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The defects and omissions in the Gospel of Mark became every day more obnoxious. Those who knew the beautiful addresses of Jesus as they appeared in the Syro-Chaldaic Scriptures, regretted the dryness of the narrative based on the tradition of Peter. Not only did the most beautiful of his preachings appear in a truncated form, but parts of the life of Jesus, which had come to be recognised as essential, were altogether omitted. Peter, faithful to the old ideas of the first Christian century, attached little importance to the story of the childhood and to the genealogies. Now it was especially with respect to those things that the Christian imagination laboured. A crowd of new narratives sprang up; a complete Gospel was demanded, which to all that Mark embodied should be added all that the best traditionists of the East knew, or believed they knew.

Such was the origin of our text “according to Matthew.” The author has taken as the foundation 92of his work the Gospel of Mark. He follows him in his order, in his general plan, in his characteristic forms of expression, in a way which does not leave it open to doubt that he had beneath his eyes, or in his memory, the work of his predecessor. The coincidences in the smallest details throughout entire pages are so literal, that one is tempted at times to declare that the author possessed a manuscript of Mark. On the other hand, certain changes of words, numerous transpositions, certain omissions, the reason for which it is not easy to explain, lead rather to the belief that the work was done from memory. The matter is of small consequence. What is important is that the text said to be of Matthew supposes that of Mark as pre-existing, and requiring only to be completed. He completes it in two ways, first by inserting in it the long discourses which make the Hebrew Gospels precious, then by adding to it traditions of more modern origin, fruits of the successive development of the legend, and to which the Christian conscience already attached an infinite value. The last version has, besides, much unity of style; a single hand has presided over the very various fragments which have entered into its composition. This unity leads to the belief that for the parts engrafted upon Mark the editor worked from the Hebrew; if he had made a translation, we should feel the differences of style between the foundation and the intercalated parts. Besides, the taste of the times was rather towards new versions than to translations properly so called. The biblical citations of the pseudo-Matthew suppose at once the use of a Hebrew text, or of an Aramaic Targum, and of the version of the Seventy (the Septuagint): a part of his exegesis has no meaning save in Hebrew.

The fashion in which the author managed the intercalation of the great discourses of Jesus is singular. Whether he takes them from the collections of sentences which may have existed at a certain period of the 93evangelic tradition, or whether he takes them ready made from the Gospel of the Hebrews, these discourses are inserted by him like great parentheses in the narrative of Mark, into which he cuts as it were grooves. The chief of these discourses, the Sermon on the Mount, is evidently composed of parts which have no natural connection, and which have been only artificially brought together. The twenty-third chapter contains all that tradition has preserved of the reproaches which Jesus on various occasions addressed to the Pharisees. The seven parables of the thirteenth chapter were certainly never uttered by Jesus on the same day, and one after another. Let us take a familiar illustration, which alone renders our meaning. There were, before the issue of the first Gospel, bundles of discourses and parables where the words of Jesus were classified for purely external reasons. The author of the first Gospel found those bundles ready made up, and inserted them into the text of Mark, which served him as a canvas all tied up together without breaking the thread which bound them. Sometimes the text of Mark, brief though the discourses have been made, contains some parts of the sermons which the new editor took bodily from the collection of the Logia, hence some repetitions. Generally the new editor cares little about those repetitions; sometimes he avoids them by retrenchments, transpositions, and certain little niceties of style.

The insertion of traditions unknown to the old Mark is done by the pseudo-Matthew by yet more violent processes. In possession of some accounts of miracles or of healings of which he does not perceive the identity with those which are already told by Mark, the author prefers telling the story twice over, to omitting any particular. He desires, before all things, to be complete, and he does not disquiet himself lest he should stumble in thus arranging portions of various 94productions with contradictions and the difficulties of narration. Hence these circumstances, obscure at the moment when they are introduced, which are only explained by the course of the work; these allusions to events of which nothing is said in the historical part. Hence the singular doublets which characterise the first Gospel: two cures of two blind men; two cures of a dumb demoniac; two multiplications of bread; two demands for a sign from heaven; two invectives against scandals; two sentences on divorce. Hence, also, perhaps, that method of proceeding by couples which produces the effect of a sort of duplicate narrative; two blind men of Jericho and two other blind men; two demoniacs of the Gergesenes; two disciples of John; two disciples of Jesus; two brothers. The harmonistic exegesis produces hence its usual results of redundance and heaviness. At other times the cut is seen to be quite fresh, the operation of the grafting by which the addition is made. Thus the miracle of Peter—a story which Mark does not give—is intercalated between Mark vi. 50 and 51 in such a way that the edges of the wound are still raw. It is the same with the miracle of the tribute money; with Judas pointing himself out and questioned by Jesus; with Jesus rebuking the stroke of Peter’s sword; with the suicide of Judas; with the dream of Pilate’s wife, etc. If we cut out all these details, the fruits of a later development of the legend of Jesus, the very text of Mark remains.

In this way a crowd of legends were introduced into the Gospel text which are wanting in Mark—the genealogy; the supernatural birth; the visit of the Magi; the flight into Egypt; the massacre of Bethlehem; Peter walking upon the water; the prerogatives of Peter; the miracle of the money found in the fish’s mouth; the eunuchs of the kingdom of God; the emotion of Jerusalem at the entrance of Jesus; the Jerusalem miracles and the triumph of the children 95various legendary details about Judas, particularly his suicide; the order to put the sword back into its sheath; the intervention of Pilate’s wife; Pilate washing his hands and the Jewish people taking all the responsibility for the death of Jesus; the tearing of the curtain of the Temple; the earthquake and the rising of the saints at the moment of the death of Jesus; the guard set over the tomb, and the corruption of the soldiers. In all these places the quotations are from the Septuagint. The Editor for his personal use avails himself of the Greek version, but when he translates the Hebrew Gospel he conforms to the exegesis of that original which often had no basis in the Septuagint.

A sort of competition in the use of the marvellous; the taste for more and more startling miracles; a tendency to present the Church as already organised and disciplined from the days of Jesus; an ever-increasing repulsion for the Jews, dictated the majority of these additions to the primitive narrative. As has already been said, there are moments in the growth of a dogma when days are worth centuries. A week after his death, Jesus was the hero of a vast legend of his life, the majority of the details to which we have just referred were already written in advance.

One of the great factors in the creation of the Jewish Agada are the analogies drawn from Biblical texts. These things serve to fill up a host of gaps in the souvenirs. The most contradictory reports were current, for example, about the death of Judas. One version soon prevailed: Achitophel, the betrayer of David, served as his prototype. It was admitted that Judas hanged himself as he did. A passage of Zechariah furnished the thirty pieces of silver, the fact of his having cast them down in the Temple, as well as the potter’s field—nothing is wanting to the story.

The apologetic intention was another fertile source of anecdotes and intercalations. Already objections 96to the Messiahship of Jesus had been raised, and required answering. John the Baptist, said the misbelievers, had not believed in him or had ceased to believe in him; the towns where his miracles were said to have been performed were not converted; the wise men and the sages of the nation despised him; if he had driven out devils, it was through Beelzebub; he had promised signs in the heavens which he had not given. There was an answer to all this which flattered the democratic instincts of the crowd. It was not the nation which had repulsed Jesus, said the Christians, it was the superior classes, always egotists, who would none of him. Simple people would have been for him, and the priests took him with subtlety, for they feared the people. “It was the fault of the Government”—here is an explanation which in all ages has been readily accepted.

The birth of Jesus and his resurrection were the cause of endless objections from low minds and ill-prepared hearts. The resurrection no one had seen; the Jews declared that the friends of Jesus had carried his corpse away into Galilee. It was answered by the fable of the guardians to whom the Jews had given money to say that the disciples had carried away the body. As to the birth, two contradictory currents of opinion may be traced; but as both responded to the needs of the Christian conscience, they were reconciled as well as they might be. On the one hand, it was necessary that Jesus should be the descendant of David; on the other, he might not be conceived under the ordinary conditions of humanity. It was not natural that he who had never lived as other men lived should be born as other men were born. The descent from David was established by a genealogy which showed Joseph as of the stock of David. That was scarcely satisfactory, in view of the hypothesis of the supernatural conception, according to which Joseph and his supposed ancestors had nothing to do 97with the birth of Jesus. It was Mary whom it was necessary to attach to the royal family. Now no attempt was made in the first century to do this, doubtless because the genealogies had been fixed before it was seriously pretended that Jesus was born otherwise than as the result of the lawful union of the two sexes, and no one denied to Joseph his rights to a real paternity. The Gospel of the Hebrews—at least at the period at which we now are—always described Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary the Holy Spirit in the conception of this Gospel was for Jesus the Messiah (a distinct personage from the man Jesus) a mother, not a father. The Gospel of Matthew, on the contrary, propounds an altogether contradictory combination. Jesus, with him, is the son of David through Joseph, who is not his father. The author evades this difficulty with an extreme naïveté. An angel comes to relieve the mind of Joseph from suspicions which in a case so peculiar he had a right to entertain.

The genealogy which we read in the Gospel ascribed to Matthew is certainly not the work of the author of that Gospel. He has taken it from some previous document. Was it in the Gospel of the Hebrews itself? It is doubtful. A large proportion of the Hebrews of Syria kept always a text in which such genealogies did not figure; but also certain Nazarene manuscripts of very ancient date presented by way of preface a sepher toledoth. The turn of the genealogy of Matthew is Hebrew; the transcriptions of the proper names are not those of the Septuagint. We have seen, besides, that the genealogies were probably the work of the kinsmen of Jesus, retired to Batanea and speaking Hebrew. What is certain is that the work of the genealogies was not executed with much unity or much authority, for two altogether discordant systems of connecting Joseph with the last known persons of the line of David have come down to us. 98It is not impossible that the names of the father and grandfather of Joseph were known. After that, from Zerubbabel to Joseph, all has been fabricated. As after the captivity the Biblical writings give no more genealogies, the author imagines the period to have been shorter than it really was, and puts in too few generations. From Zerubbabel to David, Paralipomenes are made use of, not without sundry inaccuracies and failures of memory. Genesis, the Book of Ruth, the Paralipomenes, have furnished the body as far as David. A singular preoccupation of the author of the genealogy contained in Matthew has been to mention, by exceptional privilege, or even to introduce by force, in the ascending line of Jesus, four women who were sinners, faithless to a point which a Pharisee might well criticise—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. It was an invitation to sinners never to despair of entering into the family of the elect. The genealogy of Matthew gives also to Jesus as ancestors the kings of Judah, descendants of David, beginning with Solomon, but soon, not wishing that that genealogy should borrow too much from profane glory, Jesus is connected with David by a little known son, Nathan, and by a line parallel to that of the kings of Judah.

For the rest, the supernatural connexion gained every day so much in importance, that the question of the father and of the ancestors of Jesus after the flesh, became in some sort a secondary matter. It was believed to have been prophesied by Isaiah in a passage which is ill-rendered in the Septuagint, that Christ should be born of a Virgin. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, had done all. Joseph in reality appears to have been an old man when Jesus was born. Mary, who appears to have been his second wife, might be very young. This contrast rendered the idea of the miracle easy. Certainly the legend would not have come into existence without that; as, moreover, the myth was elaborated in the midst 99of a people who had known the family of Jesus, such a circumstance as an old man taking a young wife was not indifferent. A common feature of the Hebrew histories, is the magnifying of the Divine power by the very weakness of the instruments which he employed. Thus came the habit of describing great men as the offspring of parents old or long childless. The legend of Samuel begot that of John the Baptist, that of Jesus and that of Mary herself. On the other hand, this provoked the objections of ill-wishers. The coarse fable invented by the opponents of Christianity, which made Jesus the fruit of a scandalous adventure with the soldier Pantheris, arose out of the Christian narrative without much difficulty—that narrative presenting to the imagination the shocking picture of a birth where the father had only a false part to play. The fable shows itself clearly only in the second century; in the first, however, the Jews appear to have malignantly represented the birth of Jesus as illegitimate. Perhaps they so argued from the species of ostentation with which at the head of the book of the toledoth of Jesus the names of Tamar, of Rahab, and of Bathsheba were placed, whilst omitting those of Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah.

The stories of the childhood, ignored by Mark, are confined by Matthew to the episode of the magi, linked with the persecution by Herod, and the Massacre of the Innocents. All this development appears to be of Syrian origin; the odious part which Herod plays, was, without doubt, the invention of the family of Jesus, refugees in Batanea. The little group appears, in a word, to have been a source of hateful calumnies against Herod. The fable about the infamous origin of his father, contradicted by Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus, appears to have come from thence. Herod became the scapegoat of all Christian grievances. As for the dangers with which the childhood of Jesus is supposed to have been 100surrounded, they are simply an imitation of the childhood of Moses, whom a king also desired to slay, and who was obliged to escape to foreign parts. It happened to Jesus as to all great men. We know nothing of their childhood, for the simple reason that no one can predict the future of a child; we supplement our imperfect knowledge by anecdotes invented after the event. Imagination, besides, likes to figure to itself that the men of Providence have grown in spite of perils, as the effect of a special protection of Heaven. A popular story relative to the birth of Augustus, and various features of Herod’s cruelty, might give rise to the legend of the massacre of the children of Bethlehem.

Mark, in his singularly naïve narrative, has eccentricities, rudenesses, passages not very easy of explanation and open to much objection. Matthew proceeds by retouchings and extenuations of detail. Compare, for example, Mark iii. 31-35 with Matthew xii. 46-50. The second editor gets rid of the idea that the relations of Jesus thought him mad, and wished to put him under restraint. The astonishing simplicity of Mark vi. 5, “He could do there no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them,” is softened in Matthew xiii. 58, “And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” The strange paradox of Mark, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life,” becomes in Matthew, “And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” The motive assigned 101for the visit of the women to the sepulchre, implying clearly that they did not expect the resurrection, is replaced in Matthew by an insignificant expression. The scribe who interrogates Jesus on the great commandment does so in Mark with a good intention. In the two other Evangelists he does it to tempt Jesus. The times have advanced: it is no longer to be admitted that a scribe could possibly act without malice. The episode when the young rich man calls Jesus “Good Master,” and where Jesus reproves him with the words, “there is none good but God,” appeared scandalous a little later. Matthew settles it in a less shocking manner. The fashion in which the disciples are sacrificed in Mark is equally extenuated in Matthew. Finally, this last is guilty of some inaccuracies, in order to obtain pathetic effects: thus the wine of the condemned, the institution of which was really humane, becomes with him a refinement of cruelty to bring about the fulfilment of a prophecy.

The two lively sallies of Mark are thus effaced; the lines of the new Gospel are larger, more correct, more ideal. The marvellous features are multiplied, but we should say that there is an attempt to make the marvellous more credible. Miracles are less clumsily told; certain prolixities are omitted. Thaumaturgic materialism, the use of natural means to produce miracles —characteristic features of Mark’s narrative—have almost wholly disappeared in Matthew. Compared with the Gospel of Mark, that attributed to Matthew presents corrections of taste and tact. Various inaccuracies are rectified; details æsthetically weak or inexplicable are suppressed or cleared up. Mark has often been considered as the abbreviator of Matthew. The very reverse is the truth; only the addition of the discourses has the effect of extending the abridgment considerably beyond the limits of the original. When we compare the accounts of the demoniac of the Gergesenes, the paralytic of Capernaum, the daughter 102of Jairus, the woman with the issue of blood, the epileptic boy, the correctness of our view is apparent. Often, also, Matthew gathers together, into a single group, circumstances which in Mark constitute two episodes. Some stories, which appear at first sight to be his especial property, are really stripped and impoverished copies of the longer accounts of Mark.

It is especially with regard to poverty that we discover in the text of Matthew precautions and uneasiness. Jesus had boldly placed poverty at the head of the heavenly beatitudes. “Blessed are ye poor,” was probably the first word which came out of the Divine mouth, when he began to speak with authority. The majority of the sentences of Jesus (as happens always when we wish to give a living form to thought) lent themselves to misunderstanding; the pure Ebionites drew from them subversive consequences. The editor of our Gospel adds a word to prevent certain excesses. The poor in the ordinary sense become the “poor in spirit”—that is to say, pious Israelites who play a humble part in the world, which contrasts with the haughty air of the great men of the day. In another beatitude, those who are hungry become those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

The progress of thought is then very visible in Matthew; we catch glimpses in him of a crowd of after thoughts, the intention of parrying certain objections; an exaggeration of the symbolical pretensions. The story of the Temptation in the Wilderness has developed itself and has changed its character; the passion is enriched with some beautiful details; Jesus speaks of his “Church” as of a body already constituted and founded under the primacy of Peter. The formula of baptism is enlarged, and comprehends, under a form sufficiently syncretic, the three sacramental words of the theology of the time, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 103The germ of the doctrine of the Trinity is thus deposited in a corner of the sacred page, and will become fertile. The Apocalyptic discourse attributed to Jesus, with reference to the war in Judea, is rather strengthened and particularised than weakened. We shall soon see Luke employing all his art to extenuate whatever was embarrassing in these daring predictions of an end that had not come.

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