Accordingly, in the text, he substitutes for the latter sentence the words:—
Eusebius made a similar statement with regard to the use of the Epistle of Peter in the so-called Epistle of Polycarp, upon no more definite grounds than an apparent resemblance of expressions [192:2].
But the former part of the sentence is unaltered; the assertion 'as elsewhere' still remains unsubstantiated; and what is more important, he leaves the note exactly as it stood before, with the single reference to c. vii. Thus he has entirely misled his readers. He has deliberately ignored more than nine-tenths of the evidence in point of amount, and very far more than this proportion in point of cogency. The note was quite appropriate, supposing that the First Epistle of St John were meant, as I assumed; it is a flagrant suppressio veri, if it refers to the First Epistle of St Peter, as our author asserts that it does. The charge which I brought against him was only one of carelessness, which no one need have been ashamed to confess. The charge which his own explanation raises against him is of a far graver kind. Though he regrets the trouble he has given me, I do not regret it. It has enabled me to bring out the important fact that Eusebius may always be trusted in these notices relating to the use made of the Canonical Scriptures by early writers.
2. But this is not the only reason which the fragments in Eusebius supply for believing that Papias was acquainted with the Fourth Gospel. The extract from the preface suggests points of coincidence, which are all the more important because they are incidental. In the words, 'What was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew,' the first four names appear in the same order in which they are introduced on the scene by this Evangelist. As this order, which places Andrew before Peter, is anything but the natural order, the coincidence has a real significance. Moreover, three of these four hold a prominent place in the Fourth Gospel, which they do not hold in the others—Philip and Thomas being never once named by the Synoptic Evangelists, except in their lists of the Twelve. It has been said indeed that the position assigned to the name of John by Papias in his enumeration is inconsistent with the supposition that this Apostle wrote a Gospel, or even that he resided and taught in Asia Minor, because so important a personage must necessarily have been named earlier. But this argument proves nothing because it proves too much. No rational account can be given of the sequence, supposing that the names are arranged 'in order of merit.' Peter, as the chief Apostle, must have stood first; and John, as a pillar Apostle, would have been named next, or (if the James here mentioned is the Lord's brother) at all events next but one. This would have been the obvious order in any case; but, if Papias had any Judaic sympathies, as he is supposed to have had, no other is imaginable. This objection therefore is untenable. On the other hand, it is a remarkable fact that the two names, which are kept to the last and associated together, are just those two members of the Twelve to whom alone the Church attributes written Gospels. As Evangelists, the name of John and Matthew would naturally be connected. On any other hypothesis, it is difficult to account for this juxtaposition.
Again, it should be noticed that when Papias speaks of incidents in our Lord's life which are related by an eye-witness without any intermediation between Christ and the reporter, he describes them as 'coming from the Truth's self' [193:1] ([Greek: ap' autes tes aletheias]). This personification of Christ as 'the Truth' is confined to the Fourth Gospel.
3. When we turn from Eusebius to Irenaeus, we meet with other evidence pointing to the same result. I refer to a passage with which the readers of these articles will be familiar, for I have had occasion to refer to it more than once [194:1]; but I have not yet investigated its connection with Papias. Irenaeus writes [194:2]:—
As the elders say, then also shall they which have been deemed worthy of the abode in heaven go thither, while others shall enjoy the delight of paradise, and others again shall possess the brightness of the city; for in every place the Saviour shall be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see him. [They say] moreover that this is the distinction between the habitation of them that bring forth a hundred-fold, and them that bring forth sixty-fold, and them that bring forth thirty-fold; of whom the first shall be taken up into the heavens, and the second shall dwell in paradise, and the third shall inhabit the city; and that therefore our Lord has said, 'In my Father's abode are many mansions' ([Greek: en tois tou patros mou monas einai pollas]); for all things are of God, who giveth to all their appropriate dwelling, according as His Word saith that allotment is made unto all by the Father, according as each man is, or shall be, worthy. And this is the banqueting-table at which those shall recline who are called to the marriage and take part in the feast. The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, say that this is the arrangement and disposal of them that are saved, and that they advance by such steps, and ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, the Son at length yielding His work to the Father, as it is said also by the Apostle, 'for He must reign until He putteth all enemies under his feet,' etc. [194:3]
I am glad to be saved all further trouble about the grammar of this passage. Our author now allows that the sentence with which we are mainly concerned is oblique, and that the words containing a reference to our Lord's saying in St John's Gospel are attributed to the elders who are mentioned before and after. He still maintains however, that 'it is unreasonable to claim' the reference 'as an allusion to the work of Papias,' He urges in one place that there is 'a wide choice of presbyters, including even evangelists, to whom the reference of Irenaeus may with equal right be ascribed' [195:1]; in another, that 'the source of the quotation is quite indefinite, and may simply be the exegesis of his own day' [195:2]. To the one hypothesis it is sufficient to reply that no such explanation is found in the only four Evangelists whom Irenaeus recognized; to the other, that when Irenaeus wrote there were no 'disciples of the Apostles' living, so that he could have used the present tense in speaking of them.
This reference to the tense leads to a distinction of real importance. Critics have remarked that these reports of the opinions of the presbyters in Irenaeus must be accepted with reserve; that the reporter may unconsciously have infused his own thoughts and illustrations into the account; and that therefore we cannot adduce with entire confidence the quotations from the canonical writings which they contain. This caution is not superfluous, but it must not be accepted without limitation. The reports in Irenaeus are of two kinds. In some cases he repeats the conversations of his predecessors; in others he derives his information from published records. The hesitation, which is prudent in the one case, would be quite misplaced in the other. We shall generally find no difficulty in drawing the line between the two. Though there may be one or two doubtful instances, the language of Irenaeus is most commonly decisive on this point. Thus, when he quotes the opinions of the elder on the Two Testaments, he is obviously repeating oral teaching; for he writes, 'The presbyter used to say,' 'The presbyter would entertain us with his discourse,' 'The old man, the disciple of the Apostles, used to dispute' [196:1]. On the other hand, when in the passage before us he employs the present tense, 'As the elders say,' 'The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, say,' he is clearly referring to some document. No one would write, 'Coleridge maintains,' or 'Pitt declares,' unless he had in view some work or speech or biographical notice of the person thus quoted.
We may therefore safely conclude that in the passage before us Irenaeus is citing from some book. So far as regards the main question at issue, the antiquity of the Fourth Gospel, it matters little whether this book was the exegetical work of Papias or not. Indeed the supposition that it was a different work is slightly more favourable to my position, because it yields additional and independent testimony of the same date and character as that of Papias. But the following reasons combined make out a very strong case for assigning the passage to Papias. (1) It entirely accords with the method of Papias, as he himself describes it in his preface [197:1]. Scriptural passages are interpreted, and the sayings of the elders are interwoven with the interpretations. It accords equally well with the subject of his Expositions; for we know that he had a great fondness for eschatological topics, and that he viewed them in this light. (2) The possibilities are limited by the language, which confines our search to written documents. So far as we know there was, prior to the time of Irenaeus, no Christian work which would treat the same subject in the same way, and would at the same time satisfy the conditions implied in the words, 'The elders, the disciples of the Apostles, say.' (3) The connection with a previous passage is highly important in its bearing on this question. In the thirty-third chapter of his fifth and last book Irenaeus gives the direct reference to Papias which has been considered already [197:2]; in the thirty-sixth and final chapter occurs the passage with which we are now concerned. Is there reason to believe that the authority in these two passages is the same or different? Several considerations aid us in answering this question, and they all tend in the same direction. (i) The subject of the two passages is the same. They both treat of the future kingdom of Christ, and both regard it from the same point of view as a visible and external kingdom. (ii) In the next place the authorities in the two passages are described in similar terms. In the first passage they are designated at the outset 'the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord,' while at the close we are told that 'Papias records these things in writing in his fourth book: It is not clear whether these elders are the authorities whom Papias quotes, or the class to whom Papias himself belongs, and whom therefore he represents. Since Irenaeus regards Papias as a direct hearer of St John, this latter alternative is quite tenable, though perhaps not as probable as the other. But this twofold possibility does not affect the question at issue. In the second passage the authorities are described in the opening as 'the elders' simply, and at the close as 'the elders, the disciples of the Apostles.' Thus the two accord. Moreover, in the second passage 'the elders' are introduced without any further description, as if they were already known, and we therefore naturally refer back to the persons who have been mentioned and described shortly before. (iii) The subject is continuous from the one passage to the other, though it extends over four somewhat long chapters (c. 33-36). The discussion starts, as we have seen, from Christ's saying about drinking the fruit of the vine in His kingdom [198:1]. The authority of the elders, recorded in the work of Papias, is quoted to support a literal interpretation of these words, as implying a material recompense of the believers. Irenaeus then cites those prophecies of Isaiah which foretell the reign of peace on God's Holy Mountain (xi. 6 sq, lxv. 25 sq). This leads him to the predictions which announce the future triumphs of Israel and the glories of the New Jerusalem, all of which are interpreted literally as referring to a reign of Christ on earth. Creation thus renovated, he argues, will last for ever, as may be inferred from the promise of the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah lxvi. 22). Then follows the passage in question, which contains the interpretation, given by the elders, of Christ's saying concerning the many mansions in His Father's house. A few lines lower down Irenaeus refers again to the words respecting the fruit of the vine from which he had started; and after two or three sentences more the book ends.
These seem to be very substantial reasons for assigning the words to Papias. And probably the two passages which I have been considering do not stand alone. In an earlier part of this same fifth book Irenaeus writes [198:2]:—
Where then was the first man placed? In paradise plainly, as it is written 'And God planted a paradise....;' and he was cast out thence into this world, owing to his disobedience. Wherefore also the elders, disciples of the Apostles, say that those who were translated were translated thither (for paradise was prepared for righteous and inspired men, whither also the Apostle Paul was carried....) and that they who are translated remain there till the end of all things ([Greek: heos sunteleias]), preluding immortality.
On this passage our author remarks:—
It seems highly probable that these 'presbyters the disciples of the Apostles' who are quoted on paradise are the same 'presbyters the disciples of the Apostles' referred to on the same subject (v. 36. Sec.Sec. 1, 2), whom we are discussing [199:1].
With this opinion I entirely agree. 'But,' he adds, 'there is nothing whatever to connect them with Papias.' Here I am obliged to join issue. It seems to me that there are several things. In the first place, there is the description of the authorities, 'the elders, the disciples of the Apostles,' which exactly accords with the statement in Papias' own preface [199:2]. Next there is the subject and its treatment. This latter point, if I mistake not, presents some considerations which strongly confirm my view of the source of these references in Irenaeus. The elders here quoted maintain that the paradise of Genesis is not a terrestrial paradise; it is some region beyond the limits of this world, to which Enoch and Elijah were translated; it is the abode, as Irenaeus says, of the righteous and the spiritual ([Greek: pneumatikoi]), of whom these two respectively are types; their translation preludes the immortality of the faithful in Christ. In the second passage where paradise is mentioned by these elders, it is declared to be one of the 'many mansions' in the Father's house. But it is clear from this latter passage that the work from which these sayings of the elders are quoted must have contained much more about paradise. The intermediate position there assigned to it between the celestial and the terrestrial kingdom does not explain itself, and must have required some previous discussion. Is there any reason to think that Papias did directly occupy himself with this subject?
The work of Papias was in the hands of Anastasius of Sinai, who (as we have seen) set a very high value on it [200:1]. He tells us in his 'Hexaemeron' [200:2] that 'the more ancient interpreters ... contemplated the sayings about paradise spiritually, and referred them to the Church of Christ.' They 'said that there was a certain spiritual paradise' [200:3]. Among these 'more ancient interpreters,' of whom he gives a list, he names 'the great Papias of Hierapolis, the scholar of John the Evangelist, and Irenaeus of Lyons.' Here the two are associated together as dealing with this same subject in the same way. How much of the exegesis which Anastasius gives in the context, and attributes to these ancient interpreters, may be due to Papias in particular, it is impossible to say. But it may be observed that the expression 'the delight of the paradise,' in the saying of the elders reported by Irenaeus, is taken from the Septuagint of Ezekiel xxviii. 13, where the Prince of Tyre is addressed, 'Thou wast in the delight of the paradise of God;' and that Anastasius represents 'the interpreters' (among whom he had previously mentioned Papias) as 'especially confirming their views of a spiritual paradise' by appealing to this very passage, 'where God seems to reveal to us enigmatically the fall of the devil from heaven,' the Prince of Tyre being interpreted as Satan, and the 'stones of fire' the hosts of intelligent beings; and he immediately afterwards quotes in illustration our Lord's words in Luke x. 18, 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven' [201:1]. 'See,' he concludes, 'we have heard plainly that he was cast down to the earth from some paradise of delight high above, and from the cherubic coals of fire. (Ezek. xxviii. 16)'
From the Hexaemeron of Anastasius I turn to the Catena on the Apocalypse, bearing the names of Oecumenius and Arethas, which was published by Cramer [201:2], and here I find fresh confirmation. On Rev. xii. 9, the compiler of this commentary quotes the same passage of St Luke to which Anastasius refers. He then goes on to explain that there was a twofold fall of Satan—the one at the time of the creation of man, the other at the Incarnation; and he proceeds—
Seeing then that Michael, the chief captain [of the heavenly hosts], could not tolerate the pride of the devil, and had long ago cast him out from his own abode by warlike might, according as Ezekiel says, that 'he was cast out by the cherubim from the midst of the stones of fire,' that is to say, the angelic ranks, because 'iniquities were found in him' (xxviii. 15, 16); again at the coming of Christ, as has been said ... he hath fallen more completely. This is confirmed by the tradition of the fathers, especially of Papias ([Greek: kai pateron paradosis kai Papiou]), a successor of the Evangelist John who wrote this very Apocalypse with which we are concerned. Indeed Papias speaks thus concerning the war in these express words: 'It so befell that their array,' that is, their warlike enterprise, 'came to nought; for the great dragon, the old serpent, who is also called Satan and the devil, was cast down, yea, and was cast down to the earth, he and his angels' [201:3].
I turn again to Anastasius; and I read in him that 'the above-mentioned interpreters' gave these explanations of paradise to counteract the teaching of divers heretics, among whom he especially mentions the Ophites who 'offered the greatest thanksgivings to the serpent, on the ground that by his counsels, and by the transgression committed by the woman, the whole race of mankind had been born' [202:1]. This notice again confirms the view which I adopted, that it was the design of Papias to supply an antidote to the false exegesis of the Gnostics. Thus everything hangs together, and we seem to have restored a lost piece of ancient exegesis. If this restoration is uncertain in its details, it has at least materially strengthened my position, that the two sayings of the elders respecting paradise, quoted by Irenaeus, must be attributed to the same authority, Papias, whom Irenaeus cites by name in the intermediate passage relating to the millennial kingdom. I must add my belief also that very considerable parts of the fifth book of Irenaeus, which consists mainly of exegesis, are borrowed from the exegetical work of Papias. It is the unpardonable sin of Papias in the eyes of Eusebius, that he has misled subsequent writers, more especially Irenaeus, on these eschatological subjects. This is speaking testimony to the debt of Irenaeus. Literary property was not an idea recognized by early Christian writers. They were too much absorbed in their subject to concern themselves with their obligations to others, or with the obligations of others to them. Plagiarism was not a crime, where they had all literary things in common. Hippolytus, in his chief work, tacitly borrows whole paragraphs, and even chapters, almost word for word, from Irenaeus. He mentions his name only twice, and does not acknowledge his obligations more than once [202:2]. The liberties, which Hippolytus takes with his master Irenaeus, might well have been taken by Irenaeus himself with his predecessor Papias.
4. Eusebius tells us that Papias 'relates also another story concerning a woman accused of many sins before the Lord,' and he adds that it is 'contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.'
The story in question is allowed to be the narrative of the woman taken in adultery, which appears in the common texts of the Fourth Gospel, vii. 53-viii. 11. In the oldest Greek MS which contains this pericope, the Codex Bezae, the words 'taken in adultery' are read 'taken in sin.' In the Apostolic Constitutions [203:1], where this incident is briefly related, the woman is described as 'having sinned.' And again Rufinus, who would possibly be acquainted with Jerome's translation of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, boldly substitutes 'a woman, an adulteress,' for 'a woman accused of many sins,' in his version of Eusebius.
But it is equally certain that this pericope is an interpolation where it stands. All considerations of external evidence are against it. It is wanting in all Greek MSS before the sixth century; it was originally absent in all the oldest versions—Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, Gothic; it is not referred to, as part of St John's Gospel, before the latter half of the fourth century. Nor is the internal evidence less fatal. It is expressed in language quite foreign to St John's style, and it interrupts the tenor of his narrative. The Evangelist is here relating Christ's discourses on the last day, that great day, of the feast' of Tabernacles. Our Lord seizes on the two most prominent features in the ceremonial—the pouring out of the water from Siloam upon the altar, and the illumination of the city by flaming torches, lighted in the Temple area. Each in succession furnishes Him with imagery illustrating His own person and work. In the uninterrupted narrative, the one topic follows directly upon the other. He states first, that the streams of living water flow from Him (vii. 37 sq). He speaks 'again' ([Greek: palin]), and declares that He is the light of the world (viii. 12 sq). But the intervention of this story dislocates the whole narrative, introducing a change of time, of scene, of subject.
On the other hand, it will be felt that the incident, though misplaced here, must be authentic in itself. Its ethical pitch is far above anything which could have been invented for Him by His disciples and followers, 'whose character and idiosyncrasies,' as Mr Mill says, 'were of a totally different sort' [204:1]. They had neither the capacity to imagine nor the will to invent an incident, which, while embodying the loftiest of all moral teaching, would seem to them dangerously lax in its moral tendencies.
But, if so, how came it to find a place in the copies of St John's Gospel? Ewald incidentally throws out a suggestion [204:2] that it was originally written on the margin of some ancient manuscript, to illustrate the words of Christ in John viii. 15, 'Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.' This hint he has not followed up, but it seems to me to be highly valuable. The pericope in question occurs, in most authorities which contain it, after vii. 52; in one MS however it stands after vii. 36; and in several it is placed at the end of the Gospel. This is just what might have been expected if it was written, in the first instance, on the margin of a MS containing two or three columns on a page. When transferred from the margin to the text, it would find a place somewhere in the neighbourhood, where it least interfered with the narrative, or, if no suitable place appeared, it would be relegated to the end of the book. It should be added, that some good cursives give it at the end of the twenty-first chapter of St Luke—the most appropriate position, historically, that could be found for it. Whether this was an independent insertion in St Luke, or a transference from St John made on critical grounds, it is not easy to say.
But if this was the motive of the insertion, what was its source? Have we not here one of those illustrative anecdotes which Papias derived from the report of the elders, and to which he 'did not scruple to give a place along with his interpretations' of our Lord's sayings? Its introduction as an illustration of the words in John viii. 15 would thus be an exact parallel to the treatment of the saying in Matthew xxvi. 29, as described in the first part of this paper [205:1]. A reader or transcriber of St John, familiar with Papias, would copy it down in his margin, either from Papias himself or from the Gospel of the Hebrews; and hence it would gain currency. The Codex Bezae, the oldest Greek manuscript by two or three centuries which contains this narrative, is remarkable for its additions. May we not suspect that others besides this pericope (I would name especially our Lord's saying to the man whom He found working on the sabbath) were derived from this exegetical work of Papias? At all events Eusebius speaks of it as containing 'some strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other matters more or less fabulous ([Greek: muthikotera]),' which Papias derived from oral tradition.
5. I have already suggested [205:2] that the notice relating to St Mark in Papias might have been given to explain some peculiarities in the Second Gospel, as compared with St John. This conjecture, standing alone, appears to have a very slight value, but it assumes a higher importance when we find that a writer who was a younger contemporary of Papias speaks of St Mark's Gospel in this same way and with this same motive.
The extract from the Muratorian fragment relating to the Gospels has been given above [205:3]. The writer is obviously desirous of accounting for the differences in the four Evangelists. As the fragment is mutilated at the beginning, we cannot say what he wrote about the First Gospel. But the half sentence which alone survives of his account of the Second Gospel tells its own tale; 'Quibus interfuit et ita tamen posuit.' It is evident that he, like Papias, describes St Mark as dependent on the oral preaching of St Peter for his information respecting Christ's life. He 'set down' such facts as he knew from having been 'present' when the Apostle related them to his hearers. If the words themselves had left any room for doubt, it would be cleared up by his account of the Third Gospel, which follows immediately. St Luke, he tells us, was a follower of St Paul, and so wrote his Gospel; 'but neither did he ([Greek: all' oud' autos]) see the Lord in the flesh,' and so he gave such information as came within his reach. On the other hand, he declares that the Fourth Gospel was written by John, a personal disciple of Christ, at the instance and with the sanction of other personal disciples like himself. Hence, he argues, though there must necessarily be differences in detail, yet this does not affect the faith of believers, since there is perfect accordance on the main points, and all the Gospels alike are inspired by the same Spirit. At the same time, the authority of the Fourth Gospel is paramount, as the record of an immediate eye-witness; and this claim John asserts for himself in the opening of his Epistle, when he declares that he has written what he himself had seen and heard.
Probably, if the notice of St Mark had not been mutilated, the coincidence would have been found to be still greater. Even as it stands, this account throws great light on the notice of Papias. The Muratorian writer lays stress on the secondary character of St Mark's account; so does Papias. The Muratorian writer quotes from the First Epistle of St John in evidence; so did Papias. We are not told with what object Papias adduced this testimony from the Epistle; but it is at least a plausible hypothesis that he had the same end in view as the Muratorian writer. It should be observed also that Eusebius mentions Papias as quoting not only the First Epistle of St John, but also the First Epistle of St Peter. May not the two have been connected together in the context of Papias, as they are in the notice of Eusebius? It is quite clear that Papias had already said something of the relations existing between St Peter and St Mark previously to the extract which gives an account of the Second Gospel; for he there refers back to a preceding notice, 'But afterwards, as I said, he followed Peter.' Would he not naturally have quoted, as illustrating these relations, the reference to the Evangelist in the Apostle's own letter, 'Marcus my son saluteth you' (1 Pet. v. 13)? If the whole of the Muratorian writer's notice of the Second Gospel had been preserved, we should not improbably have found a parallelism here also. But, however this may be, the resemblance is enough to suggest that the Muratorian writer was acquainted with the work of Papias, and that he borrowed his contrast between the secondary evidence of St Mark and the primary evidence of St John from this earlier writer. And such a contrast offers a highly natural explanation of Papias' motive. The testimony of the elder respecting the composition of St Mark's Gospel was introduced by him, as we saw, to explain its phenomena. Though strictly accurate in its relation of facts, as far as it went, this Gospel had, he tells us, two drawbacks, which it owed to its secondary character. The account could not be taken as complete, and the order could not be assumed to be strictly chronological. In other words, compared with other evangelical narratives which Papias had in view, it showed omissions and transpositions. A comparison with St John's narrative would yield many instances of both. We have ample evidence that within a very few years after Papias wrote, the differences between St John and the Synoptic Gospels had already begun to attract attention. The Muratorian writer is a competent witness to this, nor does he stand alone. Claudius Apollinaris, who succeeded Papias in the see of Hierapolis, perhaps immediately, certainly within a very few years, mentions that on the showing of some persons 'the Gospels seem to be at variance with one another' [207:1]. He is referring especially to the account of the Crucifixion in St Matthew and St John respectively.
It is much to be regretted that the Muratorian writer's account of St Matthew also has not been preserved; for here again we should expect much light to be thrown on the corresponding account in Papias. Why did Papias introduce this notice of the Hebrew original of St Matthew? We may suspect that the same motive which induced him to dwell on the secondary character of St Mark's knowledge led him also to call attention to the fact that St Matthew's Gospel was not an original, but a translation. I turn to an exegetical work of Eusebius, and I find this father dealing with the different accounts of two Evangelists in this very way. He undertakes to solve the question, why St Matthew (xxviii. 1) says that the resurrection was revealed to Mary Magdalene on the evening of (or 'late on') the sabbath ([Greek: opse sabbaton]), whereas St John (xx. 1) places this same incident on the first day of the week [Greek: te mia ton sabbaton]; and among other explanations which he offers is the following:—
The expression 'on the evening of the sabbath' is due to the translator of the Scripture; for the Evangelist Matthew published [Greek: paredoke] his Gospel in the Hebrew tongue; but the person who rendered it into the Greek language changed it, and called the hour dawning on the Lord's day [Greek: opse sabbaton] [208:1].
He adds, that each Evangelist corrects any misapprehension which might arise—St Matthew by adding 'as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week,' St John by a similar qualifying expression 'when it was yet dark.' Being acquainted with the work of Papias, Eusebius might have borrowed this mode of explanation, if not this very explanation, from him.
But it may be urged that on this hypothesis the motive of Papias must have appeared in the context, and that, if it had so appeared, Eusebius must have quoted it. The reply is simple. Papias must in any case have had some object or other in citing this testimony of the presbyter, and none is given. But I would answer further, that under the supposed circumstances Eusebius was not likely to quote the context. As a matter of fact, he has not done so in a very similar case, where he tears out a fragment from a passage in Irenaeus which intimately affects the relations of the Evangelists to one another [209:1]. He commences in the middle of a sentence, and extracts just as much as serves his immediate purpose, leaving out everything else. On this point, I am glad that I can reckon beforehand on the assent of the author of Supernatural Religion himself. Speaking of this extract from Irenaeus, he says, 'Nothing could be further from the desire or intention of Eusebius than to represent any discordance between the Gospels [209:2].' I do not indeed join in the vulgar outcry against the dishonesty of Eusebius. Wherever I have been able to investigate the charge, I have found it baseless. We have ample evidence that Eusebius was prepared to face the difficulties in harmonizing the Gospels, when the subject came properly before him. But here he might fairly excuse himself from entering upon a topic which had no bearing on his immediate purpose, and which once started would require a lengthy discussion to do justice to it. Moreover it is obvious that he is very impatient with Papias. He tells us twice over that he has confined his extracts to the very narrowest limits which bare justice to his subject would allow [209:3]; he warns his readers that there are a great many traditions in Papias which he has passed over; and he refers them to the book itself for further information. Though exceptionally long in itself compared with his notices of other early Christian writers, his account of Papias is, we may infer, exceptionally brief in proportion to the amount of material which this father afforded for such extracts.
6. I have said nothing yet about the direct testimony of a late anonymous writer, which (if it could be accepted as trustworthy) would be decisive on the point at issue.
In an argument prefixed to this Gospel in a Vatican MS, which is assigned to the ninth century, we read as follows:—
The Gospel of John was made known (manifestatum), and given to the Churches by John while he yet remained in the body (adhuc in corpore constituto); as (one) Papias by name, of Hierapolis, a beloved disciple of John, has related in his exoteric, that is, in his last five books (in exotericis, id est, in extremis quinque libris); but he wrote down the Gospel at the dictation of John, correctly (descripsit vero evangelium dictante Johanne recte). But Marcion the heretic, when he had been censured (improbatus) by him, because he held heretical opinions (eo quod contraria sentiebat), was cast off by John. Now he had brought writings or letters to him from the brethren that were in Pontus [210:1].
No stress can be laid on testimony derived from a passage which contains such obvious anachronisms and other inaccuracies; but the mention of Papias here courts inquiry, and time will not be ill spent in the endeavour to account for it. It will be worth while, at all events, to dispose of an erroneous explanation which has found some favour. When attention was first called to this passage by Aberle and Tischendorf, Overbeck met them with the hypothesis that the notice was taken from a spurious work ascribed to Papias. He supposed that some one had forged five additional books in the name of this father, in which he had gathered together a mass of fabulous matter, and had entitled them 'Exoterica,' attaching them to the genuine five books. To this work he assigned also the notice respecting the four Maries which bears the name of Papias [210:2]. This explanation might have been left to itself if it had remained as a mere hypothesis of Overbeck's, but it has been recently accepted by Hilgenfeld. He speaks of these five 'exoteric' books, as attached to 'the five esoteric or genuine books;' and to this source he attributes not only the account of the four Maries, but also a notice relating to the death of St John which is given by Georgius Hamartolos on the authority of Papias [211:1].
This however seems to be altogether a mistake. We find no notice or trace elsewhere of any such spurious work attributed to Papias. Moreover these titles are quite unintelligible. There is no reason why the five genuine books should be called 'esoteric,' or the five spurious books 'exoteric.' About the notice of the four Maries again Hilgenfeld is in error. It is not taken from any forged book fathered upon the bishop of Hierapolis, but from a genuine work of another Papias, a Latin lexicographer of the eleventh century. This is not a mere hypothesis, as Hilgenfeld assumes, but an indisputable fact, as any one can test who will refer to the work itself, of which MSS exist in some libraries, and which was printed four times in the fifteenth century [211:2]. Nor again does the passage in Georgius Hamartolos give any countenance to this theory. This writer, after saying that St John survived the rest of the twelve and then suffered as a martyr ([Greek: marturiou katexiotai]), continues:—
For Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis, having been an eye-witness of him, says in the second book [Greek: logo] of the 'Oracles of the Lord' ([Greek: ton kuriakon logion]) that he was slain by the Jews, having, as is clear, with his brother James, fulfilled the prediction of Christ.... 'Ye shall drink my cup,' etc. [211:3]
Here we have an obvious error. The fate which really befell James is attributed to John. Georgius Hamartolos therefore cannot be quoting directly from Papias, for Papias cannot have reported the martyrdom of John. But, on the other hand, Papias seems plainly to have been the ultimate source of his information. The work is precisely and correctly quoted. The general tenor accords with the main object of Papias' book—the exposition of a saying of Christ, and the illustration of it by a story derived from tradition. This being so, the error is most easily explained by a lacuna. In the intermediate authority from whom Georgius got the reference, some words must have dropped out; a line or two may have been omitted in his copy; and the sentence may have run in the original somewhat in this way; [Greek: Papias ... phaskei hoti Ioannes [men hupo tou Rhomaion basileos katedikasthe marturon eis Patmon, Iakobos de] hupo Ioudaion anerethe], 'Papias says that John [was condemned by the Roman emperor (and sent) to Patmos for bearing witness (to the truth) while James] was slain by the Jews' [212:1].
The hypothesis of a spurious Papias therefore is wholly unsupported; and we must seek some other explanation of the statement in the Vatican MS. This passage seems to be made up of notices gathered from different sources. The account of Marcion, with which it closes, involves an anachronism (to say nothing else), and seems to have arisen from a confusion of the interview between St John and Cerinthus and that between Polycarp and Marcion, which are related by Irenaeus in the same context [213:1]. The earlier part, referring to Papias, is best explained in another way—by clerical errors and mistranslation rather than by historical confusion. The word 'exotericis' ought plainly to be read 'exegeticis' [213:2]. In some handwritings of the seventh or eighth century, where the letters have a round form, the substitution of OT for EG would be far from difficult [213:3]. In this case extremis, which should perhaps be read externis, is the Latin interpretation of the false reading exotericis. Thus purged of errors, the reference to Papias presents no difficulties. We may suppose that Papias, having reported some saying of St John on the authority of the elders, went on somewhat as follows: 'And this accords with what we find in his own Gospel, which he gave to the Churches when he was still in the body' [Greek: eti en to somati kathestotos]. In this contrast between the story repeated after his death and the Gospel taken down from his lips during his lifetime, we should have an explanation of the words adhuc in corpore constituto, which otherwise seem altogether out of place. The word constituto shows clearly, I think, that the passage must have been translated from the Greek. If St John's authorship of the Gospel had been mentioned in this incidental way, Eusebius would not have repeated it, unless he departed from his usual practice. On the other hand, the statement that Papias was the amanuensis of the Evangelist can hardly be correct, though it occurs elsewhere [213:4]. Whether it was derived from a misunderstanding of Papias, or of some one else, it would be impossible to say. But I venture to suggest a solution. Papias may have quoted the Gospel 'delivered by John to the Churches, which they wrote down from his lips' ([Greek: ho apegraphon apo tou stomatos autou]); and some later writer, mistaking the ambiguous [Greek: apegraphon], interpreted it, 'I wrote down,' thus making Papias himself the amanuensis [214:1]. The dictation of St John's Gospel is suggested, as I have said already [214:2], by internal evidence also. Here again, so far as we can judge from his practice elsewhere, Eusebius would be more likely than not to omit such a statement, if it was made thus casually. This seems to me the most probable explanation of the whole passage. But obviously no weight can be attached to such evidence. Like the statement of John Malalas respecting Ignatius, which I considered in a former paper [214:3], it is discredited by its companionship with an anachronism, though the anachronism is not so flagrant as those of John Malalas, and the statement itself does not, like his, contradict the unanimous testimony of all the preceding centuries.
But the author of Supernatural Religion closes with an argument, which he seems to think a formidable obstacle to the belief that Papias recognized the Fourth Gospel as the work of St John:—
Andrew of Caesarea, in the preface to his commentary on the Apocalypse, mentions that Papias maintained 'the credibility' ([Greek: to axiopiston]) of that book, or in other words, its Apostolic origin.... Now, he must, therefore, have recognized the book as the work of the Apostle John, and we shall hereafter show that it is impossible that the author of the Apocalypse is the author of the Gospel; therefore, in this way also, Papias is a witness against the Apostolic origin of the Fourth Gospel [214:4].
This argument however is an anachronism. Many very considerable critics of the nineteenth century, it is true, maintain that the two works cannot have come from the same author. I do not stop now to ask whether they are right or wrong; but the nineteenth century is not the second. In the second century there is not the slightest evidence that a single writer felt any difficulty on this score, or attempted to separate the authorship of the two books. It is true that Eusebius mentions one or two authors, whose works unfortunately are lost, as using the Apocalypse, while he does not mention their using the Gospel; and this negative fact has obviously misled many. But here again the inference arises from a fundamental misconception of his purpose. I have shown [215:1] that his principles required him to notice quotations from and references to the Apocalypse in every early writer, because the authorship and canonicity of the work had been questioned by Church writers before his time; whereas it would lead him to ignore all such in the case of the Fourth Gospel, because no question had ever been entertained within the Church respecting it. This indeed is precisely what he does with Theophilus; he refers to this father's use of the Apocalypse, and he ignores his direct quotations from the Gospel. The inference therefore must be set aside as a fallacy. Beyond this, all the direct evidence points the other way. There was indeed a small sect or section of men outside the pale of the Church, before the close of the second century, who rejected the Gospel, but they rejected the Apocalypse also. Moreover they ascribed both to a single author, and (what is more important still) this author was Cerinthus, a contemporary of St John [215:2]. Thus the very opponents of the Gospel in the second century are witnesses not only to the very early date of the two writings, but also to the identity of authorship. On the other hand, every Church writer without exception during this century (so far as our knowledge goes) who accepted the one accepted the other also. The most doubtful case is Justin Martyr, who refers by name to the Apocalypse; but even Hilgenfeld says that it is difficult to deny the use of the Gospel of St John in his case [216:1]. Melito again commented on the Apocalypse; and there is ample evidence (as I trust to show hereafter) that he recognized the Fourth Gospel also. Both books alike are used in the Letter of the Gallican Churches (A.D. 177). Both alike are accepted by Theophilus of Antioch, by the Muratorian writer, by Irenaeus, and by Clement. It is the same during the first half of the third century. Tertullian and Cyprian, Hippolytus and Origen, place them on an equal footing, and attribute them to the same Apostle. The first distinct trace of an attempt to separate the authorship of the two books appears in Dionysius of Alexandria [216:2], who wrote about the middle or early in the second half of the third century. Even he argues entirely upon considerations of internal criticism, and does not pretend to any traditional evidence. He accepts both works as canonical; and he questions the Apostolic authorship, not of the Gospel, but of the Apocalypse.
VII. THE LATER SCHOOL OF ST JOHN.
It has been stated in a former paper that at the fall of Jerusalem a remnant of the Apostolic company, together with other primitive disciples, sought a new home in Asia Minor [217:1]. Of this colony Ephesus was the head-quarters, and St John the leader. Here he is reported to have lived and laboured for more than a quarter of a century, surviving the accession of Trajan, who ascended the imperial throne A.D. 98 [217:2]. In this respect his position is unique among the earliest preachers of Christianity. While St Peter and St Paul converted disciples and organized congregations, St John alone was the founder of a school. The prolongation of his life after the Church was firmly rooted, and his fixed residence in the midst of a compact Christian society, combined to give a certain definiteness to his personal influence, which would be wanting to the labours of these more strictly missionary preachers. Hence the traditions of St John are more direct, more consistent, and more trustworthy, than those which relate to the other Apostles.
Thus we may, without any great impropriety, speak of the 'school of St John.' The existence of such a body of disciples gathered about the veteran teacher is indicated by notices in various writers. The author of the Muratorian fragment, for instance, speaks of this Apostle as writing his Gospel at the request not only of his fellow-disciples, but also of his 'bishops' [218:1]. Clement of Alexandria again, among whose teachers was one from this very district, and probably of this very school [218:2], represents him as going about from place to place in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, appointing bishops and providing in other ways for the government of the Churches [218:3]. More especially Irenaeus, who had received his earliest lessons in Christianity from an immediate disciple of St John, appeals again and again to such a body as preserving and handing down the correct tradition of the Apostolic doctrine and practice. He describes these persons in one place as 'the elders who in Asia associated with John the disciple of the Lord' [218:4]; in another as 'all the Churches which are in Asia,' specifying more particularly the 'Church in Ephesus ... the true witness of the Apostolic tradition' [218:5]; in a third as 'those who saw John face to face' [218:6], or 'the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord' [218:7]; in a fourth as 'the elders who were before us, and who also were pupils of the Apostles' [218:8]; in a fifth 'as the elders who have their succession from the Apostles' [218:9]; in a sixth as 'the elders, disciples of the Apostles' [218:10], with similar expressions elsewhere. The prominent members of this school in the first age were Polycarp of Smyrna and Papias of Hierapolis, of whom the former survived beyond the middle of the century, and the latter probably died not many years before. In the next generation the most famous names are Melito of Sardis and Apollinaris of Hierapolis, who flourished in the third quarter of the century. They again are succeeded by other writers, of whom the most celebrated was Polycrates of Ephesus, already an old man, when in the last decade of the century a controversial question obliged him to take up his pen in defence of the traditions of his Church.
Asia Minor appears to have been far in advance of the other Churches of Christendom in literary activity, during the second century. This pre-eminence was due mainly, we may suppose, to the fact already mentioned, that it had become the second home of the Apostles and primitive teachers of Christianity. But the productiveness of the Asiatic Christians in this respect was doubtless stimulated by the pressure of opposition. This region was the hot-bed of heresies and the arena of controversy. Nor is it unimportant to observe that the main subjects of discussion were of such a kind as must necessarily have involved questions intimately connected with the Canon. Montanism, with its doctrine of the Paraclete and its visions of the New Jerusalem, would challenge some expression of opinion respecting the Gospel and the Apocalypse of St John, if these writings were disputed. The Paschal controversy courted investigation into the relations between the narratives of the Synoptists and the Fourth Evangelist. Marcionism, resting as it did on the paramount and sole authority of St Paul's Epistles and of the Pauline Gospel, would not suffer friend or foe to preserve silence on this fundamental question. And so again, though in a less degree, the disputes with Cerinthians, with Ophites, with Basilideans, with Valentinians, with all the various sects of Gnostics, could not have been conducted, as we see plainly from the treatises of Irenaeus and Hippolytus, without constant appeals to the testimony of written documents—thus indicating, at all events roughly, the amount of authority which the writers accorded to the more prominent books of our New Testament Canon. To men like Irenaeus or Eusebius, who had this extensive literature in their hands, the teaching of this Church generally, as well as of the more prominent individual writers belonging to it, could not have been open to question. Their approval of its orthodoxy therefore, either by silent assent or by studied panegyric, is a fact of real moment.
Over and above this relation to the books of the New Testament generally, the two points to which modern controversy directs attention, and which therefore deserve special consideration in any review of the writers belonging to the school of St John, are—first, what indications the extant fragments and notices contain, that they recognized or rejected the Fourth Gospel; and secondly, what can be learnt from these same sources as to the degree of authority which they accorded to the Apostle of the Gentiles.
Polycarp and Papias have been discussed in my earlier articles [220:1]. In the case of both these fathers, a recognition of the Fourth Gospel has been inferred from the use made of the First Epistle; in the case of the latter, from other indications also. As regards St Paul the testimony of Polycarp is as full and explicit as it well could be; while, on the other hand, the meagre fragments of Papias do not in themselves warrant any inference on this point.
The next extant document in chronological order is the account of Polycarp's martyrdom, written immediately after the occurrence (A.D. 155), and addressed to the Churches of the neighbouring province of Pontus, more especially to the Christians of Philomelium. In this letter the brethren of Smyrna draw a parallel between the sufferings of their martyred friend and the Passion of our Lord, which is suggested by some remarkable coincidences. 'Nearly all the incidents,' we are told at the outset, 'which preceded (his death) came to pass that the Lord might exhibit anew to us a martyrdom after the pattern of the Gospel; for Polycarp remained that he might be betrayed, as did also the Lord' [220:2]. This account is thus the earliest instance of a favourite type of hagiology, which sees the sufferings of Christ visibly reflected and imaged in detail in the servants of Christ, and of which ancient and mediaeval biography furnishes numerous examples. This idea of literal conformity to the life and Passion of Christ runs through the document. Some of the coincidences are really striking; but in other cases the parallelism is highly artificial. The name of the convicting magistrate is Herod, and special stress is naturally laid on this fact [221:1]. The time of the martyrdom is the passover—'the great sabbath,' as it is here called [221:2]. Polycarp's place of refuge is ascertained from information elicited by torture from a youth, apparently a slave in his employ. This poor boy, much more sinned against than sinning, is cruelly compared to Judas; and we are told accordingly that Polycarp, like our Lord, was 'betrayed by them of his own household' [221:3]. When apprehended, he is put upon an ass, and thus taken back to the city [221:4]; and this is of course intended as a parallel to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His pursuers come on horse-back and in arms, 'as against a robber' [221:5]. When he is apprehended, he prays, 'The will of God be done' [221:6]; and so forth. These parallels, at the same time that they show the idea dominant in the mind of the narrators, are a valuable testimony to the truth of the narrative itself, where so much violent treatment is necessary to produce the desired effect [221:7].
Most of the incidents have their counterparts in the circumstances of the Passion, as recorded by the Synoptic Evangelists alone or in common with St John. This is natural; for they refer to external events, in which the Synoptic narrative is rich. But there are exceptions, where the writers obviously have the account of the Fourth Evangelist in their mind. Thus we are told that at the crisis of Polycarp's fate a voice came from heaven, saying, 'Be strong, and play the man, Polycarp' [221:8]. 'And the speaker,' it is added, 'no man saw; but the voice those of our company that were present heard.' This corresponds to the voice which St John records as addressing our Lord from heaven, and as imperfectly apprehended by the bystanders [222:1]. Again, Polycarp, in consequence of a vision, predicts that he shall be burnt alive [222:2], though at the time the intention obviously is to throw him to the wild beasts, as the games are going on. A fortuitous circumstance frustrates this intention, and brings about a fulfilment of his prophecy as to the manner of his death [222:3]. Just in the same way in the Fourth Gospel Jesus is represented as 'signifying by what death He should die' [222:4]. Death by crucifixion seemed altogether unlikely at the time, for His enemies were the Jews, and this was not a Jewish mode of punishment; but by an accidental turn of circumstances He was transferred from the Jews to Pilate, and so His prediction was fulfilled [222:5]. Again, it is related that when the fire would not consume the body of the saint, his persecutors 'ordered an executioner to go up to him and thrust a small sword into him. When he had done this,' we are told, 'there came forth [a dove and] a quantity of blood' [222:6]. The parallel to the incident recorded in St John's account of the crucifixion is obvious [222:7]; and just as the Evangelist lays stress on his own presence as an eye-witness of the scene, so also do these hagiologers, when relating a strange occurrence at his martyrdom. 'We saw a great marvel,' they say, 'we to whom it was given to see; and we have been saved that we might relate to the rest what happened' [222:8]. And lastly, as St John emphasizes the fact that everything was accomplished in the death of Jesus [222:9], so also they declare of Polycarp, that 'every word which he uttered out of his mouth hath been and shall be accomplished' [223:1]. To these facts it should be added that the dying prayer of Polycarp contains two coincidences with the phraseology of the Fourth Gospel—'the resurrection of life,' 'the true God' [223:2].
MELITO, bishop of Sardis, flourished soon after the middle of the second century. This fact appears from two of his works, to which we are able to assign an approximate date. His treatise 'On the Paschal Festival,' he himself tells us, was written while Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Asia [223:3]; and the recent investigations of M. Waddington into the fasti of this province have led to the result that this proconsulate should probably be dated about A.D. 164-166 [223:4]. Again we are informed that he addressed his 'Apology' to M. Antoninus (A.D. 161-180) [223:5]. It appears however from an extant fragment, that L. Verus, the colleague of M. Antoninus, was no longer living; for Melito speaks of prayer on behalf of the emperor's son (Commodus), without mentioning his brother and co-emperor (Verus). Now Verus died in the very beginning of the year 169. On the other hand ancient authorities assign the Apology to the year 169 or 170; and, as there is no reason for rejecting their statement, we may suppose that it was written soon after the death of Verus. Probably its date was ascertainable within a year or two from internal evidence. This Apology however is regarded by Eusebius as the latest of Melito's writings [223:6]; and, as the catalogue of his works comprises some twenty treatises at least, his literary activity must have extended over a considerable period of time, so that we shall probably not be far wrong if we place the commencement of his career as an author about the middle of the century. He appears to have died soon after the Apology was written. In the last decade of the century Polycrates mentions him among other worthies of the past who had gone to their rest [224:1]. He was buried at Sardis. From the context it may be inferred that he did not suffer martyrdom, like so many of his famous contemporaries, but died a natural death.
These chronological notices suggest that Melito was born in the early part of the second century, within a very few years after the death of St John. During the greater part of his life at all events, he must have been a contemporary of St John's disciple Polycarp, who was martyred at an advanced age in the year 155 or 156; and likewise of Papias, who had conversed with personal disciples of Christ, and seems also to have survived till towards the middle of the century. As the communications between Sardis on the one hand, and Smyrna and Hierapolis on the other, were easy, a prominent man like Melito, whose religious zeal led him on one occasion to undertake a distant journey to Palestine, would be sure to cultivate the acquaintance of these older teachers, even if circumstances did not throw him directly in their way.
Thus Melito is a significant link of connection with the past. At the same time he holds an equally important position with respect to the succeeding age. It can hardly be doubted that among the Asiatic elders, whose authority Irenaeus invokes so constantly, Melito must have held a prominent place. It may be suspected that he was the very Ionian whom Clement of Alexandria mentions among his earlier teachers [224:2]. It is quite certain that his writings were widely known and appreciated in the generations next succeeding his own. He is quoted or referred to by Polycrates at Ephesus, by Clement and Origen at Alexandria, by Tertullian at Carthage, by Hippolytus at Rome.
I have already mentioned that he was a very voluminous writer. Eusebius gives a catalogue of his works, which however he does not profess to be complete. The historian's knowledge was obviously limited by the contents of the library which his friend Pamphilus had gathered together at Caesarea. The titles of these works are as follows:—On the Paschal Festival (two treatises) [225:1], On the Life of the Prophets, On the Church, On the Lord's Day, On the Nature of Man, On Creation, On the Obedience of Faith and on the Senses, On the Soul and Body [and Mind], On Baptism, On Truth, On the Creation and Generation of Christ, On Prophecy, On Hospitality, The Key, On the Devil and on the Apocalypse of John, On a Corporeal Deity, An Apology to Antonius, Selections from the Law and the Prophets [225:2]. Besides these works here enumerated, other writings of Melito axe quoted elsewhere under the titles, On the Incarnation of Christ, On the Passion, On the Cross, On the Faith [225:3], though some of these may perhaps represent the same works to which Eusebius refers under other names. Comprising this wide range of subjects, doctrinal, exegetical, practical, and controversial, the works of Melito must have furnished the next succeeding generations with ample data for determining his exact theological position. To them it must have been clear, for instance, whether he did or did not accept the Gospel of St John or the Epistles of St Paul. It was hardly possible for him to write on the Paschal question without indicating his views on the Fourth Gospel. It is almost inconceivable that he should have composed a controversial treatise against Marcion without declaring himself respecting the Apostle of the Gentiles. The few meagre fragments which have come down to us supply only incidental notices and resemblances, from which we are left to draw our own inferences; but where we grope in the twilight, they were walking in the broad noonday.
Eusebius has happily preserved Melito's preface to his Selections, which is of considerable interest. The work itself comprised passages from the Law and the Prophets relating to the Saviour and to the Christian faith generally ([Greek: peri tou Soteros kai pases tes pisteos hemon]), arranged in six books. It seems to have been accompanied with explanatory comments bringing out the prophetical import of the several passages, as Melito understood them. In the preface, addressed to his friend Onesimus, at whose instance the work had been undertaken, he relates that having made a journey to the East and visited the actual scenes of the Gospel history, he informed himself respecting the books of the Old Testament, of which he appends a list. The language which he uses is significant from its emphasis. He writes that his friend had 'desired to be accurately informed about the old books' ([Greek: mathein ten ton palaion biblion eboulethes akribeian]). He adds that he himself during his Eastern tour had 'obtained accurate information respecting the books of the Old Testament ([Greek: akribos mathon ta tes palaias diathekes biblia]).' From these expressions Dr Westcott argues that Melito must have been acquainted with a corresponding Christian literature, which he regarded as the books of the New Testament. To any such inference the author of Supernatural Religion demurs [226:1], and he devotes several pages to proving (what nobody denies) that the expressions 'Old Testament,' 'New Testament,' did not originally refer to a written literature at all, and need not so refer here. All this is beside the purpose, and betrays an entire misunderstanding of the writer whom he ventures to criticize. The contention is not that the expression 'Old Testament' here in itself signifies a collection of books, and therefore implies another collection called the 'New Testament,' but that the emphatic and reiterated mention of an old Biblical literature points naturally to the existence of a new. To any one who is accustomed to weigh the force of Greek sentences, as determined by the order of the words, this implied contrast must, I think, make itself felt. It is impossible to read the clauses, having regard to the genius of the language, without throwing a strong emphasis on the recurrent word old, which I have therefore italicized, as the only way of reproducing the same effect for the English reader. Dr Westcott therefore is perfectly justified in maintaining that the expression naturally implies a recognized New Testament literature.
And if this reference is suggested by strict principles of exegesis, it alone is consonant with historical probability. It is a fact that half a century, or even more, before Melito wrote, the author of the epistle bearing the name of Barnabas quotes as 'Scripture' a passage found in St Matthew's Gospel, and not known to have existed elsewhere [227:1]. It is a fact that about that same time, or earlier, Polycarp wrote a letter which is saturated with the thoughts and language of the Apostolic Epistles [227:2]. It is a fact that some twenty or thirty years before Melito, Justin Martyr speaks of certain Gospels (whether our Canonical Gospels or not, it is unnecessary for my present purpose to inquire) as being read together with the writings of the prophets at the religious services of the Christians on Sundays, and taken afterwards as the subject of exhortation and comment by the preacher [227:3]. It is a fact that about the same time when Justin records this as the habitual practice of the Church, the heretic Marcion, himself a native of Asia Minor, constructed a Canon for himself by selecting from and mutilating the Apostolic and Evangelical writings which he found in circulation. It is a fact that Dionysius of Corinth, a contemporary of Melito, speaks of certain writings as 'the Scriptures of the Lord,' or 'the Dominical Scriptures.' and denounces those who tamper with them [228:1]. It is a fact that Irenaeus, who had received his early education in Asia Minor, writing within some ten or twenty years after the death of Melito, quotes the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the great majority of the Apostolic Epistles, and the Apocalypse, as Scripture, declaring more especially of the Four Gospels, that they had been received by the Churches from the beginning, and treating all these writings alike with the same deference which they have received from subsequent generations of Christians ever since. The inference from these facts (and they do not stand alone) is obvious. If Melito knew nothing about books of the New Testament, he must have been the only bishop of the Church from the banks of the Euphrates to the pillars of Hercules, who remained in this state of dense ignorance—Melito, who could refer to the Hebrew and the Syriac while interpreting a passage of Genesis, and who made careful inquiries respecting the Canon of the Old Testament Scriptures in the very land where those Scriptures had their birth.
The extant fragments attributed to Melito are meagre and scattered [228:2]; but, supposing them to be genuine, they afford ample evidence of the theological views of this father, while indirectly they indicate his general relation to the Canon in a way which can hardly be mistaken. The genuineness of many of these fragments however has been seriously questioned. In one or two instances the grounds of hesitation deserve every consideration; but in the majority of cases the objections must be set aside as groundless. Thus it is sought to throw discredit on all those writings which are not named by Eusebius. The author of Supernatural Religion, for instance, says that 'Eusebius gives what he evidently considers a complete list of the works of Melito' [228:3]. On the contrary, Eusebius carefully guards himself against any such interpretation of his words. He merely professes to give a list of 'those works which have come to his own knowledge.' Obviously he either suspects or knows that there are other writings of Melito in circulation, of which he can give no account. Again, other fragments have been discredited, because they contain false sentiments or foolish interpretations, which are considered unworthy of a father in the second century. I cannot think that this is any argument at all; and I may confidently assume that the author of Supernatural Religion will agree with me here. There is much that is foolish in Papias, in Justin Martyr, in Irenaeus, in Tertullian, even in Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Only it is frequently mixed up with the highest wisdom, which more than redeems it. Again others (and among these our author) would throw doubt on the genuineness of the Greek and Syriac fragments which were certainly in circulation some six centuries before, because some mediaeval Latin writers attach the name of Melito to forgeries or to anonymous writings, such as the Clavis, the Passing away of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Passion of St John [229:1]. A moment's reflection will show that the two classes of writings must be considered quite apart. When these groundless objections are set aside, the great majority of the Greek and Syriac fragments remain untouched. Otto, the most recent editor of Melito, takes a sensible view on the whole. I do not agree with him on some minor points, but I am quite content to take the fragments which he accepts, as representing the genuine Melito; and I refer those of my readers, who are really desirous to know what this ancient father taught and how he wrote, to this editor's collection.
We have fortunately the evidence of two writers, who lived in the next age to Melito, and therefore before any spurious works could have been in circulation—the one to his style, the other to his theology. On the former point our authority is Tertullian, who in a work now lost spoke of the 'elegans et declamatorium ingenium' of Melito [229:2]; on the latter, a writer quoted anonymously by Eusebius but now identified with Hippolytus, who exclaims, 'Who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus and Melito and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man' [230:1]. The fragments, and more especially the Syriac fragments, accord fully with both these descriptions. They are highly rhetorical, and their superior elegance of language (compared with other Christian writings of the same age) is apparent even through the medium of a Syriac version. They also emphasize the two natures of Christ in many a pointed antithesis.
Of the Greek fragments, not mentioned by Eusebius, the following quoted by Anastasius of Sinai as from the third book on the Incarnation of Christ [230:2] is important in its bearing on our subject:—
The things done by Christ after the baptism, and especially the miracles (signs), showed his Godhead concealed in the flesh, and assured the world of it. For being perfect God, and perfect man at the same time, He assured us of His two essences ([Greek: ousias])—of His Godhead by miracles in the three years after His baptism, and of His manhood in the thirty seasons ([Greek: chronois]) before His baptism, during which, owing to his immaturity as regards the flesh ([Greek: dia to ateles to kata sarka]), He concealed the signs of His Godhead, although He was true God from eternity ([Greek: kaiper Theos alethes proaionios huparchon]).
The genuineness of this fragment has been impugned, partly on the general considerations which have been already discussed, partly on special grounds. It has been said, for instance, that Anastasius must here be reproducing the general substance, and not the exact words, of Melito's statement; but he at all events gives it as a direct quotation. It has been urged again, that linguistic reasons condemn this fragment, since the use of 'seasons' or 'times' for 'years' betrays a later age; but abundant instances of the use are found in earlier writers, even if so very natural a device for avoiding the repetition of the same word ([Greek: etos]) needed any support at all. It has been suggested that there may possibly be some confusion between Melito and Meletius. But the work from which this passage comes is distinctly stated by Anastasius to have been written against Marcion, who by his docetism attacked the true humanity of Christ. Now Melito lived in the very thick of the Marcionite controversy, and must have taken his part in it. On the other hand, Meletius, who held the see of Antioch in the latter part of the fourth century, was one of the principal figures in the Arian controversy and, as such, far too intimately involved in the questions of his own day to think of writing an elaborate work on a subject so comparatively dead as the docetism of Marcion. Moreover, there is no instance in any Greek writer, so far as I have observed, of a confusion between the names Melito and Meletius. Again it is suggested that the Christological views of the writer are too definite for the age of Melito, and point to a later date; but to this the distinct statement of Hippolytus respecting Melito's opinions, which has been already quoted, is a complete answer; and indeed the Ignatian Epistles, which (even if their genuineness should not be accepted) cannot reasonably be placed later than the age of Melito, are equally precise in their doctrinal statements.
But if this be a genuine fragment, the inference is obvious. The author of Supernatural Religion will no doubt be ready here, as elsewhere, to postulate any number of unknown apocryphal Gospels which shall supply the facts thus assumed by Melito. The convenience of drawing unlimited cheques on the bank of the unknown is obvious. But most readers will find themselves unable to resist the inference, that for the thirty years of our Lord's silence this father is indebted to a familiar passage in St Luke [231:1], while, in fixing three years as the duration of His ministry, he is thinking of the three Passovers mentioned by St John.
Of the other fragments ascribed to Melito one deserves to be quoted, not only because the author has made it the subject of some criticisms, but because it exhibits in a concentrated form Melito's views of evangelical history and doctrine [232:1].
We have made collections from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which are declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might prove to your love that He is the perfect Reason, the Word of God: who was begotten before the light, who was Creator together with the Father, who was the fashioner of man, who was all things in all, who among the patriarchs was Patriarch, who in the law was Law, among the priests Chief-priest, among the kings Governor, among the prophets Prophet, among the angels Archangel, and among voices [232:2] the Word, among spirits the Spirit, in the Father the Son, in God God, the King for ever and ever. For this is He who was pilot to Noah, who conducted Abraham, who was bound with Isaac, who was in exile with Jacob, who was sold with Joseph, who was captain with Moses, who was divider of the inheritance with Joshua the son of Nun, who foretold His own sufferings in David and the prophets, who was incarnate in the Virgin, who was born at Bethlehem, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger, who was seen of the shepherds, who was glorified of the Angels, who was worshipped by the Magi, who was pointed out by John, who gathered together the Apostles, who preached the Kingdom, who healed the maimed, who gave light to the blind, who raised the dead, who appeared in the temple, who was not believed on by the people, who was betrayed by Judas, who was laid hold on by the priests, who was condemned by Pilate, who was transfixed in the flesh, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who rose from the dead, who appeared to the Apostles, who ascended into heaven, who sitteth on the right hand of the Father, who is the rest of those that are departed, the recoverer of those that are lost, the light of those that are in darkness, the deliverer of those that are captives, the guide of those that have gone astray, the refuge of the afflicted, the Bridegroom of the Church, the Charioteer of the Cherubim, the Captain of the Angels, God who is of God, the Son who is of the Father, Jesus Christ, the King for ever and ever. Amen.
This fragment is not in any way exceptional. The references to evangelical history, the modes of expression, the statements of doctrine, all have close parallels scattered through the other fragments ascribed to Melito. Indeed it is the remarkable resemblance of these fragments to each other in thought and diction (with one or two exceptions), though gathered together from writers of various ages, in Greek and in Syriac, which is a strong argument for their genuineness. But the special value of this particular passage is that it gathers into a focus the facts of the evangelical history, on which the faith of Melito rested.
And I do not think it can be reasonably doubted whence these facts are derived. The author of Supernatural Religion of course suggests some unknown apocryphal Gospel. But this summary will strike most readers as wonderfully like what a writer might be expected to make who recognized our four canonical Gospels as the sources of evangelical truth. And, when they remember that within a very few years (some twenty at most) Irenaeus, who was then a man past middle life, who had intimate relations with the region in which Melito lived, and who appeals again and again to the Asiatic Elders as his chief authorities for the traditional doctrine and practice, declares in perfect good faith that the Church had received these four, and these only, from the beginning, it will probably seem to them irrational to look elsewhere, when the solution is so very obvious.
But the author of Supernatural Religion writes that this fragment taken from a treatise On Faith, together with another which purports to be a work on the Soul and Body, though these two works 'are mentioned by Eusebius,' must nevertheless 'for every reason be pronounced spurious' [233:1]. Let us see what these reasons are.
1. He writes first:
They have in fact no attestation whatever except that of the Syriac translation, which is unknown, and which therefore is worthless.
The fact is that in a very vast number of literary remains, classical and ecclesiastical, whether excerpts or entire works, we are entirely dependent on the scribe for their authentication. Human experience has shown that such authentication is generally trustworthy, and hence it is accepted. In forty-nine cases out of fifty, or probably more, it is found to be satisfactory, and a priori probabilities are very strongly against the assumption that any particular case is this fiftieth exception. If there is substantial ground for suspicion, the suspicion has its weight, but not otherwise. A man who would act on any other principle is as unreasonable as a visitor to London, who refuses to believe or trust any one there, because the place is known to harbour thieves and liars.
2. We come therefore to the positive grounds of our author's suspicions, and here he tells us that—
The whole style and thought of the fragments are unlike anything else of Melito's time, and clearly indicate a later stage of theological development.
It is to be regretted that he has not explained himself more fully on this point. I have already pointed out that the theology and the style of these fragments generally are exactly what the notices of Hippolytus and Tertullian would lead us to expect in Melito. And this is especially true of the passage under consideration. What the 'later stage of theological development' indicated may be, I am unable to say. On the contrary, the leading conception of this passage, which sees all theology through the medium of the Logos, and therefore identifies all the theophanies in the Old Testament with the Person of Christ, though it lingers on through the succeeding ages, is essentially characteristic of the second century. The apologists generally exhibit this phenomenon; but in none is it more persistent than in Justin Martyr, who wrote a quarter of a century before Melito. Even the manner in which the conception is worked out by Melito has striking parallels in Justin. Thus Justin states that this Divine Power, who was begotten by God before all creation, is called sometimes 'the glory of the Lord, sometimes Son, sometimes Wisdom, sometimes God, sometimes Lord and Word, while sometimes He calls Himself Chief-captain ([Greek: archistrategos]), appearing in the form of man to Joshua the son of Nun ([Greek: to tou Naue Iesou])' [235:1]. Elsewhere he states that Christ is 'King and Priest and God and Lord and Angel and Man and Chief-captain and Stone,' etc., and he undertakes to show this 'from all the Scriptures' [235:2]. And again, in a third passage he says that the same Person, who is called Son of God in the memoirs of the Apostles, went forth from the Father before all created things through His power and counsel,' being designated 'Wisdom and Day and Orient and Sword and Stone and Staff and Jacob and Israel, now in one way, and now in another, in the sayings of the prophets,' and that 'He became man through the Virgin' [235:3]. Nor do these passages stand alone. This same conception pervades the whole of Justin's Dialogue, and through it all the phenomena of the Old Testament are explained.
Only on one point has our author thought fit to make a definite statement. 'It is worthy of remark,' he writes, 'that the Virgin is introduced into all these fragments [the five Syriac fragments which he has mentioned just before] in a manner quite foreign to the period at which Melito lived.' What can this mean? In the passage before us the only allusion to the subject is in the words 'incarnate in the Virgin' (or 'a virgin'); and the references in the other fragments are of the same kind. It is difficult to see how any one, recognizing the statements of the Synoptic Gospels, could pass over the mention of the Virgin more lightly. Here again, if he will turn to Justin Martyr, he will find a far fuller and more emphatic reference [236:1].
3. But our author states also:
In the Mechitarist Library at Venice there is a shorter version of the same passage in a Syriac MS, and an Armenian version of the extract as given above, in both of which the passage is distinctly ascribed to Irenaeus.
This is a fact of some importance, to which he has rightly directed attention. It would have been well if he had been a little more accurate in his statement. The extract in the Armenian version (of which the shorter Syriac form is obviously an abridgment), though mainly the same as our passage, begins in quite a different way. While Melito commences, 'We have made collections from the Law and the Prophets relating to those things which are declared concerning our Lord Jesus Christ,' etc., as quoted above, the Armenian extract, ascribed to Irenaeus, runs thus: 'The Law and the Prophets and the Evangelists have declared that Christ was born of a virgin and suffered on the cross, and that he was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and was glorified and reigneth for ever. The same is called the perfect Reason, the Word of God,' etc. [236:2]. Now it is obvious from a comparison of these two openings, that in the former, ascribed to Melito, we have the passage in its original setting, whereas in the latter, ascribed to Irenaeus, it has been altered to suit some other context or to explain itself independently. The reference to the author and the occasion of writing is omitted, while the 'Evangelists' are introduced by the side of 'the Law and the Prophets' for the sake of completeness. Melito, as we happen to know, did make such a collection of extracts from the Law and the Prophets as is here mentioned, and for the very purpose which is here stated; and the correspondence of language in this opening passage with the dedication of his collection to Onesimus, referred to above, is sufficiently striking. To Melito therefore evidence, internal and external alike, requires us to ascribe the passage. But, if so, how came the name of Irenaeus to be attached to it? Was this mere accident? I think not. Nothing would be more natural than that Irenaeus should introduce a passage of Melito, as a famous Asiatic elder, either anonymously or otherwise, into one of his own writings. I have already had occasion to refer to the free use which the early fathers made of their predecessors, frequently without any acknowledgement [237:1]. In this particular case, Irenaeus may or may not have acknowledged his obligation. I venture to think that this solution of the double ascription will appear not only plausible, but probable, when I mention another fact. In a second Armenian extract I find a passage headed, 'The saying of Irenaeus' [237:2]. I turn to the passage, and I find that it contains not the words of Irenaeus himself, but of Papias quoted by Irenaeus. In the Armenian extract the name of the original author has entirely disappeared, though in this case Irenaeus directly mentions Papias as his authority.
The attitude of Melito towards the Apostle of the Gentiles appears clearly enough from the title of one of his works, 'On the Obedience of Faith,' which is a characteristic expression of St Paul [237:3], and also from occasional coincidences of language, such as 'putting on the form of a servant' [237:4].