« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
bility can be shown merely by trusting to physiological reasoning. But on the same ground, Hume has objected to all miracles; and so might others do. Yet this cannot prove, that he who made the world may not and does not interpose-and this in a variety of ways-in order to accomplish special ends which the usual laws of nature will not accomplish.
But let us view the subject, for a moment, in another light. Suppose a writer should now appear on the stage, who, in describing the occurrences of the last generation in Boston, should state the existence there of such a pool as that of Bethesda. What should we say of him, in case matters were as we now know them to have been? We should say: 'This author is either a fool or a madman.' And what would become of his book? Of course it would be regarded with universal contempt.
Now John, in telling the story of the impotent man, has made an appeal to all Jews, and to all the world who knew any thing of Jerusalem, as to the facts which he has stated. Even omitting the disputed part of the account, the words of the impotent man still imply, for substance, all which that contains. John, then, has either represented this man as being a madman, or else John himself was mad, when he published such a story, if it be not founded in fact. There was not a place of any note, in all the eastern world, which did not contain Jews who had been up to Jerusalem to the feast. They must all have known whether the story about such a pool as John's Gospel mentions, was well or ill founded; and in the latter case, the credit of his Gospel must have been ruined at once. Was John so destitute of common sense, as to throw out upon the world such an idle fabrication, at the risk of all credit and all respect? So I cannot think; and therefore I admit the fact as stated in the Textus Receptus.
But it will be said, that in this statement I assume the fact that John did publish the paragraph now disputed. I have done so; but I am willing to assume the ground that the paragraph marked in Knapp as suspicious, is to be omitted. do matters then stand? They stand thus, viz. that the representation of the impotent man renders it necessary to suppose, that his own views of the healing virtues of the pool were the common and popular views; else why the porches, and the numerous valetudinarian visiters there? Otherwise, moreover, John has introduced a man as telling a story, which has not, and never had, the least foundation in point of fact, or even of
SECOND SERIES, VOL. 1. NO. I.
supposed fact; a story which every inhabitant of Jerusalem, not to say of Palestine, could of his own personal knowledge contradict. In fact we cannot for a moment imagine, that the views of the multitude were not such as the answer of the impotent man implies that they were. Surely John has not represented this man as gravely saying what every body knew to be false or ridiculous. What then could have occasioned such a popular belief as this?
But after all, it will be said, there is this advantage in leaving out the disputed clause, viz. John is not then made responsible for the truth of what is said concerning the virtues of the pool of Bethesda; he merely states what the popular belief was, through the medium of what is said by the impotent man.
To this I should reply, that the aspect of the whole story is such, even on the ground of omitting the disputed passage in it, as seems to my mind plainly to imply, that John did not deem the account given by the impotent man as inconsistent with truth, or as varying from it. No qualifying word of John's gives us even a hint, that he supposes the man to be merely speaking out his own superstitious and groundless views. I do not, therefore, think any substantial difficulty is avoided by rejecting the disputed passage; and the rest of the account is such as, in my view, to render the admission of it apparently neces
Even if John did not himself write the disputed part of the paragraph before us, whoever did insert it, he must have done so at a very early period; certainly before the close of the second century, or rather, before the middle of it; for the Peshito contains it in full. The interpolator, then, must have been a very strange man, if he could suppose that a fact like this would not be generally known among the readers of John's Gospel, to be either true or false. If false, how could his interpolation escape being detected?
In a word; the difficulties are not by any means confined to the Textus Receptus. The omission of the disputed passage seems to me to throw more difficulty in our way, than the reception of it. At any rate I am far enough from thinking, as Mr. Norton says he does, that John did not adopt the common error of his countrymen respecting the agency of an angel in the case in question, because he appears to have been free from a more general error, viz. the belief that diseases were occasioned by demoniacal possession;' p. lxxxvi.
The narrative of the woman taken in adultery and accused before the Saviour, related in John 8: 3-11, Mr. Norton believes to be true, but says: "We may conclude with confidence that it was not written by St. John;" p. lxxxvi..
There is, indeed, a strange discrepancy of Mss. as to this account. Not to mention others of less importance, the Codices B. L. omit it, while D. G. H. K. M. N. insert it. The Versions and the Fathers are also divided. But still, the majority of testimony seems plainly to be in its favour. In this state of things, and when there is nothing in manner or matter which affords any serious hindrance to the reception of this paragraph, I do not see how we can C confidently conclude that John did not write it.'
The two last verses of John's Gospel are also suspected by Mr. Norton. But here, for a cogent reason, he does not appeal to critical authorities. His objections therefore are, that in v. 24 the writer says oïdaμev (first person plural), while in v. 25 he says oua (first person singular); that he says, "the world could not contain the books, if the life of Jesus had been fully written,' which is "extravagant hyperbole ;" and that the passage wears the appearance of an appended editorial note.
As to the first objection, one need only read a little way in Paul's epistles, in order to find the change of person from we to I, and he will see that it is a matter of very frequent occurrence; as indeed it is elsewhere. The second objection may easily be met by asking, whether, when Jesus says: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," this is extravagant hyperbole? Who can well suppose the meaning of John to be any thing else, than that in his opinion the state of the world was such, in regard to the publication of books, that a biography so copious as to include every thing which Jesus said and did, would not be acceptable, or would not be tolerated?
In one sense I can admit what is said by Mr. Norton about an "editorial note.” But then I must suppose John to be the editor of his own Gospel. That others should be vouchers for him, as Mr. Norton supposes, would be a strange occurrence in the New Testament books. I omit any remarks on the peculiar sense which Mr. Norton says is given to several words in this passage, because they do not seem to me to be of sufficient importance to establish his position.
Thus have I summarily gone through with the examination of Mr. Norton's reasons for rejecting from the text various passages in the Gospels as they now lie before us. I do not say, that there is no ground of doubt in any of these cases; but it is my apprehension, that according to the state of the evidence now before us, there is not sufficient reason to reject any of these passages; and in respect to some of them there is evidence, which at present is incontrovertible, that they ought to be received as genuine parts of the text.
I have now, at the close of these discussions, some brief reflections to make, on the general method chosen by Mr. Norton of discussing or managing this very important topic, viz. the genuineness of particular passages in the Gospels. Having bestowed so much attention upon his views, and canvassed to so great an extent his objections, I am unwilling to take my leave of the subject, without suggesting a few things which appear to me of great importance, in relation to such an affair as adding to or taking from the word of God.
I cherish no superstitious feelings in relation to this subject, which would induce me, in any way, to impede or restrain the most free and full investigation. It must be perfectly plain to every thinking mind, which has any acquaintance with subjects of this nature, that the first printed editions of the New Testament have no peculiar claim to accuracy above other and subsequent editions with which far greater pains have been taken. The first printed edition was of course copied from Mss. Some of these appear to have been since lost; and with respect to the others, there is no ground to suppose that they had any unusual claims to accuracy. It is quite probable, that other and better Mss. have since been brought to light.
The simple question in respect to any or all New Testament Mss. is: Which, in all probability, comes nearest to the original autographs of the authors? Any evidence, internal or external, which will enable us to judge soundly in regard to this subject, should be attended to with eagerness and received with thankfulness.
I fully coincide with the sentiment that has sometimes been expressed, viz. that there is as much reason to be on our guard against adding to the word of God as there is against taking from it. The penalty is the same in both cases: and on the ground of justice and propriety it ought to be the same.
In all investigations of this nature, then, a judgment strictly
impartial should, if possible, be made out. But in order to do this, one must conform the whole process of his efforts to find what the true text is, to the simple and impartial rules of criticism. These have been established, so far as they may be considered as settled, on grounds independent of any particular theological bias or opinion. They are rules which apply to the investigation of all books alike, whether sacred or profane.
One remark more I may add, before I make the application of these principles to the case before us. This is, that questions of lower criticism, i. e. questions which simply respect the state of the text, have, and can have, with few exceptions indeed, little or nothing to do with the opinions or sentiments which may be expressed in any particular passage, or even book. The real critical question in every such case, is not whether the author's opinions are true or false; it is simply, whether he wrote what is seemingly attributed to him.
I do not say this, however, as I have intimated above, without some limitations. There may be cases, where a passage has been foisted into a writing, which passage is so entirely irreconcilable with the tenor of the author, either as to sentiment, or manner, or as to both, that no external evidence can wholly overcome the probability of its spuriousness. Such are the passages exhibited by Mr. Norton in pp. xcv. seq. of his work. The bare reading of them seals at once their condemnation.
It is easy, moreover, to imagine many cases, where the same thing might be truly said. But then it is not common to meet with such passages in any works of importance, which are popular and well known, and have had an extensive circulation. The difficulty must have always been very great, when Mss. (and not books) were in use, of making any interpolation of this nature which would be generally adopted.
Setting aside then such flagrant cases, which occur rarely indeed, let us confine our views to the more practical parts of the subject before us. Is it true, in the cases produced by Mr. Norton which he believes to be interpolations, that there is such marked differences of style and manner, as would rank them with cases such as I have just mentioned? I venture to say, that it is not. My belief is, that a reader, who never had heard any thing of the various readings of the New Testament, and knew nothing of the contests about the genuineness of particular passages, and whom we will suppose to be well acquainted with the subject of criticism in relation to classic authors,