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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/88

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MATTHEW


64


MATTHEW


prophet, standing in tlic lioly |ilaco": hero the author intiTrupts the sentence anil invites tlie reader to take lieed of what follows, viz.: "Then they that are in Jiulea, let them fleo to the mountains." As there would have been no occasion for a like warning had the destruction of Jerusalem already taken place, .Matthi'W must have written his Gospel before the year 70 (about C5-70 according to Batiifol). Protestant and LiixTalistic critics also are greatly at variance as regards the time of the composition of the First Gos- pel. Zalin sets the date about 61-66, and Godet about 60-66; Keim, Jleyer, Holtzmann (in his earlier writ- ings), Beyschlag, and Maclean, before 70; Bartiet about 68-69; W. Allen antl I'lummer, about 65-75; Hilgenfeldand Holtzmann (in his later writings), soon after 70; B. Weiss and llarnack, about 70-75; Renan, later than S5; Reville, Ijetwecn 69 and 96; Jiilicher, in 81-96; Montefiore, about 90-100; Volkmar, in 110; Baur, about 130-34. The following are some of the arguments advanced to prove that the First Gospel was written several years after the Fall of Jerusalem. ^^'hen Jesus prophesies to His Apostles that they will be delivered up to the councils, scourged in the syna- gogues, brought before governors and kings for His sake; that they will give testimony of Him, will for Him be hateil and driven from city to city (x, 17-23); and when He commissions them to teach all nations and make them His disciples, His words intimate, it is claimed, the lapse of many years, the establishment of the Christian Church in distant parts, and its cruel persecution by the Jews and even by Roman emperors and governors. Moreover, certain sayings of the Lord — such as: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church" (xvi, IS); "If he [thy brother] will not hear them: tell the Church" (xviii, 10) — carry us to a time when the Christian Church was already con- stituted, a time that could not have been much earher than the year 100. The fact is, that what was pre- dicted by Our Lord, when He announced future events and established the charter and foundations of His Church, is converted into reality and made coexistent with the WTiting of the F'irst Gospel. Hence, to give these arguments a probatory value it would be neces- sary either to deny Christ's knowledge of the future or to maintain that the teachings embodied in the First Gosp(d were not authentic.

VIL Historic Value of the First Gospel. — Of the Narratives. — (1) Apart from the narratives of the Childhood of Jesus, the cure of the two blind men, the tribute mone}', and a few incidents connected with the Passion and Resurrection , all the others recorded by St. Matthew are found in both the other Synoptists, with one exception (viii, 5-13) which occurs only in St. Luke. Critics agree in declaring that, regartled as a whole, the events of the life of Jesus recorded in the Synoptic Gospels are historic. For us, these facts are historic even in detail, our criterion of truth being the same for the aggregate and the details. The Gospel of St. Mark is acknowledged to be of great historic value because it reproduces the preaching of St. Peter. But, for almost all the events of the Gospel, the infor- mation given by St. Mark is found in St. Matthew, while such as are peculiar to the latter are of the same nature as events recorded by St. Mark, and resemble them so closely that it is hard to understand why they should not te historic, since they also are derived from the primitive catechesis. It may be further observed that the narratives of St. Matthew are never contra- dictory to the events made known to us by profane documents, and that they give a very accurate account of the moral and religious ideas, the manners and cus- toms of the Jewish people of that time. In his re- cent work, "The Synoptic Gospels" (London, 1909), Montehore, a Jewish critic, does full justice to St. Matthew on these different points. Finally, all the objections that could possibly have been raised against their veracity vanish, if we but keep in mind the stand-


point of t he aut hor, and what he wished to demonsf rate. The conunents that we are about to make coiicerrdng the Lord's utterances are also applicabli" to I he ( lospel narratives. For a demonstration of the historic value of the narratives of the Holy Childhood, we reconmiend l-'alhcr Durand's scholarly work, " L'enfance de Jesu.s- Christd'apreslesevangiles canoniques" (Paris, 1907).

(2) 0/ the Discourses. — The greater part of Christ's short sayings are found in the tlirce Syrjoptic ( iospels, and con.sei.|uently spring from the early catcdu'sis. His long discourses, recorded by St. Matthew and St. Luke, also formed part of an authentic catechesis. and critics in general are agreed in acknowledging their historic value. There are, however, some who main- tain that the Evangelist modified his doctnuents to adapt them to the faith professed in Christian com- munities at the time when he wrote his Gospel. They also claim that, even prior to the composition of the Gospel:;, Christian faith had altered Apostolic reminis- cences. Let us first of all observe that these objections would have no weight whatever, unless we wore to concede that the First Gospel was not written by St. Matthew. And even assuming the same point of view as our adversaries, who think that our Synoptic Gos- pels depend upon anterior sources, we maintain that these changes, whether attributable to the Evangelists or to their sources (i. e. the faith of the early Chris- tians), could not have been effected.

The alterations claimed to have been introduced into Christ's teachings coukl not have been made by the Evangelists themselves. \A'e know that the latter selected their subject-matter and disposed of it each in his own way, and with a special end in view; but this matter was the same for all three, at least for the whole contents of the pericopes, and was taken from the original catechesis, which was already sufficiently well established not to admit of the introduction into it of new ideas and unknown facts. Again, all the doc- trines which are claimed to be foreign to the teachings of Jesus are found in the three Synoptists, and are so much a part of the very framework of each Gospel that their removal would mean the destruction of the order of the narrative. Under these conditions, that there might be a substantial change in the doctrines taught by Christ, it would be necessary to suppose a previous understanding among the three Evangelists, which seems to us impossible, as Matthew and Luke at least appear to have worked independently of each other, and it is in their Gospels that Christ's longest dis- courses are found. These doctrines, which were al- ready embodied in the sources used by the three Synoptists, coukl not have resulted from the delibera- tions and opinions of the earliest Christians. First of all, between the death of Christ and the initial drawing up of the oral catechesis, there was not sufficient time for originating, and subsequently enjoining upon the Christian conscience, ideas diametrically opposed to those said to have Ijeen exclusively taught by Jesus Christ. For example, let us take the doctrines claimed, above all others, to have been altered by the belief of the first Christians, namely that Jesus Christ had called all nations to salvation, tt is said that the Lord re- stricted His mission to Israel, and that all those texts wherein He teaches that the Gospel should Ije preached throughout the entire world originated with the early Christians and especially with Paul. Now, in the first place, these universalist doctrines coukl not have sprung up among the Apostles. They and the primi- tive Christians were Jews of poorly developed intelli- gence, of very narrow outlook, and were moreover imbued with particularist ideas. From the Gospels and Acts it is easy to see that these men w-ere totally unacquainted with universalist ideas, which had to be urged upon them, and which, even then, they were slow to accept. Moreover, how could this first Chris- tian generation, who, we are told, belie vim I that Christ's Second Coming was close at han<l, have originated