The Authority and Necessity of the Scriptures

Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

Edwards talks about how God is the authority behind the Scriptures, and that it is necessary to place the Scriptures in writing.

dd. Scripture. Some may ask, why the Scripture expresses things so unintelligibly? It tells us of Christ’s living in us, of our being united to him, of being the same spirit, and uses many other such like expressions. Why does it not call directly by their intelligible names, those things that lie hid under these expressions? I answer [that] then we should have a hundred pages to express what is implied in these words: “ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost,” neither would it after all be understood by the one fourth part of mankind. Whereas, as it is expressed, it serves as well to practice, it we will believe what God says that, some way or other, we are inhabited by the Holy Ghost as a temple, and therefore ought to keep ourselves holy and pure. And we are united to Christ as much as members are to the head, and therefore ought to rejoice, seeing we know that this union proceeds from his love to us, and that the effects of it are joy, happiness, spiritual and eternal life, etc. By such similitudes, a vast volume is represented to our minds in three words, and things that we are not able to behold directly, are presented before us in lively pictures.

6. Scripture. There is a strange and unaccountable kind of enchantment, if I may so speak, in scripture history, which although it is destitute of all rhetorical ornaments, makes it vastly more pleasant, agreeable, easy, and natural than any other history whatever. It shines bright with the amiable simplicity of truth. There is something in the relation that, at the same time, very much pleases and engages the reader, and evidences the truth of the fact. It is impossible to tell fully what I mean, to any that have not taken notice of it before. One reason doubtless is this: the Scripture sets forth things just as they happened, with the minute circumstances of time, place, situation, gesture, habit, etc. in such a natural method that we seem to be actually present, and we insensibly fancy, not that we are readers, but spectators, yea, actors in the business. These little circumstances wonderfully help to brighten the ideas of the more principal parts of the history. And although the Scripture goes beyond other histories in mentioning such circumstances, yet no circumstances are mentioned, but those that wonderfully brighten the whole. So the story is told very fully and without in the least crowding things together, before one has fully taken up what was last related, and yet told in much less room than anyone else could tell it. Not withstanding the minute circumstances mentioned, which other historians leave out, it leads along our ideas so naturally and easily, that they seem to go neither too fast nor too slow. One seems to know as exactly how it is from the relation, as if he saw it. The mind is so led on that sometimes we seem to have a full, large, and particular history of a long time. So that if we should shut the book immediately, without taking particular notice, we should not suppose the story had been told in half so little room, and yet a long train of ideas is communicated. The story is so narrated that our mind, although some facts are not mentioned, yet naturally traces the whole transaction. And although it be thus skillfully contrived, yet things are told in such a simple, plain manner, that the least child can understand them. This is a perfection in the sacred writers, which no other authors can equal, because in order to it, an infinite understanding is necessary.

351. End of the World. Millenium. Scripture. It is an argument with me, that the world is not yet very near its end, and that the church has made no greater progress in understanding the mysteries of the Scriptures. The Scriptures, in all their parts, were made for the use of the church here on earth, and it seems reasonable to suppose that God will, by degrees, unveil their meaning to his church. It was made mysterious, in many places having great difficulties, that his people might have exercise for their pious wisdom and study, and that his church might make progress in the understanding of it, as the philosophical world makes progress in the understanding of the book of nature, and in unfolding its mysteries. A divine wisdom appears in ordering it thus. How much better is it to have divine truth and light break forth in this way, than it would have been to have had it shine at once to everyone, without any labor or industry of the understanding? It would be less delightful, and less prized and admired, and would have been less to the glory of God.

It seems to be evident that the church is not as yet arrived to that perfection in understanding the Scriptures, which we can imagine is the highest that God ever intended the church should come to. There are a multitude of things in the Old Testament, which the church then did not understand, but were reserved to be unfolded in the Christian church, such as most of their types, and shadows, and prophecies, which make up the greatest part of the Old Testament. So I believe there are now many truths that remain to be discovered by the church, in the glorious times that are approaching.

Another thing from which we may draw the same conclusion, is that it is the manner of God to keep his church on earth in hope of a still more glorious state: and so their prayers are enlivened, when they pray that the interest of religion may be promoted, and God’s kingdom may come. God kept the church, under the Old Testament, in hope of the times of the Messiah. The disciples of Christ were kept in hope of the conversion of the Roman empire, which was effected about three hundred years after. But it seems to me not likely that the church from that time should have no more to hope for from God’s Word, no higher advancement, till consummation of all things. Indeed, there will be a great but short apostasy, a little before the end of the world, but then it is probable that the thing the church will hope and long for, will be Christ’s last coming, to advance his church to its highest and its everlasting glory, for that will then appear to be the only remedy. For the church will expect no more from the clear light and truth which will have been so gloriously displayed already, under the millennium. Another end of thus keeping his church in hope is to quicken and enliven their endeavors to propagate religion, and to advance the kingdom of Jesus. It is a great encouragement to such endeavors, to think that such times are coming, wherein Christianity shall prevail over all enemies. And it would be a great discouragement to the labors of nations or pious magistrates and divines to endeavor to advance Christ’s kingdom if they understood that it was not to be advanced. And indeed, the keeping alive such hopes in the church, has a tendency to enliven all piety and religion in the general, amongst God’s people.

426. When we inquire whether or not we have scripture grounds for any doctrine, the question is whether or not the Scripture exhibits it any way to the eye of the mind, or to the eye of reason? We have no grounds to assert that it was God’s intent, by the Scripture, in so many terms, to declare every doctrine that he would have us believe. There are many things the Scripture may suppose that we know already. God may reveal things in Scripture, which way he pleases. If by what he there reveals, the thing is any way clearly discovered to the understanding, or eye of the mind, it is our duty to receive it as his revelation.

1060. Authenticity of the Gospels and Syrian Translation. The greatest part of Christians were very early agreed what books were canonical and to be looked upon as the rule of their faith.

It is impossible, in the nature of things, but some churches must receive the books long after others, as they lay at a greater distance from the places where they were written, or had less convenience of communication with them. Besides, as Christianity for a long time labored under the disadvantages of continual persecution, no general councils could be convened, and so there could be no public notification of universal agreement in this matter. But notwithstanding all these things, it is yet discoverable that as soon as can be supposed, after the writing the books, the Christians, in all countries, remarkably agreed in receiving them as canonical. For a proof of which, I observe:

1. That in the few genuine writings of the first ages now extant, the same books are cited as Scripture. It is indeed with just reason, commonly presumed, that the first writers cited the now received books of the canon, and others promiscuously. But as I shall hereafter show this to be a mistake, so it will be enough here to observe that they were generally agreed in receiving the same books for canonical, which we now do. And this appears from their agreement to cite them, as everyone must acknowledge, who has but cast his eye upon the writings of the first centuries. To say nothing of the apostolic fathers, such as Clemens, Barnabas, etc., it is evident that Justin Martyr at Neapolis, Theophilus at Antioch, Irenaeus in France, Clemens at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage (who all lived within 120 or 130 years our Lord’s ascension, and some of them much sooner and but a very short time after the writing of the books), have all, though in very remote countries, quoted many or most, if not all the same books as Scripture. The same might be observed concerning Origen, Cyprian, and other writers of the next century. It has been already proved, by Mr. Nye and Mr. Le Clerk, that the writers of the apostolic age were well acquainted with, because they frequently cite, several books of our present canon. And if it had not been so, it would have been impossible for them to have spread so much by the middle of the second century, as to have been quoted by all the writers of it, in whatever countries they lived.

2. Several of the first writers of Christianity have left us, in their works, catalogues of the sacred books of the New Testament, which though made in countries at a vast distance from each other, do very little differ….

I shall only instance now in those of Origen and Eusebius, which he that will be at the pains to compare, will easily perceive to be very nearly the same. So great were the pains and care of those early Christians, to be well assured what were the genuine writings of the apostles, and to distinguish them from all pretended revelations of designing men, and the forgeries they published under sacred titles. Thus, when a presbyter of Asia had published a spurious piece, under the name of Paul, he was immediately convicted, and notice of the forgery was soon conveyed to Carthage and the churches of Africa.

Corollary. Hence it follows, that the primitive Christians are proper judges to determine what book is canonical, and what not. For nothing can be more absurd than to suppose, in those early ages, an agreement so universal, without good and solid foundation. Or, in other words, it is next to impossible either that so great a number of men should agree in a cheat, or be imposed upon by a cheat. But there are some particular circumstances that make the inference more clear as to the Christian books than others: such as the prodigious esteem the books at first were received with, the constant use that was made of them in their religious assemblies, the translations made of them very early into other languages, etc. [See Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, part i. chap. v.]

The omission of a book in some one or two particular catalogues cannot, with any reason, be urged against its canonical authority, if it be found in all, or most of the others, and any good reason can be assigned for the omission, where it occurs. Thus, for instance, the Revelation is omitted, either perhaps because it was not known to the author, or its credit was not sufficiently established in the country where he lived, or perhaps which may be as probable as the other, because it being so full of mysteries, few or none were judged proper or able to read it to any purpose. This was certainly the case in England. This book being, for this reason, omitted in the public calendar for reading the Scriptures, though it be received into the canon. If, therefore, these or any such good reasons can be assigned for the omission of a book in a particular catalogue, it will be very unfair to infer that such book is apocryphal, especially when it is to be found in many or most other catalogues.

The catalogues drawn up by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 370), — by Epophanius, bishop of Salamis (A. D. 370), — by Jerome, of Dalmatia (A. D. 382), — by Ruffin, presbyter of Aquilegium (A D. 390), — by Augustine, bishop of Hippo (A. D. 394), — by forty-four bishops, assembled in the 3d council of Carthage (A. D. 416), were perfectly the same with ours now received. [See Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, part i. chap. viii.]

An universal agreement of writers, in the most remote countries, in quoting the same books as Scripture and no other as such, is, if the fact be true, a very plain and demonstrative indication of the right canon. It is not at all necessary I should here go about to prove the fact, viz. that the writers of the four first centuries have cited such and such books and universally omitted others. This I hope to make good hereafter. And I cannot but think it worth observing that Eusebius (to whom, above all others, we are indebted for our helps to establish the canon), makes frequent use of the same proposition to distinguish between those books that are, or are not, to be received. So, for instance, he proves the first epistle of Peter to be genuine, because the most ancient writers of Christianity, before his time, made continual use of it in their writings as an undoubted book. And a little afterwards, he proves the acts of Peter (the gospel, the preaching and the revelation of Peter), to be apocryphal, because none of the writers of the Christian church have, in their writings, taken any testimonies out of those books. And elsewhere, having mentioned several spurious books under the apostles names, such as the gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, and the acts of Andrew, John and others, he rejects them, because no ecclesiastical writer has made any use of them in his writings. See Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, part i, chap. ix.

Those books are canonical which the primitive Christians read in their churches or public assemblies as the Scriptures, or Word of God.

As it was the constant practice of the Jewish church in their synagogues, so it was of the Christians in their religious meetings, to read the sacred Scriptures. This practice is clearly proved from Col. 4:16, where St. Paul mentions the reading publicly in the church of the Colossians and Laodiceans, his epistle to the former, as also an epistle from the latter in the church of the former. This we find in the beginning of the second century, from Justin Martyr: “On the day, says he, which is called Sunday, there is a meeting of all the Christians who live either in cities or country places, and the memoirs of the apostles and writings of the prophets are read.” So Tertullian, giving an account of the Christian’s meetings, says: “They assembled to read the Scriptures and to offer up prayers.” And in another place, among the solemn exercises of the Lord’s day, he reckons reading the Scriptures, singing psalms, etc. The same account we have in Cyprian, the ancient book, under the name of Dionysius the Areopagite and several other ancient writers cited by Pamelius in his learned notes on Tertullian’s apology. Now, I say, these books are to be received by us as canonical, forasmuch as this practice of reading the Scriptures was so very early that it is hardly possible to suppose the churches [were] imposed upon by any spurious and forged pieces…. Hence, in the middle of the fourth century, it was decreed in the council of Laodicea, in their fifty-ninth canon, that “no private psalms should be read in the churches, nor any books without the canon, but only the canonical ones of the Old and New Testament.” Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, part i, chap. x.

The translation of the books of the New Testament into Syriac, is of very considerable service in determining and fixing the canon of those books.

The truth of this proposition depends upon the antiquity of the version. For if the most ancient Christians are to be judges, and their testimony is to be translated into their own language, and if such collection of books was made by the eastern churches in the time, or at least near the time, of the apostles, it must consequently be of great weight in deciding this matter. I shall endeavor therefore to show that the Syriac version was made in or near the apostles times, and in order to this, I shall first produce all that is historical concerning it. And as to the history of this version, it is a constant and ancient tradition among the Syrians that it was made by St. Mark. This account we have from Pestellus, who traveled into the eastern parts of the world in order to inform himself of all that he could among them, who declares that the Syrians delivered it to him as an ancient tradition, that St. Mark translated his own gospel and the rest of the books of the New Testament into his own country’s language, that is the Galilean or Syriac. The first time the Europeans became acquainted with this version was in the year of Christ 1562. On this occasion, Ignatius, a patriarch of Antioch, hearing of the advantages of printing, sent a certain priest of Mesopotamia, called Moses Meridinaeus, into Europe with a copy of the Syriac Testament, to be printed for the benefit of the Christians of those eastern parts of the world. After this, some ancient manuscripts of it, that had lain hid in Europe, were noticed. And as to the antiquity of this version, I shall:

1. Mention the opinion of learned men.

The first is Tremellius, who published and translated it into Latin, and says of it that it “seems every way probable that it was made in the very infancy of the church of Christ, either by the apostles themselves or their disciples, unless we will imagine them in their writings to have had a concern only for the churches of foreign nations, and none for those of their own country.”

Our learned Fuller calls it “a most ancient, a very excellent, and truly divine monument of Christianity.” Alsted: “The Syriac version of the New Testament is to be attributed to the church of Antioch, while yet in its infancy, and to those in that city who were first called Christians. And though the author of it be not certainly known, yet it is very likely it was made by some of the apostles or their disciples. Jacobus Martinis, in his preface to Trastius’s edition: “It is a version but the first and most ancient of all. It is a version preferable to all others. It is a version made either by one of the evangelists, or by some of the Christians at Antioch, who had the opportunity of consulting with the apostles there.”

Frederick Spanheim, the father, had the same opinion of its antiquity. Bishop Walton has attempted to prove that it was made in the apostles times. Frederick Spanheim, the son, in his ecclesiastical history, places this version in the second century after Christ, assenting to the agreed opinion of learned men that it was made very near the apostles times. Father Simon allows its claim to the greatest antiquity just, and [he] well observes that it preceded all those schisms, which afterwards divided the eastern nations into different sects. And this, he adds, is the cause that they all equally esteem it.

Such have been the received sentiments of the learned concerning this version.

2. It was absolutely needful that such a version should be made in or near the apostles times, and therefore very probable that one was then made.

It was at that time the language of the first Christian churches and those innumerable multitudes that were converted to Christianity in Jerusalem, Galilee, Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch and all the country round about. It was the language spoken by the Jews in those countries, as well as the Gentiles that were the original natives. Here were the first converts to Christianity made and the first Christian churches founded, and it is unreasonable to suppose that they were long destitute of those books which contained the records of what Christ had said and done, and the foundations of their religion.

3. The Christians of Syria were wont to read the sacred Scriptures of the New Testament in their churches and public assemblies, very soon after the apostles times, and therefore a translation of them was made into the Syriac language. This is manifest by a passage of Justin Martyr, who lived in the beginning of the second century and plainly speaks of himself as being a disciple of the apostles…. This is constantly asserted by the Syrian churches from whom we had it, and there was no more probability of the Syrian churches losing their translation than of the Western churches losing their Greek copies. For the same reason as Greek copies did multiply, the Syriac ones would multiply too.

4. There are some internal characters in the translation itself, that evidence its great antiquity. Particularly, the name “Ptolemais,” (Acts 21:7) is rendered by its ancient Jewish name Aeo, which it is not likely that it would be known by among Christians, long after the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem, after which there was no body of Christian Jews by themselves but they were mingled with Gentile Christians. And in the translation of the Greek records…. We frequently find in the New Testament the distinction of all mankind into Jews and Åëëçíá, which our translators render Jews and Gentiles. And so the word Åèíç in the New Testament denotes, in a peculiar sense, all nations besides the Jews. In the ideas of both these words, the Jews implied something that was bad, or which they looked upon all the world as profane, sinners, unclean, etc. And agreeably to this, in the Syrian version, the word Åëëçí is translated very often by a word that signifies profane, impious, or sinful, and in many places it is translated a Syrian, Aramaeus, and the word Åèíéêï is translated profane or impious. And Åèíéêù, which we translate after the manner of the Gentiles, Gal. 2:14, is there translated after the manner of the Syrians, and Åèíç is very often rendered profane. Now none but the Christian Jews would have formed a translation so exactly according to the Jewish notions and phrases, and it is not likely that the Eastern Christians, though they had some Jewish blood in them, would so naturally fall into such a way of speaking, long after the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles was entirely broken down, which was kept up in some measure till the destruction of Jerusalem, but then was utterly abolished between Christians, Jews and others. But to put the matter out of doubt, I will single out one word, viz. Armojo, which he most commonly uses for Åëëçí, which signifies a Syrian. Now to understand the reason of this appellation, viz. why Gentiles and Syrian, or profane, were among the Jews synonymous terms, we must observe that they always had a contemptible opinion of the Syrians, as being idolaters. So we find in Onkelos’s Chaldee version, the words uncircumcised and Syrian are used promiscuously to denote any foreigner or profane person, Lev. 25:47, because they were their nearest neighbors and idolaters. By this it is evident that the Syrian interpreter was a Christian Jew that lived either before, or not long after, the destruction of Judea by the Romans. The word is so translated Syrian, instead of Gentile, in Acts 16:1, 3; Acts 19:10, 17; 20:21; Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:22, etc.; 1 Cor. 10:32; 12:13; Gal. 2:3, 14; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11. It cannot be objected that the translator knew no other Syriac words whereby to translate the above-mentioned Greek ones. For it is certain that he not only knew others, but with a great deal of accuracy and justice, had made use of them. That when the word Åëëçí, in the New Testament, is put to denote those who were properly Grecians, or inhabitants of Greece, he makes use of a word nearly the same with Éùíêï, a Greek, properly so called. So when Paul divides all mankind into Greeks and Barbarians, the Syriac interpreter uses that word, Rom. 1:14; Col. 3:11; so when the proper natives of Greece are meant, as Acts 14:1, or 17:4, 12, etc.; and so when the Greek language is spoken of in the New Testament, as Luke 23:38 and John 19:20; Acts 19:29; 21:37. This is a most convincing argument that where he translates the word Åëëçí in the other manner, he spoke according to the language of the Jews, and therefore that he lived in the time above-mentioned.

5. There is a most remarkable agreement between the Syriac tradition and our best and most ancient copies of the New Testament, as with Beza’s famous manuscript, which he gave to the university of Cambridge, undoubtedly the oldest now in the world. The same may be said of several other ancient copies.

6. It is an argument of the great antiquity of this translation that it has not in it the four Catholic epistles, viz. the second of Peter, the second and third of John, and the epistle of Jude, nor the Revelation. Now these being wanting must necessarily proceed from one of these causes: 1st. Because they were not written when the version was made, or 2nd. Because the knowledge of them was not yet come to the Syrian churches, or 3rd. Because they were not yet universally received into the number of the canonical books. Now whichsoever of these be said, the antiquity of the version will be sufficiently established. But the first of these seems most probable, because as I shall hereafter show, the churches of Syria did both know and receive several of these books, at least, as canonical, in the second century, as it is certain they do now, though it seems they are not ordinarily bound with the others in the same volume and read in their churches. This argument was thought so conclusive by Tremellius, and our learned Bishop Walton, that from it they were persuaded to believe this version was made in the apostle’s times. — See Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, p. 14 and following chapters.

What follows is extracted from the Bishop of London’s third pastoral letter, p. 14, etc.

We find all the four gospels, under the names of the several evangelists, distinctly spoken of by the most early writers of the church [Clement, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Origen], as the known and undoubted records of our Savior’s life and actions, and as such received by all the Christian churches and read in their public assemblies….

As to St. Matthew’s gospel in particular, Mr. Jones observes that it is in all the catalogues of the sacred books. It is often cited in the writings of the that are called the apostolic fathers, viz. Barnabas, Clemens Romanus, the Shepherd of Hermas, Polycarp, and St. Ignatius, concerning whom Mr. Jones says that though he did not believe the writings under their names were all genuine, and of that age to which they pretend, yet they are undoubtedly very ancient and referred to by some of the earliest fathers…. The citations of the fathers of the following centuries, as Origen, Cyprian, Cyril, Austin and others, are omitted, there being innumerable places wherein they cite this, as well as the other gospels.

St. Matthew’s gospel is canonical because it was read as Scripture in the assemblies or churches of the primitive Christians. Justin Martyr, who cites the gospel under the name of Memoirs or Commentaries of the apostles, tells us that on every Sunday, there was an assembly of the neighboring Christians, and the Memoirs or Commentaries of the apostles were read…. Cyril of Jerusalem, who flourished in anno 340, enumerating the books which ought to be read in church, says, “Among the New Testament books, there were only four gospels, and that all others were spurious and hurtful.”

Eusebius, in his ecclesiastical history, says that Bartholomew the apostle, when he went forth to preach and propagate the Christian faith, took along with him the gospel of St. Matthew, and particularly that he preached according to this gospel among the Indians…. This is also related by Jerome, which seems clearly to prove that St. Matthew’s gospel met with suitable reception and was esteemed of the greatest authority, even in the apostles times. Eusebius furthermore relates that Papias, who was (according to Irenaeus) a disciple of John and an acquaintance of Polycarp, intimates very clearly that St. Matthew’s gospel was in common use in his time, and that Hegesippus, a writer of the second century, “wrote some dissertations upon the gospel of Hebrews, or the gospel of Matthew, which the Nazarenes made use of.”…. Many of the most ancient manuscripts of this gospel do agree with Eusebius that Matthew’s gospel was written in the eighth year of our Savior’s ascension. Thus it is in Beza’s manuscript, the oldest now in the world. So it is in the end of several very ancient Greek manuscripts which Father Simon saw and more which are cited and referred to by Dr. Mill. The old Arabic version joins in the same account, viz. that he, Matthew, wrote his gospel in Palestine, eight years after our Savior’s ascension. Theophylact and Euthymius also assert this gospel to have been written in the eighth year after Christ’s ascension. And it may not be foreign to the purpose to observe how diligent and careful Eusebius was in collecting his accounts of this sort, and that though there are some mistakes in his works, yet, for the most part, he is very accurate and exact, as a chronologer and historian. But Irenaeus seems not so exact, and in the next words gives an evidently false account of the time of St. Mark’s writing of his gospel. See Jones’s Canon of the New Testament, part iv, chap. v.

It is exceedingly natural to suppose that these two things together would soon lead the apostles to write some history of the acts and doctrine and sufferings of Christ, their great Lord, and the head of the Christian church: viz. First, their unavoidable experience of the need of such a thing. And secondly, the example of the penmen of the Old Testament, in writing the history of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and others, whose persons and actions they esteemed of vastly less importance than those of the Son of God, who was greater than Jonas, or David, or Solomon, or Moses or Abraham.

It is a great argument that there were some genuine gospels, or authentic histories of Christ’s life and death, that the Christian church had under the name of gospels, that there were such a multitude of forged fabulous accounts, or histories, of Christ, all under the same name of gospels. These fictions are evidently counterfeits and imitations of something that was looked on by all as true and undoubted. And that there should be such a multitude of counterfeits and imitations of these gospels, shows not only that there were genuine gospels, but also shows the great value and importance of these genuine gospels, and the high repute they had in the Christian churches.

Mr. Jones mentions the following spurious gospels, now not extant, mentioned by the writers of the primitive church. By the writers of the second century: the gospel of Judas Iscariot, the gospel of Truth, the gospel of the Egyptians, the gospel of Valentinus, and the gospel of Marcion. By writers of the third century: the gospel of the Twelve Apostles, the gospel of Basilides, the gospel of Thomas, and the gospel of Matthias. By writers of the fourth century: the gospel of Scythianus, the gospel of Bartholomew, the gospel of Apelles, the gospel of Lucianus, the gospel of Hesychius, the gospel of Perfection, the gospel of Eve, the gospel of Philip, the gospel of Ebonites, the gospel of Jude, the gospel of Encratites, the gospel of Cerinthus, the gospel of Merinthus, the gospel of Thaddeus, the gospel of Barnabas, and the gospel of Andrew. And some he mentions besides, that are now extant, as the gospel of our Savior’s infancy and the gospel of Nicodemus.

St. Mark’s gospel is also evidently canonical, because it is in all the catalogues of canonical books that we have in the writings of the primitive Christians, and it is one of those four gospels that are spoken of so often by the fathers, as those only that ought to be received as above. And it is in the Syriac version of the New Testament, and (which is remarkable) though there be so few passages in Mark, which are not in St. Matthew’s gospel more largely, and St. Matthew’s gospel be first and written by an apostle, and so more likely to be taken notice of, yet St. Mark’s gospel is often cited by the fathers as Justin Martyr once does in these words: “It is said that he changed the name of one of his apostles into Peter, and the fact is related in his commentaries or gospel.”

This is not in Matthew, but in Mark 3:16, and though it be in Luke, yet it is evident that Justin refers to Mark and not to Luke’s gospel, which he calls the commentaries or gospel of Peter. For Mark’s gospel, and not Luke’s, was so called by the fathers. Irenaeus, in his writings, cites six places that are only in St. Mark’s gospel and twice cites him by name. Clemens Alexandrinus, in his little tract, had cited a long paragraph out of Mark’s gospel, viz. Mark 10:17-32, and then adds, “These things are written in the gospel according to Mark.” Tertullian has cited nine places in St. Mark’s gospel that are not in any other. It would be superfluous and endless labor to go in like manner through all the writers of the four first centuries. Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Jerome, Austin, etc. have made too many references to this gospel, to require a collection of them all.

As to the penman of this gospel, the name is mentioned four times in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:12, 25; Acts 15:37, 39). The same person is also mentioned in Acts 13:5, 13; thrice in St. Paul’s epistles (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phm. 24) and once by St. Peter (1 Pet. 4:13). The ancients all agree that Mark the Evangelist was a companion or interpreter of Peter. So Papias, Irenaeus, the author of the Hypotyposes (which went under the name of Clemens Alexandrinus and was supposed to be his by Eusebius, Origen, Jerome, and many others of the fathers), which is confirmed by 1 Pet. 5:13, “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.” The name is the same in the original that elsewhere is rendered Mark…. Eusebius relates that Mark wrote his gospel at Rome, when he was there with Peter in the reign of Claudius, on the earnest request of the people who desired to have truths they had heard written down, and that Peter approved of it and confirmed the gospel that he had written…

It is a great argument that St. Mark’s gospel was written honestly and that it was no knavish forgery, that it is so much like St. Matthew’s, only shorter. For what could induce a knave to go about to forge a history of Christ’s life and death, having scarce anything remarkable in it, but what was in an history already extant and very little differing from it in any respect, only that it has not so much in it.?…. The likeness between St. Mark’s and St. Matthew’s gospel argues the honesty of the penman of St. Mark’s gospel, whether we suppose he had the other before him or not. If he knew of the other and had it before him, then if he had been a knave and wrote with a dishonest design, he would have added some remarkable things of his own. For if St. Mark had written with this design, he would not have said less than St. Matthew’s…. And on the other supposition, viz. of his not knowing of the other, or copying from it, its likeness with it is a demonstration that he did not make or feign what he wrote. For it is impossible that two impostors, without consulting with one another, should make two such histories so much alike.

St. Luke’s gospel also is to be esteemed canonical. For besides what has been observed before of the Syriac version and the ancient catalogues, and what has been observed above, concerning all the four gospels together. This gospel is often cited by the fathers, in those things that it contains that are not in the other gospels. Five such citations are found in the epistles of Clemens Romanus. St. Ignatius cites St. Luke in his epistle to the Smyrneans. Justin Martyr cites this gospel nine times, and Irenaeus cites St. Luke’s above an hundred times…. The citations out of this gospel in the works of Tertullian, Origen, Cyril, Cyprian, Ambrose, Austin, Jerome, etc. are so very numerous, and so easy to be observed everywhere in their writings, that I shall omit making any collections out of them. These, as the preceding fathers, appeal always to this gospel as Scripture, and no wonder they should, when they were assured it was, as Eusebius calls it, an inspired book. And that this book was read as Scripture in the churches of the primitive Christians, there is the same evidence that there is for the forementioned gospels. Marcion, the heretic, and his heretical followers, had a different gospel of Luke from that which we now receive, which has largely been refuted by Iranaeus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius.

That St. Luke’s gospel should be so early counterfeited is an evidence that there was a genuine gospel of St. Luke’s, and is also an evidence of the value and importance of that genuine gospel.

The penman of this gospel is mentioned, Col. 4:14, “Luke the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.” 2 Tim. 4:11, “only Luke is with me.” See also Phm. 24. He was not a Jew, as is evident, because he intimates that the dialect of the Jews was not his language, Acts 1:19. And St. Paul distinguishes him from those of the circumcision, Col. 4:10-11, compared with verse 14…. He was a long time the constant companion of St. Paul in his travels. This is proved both by the New Testament and the fathers. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16:10, etc.), which book at present I shall take for granted was written by Luke, we find him accompanying St. Paul in his voyage from Troas to Macedonia, for he speaks there in the first person plural. Acts chapters 20 and 21 tell us of Luke’s accompanying Paul to Jerusalem, as Acts 27 does of his going along with him to Rome. And accordingly, St. Paul, in several of his epistles written from Rome, mentions St. Luke as being with him there. The evangelist Luke seems to be spoken of by the apostle Paul as a man of extraordinary note in the Christian church in general, as a person of great integrity and faithfulness, and as, therefore, a fit person, above any other, to be joined with the apostle in the care and disposal of so great a sum as the collection made in Macedonia and Greece for the saints at Jerusalem, 2 Cor. 8:18-20…. The particular view or design which St. Luke had in this gospel seems to have been to confute the many silly apocryphal gospels, which were then extant, and to prevent the bad influences of them and their heretical doctrines upon the Christian converts. This is what is so manifest from the first words of the gospel, and the universal voice of antiquity, that I need say no more.

As to St. John’s gospel, there are the same arguments from the Syriac version, the primitive catalogues of sacred books, and from what the ancient fathers have testified concerning the four gospels together, to prove the authority of this gospel, as of the preceding….

St. Ignatius cites this gospel three times, Justin Martyr five times, and Theophilus Antiochenus, in his second book to Autolychus, cites John 1:1-2, etc., and introduces it thus: “So the Holy Scriptures teach, and all inspired writers, among whom is John, who saith, In the beginning was the Word,” etc. Iranaeus has appealed to, or cited this gospel in above one hundred and twenty several places, and eleven times cites it by name, and several times cites this gospel under the express and distinguishing name of Scripture…. The matter is so clear and the citations so numerous in the writings of Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, and Austin, etc. that I thought it needless to collect them. And there is the same evidence of this gospel’s being read as Scripture in the assemblies or churches of the primitive Christians, as of the other gospels…. And Origen says, “This gospel was received as among the books that were admitted by all the churches in the world.”

The penman of this gospel, by the account which other writers of the history of the New Testament give us, was one of those apostles that were most highly favored and honored of Christ. He was one of those three that were admitted to be in the mount with Christ at his transfiguration, and to be present with him when he raised Jairus’s daughter, whom he took with him in his agony, and was sent with Peter to prepare his last passover, Luke 22:8. After Christ’s ascension, he preached with Peter in the temple and healed the lame man, preached to the people, was apprehended of the Sadducees, imprisoned, and boldly pleaded in defense of Christianity. He was the deputy of the apostles with Peter, to go to Samaria to confirm the disciples there, and is one of those three whom the apostle Paul speaks of as the main pillars, Gal. 2:9.

St. John seems to have had two particular designs in writing his gospel, viz. the confuting certain heretics and supplying the defects of the history of Christ in the other gospels. Irenaeus tells us, “That the evangelist designed, by his gospel, to confute the errors which Cerinthus and the Nicolaitans had infused into the people, who imagined that there was one God, who was the Creator, and another who was the Christ, who descended upon Jesus the Son of the Creator.” ….Clemens Alexandrinus, Eusebius, Jerome, etc. testify that he wrote his gospel to supply the defects of the other gospels.

As to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke was the penman of the book so called, as is apparent from the constant testimony of all antiquity, the matter being never once questioned by any of the catholic church. Irenaeus has, in several places, ascribed this history to St. Luke as its author…. Terullian cites several places out of the Acts of the Apostles, which he calls the commentary of Luke. Origen ascribes the Acts of the apostles to Luke. Eusebius says, “Luke hath left us two inspired volumes, viz. the gospel and the Acts. Jerome also expressly asserts the Acts to be the composure of Luke. And several ancient manuscript Greek copies, have the name of St. Luke prefixed to the history, as also has the old Syriac version.

The Acts of the Apostles contains the history of the infant state of the Christian church for the space of about twenty-eight years. Luke begins this history where his gospel left off, and ends it with the relation of Paul’s being brought to Rome, and his abode there for the space of two years. Hence we may see near to what time this history of the Acts was written, viz. either in the year of Christ 62, or not long after….

The Acts of the Apostles are of canonical authority, because it is found in all the catalogues of sacred books which we have in the writings of the primitive Christians, is in the Syriac version, was read as Scripture in the churches or assemblies of Christians of the first ages, and is cited and appealed to as Scripture in the writings of the primitive Christians [Clemens Romanus, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.].

It is a great evidence that there was some book of Acts that was very early universally known and esteemed of great value and authority in the Christian church and accounted a sacred book, [in] that there was such a multitude of spurious books forged and published under the same name of The Acts. Nothing that had not great repute would have set so many to work to counterfeit it and make them so fond of paralleling their spurious pieces with that book that was originally received, and many of them bearing the very same name of the Acts of the Apostles…. Grotius De Verit. lib. xiii, chap. iii.

1332b. The Authorship of the Gospels. Concerning that objection that the four gospels containing Christ’s prophecies were written after the destruction of Jerusalem, and so after the existence of the principal events seemingly foretold in the gospels: what is said in the following quotation is worthy of notice.

“There is only one subterfuge remaining to our adversaries, viz. that the gospels were written after the fulfillment of these things. But,

1. The most approved and most ancient writers extant, relate that at least the three first evangelists wrote their gospels before the destruction of Jerusalem.

2. Several things argue that the Acts of the Apostles were written before the destruction of Jerusalem. It is plain that this history was written while Paul was a prisoner, because although all Paul’s acts are most exactly related, yet there is no mention of his deliverance from bonds. But the historian breaks off in the middle of his history. But Luke, before he wrote the Acts of the Apostles, had already written his gospel, and to that he immediately appeals in the beginning of the Acts. But the gospel of Matthew is still more ancient. Hence all these must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem.

3. Nor is it to be omitted that these very prophecies of Christ are so composed that it very clearly appears from their manner that they were by no means written after the abolition of that sacred constitution. For in those prophecies, according to the prophetic style, the end of the world is immediately joined with the end of the old typical world, as if the one immediately followed the other, which would not have been done if these prophecies had been published by impostors after the destruction of Jerusalem. For in this case they would not have used the style most commonly used by the prophets.

Another good argument in favor of the true time of the writing of the gospels may be taken from the epistles of Paul. For the most of them were written before his first imprisonment, which is certain, from the most accurate chronologies. But he everywhere in his writings presupposes the gospel history.” [Stapferi Theol. Polem. Tom. II. p. 1127]

Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:

Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.

Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

New Releases

advertisement

APM Newsletter

advertisement
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!