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humanity of Christ. This circumstance proves the great difficulty, which Irenæus felt in opposing the Ebionites. His task would have been easy, if they had been a sect distinct from the great body of Jewish believers.
We have then the indirect testimony of thousands, who from their age and situation, were the most competent judges, and who, as Philo and Josephus represent them, were men of the greatest virtue and veracity, that the chapters containing the account of our Saviour's miraculous birth, never came from the hands of Matthew. While we draw this conclusion from the opinions of the Jewish believers in general, it would be unjust not to mention Symmachus, Theodotion and Aquila, men who had studied, like Philo and Josephus, in the school of the Esseans, and like the Esseans were deeply versed in the scriptures, having even translated the Jewish writings into the Greek language. Of the first Eusebius thus speaks, in his Ecclesiastical History. Symmachus was an Ebionite." The heresy of those who are so denominated, maintained that Christ was born of Joseph and Mary, and that he was a mere man. The commentaries of Symmachus are still extant, in which he strenuously exerts himself to fortify the above mentioned heresy by an appeal to the gospel of Matthew.*
Euseb. H. E. lib. 6. c. 17. The words of the original are strong and emphatic. Εν οις δε δοκει προς το κατά Ματθαιου ευαγγελιον αποτεινομενος την δεδηλωμένης
The inference from this passage is obvious. As Symmachus fortified the heresy of the Ebionites by a strenuous appeal to the gospel of Matthew, the story of our Lord's supernatural birth was not then extant in that gospel. And that the one to which he made the appeal, was the original and genuine gospel, even Eusebius allows.
Irenæus thus speaks of the other two. hold a young woman shall bear, and she shall bring forth a son, as Theodotion, the Ephesian, has rendered it, with Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes; whom the Ebionites follow, saying that he was begotten of Joseph*." The interpretation of these two writers, whose versions received the sanction of men, as the Esseans were, mighty in the scriptures, go indirectly to prove the absence of the disputed chapters. And I hesitate not to say, that the testi
αίρεσιν κρατυνειν. He exerte himself to bear up the above mentioned heresy, by resting its weight on Matthew. The allusion is to a man supporting a heavy burden, by pressing against it, when placed in part on something else opposite to him..
• Non ergo vera est quorundam interpretatio, qui ita audent interpretari scripturam, Ecce adolescentula in ventre habebit, et pariet filium, quemadmodum Theodotion Ephesius est interpretatus, et Aquila Ponticus, utrique Judæi proselyti, quos sectati Ebionei, ex Joseph eum generatum dicunt, Irenæus, p. 253. I know not whether it has been observed, that this Aquila was the friend of the apostle Paul, mentioned Acts xviii. 2. He is there mentioned as a native of Pontus; and we see that Irenæus considered him as born in that country.
mony of three men, so competent from their age and learning, as Symmachus, Theodotion, and Aquila, must have been, is more to be depended upon than that of three hundred of the fathers, who had not equal opportunities to know, and who had strong prejudices, from interest and education, to misrepresent the truth.
The evidence for the genuineness of the disputed chapters is very summary; and I shall take occasion briefly to state it in this place: and that it may lose nothing of its weight, I state it in the words of Dr. Marsh*-.
"In those days came John the Baptist," &c. That the Greek Gospel ever began in this manner is in itself incredible, since no writer, unless something had preceded, would say, “in THOSE days." I answer, the definitive those, if it have any reference in its present connexion, has a false reference: for the days previously mentioned are those, in which Jesus returned from Egypt, and settled, when a child, at Nazareth. It is not true then, that John came in those days; and at all events, it is better to want reference than want truth. The remark, however, of this critic only shews that learning is not always the same with sound knowledge. So habitually did the Jews speak of their promised deliverer, that any notation of time, limited by circumstances, was understood to refer to the period of his first appearance. Thus, Jesus saith to his disciples, John xvi. 17, "Ye are with
* See Marsh's Translation of Michaelis, Notes to vol. iv. p. 138, 139.
me from the beginning." It was not necessary to state the beginning of what; for they must have understood him to mean the time in which he was pointed out as the Son of God, at the beginning of his ministry, The Evangelist has copied the phrase from the prophets, who use it with the same implied reference. Thus Isaiah, ii. 17: "And Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day;" ver. 20, “In that day shall a man cast away his idols of silver." iii. "In that day will the Lord take from them the ornaments;" and also, in chap. iv. J. "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man," ver. 2. "In that day shall the branch of Jehovah become glorious and honourable." In these places the prophet does not allude to some specified day, but to the time defined by the general drift and purport of the prophecy, namely, that in which the Messiah should appear. Matthew hath indeed used the plural for the singular form; but the time alluded to in both is the same, and in both is supposed to be limited by the previous knowledge and expectation of the people whom they addressed.
"It appears," says Dr. Marsh, "that the Hebrew Gospel used by the Nazarenes contained at least the second chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel." I answer, the Nazarene Gospel translated by Jerome was not the genuine Gospel of Matthew used by the Ebionites, but that Gospel interpolated and garbled by Cerinthus and others of the Gnostic school. Of the truth of this distinction we have the following satisfactory evidence. The words of Irenæus and Eusebius clearly imply that the Ebionites used that very
Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, which we now have in Greek and it appears certain from the remnants preserved in the works of Jerome that the Nazarene Gospel, which he translated, was not the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, or the Gospel of Matthew in its genuine state. Besides, if the Gospel of the Nazarenes was the same with the Gospel of Matthew, what motive could Jerome have to be at the trouble of translating it? The present version had already been rendered into Greek, and it was known to all the churches and received by them as the genuine production of that evangelist. It follows, therefore, that the Gospel ascribed by the fathers to the Nazarenes, and the Gospel of Matthew used by the Ebionites were distinct Gospels.
Here we see another palpable instance of the unfair dealings of the fathers towards the Hebrew believers. That Matthew composed his Gospel in Hebrew was a fact too notorious to be denied. The fathers allow this, though much against their cause. They allow too that the Ebionites used it; yet they did not quote it, nor refer to it; because this would extend the knowledge of it, and bring it into vogue with the heathen converts, which would necessarily lead to the detection of the forgery, in the present Greek text. Origen in particular had strong motives to consult the original Gospel, but he is silent respecting it; and from this silence some Protestant writers, and Lardner in the number, (vol. ii. p. 54), have argued that no copy of Matthew's Hebrew Gospel existed in the days of Origen, and then following up this inference a step farther, they say that Matthew did not