It may be well to state distinctly here that this book does not design to enter into any critical inquiries respecting the text of the Evangelists. In the few cases where a historical statement is affected by the different readings, Teschendorf is followed, use being made of his " Synopsis Evangelica,"'Lipsiae, 1854. Keference is also made in such cases to Meyer and Alford, and occasionally to other authorities. • Nor does it design to enter into any questions respecting the authorship of the Gospels, the time when written, or their relations to each other. ISTor does it discuss the point of their inspiration, but assumes that they are genuine historical documents, and statements of facts ; and deals with them as such. Nor does it aim to explain or interpret the Lord's parables, or discourses ; or to discuss questions of mere archaeology, or of verbal criticism. Those who wish information upon these points will consult the authors who have written specially upon them.
The simple purpose of this book is to arrange the events of the Lord's life, as given us by the Evangelists, so far as possible, in a chronological order, and to state the grounds of this order ; and to consider the difficulties as to matters of fact which the several narratives, when compared together, present; or are supposed by modern criticism to present.
As the necessary foundation for a chronological arrangement, the dates of the Lord's birth and death, and the duration of His public ministry, are discussed in brief preliminary essays. The geographical discussions are all limited to the sites of places directly related to the narratives. ISTo more notice is taken of the general history of the time, than is necessary to explain the occasional references of the Evangelists.
In order not to avoid any points of real difficulty which the historical statements of the Gospels present, and, at the same time, not to weary the reader with discussions of the alleged discrepancies which some critics find, or affect to find, so thickly strewn upon their pages, I have selected, as the latest exponents of the critical tendencies of the times, the Commentaries of the German, Meyer, and of the Englishman, Alford. Both of these are ready, and over ready, as I think, to admit mistakes in matters of fact, and to affirm that the Evangelists, in certain points, cannot be harmonized; yet both admit the supernatural element in the Gospels, and expose and set aside many of the objections of the merely negative criticism. To these two commentators, therefore, very frequent reference is made, and whatever
difficulties they present, as really such, are for the most part noticed.
From what has just been said, the reader will not be surprised that no notice whatever has been taken of Strauss, and his " Life of Christ." The principle upon which he proceeds, in his historical criticism, lie thus states : " No just notion of the true nature of history is possible, without a perception of the inviolability of the, chain of finite causes, and of the impossibility of miracles." If a miracle is impossible, it is plainly a work of supererogation to refute in detail a history, which, upon its face, professes to be a record of supernatural events. After striking out all that is ascribed to immediate divine agency, as incredible, the residuum is scarce worth the trouble of contending for. Besides, an attentive examination of Strauss' " Life of Christ" has made upon my own mind the impression that he deals with the evangelic narratives in a most unfair, not to say dishonest, spirit. Everywhere he finds discrepancies and contradictions; and one cannot help feeling, that whatever the Evangelists might have narrated, he would find as many objections to their statements as now. For the same reason that nothing is said of Strauss, no allusion is made to Hennell, or Bruno Bauer, or others of that school. The Commentaries of De "Wette, and the Life of Jesus by Hase, have high literary merits, but the sceptical spirit in which they are written, gives them only a negative value in these inquiries.
It will be noted that the references are almost exclusively to recent writers. This is intentional. To notice the latest results of modern criticism and investigation, has been my purpose ; bat, at the same time, I have not neglected to examine the more prominent of the older writers in this department, so far as I have been able, from Augustine downward. "While, in some cases, and chiefly those pertaining to chronology and geography, the wider scope of modern scholarship has given us new materials for judgment, yet it must be admitted that in regard to internal discrepancies, not unfrequently the old solutions are the best. No reader, familiar with their writings, will be surprised to find Lightfoot, Lardner, Baronius, Reland, and some others, here referred to as of high authority, even at this day, in their respective departments. That so many references are made to German writers, is owing to the fact that no other scholars have labored so diligently and successfully in this field.
That all will find the solutions of alleged discrepancies and contradictions here given, satisfactory, is not to be expected. Nor will the chronological order, or topographical results, be received by all. But it is a great point gained, to be able to see just what the amount of the discrepancy or contradiction, if it really exists, is. Those readers who have been accustomed to hear, through sceptical critics, of the numerous errors and mistakes of the Evangelists, will be surprised to learn how few are the points of real difficulty,
and how often these are exaggerated by the misinterpretation of the critic himself. There are not a few commentators who adopt the rigid literalism of Osiander;. not, like him, to defend the credibility of the Gospel narrative, but to destroy it.
In regard to the exact order of events, there is room for great differences of opinion, and positive statements are impossible. There are, however, certain well marked lines of division, and the precise arrangement of the details is comparatively unimportant, as not at all affecting the historical accuracy of the narratives, and must be left to the exegetical tact, or critical acumen of the student.
It will not be expected that I should present, upon a subject discussed for so many centuries by the best minds of the Church, anything distinctively new. Still, I trust that some points have been set in clearer light, and that the general arrangement will facilitate the inquiries of those who seek to know as much as is possible of the external history of the Lord's works and words, that they may the better penetrate into their spiritual meaning. I have given considerable prominence to the great divisions of His work, first in Judea, and then in Galilee, and to the character of His last journey to Jerusalem; both as explaining some peculiarities in the synoptical Gospels, and as showing that His work was carried on under true historic conditions. There is no fact more important to be kept clearly in mind in these studies than this, that Jesus was very man no less than very God. "While recognizing the supernatural elements in the evangelic narratives wherever they exist, we are not so to introduce them as to make these narratives the records of a life neither human, nor divine. The Lord, in all His words and works, in His conduct toward the Jews, and His repeated efforts to make them hear and receive Him, acted as man, under those laws which God at the beginning established to guide human action. His life on earth was in the highest sense a human one, and it is this fact that gives us the key to the Gospels as real historic records.
It may properly here be said, that this work was ready for the press two years since, and that its publication has been delayed to this time by the troubled aspect of our political affairs. I cannot regret the delay, as it has given me the opportunity to examine several valuable works that have appeared in this interval. Among these are Ellicott's " Historical Lectures on the Life of our Lord;" vols, fifth and sixth of Sepp's " Leben Jesu;" Jones' " Notes on the Scriptures;" and Lewin's " Jerusalem." To the first of these, distinguished by its accurate scholarship and reverential tone, and which happily has been republished in this country, and is thus accessible to all, I have made frequent references. I cannot refrain from expressing my obligations to the Notes of the late Judge Jones, whose deep insight into the meaning of the Evangelists none can doubt, although he may, perhaps, at times be charged with over
subtlety and refinement. I must also make thankful mention of the Commentaries on Mark and Matthew, the latter unhappily unfinished, of the late Prof. J. A. Alexander, who, without any of the parade of learning, gives us its most solid results. Some recent works, as that of Tischendorf, " Aus dem heiligen Lande," Leipzig, 1862, came into my hands too late to be of use.
How poor and unworthy of Him, the external aspects of whose earthly life I have endeavored in some points to portray, my labors are, none can feel more deeply than myself. I can only pray that His blessing —the blessing that changed the water into wine—may go with this book, and make it, in some measure, useful to His children.
Haktfoed, Conn., Oct. 1862.