Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 264"The Gospel of the Hebrews" commenced with giving the genealogy of Jesus from David, through Joseph "according to the flesh." The story of Jesus being born of a virgin was not to be found there, it being an afterpiece, originating either with the writer of "The Gospel according to Matthew," or some one after him, and was evidently taken from "The Gospel of the Egyptians." "The Gospel of the Hebrews"—from which, we have said, the Matthew narrator copied—was an intensely Jewish gospel, and was to be found—in one of its forms—among the Ebionites, who were the narrowest Jewish Christians of the second century. "The Gospel according to Matthew" is, therefore, the most Jewish gospel of the four; in fact, the most Jewish book in the New Testament, excepting, perhaps, the Apocalypse and the Epistle of James.
Some of the more conspicuous Jewish traits, to be found in this gospel, are as follows:
Jesus is sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The twelve are forbidden to go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans. They are to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The genealogy of Jesus is traced back to Abraham, and there stops.[455:1] The works of the law are frequently insisted on. There is a superstitious regard for the Sabbath, &c.
There is no evidence of the existence of the Gospel of Matthew,—in its present form—until the year 173, A. D. It is at this time, also, that it is first ascribed to Matthew, by Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis. The original oracles of the Gospel of the Hebrews, however,—which were made use of by the author of our present [Pg 456]Gospel of Matthew,—were written, likely enough, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem, but the Gospel itself dates from about A. D. 100.[456:1]
"The Gospel according to Luke" is believed to come next—in chronological order—to that of Matthew, and to have been written some fifteen or twenty years after it. The author was a foreigner, as his writings plainly show that he was far removed from the events which he records.
In writing his Gospel, the author made use of that of Matthew, the Gospel of the Hebrews, and Marcion's Gospel. He must have had, also, still other sources, as there are parables peculiar to it, which are not found in them. Among these may be mentioned that of the "Prodigal Son," and the "Good Samaritan." Other parables peculiar to it are that of the two debtors; the friend borrowing bread at night; the rich man's barns; Dives and Lazarus; the lost piece of silver; the unjust steward; the Pharisee and the Publican.
Several miracles are also peculiar to the Luke narrator's Gospel, the raising of the widow of Nain's son being the most remarkable. Perhaps these stories were delivered to him orally, and perhaps he is the author of them,—we shall never know. The foundation of the legends, however, undoubtedly came from the "certain scriptures" of the Essenes in Egypt. The principal object which the writer of this gospel had in view was to reconcile Paulinism and the more Jewish forms of Christianity.[456:2]
The next in chronological order, according to the same school of critics, is "The Gospel according to Mark." This gospel is supposed to have been written within ten years of the former, and its author, as of the other two gospels, is unknown. It was probably written at Rome, as the Latinisms of the author's style, and the apparent motive of his work, strongly suggest that he was a Jewish citizen of the Eternal City. He made use of the Gospel of Matthew as his principal authority, and probably referred to that of Luke, as he has things in common with Luke only.
The object which the writer had in view, was to have a neutral go-between, a compromise between Matthew as too Petrine (Jewish), and Luke as too Pauline (Gentile). The different aspects of Matthew and Luke were found to be confusing to believers, and provocative of hostile criticism from without; hence the idea of writing a shorter gospel, that should combine the most essential elements of both. Luke was itself a compromise between the [Pg 457]opposing Jewish and universal tendencies of early Christianity, but Mark endeavors by avoidance and omission to effect what Luke did more by addition and contrast. Luke proposed to himself to open a door for the admission of Pauline ideas without offending Gentile Christianity; Mark, on the contrary, in a negative spirit, to publish a Gospel which should not hurt the feelings of either party. Hence his avoidance of all those disputed questions which disturbed the church during the first quarter of the second century. The genealogy of Jesus is omitted; this being offensive to Gentile Christians, and even to some of the more liberal Judaizers. The supernatural birth of Jesus is omitted, this being offensive to the Ebonitish (extreme Jewish) and some of the Gnostic Christians. For every Judaizing feature that is sacrificed, a universal one is also sacrificed. Hard words against the Jews are left out, but with equal care, hard words about the Gentiles.[457:1]
We now come to the fourth, and last gospel, that "according to John," which was not written until many years after that "according to Matthew."
"It is impossible to pass from the Synoptic[457:2] Gospels," says Canon Westcott, "to the fourth, without feeling that the transition involves the passage from one world of thought to another. No familiarity with the general teachings of the Gospels, no wide conception of the character of the Saviour, is sufficient to destroy the contrast which exists in form and spirit between the earlier and later narratives."
The discrepancies between the fourth and the Synoptic Gospels are numerous. If Jesus was the man of Matthew's Gospel, he was not the mysterious being of the fourth. If his ministry was only one year long, it was not three. If he made but one journey to Jerusalem, he did not make many. If his method of teaching was that of the Synoptics, it was not that of the fourth Gospel. If he was the Jew of Matthew, he was not the Anti-Jew of John.[457:3]
Everywhere in John we come upon a more developed stage of Christianity than in the Synoptics. The scene, the atmosphere, is different. In the Synoptics Judaism, the Temple, the Law and the Messianic Kingdom are omnipresent. In John they are remote and vague. In Matthew Jesus is always yearning for his own nation. In John he has no other sentiment for it than