Dr. Lightfoot has rendered a great service to criticism by his masterly exposure of the fallacies in the argument which has been drawn from the silence of Eusebius in respect to the use of the Canonical Gospels by the early writers [Endnote 138:1]. The author of ‘Supernatural Religion’ is not to be blamed for using this argument. In doing so he has only followed in the wake of the Germans who have handed it on from one to the other without putting it to a test so thorough and conclusive as that which has now been applied [Endnote 138:2]. For the future, I imagine, the question has been set at rest and will not need to be reopened [Endnote 138:3].
Dr. Lightfoot has shown, with admirable fulness and precision, that the object of Eusebius was only to note quotations in the case of books the admission of which into the Canon had been or was disputed. In the case of works, such as the four Gospels, that were universally acknowledged, he only records what seem to him interesting anecdotes or traditions respecting their authors or the circumstances under which they were composed. This distinction Dr. Lightfoot has established, not only by a careful examination of the language of Eusebius, but also by comparing his statements with the actual facts in regard to writings that are still extant, and where we are able to verify his procedure. After thus testing the references in Eusebius to Clement of Rome, the Ignatian Epistles, Polycarp, Justin, Theophilus of Antioch, and Irenaeus, Dr. Lightfoot arrives, by a strict and ample induction, at the conclusion that the silence of Eusebius in respect to quotations from any canonical book is so far an argument in its favour that it shows the book in question to have been generally acknowledged by the early Church. Instead of being a proof that the writer did not know the work in reference to which Eusebius is silent, the presumption is rather that he did, like the rest of the Church, receive it. Eusebius only records what seems to him specially memorable, except where the place of the work in or out of the Canon has itself to be vindicated.
But if this holds good, then most of what is said against the use of the Gospels by Hegesippus falls to the ground. Eusebius expressly says [Endnote 140:1] that Hegesippus made occasional use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews ([Greek: ek te tou kath’ Hebraious euangeliou ... tina tithaesin]). But apart from the conclusion referred to above, the very language of Eusebius ([Greek: tithaesin tina ek]) is enough to suggest that the use of the Gospel according to the Hebrews was subordinate and subsidiary. Eusebius can hardly have spoken in this way of ‘the Gospel of which Hegesippus made use’ in all the five books of his ‘Memoirs.’ The expression tallies exactly with what we should expect of a work used in addition to but not to the exclusion of our Gospels. The fact that Eusebius says nothing about these shows that his readers would take it for granted that Hegesippus, as an orthodox Christian, received them.