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is mad, (say they to the inultitude) why hear ye him ?” and so in other places. Mr. Evanson considers this work as the composition of a converted Platonist, or of a Platonizing Jew, the latter we think to be the most correct opinion, since it is evident that the author of that Gospel had the works of Philo at his fingers' ends, which is more than can be supposed of John. As Semler excepted the Gospel of John only, so Mr. Evanson excepts the Gospel of Luke only from the charge of spuriousness : though he says that it is grossly corrupt- I ed, and interpolated. From these corruptions, and interpolations he endeavours to purify it; in which attempt we think he has had very indifferent success. In short, his work has proved, (what he did not himself contemplate) that the Providence of the God of Truth has taken care, that so many absurdities, and contradictions should be contained in these Books of the New Testament which were written to establish a mistake, as must I conceive, satisfy any man, who has them once pointed out to him, that the Doctrine of those Books is not, and cannot be from God.
But it may be still asked, “How did this Notion of the resurrection of Jesus become current ?” “ How can you account for the Apostles' believing such a thing :: We answer sincerely we cannot absolutely ascertain. The Jews of that age have left no Documents upon this business. The origin of The Christian Religion is so extremely obscure, that Josephus takes no notice of it at all, (for the passages relating to Christian affairs now found in Josephus are notorious interpolations.) And it is evident from the Chronological, and other mistakes about Jesus in the Talmud, that the curiosity of the learned Jews had never been interested by Christianity, till so long after Jesus, that the memory of him, and his, was almost entirely lost among that nation. And it appears from the last ch. of the Acts, that when Paul was received by the Jews at Rome, he had not heen considered by the Jews of Jerusalem as of sufficient importance, as to cause them to warn their Brethren of the Dispersion concerning bim ; for these Jews tell Paul, on his enquiring, that they had not received any
letters concerning him from Jerusalem. So that we can offer nothing but conjecture, to solve the difficulty.
It has been said by some, (and it is by no means an Hypothesis destitute of plausibility,) that Jesus was in. deed crucified, but did not actually die on the cross.. It is evident that Pilate was extremely desirous to save his Life ; and is it impossible that the Roman Soldiers who crucified lim, had secret orders ? Consider the cir. cumstances. He was crucified at our nine in the inorning, and was taken from the cross at about three in the afternoon. Now crucifixion is not a death which kills men in six hours, and men have been known to have lived fastened to the cross for more than two days. Consider besides, that when the Soldiers gave the coup de grace to the two robbers, that they did not brake the legs of Jesus. This, the author of the Gospel according to John says they did, in order to fulfill a prophecy, but I leave it to my reader whether it is not more like. ly that they did so in order to fulfil secret orders ? But to make up for that omission, the author adds, that they pierced Jesus with a spear. Now besides that this is not mentioned by the other Evangelists, the very manner in which this circumstance is mentioned, and eagerly affirmed by him looks as if the Author was aware of the likelihood of a suspicion of the fact we are trying to prove probable, and that he wrote this in order to obviate it. And after all, the Gospel according to John was certainly not written by him, and therefore what the Author of it observes may be true, or not. You will observe also Reader, that the body of Jesus was given by Pilate to his friends immediately, a favour never vouchsafed by the Romarrs in such a case, except 66 speciali gratia." You will observe also, that the body was taken down by his friends, no doubt with great care, probably was washed from the blood, and rubbed perfectly dry, and was deposited in the cave or sepulchre with a large quantity of spices, and aromatics.Now suppose that Jesus had only swooned on the cross, and that his naked body after being cleansed as aforesaid, was laid in the new sepulchre where the air was cool and fresh, wrapped in a considerable quantity of dry linen, together with many spices, and aromatics,
what could be more opportune, or proper to stimulate his drowsed senses, and recall the unfortunate sufferer to life ? Suppose then, that on awaking from his trance, be disengaged himself, and took himself away as secretly as possible. Might not all this have happened ? Is it impossible ? And does it not look plausible ? It is not improbable that he might after this have shewed himself privately to his particular Disciples; for you will recollect Reader, that the appearances of Jesus to his Disciples after his crucifixion were to them only, and for the most part in the night. And thus it is by no means impossible, that the twelve Apostles, who were, I doubt not, well meaning men, though extremely simple, and credulous ; I say it is thus by no means impossible, that they might have believed sincerely, that their master had risen from the Dead. This Hypothesis must not be cousidered only as the brain work of an unbelieving Sceptic ; for it has been (in its main principle) advanced, and elaborately defended by Dr. Paulus the professor of divinity in the principal University in Bavaria.
It is true, that it may be said, that this is all Hypothesis, and mere conjecture. We allow it ; it is true ; and we assert, that the account given by the Evangelists is no better, nay, worse than conjecture, as it is a mere forgery of the second century! For no man, we think who knows all that has been made known by Biblical Criticks in later years, will now seriously contend for the literal Truth of that account. *
* As reasons for this assertion, take the following facts, which are now ascertained, and can be proved :- 1. Several sects of Christians in the first century, in the apostolick æra, denied that Jesus was crucified; as the Basildeans, &c. The author of the Epistle ascribed to Bar. pabus, I think, denied it, and the author of the gospel of Thomas certainly did. 2. The Jewish Christians, the disciples of the twelve Apostles, never received, but rejected every individual book of the present New Testament. They held in especial abomination the writings of Paul, whom they called “an apostate," and there is extant in « Cotelerius' Patres Apostolici," a letter ascribed to Peter, written to James at Jerusalem, wherein he complains bitterly of Paul, styling him "a larvless man," and a crafty misrepresenter of him (Peter,) and his doctrine, in that Paul represented every where, Peter as being secretly of the same opinions with himself; against this he en. ters his protest, and declares, that he reprobates the doctrine of Paul. (See Appendix, A.) 3. It is certain, that from the beginning, the Chris.
If all this will not satisfy the man that 6 believeth all things," our last resource is to deny the fact of this resurrection. And this we can do with perfect sang froid, as we know very well that it cannot be proved ; for the only testimony in favour of it are the four evangelists ; four witnesses, the like of whose written tes
tians were never agreed as to points of fuith; and that the Apostles theniselves, so far from being considered as inspired and infallible, were frequently contradicted, thwarted, and set at naught by their own converts : and there were as many sects, heresies, and quarrels, in the first century, as in the second or third. 4. Christ and his Apostles were no sooner off the stage, than forgeries of all kinds broke in with irresistable force: Gospels, Epistles, Acts, Revelations without number, published in the names, and under the feigned authority of Jesus and his Apostles, abounded in the Christian church; and as some of these were as early in time as any of the writings in the present canon of the New Testament, so they were received promiscuously with them, and held in equal credit, and veneration, and read in the publick assemblies As of equal authority with those now received. 5. The very learned and pious Dodwell, in his Dissertations on Irenæus, avows, that he can. not find in Ecclesiastical Antiquities, (which he understood better than any man of his age,) any evidence at all, that the four Gospels were known, or heard of before the time of 'Trajan, and Adrian, i. e. before the middle of the second century, i. e. nearly a hundred years after the Apostles were dead. (See Appendix B.) Long before this time we know, that there were extant numbers of spurious gospels, forged, and ascribed to the Apostles; and we have not the least evidence to be depended on, that those now received were not also apocryphal. For they were written nobody certainly knows by whom, or where, or when. They first appeared in an age of credulity, when forgeries of this kind abounded, and were received with avidity by those whose opinions they favoureid, while they were rejected as spurious by many sects of Chris. tians, who asserted that they were possessed of the genuine gospels, which however those who received “the four,” denied. 6. All the different sects of Christians, without a known exception, altered, interpolated, and without scruple garbled their different copies of their various and discordant gospels, in order to adapt them to their jairing, and whimsical philosophical notions. . Celsus accuses them of this, and they accuse each other. And that they were continually tampering with their copies of the books of the New Testament, is evident from the immense number of various readings; and from some whole phrases, and even verses, which for kvavish purposes were foisted into the text, but have been detected, and exposed by Griesbach, and others. They also forged certain rhapsodies under the name of “ Sybbiline Oracles," and then adduced them as prophetic proofs of the truth of their religion. They also interpolated certain clumsy forgeries as prophecies of Jesus into their copies of their Greek version of the Old Testament. 7. The present canon of the New Testament has never been sanctioned by the general consent of Christians. The Syrian chureh rejects some of its books. Some of its books were not admitted until after long opposition, and not until several hundred years after Christ. The lists of what were considered as canonical books, differ in different ages, and some books now acknowledged by all Christians to be
timony, (being as contradictory as that is, to say no more, certainly would not we believe be received in a modern court of Justice to settle the fact about a debt of five dollars. And if it bé still urged, that such a story is unparalleled, and therefore respectable; we say that it is not unparalleled ; as we have an account of a false
forgeries, were in the second and third centuries considered as equally apostolick as those now received, and as such were publickly read in the churches. 8. The reason why we have not now extant gospels differ. ent, and contradictory to those now received is, because that the sect or party, which finally got the better of its adversaries, and styled itself Catholick, or orthodox, took care to burn and destroy the hereticks, and their gospels with them. They likewise took care to hunt up, and burn the books of the Pagan adversaries of Christianity, “because they were shockingly offensive to pious ears.” 9. Semler considered the New Testament as a collection of pious frauds, written for pious purposes, in the latter part of the second century, (the very time assigned for their first appearance by Dodwell.) Evanson adopts, and gives good reasons for a similar opinion with regard to most of the books which go to com. pose it. Lastly. The reason why the New Testament canon has been so long respected, seems to have been purely owing to the credulity of the ignorant, and the laziness, indifference, or fears of the learned.
Douglas, in his famous “ CRITERION," gives us as infallible tests, by which we may distinguish when written accounts of miracles are fabulous, the following marks.
1. “We have reason to suspect (he says,) the accounts to be false, when they are not published to the world till after the time when they are said to have been performed.”
2. “ We have reason to suspect them to be false, when they are not published in the place where it is pretended the facts were wrought, but are propagated only at a great distance from the supposed scene of action."
3. “ Supposing the accounts to have the two fore-mentioned qualifications, we still have reason to suspect them to be false, if in the time when, and at the place where they took their rise, they might be suffered to pass without examination."
These are the marks he gives us as infallible tests by which we may distinguish the accounts of miracles in the New Testament to be true; and accounts of miracles in other books (though supported by more testimony than the former,) to be false ; with how much justice may be evident from the following observations.
r. If “ we have reason to suspect the accounts to be false, when they are not published to the world till long after the time when they are said to have been performed," then we have reasons to suspect the accounts given in the four Gospels; for we have no proof in the world, that any of them were written till nearly one hundred years after the supposed writers of them were all dead.
2. If “ we have reason to suspect them to be false, when they are not published in the place where it is pretended the facts were wrought, but are propagated only at a great distance from the supposed scene of action," then it is still further evident that the accounts in question are not true. For they were apparently none of them published in Judea, the scene of the events recorded in them. But it is pretty clear that they
s on to suspect them
dhe facts were wrought,