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Barbarians, and to be diligently studied by all na
This testimony was given about the year 300 : how long before that date these translations were made does not appear.
Damasis, bishop of Rome, corresponded with Saint Jerome upon the exposition of difficult texts of Scripture : and, in a letter still remaining, desires Jeroine to give him a clear explanation of the word Hosanna, found in the New Testament; "hé (Damasus) having met with very different interpretations of it in the Greek and Latin commentaries of Catholic writers which he had read." This last clause shows the number and variety of commentaries then extant.
Gregory of Nyssen, at one time, appeals to the inost exact copies of Saint Mark's Gospel; at another time, compares together, and proposes to reconcile, the several accounts of the resurrection given by the four Evangelists; which limitation proves, that there were no other histories of Christ deemed authentic beside these, or included in the same character with these. This writer observes, acutely enough, that the disposition of the clothes in the sepulchre, the napkin that was about our Saviour's head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself, did not bespeak the terror and hurry of thieves, and therefore refutes the story of the body being stolen.
Ambrose, bishop of Milan, remarked various readings in the Latin copies of the New Testament, and appeals to the original Greek;
And Jerome, towards the conclusion of this century, put forth an edition of the New Testament in Latin, corrected, at least as to the Gospels, by Greek copies, “and those (he says) ancient,"'
Lastly, Chrysostom, it is well known, delivered and published a great many homilies, or sermons, upon the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
It is needless to bring down this article lower; but it is of importance to add, that there is no example of Christian writers of the first three centuaies composing comments upon any other books * Lardner, Credi vol, viii. p. 201. Ib. volix: p. 18.
Lb. p. 1$3.
than those which are found in the New Testament, except the single one of Clement of Alexandria commenting upon a book called the Revelation of Peter.
Of the ancient versions of the New Testament. one of the most valuable is the Syriac, Syriac was the language of Palestine when Christianity was there first established. And although the books of Scripture were written in Greek, for the purpose of a more extended circulation than within the precincts of Judea, yet, it is probable that they would soon be translated into the vulgar language of the country where the religion first prevailed. Accordingly, a Syriac translation is now extant, all along, so far as it appears, used by the inhabitants of Sy. ria, bearing many internal marks of high antiquity, supported in its pretensions by the uniform traditions of the east, and confirmed by the discovery of many very ancient manuscripts in the libraries of Europe. It is about two hundred years since a bishop of Antioch sent a copy of this translation into Europe, to be printed ; and this seems to be the first time that the translation became generally known to these parts of the world. The bishop of Antioch's Testament was found to contain all our books, except the second epistle of Peter, the se. cond and third of John, and the Revelation; which books, however, have since been discovered in that language in some ancient manuscripts of Europe. But in this collection, no other book, beside what is in ours, appears ever to have had a place. And, which is worthy of observation, the text, though preserved in a remote country, and without communication with ours, differs from ours very little, and in nothing that is important.*
Jones on the Canon, vol. i. c. 14.
SECT. VII. Our Scriptures were received by ancient Christians of
different sects and persuasions, by many heretics us well as Catholics, and were usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.
The three most ancient topics of controversy amongst Christians, were, the authority of the Jewish constitutions, the origin of evil, and the nature of Christ. Upon the first of these we find, in very early times, one class of heretics rejecting the Old Testament entirely; another contending for the obligation of its law, in all its parts, throughout its whole extent, and over every one who sought ac. ceptance with God. Upon the two latter subjects, a natural, perhaps, and venial, but a fruitless, eager, and impatient curiosity, prompted by the philosophy and by the scholastic habits of the age, which carried men much into bold hypotheses and conjec. tural solutions, raised amongst some who professed Christianity, very wild and unfounded opinions. I think there is no reason to believe that the num. ber of these bore any considerable proportion to the body of the Christian church ; and amidst the disputes which such opinions necessarily occasioned, it is a great satisfaction to perceive, what, in a vast plurality of instances, we do perceive, all sides recurring to the same Scriptures.
* I. Basilides lived near the age of the apostles, about the year 120, or, perhaps, sooner.t He rejected the Jewish institution, not as spurious, but as proceeding from a being inferior to the true God; and in other respects advanced a scheme of theology widely different from the general doctrine of the Christian church, and which, as it gained over some disciples, was warmly opposed by Christian writers of the second and third century. In these
* The materials of the former part of this section are taken from Dr. Lardner's History of the Heretics of the first two Centuries, published sioce his death, with additions, by the Rev. Mr. Hogg, of Exeter, and inserted into the ninth volume of his works, of the edin tion of 1778.
: Lardoer, vol. ix, ed. 1788, p. 271.
writings, there is positive evidence that Basilides received the Gospel of Matthew; and there is no sufficient proof that he rejected any of the other three : on the contrary, it appears that he wrote a commentary upon the Gospel, so copious as to be divided into twenty-four books.*,
II. The Valentians appeared about the same time. Their heresy consisted in certain notions concerning angelic natures, which can hardly be rendered intelligible to a modern reader. They seem, however, to have acquired as much importance as any of the separatists of that early age. Of this sect, Irenæus, who wrote, A. D. 172, ex. pressly records that they endeavoured to fetch ar. guments for their opinions from the evangelic and apostolic writings. Heracleon, one of the most celebrated of the sect, and who lived probably so early as the year 125, wrote commentaries upon Luke and John.) Some observations also of his upon Matthew are preserved by Origen. I Nor is there any reason to doubt that he received the whole New Testament.
III. The Carpocratians were also an early heresy, little, if at all, later than the two preceding:** Some of their opinions resembled what we at this day mean by Socinianism. With respect to the Scriptures, they are specifically charged, by Irenæus and by Epiphanius, with endeavouring to pervert a passage in Matthew, which amounts to a positive proof that they received that Gospel.tt Negatively, they are not accused, by their adversaries, of rejecting any part of the New Testament.
IV. The Sethians, A. D. 150 ;ff the Montanists, A. D. 156 ;}|I the Marcosians, A. D. 160 ; 1T Hermogenes, A. D. 180;*** Praxias, A. D. 196 ;ttt Artemon, A. 1. 200 ifft Theodotus, A. D. 200; all included under the denomination of heretics, and all engaged in controversies with Catholic Christians, received the Scriptures of the New Testament.
Lardner, vol. ix. p. 305, 306. | Ib. p. 350, 351.
383. || Ib. vol ix. ed. 1788. p. 352. 1 Ib. 353.
It Ib. 318. If Ib. 455. TT Ib. 348. *** I). 473.
tif Ib. 433. 111 Ib. 466.
** Ib. 309,
"|||| Ib. 482.
V. Tatian, who lived in the year 172, went into many extravagant opinions, was the founder of a sect called Eucratites, and was deeply involved in disputes with the Christians of that age : yet Ta. tian so received the four Gospels, as to compose a harmony from them.
VI. From a writer, quoted by Eusebius, of about the year 300, it is apparent that they who at that time contended for the mere humanity of Christ, argued from the Scriptures; for they are accused by this writer, of making alterations in their copies, in order to favour their opinions.*
VII. Origen's sentiments excited great controversies—the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, and many others, condemning, the bishops of the east espousing them; yet there is not the smallest ques. tion, but that both the advocates and adversaries of these opinions acknowledged the same authority of Scripture In his time, which the reader will remember
was about one hundred and fifty years after the Scriptures were published, many dissensions subsisted amongst Christians, with which they were reproached by Celsus; yet Origen, who has recorded this accusation without contradicting it, nevertheless testifies, that the four Gospels were received without disputé, by the whole church of God under heaven.t
VIII. Paul of Samosata, about thirty years after Origen, so distinguished himself in the controversy concerning the nature of Christ, as to be the subject of two councils or synods, assembled at Antioch upon his opinions. Yet he is not charged by his adversaries with rejecting any book of the New Testament. On the contrary, Epiphanius, who wrote a history of heretics a hundred years afte.. ward, says, that Paul endeavoured to support his doctrine by texts of Scripture. And Vincentius Lirinensis, A. D. 434, speaking of Paul and other heretics of the same age, has these words : " Here, perhaps, some one may ask, whether heretics also urge the testimony of Scripture. They urge it in. deed, explicitly and vehemently; for you may
Larduer, vol. ii. p. 46.
t Ib. vol. ir. p. $12,