The Gospels in the Second Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 336 pages of information about The Gospels in the Second Century.
Scriptures here refer, as the author of ‘Supernatural Religion’ seems to do, to the Old Testament.  It is true that Justin lays great stress upon type and prophecy as pointing to Christ, but there is a considerable step between this and calling the whole of the Old Testament ‘Scriptures of the Lord.’  On the other hand, we can hardly think that Dionysius refers to a complete collection of writings like the New Testament.  It seems most natural to suppose that he is speaking of Gospels—­possibly not the canonical alone, and yet, with Irenaeus in our mind’s eye, we shall say probably to them.  There is the further reason for this application of the words that Dionysius is known to have written against Marcion—­’he defended the canon of the truth’ [Endnote 243:1], Eusebius says—­ and such ‘tampering’ as he describes was precisely what Marcion had been guilty of.

* * * * *

The reader will judge for himself what is the weight of the kind of evidence produced in this chapter.  I give a chapter to it because the author of ‘Supernatural Religion’ has done the same.  Doubtless it is not the sort of evidence that would bear pressing in a court of English law, but in a question of balanced probabilities it has I think a decided leaning to one side, and that the side opposed to the conclusions of ’Supernatural Religion.’

CHAPTER X.

MELITO—­APOLLINARIS—­ATHENAGORAS—­THE EPISTLE OF VIENNE AND LYONS.

We pass on, still in a region of fragments—­’waifs and strays’ of the literature of the second century—­and of partial and indirect (though on that account not necessarily less important) indications.

In Melito of Sardis (c. 176 A.D) it is interesting to notice the first appearance of a phrase that was destined later to occupy a conspicuous position.  Writing to his friend Onesimus, who had frequently asked for selections from the Law and the Prophets bearing upon the Saviour, and generally for information respecting the number and order of ‘the Old Books,’ Melito says ’that he had gone to the East and reached the spot where the preaching had been delivered and the acts done, and that having learnt accurately the books of the Old Covenant (or Testament) he had sent a list of them’—­which is subjoined [Endnote 244:1].  Melito uses the word which became established as the title used to distinguish the elder Scriptures from the younger—­the Old Covenant or Testament ([Greek:  hae palaia diathaekae]); and it is argued from this that he implies the existence of a ’definite New Testament, a written antitype to ‘the Old’ [Endnote 245:1] The inference however seems to be somewhat in excess of what can be legitimately drawn.  By [Greek:  palaia diathaekae] is meant rather the subject or contents of the books than the books themselves.  It is the system of things, the dispensation accomplished ‘in heavenly places,’ to which the books belong, not the actual collected volume.  The

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