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Eusebius, in the fourth century, was, as far as appears, the first to start the theory of four Passovers, though he understood the events recorded by the first three evangelists, from the commencement of our Lord's preaching, to have been included within one year.
The phenomena of the Gospels themselves may seem to favor the opinion, which limits the ministry of Jesus to a year and some months. Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention but one Passover; viz. that at which he was crucified. John (11. 23.) distinctly mentions another. By the advocates of the theory of four Passovers, he is understood to speak of yet two others; viz. in v. 1, and vi. 4. He says, (v. 1.) "There was a feast of the Jews;" not defining what feast. For any evidence afforded by the verse, or, apparently, from any other source, it is quite as likely to have been a Pentecost. That it has been supposed to have been a Passover, is perhaps owing to the article being prefixed in some copies to the word rendered feast; the feast, by eminence, being interpreted to be no other than the Passover. But if the various reading were a good one, it would sustain no satisfactory argument of the kind, and the weight of authorities, in this case, is with the text of the common edition.
To reconcile John vi. 4, with that opinion of Christian antiquity, which included but two Passovers in the ministry, different methods have been proposed. Dr. Priestley thought the words, to nάoza, the Passover, to be an interpolation, and this not only on conjecture, but on the ground, that ancient writers, who were in search of such texts, do not appear to have found the words in their copies. Bishop Pearce conceived the whole verse to be spurious, arguing that it breaks the continuity of the narrative, that nothing in the chapter has relation to any feast, and that John would hardly have repeated an explanation which he had already given. (11. 13.) The strong objection to these solutions of the difficulty is, that they resort to unauthorized alterations of the text.
The method of Dr. Carpenter may appear not only free from objection, but demanded by all the circumstances of the
case. The Gospel of John, apparently consisting, as it has been long observed to do, of distinct sections, each of which has its date,* there would be the less danger of mistake in ‘a single deviation from a chronological arrangement of the series of these sections. The narrative in John vI. 1-21, has such a close resemblance to that in Matthew xiv. 13-32, that it seems almost impossible to doubt that both evangelists are recording the same succession of events. These events are said by John (VI. 4.) to have occurred when a Passover was nigh, and by Matthew they are placed in a closely connected history of transactions immediately preceding the last Passover, viz. that of the crucifixion; transactions, which might occupy about a month. It seems therefore to be not without good grounds, that Dr. Carpenter, making, as usual, the two passages parallel, recommends, that, to arrange the sections of John in the order of time, the third section, composed of the sixth chapter, be placed between the fifth and sixth, which are divided at chapter xi. 54-55. The references in vi. 4, and xi. 55, are then to the same Passover, and John is found to speak of only two. This argument is strengthened by the consideration of the great difficulty there is in supposing so striking a miracle as that of the feeding of the five thousand to have been wrought before our Lord's presence at the Feast of Tabernacles. (John vII. 2-6.)
Upon the question, which evangelist is to be followed in settling the chronological succession of events, the first obvious thought is, that Matthew and John, apostles of Jesus, and eyewitnesses of the later events, at least, which they record, are more likely to have intended to observe the order of time, than Mark and Luke, who were not his apostles, and do not appear to have been his attendants. Nor does the force of this remark seem to be abated by Luke's declaration (1. 3.) of his purpose to write adεñs, in order; for the word means only
*The first section comprehending chapters 1-1v. (dated 11. 13.); the second, chapter v. (v. 1.); the third, chapter vi. (VI. 4.); the fourth, chapters VII-X. 21. (vII. 2.); the fifth, chapter x. 22. - x1. 54. (x. 22.) ; the sixth, chapters xi. 55-xxI. (xi. 55.)
methodically, in distinction from less carefully digested accounts, by no means necessarily implying, that the method which he undertook to pursue was that of time. Moreover, except in the case of John vi. which has been explained above, the order of this evangelist is not inconsistent with that of Matthew. So that the plan proposed offers the great advantage of adopting, for the chronological order of events in a Harmony, the order in which they are recorded by both of the only evangelists, who are known to have had opportunity to record from their own observation.
Proceeding on these principles, Dr. Carpenter places (pp. 2025 of this volume) the first Passover, recorded by John, with the previous connected events, next subsequent (John 1. 32, 33.) to the baptism of Jesus, recorded by the first three evangelists. After the baptism and temptation, Matthew relates nothing till (IV. 12.) the departure of Jesus into Galilee, on hearing of the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Now that John the Baptist was not in prison at the time of the transactions recorded in the third and fourth chapters of John's Gospel, appears from John 111. 24, and Iv. 1. This portion of John's Gospel, then, is to be placed before the departure into Galilee. Again, this departure seems to have been subsequent to the Feast of Tabernacles; because, after the miracles with which Jesus astonished "all Galilee " (Matthew IV. 23, 24.) on his arrival there, his brethren could have had no pretext for speaking of his proceeding." in secret," as they are represented to have done at the time of that feast in John vII. 4; besides that we have no means of accounting for Matthew's omitting to mention that Jesus went to a Feast of Tabernacles, had this occurred after Matthew takes up so minutely, at Iv. 12, the history of his public ministry. Accordingly, before Matthew's account of this departure, Dr. Carpenter has placed John's mention of the Feast of Tabernacles, vII. 2; and as from that point the narrative of John appears unbroken as far as x. 21, and there is nothing to object to the arrangement, the extract from John is continued to that point. (pp. 26–39.) The period herein accounted for, besides the Feast of Tabernacles,
embraces an earlier feast (v. 1.), which, on this theory, was a Pentecost; our Lord accordingly appearing to have "fulfilled all righteousness," in being present at Jerusalem at every great festival during his ministry; viz. at the Passover in March or April succeeding his baptism (John 11. 23.); the Pentecost, in May (v. 1.); the Tabernacles, in September (vII. 2.); and the Dedication, in November or December (x. 22.) According to the common hypothesis, out of twelve great festivals, which occurred between our Lord's baptism and his crucifixion, he kept but five at the holy city.
The narrative of Matthew, beginning (Iv. 12.) with the departure of Jesus into Galilee, after the Feast of Tabernacles, appears to be uninterrupted as far as chapter x. which records the mission of the twelve with their instructions. (pp. 40-81.) Now if the Feast of Dedication, mentioned by John (x. 22.), had taken place at any time between these two events, we cannot account for Matthew's omitting to mention it. And as, for the same reason, it cannot well be placed between Jesus's hearing of the death of John (Matthew xiv. 13.) and the crucifixion Passover, it is naturally referred to the time, when Matthew, with other apostles, was absent from Jesus. John, indeed, from the accuracy of his relation, may seem to have been with him at that feast; but it is not natural, nor have we any authority, to suppose, that all the apostles rejoined him at the same time; and if Thomas and others (x1. 16.) were with him not long after, it was not till Jesus had gone "away again beyond Jordan," after the feast, and "there abode." (x. 40.) The narrative of Matthew, accordingly, is followed from the departure into Galilee, after the Feast of Tabernacles, to the mission of the twelve. After this, at a time when Matthew was probably absent, is placed John's account of Jesus's journey to Jerusalem to the Feast of Dedication, followed by the events connected with it by that evangelist (pp. 87-91.) as far as XI. 55., where he introduces a new date. Next (after an arrangement, in Matthew's order, of events, which occurred near, both before and after, the mission of the twelve and the Dedication Feast, pp. 82-86, 91 110,) comes the succession of
events from Jesus's feeding of the five thousand, detailed by Matthew in a closely connected narrative, from xiv. 13, down to XXI., which begins the crucifixion week. (pp. 110-154.)
It was remarked, that the scheme proposed by Dr. Carpenter, and adopted in the following pages, offers the advantage of pursuing the order of both those evangelists, who were also apostles of our Lord. An examination of the table of chapters will show to what extent this has been done. Some of the few apparent deviations are not such in reality. The passages in Matthew Iv. 17 (page 40), and x. 2, &c. (page 74), are but transferred a little from their place for the sake of giving a more convenient continuity to the language, the historical order remaining unaffected. Matthew XIV. 3, &c. (page 40), and xiv. 6, &c. (page 107), relate events introduced by the evangelist himself parenthetically, and professedly out of the order of time, the aorist, properly rendered in our version by the pluperfect tense, being used. In this Harmony they are inserted where they best explain what precedes and follows. John XII. 2-8 (page 191), reserved from page 155, to be made parallel with Matthew xxvi. 6, &c., appears to have been introduced by John early, instead of late, among the events which occurred at Bethany during the last week, the mention of Bethany (John XII. 1.) causing it to be anticipated by a connexion of place.* The same may, perhaps, be said of Matthew XXI. 12, 13 (page 160), which records an event apparently dated by Mark (xI. 12, 15.) on the second day of Jesus's appearance at Jerusalem, instead of the first; though it may admit of a question, whether the order of Matthew should not here rather be observed. Matthew xxvI. 30, is placed (page 204) after xxvi. 35, because it clearly presents part of the same scene with what precedes, while any other disposition of it, with its parallels, would either indicate two visits to the Mount of Olives, or create an inconvenient chasm in the language and
*This, however, is a much agitated question among the Harmonists, some favoring the idea of two unctions, others understanding the place assigned by John to indicate the true time.