Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is unuecessary for me to repeat liere the considerations, which may well induce us to decide against the probability that our present canonical Matthew is a translation. It bears no marks of such a character; and the conduct of the ancient churches in regard to this whole matter, is decided evidence that it was never practically treated by them as such, whatever a few individuals may have said or conjectured in respect to this subject.

Even if it were a translation, how can any one now tell how many copies of the Hebrew Gospel were compared when it was niade, in order to ascertain the best text? Why should we presume that a work so well done as this translation surely is, (if indeed it be one), was so negligently performed as to consult only one or a very few copies of the text? If we do so, we must venture, not upon one, but upon several presumptions, in order to proceed with Mr. Norton in the work of excision.

The passage in question, which is suspected by Mr. Norton, respects the repentance and suicide of Judas, and the manner in which the thirty pieces of silver he had received for bis treachery, were disposed of by the chief priests. Mr. Norton tells us, that “ at first view this account of Judas has the aspect of an interpolation.” The whole story, if true, he asserts to be “out of place.” According to him, it refers to “ a subsequent period of time." The narration states, that Judas repented, when he saw that Jesus was condemned ; and early in the morning "no condemnation had yet been passed upon Jesus by the Roman governor; and Judas could have no new convictions that the Sanhedrim would use all their efforts to procure the death of Jesus.” The suspected passage further represents Judas as having had an interview with the chief priests and elders (i. e. the Sanhedrim) in the temple; which is irreconcilable with the course of events as represented by Matthew in the context of the passage, as well as by the other Evangelists.”

Matthew could not have represented the council as held in the house of Caiaphas, and at the same time as conferring with Judas in the temple.'

To this last remark one may well reply, that Matthew does not so represent it. He does not say where the council was actually held. He merely tells us, that the chief priests and the elders met in council, early in the morning, nowią; and Mark also says, (which amounts to the same thing), that the whole Sanhedrim (ölov to ovvi&glor) were assembled. Where?

[ocr errors]

No one says, as Mr. Norton assumes, at the house of Caiaphas, on this occasion. Nor is this at all probable. I do not understand, from any thing which we know respecting this subject, that the ball of the high-priest's house was the place for the meeting of the Sanhedrim.

Judas, then, who, no doubt, had passed a night of dreadful horror, appeared before the Council thus assembled, and cast the money down in their presence. Then he went forthwith and hanged himself. That money they dared not put into the sacred treasury. What should be done with it?

They decided to purchase with it the Potter's Field, as a burial place for strangers. It is not necessary to suppose that all the particular transactions of actual purchase were gone through with on this very morning. Enough that they directed the money to be so appropriated; and inasmuch as this was done, the Evangelist, naturally enough, mentions the purchase with other particulars of the story in the same connection.

Thus far then there is nothing in any degree improbable. but Mr. Norton tells us that Jesus was not yet condemned, and that 'there was no new ground of conviction, in the morning, that the Sanhedriin would pursue their bloody persecution.'

Yet the circumstances of this occasion appear to my mind very differently from what he represents them to be. After the apprehension of Jesus, the evening before the crucifixion, he was brought immediately to the house of Caiaphas. On this occasion, no intimation is given by the Evangelists that the whole Sanhedrim were assembled. Plainly they were not. It was the next morning, that öhov to ovvidgrov was assembled, and doubtless at the temple, where they usually met, and not at the house of the high-priest. In this council, after the examination of Jesus, which was very short and summary, the highpriest asked his colleagues in council: “What think ye? And they answered and said: "Evoyos Javárov xoti,” Matt. 26: 66. Mark makes use here of the very expression employed in Matt. 27: 3, which is regarded as a part of the interpolation by Mr. Norton. He says: 01 de závies xarénoivav avrov sivai čvojov Juvárov, Mark 14: 64.

Now all this could have been done, and probably was done, very early in the morning, even before the sun had risen. The mock-trial did not require one half-hour. Judas, beyond all doubt, was present. His conscience urged him too much to allow of absence. The condemnation of Jesus, moreover, is

plainly stated in this account of the doings of the Council ; and this is enough to gainsay what Mr. Norton alleges, when he avers that there was no new ground of conviction in the morning, that the Sanhedrim would use all their efforts to procure the death of Jesus. Surely there was new evidence, and that of the highest and most authentic kind, viz., the unanimous sentence of the whole Sanhedrim that he was guilty of death.

What is there then in all this paragraph, which has “the aspect of an interpolation?' Luke, moreover, tells the story of Judas's suicide, Acts 1:18, 19; and also of the purchase of the Field of Blood. Is his account an interpolation ?

To say, as Mr. Norton does, that the paragraph in question interrupts the narration of Matthew, is at most only a rhetorical objection, if it be well founded. How many passages of such a nature can be found, in the Old Testament and in the New, every critical reader must well know.

But at all events, if the narration of Luke respecting Judas be admitted, Mr. Norton thinks the narration of Matthew now in question must be rejected. In his apprehension they are inconsistent with each other.

In Acts 1: 18 Peter is represented by Luke as stating, (1) That “ Judas purchased a field with the reward of iniquity. At first view this would seem to mean, that Judas himself made the purchase; but the true meaning of the speaker I apprehend to be, that Judas, instead of keeping in possession and enjoying the price of his treachery, by expending it for his own gratification, was obliged to relinquish it; after which, it was bestowed on the purchase of a burying-place for strangers. (2) Luke also says of Judas: “Falling headlony, he burst asunder, and all bis bowels gushed out.” “This,” he adds,

“ This," he adds, '“ was known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The question now before us is, whether this account is inconsistent, as is alleged, with that in Matthew.

A difficulty on this subject is indeed a matter of long standing. I must limit myself, however, on the present occasion, to a few remarks upon

it. In the first place, is it certain that the words in Luke's account, or rather in Peter's address, are to be literally understood? It seems to me more like a figurative description than a literal one. I am inclined to understand Peter as affirming, by the manner in which he speaks of Judas, that he came to a sudden, violent, and dreadful death, such as takes place in the case of

SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. I. 9

criminals, who are precipitated from some high tower or rock, (the Tarpeian rock will be readily called to mind as an example by the reader), and are dashed in pieces. But if any one should feel, that this is taking too much liberty with the language of Peter, (although cases enough of the like nature, in both the Old Testament and the New, might easily be produced), I will not dispute the point with him. There is no absolute inconsistency between the facts as stated by Luke and as stated by Matthew, if we interpret both of the statements literally. If Judas, when he hanged himself, swung bimself off from a height, and was cut down, or fell in consequence of the breaking of the cord by which he was suspended, either of which events is far enough from being impossible or even improbable, then did he “fall headlong, and his bowels gush out.” Certainly the latter circunstance is perfectly natural, on the supposition that he fell on pointed rocks below the precipice, or on any hard or sharp substance which might be beneath him. Peter chooses one of the circumstances to describe the manner of his end ; Matthew another. That such apparent discrepancies are frequent in all parts of the three first Gospels, every one knows who has made a diligent comparison of them.

But we are met, by Mr. Norton, with another objection against the passage in Matthew, which is, that the Evangelist has, in quoting the passage from the Old Testament respecting the thirty pieces of silver, ascribed the words to Jeremiah, and not, as they should be, to Zechariah (11: 12, 13).

So it stands in our text, indeed; and the reading (Jeremiah) is approved by Griesbach, and many other critics. Yet all the sources of authority, in this case, are not agreed. An excellent Codex (No. 22 in Griesbach) and the Philoxenian Syriac Version here read Zayagiov; two Codices of good note, (Nos. 33, 157), with the Peshito or old Syriac, wholly omit the proper name, and read ongiv dia' nyoqnrov. The majority of Mss. however, and the present weight of authority, seem to be in favor of the reading 'leosu.ov.

Griesbach thinks the quotation before us to be a plain case of lapse of memory in Matthew. Kuinoel, on the other hand, supposes Matthew to have quoted from an apocryphal Jeremiah then extant, (which Jerome testifies he had seen), both because of the name of the prophet mentioned at the beginning of the quotation, and because the sense given to the passage by the Evangelist, is very different from tbe sense of Zech. il: 12, 13.

Many other conjectures have been made, which it would be little to our purpose to mention.

In a case like this, wbich as to one particular is unique, (there being no other which will in all respects compare with it in the New Testament), it does not become any critic to be very confident. I have but two suggestions to make, and they are brief. (1) The ancient and well known order of the prophets among the Hebrews was, that Jeremiah should stand first or at the head of all the rest. The reasons assigned for this I need not pow mention. The fact is notorious, and will not be denied. If now, as was often the practice when a general reference only was to be made to the place of a text of Scripture, we may suppose that Jeremiah was quoted as the title of the prophetic volume, (and this because he stood at the head of it), then there is, after all, no serious difficulty in the case, and (I may of course add) no serious improbability. If the reading 'lapeulov be genuine, I should incline to this solution. It does not seem to me likely that Matthew, or whoever was the author of Matt. 27: 3-10, was ignorant of the particular place where such a peculiar text of Scripture was found as that before us.

But the old Syriac, it seems, was not made from a Ms. which presented the difficulty in question. If the solution above be not admitted, I should incline to believe that the original Ms. did not contain the pame of the prophet. Matthew, indeed, has frequently appealed to the prophets, particularly to Isaiah, by name; but in all cases, besides the present one, without any error. I cannot proffer positive proof that he did not commit an error, and write 'lequiov here ; but in the present state of disagreeing testimony, and of other circumstances, I do not feel at liberty to conclude that he has committed a mistake, certainly not such an one as Mr. Norton supposes to exist.

But passing all the difficulties about the name of the prophet quoted,' Mr. Norton thinks “the words of the Old Testament perverted,” as to the sense given to them. That Zechariah makes a use of the words in question in some respects different from that made by the Evangelist, I readily admit. But so it is in respect to a multitude of quotations from the Old Testament by the writers of the New Yet the admission of this does not seitle all the questions that occur in relation to this subject. One question I have to ask is, whether the action of Zechariah, described in the passage quoted from him, was symbolical ?

« PreviousContinue »