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Blunt's Scriptural Coincidences -- Gospels and Acts

 

 

About this Book

This book will confirm (or restore) your faith in the Gospel records. Clearly the Gospels were not invented. There is too much unintentional agreement between them for this to be so. Undesigned coincidences are where writers tell the same account, but from a different viewpoint. Without conspiring together to get their accounts in agreement, they include unexpected (and often unnoticed) details that corroborate their records. Not only are these unexpected coincidences found within the Gospels, but sometimes a historical writer unknowingly and unintentionally confirms the Bible record.

Within these pages you will see just how accurate were the memories of the Gospel writers -- even of the smallest details which on casual reading can seem of little importance, yet clearly point to eyewitness accounts . J.J. Blunt spent many years investigating these coincidences. And here they are, as found in the four Gospels and Acts.

 

 

 

Blunt’s Scriptural Coincidences

Gospels and Acts

J. J. Blunt

 

New Edition

 

This new edition ©Chris Wright 2016

 

eBook ISBN: 978-0-9935005-5-8

 

First published in instalments between 1833 and 1847

The revised edition used here published in 1876

 

Published by

White Tree Publishing

Bristol

UNITED KINGDOM

 

[email protected]

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.

 

Reference to the KJV is to the Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press

 

Table of Contents

Cover

 

About this Book

 

Editor’s Note

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

More Books

 

About White Tree Publishing

 

Christian Non-Fiction

 

Christian Fiction

 

Younger readers

 

Editor’s Note

This eBook is taken from the original work by John J. Blunt. It contains the New Testament portion of his complete book which covers undesigned coincidences in the books of Moses, the Historical Scriptures, the Prophets, and the four Gospels and Acts. Undesigned coincidences are where writers record the same event, but from a different viewpoint. Without conspiring together to get their facts in agreement, they sometimes include unexpected (and often unnoticed) details that corroborate the accounts. Often these are writers of Scripture, but sometimes an historical writer unintentionally confirms the Bible record. Blunt spent many years investigating these coincidences. He uses the Greek New Testament for his studies, and quotes from the King James Authorized Version of the English Bible.

Blunt first published his findings on coincidences in the Historical Books of the Bible in 1831, followed by other sections of the Bible, and published all his findings as a single volume in 1847. He expanded and corrected parts of it in 1850. The Edition reproduced here is the Thirteenth (dated 1876), which has more input than the Third (dated 1850), but is most likely a reprint of an edition revised by John Blunt before his death in 1855.

Section 15 from the Thirteenth Edition in Part 1 of this eBook is not in Blunt’s Third Edition of 1850 but is in my Fifth Edition of 1856. The new section concerns Matthew 26:60 and John 2:18 where Jesus talks about his body the temple being rebuilt in three days. So from that point on, the section numbers in Part 1 of this eBook are one ahead of those in Blunt’s Third Edition. (The Third Edition is the one that is generally known, but clearly not the most complete.)

I have occasionally simplified some of Blunt’s writing, but not changed his intentions in any way. Victorians seemed to love long sentences and an over-use of punctuation in these sentences, with the occasional scholarly, erudite words that have now fallen out of use. I have inserted Blunt’s footnotes to Bible references into the main text, as footnotes don’t work in eBooks. I have not inserted footnote references to other writers to whom Blunt refers, as these books will probably be of little interest to the majority of readers today. Many footnotes are references to writers whose research he acknowledges.

However, one book to which Blunt sometimes refers has recently been republished, which some readers might find useful. An Illustration of the Method of Explaining the New Testament by the Early Opinions of Jews and Christians Concerning Christ -- 1797 by William Wilson. I cannot vouch for its usefulness or accuracy. Indeed, modern scholarship may sometimes have added additional confirmation to or modified some of Blunt's own discoveries. That is for the reader to decide.

Blunt’s references to the writings of Josephus don’t always seem to correlate with the books and chapters of English translations on the internet. I have made no attempt to resolve this matter, and readers who are familiar with the writings of Josephus may find no problem.

I have not checked the accuracy of every single Bible reference. I found one typo common to all editions where a reference is given as Luke 9:35 instead of Luke 9:53. There may be more. The many points Blunt is making work well with more recent Bible translations, but take care to check them before using them. For example, Blunt’s discussion on the importance of the different types of basket used in the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, was apparently lost to the King James translators, as Blunt observes, but we can see today that this was picked up by some of the recent translators.

Within these pages you will gain a remarkable sense of confidence in the records found in the Gospels and Acts, and see just how accurate were the memories of the writers -- even of the smallest details which on casual reading can seem of little importance, yet clearly point to eyewitness accounts .

Chris Wright

Part 1

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

 

(Note that throughout the book the italics in the Scripture quotations, and in those of Josephus in Part 2, are inserted by J. J. Blunt for emphasis, and are not part of the original text.)

 

1

In the fourth chapter of Matthew we read: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”

Now let us compare this with the fifth chapter of Luke: “And it came to pass that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their net brake: And they beckoned to their partners which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Tear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed Him.”

The narrative of Luke may be reckoned the supplement to that of Matthew. That both relate to the same event I think is indisputable. In both we are told of the circumstances under which Andrew, Peter, James, and John became the decided followers of Christ. In both they are called to attend Him in the same terms, and those remarkable and technical terms. In both the scene is the same, the grouping of the parties the same, and the obedience to the summons the same.

By comparing the two Evangelists, the account may be thus completed: Jesus teaches the people out of Peter’s boat, to avoid the crowds. The boat of Zebedee and his sons, meanwhile, is standing by the lake a little further on. The sermon ended, Jesus orders Peter to thrust out, and the miraculous draught of fishes ensues. Peter’s boat not sufficing for the fish, he beckons to his partners, Zebedee and his companions who were in the other ship. The vessels are both filled and pulled to the shore, and now Jesus, having convinced Peter and Andrew by his preaching, and the miracle which He had wrought, gives them the call. He then goes on to Zebedee and his sons, who having brought their boat to land were mending their nets, and calls them. Such is the whole transaction, not to be gathered from one, but from both the Evangelists.

The circumstance to be remarked, therefore, is this: that of the miracle of the fish, Matthew says not a single word. Nevertheless, he tells us that Zebedee and his sons were found by our Lord when He gave them the call, “mending their nets.” How it happened that the nets wanted mending he does not think it needful to state, nor should we have thought it needful to inquire, but it is impossible not to observe that it perfectly harmonises with the incident mentioned by Luke. In the miraculous draught of fishes the nets brake. This coincidence, slight as it is, seems to me to bear upon the truth of the miracle itself. For the "mending of the nets," asserted by one Evangelist, gives probability to the "breaking of the nets," mentioned by the other -- the breaking of the nets gives probability to the large draught of fishes -- the large draught of fishes gives probability to the miracle. I do not mean that the coincidence proves the miracle, but that it marks an attention to truth in the Evangelists. It surely would be an extravagant refinement to suppose that Matthew designedly lets fall the fact of the mending of the nets, whilst he suppresses the miracle, in order to confirm the credit of Luke, who in relating the miracle says that through it the nets brake.

Besides, though Matthew does not record the miraculous draught, yet the readiness of the several disciples on this occasion to follow Jesus (a thing which he does record), agrees, no less than the mending of the nets, with that extraordinary event. For what is more natural than that men should leave all for a master whose powers were so commanding?

 

[The following, to the end of this section, is a lengthy footnote in the original, perhaps to answer some criticism received following the first edition.]

The identity of the event here recorded by Matthew and Luke is questioned by some, and upon the following grounds:

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. In Matthew, “Jesus walks by the sea of Galilee.” In Luke, “the people press upon him to hear the word as he stood by the lake.” The quiet walk has nothing in common with the press of the multitude. But how do we know that the walk was a quiet one? It is not indeed asserted that it was otherwise, but the omission of a fact is not the negation of it. Nobody would suppose, from John’s account of the Crucifixion, that nature was otherwise than perfectly still; yet there was an earthquake, and rending of rocks, and darkness over all the land.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. In Matthew, “Jesus saw two brethren, Simon and Andrew,” and addressed them both, “Follow me.” In Mark (1:17) who certainly describes the same incident as Matthew), Jesus says, “Come ye.” In Luke, Simon only is named; and “Launch out,” (ἐπανάγω) is in the singular. But though Simon alone is named, it is evident that there was some other person with him in the boat. No sooner is it needful to let down the nets (an operation which probably required more than one pair of hands) than the number becomes plural (χαλάω). Who the other was, is not hinted at; but it strikes me that there is a coincidence, and not an idle one, between the intimation of Luke, that though Simon only is named, he was nevertheless not alone in the boat -- and the direct assertion of Matthew and Mark that Andrew was with him. Indeed, the plural is used in all the remainder of Luke's narrative -- "they enclosed" -- "they beckoned" -- not meaning Jesus and Simon, but Simon and someone with him, as is manifest from Jesus himself saying, "Let ye down the nets,” for so the translation ought to have run. And though it is true that in Luke the call is expressly directed to Simon alone, “thou shalt catch men,” it was evidently considered to apply to others; for “they forsook all and followed him;” amongst whom Andrew might well be included.

3. In Matthew, Simon and Andrew receive one call, James and John another. In Luke one call serves for all. But where the two calls were to the same effect, and so nearly at the same time, I do not think it inconsistent with the nature of the rapid memoranda of an Evangelist to combine them into one, anymore than the cure of the two blind men near Jericho of Matthew should be comprised in the cure of one by Mark; for the identity of these miracles, in spite of some small differences, I cannot doubt.

4. In Matthew, James and John are leisurely mending their nets. In Luke they are busily engaged in helping Simon. But to draw a contradiction from this, it is necessary to show first of all that Matthew and Luke both speak to the same instant of time. The mending of the nets does not imply that they had not been helping Simon, nor does helping Simon imply that they would not soon mend their nets.

5. It is further objected that if the mending of the nets of Matthew was subsequent to the breaking of the nets of Luke, or the miraculous draught, Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the sea was also subsequent to it, for that verses 18 and 21 of Matthew 4 relate to events all but simultaneous. It may be so, for my impression is that when Simon and Andrew cast their net into the sea, it was for the purpose of washing the net after the fishing was over, and not of fishing. ἀμφιβάλλω is the expression, and perhaps plunging the net would be the better translation. I feel confirmed in this by the fact that whatever the operation was, it was done close to shore, if not on shore, whilst Jesus was talking to them on the land. Whereas for fishing it was necessary to move out to sea: “Launch out into the deep,” says our Lord when He wants them to let down their nets for a draught.

6. It is said that according to Luke, Simon’s net brake, and that therefore Simon and his companion were the persons to mend it. Whereas, according to Matthew, Zebedee and his sons were the parties employed. But they were all partners, and therefore the property was probably common property. As the “hired servants” were with Zebedee and his sons, it is not unlikely, but the contrary, that the labour of mending the nets would devolve upon them (Mark 1:20).

7. The last objection which remains is that a comparison of Mark 1:23-39, with Luke 4:31-41, shows the call in Mark (which is certainly that of Matthew) to have been prior to the call in Luke. So it does, if Luke observes strictly the order of events in this narrative; but I see no sufficient reason for believing that what is related in chapter 4:31-44, happened before what is related in chapter 5:1-11. In the former passage Luke tells us that “Jesus came down to Capernaum, and taught them on the Sabbath days,” and he then goes on to mention some Sabbath day occurrences, concluding the whole, "and he preached in the synagogues of Galilee." This had carried him too much into the middle of things, and therefore in chapter 5 Luke brings up some of the work-day events, which a wish to pursue his former subject without interruption had led him to withhold for a while, though of prior date. Let us observe how clumsily the narrative would proceed upon any other supposition -- Jesus calls Andrew and Peter, James and John, as He was walking by the sea-side -- then He goes to Capernaum -- heals Peter's wife's mother, performs other cures, and retires to a solitary place (Mark 1:10-30). Then, supposing Luke here to take up the parable (chapter 4:42), Jesus goes again to the sea-side, and again calls Peter, James, and John; which would surely be one call too much.

I doubt not, therefore, the identity of the events described.

 

2

Matthew 4:21: “And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father.”

8:21 -- "And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.”

20:20: “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.”

27:55-56: “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.”

When the coincidence which I shall base upon these passages first occurred to me, I felt some doubt whether, by producing it, I might not subject myself to a charge of over-refinement. On further consideration, however, I am satisfied that the conjecture I hazard (for it is nothing more) is far from improbable. I am the less disposed to withhold it from having observed, when I have chanced to discuss any of these sections with my friends, how differently the importance of a line of reasoning is estimated by different minds. A point of evidence often induces conviction in one, which another would find almost of no value.

Whoever reads the verses which I have given above together, will probably anticipate what I have to say. The coincidence here is not between several writers, but between several detached passages of the same writer. From the first of these verses it appears that, at the period when James and John received the call to follow Christ, Zebedee their father was alive. They obeyed the call, and left him. From the last two verses it appears, in my opinion, that at a subsequent period Zebedee was dead. Zebedee does not make the application to Christ on behalf of his sons, but the mother of Zebedee’s children makes it. Zebedee is not at the Crucifixion, but the mother of Zebedee’s children. It is not from his absence on these occasions that I so much infer his death, as from the expression applied to Salome. She is not called the wife of Zebedee, she is not called the mother of James and John, but the mother of Zebedee’s children. The term, I think, implies that she was a widow.

Now from the second verse, which relates to a period between these two, we learn that one of Jesus’ disciples asked Him permission “to go and bury his father.” The interval was a short one. The number of persons to whom the name of disciple was given was very small (see Matthew 9:37). A single boat seems to have contained them all (8:23). In that number we know that the sons of Zebedee were included. My inference therefore is that the death of Zebedee is here alluded to. Matthew, without a wish perhaps, or thought, either to conceal or express the individual (for there seems no obvious motive for him to do either), betrays an event familiar to his own mind, in that inadvertent and unobtrusive manner in which the truth so often comes out.

The data, it must be confessed, are not enough to determine the matter with certainty either way; it is a conjectural coincidence. They who are not satisfied with it may pass it over: I am persuaded, however, that nothing is needed but more copious information to multiply such proofs of veracity as these I am collecting. It is impossible to examine the historical parts of the New Testament or Old in detail, without suspicions constantly arising of facts, which nevertheless cannot be substantiated for want of documents. We have very often a glimpse, and no more.

A hint is dropped relating to something well known at the time, and which is not without its value even now, in evidence, by giving us to understand that it is a fragment of some real story of which we are not in full possession. Of this nature is the circumstance recorded by Mark (14:51), that when the disciples forsook Jesus, “there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body, and the young men laid hold on him; and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.” This is evidently an imperfect account. It is an incident altogether detached and alone. Another narrative might give us the supplement, and together with that supplement, indications of its truth.

Another example of the same kind may be mentioned: an expression in the beginning of the second chapter of the Gospel of John. “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee” (5:1); the Apostle clearly having some other event in his mind which does not transpire from which this third day dates. Meanwhile let us but apply ourselves diligently to comparing together the four witnesses which we have, instead of indulging a fruitless desire for more; and if consistency without design be a proof that they are “true men,” I cannot but consider that it is abundantly supplied.

 

3

Matthew 8:5: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him.”

It has been remarked that favourable mention is made of the centurions throughout the whole of the New Testament. In the present instance, the centurion is represented as merciful, anxious for the care of his servant; as humble-minded, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof;” as having great faith, “speak the word only.” In the corresponding case of the centurion in Luke 7:2 (if we suppose the party not to be the same), there are still exhibited the same virtues; with the addition that he “loved the nation of the Jews, and had built them a synagogue.”

In Matthew 27:54 the centurion at the Crucifixion appears to advantage: “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God:” In Luke’s account (23:7) to still greater; “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.”

In Acts 10:1-2 we find the same honourable mention made of a centurion. Cornelius was “a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”

In Acts 22:25 when Paul had been rescued from the populace at Jerusalem by the guard, and the chief officer having lodged him in the castle commanded that he should be examined by scourging. “Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemnned?” And accordingly he found in the centurion a reasonable man who at once reported his case to his superior, and the sentence was not carried out.

In the sequel to this account, when it had come to Paul’s knowledge through his sister’s son that forty persons had entered into a conspiracy to kill him, he at once “called for one of the centurions,” as though confident that he would see him protected, and desired him to take his informant to the chief captain; which he at once did (Acts 23:17).

In Acts 27:1 we read of another centurion, Julius, and still to the credit of his character: “He courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself” (27:3); and when in the wreck, “the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners;” “the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose”(27:43).

It appears, therefore, as I have said, that often as a centurion is presented to us in the Gospels and Acts, it is uniformly to his praise.

I think there is truth at the bottom of this consistency, which is evidently undesigned. It is impossible to suppose that notices thus incidental, occurring from time to time at distant intervals, and moreover exhibiting the centurion under a variety of circumstances calculated to test him in different ways, should have been constructed on a plan and should have been contrived for the purpose of giving a colouring of truthfulness to the narrative. The detection of such a token by the reader could not have been reckoned upon with certainty. It is probable that to most of those who may peruse these pages, the fact of such consistency had not presented itself before. It had not to myself, till my attention was recently called to it. I may not be able to account for it, but that does not make the line of reasoning the worse.

Perhaps in the well-regulated Roman armies, the more intelligent and orderly soldiers were promoted to this command. Perhaps, too, their rank and position, not much removed from that of the teachers of the Gospel, might lead these officers to sympathize with them and their cause. Certain it is that the Evangelists have no theory whatever on the subject. Their testimony would be less valuable for the purpose for which I use it, if they had. They simply make statements; the inference drawn from them is altogether our own.

 

4

Matthew 8:14: “And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.”

The coincidence which I have here to mention does not strictly fall within my plan, for it results from a comparison of Matthew with Paul. If, however, it be thought of any value, its introduction will be easily excused.

In this passage of the Evangelist we discover in the most oblique manner that Peter was a married man. It is a circumstance that has nothing whatever to do with the narrative, but is a gratuitous piece of information, conveyed incidentally in the designation of an individual who was the subject of it.

But that Peter actually was a married man, we learn from the independent testimony of Paul: “Have we not power,” says he, “to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other Apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5). It will be noticed that the difference in name, Cephas in the one passage, Peter it the other, is in itself a line of reasoning that the one passage was written without any reference to the other -- that the coincidence was without design. Here again, be it observed as in former instances, the indication of veracity in this Apostle's narrative is found where the subject of the narrative is a miracle; for Christ having "touched her hand, the fever left her, and she arose and ministered unto them" (5:15).

I cannot but think that any candid sceptic would consider this coincidence to be at least decisive of the actual existence of such a woman as Peter’s wife’s mother; of its being no imaginary character, no mere person of straw, introduced with an air of precision under the view of giving a colour of truth to the miracle. Yet, unless Matthew had felt quite sure of his ground, quite sure I mean, that this remarkable cure would bear examination, it is scarcely to be believed that he would have fixed it upon an individual who certainly did live, or had lived, and who therefore might herself, or her friends might for her, contradict the alleged fact if it never had occurred.

 

5

Matthew 8:16: “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.”

The undesignedness of many passages in the Gospels is overlooked in our familiar acquaintance with them. They have been so long the subject of our reading and of our reflection, that the evidence they furnish of their own truthfulness does not always present itself to us with that freshness which is necessary to give it its due effect. We often, no doubt, fill up any gaps and complete a meaning almost instinctively, without being aware how strongly the necessity for doing this marks the absence of all caution, contrivance, and circumspection in the writers. For instance, why did they bring the sick and possessed to Jesus when the even was come?

I turn to the parallel passages of Mark (1:21) and Luke (4:31), and find that the transaction in question took place on the Sabbath day. I turn to another passage in Matthew (12:10), wholly independent, however, of the former, and find that there was a superstition amongst the Jews that it “was not lawful to heal on the Sabbath day." I put these together, and at once see the reason why no application for a cure was made to Jesus till the Sabbath was past, or in other words till the even was come. But Matthew, meanwhile, does not offer one syllable in explanation. He states the naked fact -- that when the even was come, people were brought to be healed; and for anything that appears to the contrary, it might have been any other day of the week.

Suppose it had happened that Matthew’s Gospel had been the only one which had descended to us. The value of these few words, “when the even was come” would have been quite lost as a line of reasoning for the truth of his story. How could it have been conjectured that the thought which was influencing Matthew’s mind at the moment when they escaped him, was that these things were done on the evening of a Sabbath day?

There is no one circumstance in the previous narrative of the events of that day as given by Matthew, to point to such a conclusion. Jesus had entered into Capernaum -- He had healed the centurion's servant -- He had healed Peter's wife's mother of a fever -- how could it be known from any of these acts that the day was the Sabbath? Or suppose we had been in possession of the other three Evangelists, but that the Gospel of Matthew had just been discovered among the manuscripts at Milan. I believe that such a line of reasoning as this would have carried considerable weight in establishing its authority.

I am not concerned about the perfect intelligibility of the passage in Matthew. Its meaning is obvious, and it would be a waste of words to offer what I have done, as commentary. All that I am anxious to do is to point out the unintentional evidence in it, which I think an imaginary narrative could not possibly have displayed.

 

6

Matthew 9:9-10: “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him.”

How natural for a man, speaking of an event which concerned himself, to forget for a moment the character of the historian and talk of Jesus sitting down in the house, without telling his readers whose house it was!

How natural for him not to perceive that there was vagueness and obscurity in a term, which to himself was definite and plain! Accordingly, we find Mark and Luke, who deal with the same incident as historians, not as principals, using a different form of expression. “And as he passed by,” says Mark, “he saw Levi the son of Alpheus, sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me: and he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat in his house” (2:15).

“And Levi,” says Luke, “made him a great feast in his own house” (5:29).

It may be further remarked that a number of publicans sat down with Jesus and his disciples upon this occasion. This is a fact for which no reason is assigned, but for which we discover a very good reason in the occupation which Matthew had followed. I think the odds are very great against the probability of a writer preserving consistency in trifles like these, were he only devising a story. I can scarcely imagine that such a person would hit upon the phrase “in the house,” as an artful way of suggesting that the house was in fact his own, and himself an eyewitness of the scene he described; still less, that he would refine yet further, and make the company assembled there to consist of publicans, in order that the whole picture might be complete and harmonious.

It may be added that Capernaum which was the scene of Matthew’s call, was precisely the place where we might expect to meet with a man of his vocation. Capernaum was where such merchandize as was to be conveyed by water along the Jordan southwards, might be very conveniently shipped, and where a custom house would consequently be established. There is a similar correctness in the habitat of Zaccheus (Luke 19:2). He was a “chief among the publicans,” and Jesus is said to have fallen in with him near Jericho. Now Jericho was the centre of the growth, preparation, and export of balsam, a very considerable branch of trade in Judea. It was therefore a town which invited the presence of the tax gatherers. These are small matters, but such as speak truth in those who relate them.

 

7

Similar to this is my next instance of consistency without design.

Matthew 10:2: “Now the names of the twelve Apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alpheus, and Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.”

This order, as far as regards Thomas and Matthew, is inverted in Mark and Luke. “Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew and Thomas” is the succession of the names in those two Evangelists (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15); and by neither of them is the odious, but distinctive, appellation of “the publican” added. This difference, however, in Matthew’s catalogue from that given by Mark and Luke, is precisely such as might be expected from a modest man when telling his own tale. He places his own name after that of a colleague who had no claims to precedence, but rather the contrary. Afraid that its obscurity might render it insufficient merely to announce it, and at the same time perhaps not unwilling to inflict upon himself an act of self-humiliation, he annexes to it his former calling, which was notorious at least, even though it might be unpopular.

I should not be disposed to lay great stress upon this example of undesigned consistency were it a solitary instance, but when taken in conjunction with so many others it may be allowed a place. Though the order of names and the annexed epithet might be accidental, yet it must be admitted that they would be accounted for at least as well by the truth of the narrative.

 

8

Matthew 12:46: “While he yet talked, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.”

What his mother’s desired communication might be, Matthew does not record. It seems to have been made privately and apart, and was probably not overheard by any of his followers. But in the next chapter, Matthew very undesignedly mentions that “when he was come into his own country, he taught them in the synagogue” (13:54). Hence then we see that the interview with his mother and brethren was shortly followed by a visit to their town. The visit might indeed have nothing to do with the interview, nor does Matthew hint that it had anything whatever to do with it (for then no line of reasoning of truthfulness, founded upon the undesigned coincidence of the two facts could have been here advanced), but still there is a fair presumption that the visit was in obedience to his mother’s wish, especially as the attitude of the inhabitants of Nazareth, who must have been known to Christ, was unfit for his doing there any mighty works.

 

9

The death of Joseph is nowhere either mentioned, or alluded to, by the Gospel writers. Yet from all four of them it may be indirectly inferred to have happened whilst Jesus was yet alive — a circumstance in which, had they been imposing a story upon us, they would scarcely have concurred, when the concurrence is manifestly not the effect of scheme or contrivance. Thus in the passage from Matthew, quoted in the previous section, we find his mother and brethren seeking Jesus, but not his reputed father. In Mark we have the whole family enumerated, but no mention made of Joseph. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?” (6:3).

“Then came to him,” says Luke, “his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press” (8:19). “After this,” says John, “he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples” (2:12).

Neither do we meet with any notice of Joseph’s attendance at the Feast of Cana, or at the Crucifixion. Indeed, in his last moments Jesus commends his mother to the care of the disciple whom He loved, and that “disciple took her to his own home.” Nor at a scene which occurred very shortly after his Crucifixion, though one in which all the immediate friends as well as family of Jesus are described as taking part: “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:13-14). This is the last time in which Mary herself is named in Scripture.

Such a harmony as this cannot have been the effect of the writers working together. It is not a direct, or even an incidental agreement in a positive fact, for nothing is asserted; but yet, from the absence of assertion, a presumption of such fact is conveyed to us by the separate narrative of each of the Evangelists.

 

10

Matthew 13:2: “And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship (εις τὁ πλοῖον) and sat.”

“In this, and in some other places of the Evangelists,” says one writer, “we have πλοῖον with the article (the ship, not a ship); the force of which, however, is not immediately obvious.”

Some understand τὁ πλοῖον indefinitely; but that any ship, without reference, can be meant by this phrase is grammatically impossible. Many students of literary texts and written records, indeed, have adduced this passage amongst others to show that the definite article is sometimes without meaning, but this proves only that its meaning was sometimes unknown to them.

A particular vessel is uniformly specified. It seems to have been kept on the lake for the use of Jesus and his apostles. It probably belonged to some of the fishermen (Matthew 4:22), who, I should think, occasionally at least, continued to follow their former occupation. See John 21:3.

This conjecture becomes absolute certainty when we read this: “And he spake to his disciples that a small vessel should wait on him” (constantly be waiting on Him, προσκαρτερῇ αὐτῷ) because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. Moreover, I think we may discover to whom the vessel belonged.

In Luke 5:3, we find a ship used by our Saviour for the very purpose here mentioned, declared expressly to be Simon’s; and afterwards, in Luke 8:22 we have the ship, τὁ πλοῖον, as if it were intended that the reader should understand it to refer to the ship already spoken of. It is therefore not improbable that in the other Gospel writers also, the vessel so frequently used by our Saviour was that belonging to Peter and Andrew. Here I find an undesigned coincidence. Matthew speaks of “the ship” (τὁ πλοῖον) into which Jesus went, as though referring to a well-known vessel. Mark tells us that He had “a small vessel to wait on him.”

 

11

Matthew 14:1: “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants (τοῖς παισὶν αὐτοῦ), This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead.”

Matthew here declares that Herod delivered his opinion of Christ to his servants. There must have been some particular reason, one would imagine, to induce him to make such a communication to them above all other people. What could it have been?

Mark does not help us to solve the question, for he contents himself with recording what Herod said. Neither does Luke in the parallel passage tell us to whom he addressed himself: “He was desirous of seeing him, because he had heard many things of him.” By referring, however, to the eighth chapter of Luke, the cause why Herod had heard so much about Christ, and why he talked to his servants about Him, is sufficiently explained, but it is most incidentally. We are there informed, “That Jesus went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”

And again, in Acts 13:1 we read among other distinguished converts, of “Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch” or, in other words, who was his foster brother. We see, therefore, that Christ had followers from amongst the household of this very prince, and accordingly that Herod was very likely to talk with his servants on a subject in which they were better informed than himself.

 

12

1. Matthew 14:20: In the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, recorded by all four Evangelists, the disciples, we are told, took up (δώδεκα κοφίνους πλήρεις) (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13). In all these cases our translation renders the passages “twelve baskets.”

In the miracle of feeding the four thousand with seven loaves and a few small fishes, recorded by Matthew and Mark, the disciples took up between these two vessels, whatever that difference might be, for κοφίνους is invariably used when the miracle of the five thousand is spoken of; and ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας is invariably used when the miracle of the four thousand is spoken of. (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8). In both these cases our [King James] translation renders the passages “seven baskets;” the term σπυρίς, and κοφίνους, being expressed both alike by “basket.”

There was, without doubt, a marked difference. Moreover, such distinction is clearly suggested to us in Matthew 16:9-10, where our Saviour cautions his disciples against the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees;” and in so doing, alludes to each of these miracles thus: “Do ye not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets (κοφίνους) ye took up? neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets (σπυρίς) ye took up?” Here, again, the distinction is entirely lost in our [King James] translation, both κοφίνους and σπυρίς being still rendered “baskets” alike.

The precise nature of the difference of these two kinds of baskets it may be difficult to determine. The language experts and commentators do not enable us to do it with accuracy; though from the word σπυρίς being used (Acts 9:25) for the basket in which Paul was let down over the wall, we may suppose that it was capacious; whereas from the κοφίνους, in this instance, being twelve in number, we may in like manner suppose that they were the provision baskets carried by the twelve disciples, and were, consequently, smaller.

The point of the coincidence is independent of the precise difference of the vessels, and consists in the uniform application of the term, κοφίνους, to the basket of the one miracle (wheresoever and by whomsoever told); and the as uniform application of the term σπυρίς, to the basket of the other miracle. Such uniformity marks very clearly the two miracles to be distinctly impressed on the minds of the Gospel writers as real events, as though they were themselves actual eyewitnesses: or at least had received their report from those who were.

It is next to impossible that such coincidence in both cases, between the fragments and the receptacles, respectively, should have been preserved by chance; or by a teller of a tale at third or fourth hand. Accordingly we see that the coincidence is in fact entirely lost by our [KJV] translators, who were not witnesses of the miracles; and whose attention did not happen to be drawn to the point.

 

2. There is another distinction perceptible in the narrative of these two miracles, which like the last seems to indicate a minute acquaintance with them, such as could only be the result of eyewitness testimony.

In Matthew 14:19, where the miracle of the five thousand is told, it is said, “And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves,” etc.

In Mark 6:39, it is said, in the account of the same miracle, “And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.”

In John 6:10, “And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down.”

Luke, 9:14, contenting himself with writing, “Make them sit down by fifties in a company.”

But in the description of the corresponding miracle of the four thousand we find in Matthew 15:35, “And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.”

And in the parallel passage of Mark 8:6, “And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground.” The other two Evangelists not relating it.

It should seem, therefore, that the abundance of the grass was a feature in the scene of the miracle of the five thousand, which had impressed itself on the eye of each writer, as peculiar to it. It was a small detail which had rendered the spectacle more vivid. Accordingly, unimportant as it is in itself, the incident finds a place in the narrative of three out of the four Evangelists, and in all the instances where they are speaking of the miracle of the five thousand. Whereas “the ground,” and no more, is the term used in the narrative of the miracle of the four thousand by Matthew and Mark who record it. The distinction seems to be of the same minute kind as that of the baskets; and, like that, marks the description to be from the life, and from the eye of the spectator.

 

3. There is still another indication of truth and accuracy in the account of the miracle of the five thousand, which presents itself on a comparison of John with Matthew. This also is a coincidence of a kind only discoverable in the Greek. In John 6:10, we read in our English version, “And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down in number about five thousand;” men being the term used in both clauses of the verse. But in the Greek, ἀνθρώπους stands in the first clause, ἄνδρες, in the second; as though Jesus had said, “Make the people sit down;” and accordingly, the men amongst them did sit down in companies of fifty, as another Evangelist tells us (Luke 9:14), and were thus readily reckoned up; the women and children left, to be otherwise disposed of.

Such would be our inference from John’s narrative.

Now let us turn to Matthew 14:21. “They that had eaten were about five thousand men (ἄνδρες), besides women and children.”

Here the fact which we had only inferred from John, we find directly asserted by Matthew. Surely this is an instance of concurrence without design in the testimony of these writers; not the less valuable from being so delicate as to be lost in a translation.

It seems improbable that this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, as described by the Evangelists, should give so many indications of truth singly and alone, and yet be a fabrication after all.

 

13

We do not read a great deal respecting Herod the tetrarch in the Evangelists. However, all that is said of him will be perceived, on examination (for it may not strike us at first sight), to be perfectly harmonious.

When the disciples had forgotten to take bread with them in the boat, our Lord warns them to “take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” So says Mark 8:15.

The charge which Jesus gives them on this occasion is thus worded by Matthew: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (16:6). The obvious inference to be drawn from the two passages is that Herod himself was a Sadducee. Let us turn to Luke, and though still we find no assertion to this effect, he would clearly lead us to the same conclusion. Luke 9:7: “Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him. and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; and of some, that Elias had appeared; and of some, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.”

The transmigration of the souls of good men was a popular belief at that time amongst the Pharisees (see Josephus, Bella Judaicum 2:83. 14). A Pharisee, therefore, would have found little difficulty in this resurrection of John, or of an old prophet. In fact it was the Pharisees no doubt who started the idea. Not so Herod. He was perplexed about it. He had “beheaded John,” which was, in his creed, the termination of his existence. Well then might he ask “Who is this of whom I hear such things?”

Neither do I discover any objection in the parallel passage of Matthew 14:1. "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him." This is the language of a man (especially when taken in connection with Luke), who began to doubt whether he was right in his Sadducean notions: a guilty conscience awaking in him some apprehension that he whom he had murdered might be alive again -- that there might, after all, be a "resurrection, and angel, and spirit."

 

14

Matthew 17:19-21: “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could not we cast him out. And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief … Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

Here, therefore, the words of Jesus imply that the disciples did not fast. Yet the observation is made in that incidental manner in which a fact familiar to the mind of the speaker so often comes out. It has not the smallest appearance of being introduced for the purpose of confirming any previous assertion to the same effect. Yet in 9:14 we had been told that the disciples of John came to Jesus, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?” It may be remarked, too, that the former passage not only implies that the disciples of Jesus did not fast, but that Jesus himself did, and that the latter passage singularly enough implies the very same thing. It does not run, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thou and thy disciples fast not?” (which would be the strict antithesis,) but only, “Why do thy disciples fast not?”

 

15

1. Matthew 26:60: “At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”

It is remarkable that though Matthew records the charge which was thus brought against Jesus, a charge very well calculated to mortify the pride of the Jews and exasperate them against him, he does not give the least hint of the foundation on which it rested. It is introduced abruptly into the narrative, and left there without any explanation at all.

But if we turn to John 2:18, we find the conversation preserved which fastened this accusation on Jesus. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

“Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

“But he spake of the temple of his body.”

It is evident that there is not the slightest intention of Matthew and John to write with a reference to each other's narrative, so that the one may complete what in the other is left defective. Yet the coincidence between them is obvious. What can account for it but an independent knowledge of facts in both -- truth, in short, in both?

It may be convenient to insert here some other examples of the same kind, rather than produce them separately elsewhere, according to their relative places in the order of the Gospels.

 

2. John 21:15: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Upon the supposition that by “these” is meant the disciples who were present, and that the intention of Jesus in putting the question to Peter was to convey to him a gentle reproof for having so lately forsaken Him, after having made so strong an asseveration of an attachment to Him exceeding that of all the other disciples, just before (Matthew 26:33). The narrative, as given by John would be incomplete and unintelligible unless we had also that of Matthew or Mark, for it is in Matthew’s Gospel and not in John’s that we have Peter’s speech recorded, to which Jesus is here made to allude: “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all (men) shall he offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:31-33).

John, when he wrote, had, no doubt, Peter’s speech in his mind; but it was left to other Evangelists to convey it to ours, and supply John’s oversight.

Surely the omission of an item in John's narrative necessary to the full understanding of it, combined with the discovery of an item in Matthew's which responds to this omission -- neither party obviously having the slightest idea of acting in concert with the other -- indicates, very satisfactorily, veracity in both.

 

3. Again Matthew 4:13: “And leaving Nazareth, he dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim.”

Matthew then distinctly informs us that the ordinary abode of Jesus was at Capernaum; and accordingly it is no doubt of Capernaum that he speaks in another place under the name of “his own city” (Matthew 9:1).

Now let us turn to Luke. He does not assert the same fact in any passage of his Gospel; and yet there are several passages in it which perfectly coincide with such a supposition, and satisfy us that the idea was familiar to him. Luke 10:15: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.” And still more pointedly 4:23: “And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.”

 

16

Matthew 26:67: “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

I think undesignedness may be traced in this passage, both in what is expressed and what is omitted. It is usual for one who invents a story, which he wishes should be believed, to be careful that its several parts hang well together -- to make its conclusions follow from its premises -- and to show how they follow. He naturally considers that he shall be suspected unless his account is probable and consistent, and he labours to provide against that suspicion. On the other hand, he who is telling the truth is apt to state his facts and leave them to their fate. He speaks as one having authority and cares not about the why or the wherefore, because it never occurs to him that such particulars are wanted to make his statement credible. Accordingly, if such particulars are discoverable at all, it is most commonly by inference, and incidentally.

Now in the verse of Matthew placed at the head of this section, it is written that “they smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?” Had it happened that the records of the other Evangelists had been lost, no critical acuteness could have possibly supplied by conjecture the omission which occurs in this passage, and yet without that omission being supplied the true meaning of the passage must for ever have lain hid. Where is the point of asking Christ to prophesy who smote Him, when he had the offender before his eyes? But when we learn from Luke 22:64, that “the men that held Jesus blindfolded him” before they asked Him to prophesy who it was that smote Him, we discover what Matthew intended to communicate, namely, that they proposed this test of his divine mission, whether, without the use of sight He could tell who it was that struck Him. It is difficult to account for such an oversight as this in Matthew on any other supposition than the truth of the account itself.

 

17

What was the charge on which the Jews condemned Jesus to death?

Familiar as this question may at first seem, the answer is not as obvious as might be supposed. By a careful perusal of the trial of our Lord, as described by the Evangelists, it will be found that the charges were two, of a nature quite distinct, and with a most appropriate reference to the tribunals before which they were made.

Thus the first hearing was before “the Chief Priests and all the Council” — a Jewish and ecclesiastical court. Accordingly, Jesus was then accused of blasphemy. “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Son of God,” said Caiaphas to Him, in the hope of convicting Him out of his own mouth. When Jesus in his reply answered that He was, “then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy” (Matthew 26:65).

Shortly after, He is taken before Pilate, the Roman governor, and here the charge of blasphemy is altogether suppressed, and that of sedition substituted. “And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate; and they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:1-2). And on this plea it is that they press his conviction, reminding Pilate that if he let Him go he was not Caesar’s friend.

This difference in the nature of the accusation, according to the quality and characters of the judges, is not forced upon our notice by the Evangelists, as though they were anxious to give an air of probability to their narrative by such circumspection and attention to truth. On the contrary, it is touched upon in so cursory and unemphatic a matter as to be easily overlooked. I venture to say that it is actually overlooked by most readers of the Gospels. Indeed, it scarcely be perceived at first sight how perfectly agreeable to the times and of the parties concerned such a proceeding was. The coincidence, therefore, will appear more striking if we examine it somewhat more closely.

A charge of blasphemy was, of all others, the best fitted to detach the multitude from the cause of Christ. It is only by a proper regard to this circumstance that we can obtain the true key to the conflicting sentiments of the people towards him -- one while hailing Him, as they do, with rapture, and then again striving to put Him to death.

Thus, when Jesus walked in Solomon’s Porch, the Jews came round about Him and said to Him, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not.” He then goes on to speak of\ the works which testified of Him, and adds in conclusion. “I and my Father are one.” The effect of which words was instantly this, that the Jews (i.e. the people) took up stones to stone Him, “for blasphemy, and because, being man, he made himself God” (John 10:33).

Again, in the sixth chapter of John we read of five thousand men who, having witnessed his miracles, actually acknowledge Him as “that prophet that should come into the world,” wished to take Him by force and make Him king. Yet the very next day, when Jesus said to these same people, “This is that bread which came down from heaven,” they murmured at Him, doubtless considering Him to lay claim to divinity, for He replies, “Doth this offend you? what and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?” These are words at which such serious offence was taken, that “from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

So it is not in these days only that people forsake Christ from a reluctance to acknowledge (as He demands of them) his Godhead. And again, when Jesus cured the impotent man on the Sabbath day, and in defending Himself for having so done, said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” we are told, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

On another occasion, when Jesus had been speaking with much severity in the Temple, we find Him unmolested, till He adds, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). No sooner had he said this than “they took up stones to cast at him.” In like manner (to come to the last scene of his mortal life), when He entered Jerusalem He had the people in his favour, for the chief priests and scribes “feared them;” yet, very shortly after, the tide was so turned against Him, that the same people asked for Barabbas to be freed, rather than Jesus. And why? As Messiah they were anxious to receive Him, which was the character in which He had entered Jerusalem -- but they rejected Him as the " Son of God,” which was the character in which He stood before them at his trial. These facts if taken in a doctrinal view, are of no small value, proving, as they do, that the Jews believed Christ to lay claim to divinity, however they might dispute or deny the right. It is consistent, therefore, with the whole tenor of the Gospel account that the enemies of Christ, to gain their end with the Jews, should have actually accused Him of blasphemy, as they are represented to have done, and should have succeeded.

Nor is it less consistent with that account that they should have actually waived the charge of blasphemy when they brought Him before a Roman magistrate, and substituted that of sedition in its stead. The Roman governors, it is well known, were very indifferent about religious disputes. They had the toleration of men who had no creed of their own. Gallio, we hear later, “cared for none of these things;” and in the same spirit Lysias writes to Felix about Paul, that he “perceived him to be accused of questions concerning the law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds” [_(_]Acts 23:29).

Indeed, this case of Paul serves in a very remarkable manner to illustrate that of our Lord; and at the same time in itself furnishes a second coincidence founded upon exactly the same facts. The accusation brought against Paul by his enemies, when they had Jews to deal with, and no doubt that which was brought against him in the Jewish court, was blasphemy: “Men of Israel, This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place” (Acts 21:28). But when this same Paul, on the same occasion, was brought before Felix, the Roman governor, the charge became sedition: “We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5).

It may be noticed that this is not so much a casual coincidence between parallel passages of several Evangelists, as an instance of singular, but undesigned, harmony amongst the various component parts of one piece of history which they all record. The proceedings before two very different tribunals are represented in the most appropriate way to the known prejudices of all the parties concerned.

 

18

Matthew 26:71: “And when he was gone out into the Porch (τὸν πυλῶνα), another maid saw him, and said unto them, This man was also with Jesus of Nazareth.”

How was it that Peter, a stranger who had entered the house in the night, and under circumstances of some tumult and disorder, was thus singled out by the maid in the Porch?

Let us turn to John 18:16, and we shall find that after Jesus had entered, “Peter stood at the door without, till that other disciple went out which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.”

Thus was the attention of that girl directed to Peter (a fact of which Matthew gives no hint whatever), and we see how it happened that he was recognised in the Porch. Here is a minute indication of veracity in Matthew, which would have been lost upon us had not the Gospel of John come down to our times. How many similar indications may be hidden, from a want of other contemporary accounts with which to make a comparison, it is impossible to conjecture.

 

19

My next instance of coincidence without design is taken from the account of certain circumstances attending the feeding of the five thousand. Here again an indication of veracity is found, as formerly, in here the subject of the narrative is a miracle.

In the sixth chapter of Mark we are told that Jesus said to his disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place,” (it was there where the miracle was wrought), “and rest a while; for there were many,” adds the Evangelist, by way of accounting for this temporary seclusion, “coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” How it happened that so many were coming and going through Capernaum at that time, above all others, Mark does not give us the slightest hint; nor how it came to pass that by retiring for a while, Jesus and his disciples would escape the inconvenience. We turn to the parallel passage in John, and there we find the matter explained at once, though certainly this explanation could never have been given with a reference to the very casual expression of Mark.

In John we do not meet with one word about Jesus retiring for a while into the desert for the purpose of being apart, or that He would have been put to any inconvenience by staying at Capernaum. But we are told (what perfectly agrees with these two circumstances), “that the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (John 6:4). Hence, then, the “coming and going” through Capernaum was so unusually great, and hence if Jesus and his disciples rested in the desert “a while,” the crowd which was pressing towards Jerusalem from every part of the country would have subsided and drawn off to the capital. It may be observed that the desert place, being at some distance from Capernaum through which city the great road lay from the north to Jerusalem, the multitude could not follow Jesus there without some inconvenience and delay.

The confusion which prevailed throughout the Holy Land at this great festival we may easily imagine, when we read in Josephus that for the satisfaction of Nero, his officer, Cestius, on one occasion endeavoured to reckon up the number of those who shared in the national rite at Jerusalem. By counting the animals sacrificed, and allowing a company of ten people to each animal, he found that nearly two millions six hundred thousand souls were present. It may be observed that this method of calculation would not include the many persons who must have been disqualified from actually partaking of the sacrifice by the places of their birth and the various causes of uncleanness. (Bella Judaicum 6:9. 3.)

I cannot forbear remarking another incident in the matter we are now considering, in itself minor but no less fit for corroborating the account. We read in John that when Jesus had reached this desert place, He “lifted up his eyes, and saw a great multitude come unto him, and he said unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Why should this question have been directed to Philip in particular? If we had the Gospel of John and not the other Gospels, we should see no peculiar aptness in this choice, and should probably assign it to accident. If we had the other Gospels, and not that of John, we should not be asking the question, for they make no mention of the question having been addressed expressly to Philip. But by comparing Luke with John, we discover the reason at once.

By Luke, and by him alone, we are informed that the desert place where the miracle was wrought “was belonging to Bethsaida” (Luke 9:10). By John we are informed, though not in the passage where he relates the miracle, which is worthy of note, but in another chapter altogether independent of it, (John 1:44), that “Philip was of Bethsaida.” To whom, then, could the question have been directed so properly as to him, who, being of the immediate neighbourhood was the most likely to know where bread was to be bought? Nor is this all. It would appear from John 6:8 that though Jesus’ question was immediately addressed to Philip, the answer was made not by Philip only, but also by “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”

The same passage to which we before referred, in John 1:44, which served to account for the inquiry being directed to Philip, seems also to account for Andrew taking part with Philip in the reply, for it is there said that Bethsaida was “the city of Andrew and Peter,” as well as of Philip. Here again, then, I maintain we have strong indications of veracity in the case of a miracle itself.

 

20

Mark 15:21: “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.”

Clement of Alexandria, who lived about the end of the second century, declares that Mark wrote this Gospel on Peter’s authority at Rome. Jerome, who lived in the fourth century, says that Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, being requested by his brethren at Rome, wrote a short Gospel.

Now this circumstance may account for his designating Simon as the father of Rufus at least. We find that a disciple of that name, and of considerable note, was resident at Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. “Salute Rufus,” he says, “chosen in the Lord” (16:13). Thus, by mentioning a man living upon the spot where he was writing, and amongst the people whom he addressed, Mark was giving a reference for the truth of his narrative, which must have been accessible and satisfactory to all. Rufus could not have failed knowing the particulars of the Crucifixion (the great event to which the Christians looked), when his father had been so intimately concerned in it as to have been the reluctant bearer of the cross.

Of course, the force of this line of reasoning depends on the identity of the Rufus of Mark and the Rufus of Paul, which I have no means of proving, but admitting it to be probable that they were the same persons. I think this may be admitted, for Paul expressly speaks of a distinguished disciple of the name of Rufus at Rome, and Mark, writing for the Romans, mentions Rufus the son of Simon, as well known to them. In admitting this, the coincidence is striking, and serves to account for what otherwise seems a piece of purely gratuitous and needless information offered by Mark to his readers, namely that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus; a fact omitted by the other Evangelists, and apparently turned to no advantage by himself.

 

21

Mark 15:25: “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.”

15:33: “And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

It has been observed to me by an intelligent friend, who has turned his attention to the internal evidence of the Gospels, that it will be found on examination that the scoffs and insults which were levelled at our Saviour on the cross, were all during the early part of the Crucifixion, and that a visible change of feeling towards Him, arising as it should seem from a certain misgiving as to his character, is discoverable in the bystanders as the scene drew nearer to its close. I think the remark just and valuable. It is at the first that we read of those “who passed by railing on him and wagging their heads” (Mark 15:29); of “the chief priests and scribes mocking him” (15:31); of “those that were crucified with him reviling him” (15:32); of the “soldiers mocking him and offering him vinegar” (Luke 23:36), pointing out to Him, most likely, the “vessel of vinegar which was set,” or holding a portion of it beyond his reach by way of aggravating the pains of intense thirst which must have attended this lingering mode of death. That all this occurred at the beginning of the Passion is the natural conclusion to be drawn from the narratives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

During the latter part of it, we hear nothing of this kind. On the contrary, when Jesus cried, “I thirst,” there was no mockery offered, but a sponge was filled with vinegar and put on a reed and applied to his lips, with remarkable speed: “one ran” and did it (Mark 15:36); and from the misunderstanding of the words “Eli, Eli,” it is clear that the spectators had some suspicion that Elias might come to take Him down. Do not, then, these circumstances accord remarkably well with the alleged fact, that “there was darkness over all the land from the sixth to the ninth hour”? (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33). Is not this change of conduct in the merciless crew that surrounded the cross very naturally explained by the awe with which they contemplated the gloom as it took effect? Does it not strongly, though undesignedly, confirm the assertion that there actually was such a darkness?

 

22

Mark 15:43: “And Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.”

It is evident that the courage of Joseph on this occasion had impressed the mind of the Evangelist. He “went in boldly!” (τολμήσας εἰσῆλθεν) -- he had the boldness to go in -- he ventured to go in.

By comparing the parallel passage in John we very distinctly trace the train of thought which was working in Mark’s mind when he used this expression, but which would have entirely escaped us, together with the evidence it furnishes for the truth of the narrative, had not the Gospel of John come down to us. For there we read in John 19:38: “And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.”

It appears, therefore, that Joseph was known to be a timid disciple, which made his conduct on the present occasion seem to Mark remarkable, and at variance with his ordinary character. There might be supposed some risk in showing an interest in the corpse of Jesus, whom the Jews had just persecuted to the death.

Moreover, it may be observed that John, in the passage before us, continues, “And there came also Nicodemus, which at first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes" -- as though the timid character of Joseph was uppermost in his thoughts too (though he says nothing of his going in boldly), and suggested to him Nicodemus, and what he did. Another disciple of the same class as Joseph, and whose constitutional failing he does intimate, had occurred to him at the moment, by the notice that it was the same person who had come to Jesus by night.

I will add that both these cases of Joseph and Nicodemus bear upon the coincidence in the previous section, for from where did these timid men derive their courage on this occasion, but from having witnessed the circumstances which attended the Crucifixion?

 

23

Luke 6:1-2: “And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first (ἐν σαββάτῳ διαπορεύεσθαι), that he went through the cornfields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said …”

This occurred on the first Sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread; on which day the wave sheaf was offered as the first-fruits of the harvest (Leviticus 23:10-12); and from which day the fifty days were reckoned to the Pentecost.

It is very natural that this conversation should have taken place at this time, and that Luke should have especially given the date of the conversation, as well as the conversation itself.

It being the first Sabbath after the day when the first-fruits of the corn were cut, accords perfectly with the fact that the disciples should be walking through fields of standing corn at that season.

The Rite which had just then been celebrated, an epoch in the church as well as an epoch in the year, naturally turned the minds of all the parties here concerned to the subject of [_ corn -- ] the Pharisees to find cause for complaint in it -- Jesus, to find cause for instruction in it -- Luke, to find cause for especially naming the _second Sabbath after the first as the period of the incident. And yet, be it observed, no connection is pointed out between the time and the transaction, either in the conversation itself, or in Luke’s account of it. That is, there is coincidence without design in both.

 

24

Luke 9:53: “And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.”

Jesus was going to the Passover at Jerusalem, and was therefore plainly acknowledging that men ought to worship there. This was contrary to the practice of the Samaritans who had set up the Temple at Gerizim, in opposition to that of the Holy City. That this was the cause of irritation is implied in the expression that they would not receive Him, “because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” Let us observe, then, how perfectly this account harmonizes with that which John gives of Jesus’ interview with the woman of Samaria at the well. Then Jesus was coming from Judea, and at a season of the year when no suspicion could attach to Him of having been at Jerusalem for devotional purposes, for it wanted “four months before the harvest should come,” and with it the Passover. Accordingly, on this occasion Jesus and his disciples were treated with civility and hospitality by the Samaritans. They purchased bread in the town without being exposed to any insults, and they were even requested to tarry with them.

I cannot but think that the stamp of truth is very visible in all this. It was natural that at certain seasons of the year, such as at the great feasts, this jealous spirit should be present which at others might be dormant. Although it is not expressly stated by Luke that the insult of the villagers was at a season when it might be expected, yet from a casual expression (Luke 9:51), such may be inferred to have been the case. And though it is not expressly stated by John that the hospitality of the Samaritans was exercised at a more propitious season of the year, yet by an equally casual expression in the course of the chapter (verse 53), that, too, is ascertained to have been the fact.

Surely, it is beyond the reach of the most artful imposture to observe so strict a correctness even in the subordinate parts of the scheme, especially where less distinctness of detail would scarcely have excited suspicion. Surely it is a circumstance most satisfactory to every reasonable mind to discover that the evidence of the truth of that Gospel -- on which our hopes are anchored -- is not only the more conspicuous the more minutely it is examined, but that without such examination full justice cannot be done to the variety and pregnancy of its proofs.

 

25

John 2:7: “Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water.”

There appears to me to be in this passage an undesigned coincidence, very slight and minor indeed in its character, but not on that account less valuable as a mark of truth. These water-pots had to be filled before Jesus could perform the miracle. It follows, therefore, that they had been emptied of their contents -- the water had been drawn out of them. But for what purpose was it used, and why were these vessels here? It was for purifying. For "all the Jews," as Mark tells us more at large (7:3), "except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders."

The vessels, therefore, being now empty, indicates that the guests had done with them -- that the meal, therefore, was advanced. It was before they sat down to it that they performed their ablutions -- a circumstance which accords with the moment when our Lord is represented as doing this miracle; for the governor of the feast said to the bridegroom, "Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine ... but thou hast kept the good wine until now” (john 2:9-10). It is satisfactory that in the record of a great miracle like this, the minor circumstances in connection with it should be in keeping with one another.

 

26

John 3:1, 2: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi…”

It is a remarkable and characteristic feature of the discourses of our Lord that they are often prompted, or shaped, or illustrated by the event of the moment, by some scene or incident that presented itself to him at the time He was speaking. It is scarcely necessary to give examples of a fact so undisputed. Thus it was the day after the miracle of the loaves, and it was to the persons who had witnessed that miracle and profited by it that Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27), and much more, to the same effect.

It was at Jacob’s well, and in reply to the question of the woman, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9), that Jesus spake so much at large of the water, whereof “whosoever drank should never thirst.” It was whilst tarrying in this same rural spot, that calling the attention of his disciples to the scene around them, He said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). Jesus then goes on to remind them of sowing and reaping to be done in another and higher sense.

These are a few instances out of many which might be produced, where the incident that gave rise to the remarks is actually related; and by which the habit of our Lord’s discourse is proved to be such as I have described. But in other places the incident itself is omitted, and but for some casual expression which is let fall it would be impossible to connect the discourse with it. By means, however, of some such expression apparently intended to serve no such purpose, we are enabled to get at the incident, and so discover the correctness of the discourse.

In such cases we are furnished once more with the argument of coincidence without design, as in the following passage: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Now, but for the expression, “In the last day, that great day of the feast,” we should have been at a loss to know the circumstances in which that speech of our Lord originated. But the day when it was delivered being named, we are enabled to gather from other sources that on that day, the eighth of the Feast of Tabernacles, it was a custom to offer to God a pot of water drawn from the pool of Siloam. Coupling this fact, therefore, with our Lord’s practice already established by other evidence, of allowing the sight before Him to give the turn to his address, we may conclude that He spake these words whilst He happened to be observing the ceremony of the water-pot. And the line of reasoning thus arises, that the speech here reported is genuine, and was really delivered by our Lord.

The passage, then, in John, with which I have headed this section, furnishes testimony of the same kind. It describes Nicodemus as coming to Jesus by night -- fear, no doubt, prompting him to use this secrecy. Now observe a good deal of the language which Jesus directs to him: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth ill hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (3:19-21).

When we remember that the interview was a nocturnal one, and that Jesus was accustomed to speak with a reference to the circumstances about Him at the instant, what more natural than the turn of this conversation? What more satisfactory evidence could we have than this casual evidence that the visit was paid, and the speech spoken as John describes that his narrative, in short, is true?’

 

27

John 4:5: “Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar.”

Here Jesus converses with the woman at the well. She perceives that He is a prophet. She suspects that He may be the Christ. She spreads her report of Him through the city. The inhabitants are awakened to a lively interest about Him. Jesus is induced to tarry there two days, and it was probably the favourable disposition towards Him which He found to prevail there that drew from Him at that very time the observation to his disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”

It is the favourable state of Samaria for the reception of the Gospel that suggests these reflections to Jesus; He, no doubt, perceiving that God had much “people in that city.”

Such is the picture of the religious state of Sychar presented in the narrative of John.

Now the author of the Acts of the Apostles confirms the truth of this statement in a remarkable but most unintentional manner. From him we learn that a few years later than this, and after the death of Jesus, Philip, one of the deacons, “went down to the city of Samaria” (the emphatic expression marks it to have been Sychar, the capital), “and preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5). His success was just what might have been expected from the account we have read in John of the previous state of public opinion at Sychar. “The people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake” (8:6); and “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (8:12).

It is evident that these accounts are not got up to corroborate one another. It is not at all an obvious thought, or one likely to present itself to an impostor, that it might be prudent to fix upon Sychar as the imaginary scene of Philip’s successful labours, seeing that Jesus had been well received there some years before. In such a case some allusion or reference would have been made to this account previously given. It would not have been left to the reader to discover it or not, as it might happen, where the chance was so great that it could be overlooked. Moreover, his recollection of the passage in John would probably have been studiously arrested by the use of the same word “Sychar,” rather than “the city of Samaria,” as designating the field of Philip’s labours.

28

John 6:16-25: “And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus; And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

Matthew 14:22: “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.”

It appears from John that the people thought that Jesus was still on the side of the lake where the miracle had been wrought. And they inferred this because there was no other boat on the previous evening, except that in which the disciples had gone over to Capernaum on the other side, and they had observed that Jesus went not with them. It is added, however, that, “there came other boats from Tiberias” (which was on the same side as Capernaum), near the place where the Lord had given thanks. Now why might they not have supposed that Jesus had availed himself of one of these return boats, and so made his escape in the night? John gives no reason why they did not make this obvious inference.

Let us turn to Matthew’s account of the same matter (which I have placed at the head of this section), and we speedily learn why they could not. In this account we find it recorded, not simply that the disciples were in distress in consequence of the sea arising “by reason of a great wind that blew,” but it is further stated, that, “the wind was contraryi.e. the wind was blowing from Capernaum and Tiberias, and therefore not only might the ships readily come from Tiberias (the incident mentioned by John), a course for which the wind (though violent) was right, but the multitude might well conclude that with such a wind Jesus could not have used one of those return boats, and therefore must still be amongst them.

Indeed, nothing can be more probable than that these ships from Tiberias were fishing vessels, which having been caught by the storm were driven by the gale to the opposite coast where they might find shelter for the night. How could such a number of boats, as sufficed to convey the people across (Matthew 5:24), have been doing at this desert place, neither port, nor town, nor market? Here again is another instance of undesigned consistency in the narrative. The very fact of a number of boats resorting to this “desert place” at the close of day, strongly indicating (though most incidentally) that the sea actually was rising (as John asserts), “by reason of a great wind that blew.”

I further think this to be the correct view of a passage of some intricacy, from considering first the question which the people put to Jesus on finding Him at Capernaum the next day. Full as they must have been of the miracle which they had lately witnessed, and anxious to see the repetition of works so wonderful, their first inquiry is, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” This is surely an inquiry not of mere form, but manifestly implying that under the circumstances it could only have been by some extraordinary means that He had passed across. Second, from observing the satisfactory explanation it affords of the parenthesis of John, “howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias,” this no longer seems a piece of purely gratuitous and irrelevant information. It turns out to be equivalent with the expression in Matthew, that the “wind was contrary;” though the point is not directly asserted, but only a fact is mentioned from which such an assertion naturally follows.

It might indeed be said that the circumstance of the ships coming from Tiberias was mentioned for the purpose of explaining how the people could take shipping (as they are stated to have done to go to Capernaum), when it had been before affirmed that there was no other boat there save that into which the disciples were entered. Whatever may be judged of this matter, the main line of reasoning remains the same. A small coincidence between John and Matthew is made out of such a nature as prevents all suspicion of collusion, and shows consistency in the two accounts without the smallest design.

And here again I will repeat the observation which I have already had occasion more than once to make -- that the truth of the general narrative in some degree involves the truth of a miracle. If we are satisfied by the undesigned coincidence that Matthew was certainly speaking truth when he said the wind was “boisterous,” how shall we presume to assert that he no longer speaks the truth when he tells us in the same breath that Jesus “walked on the sea,” in the midst of that very storm, and that when “he came into the ship the wind ceased”?

Doubtless, the one fact does not absolutely prove the others; but in all ordinary cases where one or two particulars in a body of evidence are so corroborated as to be placed above suspicion, the rest, though not admitting of the like corroboration, are nevertheless received without dispute.

 

29

The events of the last week of our Saviour’s earthly life, as recorded by the Evangelists, will furnish us with several arguments of the kind we are collecting.

 

1. John 12:1: Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was.”

Bethany was a village at the mount of Olives (Mark 11:1) near Jerusalem, and it was in his approach to that city, to keep the last Passover and die, that Jesus now lodged there for the night, meaning to enter Jerusalem the next day (John 12:12).

John tells us no more of the movements of Jesus on this occasion with precision. However, this one date will suffice to verify his narrative, as well as that of Mark. We now turn to John who gives us an account of the proceedings of Jesus immediately before his crucifixion in more detail -- or rather, enables us to infer for ourselves what they were, from phrases which he uses. We shall find that the two narratives are very consistent with respect to them, though it is very evident that neither narrative is at all dressed by the other, but that both are so constructed as to argue independent knowledge of the facts in the Evangelists themselves.

In Mark 11:1-2, we read: “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you…”

The internal evidence of this whole transaction implies that the disciples were despatched on this errand the morning after they had arrived at Bethany, where Jesus had lodged for the night, and not the evening before immediately on his arrival. The events of the day being much too numerous to be crowded into the latter period of time -- the procuring the ass, the triumphant procession to Jerusalem, the visit to the Temple, all filling up that day. It is expressly said when all these transactions were concluded that "the even-tide was come" (Mark 11:11); and this internal evidence entirely accords with the direct assertion of John (John 12:12) that it was "the next day.”

Accordingly, this day closed with Jesus “looking round about upon all things” in the Temple (Mark 11:11), and then “when the even-tide was come, going out unto Bethany with the twelve.” This, then, was the second day Jesus lodged at Bethany, as we gather from Mark. “On the morrow, as they were coming from Bethany,” Jesus cursed the fig-tree (Mark 11:13); proceeded to Jerusalem; spent the day, as before, in Jerusalem and the Temple, casting out of it the money-changers; and again, “when even was come, he went out of the city” (11:19), certainly returning to Bethany. Although this is not said, the fact is clear from the sense of the next section. This was the third day Jesus lodged at Bethany, according to Mark.

“In the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots “(Mark 11:20), i.e. they were proceeding by the same road as the morning before, and therefore from Bethany, again to spend the day at Jerusalem, and in the Temple (11:27; 12:41); Jesus employing Himself therein enunciating parables and answering cavils. After this “he went out of the temple” (13:1), to return once more, no doubt, the evening being come, to Bethany. Although this again is not asserted, it is clearly to be inferred, which is better, since we immediately afterwards find Jesus sitting with the disciples and talking with several of them privately “on the mount of Olives” (13:3), which lay in his road to Bethany. This was the fourth day, according to Mark. Mark next says, “After two days was the feast of the Passover” (14:1).

This, then, makes up the interval of the six days since Jesus came to Bethany, according to Mark, which tallies exactly with the direct assertion of John, that “Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany.”

But how uncontrived is this agreement between the Evangelists! John’s declaration of the date of the arrival of Jesus at Bethany is indeed unambiguous; but the corresponding relation of Mark, though proved to be in perfect accordance with John, has to be traced with pains and difficulty. Indeed, some of the steps necessary for arriving at the conclusion are altogether inferential. How extremely improbable is a concurrence of this nature upon any other supposition than the truth of the incident related, and the independent knowledge of it of the witnesses! And how infallibly would that be the impression it would produce on the minds of a jury, supposing it to be an ingredient in a case of circumstantial evidence presented to them!

 

2. A second slight coincidence, which offers itself to our notice on the events of Bethany, is the following:

It is in the evening that the Evangelists represent Jesus as returning from the city to Bethany: “And now the even-tide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve” (Mark 11:11). “And when even was come, he went out of the city” (11:19), says Mark. “And be left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Now in the morning, as he returned…” (Matthew 21:17), says Matthew.

John does not speak directly of Jesus going in the evening to Bethany. But there is an incidental expression in him which implies that such was his own conviction, though nothing can be less studied than it is. For he tells us that at Bethany, “they made him a supper” (δεῖπνον), a term, as now used, indicating an evening meal. Had John happened to employ the same phrase Mark does when relating this same event (κατακειμένου αὐτοῦ), “as he sat at meat,”) the line of reasoning would have been lost. As it is, the mention of the meal by John (who takes no notice of the fact that Jesus lodged at Bethany, though He spent the day at Jerusalem, and such meal being an evening meal, is tantamount to Mark’s statement that he passed his evenings in this village.

 

3. The same fact coincides with several other particulars, though our attention is not drawn to them by the Evangelists. It is obvious from the account that the danger to Jesus did not arise from the multitude, but from the priests. The multitude were with Him, until, as I have said in a former section, they were persuaded that He assumed to Himself the character of God, and spake blasphemy, when they turned against Him. Until then they were on his side. Judas “promised, and sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6). The chief priests and elders, in consulting on his death, said, “Not on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar among He people” [_(_]Matthew 26:5). Jesus, therefore, felt Himself safe, nay, powerful, so that He could even clear the Temple of its profaners by force in the day, but not so in the night. In the night, the chief priests might use stratagem, as they eventually did. The fact appears to be that on the very first night Jesus did not retire to Bethany, but remained in and about Jerusalem, He was actually betrayed and seized. There is a consistency of the most artless kind in the several parts of this narrative. It is a consistency, however, such as we have to detect for ourselves; and so concealed and inconspicuous, that no forgery could reach it.

 

30

It appears to me that there is a coincidence in the following particulars, relating to this same locality, not the less valuable from being in some degree intricate and involved.

 

1. Luke 9:51: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Expressions occur in the remainder of this and in the following chapter, which show that the mind of Luke was contemplating the events which happened on this journey, though he does not make it his business to trace it step by step. Thus (Luke 9:52), “And they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans.” And again (10:57), “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him…” And again (10:38), “Now, it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary.”

The line which Luke was pursuing in his own mind in the narrative was that which was leading Jesus through Samaria to Jerusalem. In the last of the verses I have quoted, he brings Jesus to this “certain village,” which he does not name, but he tells us it was the abode of Martha and Mary.

Accordingly, on comparing this passage with John (11:1), we are led to the conclusion that the village was Bethany; for it is there said that Bethany was “the town of Mary and her sister Martha.”

On looking at Mark’s account of a similar journey of Jesus, for probably it was not the same, we find that the preceding stage which He made before coming to Bethany was from Jericho (Mark 10:46). “And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people…” And then it follows (11:1), “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany…” This, therefore, brings us to the same point as Luke. Thus, to recapitulate: we learn from Luke that Jesus in a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, arrived at the village of Martha and Mary.

(Original footnote: See Luke 13:22, 17:11 and 18:31 where a subsequent journey is perhaps spoken of.[_)_]

We learn from John that this village was Bethany. And we learn from Mark that the last town Jesus left before He came to Bethany, on a similar journey, if not the same, was Jericho.

Now let us turn once more to Luke (10:30), and we shall there discover Jesus telling a parable on this occasion, which is placed in immediate juxtaposition with the account of his reaching Bethany -- as though it had been spoken just before. For, as soon as it is ended, the narrative proceeds: "Now it came to pass, as they went, that they entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house” (10:38). And what was this parable? That of “a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves.” It seems, then, highly probable that Jesus was actually travelling from Jericho to Jerusalem (Bethany being just short of Jerusalem) when He delivered it. What can be more like reality than this? Yet how indirectly do we get to our conclusion!

 

2. Nor is even this all. The parable represents a priest and Levite travelling on the road. This again is entirely in keeping with the scene. Whether it was that the school of the prophets established from of old at Jericho (2 Kings 2:5) had given a sacerdotal character to the town; or whether it was its comparative proximity to Jerusalem that had encouraged the priests and Levites to settle there, it is certain that a very large portion of those that waited at the Temple resided at Jericho, ready to take their turn at Jerusalem. So it was more than probable that Jesus, on coming from Jericho to Jerusalem on this occasion with his disciples, would meet many of this order. How vivid a colouring of truth does all this give to the fact of the parable having been spoken as Luke says.

 

3. There is more still. I can believe that there may be discovered a reason for Jesus choosing to imagine a Samaritan as the benefactor at this particular moment -- for it had only been shortly before, at least it was upon the same journey, that James and John had proposed, when the Samaritans would not receive Him, to call down fire from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54). Could the disciples be more gracefully rebuked than thus? Again, how real is all this!

31

John 18:10: “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.”

18:15: “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.”

18:16: “But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.”

In my present line of reasoning it will be needful to show in the first instance that “the disciple who was known unto the high priest,” mentioned in John 18:15 was probably John himself. This I conclude from three considerations:

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. From the testimony of the Church Fathers: Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Jerome.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. From the circumstance that John often unquestionably speaks of himself in the third person in a similar manner. Thus, 20:2: “Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved:” and 20:3, “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple.” The like phrase is repeated several times in the same chapter and elsewhere.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Moreover, it may be thought that John has a distinctive claim to the title of “the other disciple” (ὁἐπαύριον ἄλλος μαθητής), not “another,” as our [King James] version has it), where Peter is the colleague. A closer relation subsisted between Peter and John than between any other of the disciples. They constantly act together. Peter and John are sent to prepare the last Passover (Luke 22:8). Peter and John run together to the sepulchre. John informed Peter that the stranger at the sea of Tiberias is Jesus (John 21:7). Peter is anxious to learn from Jesus what is to become of John (21:21). After the ascension they are associated together in all the early history of the Acts of the Apostles.

4. The narrative of the motions of “that disciple who was known unto the high priest,” his coming out and going in, is so express and circumstantial that it bears every appearance of having been written by the party himself. Nor in fact do any other of the Evangelists mention a syllable about “that other disciple.” They tell us, indeed, that Peter entered the high priest’s house, but they take no notice of the particulars of his admission, nor how it was effected, nor of any obstacles thrown in the way.

For these reasons I understand the disciple known unto the high priest to have been John. My line of reasoning now stands thus: The assault committed by Peter is mentioned by all the Evangelists, but the name of the servant is given by John only. How does this happen? Most naturally: for it seems that by some chance or other John was known not only to the high priest, but also to his household. The servants were acquainted with him, and he with them, since he was permitted to enter into the high priest’s house, whilst Peter was shut out. No sooner did John “speak unto her that kept the door,” than Peter was admitted. So again, in further proof of the same thing, when another of the servants charges Peter with being one of Christ’s disciples, John adds a circumstance peculiar to himself, and marking his knowledge of the family, that “it was his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off.”

These facts, I believe, show that John (on the supposition that John and “the other disciple” are one and the same) was personally acquainted with the servants of the high priest. How natural, therefore, was it that in mentioning such an incident as Peter's attack upon one of those servants, he should mention the man by name -- and the " servant’s name was Malchus” -- whilst the other Evangelists, to whom the sufferer was an individual in whom they took no special interest, were satisfied with a general designation of him as "one of the servants of the high priest."

This incident also, in some degree, though not in the same degree perhaps as certain others which have been mentioned, supports the miracle which ensues. For if the line of reasoning shows that the Evangelists are uttering the truth when they say that such an event occurred as the blow with the sword -- if it shows that there actually was such a blow struck -- then is there not additional ground for believing that when one of them says in the same passage that the effects of the blow were miraculously removed, and that the ear was healed, he continues to tell the truth?

I am aware that there are those who argue for the superior rank and station of John, from his being known to the high priest, and who may therefore think him degraded by this implied familiarity with his servants. Suffice it, however, to say that as on the one hand to be known to the high priest does not determine that he was his equal, so on the other to be known to his servants does not determine that he was not their superior. Furthermore, that the relation in which servants stood towards their betters was, in ancient times, one of much less distance than at present [1850]. Lastly, that the Scriptures themselves lay no claim to dignity of birth for this Apostle when they say of him and of Peter (Acts 4:13), that Annas and the elders after hearing their defence, “perceived them to be unlearned and ignorant men.”

 

32

John 18:36: “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”

Nothing could have been more natural than for his enemies to have reminded our Lord, that in one instance at least, and that too of very recent occurrence, his servants did fight. Indeed Jesus himself might here be almost thought to challenge inquiry into the assault Peter had so lately committed upon the servant of the high priest. Assuredly there was no disposition on the part of his accusers to spare Him. The council sought for witness against Jesus, and where could it be found more readily than in the high priest’s own house?

We read that frivolous and unfounded accusations of all sorts were brought forward, which agreed not together. However, this act of violence, undeniably committed by one of his companions in his Master’s cause, and as they would not have hesitated to assert happened under his Master’s eye, is altogether and intentionally, as it should seem, kept out of sight.

The suppression of the charge is the more remarkable from the fact that a relation of Malchus was actually present at the time. He was aware of the violence which had been done to his kinsman, though not quite able to identify the offender. “One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, said, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?” (John 18:26). Surely nothing could have been more natural than for this man to be clamorous for redress.

Had the Gospel of Luke never come down to us, it would have remained one of the many difficulties of Scripture arising from the nature of the narrative, to have accounted for the suppression of a charge against Jesus. Surely, of all others, it would have been the charge most likely to suggest itself to his prosecutors, the offence having been just committed, and the sufferer being one of the high priest’s own family. It would be a charge, moreover, which would have had the advantage of being founded in truth, and would therefore have been far more effective than accusations which could not be sustained.

Let us hear, however, Luke. He tells us, and he only, that when the blow had been struck, Jesus said, “Suffer ye thus far: and he touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51).

The miracle satisfactorily explains the suppression of the charge. To have proceeded with it would naturally have led to an investigation that would have more than frustrated the malicious purpose it was meant to serve. It would have proved too much. It might have furnished indeed an argument against the peaceable professions of Jesus’ party, but at the same time the miracle would have shown Jesus’ compassionate nature, submission to the laws, and extraordinary powers. Pilate, who sought occasion to release Him, might have readily found it in a circumstance so well calculated to convince him of the innocence of the prisoner, and of his being (what he evidently suspected and feared) something more than human.

 

33

John 20:4: “So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

20:5: “And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

20:6: “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

20:7: “And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

20:8: “Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre.”

How difficult it is to read this narrative and doubt for a moment its perfect truth! My more immediate concern, however, with the passage is this: that it affords two coincidences, certainly very trifling in themselves, but still signs of truthfulness:

First, John outran Peter. It is universally agreed by ecclesiastical writers of antiquity that John was the youngest of all the Apostles. That Peter was at this time past the vigour of his age, may perhaps be inferred from an expression in the twenty-first chapter of John: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” Jesus says to Peter, “When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not” (John 21:18).

Or, what may be more satisfactory, there being every reason to believe that John survived Peter by thirty-six or thirty-seven years, it almost necessarily follows that he must have been much the younger man of the two, since the term of Peter’s natural life was probably not very much forestalled by his martyrdom. Accordingly, when they ran both together to the sepulchre, it was to be expected that John should outrun his more aged companion, and come there first.

I do not propose this as a new light, but I am not aware that it has been brought so prominently forward as it deserves. An incident thus trivial and minute disarms suspicion. The most sceptical cannot see cunning or contrivance in it; and it is no small point gained over such persons to lead them to distrust and re-examine their bold conclusions. This little fact may be the sharp end of the wedge that shall, by degrees, cleave their doubts asunder. Seeing this, they may by and by “see greater things than these.”

But this is not all. Secondly, though John came first to the sepulchre, he did not venture to go in till Peter set him the example. Peter did not pause to “stoop down” and “look in,” but boldly entered at once. He was not troubled for fear of seeing a spirit, which was probably the feeling that withheld John from entering, as it was the feeling which on a former occasion caused the disciples to cry out (Matthew 14:26).

Peter was impatient to satisfy himself of the truth of the women's report, and to meet once more his crucified Master. All other considerations were with him absorbed in this one. This is precisely the conduct we should have expected from a man who seldom or never is offered to our notice in the course of the New Testament -- even though it is very often that our attention is directed to him -- without some indication being given of his possessing a fearless, spirited, and impetuous character.

Slight as this trait is, it marks the same individual who ventured to commit himself to the deep and “walk upon the water,” whilst the other disciples remained in the boat; who “drew his sword and smote the high priest’s servant,” whilst they were confounded and dismayed; who “girt his fisher’s coat about him and cast himself into the sea” to greet his Master when he appeared again, whilst his companions came in a little ship, dragging the net with fishes; who was ever most obnoxious to the civil power, so that when any of the disciples are cast into prison there are we sure to find Peter. (See Acts 5:18-29; 12:3.)

Again, I say I cannot imagine that scheming persons, however wary they might have been, however much upon their guard, could possibly have given their fictitious narrative this singular air of truth, by the introduction of circumstances so unimportant, yet so consistent and harmonious.

 

34

The Gospel of John contains no account whatever or the Ascension of Jesus. Indeed, the narrative terminates before it comes to that point. Yet there are passages in it from which we may incidentally gather that the ascension was considered by him as a well known fact -- passages which perfectly coincide with the direct description of that event contained in Acts 1:3-13.

Thus John 3:13: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Again, 6:62: “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

Again, 20:17: “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

Had the Gospel of John been the only portion of the New Testament which had descended to our times, and all record of the Ascension had perished, these casual allusions to it might have been lost upon us. But when coupled with such record, a record quite independent of the Gospel of John, they convey to us, far more strongly than any account he might have given of it in detail could have done, the testimony of that Apostle to the truth of this last marvellous act of the marvellous life of our blessed Lord; and of which he was himself a spectator.

Related to this are the passing references to the Cross in the records of the early part of our Lord’s ministry. There are expressions which at the time Jesus used them were not understood by his disciples. We see this with Peter objecting to the idea of his Lord’s death on one of these occasions, and our Lord’s rebuke of him (Matthew 16:22). But these expressions, which fixed themselves in the memory of the followers of Jesus who heard them without understanding them at the time, but who kept them in their minds, are found ultimately to coincide with the great event then in the future: the crucifixion.

The same writers later left these words of Jesus on record. Such expressions are found in Matthew 16:24: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow me.” Also in Luke 14:27: “And whosoever doth not bear his Cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

 

35

There is a difference in the quarter from which opposition to the Gospel of Christ proceeded, as related in the Gospels and in Acts. Indeed, these two portions of the New Testament might be read many times over without the feature I allude to happening to present itself.

Throughout the Gospels, the hostility to Jesus’ words manifested itself almost exclusively from the Pharisees. Jesus clearly considers them as a sect systematically adverse to his teaching: “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! … Ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. … Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” (Matthew 23:29-32). And before Jesus came up to the last Passover, “the chief priests and Pharisees,” we read, “gave commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should show it, that they might take him” (John 11:57). Then when Judas proposed to betray Him, “he received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” (John 18:3).

On the other hand, throughout Acts the like hostility is discovered to proceed from the Sadducees. Thus, “And as they” (Peter and John) “spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them” (Acts 4:1). Again, on another occasion, “The high priest rose up, and all that were with him, which is the sect of the Sadducees, and were filled with indignation; and laid their hands on the Apostles, and put them in the common prison” (Acts 5:17).

In a still more remarkable case, when Paul was maltreated before Ananias and there was danger perhaps to his life, he, “perceiving,” we read, “that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee” (Acts 23:6), evidently considering the Pharisees now to be the friendly faction, and soliciting their support against the Sadducees, whom he equally regarded as a hostile one. Nor was he disappointed in his appeal.

Why this extraordinary change in the relations of these parties respectively to the Christians? No doubt because the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Before Christ's own resurrection -- during the period comprised in the Gospels -- the disciples scarcely knew what it meant. "And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean" (Mark 9:10). This had now become a leading doctrine with them. Anybody may satisfy himself that this was the case by reading the several speeches of Peter, which are given in the early chapters of Acts. In each and all of these speeches the resurrection is a promin ent feature -- on providing a successor for Judas (Acts 1:22); at the feast of Pentecost (2:32); at the Beautiful Gate (3:12); the next day, before the priests (4:10); again, before the council (5:31); once more, on the conversion of Cornelius (10:40).

The coincidence here lies in the Pharisees and Sadducees acting on this occasion consistently with their respective tenets: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts 23:8). The undesignedness of the coincidence consists in its being left to the readers of the Gospels and Acts to discover for themselves that there was this change of the persecuting sect after the Lord’s resurrection, their attention not being drawn to it by any direct details in the documents themselves.

It may be added that we have here in all probability the real clue to Gamaliel’s judgment (Acts 5:38): “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone.”

The Apostles had been cast into prison by “the high priest and all they that were with him, which is the sect of the Sadducees” (5:17). Gamaliel was not only in the council, and not only a doctor of the law held in good reputation among all the people, but “a Pharisee” (5:34). He stood up and advised their release, secretly very well satisfied to see the doctrine of the Resurrection triumph, and his adversaries put to shame.

 

36

Acts 4:36: “And Joses, who by the Apostles was surnamed Barnabas, a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the Apostles’ feet.”

I have often thought that there is a harmony pervading everything connected with Barnabas, enough in itself to stamp the Acts of the Apostles as an account of perfect trustworthiness. In the verse which I have placed at the head of this section we see that Barnabas was a native of Cyprus: a circumstance upon which a good deal of what I have to say respecting him will be found to turn.

 

1. First, then, we find him coming forward on behalf of Paul whose conversion was rumoured among the disciples at Jerusalem. Barnabas has the air of a man who could vouch for Paul’s sincerity by previous personal knowledge of him. How it was that he was better acquainted with Paul than the rest, the author of Acts does not inform us. Cyprus, however, the country of Barnabas, was usually annexed to Cilicia, and formed an integral part of that province, of which Tarsus, the country of Paul, was the chief city.

It may seem fanciful, however, to suppose that at Tarsus, which was famous for its schools and the facilities it afforded for education, the two Christian teachers might have laid the foundation of their friendship in the years of their boyhood. Yet I cannot think this improbable. That Paul collected his Greek learning (of which he had no inconsiderable share) in his native place before he was removed to the feet of Gamaliel, is very credible. It is also possible that Barnabas should have been sent there from Cyprus, a distance of seventy miles only, as to the nearest school of note in those parts. Be that, however, as it may, what could be more natural than for an intimacy to be formed between them subsequently in Jerusalem, where they had both gone?

Paul and Barnabas were, as we have seen, all but compatriots. Under the circumstances they were likely to have their common friends. It is possible that when it was judged safe for Paul to return from Tarsus, where he had been living for a time to avoid the Greeks, Barnabas seized the opportunity of visit in that town in person, “to seek him,” and bring him to Antioch. This was a journey, which as it does not seem to be necessary, was possibly undertaken by Barnabas partly for the purpose of renewing his earlier acquaintance.

 

2. Again, in another place we read: “And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (Acts 11:20). Here no reason is assigned why Barnabas should have been chosen to go to Antioch and acquaint himself with the progress these new teachers were making amongst the Grecians. But we may observe, that “some of them were men of Cyprus;” and having learned elsewhere that Barnabas was of that country also, we at once discover the appropriateness of despatching him, above all others, to confer with them on the part of the church at Jerusalem.

 

3. Again, when at a subsequent period Paul and Barnabas went together to preach to the Gentiles, we perceive that “they departed unto Seleucia, and from thence sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:4). And further, in a second journey after Paul in some heat had parted company with them, we read that Barnabas and Mark again “sailed unto Cyprus” (15:39). This was precisely what we might expect. Barnabas naturally enough chose to visit his own land before he turned his steps to strangers. Yet we are left by the author of Acts of the Apostles to gather all this for ourselves, by the relationship of several seemingly unconnected passages.

 

4. Nor is this all. “And some days after” (so we read in Acts 15) “Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus.”

 

A curious chain of consistent narrative may be traced throughout the whole of this passage. The cause of the contention between Paul and Barnabas has been already noticed by Dr. Paley [William Paley  1743-1805]. I need not, therefore, do more than call to my reader's mind -- as that excellent advocate of the truth of Christianity has done -- to the passage in the Epistle to the Colossians, 4:10, where it is casually said that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas. This is a relationship most satisfactorily accounting for the otherwise extraordinary persistent determination with which Barnabas takes up Mark’s cause in this dispute with Paul. Though anticipated in this coincidence, I was unwilling to pass it over in silence because it is one of a series which attach to the life of Barnabas, and render it as a whole a most consistent and complete testimony to the reliability of Acts.

One circumstance more remains still to be noticed. Mark, it seems in the former journey, “departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.” How did this happen? The explanation I think is not difficult. Paul and Barnabas are appointed to go forth and preach. Accordingly they hasten to Seleucia, the nearest sea port to Antioch, where they were staying, taking with them John Mark and “sail to Cyprus” (Acts 13:4). Since Barnabas was a Cypriot, it is probable that his nephew Mark was the same, or at any rate that he had friends and relations in that island. His mother, it is true, had a house in Jerusalem where the disciples met, when some of them perhaps stayed (12:12); but so had Mnason who was nevertheless of Cyprus (21:16).

How reasonable then is it to suppose that in joining himself to Paul and Mark in the outset of their journey, Barnabas was partly influenced by a very innocent desire to visit his kindred, his connections, or perhaps his birthplace. Having achieved this object, he landed with his two companions in Pamphylia and so returned to Jerusalem. And this supposition (it may be added) is strengthened by the expression applied by Paul to Mark, “that he went not with them to the work” -- as if in the particular case the voyage to Cyprus did not deserve to be considered even the beginning of their labours, being more properly a visit of choice to kinsfolk and acquaintance, or to a place at least having a strong local attraction for Mark.

 

37

Acts 6:1: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

6:2: “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

6:3: “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”

6:5: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Simon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch.”

In this passage, I perceive a remarkable instance of consistency without design. There is a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, on account of what they considered an unfair distribution of the alms of the church. Seven men are appointed to redress the grievance. No mention is made of their country or connections. The multitude of the disciples is called together, and by them the choice is made. No other limitation is spoken of in the commission they had to fulfil, than that the men should “be of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost.” Yet it is probable (and here lies the coincidence), that these deacons were all of the party aggrieved, for their names are all Grecian.

It is difficult to suppose this accidental. There must have been Hebrews fitted for the office, yet Grecians alone seem to have been appointed. Why this should be so, Luke does not say, does not even hint. We gather from him that the Grecians thought themselves the injured party. We can then draw our own conclusions that the church, having a sincere wish to maintain harmony and remove all reasonable ground of complaint, chose, as advocates for the Greeks those who would naturally feel for them the greatest interest, and protect their rights with a zeal that should be above suspicion.

 

38

Acts 10: I think the narrative of this chapter, which is very circumstantial, will supply a coincidence of dates so casual and inartificial as to be strongly characteristic of truth.

Cornelius sees a vision at Caesarea about the ninth hour of a certain day. In obedience to this vision he sends men to Joppa, to Peter, despatching them there on the same day he saw the vision (Acts 10:5,8). They reach Joppa the next day, “on the morrow” (10:9). They lodge with Peter at Joppa that night (10:23).

They set out with Peter on the next day, “on the morrow” (Τῇ ἐπαύριον), from Joppa to return to Cornelius at Caesarea (10:23): and on “the morrow after” (Τῇ ἐπαύριον) they arrive at Caesarea again (10:24).

Cornelius now proceeds to inform Peter how it happened that he had sent for him. He begins with telling him, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour" (10:30), and so on. Now this date exactly tallies with the time in which his messengers had been going to and returning from Joppa. We can gather this from the previous narrative -- a narrative which is so far from thrusting the time upon our notice that it requires a little attention to make it out. Indeed, in the Greek, "the morrow" and "the morrow after” (10:23), as it is properly expressed in the translation, are both simply Τῇ ἐπαύριον, the writer not perceiving or thinking about the ambiguity of the term. He does not think it necessary to impress his reader with the fact (familiar to himself) that the messengers were two days on their return from Joppa, as they were two days in going there. He never considers making the time taken in the journey coincide with the date incidentally assigned by Cornelius to his vision. And here again, be it observed, we detect the marks of truth in an account of which the supernatural forms a fundamental part.

 

39

Acts 11:26: “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

The mention of this fact is a remarkable one, and worthy of being examined. It coincides with the circumstances of the case to be gathered from other passages of Acts. It seems from the various phrases and descriptions in that book that mention Christians and Christianity, that for a long time no very distinctive term was applied to either. We read of “all that believed” (οἱ πιστεύοντες, 2:44); of “the disciples” (οἱ μαθηται, 6:1); of “any of this way” (οἱ τῆς Ὁδοῦ, 9:2); and again, of “the way of God” (ή τοῦ Θεοῦ ὁδὸς, 18:26); or simply of “that way” (ή ὁδὸς, 19:9); or of “this way” (αύτή ή ὁδὸς, 22:4). Indeed, the name Christian occurs only in two other places in the New Testament (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). A title, therefore, which characterized the new sect succinctly and in a word, and which saved so much inconvenient and ambiguous description, was memorable. Even if given in the first instance as a reproach, it was sure to be soon adopted and rendered familiar. On the supposition that the book of the Acts of the Apostles was a fiction, is it possible to imagine that this unobtrusive evidence of the progress of a name would have been found in it?

 

40

Acts 19:19: “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

It was at Ephesus where the effect of Paul's ministry was thus powerful -- and where, therefore, it seems that these magical arts very greatly prevailed. It was at Ephesus that Timothy was residing when Paul wrote to him, “But evil men and seducers (γόητες, conjurors) shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (cheats and cheated); but continue thou in the things which thou hast learned” (2 Timothy 3:13).

These were the men who dealt in occult arts -- the trade of the place in such pretences not having altogether ceased, it should seem, when a bonfire was made of the books.

 

41

Acts 24:23: “And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty.” Rather “he commanded the centurion” (τῷ ἑκατοντάρχῃ).

It should seem, therefore, that Luke had in his mind some particular centurion. Is there anything in the narrative which would enable us to identify him?

It will be remembered that in the preceding chapter (Acts 23:23) the chief captain “called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; and provide them beasts that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.”

This escort, having arrived with their prisoner at Antipatris (23:31), divided; the infantry returning to Jerusalem, and of course the centurion who commanded them; the horsemen and the other centurion proceeding with Paul to Caesarea.

When, therefore, Luke tells us that Felix commanded the centurion to keep Paul, he no doubt meant the commander of the horse who had conveyed him to Caesarea. That man’s fidelity having been already proved, he consigned to him this further trust.

This is very natural; but the neglect or non-detection of this touch of truth in our [KJV] version, shows how delicate a thing the translation of the Scripture is; and how favourable to the evidence of its veracity is the strict and accurate, nay, even grammatical investigation of it.

 

42

Acts 24:26: “He (Felix) hoped also that money should have been given to him of Paul, that be might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.”

It is observed by some that Felix (it might be thought) could have little hope of receiving money from such a prisoner as Paul, had Felix not recollected his telling him on a former interview that “after many years he came to bring alms to his nation, and offerings.” Hence he probably supposed that the alms might not yet be all distributed, or if they were, that a public benefactor would soon find friends to release him.

The observation is interesting, and in confirmation of its truth I will add that the personal appearance of Paul, when he was brought before Felix, was certainly not such as would give the governor reason to believe that he had the money to purchase his own freedom, but quite the contrary. For a passage in Acts (22:28) certainly conveys very satisfactory, though indirect evidence, that the Apostle wore poverty in his looks at the very period in question. When Lysias, the chief captain at Jerusalem, had been apprized that he was a Roman, he could scarcely give credit to the fact. Being further assured of it by Paul himself, he said, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom,” manifestly implying a suspicion of Paul’s claim, whose appearance indicated no such means of procuring citizenship. The greed, therefore, of Felix was no doubt excited by his recollecting the errand on which his prisoner had come so lately to Jerusalem.

This, moreover, furnishes the true explanation of the orders which Felix (very far from a merciful or indulgent officer) gave to the keeper of Paul, “to let him have liberty, and to forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.” This is surely a free admission of his friends being necessary, in order that they might furnish him with the ransom.

It is true that there is no coincidence here between independent writers, but surely every unprejudiced mind must admit that there is an extremely neat and undesigned harmony between the speech of Paul and the subsequent conduct of Felix. The cause and effect are so far from being traced by the author of Acts, that it may be doubted whether he saw any connection between them. Surely such a harmony must convince us that it is no fictitious or forged narrative that we are reading, but a true and very accurate detail of an actual occurrence.

 

43

Acts 27:5: “And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy.”

27:10: “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading (τοῦ φορτίου) and ship, but also of our lives.”

27:38: “And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat (τὸν σῖτον) into the sea.”

It has been remarked, I think with justice, that the circumstantial details contained in this chapter of the shipwreck cannot be read without a conviction of their truth. I have never seen, however, the following coincidence in some of these particulars taken notice of in the manner it deserves. In my opinion it is very satisfactory, and when combined with section 22a in Part 2 (hyperlink), it establishes the fact of Paul’s voyage beyond all reasonable doubt.

The ship into which the centurion removed Paul and the other prisoners at Myra was a ship of Alexandria that was sailing into Italy. It was evidently a merchant vessel, for mention is made of its lading. The nature of the lading, however, is not directly stated. It was capable of receiving Julius and his company, and was bound to the right port for them. This was enough, and this was all that Luke cares to tell. Yet in verse 38 we find, but most casually, of what its cargo consisted. The furniture of the ship, or its “tackling” as it is called, was thrown overboard in the early part of the storm; but the freight was naturally enough kept till it could be kept no longer, and then we discover for the first time that it was wheat -- " the wheat was cast into the sea.”

Now it is a notorious fact that Rome was in a great measure supplied with corn from Alexandria. In times of scarcity the vessels coming from that port were watched, with intense anxiety as they approached the coast of Italy, a thing by no means usual in the vessels of that day -- and accordingly, that such a ship might easily accommodate the centurion and his numerous party, in addition to its own crew and lading.

There is a very singular air of truth in all this. The several detached verses at the head of this section tell a continuous story, but it is not noticed till they are brought together. The circumstances appear one by one at intervals in the course of the narrative, unarranged, unpremeditated, thoroughly incidental; so that the chapter might be read twenty times, and their agreement with one another and with contemporary account be still overlooked. I confess, it seems to me the most unlikely thing in the world, that a mere inventor of Paul’s voyage should have been able to arrange it all, try how he would. It is possible that he might have affected some circumstantial detail, and so have made Paul and his companions change their ship at Myra. He might have said that it was a ship of Alexandria bound for Italy; but that he should have added, some thirty verses afterwards, and then quite incidentally, that its cargo was wheat, a fact so curiously agreeing with his former assertion that the vessel was Alexandrian, and was sailing to Italy, argues a subtlety of invention quite incredible.

If the account of the voyage, as far as relates to the change of ship, the tempest, the disastrous consequences etc. is found, on being tried by a test which the writer of Acts could never have contemplated, to be an unquestionable fact, how can the rest, which does not admit of the same scrutiny, be set aside as unworthy of credit? For instance, that Paul actually foretold the danger; that in the midst of it he foretold the final escape; and that an angel had declared to him God's pleasure that for his sake not a soul should perish. I see no alternative but to receive all this, nothing doubting -- unless we consider Luke to have mixed up fact and fiction in a manner the most artful and insidious. Yet who can read the Acts of the Apostles and come to such a conclusion?

 

Part 2

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels, Acts and Josephus

 

It will not be out of place when looking for undesigned coincidences to refer to the writings of Josephus who was born AD 37, and therefore must have been the contemporary of some of the Apostles. For my purpose it matters little, or nothing, whether we reckon him a believer in Christianity or not; whether he had, or had not, seen the records of the Evangelists. The examples of agreement between him and them, which I shall produce, will be such as are evidently without contrivance, the result of veracity in both.

 

1a

Before I bring forward individual examples of coincidence between Josephus and the Evangelists, I cannot help remarking the effect which the writings of the former have, when taken together and as a whole, in convincing us of the truth of the Gospel account. No man, I think, could rise from the perusal of the latter books of the Antiquities of Josephus, and the account of the Jewish War, without a very strong impression that the state of Judea (civil, political, and moral, as far as it can be gathered from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles) is portrayed in these latter with the greatest accuracy, with the strictest attention to all the circumstances of the place and the times.

It is impossible to impart this conviction to my readers in a single section. The nature of the case does not allow it. It is the result of a thousand little facts which it would be difficult to detach from the general narrative, and which, considered separately, might seem frivolous and fanciful. We close the pages of Josephus with the feeling that we have been reading of a country which for many years before its final fall had been the scene of miserable anarchy and confusion.

Everywhere, we meet with open acts of petty violence, or the secret workings of plots, conspiracies, and frauds. The laws seem ineffectual, or very partially observed, and very wretchedly administered. There is oppression on the part of the rulers. Amongst the people there is faction, discontent, seditions, tumults. There are robbers infesting the very streets and public places, wandering about in arms, thirsting for blood no less than spoil, assembling in troops to the dismay of the more peaceable citizens, and with difficulty put down by military force. We find society, in fact, altogether out of joint. Such would be our view of the condition of Judea as collected from Josephus.

Now let us turn to the New Testament. Without professing to deal with Judea at all, nevertheless we see by glimpses, by notices scattered, uncombined, never intended for such a purpose, that it actually conveys to us the very counterpart of the picture in Josephus. For instance, let us observe the character of the parables which are stories clearly in many cases, and probably in most cases, taken from passing events and adapted to the occasions on which they were delivered. Let us see in how many may be traced scenes of disorder, of violent seizure of property, of craft, of injustice, as if such scenes were all too familiar to the experience of those to whom they were addressed.

We hear of a “man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and falling among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). Of another who planted a vineyard and sent his servants to receive the fruits; but the “husbandmen took those servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another” (Matthew 21:35).

Of a “judge which feared not God nor regarded man,” and who avenged the widow only “lest by her continual coming she should weary him” (Luke 18:2). Of a steward who was accused unto the rich man of having “wasted his goods,” and who by taking further liberties with his master’s property secured himself a retreat into the houses of his lord’s debtors, “when he should be put out of the stewardship” (Luke 16:1). Of “the coming of the Son of man, like that of a thief in the night,” whose approach was to be watched if the master would “not suffer his house to be broken up” (Matthew 24:43). Of ‘‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

We read of the necessity of “binding the strong man” before “entering into his house and spoiling his goods” (Matthew 12:29). Of the folly of “laying up for ourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Of the enemy who had maliciously sown tares amongst his neighbour’s wheat, “and went his way” (Matthew 13:25). Of the man who found a treasure in another’s field, and cunningly sold all that he had, and “bought that field” (13:44).

These instances may suffice. Neither is it to the parables only that we must look for our proofs. Many historical incidents in the Gospels and Acts speak the same language. Thus, when Jesus would “have entered into a village of the Samaritans,” they would not receive Him, upon which his disciples, James and John, who no doubt partook in the temper of the times, proposed “that fire should be commanded to come down from heaven and consume them.” (Luke 9:52).

When Jesus had offended the people of Nazareth by his preaching, they made no scruple “of rising up and thrusting him out of the city, and leading him unto the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong” (Luke 4:29). On another occasion, after He had been speaking in the Temple at Jerusalem, “the Jews took up stones to stone him,” but He “escaped out of their hand” (John 10:31). Again, we are told of certain “Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). And when our Lord was at last seized, it was “by a great multitude with swords and staves” (Matthew 26:47), as in a country where nothing but brute force could avail to carry a warrant into execution. So again, Barabbas, whom the Jews would have released instead of Jesus, was one “who lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7). When Jesus was at length crucified, it was between two thieves.

We learn from Josephus that the situation grew more violent on the nearer approach to the breaking out of the war. Thus Stephen is tumultuously stoned to death (Acts 7:58), and “Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and taking men and women, committed them to prison” (8:3). And when Saul’s own turn came that he should be persecuted, a continued scene of violence and outrage is presented to us. If we turn to the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd chapters of Act, it might almost be Josephus who is writing them. Paul, on his coming to Jerusalem, is obliged to resort to a plan to calm the people, because the multitude would needs come together, for they would hear that he was come. Still it was in vain. A hue and cry is raised against him by a few persons who had known him in Asia, and all the city is moved, and the people run together and take Paul and draw him out of the temple.

The Roman garrison gets under arms and hastens to rescue Paul, but still it is needful that he be “borne of the soldiers, for the violence of the people” (21:35). He makes his defence. They, however, “cry out, and cast off their clothes, and throw dust in the air.” Paul is brought before the council, and the “high priest commands them that stand by him to smite him on the mouth.” Paul now, with much dexterity, divides his enemies by declaring himself a Pharisee and a believer in the resurrection. This was enough to set them again at strife, for there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees. (See Acts 23:6-8.)

Such was its fury that “the captain, fearing Paul should be pulled in pieces by them, commands his soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them.” No sooner is he rescued from the multitude, than forty persons and more bind themselves by a curse to kill him when he should be next brought before the council. Intelligence of this plot, however, is conveyed to the captain of the guard, who determines to send him to Caesarea, to Felix the governor.

The escort necessary to attend this single prisoner to his place of destination is no less than four hundred and seventy men, horse and foot, and as a further measure of safety and precaution they are ordered to set out at the third hour of the night. All these things are in strict agreement with the state of Judea as it is represented by Josephus. It might be added that independently of such consideration an argument for the truth of the Gospels and Acts results from the harmony upon this point which prevails throughout them all. It is a circumstance which I might have dwelt upon in Part 1, but which it will be enough to have noticed here.

But further, a perusal of the writings of Josephus leaves another impression upon our minds -- that there was a very considerable interaction between Judea and Rome. We find causes and litigations very constantly referred to Rome, with the Jews perpetually resorting in search of titles and offices. Rome is where they make known their grievances, explain their errors, supplicate pardons, set forth their claims to favour, and return their thanks. There are passages in the New Testament which would lead us to the same conclusion by insinuation, by an expression incidentally presenting itself, rather than by any direct communication on the subject. Hence may we discover, for instance, the accuracy of that phrase so often occurring in the parables and elsewhere, of men going for various purposes “into a far country.”

Thus we read that “the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch” (Mark 13:34). Again, that “a certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” [. Again, that the prodigal son “gathered all together, and took his _journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance in riotous living” (Luke 15:13). Again, that “a certain householder planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country” (Matthew 21:33).

Moreover, it is probable that this political relationship of Judea to Rome, the seat of government from whence all the honours and gainful posts were distributed, suggested the use of those metaphors which abound in the New Testament of the “kingdom of heaven,” of “seeking the kingdom of heaven,” of “giving the kingdom of heaven,” and the like. All I mean to affirm is this: that such mentions and such figures of speech would very naturally present themselves to a Teacher, as the Gospel represents Jesus to have been, and therefore go to prove that such representation is the truth.

 

2a

Matthew 2:3: “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.”

Nor was he yet satisfied, for he “privily called the wise men and enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared" (2:7). And when they did not return from Bethlehem, as he expected, he seems to have been still more apprehensive -- "exceeding wroth" (2:16).

Such a transaction as this is perfectly agreeable to the character of Herod, as we may understand it from Josephus. He was always in fear for the stability of his throne, and anxious to pry into the future that he might discover whether it was likely to happen.

Thus we read in Josephus of a certain Essene, Manahem by name, who had foretold, whilst Herod was yet a boy, that he was destined to be a king. Accordingly, “when he was actually advanced to that dignity, and in the plenitude of his power, he sent for Manahem and inquired of him how long he should reign? Manahem did not tell him the precise period. Whereupon he questioned him further, whether he should reign ten years or not? He replied, Yes, twenty, nay, thirty years; but he did not assign a limit to the continuance of his empire. With these answers Herod was satisfied, and giving Manahem his hand, dismissed him, and from that time he never ceased to honour all the Essenes” (Antiquities 15:10, #5).

 

3a

Matthew 2:22: “But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither.”

On the death of Herod, Joseph was commanded to return to the land of Israel, and “he arose and took the young child” and went. However, before he began his journey, or whilst he was still on the way back, he was told that Archelaus reigned in Judea in place of his father Herod, and he was afraid to go thither. Archelaus, therefore, must have been notorious for his cruelty very soon indeed after coming to his throne. Nothing short of this could account for the sudden resolution of Joseph to avoid him with so much speed.

Now it is remarkable enough, that at the very first Passover after Herod’s death, even before Archelaus had yet had time to set out for Rome to obtain the ratification of his authority from the emperor, he was guilty of an act of outrage and bloodshed, under circumstances above all others fitted to make it generally and immediately known. One of the last deeds of his father, Herod, had been to put to death Judas and Matthias, two persons who had instigated some young men to pull down a golden eagle which Herod had fixed over the gate of the Temple, contrary, as they believed, to the Law of Moses. The hapless fate of these martyrs to the Law excited great commiseration at the Passover which ensued. The parties, however, who uttered their lamentations aloud were silenced by Archelaus, the new king, in the following manner:

“He sent out all the troops against them, and ordered the horsemen to prevent those who had their tents outside the temple from rendering assistance to those who were within it, and to put to death such as might escape from the foot. The cavalry slew nearly three thousand men; the rest betook themselves for safety to the neighbouring mountains. Then Archelaus commanded proclamation to be made, that they should all retire to their own homes. So they went away, and left the festival out of fear lest somewhat worse should ensue” [_(_]Antiquities 17:9 #3).

We must bear in mind that at the Passover Jews from all parts of the world were assembled. Any event which occurred at Jerusalem during that great feast would be speedily reported on their return to the countries where they dwelt. Such a massacre, therefore, at such a season, would at once mark the character of Archelaus. The fear of him would naturally spread itself wherever a Jew was to be found. In fact, so well remembered was this his first venture at governing the people that several years afterwards it was brought against him with great effect on his appearance before Caesar at Rome.

It is the more probable that this act of cruelty inspired Joseph with his dread of Archelaus, because that prince could not have been much known before he came to the throne, never having become involved in the nation at large.

 

4a

Matthew 17:24: “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes.”

The word which is translated tribute money is, in the original, “didrachma” of which indeed notice is given in the margin of our [KJV] version; and it is worthy of remark that this tax seems not to have been designated by any general name, such as tribute, custom, etc., but actually had the specific appellation of “didrachma.”

Thus Josephus writes: “Nisibis, too, is a city surrounded by the same river (the Euphrates); wherefore the Jews, trusting to the nature of its position, deposited there the didrachma, which it is customary for each individual to pay to God, as well as their other offerings” (Antiquities 18:9 #1). [Editor’s note: in some modern English Bible translations the didrachma is translated as a half shekel, but the word is didrachma in the original Greek.]

There is something which indicates veracity in Matthew to be correct in a trifle like this. He makes no mistake in the sum paid to the Temple, nor does he express himself by a general term, such as would have concealed his ignorance, but hits upon the exact payment that was made, and the name that was given it.

It may be added that Matthew uses the word didrachma without the smallest explanation, which is not the case, as we have seen, with Josephus: yet the line of reasoning of Jesus which follows would be quite unintelligible to those who did not know for whose service this tribute money was paid. It is evident, therefore, that Matthew thought there could be no obscurity in the term; that it was much too familiar with his readers to need a comment. Now the use of it probably ceased with the destruction of the Temple [in AD 70]; after which but few years would elapse before some interpretation would be necessary, more especially as the term itself does not in the least imply the nature of the tax, but only its individual amount. The undesigned omission of everything of this kind, on the part of Matthew, clearly proves the Gospel to have been written before the Temple was destroyed.

 

5a

Matthew 22:23: “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him…”

It is unusual to find a paragraph like this in Matthew, explaining Jewish beliefs or practices. In general it is quite characteristic of him that he presumes that his readers are perfectly familiar with Judea and all that pertains to it. This presumption distinguishes him from the other Gospel writers. Mark, in treating the same subjects, is generally found to enlarge upon them much more, as though conscious that he had those to deal with who were not thoroughly conversant with Jewish affairs.

Compare the following parallel passages in these two Evangelists.

Matthew 9:14: “Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?”

Mark 2:18: “And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?”

Matthew 15:1: “Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the Elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them…”

Mark 7:1-5: “Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the Scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the Elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and Scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the Elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”

Matthew 27:62: “Now the next day, that followed the day of the Preparation, the Chief Priests and Pharisees came together…”

Mark 15:42: “And now when the even was come, because it was the Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath;

These examples (to which many more might be added) may suffice to show the manner of Matthew as compared with that of another of the Evangelists, for they are written with very little explanation. How, then, does it happen that in the instance before us he deviates from his ordinary, almost his uniform practice; and whilst writing for Jews, thinks it necessary to inform them of so notorious a tenet of the Sadducees (for such we might suppose it) as their disbelief in a resurrection? Would not his Jewish readers have known at once, and on the mere mention of the name of this sect, that he was speaking of persons who denied that doctrine?

Let us turn to Josephus (Antiquities 18:1 #4), and we shall find him throwing some light upon our inquiry:

“The doctrine of the Sadducees is that the soul and body perish together. The law is all that they are concerned to observe. They consider it commendable to controvert the opinions of masters even of their own school of philosophy. This doctrine, however, has not many followers, but those persons of the highest ranknext to nothing of public business falls into their hands.”

Thus, we see, it was very possible for the people of Judea, though well acquainted with most of the local peculiarities of their country, to be ignorant, or at least ill-informed, of the dogmas of a sect, insignificant in numbers, removed from them by station, and seldom or never brought into contact with them by office. Therefore Matthew felt it necessary to explain in this instance, even though in so many other instances he withheld explanation.

 

6a

Matthew 26:5: “But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

I have already alluded to the insubordinate condition of Judea in general at the time of our Lord’s ministry. We have here an example of the feverish and irritable state of the capital itself, in particular, during the feast of the Passover:

“The feast of the Passover,” says Josephus (who relates an event that happened some few years after Christ’s death), “being at hand, wherein it is our custom to use unleavened bread, and a great multitude being drawn together from all parts to the feast, Cumanus (the governor), fearing that some disturbance might fall out amongst them, commands one cohort of soldiers to arm themselves and stand in the porticoes of the Temple, to suppress any riot which might occur; and this precaution the governors of Judea before him had adopted” (Antiquities 20:4 #3).

In spite, however, of these prudent measures, a tumult arose on this very occasion, in which, according to Josephus, twenty thousand Jews perished.

 

7a

Mark 5:1: “And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes…”

5[“Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of _swine feeding.”

Here it might at first seem that Mark had been betrayed into an oversight -- for since swine were held in abhorrence by the Jews as unclean, how did it happen that a herd of them were feeding on the side of the sea of Tiberias?

The objection, however, only serves to prove yet more the accuracy of the Evangelist, and his intimate knowledge of the local circumstances of Judea. On turning to Josephus (Antiquities 17:13 #4), we find that “Turris Stratonis, and Sebaste, and Joppa, and Jerusalem, were made subject to Archelaus, but that Gaza, Gadara, and Hippos, being Grecian cities, were annexed by Caesar to Syria.” This fact, therefore, is enough to account for swine being found amongst the Gadarenes.

8a

Mark 6:21-22: “And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced…”

It is curious and worthy of remark that a feast under exactly similar circumstances is incidentally described by Josephus as made by Herod, the brother of Herodias, and successor of this prince in his government. “Saving made a feast on his birthday (writes Josephus), when all under his command partook of the mirth, he sent for Silas’‘ (an officer whom he had cast into prison for taking liberties with him), “and offered him a seat at the banquet.” (Antiquities 6:7 #1).

I believe this is a coincidence worth notice, because it proves that these birthday feasts were observed in the family of Herod, and that it was customary to assemble the officers of government to share in them.

 

9a

Mark 14:13-14: “And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the good man of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?

When Cestius wished to inform Nero of the numbers which attended the Passover at Jerusalem, he counted the victims and allowed ten persons to each head, “because a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many are twenty in company” (Bellum Judaicum 6:c. 9 #3).

Accordingly, the Gospel narrative is in strict conformity with this custom. When Christ goes up to Jerusalem to attend the Passover for the last time, He is not described as running the chance of hospitality in the houses of any of his friends, because on this occasion the parties would already be made up, and the addition of thirteen guests might be inconvenient, but He sends forth beforehand, from Bethany most probably, two of his disciples to the city with orders to engage a room. This was a necessary precaution where so many groups would be seeking accommodation. It is there that Jesus eats the Passover with his followers, a party of thirteen, which it appears was about the usual number.

 

10a

Luke 2:42: “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.”

I am aware that commentators upon this text quote the Rabbis to show that children twelve years old amongst the Jews were considered to be entering the estate of manhood, and that on this account it was that Jesus was taken at that age to the Passover. Such may be the true interpretation of the passage. I cannot, however, forbear offering a conjecture which occurred to me in reading the history of Archelaus.

The birth of Christ probably preceded the death of Herod by a year and a half, or thereabout. Archelaus succeeded Herod, and governed the country, it should seem, about ten years. “In the tenth year of Archelaus’ reign, the chief governors among the Jews and Samaritans, unable any longer to endure his cruelty and tyranny, accused him before Caesar.” Caesar upon this sent for him to Rome, and “as soon as he came to Rome, when the Emperor had heard his accusers, and his defence, he banished him to Vienne, in France, and confiscated his goods” (Antiquities 17: #15).

The removal, therefore, of this obnoxious governor appears to have been in our Lord’s twelfth year. Might not this circumstance account for the parents of the child Jesus venturing to take Him to Jerusalem at the Passover when He was twelve years old, and not before? It was only because “Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of his father Herod,” that Joseph was afraid to go thither on his return from Egypt, influenced not merely by motives of personal safety, but by the consideration that the same jealousy which had urged Herod to take away the young child’s life, might also prevail with his successor.

We do not find that any fears about himself or Mary withheld him from subsequently going to the Passover, even during the reign of Archelaus, since it is recorded that “they went every year.” I submit it, therefore, to my readers’ decision, whether the same apprehensions for the life of the infant Jesus, which prevented Joseph from taking Him into Judea, on hearing that Archelaus was king prevented him from taking Him up to Jerusalem till he heard that Archelaus was deposed?

 

11a

Luke 6:13: “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named Apostles.”

10:1: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face.”

There is something in the selection of these numbers which indicates truthfulness in the narrative. They were, on several accounts, favourite numbers amongst the Jews. One (to name no other reason) being that of the Tribes, the other (taken roundly) that of the Elders. Accordingly we read in Josephus that Varus, who held a post in the government under Agrippa, “called to him twelve Jews of Caesarea, of the best character, and ordered them to go to Ecbatana, and bear this message to their countrymen who dwelt there: “Varus hath heard that you intend to march against the king; but not believing the report, he hath sent us to persuade you to lay down your arms, counting such compliance to be a sign that he did well not to give credit to those who so spake concerning you. … He also enjoined those Jews of Ecbatana to send seventy of their principal men to make a defence for them touching the accusation laid against them. So when the twelve messengers came to their countrymen at Ecbatana, and found that they had no designs of innovation at all, they persuaded them to send the seventy also. Then went these seventy down to Caesarea together with the twelve ambassadors” (Life of Josephus #11).

This is a very slight matter, to be sure, but it is still something to find the minor parts of an account in strict keeping with the habits of the people and of the age to which it professes to belong. Luke might have fixed upon any other number for the Apostles and first Disciples of Jesus, without thereby incurring any accusation of a want of truthfulness. It is therefore the more satisfactory to discover marks of truth, where the absence of such marks would not have occasioned the least suspicion of falsehood.

 

12a

Luke 7:1: “Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.”

7: 11: “And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.”

Jesus comes to Capernaum -- He goes on to Nain -- fame precedes Him as He approaches Judea -- He arrives in the neighbourhood of John the Baptist -- He travels still further south to the vicinity of the Holy City, near which the Magdalen dwelt. Luke, it will be perceived, is here describing a journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Now let us hear Josephus (Antiquities 20:5, #1): “A quarrel sprung up between the Samaritans and the Jews, and this was the cause of it. The Galileans, when they resorted to the Holy City at the feasts, had to pass through the country of the Samaritans. Now it happened that certain inhabitants of a place on the road, Nain by name, situated on the borders of Samaria and the Great Plain, rose upon them and slew many.”

Jesus, therefore, in this his journey southwards (a journey, be it observed, which Luke does not formally lay down, but the general direction of which we gather from an incident or two occurring in the course of it, and from the point to which it tended), -- Jesus, in this his journey, is found to come to a city, which it appears did actually lie in the way of those who travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem. This is as it should be. This part of the story is certainly matter of fact.

There is every reason to believe Luke Evangelist when he says that Jesus “went into a city called Nain.” What reason is there to disbelieve him when he goes on to say that He met a dead man at the gate; that He touched the bier; bade the young man arise; and that the dead sat up and spake?

 

13a

Luke 23:6: “When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.”

The fair inference from this verse is that Jerusalem was not the common place of abode either of Herod or Pilate. Such is certainly the force of the emphatic expression, “who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time,” applied as it is directly to Herod, but with a reference to the person of whom mention had been made in the former part of the sentence. The more indirect this mention is, the stronger it makes the line of reasoning. That Herod did not reside at Jerusalem, may be inferred from the following passage in Josephus.

"This king" (meaning the Herod who killed James, the brother of John -- Acts 12) "was not at all like that Herod who reigned before him’‘ (meaning the Herod to whom Christ was sent by Pilate), “for the latter was stern and severe in his punishments, and had no mercy on. those he hated: confessedly better disposed towards the Greeks than the Jews: accordingly, of the cities of the strangers, some he beautified at his own expense with baths and theatres, and others with temples and corridors; but upon no Jewish city did he bestow the smallest decoration or the most trifling present. Whereas the other Herod (Agrippa) was of a mild and gentle disposition, and good to all men. To strangers he was beneficent, but yet more kind to the Jews, his countrymen, with whom he sympathised in all their troubles. He took pleasure, therefore, in constantly living at Jerusalem, and strictly observed all the customs of his nation” (Antiquities 19:7 #3).

Thus it appears from the Jewish historian that the Herod of Acts was a contrast to the Herod in question, inasmuch as he loved the Jews and dwelt at Jerusalem. Nor is Luke less accurate in representing Pilate to have been not resident at Jerusalem. Caesarea seems to have been the place of abode of the Roman governors of Judea in general. (See Antiquities 18:4 #1; 20:4 #4). It certainly was the abode of Pilate, for when the Jews had to complain to him of the profanity which had been offered to their Temple by the introduction of Caesar’s image into it, it was to Caesarea that they carried their strong protest (Bellum Judaicum 2:c. 9 #2).

It was probably the business of the Passover which had brought Pilate to Jerusalem for a few days, the presence of the governor being never more needful in the capital than on such an occasion.

 

14a

John 4:15: “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

It seems that there was no water in Sychar, and that the inhabitants had to come to this well to draw. Most likely it was at some distance from the town, for the woman speaks of the labour of fetching the water as considerable. Jesus stopped short of the town at the well because He “was wearied with his journey,” whilst his disciples went on to buy bread.

Now, on the breaking out of the war with the Romans, some of the Samaritans assembled on Mount Gerizim, close to the foot of which (be it observed) was the city of Sychar placed. Upon this Vespasian determined to put some troops in action against them. “For, although all Samaria was provided with garrisons, yet did the number and evil spirit of those who had come together at Mount Gerizim give ground for apprehension; therefore he sent Cerealis, the commander of the fifth Legion, with six hundred horse, and three thousand foot. Not thinking it safe, however, to go up the mountain and give them battle, because many of the enemy were on the higher ground, he encompassed all the circuit (ὑπωρείαν) of the mountain with his army, and watched them all that day. But it came to pass, that whilst the Samaritans were now without water, a terrible heat came on, for it was summer, and the people were unprovided with necessaries, so that some of them died of thirst that same day, and many others, preferring slavery to such a death, fled to the Romans” (Bellum Judaicum 3:c. 7 #32).

The troops of Cerealis, no doubt, cut them off from the well of Sychar, which we perceive from John was the place to which the neighbourhood were compelled to resort. This is the more likely, inasmuch as the soldiers of the Roman general do not appear to have suffered from thirst at all on this occasion.

 

15a

John 19:13: “When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement” (Λιθόστρωτον).

According to John, (he being the only one of the four Evangelists who mentions this incident), Pilate comes out of his own hall to his judgment seat on the Pavement. The hall and the Pavement, then, were near or adjacent.

Now let us turn to Josephus: “The City was strengthened by the palace in which he (Herod) dwelt, and the Temple by the fortifications attached to the bastion called Antonia” (Antiquities 15:8 #5). Hence we conclude that the Temple was near the Castle of Antonia.

“On the western side of the court (of the Temple) were four gates, one looking to the palace” [. Hence we conclude that the Temple was near the _palace of Herod. Therefore the palace was near the Castle of Antonia.

But if Pilate’s hall was a part of the palace, as it was (that being the residence of the Roman governor when he was at Jerusalem), then Pilate’s hall was near the Castle of Antonia.

Here let us pause a moment and direct our attention to a passage in the Jewish War (6:c. 1 #8) where Josephus records the prowess of a centurion in the Roman army, Julianus by name, in an assault upon Jerusalem.

“ This man had posted himself near Titus, at the Castle of Antonia, when, observing that the Romans were giving way, and defending themselves but indifferently, he rushed forward and drove back the victorious Jews to the corner of the inner Temple, singlehanded, for the whole multitude fled before him, scarcely believing such strength and spirit to belong to a mere mortal. But he, dashing through the crowd, smote them on every side, as many as he could lay hands upon. It was a sight which struck Caesar with astonishment, and seemed terrific to all. Nevertheless his fate overtook him -- as how could it be otherwise, unless he had been more than man? -- for having many sharp nails in his shoes, after the soldiers' fashion, ho slipped as he was running upon the Pavement (κατἀ Λιθόστρωτον), and fell upon his back. The clatter of his arms caused the fugitives to turn about: and now a cry was set up by the Romans in the Castle of Antonia, who were in alarm for the man.”

From this passage it appears that a pavement was near the Castle of Antonia; but we have already seen that the Castle of Antonia was near the palace (or Pilate’s hall) therefore this pavement was near Pilate’s hall. This, then, is proved from Josephus, though very circuitously, that very near Pilate’s residence there was a pavement (Λιθόστρωτον). That it gave its name to that spot is not proved, yet nothing can be more probable than that it did. Consequently nothing is more probable than that John is speaking with truth and accuracy when he makes Pilate bring Jesus forth and sit down in his judgment-seat in a place called the Pavement.

 

16a

John 19:15: “The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Although the Roman emperors never took the title of kings, yet it appears from Josephus that they were so called by the Jews. Further, as with the writers of the New Testament, Josephus commonly employs the term Caesar as sufficient to designate the reigning prince. Thus, when speaking of Titus, Josephus says, “Many did not so much as know that the king was in any danger.” And again, shortly after, “the enemy indeed made a great shout at the boldness of Caesar, and exhorted one another to rush upon him” (Bellum Judaicum 5:c. 2 #2).

This is a noticeable coincidence in popular speech, and indicates that the writers of the New Testament were familiar with the scenes they describe, and the parties they introduce.

 

17a

Acts 3:1-2: “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.”

The lame man is healed. The fame of this miraculous cure is instantly spread abroad.

“And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering” (3:11).

There is a coming together in the localities of this miracle which is favourable to a belief in its truth.

Josephus speaks of a great outer gate (that of the Porch) “opening into the court of the women on the East, and opposite to the gate of the Temple, in size surpassing the others, being fifty cubits high and forty wide; and more finished in its decorations, by reason of the thick plates of silver and gold which were upon it” (Bellum Judaicum 5:c. 5 #3).

But in another passage of the same author we read as follows: “They persuaded the king (Agrippa) to restore the Eastern Porch. This was a porch of the outer Temple, situated upon the edge of a deep abyss,. resting upon a wall four hundred cubits high, constructed of quadrangular stones, quite white, each stone twenty cubits by six, the work of King Solomon, the original builder of the Temple” (Antiquities 20:8 #7).

Thus it appears that a gate, more highly ornamented than the rest, looked to the East. A porch, of which Solomon was the founder, looked also to the East. Both, therefore, were on the same side of the Temple. Accordingly it was natural for the people, hearing that a lame man who usually lay at the Beautiful Gate, and who had been cured as he lay there -- it was very natural for them to run to Solomon’s porch to satisfy themselves of the truth of the report.

 

18a

Acts 9:36: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas.”

It may be mentioned that Josephus, who (like Luke) wrote in Greek of things which happened in a country where Syriac was the common language, thinks fit to add a similar explanation when he alludes to this same proper name when writing about a different John.

“They sent one John, who was the most bloody-minded of them all, to do that execution. This man was also called the son of Dorcas in the language of our country” (Bellum Judaicum 4:c. 3 #5).

 

19a

Acts 6:1: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”

In section 37 I found an instance of consistency without design in this passage, on comparing it with the dispute. I now find a second like instance, on comparing it with Josephus. It seems that when the disciples became more numerous, a jealousy began to reveal itself between the Grecians and the Hebrews. The circumstance is casually mentioned by Luke, as the incident which gave occasion to the appointment of deacons; yet how strictly characteristic is it of the country and times in which it is said to have happened!

“There was a disturbance at Caesarea,” writes Josephus, “between the Jews and Syrians respecting the equal enjoyment of civil rights; the Jews laying claim to precedence because Herod, who was a Jew, had founded the city; the Syrians, on the other hand, admitting this, but maintaining that Caesarea was originally called the Tower of Straton, and did not then contain a single Jew” (Antiquities 20:7 #7).

In the end, the two parties broke out into open war. This was when Felix was governor. On another occasion, under Florus, we read of 20,000 Jews perishing at Caesarea by the hands of the Greek or Syrian part of the population (Bellum Judaicum 2:c. 18 #1). And again, we are told that “fearful troubles prevailed throughout all Syria, each city dividing itself into two armies, and the safety of the one consisted in forestalling the violence of the other. Thus the people passed their days in blood and their nights in terror” (Bellum Judaicum 2:c. 15 #2).

It is most improbable that the writer of Acts, if he were making up a story, should have invented the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, and yet it is so truly descriptive of the people where his scene was laid. This little incident (the more trifling the better for our purpose) carries with it the strongest marks of truth; and, like the single watchword, is a voucher for the general honesty of the party that utters it. Indeed, the establishment of one fact may be thought in itself to entail the credibility of many more. If it be certain that there was a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration, then it is probable that there was a common fund out of which widows were maintained. We read that many sold their possessions to contribute to this fund. It must have been a strong motive that could urge such a disposal of their property. No motive could be so likely as their conviction of the truth of Christianity; and that such a conviction could spring out of nothing so surely as the evidence of miracles. I do not say that all these matters necessarily follow from the certainty of the first simple fact, but I say that, admitting it, they all follow in a train of very natural consequence.

 

20a

Acts 25:13: “And after certain days King Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.”

This Agrippa (Agrippa Minor) had succeeded, by permission of Claudius, to the territories of his uncle Herod. At least the territories of Trachonitis, Batansea, and Abilene, were confirmed to him. From this passage in Acts it appears, as might be expected, that he was anxious to be well with the Roman Government, and accordingly that he lost no time in paying his respects to Festus, the new representative of that Government in Judea. It is a singular and small coincidence well worth our notice that Josephus records instances of this same Agrippa’s obsequiousness to Roman authorities, of precisely the same kind. “About this time,” he says, “King Agrippa went to Alexandria to salute Alexander, who had been sent by Nero to govern Egypt” [_(_]Bellum Judaicum 2:c. 15 #1).

Again (what is yet more to our purpose), we read on another occasion that Bernice accompanied Agrippa in one of these visits of ceremony; for, having appointed Varus to take care of their kingdom in their absence, “they went to Berytus with the intention of meeting Gessius (Florus) the Roman governor of Judea” [_(_]Josephus’s Life, #11).

This is a case singularly parallel to that in Acts: for Gessius Florus held the very same office, in the same country, as Felix.

 

21a

Acts 25:23: “And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.”

It might seem extraordinary that Bernice should be present on such an occasion -- that a woman should take any share in an affair, one would have supposed, foreign to her, and exclusively belonging to the other sex. But here again we have another proof of the veracity and accuracy of the sacred writings. For when Agrippa (the same Agrippa) endeavoured to combat the spirit of rebellion which was beginning to show itself amongst the Jews, and addressed them in that famous speech given in Josephus which throws so much light on the power and provincial polity of the Romans, he first of all “placed his sister Bernice (the same Bernice) in a conspicuous situation, upon the house of the Hasmonaeans, which was above the gallery, at the passage to the upper city, where the bridge joins the Temple to the gallery;” and then he spoke to the people. And when his oration was ended, we read that “both he and his sister shed tears, and so repressed much violence in the multitude” (Bellum Judaicum 2:c. 16 #3).

There is another passage occurring in the Life of Josephus, which is no less valuable, for it serves to show yet further the political importance of Bernice, and how much she was in the habit of appearing with Agrippa on all public occasions. One Philip, who was governor of Gamala and the country about it, under Agrippa, had occasion to communicate with the latter. This was probably on the subject of his escape from Jerusalem, where he had been recently in danger, and of his return to his own station. The transaction is thus described:

“He wrote to Agrippa and Bernice, and gave the letters to one of his freedmen to carry to Varus, who at that time was procurator of the kingdom, which the sovereigns (i.e. the king and his sister-wife) had entrusted him withal, while they were gone to Berytus to meet Gessius. When Varus had received these letters of Philip, and had learned that he was in safety, he was very uneasy at it, supposing that he should appear useless to the sovereigns (βασιλεῦσιν) now Philip was come” (Josephus’s Life, #11).

 

22a

Acts 28:11-13: “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli.”

Puteoli, then, it should seem, was the destination of this vessel from Alexandria. We can see from the independent testimony of Josephus that this was the port of Italy to which ships from Egypt and the Levant in those times commonly sailed. Thus, when Herod Agrippa went from Judea to Rome for the purpose of paying his court to Tiberius and bettering his fortune, he directed his course first to Alexandria, for the sake of visiting a friend, and then crossing the Mediterranean, he landed at Puteoli (Antiquities 18:7 #4).

Again, when Herod the Tetrarch, at the instigation of Herodias, undertook a voyage to Rome to solicit from Caligula a higher title which might put him upon a level with his brother-in-law, Herod Agrippa, the latter pursued him to Italy, and both of them (says Josephus) landed at Dichcearchia (Puteoli), and found Caius at Baiae (Antiquities 18:8 #2).

Take a third instance: Josephus went to Rome when a young man. On his passage the vessel in which he sailed foundered, but a ship from Cyrene picked him up, together with eighty of his companions; “and having safely arrived (says he) at Dichcearchia which the Italians called Puteoli, I became acquainted with Aliturus” (Josephus’s Life, #3).

In the last passage there is a singular resemblance to the circumstances of Paul’s voyage. Josephus, though not going to Rome as a prisoner who had himself appealed from Felix to Caesar, was going to Rome on account of two friends, whom Felix thought proper to send to Caesar’s judgment seat. He suffered shipwreck, was forwarded by another vessel coming from Africa, and finally landed at Puteoli. (Hyperlink to return to 43 in Part 1.)

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

More books from White Tree Publishing are on the next pages, many of which are available as both eBooks and paperbacks. More Christian books than those listed are planned for 2016-2017. Enter White Tree Publishing as the publisher in the advanced section of your usual eBook website for the very latest titles.

White Tree Publishing publishes mainstream evangelical Christian literature in paperback and eBook formats, for people of all ages. We aim to make our eBooks available free for all eBook devices, but some distributors will only list our books free at their discretion, and may make a small charge for some titles -- but they are still great value!

 

We rely on our readers to tell their families, their friends and churches about our books. Social media is a great way of doing this. Take a look at our range of fiction and non-fiction books on the following pages and pass the word on. Also, please write a positive review if you are able.

 

 

 

Christian Non-fiction

 

Four short books of help in the Christian life:

 

So, What Is a Christian? An introduction to a personal faith. Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-2-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-2-6

 

Starting Out -- help for new Christians of all ages. Paperback ISBN 978-1-4839-622-0-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-0-2

 

Help! -- Explores some problems we can encounter with our faith. Paperback ISBN 978-0-9927642-2-7, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-1-9

 

Running Through the Bible a simple understanding of what’s in the Bible Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-6-5, eBook ISBN: 978-0-9933941-3-3

 

 

Be Still

Bible Words of Peace and Comfort

 

There may come a time in our lives when we want to concentrate on God’s many promises of peace and comfort. The Bible readings in this book are for people who need to know what it means to be held securely in the Lord’s loving arms.

Rather than selecting single verses here and there, each reading in this book is a run of several verses. This gives a much better picture of the whole passage in which a favourite verse may be found.

As well as being for personal use, these readings are intended for sharing with anyone in special need, to help them draw comfort from the reading and prayer for that date. Bible reading and prayer are the two most important ways of getting to know and trust Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

The reference to the verses for the day are given, for you to look up and read in your preferred Bible translation.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9932760-7-1

116 pages 5×7.8 inches

e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9933941-4-0

 

 

 

A Previously Unpublished Book

The Simplicity of the Incarnation

J Stafford Wright

Foreword by J I Packer

 

I believe in … Jesus Christ … born of the Virgin Mary.” A beautiful stained glass image, or a medical reality? This is the choice facing Christians today. Can we truly believe that two thousand years ago a young woman, a virgin named Mary, gave birth to the Son of God? The answer is simple: we can.

The author says, “In these days many Christians want some sensible assurance that their faith makes sense, and in this book I want to show that it does.”

In this uplifting book from a previously unpublished and recently discovered manuscript, J Stafford Wright investigates the reality of the incarnation, looks at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and helps the reader understand more of the Trinity and the certainty of eternal life in heaven.

This book was written shortly before the author’s death in 1985. The Simplicity of the Incarnation is published for the first time, unedited, from his final draft.

 

Paperback ISBN: 9-780-9525-9563-2

160 pages 5.25 × 8 inches

Available from bookstores and major internet sellers

eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-5-7

 

 

Bible People Real People

An Unforgettable A-Z of Who is Who in the Bible

 

In a fascinating look at real people, J Stafford Wright shows his love and scholarly knowledge of the Bible as he brings the characters from its pages to life in a memorable way.

Read this book through from A to Z, like any other title

Dip in and discover who was who in personal Bible study

Check the names when preparing a talk or sermon

The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly – no one is spared. This is a book for everyone who wants to get to grips with the reality that is in the pages of the Bible, the Word of God.

With the names arranged in alphabetical order, the Old and New Testament characters are clearly identified so that the reader is able to explore either the Old or New Testament people on the first reading, and the other Testament on the second.

Those wanting to become more familiar with the Bible will find this is a great introduction to the people inhabiting the best selling book in the world, and those who can quote chapter and verse will find everyone suddenly becomes much more real – because these people are real. This is a book to keep handy and refer to frequently while reading the Bible.

For students of my generation the name Stafford Wright was associated with the spiritual giants of his generation. Scholarship and integrity were the hallmarks of his biblical teaching. He taught us the faith and inspired our discipleship of Christ. To God be the Glory.” The Rt. Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool

This is a lively, well-informed study of some great Bible characters. Professor Gordon Wenham MA PhD. Tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College Bristol and Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-5-6

314 pages 6×9 inches

eBook ISBN: 978-0-9932760-7-1

Note: This book is not available in all eBook formats

 

 

Christians and the Supernatural

J Stafford Wright

 

There is an increasing interest and fascination in the paranormal today. To counteract this, it is important for Christians to have a good understanding of how God sometimes acts in mysterious ways, and be able to recognize how he can use our untapped gifts and abilities in his service. We also need to understand how the enemy can tempt us to misuse these gifts and abilities, just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.

In this single volume of his two previously published books on the occult and the supernatural (Understanding the Supernatural and Our Mysterious God) J Stafford Wright examines some of the mysterious events we find in the Bible and in our own lives. Far from dismissing the recorded biblical miracles as folk tales, he is convinced that they happened in the way described, and explains why we can accept them as credible.

The writer says: When God the Holy Spirit dwells within the human spirit, he uses the mental and physical abilities which make up a total human being . . . The whole purpose of this book is to show that the Bible does make sense.

And this warning: The Bible, claiming to speak as the revelation of God, and knowing man’s weakness for substitute religious experiences, bans those avenues into the occult that at the very least are blind alleys that obscure the way to God, and at worst are roads to destruction.

 

Paperback ISBN 13: 9-780-9525-9564-9

222 pages 5.25 × 8 inches

Available from bookstores and major internet sellers

eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-4-0

 

 

Howell Harris

His Own Story

Foreword by J. Stafford Wright

 

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9933941-9-5

 

Howell Harris was brought up to regard the Nonconformists as “a perverted and dangerously erroneous set of people.” Hardly a promising start for a man who was to play a major role in the Welsh Revival. Yet in these extracts from his writings and diaries we can read the thoughts of Howell Harris before, during and after his own conversion.

We can see God breaking through the barriers separating "church and chapel", and discover Christians of different denominations preparing the country for revival. Wesley, Whitefield, Harris. These great 18th century preachers worked both independently and together to preach the Living Gospel. This book is a vivid first-hand account of the joys, hardships and struggles of one of these men -- Howell Harris (1714-1773).

 

 

From the Streets of London

to the Streets of Gold

 

The Life Story of

Brother Clifford Edwards

A True Story of Love

by

Brother Clifford Edwards

 

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9933941-8-8

(A printed copy is available directly from Brother Clifford)

 

This is the personal story of Clifford Edwards, affectionately known as Brother Clifford by his many friends. Going from fame to poverty, he was sleeping on the streets of London with the homeless for twenty years, until Jesus rescued him and gave him an amazing mission in life. Brother Clifford tells his true story here in the third person, giving the glory to Jesus.

 

 

English Hexapla

The Gospel of John

(Paperback only)

 

Published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, this book contains the full text of Bagster’s assembled work for the Gospel of John. On each page in parallel columns are the words of the six most important translations of the New Testament into English, made between 1380 and 1611. Below the English is the original Greek text after Scholz.

To enhance the reading experience, there is an introduction telling how we got our English Bibles, with significant pages from early Bibles shown at the end of the book.

Here is an opportunity to read English that once split the Church by giving ordinary people the power to discover God’s word for themselves. Now you can step back in time and discover those words and spellings for yourself, as they first appeared hundreds of years ago.

 

Wyclif 1380, Tyndale 1534, Cranmer 1539, Geneva 1557,

Douay Rheims 1582, Authorized (KJV) 1611.

 

[_ English Hexapla -- The Gospel of John _]

Published by White Tree Publishing

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-1-8

Size 7.5 × 9.7 inches paperback

Not available as an eBook

 

 

Roddy Goes to Church

Church Life and Church People

Derek Osborne

 

No, not a children’s book! An affectionate, optimistic look at church life involving, as it happens, Roddy and his friends who live in a small town. Problems and opportunities related to change and outreach are not, of course, unique to their church!

Maybe you know Miss Prickly-Cat who pointedly sits in the same pew occupied by generations of her forebears, and perhaps know many of the characters in this look at church life today. A wordy Archdeacon comes on the scene, and Roddy is taken aback by the events following his first visit to church. Roddy’s best friend Bushy-Beard says wise things, and he hears an enlightened Bishop . . .

Bishop David Pytches writes: A unique spoof on church life. Will you recognise yourself and your church here? … Derek Osborne’s mind here is insightful, his characters graphic and typical and the style acutely comical, but there is a serious message in his madness. Buy this, read it and enjoy!

David Pytches, Chorleywood

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-09927642-0-3

46 pages 5.5 × 8.5 inches paperback UK £3.95

Available from bookstores and major internet sellers

eBook coming late 2015

 

 

Heaven Our Home

William Branks

White Tree Publishing Abridged Edition

 

e-Book only

ISBN: 978-0-9933941-8-8

 

“I go to prepare a place for you.” This well-known promise from Jesus must cause us to think about the reality of heaven. Heaven is to be our home for ever. Where is heaven? What is it like? Will I recognize people there? All who are Christians must surely want to hear about the place where they are to spend eternity. In this abridged edition of William Branks classic work of 1861, we discover what the Bible has to say about heaven. There may be a few surprises, and there are certainly some challenges as we explore a subject on which there seems to be little teaching and awareness today.

 

 

I See Men As Trees, Walking

Roger and Janet Niblett

 

Roger and Janet Niblett were just an ordinary English couple, but then they met the Lord and their lives were totally transformed. Like the Bethlehem shepherds of old, they had a compulsion to share the same good news that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save sinners. Empowered by the Holy Spirit they proclaimed the gospel in the market place, streets, prisons, hospitals and churches with a vibrancy that only comes from being in direct touch with the Almighty and being readily available to serve Him as a channel of His grace and love. God was with them and blessed their ministry abundantly. Praise God! (Pastor Mervyn Douglas, Clevedon Family Church)

 

The story of Roger Niblett is an inspiration to all who serve the Lord. He was a prolific street evangelist, whose impact on the gospel scene was a wonder to behold. It was my privilege to witness his conversion, when he went forward to receive Christ at the Elim Church, Keynsham. The preacher was fiery Scottish evangelist Rev’d Alex Tee. It was not long before Roger too caught that same soul winner’s fire which propelled him far and wide, winning multitudes for Christ. Together with his wife Janet, they proceeded to “Tell the World of Jesus”. (Des Morton, Founder Minister of Keynsham Elim Church)

 

I know of no couple who have been more committed to sharing their faith from the earliest days of their journey with the Lord Jesus Christ. Along the way, at home and abroad, and with a tender heart for the marginalised, Rog and Jan have introduced multitudes to the Saviour and have inspired successive generations of believers to do the same. It was our joy and privilege to have them as part of the family at Trinity where Janet continues to serve in worship and witness. Loved by young and old alike, they will always have a special place in our hearts. (Andy Paget, Trinity Tabernacle, Bristol. Vice President, International Gospel Outreach)

eBook ISBN: 978-0-9935005-1-0

 

Also available as a paperback

(published by Gozo Publishing Bristol)

paperback ISBN: 978-1508674979

 

 

Leaves from

My Notebook

New Abridged Edition 2016

William Haslam

(1818-1905)

You may have heard of the clergyman who was converted while preaching his own sermon! Well, this is man -- William Haslam. It happened in Cornwall one Sunday in 1851. He later wrote his autobiography in two books: From Death into Life and Yet not I. Here, in Leaves from my Notebook, William Haslam writes about events and people not present in his autobiography. They make fascinating and challenging reading as we watch him sharing his faith one to one or in small groups, with dramatic results. Haslam was a man who mixed easily with titled gentry and the poorest of the poor, bringing the message of salvation in a way that people were ready to accept. This book has been lightly edited and abridged to make reading easier today by using modern punctuation and avoiding over-long sentences. William Haslam’s amazing message is unchanged.

 

Original book first published 1889

e-Book only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-2-7

 

 

 

Blunt’s Scriptural Coincidences

Gospels and Acts

J. J. Blunt

New Edition

 

This book will confirm (or restore) your faith in the Gospel records. Clearly the Gospels were not invented. There is too much unintentional agreement between them for this to be so. Undesigned coincidences are where writers tell the same account, but from a different viewpoint. Without conspiring together to get their accounts in agreement, they include unexpected (and often unnoticed) details that corroborate their records. Not only are these unexpected coincidences found within the Gospels, but sometimes a historical writer unknowingly and unintentionally confirms the Bible record.

Within these pages you will see just how accurate were the memories of the writers -- even of the smallest details which on casual reading can seem of little importance, yet clearly point to eyewitness accounts. J. J. Blunt spent many years investigating these coincidences. And here they are, as found in the four Gospels and Acts.

 

 

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-5-8

 

First published in instalments between 1833 and 1847

The edition used here published in 1876

 

eBook coming 2016

 

 

 

Fullness of Power

How to Obtain

Fullness of Power in

Christian Life and Service

 

R. A. Torrey

 

White Tree Publishing Edition

 

From many earnest hearts there is rising a cry for more power: more power in our personal conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, more power in our work for others. The Bible makes the way to obtain this longed for power very plain. There is no presumption in undertaking to tell “How to obtain Fullness of Power in Christian Life and Service”; for the Bible itself tells, and the Bible was intended to be understood. The Bible statement of the way is not mystical nor mysterious, it is very plain and straightforward. If we will only make personal trial of “The Power of the Word of God,” “The Power of the Blood of Christ,” “The Power of the Holy Spirit,” “The Power of Prayer,” “The Power of a Surrendered Life,” we will then know “The Fullness of Power in Christian Life and Service.” We will try to make this plain in the following chapters. (Foreword by W. A. Torrey to the original edition that is just as relevant today as it was then.)

 

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-8-9

 

The edition used here published in 1903

 

eBook coming November 2016

 

 

Twenty-five Days Around the Manger

A Light Family Advent Devotional

Marty Magee

 

Will a purple bedroom help Marty’s misgivings about Christmas?

As a kid, Martha Evans didn’t like Christmas. Sixty years later, she still gets a little uneasy when this holiday on steroids rolls around. But she knows, when all the tinsel is pulled away, Whose Day it is. Now Marty Magee, she is blessed with five grandchildren who help her not take herself too seriously.

Do you know the angel named Herald? Will young Marty survive the embarrassment of her Charley Brown Christmas tree? And by the way, where’s the line to see Jesus?

Twenty-Five Days Around the Manger goes from Marty’s mother as a little girl awaiting her brother’s arrival, to O Holy Night when our souls finally were able to feel their full worth.

This and much more. Join Marty around the manger this Advent season.

 

eBook ISBN: 978-0-9954549-1-0

 

Available now in paperback

from Rickety Bridge Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-4923248-0-5

 

eBook coming 2016

 

 

Gospels and Acts

 

Charles Foster

 

White Tree Publishing Edition

 

In 1873 Charles Foster published his much acclaimed paraphrase of the whole Bible, adding his simple explanations of various events along the way. It had the rather misleading title of The Story of the Bible which implied it was the history of how we got our Bible. Charles Foster made a single account from the four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- combining the four Gospels relating Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection into one continuous narrative. For this edition, White Tree Publishing has taken just the Gospels and Acts from the original, and updated thee and thou to you and your etc, bringing the work inline with modern practice. Some of the traditional wording has been left alone, but we have added speech marks and more modern punctuation, while making no changes to the Bible message. Included in this White Tree Publishing e-Book is Foster’s account of the period between the Old and New Testaments, and his brief summary of the Epistles and Revelation. For readers unfamiliar with the New Testament, this book makes a valuable introduction, and it will surely help those familiar with the New Testament to gain extra knowledge and understanding as they read it. Please note that this is not a translation of the Bible, it is a paraphrase.

 

eBook only

e-Book ISBN: 978-0-9935005-9-6

 

Christian Fiction

 

The Lost Clue

Mrs. O. F. Walton

Abridged Edition

A Romantic Mystery

With modern line drawings

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-2-6

 

Living the life of a wealthy man, Kenneth Fortescue receives devastating news from his father. But he is only able to learn incomplete facts about his past, because a name has been obliterated from a very important letter. Two women are vying for Kenneth's attention -- Lady Violet, the young daughter of Lady Earlswood, and Marjorie Douglas, the daughter of a widowed parson's wife.

 

 

Written in 1905 by the much-loved author Mrs. O. F. Walton, this edition has been lightly abridged and edited to make it easier to read and understand today. This romantic mystery story gives an intriguing glimpse into the class extremes that existed in Edwardian England, with wealthy titled families on one side, and some families living in terrible poverty on the other.

 

 

Doctor Forester

Mrs. O. F. Walton

Abridged Edition

A Romantic Mystery

with modern line drawings

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-0-2

 

Doctor Forester, a medical man only twenty-five years old, has come to a lonely part of Wales to escape from an event in his recent past that has caused him much hurt. So he has more on his mind than worrying about strange noises behind his bedroom wall in the old castle where he is staying.

A young woman who shares part of the journey with him is staying in the same village. He is deeply attracted to her, and believes that she is equally attracted to him. But he soon has every reason to think that his old school friend Jack is also courting her.

Written and taking place in the early 1900s, this romantic mystery is a mix of excitement and heartbreak. What is the secret of Hildick Castle? And can Doctor Forester rid himself of the past that now haunts his life?

 

 

Mrs. O. F. Walton was a prolific writer in the late 1800s, and this abridged edition captures all of the original writer’s insight into what makes a memorable story. With occasional modern line drawings.

  • * *

Ghosts of the past kept flitting through his brain. Dark shadows which he tried to chase away seemed to pursue him. Here these ghosts were to be laid; here those shadows were to be dispelled; here that closed chapter was to be buried for ever. So he fought long and hard with the phantoms of the past until the assertive clock near his bedroom door announced that it was two o’clock.

 

 

Was I Right?

Mrs. O. F. Walton

Abridged Edition

A Victorian Romance

With modern line drawings

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-1-9

 

May Lindsay and her young stepsister Maggie are left penniless and homeless when their father the local doctor dies. Maggie can go to live with her three maiden aunts, but May at the age of nineteen is faced with a choice. Should she take the position of companion to a girl she doesn’t know, who lives some distance away, or accept a proposal of marriage from the man who has been her friend since they were small children?

May Lindsay makes her decision, but it is not long before she wonders if she has done the right thing. This is a story of life in Victorian England as May, who has led a sheltered life, is pushed out into a much bigger world than she has previously known. She soon encounters titled families, and is taken on a tour of the Holy Land which occupies much of the story.

 

 

Two men seem to be a big disappointment to May Lindsay. Will her Christian faith hold strong in these troubles? Was she right in the decision she made before leaving home?

 

Mrs. O. F. Walton was a prolific writer in the late 1800s, and this abridged edition captures all of the original writer’s insight into what makes a memorable story. With occasional modern line drawings.

 

 

In His Steps

Charles M. Sheldon

Abridged Edition

 

This new abridged edition of a classic story that has sold over an estimated 30 million copies, contains Charles Sheldon’s original writing, with some passages sensitively abridged to allow his powerful story to come through for today’s readers. Nothing in the storyline has been changed.

A homeless man staggers into a wealthy church and upsets the congregation. A week later he is dead. This causes the Rev. Henry Maxwell to issue a startling challenge to his congregation and to himself -- whatever you do in life over the next twelve months, ask yourself this question before making any decision: "What would Jesus do?"

The local newspaper editor, a novelist, a wealthy young woman who has inherited a million dollars, her friend who has been offered a professional singing career, the superintendent of the railroad workshops, a leading city merchant and others take up the challenge. But how will it all work out when things don’t go as expected?

A bishop gives up his comfortable lifestyle -- and finds his life threatened in the city slums. The story is timeless. A great read, and a challenge to every Christian today.

 

Also available in paperback 254 pages 5.5 × 8.5 inches

Paperback ISBN 13: 978-19350791-8-7

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9927642-9-6

 

 

A Previously Unpublished Book

Locked Door Shuttered Windows

A Novel by J Stafford Wright

 

What is inside the fascinating house with the locked door and the shuttered windows? Satan wants an experiment. God allows it. John is caught up in the plan as Satan’s human representative. The experiment? To demonstrate that there can be peace in the world if God allows Satan to run things in his own way. A group of people gather together in an idyllic village run by Satan, with no reference to God, and no belief in him.

J Stafford Wright has written this startling and gripping account of what happens when God stands back and Satan steps forward. All seems to go well for the people who volunteer to take part. And no Christians allowed!

John Longstone lost his faith when teaching at a theological college. Lost it for good -- or so he thinks. And then he meets Kathleen who never had a faith. As the holes start to appear in Satan’s scheme for peace, they wonder if they should help or hinder the plans which seem to have so many benefits for humanity.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9927642-4-1

206 pages 5.25 × 8.0 inches

Available from bookstores and major internet sellers

eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9932760-3-3

 

 

Silverbeach Manor

Margaret S. Haycraft

Abridged edition

 

Pansy is an orphan who is cared for by her aunt, Temperance Piper, who keeps the village post office and store. One day Pansy meets wealthy Mrs. Adair who offers to take her under her wing and give her a life of wealth in high society that she could never dream of, on condition Pansy never revisits her past life. When they first meet, Mrs. Adair says about Pansy’s clothes, “The style is a little out of date, but it is good enough for the country. I should like to see you in a really well-made dress. It would be quite a new sensation for you, if you really belong to these wilds. I have a crimson and gold tea gown that would suit you delightfully, and make you quite a treasure for an artist.” This is a story of rags to riches to … well, to a life where nothing is straightforward. First published in 1891.

 

White Tree Publishing Abridged Edition

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-4-1

 

eBook coming 2016

 

 

Gildas Haven

Margaret S. Haycraft

Abridged edition

 

For several years in the peaceful village of Meadthorpe, the church and the chapel existed in an uneasy peace while the rector and the chapel minister were each distracted by poor health. When a young curate arrives at St Simeon’s, he brings with him high church ritual and ways of worship. Gildas Haven, the daughter of the chapel minister is furious. The curate insists that his Church ways are right, and Gildas who has only known chapel worship says the opposite.

Battle lines are quickly drawn by leaders and congregations. Margaret Haycraft writes with light humour and surprising insight in what could be a controversial story line. With at least one major surprise, the author seems to be digging an impossible hole for herself as the story progresses. The ending of this sensitively told romance is likely to come as a surprise.

 

White Tree Publishing Abridged Edition

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-7-2

 

eBook coming 2016

 

 

When it Was Dark

Guy Thorne

Abridged Edition

 

What would happen to the Christian faith if it could be proved beyond all doubt that Jesus did not rise from the dead? This is the situation when, at the end of the nineteenth century, eminent archaeologists working outside Jerusalem discover a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, with an inscription claiming that he took the body of Jesus from the first tomb and hid it. And there are even remains of a body. So no resurrection!

As churches quickly empty, some Christians cling to hope, saying that Jesus lives within them, so He must be the Son of God who rose from the dead. Others are relieved that they no longer have to believe and go to church. Society starts to break down.

With the backing of a wealthy industrialist, a young curate puts together a small team to investigate the involvement of a powerful atheist in the discovery. This is an abridged edition of a novel first published in 1903.

Guy Thorne was the English author of many thrillers in the early twentieth century, and this book was not intended specifically for the Christian market. It contains adult references in places, but no swearing or offensive language. Although it was written from a high church Anglican viewpoint, the author is positive about the various branches of the Christian faith, finding strengths and weaknesses in individual church and chapel members as their beliefs are threatened by the discovery in Jerusalem. White Tree Publishing believes this book will be a great and positive challenge to Christians today as we examine the reality of our faith.

 

White Tree Publishing Abridged Edition

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9954549-0-3

 

eBook coming 2016

 

 

Amaranth’s Garden

Margaret S. Haycraft

Abridged edition

 

“It seems, Miss, Mr. Glyn drew out that money yesterday, and took it all out in gold. The Rector happened to be in the Bank at the time, but was on his way to town, and could not stop to talk to your father just then, though he wondered to hear him say he had come to draw out everything, as treasurer of the fund.” Amaranth Glyn’s comfortable life comes to an end when the church funds disappear. Her father, the church treasurer who drew out the money, is also missing, to be followed shortly by her mother. The disgrace this brings on the family means Amaranth’s marriage plans are cancelled. Amaranth is a competent artist and moves away with her young brother to try to earn a living. There are rumours that her parents are in France and even in Peru. Living with her sick brother, Amaranth wants life to be as it was before the financial scandal forced her to leave her family home and the garden she loved.

 

White Tree Publishing Abridged Edition

eBook only

ISBN: 978-0-9935005-6-5

 

Books for Younger Readers

(and older readers too!)

 

 

Mary Jones and Her Bible

An Adventure Book

Chris Wright

The true story of Mary Jones’s and her Bible

with a clear Christian message and optional puzzles

(Some are easy, some tricky, and some amusing)

 

Mary Jones saved for six years to buy a Bible of her own. In 1800, when she was 15, she thought she had saved enough, so she walked barefoot for 26 miles (more than 40km) over a mountain pass and through deep valleys in Wales to get one. That’s when she discovered there were none for sale!

You can travel with Mary Jones today in this book by following clues, or just reading the story. Either way, you will get to Bala where Mary went, and if you’re really quick you may be able to discover a Bible just like Mary’s in the market!

The true story of Mary Jones has captured the imagination for more than 200 years. For this book, Chris Wright has looked into the old records and discovered even more of the story, which is now in this unforgettable account of Mary Jones and her Bible. Solving puzzles is part of the fun, but the whole story is in here to read and enjoy whether you try the puzzles or not. Just turn the page, and the adventure continues. It’s time to get on the trail of Mary Jones!

 

Paperback ISBN 978-0-9525956-2-5

5.5 × 8.5 inches

156 pages of story, photographs, line drawings and puzzles

eBook ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-9933941-5-7

 

 

Pilgrim’s Progress

An Adventure Book

Chris Wright

 

Travel with young Christian as he sets out on a difficult and perilous journey to find the King. Solve the puzzles and riddles along the way, and help Christian reach the Celestial City. Then travel with his friend Christiana. She has four young brothers who can sometimes be a bit of a problem.

Be warned, you will meet giants and lions -- and even dragons! There are people who don't want Christian and Christiana to reach the city of the King and his Son. But not everyone is an enemy. There are plenty of friendly people. It's just a matter of finding them.

Are you prepared to help? Are you sure? The journey can be very dangerous! As with our book Mary Jones and Her Bible, you can enjoy the story even if you don’t want to try the puzzles.

 

 

This is a simplified and abridged version of [_ Pilgrim's Progress -- Special Edition ], containing illustrations and a mix of puzzles. The suggested reading age is up to perhaps ten. Older readers will find the same story told in much greater detail in [ Pilgrim's Progress -- Special Edition _] on the next page.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-6-3

5.5 × 8.5 inches 174 pages £6.95

Available from major internet stores

eBook ISBN 13: 978-0-9933941-6-4

 

 

Pilgrim’s Progress

Special Edition

Chris Wright

 

This book for all ages is a great choice for young readers, as well as for families, Sunday school teachers, and anyone who wants to read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in a clear form.

All the old favourites are here: Christian, Christiana, the Wicket Gate, Interpreter, Hill Difficulty with the lions, the four sisters at the House Beautiful, Vanity Fair, Giant Despair, Faithful and Talkative -- and, of course, Greatheart. The list is almost endless.

The first part of the story is told by Christian himself, as he leaves the City of Destruction to reach the Celestial City, and becomes trapped in the Slough of Despond near the Wicket Gate. On his journey he will encounter lions, giants, and a creature called the Destroyer.

Christiana follows along later, and tells her own story in the second part. Not only does Christiana have to cope with her four young brothers, she worries about whether her clothes are good enough for meeting the King. Will she find the dangers in Vanity Fair that Christian found? Will she be caught by Giant Despair and imprisoned in Doubting Castle? What about the dragon with seven heads?

It’s a dangerous journey, but Christian and Christiana both know that the King’s Son is with them, helping them through the most difficult parts until they reach the Land of Beulah, and see the Celestial City on the other side of the Dark River. This is a story you will remember for ever, and it’s about a journey you can make for yourself.

 

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-8-8

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-7-0

5.5 × 8.5 inches 278 pages

Available from major internet stores

 

 

Zephan and the Vision

Chris Wright

 

An exciting story about the adventures of two angels who seem to know almost nothing -- until they have a vision!

Two ordinary angels are caring for the distant Planet Eltor, and they are about to get a big shock -- they are due to take a trip to Planet Earth! This is Zephan's story of the vision he is given before being allowed to travel with Talora, his companion angel, to help two young people fight against the enemy.

Arriving on Earth, they discover that everyone lives in a small castle. Some castles are strong and built in good positions, while others appear weak and open to attack. But it seems that the best-looking castles are not always the most secure.

Meet Castle Nadia and Castle Max, the two castles that Zephan and Talora have to defend. And meet the nasty creatures who have built shelters for themselves around the back of these castles. And worst of all, meet the shadow angels who live in a cave on Shadow Hill. This is a story about the forces of good and the forces of evil. Who will win the battle for Castle Nadia?

The events in this story are based very loosely on John Bunyan’s allegory The Holy War.

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-9-4

5.5 × 8.5 inches 216 pages

Available from major internet stores

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9932760-6-4

 

 

Agathos, The Rocky Island,

And Other Stories

Chris Wright

 

Once upon a time there were two favourite books for Sunday reading: Parables from Nature and Agathos and The Rocky Island.

These books contained short stories, usually with a hidden meaning. In this illustrated book is a selection of the very best of these stories, carefully retold to preserve the feel of the originals, coupled with ease of reading and understanding for today’s readers.

Discover the king who sent his servants to trade in a foreign city. The butterfly who thought her eggs would hatch into baby butterflies, and the two boys who decided to explore the forbidden land beyond the castle boundary. The spider that kept being blown in the wind, the soldier who had to fight a dragon, the four children who had to find their way through a dark and dangerous forest. These are just six of the nine stories in this collection. Oh, and there’s also one about a rocky island!

This is a book for a young person to read alone, a family or parent to read aloud, Sunday school teachers to read to the class, and even for grownups who want to dip into the fascinating stories of the past all by themselves. Can you discover the hidden meanings? You don’t have to wait until Sunday before starting!

 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9525956-8-7

5.5 × 8.5 inches 148 pages £5.95

Available from major internet stores

E-book ISBN: 978-0-9927642-7-2

 

 

Return to Contents


Blunt's Scriptural Coincidences -- Gospels and Acts

This book will confirm (or restore) your faith in the Gospel records. Clearly the Gospels were not invented. There is too much unintentional agreement between them for this to be so. Undesigned coincidences are where writers tell the same account, but from a different viewpoint. Without conspiring together to get their accounts in agreement, they include unexpected (and often unnoticed) details that corroborate their records. Not only are these unexpected coincidences found within the Gospels, but sometimes a historical writer unknowingly and unintentionally confirms the Bible record. Within these pages you will see just how accurate were the memories of the Gospel writers -- even of the smallest details which on casual reading can seem of little importance, yet clearly point to eyewitness accounts. J.J. Blunt spent many years investigating these coincidences. And here they are, as found in the four Gospels and Acts.

  • ISBN: 9780993500558
  • Author: White Tree Publishing
  • Published: 2016-06-14 12:35:30
  • Words: 41104
Blunt's Scriptural Coincidences -- Gospels and Acts Blunt's Scriptural Coincidences -- Gospels and Acts