Imatges de pÓgina
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A

METHOD

FOR

SETTLING THE CANON

OF THE

NEW TESTAMENT.

PART II.

CHAP. I. The design of the second part. Some general observations premised. That several titles were given formerly to one book. That several of the apocryphal books were made out of our present canonical books. That no apocryphal books

have been ever appealed to by the Christians as of authority. HAVING, in the preceding part of this volume, endeavoured to make a complete enumeration of all the lost apocryphal books of the New Testament, and laid down several propositions, by which they may be distinguished from those which are truly canonical ; I proceed in this part to make a particular and critical inquiry into each of these books, and, by an application of the above-mentioned rules, to demonstrate, . that no one of them ever was, or ought to be, reputed of the canon; withal producing every fragment, and every thing else that is said concerning them by any Christian writer or writers of the first

four centuries after Christ. But, before I enter upon this work, I think it necessary to premise a few observations, which may be serviceable to give light to the whole; viz.

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OBSERV. I. That several of the different titles in the preceding Catalogue

of lost books, belonged to one and the same book. SO it frequently happened, that many of those pieces which appear either to have been entirely the same, or very little different, passed under two, or three, or more different denominations. Thus The Gospel according to the Hebrews, The Gospel according to the Nazarenes, The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Gospel according to the Twelve Apostles, The Gospel of Cerinthus, The Gospel of Bartholomew, seem to have been the different names of the same Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew, in some places perhaps altered and interpolated. So also The Acts under the titles of Leucius, Lentitius, Leontius, Lenthon, Seleucus, The Acts of the Apostles made use of by the Manichees, and several other titles, denoted only one spurious book, which was the forgery of Leucius Charinus. In like manner, The Revelation and Anabaticon of Paul were one book; The Preaching of Peter and Paul one book, and the same with The Doctrine of Peter, and several others.

Nor can it be thought strange, that this variety of denominations should have happened to those books; since we find the very same thing to have happened to some of those books which are now received into the canon of the New Testament. “ The Gospel,” for instance, “ which now goes under the name “ of Mark, was formerly ascribed to Peter, and called his," as we are informed both by Tertullian a and Jerome b. And “ The Gospel which we now call St. Luke's, formerly went 6 under the name of St. Paul,” as we are expressly assured by the former of those ancient writers ", insomuch that it was a prevailing opinion among the primitive Christians, that when St. Paul in his Epistles expresses himself thus, according to my gospel, which he several times dothd, he meant the Gospel of St. Luke. So Eusebius e, Jeromef, and others.

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a

Evangelium quod Marcus edidit, Petri affirmatur. Adv. Marcion. 1. 4.

d Rom. ii. 16. xvi. 25. See also Gal. i. 8. 2 Thess. ii. 14.

c. 5:

Evangelium juxta Marcum, qui auditor Petri et interpres fuit, hujus dicitur. Catal. Script. Eccles. in Petr. See below, chap. 31. No. L.

c Tertull. loc. jam cit.

• Φασί δε ώς άρα του κατ' αυτόν (Lucam) ευαγγελίου μνημονεύειν ο Παύλος είωθεν, δπηνίκα ως περί ιδίου τινός ευαγγελίου γράφων έλεγε, Κατά το ευαγγέλιον μου. . Hist. Eccl. 1. 3. C. 4.

f Quidam suspicantur quotiescunque in epistolis suis Paulus dicit, juxta evangelium meum, de Lucæ signifi

If it be inquired, whence this variety of denominations proceeded, I assign the following reasons ;

viz. 1. The uncertainty persons were under as to the author of the book. This seems to have been the case in respect of the various titles of Luke and Mark's Gospels.

2. The various denominations of the heretics, who made use of the same book, occasioned its having a different title. For instance, hence it came to pass that the Hebrew Gospel was sometimes called The Gospel of the Nazarenes, and sometimes The Gospel of the Ebionites: and,

3. Because it was not customary for the authors of those times to affix titles to their works; and so their works being dispersed into different countries, some made use of one denomination, which they thought most suitable to the design of the book, others of another. Thus, for instance, the book which was by some called The Preaching, i. e. Sermons, of Peter, was by others called The Doctrine of Peter.

OBSERV. II. Several of the books of the catalogue were compiled out of

those books which are now received into the canon of the New Testament.

IT appeared to the heretics of those times a very probable, as indeed in the event it proved a very successful, method, to propagate their favourite notions under the name of some apostle: this, they saw, would procure them much greater regard and esteem, and this gave birth to most of these apocryphal composures. But though some of them boldly ventured to prefix the apostles' names to that which was entirely their own composure, others more artfully mixed their own and some apostle's writings together, retaining only so much of his writing, as would enable them with the greater confidence to impose their spurious piece upon the world, as really his. Thus did the Nazarenes, Marcion, Hesychius, Lucianus, and others. OBSERV. III. No Christian writer hath appealed to, or made use of any of

care volumine. Catal. Script. Eccles. in Luc.

the books of the preceding catalogue (i. e. of the lost apocryphal books of the New Testament) as of any authority.

ALTHOUGH the proof of this proposition be the main business of the subsequent part of this volume, yet I thought it necessary to premise some general account of this matter here, because the main of the controversy about the canon of the New Testament does certainly depend upon this question, viz. What those books are, which the primitive writers of Christianity appealed to, as sacred, in their writings, or after what manner they appealed to them? Mr. Dodwell, Mr. Toland, and others, who have attempted to make the canon of scripture precarious and uncertain, principally insist upon this, That the present books of the canon and others are indifferently and promiscuously cited and appealed to in the most ancient records of the Christian religion. And inasmuch as several learned men have too unguardedly dropt expressions of the like nature, I thought it not improper to give the reader here the following general account of the manner in which these books are cited. I assert then,

1. That, for the most part, the apocryphal books above-mentioned are expressly, and in so many words, rejected by those who have mentioned them, as the forgeries of heretics, and so as spurious and apocryphal. This I assert (upon the closest and most impartial inquiry into all the places of their writings, where any of them are named) to be true as to almost every individual book.

2. When any book is cited, or seems to be appealed to by any Christian writer, which is not expressly and in so many words rejected by him, there are other sufficient arguments to prove that he did not esteem it to be canonical. Thus, for instance, though Origen in one or two places takes a passage out of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, yet in another place he rejects it under the name of the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, as a book of the heretics, and declares, “ the church “ received only four Gospels g."

g See below in this part, chap. 28.

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