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CHAPTER THE SECOND.
OF ST. MATTHEW'S GOSPEL.
I. History of St. Matthew.-II. Genuineness of his Gospel.
-III. Its Date.-IV. Language in which it was written. –V. Observations.
I. Matthew, called also Levi, was the son of Alphæus, but probably not of that Alphæus who was the father of the apostle James the Less. He was a native of Galilee; but it is not known in what city of that country he was born, or to what tribe of the people of Israel he belonged. Though a Jew, he was a publican or tax-gatherer under the Romans; and his office seems to have consisted in collecting the customs due upon · commodities which were carried, and from per
sons who passed, over the lake of Gennesareth. Our Saviour commanded him, as he was sitting at the place where he received these customs, to
follow him. He immediately obeyed; and from that time he became a constant attendant upon our Saviour, and was appointed one of the twelve Apostles. Matthew, soon after his call, made an entertainment at his house, at which were present Christ and some of his disciples, and also several publicans. After the ascension of our Saviour, he continued, with the other Apostles, to preach the Gospel for some time in Judæa; but as there is no farther account of him in any writer of the first four centuries, we must consider it as uncertain into what country he afterwards went, and likewise in what manner, and at what time, he died. It seems, however, probable, that he died a natural death, since Heracleon, a learned Valentinian of the second century, as cited by Clement of Alexandria (a), reckons Matthew among those Apostles who did not suffer martyrdom, and he is not contradicted by Clement. Chrysostom (6) also, who is very full in his commendation of Matthew, says nothing of his martyrdom. On the contrary, Socrates (c), a writer of the fifth century, says that Matthew preached the Gospel in Æthiopia, and died a martyr at Nedabbar, a city of that
country; (a) Stromat. lib. 4. (6) Hom. 48 and 49. (6) H. E. lib. 1. cap. 19.
country; but he is contradicted by other authors, who say that Matthew died in Persia.
II. In the few writings which remain of the apostolical fathers (d), Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, there are manifest allusions to several passages in this Gospel; but the Gospel itself is not mentioned in any one of them, Papias, the companion of Polycarp, is the earliest author upon record, who has expressly named Matthew as the writer of a Gospel; and we are indebted to Eusebius (e) for transmitting to us this valuable testimony. The work itself of Papias is lost; but the quotation in Eusebius is such as to convince us, that in the time of Papias no doubt was entertained of the genuineness of St. Matthew's Gospel. This Gospel is repeatedly quoted by Justin Martyr, but without mentioning the name of St. Matthew. It is both frequently quoted, and St. Matthew mentioned as its author, by Irenæus, Origen, Athanasius, Cyril, Epiphanius, Jerome, Chrysoston, and a long train of subsequent writers. It was, indeed, universally received by the Christian church; and we do not find that its genuineness was controverted by any early profane writer.
· We (d) These fathers were so called, because they' were contemporary with the Apostles, and were their disciples.
(e) H. E. lib. 3. cap. 39.
11.] Of St. Matthew's Gospel. 299 We may therefore conclude, upon the concurrent testimony of antiquity, that this Gospel is rightly ascribed to St. Matthew.
III, It is generally agreed upon the most satisfactory evidence (s), that St. Matthew's Gospel was the first which was written; but though this is asserted by many antient authors, none of them, except Irenæus and Eusebius, have said any thing concerning the exact time at which it was written. The only passage, in which the former of these fathers mentions this subject, is so obscure, that no positive conclusion can be drawn from it; Dr. Lardner (g) and Dr. Townson (h) understand it in very different senses; and Eusebius, who lived a hundred and fifty years after Irenæus, barely says, that Matthew wrote his Gospel just before he left Judæa to preach the religion of Christ in other countries (i); but
when (f) Iren. adv. Hær, lib. 3. cap. 1. Eus. H. E. lib. 6. cap. I. Hieron. Cat. Sc. Eccl. Aug. de Cons. Evang.lib. I. cap. 1.
(8) Vol. 6. p. 49.
ri) H. E. lib. 3. cap. 24. Mr. Jones, vol. 3. p. 60. of his New Method, asserts, that Eusebius says in his Chronicum, that Matthew published his Gospel in the third year of Caligula; but Lardner has shewn that this passage, which is found only in some editions of the Chronicum, is spurious, vol. 4. p. 263.
when that was, neither he nor any other antient author informs us with certainty. The impossibility of settling this point upon antient authority has given rise to a variety of opinions among moderns. Of the several dates assigned to this Gospel, which deserve any attention, the earliest is the year 38, and the latest the year 64.
It appears very improbable, that the Christians should be left any considerable number of years without a written history of our Saviour's ministry. It is certain that the Apostles, immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, which took place only ten days after the ascension of our Saviour into Heaven, preached the Gospel to the Jews with great success : and surely it is reasonable to suppose, that an authentic account of our Saviour's doctrines and miracles would very soon be committed to writing, for the confirmation of those who believed in his divine mission, and for the conversion of others : and, more particularly, to enable the Jews to compare the circumstances of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus with their antient prophecies relative to the Messiah: and we may conceive that the Apostles would be desirous of losing no time in writing an account of the miracles which Jesus performed, and of the discourses which he delivered, because the sooner such an account was