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The name of Dr. Constantine Tischendorf is too well known to need any introduction to the English reader. As a critic and decipherer of ancient manuscripts he is without a rival, and to his other services in this important department of sacred literature he has added one which alone would reward the labor of a lifetime, in the discovery of the Sinaitic Manuscript, the full particulars of which are now given to the English reader for the first time in the following pages.

The original pamphlet of Dr. Tischendorf, Wann wurden unsere Euangelien verfasst? attracted great attention on its publication, now upwards of two years ago; but as it was written in the technical style in which German professors are accustomed to address their students and the learned classes generally, it was felt that a revision 6of this pamphlet, in a more popular form and adapted to general readers, would meet a want of the age. Dr. Tischendorf accordingly complied with this request, and prepared a popular version, in which the same arguments for the genuineness and authenticity of our Gospels were reproduced, but in a style more attractive to general readers, and with explanations which clear up what would otherwise be unintelligible. Of this revised and popular version of his proof of the genuineness of our Gospels the following is an accurate translation.

It may interest the reader to know that the pamphlet in its popular form has already passed through three large impressions in Germany: it also has been twice translated into French; one version of which is by Professor Sardinoux, for the Religious Book Society of Toulouse. It has also been translated into Dutch and Russian; and an Italian version is in preparation at Rome, the execution of which has been undertaken by an archbishop of the church of Rome, and with the approbation of the pope.

We have only to add that this version into English has been undertaken with the express approbation of the author, and is sent forth in the hope that, with the Divine blessing, it may be instrumental in confirming the faith of many 7 of our English readers in the “certainty of those things in which they have been instructed.” If the foundations be overthrown, what shall the righteous do? On the credibility of the four Gospels, the whole of Christianity rests as a building on its foundations. Hence it is that the Infidel and the Deist, with their unnatural ally the rationalizing Christian professor, have directed their attacks to the task of sapping these foundations. How unsuccessful as yet these repeated attempts of negative criticism have been, may be seen from the fact that the assault is repeated again and again. Infidelity, we are sure, would not waste her strength in thrice slaying the slain, or in raking away the ruins of a structure which has been demolished already. If the objections of Paulus and Eichhorn had been successful, the world would never have heard of Baur and the school of Tübingen. And again, if the Tübingen school had prevailed, there would not have been any room for the labors of such destructive critics as Volckmar of Zurich and others. The latest attack is, we are told, to be the last, until it fails, and another is prepared more threatening than the former. Thus every wave which beats against the rock of eternal truth seems to rise out of the trough caused by some receding wave, and raises its threatening crest as if it would 8wash away the rock. These waves of the sea are mighty, and rage terribly, but the Lord who sitteth on high is mightier. It is of the nature of truth, that the more it is tested the more sure it becomes under the trial. So it has been with the argument for the genuineness of the Gospels. The more that infidels have sought to shake the character of St. John’s Gospel, the more collateral proofs have started up of the apostolic character of this Gospel. Thus, though they mean it not so, these attacks of opponents are among the means whereby fresh evidences of the certitude of the Gospels are called out. No one has contributed more to this department of Christian literature than Dr. Tischendorf. This is an age when little books on great subjects are in greater request than ever. No defence of truth can therefore be more serviceable than the following short pamphlet, in which, in a few pages, and in a clear and attractive style, the genuineness of the Gospels is traced up inductively step by step, almost, if not quite, to the days of the apostles.

The method of proof is one which is thoroughly satisfactory, and carries the convictions of the reader along with it at every step. Circumstantial evidence when complete, and when every link in the chain has been thoroughly tested, is as strong as direct testimony. This is the kind of 9evidence which Dr. Tischendorf brings for the genuineness of our Gospels.

By what logicians call the method of rejection, it is shown successively, that the Gospels which were admitted as canonical in the fourth century could not, have been written so late as the third century after Christ. Then, in the same way, the testimony of the third century carries us up to the second. The writers, again, of the second century not only refer to the Gospels as already commonly received as parts of sacred Scripture, but also refer their origin to a date not later than the end of the first century.

The induction is thus complete, that these writings which the earliest of the apostolic fathers refer to, and quote as apostolic writings, must have had their origin in apostolic times. Thus we see, that of all theories, the most irrational is that of the Rationalists, who would have us believe that the Gospel of St. John was not written before the middle of the second century, and by a writer who palmed himself off as the Apostle John. We are at a loss to understand how the Church of the second century could have been so simple as not to detect the forgery, as it did in the case of the so-called Apocryphal Gospels. The Rationalists give us no explanation of. this, but would have us believe, on grounds of 10 pure subjective criticism, that the deity of our Lord was a development of the second and third centuries, after that the earlier Ebionite view of Jesus of Nazareth had been mixed up with the Alexandrian doctrine of the Logos: and that, as an amalgam of these two elements, the one Jewish and the other Greek, there resulted the Athanasian formula of the fourth century.

The historical proofs of Dr. Tischendorf blow to pieces this unsubstantial structure of inner or subjective criticism. No English reader of common sense will hesitate for an instant to decide to which side the scale inclines. With that reverence for facts which is our English birthright, we should set one single documentary proof like that, for instance, of the Codex Muratori, referred to in the following pages, against all the subjective criticism of the Tübingen school. Too long has Germany dreamed away her faith in the historical Christ, under the sleeping potions of these critics of the idealist school, who, with Baur at their head, only apply to theology the desolating and destructive theory of Hegel, that thought, when it projects itself outward, produces things; and that all things exist, because they seem to exist.

With such a school of metaphysics to start from, it is easy to see what the results would be 11when applied to historical criticism. “As with an enchanter’s wand,” facts which inconveniently did not square with the professor’s theory were waved away into thin air, and history became a kind of phantasmagoria, a series of dissolving views. But the “magic lantern school,” as they have been happily called, has been already discredited in Germany, and is not likely to gain much ground in this country. To complete their discomfiture, the labors of such textuary critics as Dr. Tischendorf are invaluable: critical proofs such as his are all the more acceptable as coming from Germany. The goodness and wisdom of God are seen in this, that as negative criticism had struck its roots deepest in German soil, so from Germany it is now receiving its deadliest blow. In nature, we know the antidote to certain poisons is found growing close beside the bane. In Corsica, for instance, the mineral springs of Orezza are considered a specific for the malaria fever produced in the plains below; so healthy German criticism has done more than any thing else to clear the air of the miasma caused by unhealthy speculation.

The results of a single discovery such as that of Tischendorf will neutralize to every unprejudiced mind all the doubts which subjective criticism has been able to raise as to the genuineness 12of St. John’s Gospel. Thus it is that God’s word is tried to the uttermost, and because so tried and found true, his servants love it. If the doubting of Thomas was overruled to the confirmation of the faith of all the Apostles, we see the reason why the subjective criticism of the Tübingen school has been allowed to sap, if it could, the evidence of the Gospel of St. John, in order that additional testimony should be brought from a convent on Mount Sinai to confirm us still more fully in “the certainty of those things in which we have been instructed.”


October, 1866.

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