, and first of all in the apostles, who were to be the Church’s foundation; and then, identifying himself to a great extent with their conscious life, used them as instruments to produce his revelation.
2. In the case of the prophets it was the entrance of a foreign element, a foreign power into their lives, and something extraordinary in their career that impelled them to prophesy. It was a power that they could not resist, because it became as a fire burning within them. With the apostles, on the other hand, it was the indwelling Spirit in connection with their official task that led them to speak the Word of God. The inspiration of the prophets was intermittent; that of the apostles, continuous in the performance of their regular apostolic duties.
3. The prophets often spoke of unknown and unseen things, while the apostles discoursed on things which they knew and saw. In connection with this the Holy Spirit did not operate through the same faculty in both the prophets and the apostles. In the former it was the imagination, in the latter the understanding, especially memory and reflection, that constituted the medium of divine revelation. Hence the prophets generally spoke in poetic and in symbolic language, while the apostles as a rule clothed their thought in ordinary prose. In the case of the Gospels the inspiration of the apostles has above all the character of a ὑπόμνησις. Cf. John 14:26.
This apostolic inspiration gave birth to the κήρυγμα of the apostles, but does not yet account for the infallible records we have of this in the Gospels. Besides the apostolic we must take into consideration a separate graphical or transcriptive inspiration, if we would fully understand the divine origin of the Gospels. The authors were led by the spirit of God in composing these writings, in giving to the preaching of the apostles a definite written form. They were guided in the selection of their material and its proper arrangement, and in the choice of their words and expressions, so that their records are truly a part of the Word of God for the Church of all ages.
The question naturally arises, whether we have any reasons to think that the Gospels were so inspired. In answer we would say that we have, though we do not flatter ourself with the idea that these reasons would convince anyone who is disinclined to accept the Scriptures as the very Word of God.
1. The contents of the Gospels testify to their divine origin. We find in them a fourfold portraiture of the Saviour. There are many differences in the individual pictures, yet together they form a grand unity. Four writers, each one portraying the life of Christ in his own way, to a great extent without knowing each other’s writings or drawing on them, so that their individual portraits blend perfectly into a harmonious whole,—it is marvelous, it can only be understood, if we assume that these four writers were all guided unerringly by the same superintending Spirit. The Gospels are really the work of one author. And the life that is pictured in them is a divine life, unfathomable, mysterious, far surpassing human understanding. And yet that incomparable, that divine life has been so faithfully portrayed, with such a profound insight into its real character and hidden depths, in such a simple, natural, artless manner, that it has been the marvel of ages. Could man, unaided by higher power, describe such a life? No, only they who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, were equal to the task.
2. Taking for granted the inspiration of the Old Testament, which is conclusively proved by the words of Jesus and the apostles, we feel that it calls for an inspired complement. It covers the period of preparation that is prophetic of a future completion, the time in which the Church was in its infancy, that points forward to the maturity of a coming age. It is filled with prophecies that await fulfilment; it contains the shadow that is cast before the coming body, growing more distinct as the ages roll on, until at last it seems as if the body will presently appear, yet it does not—the Old Testament requires a compliment. And in harmony with it this too must be inspired. Of what avail would the inspiration of the Old Testament be, if that in which it culminates is not inspired. The divine surety would be wanting.
3. At least two of our Gospels were written by apostles who, in speaking to their contemporaries, were inpired by the Spirit of God. Now it would be an anomaly that they should be guided by the Holy Spirit in their oral witnessing to Christ, and be without that divine guidance in perpetuating their testimony for all future ages. It was the will of God that people until the end of the world should believe on him through the word of the apostles, John 17:20; 1 John 1:3. Hence it was of the greatest importance that there should be an infallible record of their testimony.
4. There are some Scripture passages that point to the inspiration of the gospel records. The older Lightfoot, (Works IV p. 113, 114; XII p. 7, and following him Urquhart, The Bible its Structure and Purpose I Ch. 5), find a proof for the inspiration of Luke’s Gospel in 1:3, where they would translate the words παρηχολουθηχότι ἄνωθεν by “having had perfect understanding of all things from above.” This interpretation is favored by the fact that ἄνωθεν has this meaning in eight of the thirteen times that it occurs in the New Testament, and in three of the remaining instances means again, while it is translated “from the beginning” only here and in Acts 26:4. The expressed purpose of Luke in writing his Gospel also falls in exceedingly well with the rendering from above. It is, he writes to Theophilus, that you may have the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.” Yet the verb παραχολουθέω, meaning, to follow up carefully, and thus, to obtain knowledge, argues decisively against it. What is of greater significance for us, is the fact that the Gospel of Luke is quoted as ἡ γραφή in 1 Tim. 5:18, where we read: “For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn, and, The laborer is worthy of his hire.” The only place in the entire Bible where the last words are found, is Luke 10:7. Finally we call attention to 2 Peter 3:15, 16, where the apostle says: “… even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Here we find that the writings of Paul are placed on a level with other inspired writings, which Peter calls, “the other Scriptures.” There is good reason to believe that this expression refers to the books of the Old Testament, and to those of the New Testament that were already composed, when Peter wrote his second epistle, among which we may also reckon the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
5. The fact that the early Church from the very beginning accepted these Gospels as canonical, is also a proof of their inspired character, for in it the communal consciousness of the Church expressed itself in regard to these writings; and it is said of believers in their corporate existence that they, taught by the Holy Ghost, know all things. Dean Alford says: “The apostles being raised up for the special purpose of witnessing to the gospel history,—and these memoirs having been universally received in the early Church as embodying that their testimony, I see no escape left from the inference that they come to us with inspired authority. The Greek Testament, Vol. I, Prolegomena Section VI.
6. Finally the Holy Spirit testifies in the heart of every believer to the divine character of the Gospels, so that they feel assured that these writings contain the very Word of God. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit they realize that these Gospels too minister to the deepest needs of their spiritual life, they realize their infinite value, marvel at their exquisite beauty and find in them ever increasingly the words of everlasting life. Thus they cannot but speak their “Amen” to the contents of these books.

The Gospels are, of course, closely related to the Old Testament Scriptures. They describe in a vivid manner the initial stage of the fulness of time, showing how all the prophecies that pointed to Christ and to a new and more spiritual dispensation began to be fulfilled. Rather than enlarge on this relation, however, we shall here briefly describe the peculiar function of the Gospels in the New Testament revelation. These writings are related to the rest of the New Testament, as the Pentateuch is to the following books of the Old Testament. Both are of a fundamental character, laying foundations on which an imposing super-structure is raised. In the case of the Gospels this is clearly indicated by the opening words of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: “The former treatise have I written, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” In this passage the word ἤρξατο is not pleonastic, as was held by some, but emphatic. According to this word the Gospel contained the narrative only of what Jesus began to do and to teach, which would prove to be the solid foundation and the germinating principle of all that He would continue to do on earth (through His apostles) and in heaven. The Gospels mark but an initial stage in New Testament revelation; they lack finality.
The form, the method and the substance of Christ’s teaching in the Gospels,—it all bears the stamp of an incipient stage. Everyone that reads the Gospels and compares them with the epistles is struck by the simple manner in which Christ presents his teachings to the multitude. He gave his instruction primarily in the form of parables and proverbial sayings. Now it is the essence of proverbial speech that it detaches itself from particular occasions, and is therefore best adapted to the expression of general fundamental truths. Because parables and proverbs set forth the truth in a lively and concrete way, they were very appropriate in teaching those that were just initiated in the spiritual truths of the new dispensation. Since they generally disclose the truth but partially, they stimulate the spirit of inquiry. A very suitable way of instructing beginners indeed! We notice that the disciples gradually longed for a different form of instruction, and towards the end of his life Christ says to them: “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs, but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.” John 16:25.—The method of Jesus’ work points to the same general conclusion. His teaching has a fragmentary character. He speaks a word here and a word there, discourses now with this person and then with that one, just as a missionary among the gentiles is apt to do, expressing the deepest truths in a sporadic way. Important doctrines were thus uttered without any attempt to relate them to other truths. All this is in perfect harmony with the initial character of Christ’s work.—The contents of Christ’s teaching also are primitive and fundamental. Many of the most important truths are indeed taught in the Gospels, but they are not elaborated, nor set forth in all their significance, as f. i. the doctrine of the atonement, of justification by faith, of the forgiveness of sins, of the Kingship of Christ, etc. Other truths were suppressed, because, as the Lord himself says, even the best of his hearers were not yet able to bear them, John 16:12. The works of Christ were also initiatory. His miracles contained within them the promise of still greater works in the future. He says to his disciples: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father,” John 14:12.
Now the writers of the Gospels simply narrated this initial work of Christ, as they remembered it. They do not make mention of the greater works that followed after Christ had gone to heaven, nor do they (except in very rare instances) reflect on or seek to interpret the life and teachings of the Saviour. This remains to be done in later writings.
Berkhof, L. (1915). New Testament Introduction (S. 1–60). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co.


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