Harmonists or Harmonites
Harmonists or Harmonites
as a technical name of a Biblical work, is applied to books the object of which is to arrange the Scriptures in chronological order, so that the mutual agreement of the several parts may be rendered apparent, and the true succession of events clearly understood. With this view various scholars have compiled harmonies of the Old Testament, of the New, and of particular portions of both. Harmonies of the Old Testament exhibit the books disposed in chronological order, as is done by Lightfoot in his Chronicle of the Times, and the Order of the Texts of the Old Testament, and by Townsend in his Old Testament arranged in historical and chronological Order. Harmonies of the New Testament present the gospels and epistles distributed in like order, the latter being interspersed among the Acts of the Apostles. In this way Townsend has proceeded in his valuable work entitled The New Testament arranged in chronological and historical Order. Books, however, of this kind are so few in number that the term harmony is almost appropriated by usage to the gospels. It is this part of the New Testament which has chiefly occupied the attention of those inquirers whose object is to arrange the Scriptures in their true order. The memoirs of our Lord written by the four evangelists have chiefly occupied the thoughts of those who wish to show that they all agree, and mutually authenticate one another. Accordingly, such compositions are exceedingly numerous. The four gospels narrate the principal events connected with our Lord's abode on earth, from his birth to his ascension. There must therefore be a general resemblance between them, though that of John contains little in common with the others, being apparently supplementary to them. Yet there are considerable diversities, both in the order in which facts are narrated, and in the facts themselves. Hence the difficulty of weaving the accounts of the four into a continuous and chronological history. Those portions of the gospels that relate to the resurrection of the Savior have always presented the greatest obstacles to the compilers of harmonies, and it must be candidly admitted that the accounts of this remarkable event are not easily reconciled. Yet the labors of West and Townson, especially the latter, have served to remove the apparent contradictions. In addition to them may be mentioned Cranfield and Hales, who have endeavored to improve upon the attempts of their predecessors. SEE GOSPELS.
In connection with harmonies the term diatessaron frequently occurs. It denotes a continued narrative selected out of the four gospels, in which all repetitions of the same or similar words are avoided. It is thus the result of a harmony, since the latter, properly speaking, exhibits the entire texts of the four evangelists arranged in corresponding columns. In popular language the two are often used synonymously. SEE DIATESSARON.
The following questions relative to harmonies demand attention; and in treating them, we avail ourselves chiefly of the art. on the subject in Kitto's Cyclopaedia, s.v.
1. Have all or any of the evangelists observed chronological arrangement in their narratives? It was the opinion of Osiander and his followers that all the evangelists record the facts of the Savior's history in their true order. When, therefore, the same transactions are placed in a different order by the writers, they were supposed to have happened more than once. It was assumed that they took place as often as they were differently arranged. This principle is too improbable to require refutation. Instead of endeavoring to solve difficulties, it boldly meets them with a clumsy expedient. Improbable, however, as the hypothesis is, it has been adopted by Macknight. It is our decided conviction that all the evangelists have not adhered to chronological arrangement.
The question then arises, have all neglected the order of time? Newcome and many others espouse this view. "Chronological order," says this writer, "is not-precisely observed by any of the evangelists; John and Mark observe it most, and Matthew neglects it most." Bishop Marsh supposes that Matthew probably adhered to the order of time, because he was for the most part an eyewitness of the facts. The others, he thinks, neglected the succession of events. The reason assigned by the learned prelate in favor of Matthew's order is of no weight as long as the inspiration of Mark, Luke, and John is maintained. If they were infallibly directed in their compositions, they were in a condition equally favorable to chronological narration.
A close inspection of Matthew's Gospel will show that he did not intend to mark the true succession of events. He gives us no definite expressions to assist in arranging his materials in their proper order. Very frequently he passes from one occurrence to another without any note of time; sometimes he employs a τότε, sometimes ἐνταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ, or ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὤρᾷ.. Rarely is he so minute as to use μεθ᾿ ἡμέρας ἔξ (17, 1). In short, time and place seem to have been subordinated to the grand object which he had in view, viz. the lively exhibition of Jesus in his person, works, and discourses. In pursuing this design, he has often brought together similar facts and addresses. Although, therefore, Kaiser founds upon the phrases we have adduced a conclusion the very reverse of ours, yet we believe that Matthew did not propose to follow chronological order. The contrary is obviously implied.
Mark, again, is still more indefinite than Matthew. Even the general expressions found in the first gospel are wanting in his. The facts themselves, not their true succession, were the object of his attention. Chronological order is not observed in his gospel, except in so far as that gospel agrees with Luke's. Yet Cartwright, in his Harmony, published about 1630, makes the arrangement of Mark his rule for method.
With regard to Luke, it is probable that he intended to arrange everything in its true place, because at the beginning of his work he employs the term καθεξῆς. This word is often referred to succession of events, without involving time; but it seems clearly to imply chronological succession (compare Ac 11:4). Although, therefore, Grotius and many others oppose the latter view, we cannot but coincide with Beza when he says: "In harmonia Evangelistarum scribenda, rectiorem ordinem servari putem si in iis quae habent commulia, reliqui ad Lucam potius accommodentur, quam Lucas ad caeteros"(comp. also Olshausen, Die Echtheitder vier Canon. Evang. etc., 1, 82-3, 3rd ed.). We may therefore conclude that this evangelist usually follows the chronological order, especially when such passages as Lu 3:1 and Lu 3:23 are considered, where exact notices of time occur. But as the gospel advances, those expressions which relate to time are as indeterminate as Matthew's and Mark's. Frequently does he pass from one transaction to another without any note of time; and again, he has μετὰ τἃντα, ἐν μιᾶ'/ τῶν ἡμερῶν. In consequence of this vagueness, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make out a complete harmony of the gospels according- to the order of Luke, because we have no precise data to guide us in inserting the particulars related by Matthew and Mark in their proper places in the third gospel. All that can be determined with any degree of probability is that Luke's order seems to have been adopted as the true, chronological one. Whether the writer has deviated from it in any case may admit of doubt. We are inclined to believe that in all minute particulars chronological arrangement is not observed. The general body of facts and events seems to partake of this character, not every special circumstance noticed by the evangelist. But we are reminded that the assignment of dates is distinct from chronological arrangement. A writer may narrate all his facts in the order in which they occurred, without specifying the particular time at which they happened; or, on the other hand, he may mark the dates without arranging his narrative in chronological order. But attention to one of these will naturally give rise to a certain opinion with regard to the other. The more indeterminate the notification of time, the less probable is it that time was an element kept before the mind of the writer. If there be a few dates assigned with exactness. it is a presumption that the true arrangement is observed in other parts where no dates occur. In the succession of events Luke and Mark generally agree.
With regard to John's Gospel, it has little in common with the rest except the last two chapters. It is obvious, however, that his arrangement is chronological. He carefully marks, in general, whether one, two, or three days happened between certain events. His gospel is therefore of great use in compiling a synopsis.
It thus appears that no one gospel taken singly is sufficient to form a guide for the Gospel harmonist; nor is he justified in selecting any one evangelist as a general guide, modifying that single narrative only as absolutely demanded by the statements of the other three. He must place them all together, and select from among them as the exigencies in each particular case may require. Of course he will take definite notes of time as a peremptory direction wherever they occur, and in the absence of these he will naturally follow the order of the majority of the Gospel narratives. Nor in this matter is he at liberty, as Stier has too often done (Words of Jesus, Am. ed., 1, 31), to prefer one evangelist's authority to another, e.g. Matthew or John to Mark or Luke, on the ground that the former were apostles and the latter not, for they are all equally inspired. Again, the same liberty or discretion that is called for in arranging the order and date of the acts and journeys of our Lord must be exercised in adjusting his words and teachings; that is, the simple juxtaposition of passages is not absolute evidence of coincidence in time and immediate connection in utterance without some express intimation to that effect; so that incoherence, where palpable, or want of unanimity in this particular among the Gospel reports or summaries themselves, requires the harmonizer to exercise the same judgment in the adjustment as in other particulars. (See the Meth. Quart. Review, Jan. 1854, p. 79.) With these points premised and duly observed, there is no greater difficulty in adjusting the four accounts of our Lord's life and labors with a reasonable degree of certainty than there would be in harmonizing into one consistent account the separate and independent depositions of as many honest witnesses in any case of law. The only real questions of serious dispute in fact, aside from the main one presently to be mentioned, are those of a purely chronological character affecting the general date of Christ's ministry as a whole, and the particular spot where certain incidents or discourses transpired; the relative order and position of nearly everything is but little disturbed by the various theories or views as to even these points. Hence is evident the rashness of those who assert, like Stier (Pref. to Matthew and Mark, in Words of Jesus), that the construction of a Harmony of the Gospels is impracticable; for in the very same work he forthwith proceeds to construct and publish one himself!
2. What was the duration of our Lord's ministry? This is a question upon which the opinions of the learned have been much divided, and which cannot be settled with conclusive certainty. In order to resolve it, it is necessary to mark the different Passovers which Christ attended. Looking to the gospels by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we should infer that he was present at no more than two: the first at the time of his baptism, the second immediately before his crucifixion. But in John's gospel three Passovers at
least are named during the period of our Lord's ministry (2, 13; 6:4; 11:55), It is true that some writers have endeavored to adapt the gospel of John to the other three by reducing the Passovers mentioned in the former to two. So Priestley, Vossius, and Mann. In order to accomplish this, it was conjectured that πάσχα, in ch. 6; 4, is an interpolation, and then that ἑορτή denotes some other Jewish festival. Bishop Pearce went so far as to conjecture that the entire verse has been interpolated. For these rash speculations there is no authority. The received reading must here be followed (Lücke's Commentar über Johannes, 3rd ed. 2, 104). In addition to these passages, it has been thought by many that another Passover is referred to in 5, 1, where, although πάσχα does not occur, ἡ ἑορτή is supposed to denote the same feast. But this is a subject of dispute. Ireneus is the oldest authority for explaining it of the Passover. Cyril and Chrysostom, however, referred it to the Feast of Pentecost, an opinion approved of by Erasmus, Calvin, and Beza; but Luther, Chemnitz, Calovius, Scaliger, Grotius, and Lightfoot returned to the ancient view of Irenmeus. Keppler seems to have been the first who conjectured that it meant the Feast of Purimn immediately preceding the second Passover. He was followed by Petau, Lamy, D'Outreinl, etc. Cocceius, followed by Kaiser, referred it to the Feast of Tabernacles; while Keppler and Petau intimated that it may possibly have been the Feast of Dedication. Bengel defended the opinion of Chrysostom; while Hug, with much plausibility, endeavors to show that it alludes to the feast of Purim immediately before the Passover. The latter view is adopted by Tholuck, Olshausen, and Clausen, though Greswell maintains that the Passover is meant. It would occupy too much space to adduce the various considerations that have been urged for and against the two leading opinions, viz. the Passover and the Feast of Purim. The true meaning of ἑορτή (for Lachmann has rightly omitted the article from before it; see Tischendorf, Nov. Test. 7th ed. ad loc.) is still indeterminate (see especially Alford, Gr. Test. ad loc.). To us it appears most probable that the most ancient hypothesis is correct, al. though the circumstances urged against it are neither few nor feeble. The following arguments, however, seem to determine the question in favor of the Passover: 1. Had any less noted festival been meant, it would, as in other cases (see chap. 7:2; 10:22), have been specified; but in the present case not even the article was required to distinguish it; whereas John by one instance only (6, 4) uses πάσχα to qualify a following ἑορτή, when the latter is thus defined by τῶν Ι᾿ουδαίων. 2. The ensuing Sabbath (δευτερύπρωτος of Lu 6:1) can only be that which was second after the offering of the wavesheaf, and first after the Passover-week, and, however interpreted, shows that a Passover had just preceded, for the harvest was just ripe. SEE PASSOVER.
Sir Isaac Newton and Macknight suppose that five Passovers intervened between our Lord's baptism and crucifixion. This assumption rests on no foundation. Perhaps the term ἑορτή in Joh 7:2 may have given rise to it, although ἑορτή is explained in that passage by σκηνοπηγία.
During the first three centuries it was commonly believed that Christ's ministry lasted but one year, or one year and a few months (Routh, Reliq. Sacrs 4, 218). Such was the opinion of Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata, 1, 21; 6:11) and Origen (de Principiis, 4, 5). Eusebius thought that it continued for above three years, which hypothesis became general. The ancient hypothesis, which confined the time to one year, was revived by Mann and Priestley; but Newcome, with more judgment, defended the common view, and refuted Priestley's arguments. The one-year view has found few late advocates except Jarvis (Introd. to History of Church) and Browne (Ordo Saeclorum). It has been well remarked by bishop Marsh that the Gospel of John presents almost insuperable obstacles to the opinion of those who confine Christ's ministry to one year. If John mentions but three Passovers, its duration must have exceeded two years; but if he mentions four, it must have been longer than three years. In interweaving the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke with that of John, the intervals between the Passovers are filled up by various transactions. Were the number of these feasts determinate and precise, there would be a general agreement in the filling up of the times between them; but in consequence of the uncertainty attaching to the subject, Harmonies are found materially to differ in their modes of arrangement. One thing is evident, that the moderns, in their endeavors after a chronological disposition of the gospels, adopt a far more rational course than the ancients. The latter strangely supposed that the first six chapters of John's Gospel relate to a period of Christ's ministry prior to that with which the other three evangelists begin their accounts of the miracles. Thus John alone was supposed to narrate the events belonging to the earlier part of his ministry, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke related the transactions of the last year.
The most ancient Harmony of the Gospels of which we have any account was composed by Tatian of Syria in the 2nd century, but it is now lost (see H. A. Daniel's Tatianus der Apologet. Halle, 1837, 8vo). In the 3rd century, Ammonius was the author of a Harmony supposed to be still extant. Eusebius of Caesarea also composed a Harmony of the Gospels about A.D. 315. In it he divided the Gospel history into ten canons or tables, according as different facts are related by one or more of the evangelists. These ancient Harmonies, however, differ in character from such as belong to modern times. They are summaries of the life of Christ, or indexes to the four gospels, rather than a chronological arrangement of different facts, accompanied by a reconciliation of apparent contradictions. (See Scrivener, Introd. to N.T. p. 50.) In modern times, Andreas Osiander published his Harmony of the Gospels in 1537. He adopted the principle that the evangelists constantly wrote in chronological order. Cornelius Jansenius's Concordis Anger (1851), Tischendorf (1851), Strong (English, 1852; Greek, 1854), Stroud.(1853), Douglas (1859). Other similar works are mentioned in Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, vol. 4:ed. Harles; Walch, Bibliotheca Theologica, vol. 4; Michaelis, Introd. vol. 3 ed. Marsh; Hase, Le-ben Jesu, § 27; Danz, Wlrterb. d. Theol. Lit. s.v.; Darling, Cyclopced. Bibliograph. col. 119,136,761. See Brit. and For. Review, Oct. 1856; Jour. Sac. Liter. 1852, p. 60 — sq.; Wieseler, Chronicles Synopsis of Gospels (tr. by Venables, Lond. 1864,8vo). SEE JESUS CHRIST.