The Gospels in the Second Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 383 pages of information about The Gospels in the Second Century.
not only undergone those changes which in some regions the text underwent before it was translated into Latin, but has undergone other changes besides.  Some of its peculiarities are not those of the earliest form of the Latin version, but of that version in what may be called its second stage (e.g. xvi. 12).  It has also affinities to another version kindred to the Latin and occupying a similar place to the Old Latin among the Churches of Syria.  These circumstances together point to an antiquity fully as great as any that an orthodox critic would claim.

It should not be thought that because such indications are indirect they are therefore any the less certain.  There is perhaps hardly a single uncanonical Christian document that is admittedly and indubitably older than Marcion; so that direct evidence there is naturally none.  But neither is there any direct evidence for the antiquity of man or of the earth.  The geologist judges by the fossils which he finds embedded in the strata as relics of an extinct age; so here, in the Gospel of Marcion, do we find relics which to the initiated eye carry with them their own story.

Nor, on the other hand, can it rightly be argued that because the history of these remains is not wholly to be recovered, therefore no inference from them is possible.  In the earlier stages of a science like palaeontology it might have been argued in just the same way that the difficulties and confusion in the classification invalidated the science along with its one main inference altogether.  Yet we can see that such an argument would have been mistaken.  There will probably be some points in every science which will never be cleared up to the end of time.  The affirmation of the antiquity of Marcion’s Gospel rests upon the simple axiom that every event must have a cause, and that in order to produce complicated phenomena the interaction of complicated causes is necessary.  Such an assumption involves time, and I think it is a safe proposition to assert that, in order to bring the text of Marcion’s Gospel into the state in which we find it, there must have been a long previous history, and the manuscripts through which it was conveyed must have parted far from the parent stem.

The only way in which the inference drawn from the text of Marcion’s Gospel can be really met would be by showing that the text of the Latin and Syriac translations is older and more original than that which is universally adopted by text-critics.  I should hardly suppose that the author of ‘Supernatural Religion’ will be prepared to maintain this.  If he does, the subject can then be argued.  In the meantime, these two arguments, the literary and the textual—­for the others are but subsidiary—­must, I think, be held to prove the high antiquity of our present Gospel.



Tatian was a teacher of rhetoric, an Assyrian by birth, who was converted to Christianity by Justin Martyr, but after his death fell into heresy, leaning towards the Valentinian Gnosticism, and combining with this an extreme asceticism.

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The Gospels in the Second Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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