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Title: When Were Our Gospels Written?
Author: Bradlaugh, Charles, 1833-1891
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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WHEN WERE OUR GOSPELS WRITTEN?

By Charles Bradlaugh

[Fourth Edition]

London: Freethought Publishing Company, 28, Stonecutter Street E.C.

1881.

London:

Printed By Annie Besant And Charles Bradlaugh,

28, Stonecutter Street, E.C.


PREFATORY NOTE TO FOURTH EDITION.

     Since this pamphlet was originally penned in 1867, the
     author of "Supernatural Religion" has in his three volumes
     placed a very storehouse of information within the easy
     reach of every student, and many of Dr. Teschendorf's
     reckless statements have been effectively dealt with in that
     masterly work. In the present brief pamphlet there is only
     the very merest index to matters which in "Supernatural
     Religion" are exhaustively treated. Part II. of "The
     Freethinkers' Text-Book," by Mrs Besant, has travelled over
     the same ground with much care, and has given exact
     reference to authorities on each point.


The Religious Tract Society, some time since, issued, prefaced with
their high commendation, a translation of a pamphlet by Dr. Constantine
Tischendorf, entitled "When were our Gospels Written?" In the
introductory preface we are not unfairly told that "on the credibility
of the four Gospels the whole of Christianity rests, as a building on
its foundations." It is proposed in this brief essay to deal with the
character of Dr. Tischendorf's advocacy, then to examine the genuineness
of the four Gospels, as affirmed by the Religious Tract Society's
pamphlet, and at the same time to ascertain, so far as is possible in
the space, how far the Gospel narrative is credible.

The Religious Tract Society state that Dr. Tischendorf's _brochure_ is
a repetition of "arguments for the genuineness and authenticity of the
four Gospels," which the erudite Doctor had previously published for the
learned classes, "with explanations" now given in addition, to render
the arguments "intelligible" to meaner capacities; and as the "Infidel"
and "Deist" are especially referred to as likely to be overthrown by
this pamphlet, we may presume that the society considers that in the 119
pages--which the translated essay occupies--they have presented the best
paper that can be issued on their behalf for popular reading on this
question. The praise accorded by the society, and sundry laudations
appropriated with much modesty in his own preface by Dr. Constantine
Tischendorf to himself, compel one at the outset to regard the Christian
manifesto as a most formidable production. The Society's translator
impressively tells us that the pamphlet has been three times printed
in German and twice in France; that it has been issued in Dutch and
Russian, and is done into Italian by an Archbishop with the actual
approbation of the Pope. The author's preface adds an account of his
great journeyings and heavy travelling expenses incurred out of an
original capital of a "few unpaid bills," ending in the discovery of
a basketful of old parchments destined for the flames by the Christian
monks in charge, but which from the hands of Dr. Teschendorf are used
by the Religious Tract Society to neutralise all doubts, and to "blow
to pieces" the Rationalistic criticism of Germany and the coarser
Infidelity of England. Doubtless Dr. Teschendorf and the Society
consider it some evidence in favor of the genuineness and authenticity
of the four Gospels that the learned Doctor was enabled to spend 5,000
dollars out of less than nothing, and that the Pope regards his pamphlet
with favor, or they would not trouble to print such statements. We
frankly accord them the full advantage of any argument which may fairly
be based on such facts. An autograph letter of endorsement by the Pope
is certainly a matter which a Protestant Tract Society--who regard "the
scarlet whore at Babylon" with horror--may well be proud of.

Dr. Tischendorf states that he has since 1839 devoted himself to the
textual study of the New Testament, and it ought to be interesting to
the orthodox to know that, as a result of twenty-seven years' labor,
he now declares that "it has been placed beyond doubt that the original
text.... had in many places undergone such serious modifications of
meaning, as to leave us in painful uncertainty as to what the apostles
had actually written," and that "the right course to take" "is to set
aside the received text altogether and to construct a fresh text."

This is pleasant news for the true believer, promulgated by authority
of the managers of the great Christian depot in Paternoster Row, from
whence many scores of thousands of copies of this incorrect received
text have nevertheless been issued without comment to the public,
even since the society have published in English Dr. Tischendorf s
declaration of its unreliable character.

With the modesty and honorable reticence peculiar to-great men, Dr.
Tischendorf records his successes in reading hitherto unreadable
parchments, and we learn that he has received approval from "several
learned bodies, and even from crowned heads," for his wonderful
performances. As a consistent Christian, who knows that the "powers that
be are ordained of God," our "critic without rival," for so he prints
himself, regards the praise of crowned heads as higher in degree than
that of learned bodies.

The Doctor discovered in 1844 the MS. on which he now relies to confute
audacious Infidelity, in the Convent of St. Catherine at Sinai; he
brought away a portion, and handed! that portion, on his return, to the
Saxon Government--they paying all expenses. The Doctor, however, did
not then divulge where he had found the MS. It was for the advantage
of humankind that the place should be known at once, for, at least, two
reasons. First, because by aid of the remainder of this MS.--"the
most precious Bible treasure in existence"--the faulty text of the New
Testament was to be reconstructed; and the sooner the work was done the
better for believers in Christianity. And, secondly, the whole story
of the discovery might then have been more easily confirmed in every
particular.

For fifteen years, at least, Dr. Tischendorf hid from the world the
precise locality in which his treasure had been discovered. Nay, he was
even fearful when he knew that other Christians were trying to find
the true text, and he experienced "peculiar satisfaction" when he
ascertained that his silence had misled some pious searchers after
reliable copies of God's message to all humankind; although all this
time he was well aware that our received copies of God's revelation had
undergone "serious modifications" since the message had been delivered
from the Holy Ghost by means of the Evangelists.

In 1853, "nine years after the original discovery," Dr. Tischendorf
again visited the Sinai convent, but although he had "enjoined on the
monks to take religious care" of the remains of which they, on the
former occasion, would not yield up possession, he, on this second
occasion, and apparently after careful search, discovered "eleven short
lines," which convinced him that the greater part of the MS. had been
destroyed. He still, however, kept the place secret, although he had no
longer any known reason for so doing; and, having obtained an advance of
funds from the Russian Government, he, in 1859, tried a third time for
his "pearl of St. Catherine," which, in 1853, he felt convinced had been
destroyed, and as to which he had nevertheless, in the meantime, been
troubled by fears that the good cause might be aided by some other than
Dr. Teschendorf discovering and publishing the "priceless treasure,"
which, according to his previous statements, he must have felt convinced
did not longer exist. On this third journey the Doctor discovered "the
very fragments which, fifteen years before, he had taken out of the
basket," "and also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament
complete, and, in addition, Barnabas and part of Hermas."

With wonderful preciseness, and with great audacity, Dr. Tischendorf
_refers_ the transcription of the discovered Bible to the first half
of the fourth century. Have Dr. Tischendorf's patrons here ever read of
MSS. discovered in the same Convent of St. Catherine, at Sinai, of which
an account was published by Dr. Constantine Simonides, and concerning
which the _Westminster Review_ said, "We share the suspicions, to use
the gentlest word which occurs to us, entertained, we believe, by all
competent critics and antiquarians."

In 1863 Dr. Tischendorf published, at the cost of the Russian Emperor, a
splendid but very costly edition of his Sinaitic MS. in columns, with a
Latin introduction. The book is an expensive one, and copies of it are
not very plentiful in England. Perhaps the Religious Tract Society have
not contributed to its circulation so liberally as did the pious
Emperor of all the Russias. Surely a text on which our own is to be
re-constructed ought to be in the hands at least of every English
clergyman and Young Men's Christian Association.

"Christianity," writes Dr. Tischendorf, "does not, strictly speaking,
rest on the moral teaching of Jesus;" "it rests on his person only." "If
we are in error in believing in the person of Christ as taught in the
Gospels, then the Church herself is in error, and must be given up as a
deception." "All the world knows that our Gospels are nothing else than
biographies of Christ." "We have no other source of information with
respect to the life of Jesus." So that, according to the Religious Tract
Society and its advocate, if the credibility of the Gospel biography
be successfully impugned, then the foundations of Christianity are
destroyed.

It becomes, therefore, of the highest importance to show that the
biography of Jesus, as given in the four Gospels, is absolutely
incredible and self-contradictory.

It is alleged in the Society's preface that all the objections of
infidelity have been hitherto unavailing. This is, however, not true. It
is rather the fact that the advocates of Christianity when defeated on
one point have shuffled to another, either quietly passing the topic
without further debate, or loudly declaring that the point abandoned
was really so utterly unimportant that it was extremely foolish in the
assailant to regard it as worthy attack, and that, in any case, all the
arguments had been repeatedly refuted by previous writers.

To the following objections to the Gospel narrative the writer refuses
to accept as answer, that they have been previously discussed and
disposed of.

The Gospels which are yet mentioned by the names popularly associated
with each do not tell us the hour, or the day, or the month, or--save
Luke--the year, in which Jesus was born. The only point on which the
critical divines, who have preceded Dr. Teschendorf, generally agree
is, that Jesus was not born on Christmas day. The Oxford Chronology,
collated with a full score of recognised authorities, gives us a period
of more than seven years within which to place the dale. So confused
is the story as to the time of the birth, that while Matthew would
make Jesus born in the lifetime of Herod, Luke would fix the period of
Jesus's birth as after Herod's death.

Christmas itself is a day surrounded with curious ceremonies of pagan
origin, and in no way serving to fix the 25th December as the natal day.
Yet the exact period at which Almighty God, as a baby boy, entered the
world to redeem long-suffering humanity from the consequences of Adam's
ancient sin, should be of some importance.

Nor is there any great certainty as to the place of birth of Christ. The
Jews, apparently in the very presence of Jesus, reproached him that
he ought to have been born at Bethlehem. Nathaniel regarded him as of
Nazareth. Jesus never appears to have said to either, "I was born at
Bethlehem." In Matthew ii., 6, we find a quotation from the prophet:
"And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least amongst the
princes of Juda, for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule
my people Israel." Matthew lays the scene of the birth in Bethlehem, and
Luke adopts the same place, especially bringing the child to Bethlehem
for that purpose, and Matthew tells us it is done to fulfil a prophecy.
Micah v., 2, the only place in which similar words occur, is not a
prophecy referring to Jesus at all. The words are: "But thou Beth-lehem
Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out
of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel,
whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This is not
quoted correctly in Matthew, and can hardly be said by any straining
of language to apply to Jesus. The credibility of a story on
which Christianity rests is bolstered up by prophecy in default of
contemporary corroboration. The difficulties are not lessened in tracing
the parentage. In Matthew i., 17, it is stated that "the generations
from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David until
the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the
carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations."
Why has Matthew made such a mistake in his computation of the
genealogies--in the last division we have only thirteen names instead of
fourteen, even including the name of Jesus? Is this one of the cases of
"painful uncertainty" which has induced the Religious Tract Society and
Dr. Tischendorf to wish to set aside the _textus receptus_ altogether?

From David to Zorobabel there are in the Old Testament twenty
generations; in Matthew, seventeen generations; and in Luke,
twenty-three generations. In Matthew from David to Christ there are
twenty-eight generations, and in Luke from David to Christ forty-three
generations. Yet, according to the Religious Tract Society, it is on the
credibility of these genealogies as part of the Gospel history that
the foundation of Christianity rests. The genealogy in the first Gospel
arriving at David traces to Jesus through Solomon; the third Gospel
from David traces through Nathan. In Matthew the names from David are
Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ozias; and in the Old
Testament we trace the same names from David to Ahaziah, whom I presume
to be the same as Ozias. But in 2nd Chronicles xxii., 11, we find one
Joash, who is not mentioned in Matthew at all. If the genealogy in
Matthew is correct, why is the name not mentioned? Amaziah is mentioned
in chap, xxiv., v. 27, and in chap, xxvi., v. 1, Uzziah, neither of whom
are mentioned in Matthew, where Ozias is named as begetting Jotham, when
in fact three generations of men have come in between. In Matthew and
Luke, Zorobabel is represented as the son of Salathiel, while in 1
Chronicles iii., 17--19, Zerubbabel is stated to be the son of Pedaiah,
the brother of Salathiel. Matthew says Abind was the son of Zorobabel
(chap, i., v. 13). Luke iii., 27, says Zorobabel's son was Rhesa. The
Old Testament contradicts both, and gives Meshollam, and Hananiah,
and Shelomith, their sister (1 Chronicles iii, 19), as the names of
Zorobabel's children. Is this another piece of evidence in favor of Dr.
Tischendorf's admirable doctrine, that it is necessary to reconstruct
the text?

In the genealogies of Matthew and Luke there are only three names
agreeing after that of David, viz., Salathiel, Zorobabel, and
Joseph--all the rest are utterly different. The attempts at explanation
which have been hitherto offered, in order to reconcile these
genealogies, are scarcely creditable to the intellects of the Christian
apologists. They allege that "Joseph, who by nature was the son of
Jacob, in the account of the law was the son of Heli. For Heli and Jacob
were brothers by the same mother, and Heli, who was the elder, dying
without issue, Jacob, as the law directed, married his widow; in
consequence of such marriage, his son Joseph was reputed in the law
the son of Heli." This is pure invention to get over a difficulty--an
invention not making the matter one whit more clear. For if you suppose
that these two persons were brothers, then unless you invent a death
of the mother's last husband and the widow's remarriage Jacob and Heli
would be the sons of the same father, and the list of the ancestors
should be identical in each genealogy. But to get over the difficulty
the pious do this. They say, although brothers, they were only
half-brothers; although sons of the same mother, they were not sons
of the same father, but had different fathers. If so, how is it that
Salathiel and Zorobabel occur as father and son in both genealogies?
Another fashion of accounting for the contradiction is to give one as
the genealogy of Joseph and the other as the genealogy of Mary. "Which?"

"Luke," it is said. Why Luke? what are Luke's words? Luke speaks of
Jesus being, "as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was the son of
Heli." When Luke says Joseph, the son of Heli, did he mean Mary, the
daughter of Heli? Does the Gospel say one thing and mean another?
because if that argument is worth anything, then in every case where
a man has a theory which disagrees with the text, he may say the text
means something else. If this argument be permitted we must abandon in
Scriptural criticism the meaning which we should ordinarily intend to
convey by any given word. If you believe Luke meant daughter, why does
the same word mean son in every other case all through the remainder of
the genealogy? And if the genealogy of Matthew be that of Joseph, and
the genealogy of Luke be that of Mary, they ought not to have any point
of agreement at all until brought to David. They, nevertheless, do agree
and contradict each other in several places, destroying the probability
of their being intended as distinct genealogies. There is some evidence
that Luke does not give the genealogy of Mary in the Gospel itself. We
are told that Joseph went to Bethlehem to be numbered because he was of
the house of David: if it had been Mary it would have surely said so. As
according to the Christian theory, Joseph was not the father of Jesus,
it is not unfair to ask how it can be credible that Jesus's genealogy
could be traced to David in any fashion through Joseph?

So far from Mary being clearly of the tribe of Judah (to which the
genealogy relates) her cousinship to Elisabeth would make her rather
appear to belong to the tribe of Levi.

To discuss the credibility of the miraculous conception and birth would
be to insult the human understanding. The mythologies of Greece, Italy,
and India, give many precedents of sons of Gods miraculously born.
Italy, Greece, and India, must, however, yield the palm to Judea. The
incarnate Chrishna must give way to the incarnate Christ. A miraculous
birth would be scouted to-day as monstrous; antedate it 2,000 years and
we worship it as miracle.

Matt, i., 22, 23, says: "Now all this was done, that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a
virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall
call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." This
is supposed to be a quotation from Isaiah vii., 14--16: "Therefore the
Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall
he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For
before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the
land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings."

But in this, as indeed in most other cases of inaccurate quotation, the
very words are omitted which would show its utter inapplicability to
Jesus. Even in those which are given, the agreement is not complete.
Jesus was not called Emmanuel. And even if his mother Mary were a
virgin, this does not help the identity, as the word [----] OLME in
Isaiah, rendered "virgin" in our version, does not convey the notion of
virginity, for which the proper word is [------] BeThULE; OLME is used
of a youthful spouse recently married. The allusion to the land being
forsaken of both her kings, omitted in Matthew, shows how little the
passage is prophetic of Jesus.

The story of the annunciation made to Joseph in one Gospel, to Mary
in the other, is hardly credible on any explanation. If you assume the
annunciations as made by a God of all-wise purpose, the purpose should,
at least, have been to prevent doubt of Mary's chastity; but the
annunciation is made to Joseph only after Mary is suspected by Joseph.
Two annunciations are made, one of them in a dream to Joseph, when he is
suspicious as to the state of his betrothed wife; the other made by
the angel Gabriel (whoever that angel may be) to Mary herself, who
apparently conceals the fact, and is content to be married, although
with child not by her intended husband. The statement--that Mary being
found with child by the Holy Ghost, her husband, not willing to make
her a public example, was minded to put her away privily--is quite
incredible. If Joseph found her with child _by the Holy Ghost_, how
could he even think of making a public example of her shame when there
was nothing of which she could be ashamed--nothing, if he believed in
the Holy Ghost, of which he need have been ashamed himself, nothing
which need have induced him to wish to put her away privily. It is
clear--according to Matthew--that Mary was found with child, and that
the Holy Ghost parentage was not even imagined by Joseph until after he
had dreamed about the matter.

Although the birth of Jesus was specially announced by an angel,
and although Mary sang a joyful song consequent on the annunciation,
corroborated by her cousin's greeting, yet when Simeon speaks of the
child, in terms less extraordinary, Joseph and Mary are surprised at it
and do not understand it. Why were they surprised? Is it credible that
so little regard was paid to the miraculous annunciation? Or is this
another case of the "painful uncertainty" alluded to by Dr. Teschendorf?

Again, when Joseph and Mary found the child Jesus in the temple, and he
says, "Wist ye not that I must be about my father's business?" they do
not know what he means, so that either what the angel had said had been
of little effect, or the annunciations did not occur at all. Can
any reliance be placed on a narrative so contradictory? An angel was
specially sent to acquaint a mother that her son about to be born is the
Son of God, and yet that mother is astonished when her son says, "Wist
ye not I must be about my father's business?"

The birth of Jesus was, according to Matthew, made publicly known by
means of certain wise men. These men saw his star in the East, but
it did not tell them much, for they were obliged to come and ask
information from Herod the King. Is astrology credible? Herod inquired
of the chief priests and scribes; and it is evident Jeremiah was right,
if he said, "The prophets prophecy falsely and the priests bear rule by
their means," for these chief priests misquoted to suit their purposes,
and invented a false prophecy by omitting a few words from, and adding a
few words to, a text until it suited their purpose. The star, after
they knew where to go, and no longer required its aid, went before them,
until it came and stood over where the young child was. The credibility
of this will be better understood if the reader notice some star, and
then see how many houses it will be over. Luke does not seem to have
been aware of the star story, and he relates about an angel who tells
some shepherds the good tidings, but this last-named adventure does not
appear to have happened in the reign of Herod at all. Is it credible
that Jesus was born twice? After the wise men had left Jesus, an angel
warned Joseph to flee with him and Mary into Egypt, and Joseph did fly,
and remained there with the young child and his mother until the death
of Herod; and this, it is alleged, was done to fulfil a prophecy. On
referring to Hosea xi., 1, we find the words have no reference whatever
to Jesus, and that, therefore, either the tale of the flight is invented
as a fulfilment of the prophecy, or the prophecy manufactured to support
the tale of the flight. The Jesus of Luke never went into Egypt at all
in his childhood. Directly after the birth of the child his parents
instead of flying away because of persecution into Egypt, went
peacefully up to Jerusalem to fulfil all things according to the law,
returned thence to Nazareth, and apparently dwelt there, going up to
Jerusalem every year until Jesus was twelve years of age.

In Matthew ii., 15, we are told that Jesus remained in Egypt, "That it
might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying,
Out of Egypt have I called my son." In Hosea ii., 1, we read, "When
Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt."
In no other prophet is there any similar text. This not only is not a
prophecy of Jesus, but is, on the contrary, a reference to the Jewish
Exodus from Egypt. Is the prophecy manufactured to give an air of
credibility to the Gospel history, or how will the Religions Tract
Society explain it? The Gospel writings betray either a want of good
faith, or great incapacity on the part of their authors in the mode
adopted of distorting quotations from the Old Testament?

When Jesus began to be about thirty years of age he was baptised by John
in the river Jordan. John, who, according to Matthew, knew him, forbade
him directly he saw him; but, acccording to the writer of the fourth
Gospel, he knew him not, and had, therefore, no occasion to forbid him.
God is an "invisible" "spirit," whom no man hath seen (John i., 18),
or can see (Exodus xxxiii., 20); but the man John saw the spirit of
God descending like a dove. God is everywhere, but at that time was in
heaven, from whence he said, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well
pleased." Although John heard this from God's own mouth, he some time
after sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he were really
the Christ (Matthew xi., 2, 3). Yet it is upon the credibility of this
story, says Dr. Teschendorf, that Christianity rests like a building on
its foundations.

It is utterly impossible John could have known and not have known Jesus
at the same time. And if, as the New Testament states, God is infinite
and invisible, it is incredible that as Jesus stood in the river to be
baptised, the Holy Ghost was seen as it descended on his head as a dove,
and that God from heaven said, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am
well pleased." Was the indivisible and invisible spirit of God separated
in three distinct and two separately visible persons? How do the
Religious Tract Society reconcile this with the Athanasian Creed?

The baptism narrative is rendered doubtful by the language used as to
John, who baptised Jesus. It is said, "This is he that was spoken of by
the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Isaiah xl.,
1--5, is, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak
ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is
accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of
the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth
in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the
desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every
mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made
straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be
revealed." These verses have not the most remote relation to John? And
this manufacture of prophecies for the purpose of bolstering up a tale,
serves to prove that the writer of the Gospel tries by these to impart
an air of credibility to an otherwise incredible story.

Immediately after the baptism, Jesus is led up of the Spirit into the
wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. There he fasts forty days and
forty nights.

John says, in chapter i., 35, "Again, the next day after, John stood
and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said,
behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they
followed Jesus." Then, at the 43rd verse, he says, "The day following
Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto
him, follow me." And in chapter ii., 1, he says, "And the third day
there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was
there; and both Jesus was called and his disciples unto the marriage."
According to Matthew, there can be no doubt that immediately after the
baptism Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. And
we are to believe that Jesus was tempted of the Devil and fasting in
the wilderness, and at the same time feasting at marriage in Cana of
Galilee? Is it possible to believe that Jesus actually did fast forty
days and forty nights? If Jesus did not fast in his capacity as man,
in what capacity did he fast? And if Jesus fasted, being God, the fast
would be a mockery; and the account that he became a hungered must be
wrong. It is barely possible that in some very abnormal condition or
cataleptic state, or state of trance, a man might exist, with very
slight nourishment or without food, but that a man could walk about,
speak, and act, and, doing this, live forty days and nights without food
is simply an impossibility.

Is the story that the Devil tempted Jesus credible? If Jesus be God,
can the Devil tempt God? A clergyman of the Church of England writing on
this says: "That the Devil should appear personally to the Son of God is
certainly not more wonderful than that he should, in a more remote age,
have appeared among the sons of God, in the presence of God himself, to
torment the righteous Job. But that Satan should carry Jesus bodily and
literally through the air, first to the top of a high mountain, and then
to the topmost pinnacle of the temple, is wholly inadmissable, it is
an insult to our understanding, and an affront to our great creator and
redeemer." Supposing, despite the monstrosity of such a supposition, an
actual Devil--and this involves the dilemma that the Devil must either
be God-created, or God's co-eternal rival; the first supposition being
inconsistent with God's goodness, and the second being inconsistent with
his power; but supposing such a Devil, is it credible that the Devil
should tempt the Almighty maker of the universe with "all these will I
give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me?"

In the very names of the twelve Apostles there is an uncertainty as
to one, whose name was either Lebbæus, Thaddæus, or Judas. It is
in Matthew x., 3, alone that the name of Lebbæus is mentioned,
thus--"Lebbæus, whose surname was Thaddæus." We are told, on this
point, by certain: Biblicists, that some early MSS. have not the words
"whose surname was Thaddæus," and that these words have probably
been inserted to reconcile the Gospel according to Matthew with that
attributed to Mark. In the English version of the Rheims Testament
used in this country by our Roman Catholic brethren, the reconciliation
between Matthew and Mark is completed by omitting the words-"Lebbæus
whose surname was," leaving only the name "Thaddæus" in Matthew's text.
The revised version of the New Testament now agrees with the Rheims
version, and the omission will probably meet with the entire
concurrence of Dr. Tischendorf and the Religious Tract Society, now
they boast autograph letters of approval from the infallible head of
the Catholic Church. If Matthew x., 3, and Mark hi., 18, be passed as
reconciled, although the first calls the twelfth disciple Lebbæus, and
the second gives him the name Thaddæus; there is yet the difficulty
that in Luke vi., 16, corroborated by John xiv., 22, there is a disciple
spoken of as "Judas, not Iscariot," "Judas, _the brother_ of James."
Commentators have endeavored to clear away this last difficulty by
declaring that Thaddæus is a Syriac word, having much the same meaning
as Judas. This has been answered by the objection that if Matthew's
Gospel uses Thaddæus in lieu of Judas, then he ought to speak of
Thaddæus Iscariot, which he does not; and it is further objected also
that while there are some grounds for suggesting a Hebrew original for
the Gospel attributed to Matthew, there is not the slightest pretence
for alleging that Matthew wrote in Syriac. The Gospels also leave us in
some doubt as to whether Matthew is Levi, or whether Matthew and Levi
are two different persons.

The account of the calling of Peter is replete with contradictions.
According to Matthew, when Jesus first saw Peter, the latter was in a
vessel fishing with his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea of
Galilee. Jesus walking by the sea said to them--"Follow me, and I will
make you fishers of men." The two brothers did so, and they became
Christ's disciples. When Jesus called Peter no one was with him but his
brother Andrew. A little further on, the two sons of Zebedee were in a
ship with their father mending nets, and these latter were separately
called. From John, we learn that Andrew was originally a disciple of
John the Baptist, and that when Andrew first saw Jesus, Peter was not
present, but Andrew went and found Peter who, if fishing, must have been
angling on land, telling him "we have found the Messiah," and that
Andrew then brought Peter to Jesus, who said, "Thou art Simon, the son
of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas." There is no mention in John of
the sons of Zebedee being a little further on, or of any fishing in the
sea of Galilee. This call is clearly on land. Luke's Gospel states that
when the call took place, Jesus and Peter were both at sea. Jesus had
been preaching to the people, who pressing upon him, he got into Simon's
ship, from which he preached. After this he directed Simon to put out
into the deep and let down the nets. Simon answered, "Master, we have
toiled all night and taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let
down the net." No sooner was this done, than the net was filled to
breaking, and Simon's partners, the two sons of Zebedee, came to help,
when at the call of Jesus, they brought their ships to land, and
followed him.

Is it credible that there were three several calls, or that the Gospels
being inspired, you could have three contradictory versions of the
same event? Has the story been here "painfully modified," or how do Dr.
Tischendorf and the Religious Tract Society clear up the matter? Is it
credible that, as stated in Luke, Jesus had visited Simon's house, and
cured Simon's wife's mother, before the call of Simon, but did not go
to Simon's house for that purpose, until after the call of Simon, as
related in Matthew? It is useless to reply that the date of Jesus's
visit is utterly unimportant, when we are told that it is upon the
credibility of the complete narrative that Christianity must rest. Each
stone is important to the building, and it is not competent for the
Christian advocate to regard as useless any word which the Holy Ghost
has considered important enough to reveal.

Are the miracle stories credible? Every ancient nation has had its
miracle workers, but modern science has relegated all miracle history
to realms of fable, myth, illusion, delusion, or fraud. Can Christian
miracles be made the exceptions? Is it likely that the nations amongst
whom the dead were restored to life would have persistently ignored the
author of such miracles? Were the miracles purposeless, or if intended
to convince the Jews, was God unable to render his intentions effective?
That five thousand persons should be fed with five loaves and two
fishes, and that an apparent excess should remain beyond the original
stock, is difficult to believe; but that shortly after this--Jesus
having to again perform a similar miracle for four thousand persons--his
own disciples should ignore his recent feat, and wonder from whence the
food was to be derived, is certainly startlingly incredible. If this
exhibition of incredulity were pardonable on the part of the twelve
apostles, living witnesses of greater wonders, how much more pardonable
the unbelief of the sceptic of to-day, which the Religious Tract Society
seek to overcome by a faint echo of asserted events all contrary to
probability, and with nineteen centuries intervening.

The casting out the devils presents phenomena requiring considerable
credulity, especially the story of the devils and the swine. To-day
insanity is never referable to demoniacal possession, but eighteen
hundred years ago the subject of lunacy had not been so patiently
investigated as it has been since. That one man could now be tenanted
by several devils is a proposition for which the maintainer would in the
present generation incur almost universal contempt; yet the repudiation
of its present possibility can hardly be consistent with implicit
credence in its ancient history. That the devils and God should hold
converse together, although not without parallel in the book of Job,
is inconsistent with the theory of an infinitely good Deity; that the
devils should address Jesus as son of the most high God, and beg to be
allowed to enter a herd of swine, is at least ludicrous; yet all this
helps to make up the narrative on which Dr. Tischendorf relies. That
Jesus being God should pray to his Father that "the cup might pass"
from him is so incredible that even the faithful ask us to regard it as
mystery. That an angel from heaven could strengthen Jesus, the almighty
God, is equally mysterious. That where Jesus had so prominently preached
to thousands, the priests should need any one like Judas to betray the
founder of Christianity with a kiss, is absurd; his escapade in flogging
the dealers, his wonderful cures, and his raising Lazarus and Jairus's
daughter should have secured him, if not the nation's love, faith, and
admiration, at least a national reputation and notoriety. It is not
credible if Judas betrayed Jesus by a kiss that the latter should have
been arrested upon his own statement that he was Jesus. That Peter
should have had so little faith as to deny his divine leader three times
in a few hours is only reconcilable with the notion that he had remained
unconvinced by his personal intercourse with the incarnate Deity. The
mere blunders in the story of the denial sink into insignificance in
face of this major difficulty. Whether the cock did or did not crow
before the third denial, whether Peter was or was not in the same
apartment with Jesus at the time of the last denial, are comparatively
trifling questions, and the contradictions on which they are based may
be the consequence of the errors which Dr. Tischendorf says have crept
into the sacred writings.

Jesus said, "as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of
the whale, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the
heart of the earth." Jesus was crucified on Friday, was buried on
Friday evening, and yet the first who went to the grave on the night
of Saturday as it began to dawn towards Sunday, found the body of Jesus
already gone. Did Jesus mean he should be three days and three nights
in the grave? Is there any proof that his body remained in the grave for
three hours? Who went first to the grave? was it Mary Magdalene alone,
as in John, or two Maries as in Matthew, or the two Maries and Salome
as in Mark, or the two Maries, Joanna, and several unnamed women as in
Luke? To whom did did Jesus first appear? Was it, as in Mark, to Mary
Magdalene, or to two disciples going to Emmaus, as in Luke, or to the
two Maries near the sepulchre, as in Matthew? Is the eating boiled fish
and honeycomb by a dead God credible? Did Jesus ascend to heaven the
very day of his resurrection, or did an interval of nearly six weeks
intervene?

Is this history credible, contained as it is in four contradictory
biographies, outside which biographies we have, as Dr. Tischendorf
admits, "no other source of information with respect to the life
of Jesus"? This history of an earth-born Deity, descended through a
crime-tainted ancestry, and whose genealogical tree is traced through
one who was not his father; this history of an infinite God nursed as
a baby, growing through childhood to manhood like any frail specimen
of humanity; this history, garnished with bedevilled men, enchanted fig
tree, myriads of ghosts, and scores of miracles, and by such garnishment
made more akin to an oriental romance than to a sober history; this
picture of the infinite invisible spirit incarnate visible as man;
immutability subject to human passions and infirmities; the creator come
to die, yet wishing to escape the death which shall bring peace to his
God-tormented creatures; God praying to himself and rejecting his own
prayer; God betrayed by a divinely-appointed traitor; God the immortal
dying, and in the agony of the death-throes--stronger than the strong
man's will--crying with almost the last effort of his dying breath, that
he being God, is God forsaken!

If all this be credible, what story is there any man need hesitate to
believe? Dr. Teschendorf asks how it has been possible to impugn the
credibility of the four Gospels, and replies that this has been done by
denying that the Gospels were written by the men whose names they bear.
In the preceding pages it has been shown that the credibility of
the Gospel narrative is impugned because it is uncorroborated by
contemporary history, because it is self-contradictory, and because many
of its incidents are _prima facie_ most improbable, and some of them
utterly impossible. Even English Infidels are quite prepared to admit
that the four Gospels may be quite anonymous; and yet, that their
anonymous character need be of no weight as an argument against their
truth. All that is urged on this head is that the advocates of the
Gospel history have sought to endorse and give value to the otherwise
unreliable narratives by a pretence that some of the Evangelists, at
least, were eyewitnesses of the events they refer to. Dr. Teschendorf
says: "The credibility of a writer clearly depends on the interval
of time which lies between him and the events which he describes. The
farther the narrator is removed from the facts which he lays before
us the more his claims to credibility are reduced in value." Presuming
truthfulness in intention for any writer, and his ability to comprehend
the facts he is narrating, and his freedom from a prejudice which may
distort the picture he intends to paint correctly with his pen: we
might admit the correctness of the passage we have quoted; but can these
always be pre-turned in the case of the authors of the Gospels? On the
contrary, a presumption in an exactly opposite direction may be fairly
raised from the fact that immediately after the Apostolic age the
Christian world was flooded with forged testimonies in favor of the
biography of Jesus, or in favor of his disciples.

A writer in the _Edinburgh Review_ observes: "To say nothing of such
acknowledged forgeries as the Apostolic constitutions and liturgies,
and the several spurious Gospels, the question of the genuineness of the
alleged remains of the Apostolic fathers, though often overlooked, is
very material. Any genuine remains of the 'Apostle' Barnabas, of Hermas,
the contemporary (Romans xvi., 14), and Clement, the highly commended
and gifted fellow laborer of St. Paul (Phil, iv., 3), could scarcely be
regarded as less sacred than those of Mark and Luke, of whom personally
we know less. It is purely a question of criticism. At the present day,
the critics best competent to determine it, have agreed in opinion,
that the extant writings ascribed to Barnabas and Hermas are wholly
spurious--the frauds of a later age. How much suspicion attaches to the
1st Epistle of Clement (for the fragment of the second is also generally
rejected) is manifest from the fact, that in modern times it has never
been allowed the place expressly assigned to it among the canonical
books prefixed to the celebrated Alexandrian MS., in which the only
known copy of it is included. It must not be forgotten that Ignatius
expressly lays claim to inspiration, that Irenasus quotes Hermas as
Scripture, and Origen speaks of him as inspired, while Polycarp, in
modestly disclaiming to be put on a level with the Apostles, clearly
implies there would have been no essential distinction in the way of
his being ranked in the same order. But the question is, how are these
pretensions substantiated?" So far the _Edinburgh Review_, certainly not
an Infidel publication.

Eusebius, in his "Ecclesiastical History," admits the existence of many
spurious gospels and epistles, and some writings put forward by him
as genuine, such as the correspondence between Jesus and Agbaras, have
since been rejected as fictitious. It is not an unfair presumption from
this that many of the most early Christians considered the then existing
testimonies insufficient to prove the history of Jesus, and good reason
is certainly afforded for carefully examining the whole of the evidences
they have bequeathed us. On p. 48, Dr. Teschendorf quotes Irenæus, whose
writings-belong to the extreme end of the second century, as though that
Bishop must be taken as vouching the four Gospels as we now have them.
Yet, if the testimony of Irenaeus be-reliable ("Against Heresies," Book
III., cap. i.) the Gospel attributed to Matthew was believed to have
been composed in Hebrew, and Irenæus says that as the Jews desired a
Messiah of the royal line of David, Matthew having the same desire to
a yet greater degree, strove to give them full satisfaction. This may
account for some of the genealogical curiosities to which we have drawn
attention, but hardly renders Matthew's Gospel more reliable; and how
can the suggestion that Matthew wrote in Hebrew prove that Matthew
penned the first Gospel, which has only existed in Greek? Irenæus, too,
flatly contradicts the Gospels by declaring that the ministry of Jesus
extended over ten years and that Jesus lived to be fifty years of age
("Against Heresies," Book II., cap. 22).

If the statement of Irenæus ("Against Heresies," Book III., cap. 11)
that the fourth Gospel was written to refute the errors of Cerinthus and
Nicolaus, have any value, then the actual date of issue of the fourth
Gospel will be considerably after the others. Dr. Tischendorf's
statement that Polycarp has borne testimony to the Gospel of John is not
even supported by the quotation on which he relies. All that is said in
the passage quoted (Eusebius, "Ecc. Hist.," Book V., cap. 20) is that
Irenæus when he was a child heard Polycarp repeat from memory the
discourses of John and others concerning Jesus. If the Gospels had
existed in the time of Polycarp it would have been at least as easy
to have read them from the MS. as to repeat them from memory. Dr.
Tischendorf might also have added that the letter to Florinus, whence
he takes the passage on which he relies, exists only in the writings of
Eusebius, to whom we are indebted for many pieces of Christian evidence
since abandoned as forgeries. Dr. Tischendorf says: "Any testimony
of Polycarp in favor of the Gospel refers us back to the Evangelist
himself, for Polycarp, in speaking to Irenæus of this Gospel as the work
of his master, St. John, must have learned from the lips of the apostle
himself, whether he was its author or not." Now, what evidence is there
that Polycarp ever said a single word as to the authorship of the fourth
Gospel, or of any Gospel, or that he even said that John had penned
a single word? In the Epistle to the Philippians (the only writing
attributed to Polycarp for which any genuine character is even
pretended), the Gospel of John is never mentioned, nor is there even a
single passage in the Epistle which can be identified with any passage
in the Gospel of John.

Surely Dr. Tischendorf forgot, in the eager desire to make his witnesses
bear good testimony, that the highest duty of an advocate is to make
the truth clear, not to put forward a pleasantly colored falsehood to
deceive the ignorant. It is not even true that Irenæus ever pretends
that Polycarp in any way vouched our fourth Gospel as having been
written by John, and yet Dr. Tischendorf had the cool audacity to say
"there is nothing more damaging to the doubters of the authenticity of
St John's Gospel than this testimony of St. Polycarp." Do the Religious
Tract Society regard English Infidels as so utterly ignorant that they
thus intentionally seek to suggest a falsehood, or are the Council of
the Religious Tract Society themselves unable to test the accuracy of
the statements put forward on their behalf by the able decipherer
of illegible parchments? It is too much to suspect the renowned Dr.
Constantino Tischendorf of ignorance, yet even the coarse English
sceptic regrets that the only other alternative will be to denounce him
as a theological charlatan.

Dr. Mosheim, writing on behalf of Christianity, says that the Epistle of
Polycarp to the Philippians is by some treated as genuine and by others
as spurious, and that it is no easy matter to decide. Many critics, of
no mean order, class it amongst the apostolic Christian forgeries, but
whether the Epistle be genuine or spurious, it contains no quotation
from, it makes no reference to, the Gospel of John.

To what is said of Irenæus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, it is
enough to note that all these are after a.d. 150. Irenæus may be put 177
to 200, Tertullian about 193, and Clement of Alexandria as commencing
the third century.

One of Dr. Tischendorf's most audacious flourishes is that (p. 49) with
reference to the Canon of Muratori, which we are told "enumerates
the books of the New Testament which, from the first, were considered
canonical and sacred," and which "was written a little after the age of
Pius I, about a.d; 170."

First the anonymous fragment contains books which were never accepted
as canonical; next, it is quite impossible to say when or by whom it was
written or what was its original language. Muratori, who discovered the
fragment in 1740, conjectured that it was written about the end of the
second or beginning of the third century, but it is noteworthy that
neither Eusebius nor any other of the ecclesiastical advocates of the
third, fourth, or fifth centuries, ever refers to it. It may be the
compilation of any monk at any date prior to 1740, and is utterly
valueless as evidence.

Dr. Teschendorf's style is well exemplified by the positive manner
in which he fixes the date a.d. 139 to the first apology of Justin,
although a critic so "learned" as the unrivalled Dr. Teschendorf could
not fail to be aware that more than one writer has supported the view
that the date of the first apology was not earlier than a.d. 145, and
others have contended for a.d. 150. The Benedictine editors of Justin's
works support the latter date. Dr. Kenn argues for a.d. 155--160. On
page 63, the Religious Tract Society's champion appeals to the testimony
of Justin Martyr, but in order not to shock the devout while convincing
the profane, he omits to mention that more than half the writings once
attributed to Justin Martyr are now abandoned, as either of doubtful
character or actual forgeries, and that Justin's value as a witness is
considerably weakened by the fact that he quotes the acts of Pilate and
the Sybilline Oracles as though they were reliable evidence, when in
fact they are both admitted specimens of "a Christian forgery." But what
does Justin testify as to the Gospels? Does he say that Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John were their writers? On the contrary, not only do the
names of Matthew,-Mark, Luke, and John never occur as Evangelists in
the writings of Justin, but he actually mentions facts and sayings as to
Jesus, which are not found in either of the four Gospels. The very words
rendered Gospels only occur where they are strongly suspected to be
interpolated, Justin usually speaking of some writings which he calls
"memorials" or "memoirs of the Apostles."

Dr. Tischendorf urges that in the writings of Justin the Gospels are
placed side by side with the prophets, and that "this undoubtedly places
the Gospels in the list of canonical books." If this means that there
is any statement in Justin capable of being so construed, then Dr.
Tischendorf was untruthful. Justin does quote specifically the Sybilline
oracles, but never Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. He quotes statements
as to Jesus, which may be found in the apocryphal Gospels, and which are
not found in ours, so that if the evidence of Justin Martyr be taken, it
certainly does not tend to prove, even in the smallest degree, that four
Gospels were specially regarded with reverence in his day. The Rev. W.
Sanday thinks that Justin did not assign an exclusive authority to our
Gospels, and that he made use also of other documents no longer extant.
("Gospels in 2nd Century," p. 117.)

On p. 94 it is stated that "as early as the time of Justin the
expression 'the Evangel' was applied to the four Gospels." This
statement by Dr. Tischendorf and its publication by the Religious Tract
Society call for the strongest condemnation. Nowhere in the writings of
Justin are the words "the Evangel" applied to the four Gospels.

Lardner only professes to discover two instances in which the word
anglicised by Tischendorf as "Evangel," occurs; [______ ______],
the second being expressly pointed out by Schleiermacher as an
interpolation, and as an instance in which a marginal note has been
incorporated with the text; nor would one occurrence of such a word
prove that any book or books were so known by Justin, as the word
is merely a compound of good and message; nor is there the slightest
foundation for the statement that in the time of Justin the word
Evangel was ever applied to designate the four Gospels now attributed to
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Dr. Tischendorf (p. 46) admits that the "faith of the Church.... would
be seriously compromised" if we do not find references to the Gospels in
writings between a.d. 100 and a.d. 150; and--while he does not directly
assert--he insinuates that in such writings the Gospels were "treated
with the greatest respect," or "even already treated as canonical and
sacred writings;" and he distinctly affirms that the Gospels "did see
the light" during the "Apostolic age," "and before the middle of
the second century our Gospels were held in the highest respect by
the-Church," although for the affirmation, he neither has nor advances
the shadow of evidence.

The phrases, "Apostolic age" and "Apostolic fathers" denote the first
century of the Christian era, and those-fathers who are supposed to
have flourished during that period, and who are supposed to have seen
or heard, or had the opportunity of seeing or hearing, either Jesus
or someone or more of the twelve Apostles. Barnabas, Clement, Hermas,
Ignatius, and Polycarp, are those whose names figure most familiarly in
Christian evidences as Apostolic fathers. But the evidence from
these Apostolic fathers is of a most unreliable character. Mosheim
("Ecclesiastical History," cent. 1, cap. 2, sec. 3,17) says that "the
Apostolic history is loaded with doubts, fables, and difficulties," and
that not long after Christ's ascension several histories were current
of his life and doctrines, full of "pious frauds and fabulous wonders."
Amongst these were "The Acts of Paul," "The Revelation of Peter," "The
Gospel of Peter," "The Gospel of Andrew," "The Gospel of John," "The
Gospel of James," "The Gospel of the Egyptians," etc. The attempts often
made to prove from the writings of Barnabas, Ignatius, etc., the
prior existence of the four Gospels, though specifically unnamed, by
similarity of phraseology in quotations, is a failure, even admitting
for the moment the genuineness of the Apostolic Scriptures, if the
proof is intended to carry the matter higher than that such and such
statements were current in some form or other, at the date the fathers
wrote. As good an argument might be made that some of the Gospel
passages were adopted from the fathers. The fathers occasionally quote,
as from the mouth of Jesus, words which are not found in any of our
four Gospels, and make reference to events not included in the Gospel
narratives, clearly evidencing that even if the four documents ascribed
to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were in existence, they were not the
only sources of information from which some of the Apostolic fathers
derived' their knowledge of Christianity, and evidencing also that the
four Gospels had attained no such specific superiority as to entitle
them to special mention by name.

Of the epistle attributed to Barnabas, which is supposed by its
supporters to have been written in the latter part of the first century,
which, Paley says, is _probably_ genuine, which is classed by Eusebius
as spurious ("Ecclesiastical History," book iii., cap. 25), and which
Dr. Donaldson does not hesitate for one moment in refusing to ascribe
to Barnabas the Apostle ("Ante-Nicene Fathers," vol. i., p. 100), it is
only necessary to say that so far from speaking of the Gospels with
the greatest respect, it does not mention by name any one of the four
Gospels. There are some passages in Barnabas which are nearly identical
in phraseology with some Gospel passages, and which it has been argued
are quotations from one or other of the four Gospels, but which may
equally be quotations from other Gospels, or from writings not in the
character of Gospels. There are also passages which are nearly identical
with several of the New Testament epistles, but even the great framer of
Christian evidences, Lardner, declares his conviction that none of
these last-mentioned passages are quotations, or even allusions, to the
Pauline or other epistolary writings. Barnabas makes many quotations
which clearly demonstrate that the four Gospels, if then in existence
and if he had access to them, could not have been his only source of
information as to the teachings of Jesus (E. G., cap. 7).

"The Lord enjoined that whosoever did not keep the fast should be put to
death." "He required the goats to be of goodly aspect and similar,
that when they see him coming they may be amazed by the likeness to the
goat." Says he, "those who wish to behold me and lay hold of my kingdom,
must through tribulation and suffering obtain me" (cap. 12). And the
Lord saith, "When a tree shall be bent down and again rise, and when
blood shall flow out of the wound." Will the Religious Tract Society
point out from which of the Gospels these are quoted?

Barnabas (cap. 10) says that Moses forbade the Jews to eat weasel flesh,
"because that animal conceives with the mouth," and forbad them to eat
the hyena because that animal annually changes its sex. This father
seems to have made a sort of _melange_ of some of the Pentateuchal
ordinances. He says (cap. 8) that the Heifer (mentioned in Numbers) was
a type of Jesus, that the _three_ (?) young men appointed to sprinkle,
denote Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that _wool was put upon a stick_
because the kingdom of Jesus was founded upon the cross, and (cap. 9)
that the 818 men _circumcised_ by Abraham stood for Jesus crucified.
Barnabas also declared that the world was to come to an end in 6,000
years ("Freethinkers' Text Book" part ii., p. 268). In the Sinaitic
Bible, the Epistle of St. Barnabas has now, happily for misguided
Christians, been discovered in the original Greek. To quote the
inimitable style of Dr. Tischendorf, "while so much has been lost in
the course of centuries by the-tooth of time and the carelessness of
ignorant monks, an invisible eye had watched over this treasure, and
when it was on the point of perishing in the fire, the Lord had decreed
its-deliverance;" "while critics have generally been divided between
assigning it to the first or second decade of the second century, the
Sinaitic Bible, which has for the first time cleared up this question,
has led us to throw its composition as far back as the last decade of
the first century." A fine specimen of Christian evidence writing,
cool assertion without a particle of proof and without the slightest
reason-given. How does the Siniatic MS., even if it be genuine, clear up
the question of the date of St. Barnabas's Epistle? Dr. Tischendorf does
not condescend to tell us what has led the Christian advocate to throw
back the date of its composition? We are left entirely in the dark:
in fact, what Dr. Tischendorf calls a "throw back," is if you look at
Lardner just the reverse. What does the epistle of Barnabas prove, even
if it be genuine? Barnabas quotes, by name, Moses and Daniel, but never
Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Barnabas specifically refers to Deuteronomy
and the prophets, but never to either of the four Gospels.

There is an epistle attributed to Clement of Rome, which has been
preserved in a single MS. only where it is coupled with another epistle
rejected as spurious. Dr. Donaldson ("Ante-Nicene Fathers," vol. i., p.
3) declares that who the Clement was to whom these writings are ascribed
cannot with absolute certainty be determined. Both epistles stand on
equal authority; one is rejected by Christians, the other is received.
In this epistle while there is a distinct reference to an Epistle
by Paul to the Corinthians, there is no mention-by name of the four
Gospels, nor do any of the words attributed by Clement to Jesus agree
for any complete quotation with anyone of the Gospels as we have them.
The Rev. W. Sanday is frank enough to concede "that Clement is not
quoting directly from our Gospels."

Is it probable that Clement would have mentioned a writing by Paul, and
yet have entirely ignored the four Gospels, if he had known that they
had then existed? And could they have easily existed in the Christian
world in his day without his knowledge? If anyone takes cap. xxv. ef
this epistle and sees the phoenix given as a historic fact, and as
evidence for the reality of the resurrection, he will be better able to
appreciate the value of this so-called epistle of Clement.

The letters of Ignatius referred to by Dr. Teschendorf are regarded by
Mosheim as laboring under many difficulties, and embarrassed with much
obscurity. Even Lardner, doing his best for such evidences, says, that
if we find matters in the Epistles inconsistent with the notion that
Ignatius was the writer, it is better to regard such passages as
interpolations, than to reject the Epistles entirely, especially in the
"_scarcity_" of such testimonies.

There are fifteen epistles of which eight are undisputedly forgeries. Of
the remaining seven there are two versions, a long and a short version,
one of which must be corrupt, both of which may be. These seven
epistles, however, are in no case to be accepted with certainty as those
of Ignatius. Dr. Cureton contends that only three still shorter epistles
are genuine ("Ante-Nicene Fathers," vol. i., pp. 137 to 143). The Rev.
W. Sanday treats the three short ones as probably genuine, waiving the
question as to the others ("Gospels in Second Century," p. 77, and see
preface to sixth edition "Supernatural Religion"). Ignatius, however,
even if he be the writer of the epistles attributed to him, never
mentions either of the four Gospels. In the nineteenth chapter of the
Epistles to the Ephesians, there is a statement made as to the birth and
death of Jesus, not to be found in either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

If the testimony of the Ignatian Epistles is reliable, then it vouches
that in that early age there were actually Christians who denied the
death of Jesus. A statement as to Mary in cap. nineteen of the Epistle
to the Ephesians is not to be found in any portion of the Gospels. In
his Epistle to the Trallians, Ignatius, attacking those who denied
the real existence of Jesus, would have surely been glad to quote the
evidence of eye witnesses like Matthew and John, if such evidence had
existed in his day. In cap. eight of the Epistles to the Philadelphians,
Ignatius says, "I have heard of some who say: Unless I find it in the
archives I will not believe the Gospel. And when I said it is written,
they answered that remains to be proved." This is the most distinct
reference to any Christian writings, and how little does this support
Dr. Tischendorf s position. From which of our four Gospels could
Ignatius have taken the words, "I am not an incorporeal demon,"
which he puts into the mouth of Jesus in cap. iii., the epistle to the
Smyrnaeans? Dr. Tischendorf does admit that the evidence of the Ignatian
Epistles is not of decisive value; might he not go farther and say, that
as proof of the four Gospels it is of no value at all?

On page 70, Dr. Tischendorf quotes Hippolytus without any qualification.
Surely the English Religious Tract Society might have remembered
that Dodwell says, that the name of Hippolytus had been so abused by
impostors, that it was not easy to distinguish any of his writings. That
Mill declares that, with one exception, the pieces extant under his name
are all spurious. That, except fragments in the writings of opponents,
the works of Hippolytus are entirely lost. Yet the Religious Tract
Society permit testimony so tainted to be put forward under their
authority, to prove the truth of Christian history. The very work which
Dr. Tischendorf pretends to quote is not even mentioned by Eusebius, in
the list he gives of the writings of Hippolytus.

On page 94, Dr. Tischendorf states that Basilides, before a.d. 138, and
Valentinus, about a.d. 140, make use of three out of four Gospels, the
first using John and Luke, the second, Matthew, Luke, and John. What
words of either Basilides or Valentinus exist anywhere to justify this
reckless assertion? Was Dr. Tischendorf again presuming on the utter
ignorance of those who are likely to read his pamphlet? The Religious
Tract Society are responsible for Dr. Tischendorfs allegations, which it
is impossible to support with evidence.

The issue raised is not whether the followers of Basilides or the
followers of Valentinus may have used these gospels, but whether there
is a particle of evidence to justify Dr. Tischendorf s declaration, that
Basilides and Valentinus themselves used the above-named gospels. That
the four Gospels were well known during the second half of the first
century is what Dr. Tischendorf undertook to prove, and statements
attributed to Basilides and Valentin us, but which ought to be
attributed to their followers, will go but little way as such proof (see
"Supernatural Religion" vol. ii., pp. 41 to 63).

It is pleasant to find a grain of wheat in the bushel of Tischendorf
chaff. On page 98, and following pages, the erudite author applies
himself to get rid of the testimony of Papias, which was falsified and
put forward by Paley as of great importance. Paley says the authority of
Papias is complete; Tischendorf declares that Papias is in error. Paley
says Papias was a hearer of John, Tischendorf says he was not. We leave
the champions of the two great Christian evidence-mongers to settle the
matter as best they can. If, however, we are to accept Dr. Tischendorf's
declaration that the testimony of Papias is worthless, we get rid of the
chief link between Justin Martyr and the apostolic age. It pleases Dr.
Tischendorf to damage Papias, because that father is silent as to the
gospel of John; but the Religious Tract Society must not forget that
in thus clearing away the second-hand evidence of Papias, they have
cut away their only pretence for saying that any of the Gospels are
mentioned by name within 150 years of the date clfor the birth of
Jesus. In referring to the lost work of Theophilus of Antioch, which
Dr. Tischendorf tells us was a kind of harmony of the Gospels, in which
the four narratives are moulded and fused into one, the learned Doctor
forgets to tell us that Jerome, whom he quotes as giving some account of
Theophilus, actually doubted whether the so-called commentary was really
from the pen of that writer. Lardner says: "Whether those commentaries
which St. Jerome quotes were really composed by Theophilus may be
doubted, since they were unknown to Eusebius, and were observed by
Jerome to differ in style and expression from his other works. However,
if they were not his, they were the work of some anonymous ancient."
But if they were the work of an anonymous ancient after Eusebius, what
becomes of Dr. Tischendorf's "as early as a.d. 170?"

Eusebius, who refers to Theophilus, and who speaks of his using the
Apocalypse, would have certainly gladly quoted the Bishop of Antioch's
"Commentary on the Four Gospels," if it had existed in his day. Nor is
it true that the references we have in Jerome to the work attributed to
Theophilus, justify the description given by Dr. Teschendorf, or even
the phrase of Jerome, "_qui quatuor Evangelist arum in unum opus dicta
compingens_." Theophilus seems, so far as it is possible to judge,
to have occupied himself not with a connected history of Jesus, or a
continuous discourse as to his doctrines, but rather with mystical and
allegorical elucidations of occasional passages, which ended, like many
pious commentaries on the Old or New Testament, in leaving the point
dealt with a little less clear with the Theophillian commentary than
without it. Dr. Tischendorf says that Theodoret and Eusebius speak
of Tatian in the same way--that is, as though he had, like his Syrian
contemporary, composed a harmony of the four Gospels. This is also
inaccurate. Eusebius talks of Tatianus having found a certain body and
collection of Gospels, "I know not how," which collection Eusebius
does not appear even to have ever seen; and so far from the phrase in
Theodoret justifying Dr. Tischendorf's explanation, it would appear from
Theodoret that Tatian's Diatessaron was, in fact, a sort of spurious
gospel, "The Gospel of the Four" differing materially from our four
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Neither Irenaeus, Clement
of Alexandria, or Jerome, who refer to other works of Tatian, make any
mention of this. Dr. Tischendorf might have added that Diapente, or
"the Gospel of the Five," has also been a title applied to this work of
Tatian.

In the third chapter of his essay, Dr. Tischendorf refers to apocryphal
writings "which bear on their front the names of Apostles" "used by
obscure writers to palm off" their forgeries. Dr. Tischendorf says
that these spurious books were composed "partly to embellish" scripture
narratives, and "partly to support false doctrine;" and he states that
in early times, the Church was not so well able to distinguish true
gospels from false ones, and that consequently some of the apocryphal
writings "were given a place they did not deserve." This statement of
the inability of the Church to judge correctly, tells as much against
the whole, as against any one or more of the early Christian writings,
and as it may be as fatal to the now received gospels as to those now
rejected, it deserves the most careful consideration. According to
Dr. Tischendorf, Justin Martyr falls into the category of those of the
Church who were "not so critical in distinguishing the true from the
false;" for Justin, says Tischendorf, treats the Gospel of St. James and
the Acts of Pilate, each as a fit source whence to derive materials for
the life of Jesus, and therefore must have regarded the Gospel of St.
James and the Acts of Pilate, as genuine and authentic writings; while
Dr. Tischendorf, wiser, and a greater critic than Justin, condemns the
Gospel of St. James as spurious, and calls the Acts of Pilate "a pious
fraud;" but if Dr. Tischendorf be correct in his statement that "Justin
made use of this Gospel" and quotes the "Acts of Pontius Pilate," then,
according to his own words, Justin did not know how to distinguish the
true from the false, and the whole force of his evidence previously used
by Dr. Tischendorf in aid of the four Gospels would have been seriously
diminished, even if it had been true, which it is not, that Justin
Martyr had borne any testimony on the subject.

Such, then, are the weapons, say the Religious Tract Society, by their
champion, "which we employ against unbelieving criticism." And what are
these weapons? We have shown in the preceding pages, the _suppressio
veri_ and the _suggestio falsi_ are amongst the weapons used. The
Religious Tract Society directors are parties to fabrication of
evidence, and they permit a learned charlatan to forward the cause of
Christ with craft and chicane. But even this is not enough; they need,
according to their pamphlet, "a new weapon;" they want "to find out the
very words the Apostles used." True believers have been in a state
of delusion; they were credulous enough to fancy that the authorised
version of the Scriptures tolerably faithfully represented God's
revelation to humankind. But no, says Dr. Tischendorf, it has been so
seriously modified in the copying and re-copying that it ought to be set
aside altogether, and a fresh text constructed. Glorious news this for
the Bible Society. Listen to it, Exeter Hall! Glad tidings to be issued
by the Paternoster Row saints! After spending hundreds of thousands of
pounds in giving away Bibles to soldiers, in placing them in hotels and
lodging-houses, and shipping them off to negroes and savages, it appears
that the wrong text has been sent through the world, the true version
being all the time in a waste-paper heap at Mount Sinai, watched over
by an "invisible eye." But, adds Dr. Tischendorf, "if you ask me whether
any popular version contains the original text, my answer is Yes and No.
I say Yes as far as concerns your soul's salvation." If these are enough
for the soul's salvation, why try to improve the matter? If we really
need the "full and clear light" of the Sinaitic Bible to show us "what
is the Word written by God," then most certainly our present Bible is
not believed by the Religious Tract Society to be the Word written by
God. The Christian advocates are in this dilemma: either the received,
text is insufficient, or the proposed improvement is unnecessary.
Dr. Tischendorf says that "The Gospels, like the only begotten of the
Father, will endure as long as human nature itself," yet he says "there
is a great diversity among the texts," and that the Gospel in use
amongst the Ebionites and that used amongst the Nazarenes have been
"disfigured here and there with certain arbitrary changes." He admits,
moreover, that "in early times, when the Church was not so critical in
distinguishing the true from the false," spurious Gospels obtained a
credit which they did not deserve. And while arguing for the enduring
character of the Gospel, he requests you to set aside the received text
altogether, and to try to construct a new revelation by the aid of Dr.
Tischendorf's patent Sinaitic invention.

We congratulate the Religious Tract Society upon their manifesto, and
on the victory it secures them over German Rationalism and English
Infidelity. The Society's translator, in his introductory remarks,
declares that "circumstantial evidence when complete, and when every
link in the chain has been thoroughly tested, is as strong as direct
testimony;" and, adds the Society's penman, "This is the kind of
evidence which Dr. Tischendorf brings for the genuineness of our
Gospels." It would be difficult to imagine a more inaccurate description
of Dr. Tischendorf's work. Do we find the circumstantial evidence
carefully tested in the Doctor's boasting and curious narrative of his
journeys commenced on a pecuniary deficiency and culminating in much
cash? Do we find it in Dr. Tischendorf s concealment for fifteen years
of the place, watched over by an invisible eye, in which was hidden the
greatest biblical treasure in the world? Is the circumstantial evidence
shown in the sneers at Renan? or is each link in the chain tested by the
strange jumbling together of names and conjectures in the first chapter?
What tests are used in the cases of Valentinus and Basilides in the
second chapter? How is the circumstantial testimony aided by the
references in the third chapter to the Apocryphal Gospels? Is there
a pretence even of critical testing in the chapter devoted to the
apostolic fathers? All that Dr. Tischendorf has done is in effect
to declare that our authorised version of the New Testament is so
unreliable, that it ought to be got rid of altogether, and a new text
constructed. And this declaration is circulated by the Religious Tract
Society, which sends the sixpenny edition of the Gospel with one hand,
and in the other the shilling Tischendorf pamphlet, declaring that many
passages of the Religious Tract Society's New Testament have undergone
such serious modifications of meaning as to leave us in painful
uncertainty as to what was originally written.

The very latest contribution from orthodox sources to the study of the
Gospels, as contained in the authorised version, is to be found in the
very candid preface to the recently-issued revised version of the New
Testament, where the ordinary Bible receives a condemnation of the most
sweeping description. Here, on the high authority of the revisers, we
are told that, with regard to the Greek text, the translators of the
authorised version had for their guides "manuscripts of late date, few
in number and used with little critical skill." The revisers add what
Freethinkers have long maintained, and have been denounced from pulpits
for maintaining, viz., "that the commonly received text needed thorough
revision," and, what is even more important, they candidly avow that "it
is but recently that materials have been acquired for executing such a
work with even approximate completeness." So that not only "God's Word"
has admittedly for generations not been "God's Word" at all, but even
now, and with materials not formerly known, it has only been revised
with "approximate completeness," whatever those two words may mean. If
they have any significance at all, they must convey the belief of the
new and at present final revisers of the Gospel, that, even after all
their toil, they are not quite sure that god's revelation is quite
exactly rendered into English. So far as the ordinary authorised version
of the New Testament goes--and it is this, the law-recognised, version
which is still used in administering oaths--we are told that the old
translators "used considerable freedom," and "studiously adopted a
variety of expressions which would now be deemed hardly consistent with
the requirements of faithful translation." This is a pleasant euphemism,
but a real and direct charge of dishonest translation by the authorised
translators. The new revisers add, with sadness, that "it cannot be
doubted that they (the translators of the authorised version) carried
this liberty too far, and that the studied avoidance of uniformity
in the rendering of the same words, even when occurring in the same
context, is one of the blemishes of their work." These blemishes the new
revisers think were increased by the fact that the translation of the
authorised version of the New Testament was assigned to two separate
companies, who never sat together, which "was beyond doubt the cause of
many inconsistencies," and, although there was a final supervision,
the new revisers add, most mournfully: "When it is remembered that
the supervision was completed in nine months, we may wonder that the
incongruities which remain-are not more numerous."

Nor are the revisers by any means free from doubt and misgiving on their
own work. They had the "laborious task" of "deciding between the rival
claims of various readings which might properly affect the translation,"
and, as they tell us, "Textual criticism, as applied to the Greek New
Testament, forms a special study of much intricacy and difficulty, and
even now leaves room for considerable variety of opinion among competent
critics." Next they say: "the frequent inconsistencies in the authorised
version have caused us much embarrassment," and that there are "numerous
passages in the authorised version in which.... the studied
variety adopted by the Translators of 1611 has produced a degree
of inconsistency that cannot be reconciled with the principle of
faithfulness." So little are the new revisers always certain as to
what god means that they provide "alternative readings in difficult or
debateable passages," and say "the notes of this last group are numerous
and largely in excess of those which were admitted by our predecessors."
And with reference to the pronouns and other words in italics we are
told that "some of these cases.... are of singular intricacy, and make
it impossible to maintain rigid uniformity." The new revisers conclude
by declaring that "through our manifold experience of its abounding
difficulties we have felt more and more as we went onward that such a
work can never be accomplished by organised efforts of scholarship and
criticism unless assisted by divine help." Apparently the new revisers
are conscious that they did not receive this divine help in their
attempt at revision, for they go on: "We know full well that defects
must have their place in a work so long and so arduous as this which has
now come to an end. Blemishes and imperfections there are in the noble
translation which we have been called upon to revise; blemishes and
imperfections will assuredly be found in our own revision;... we cannot
forget how often we have failed in expressing some finer shade of
meaning which we recognised in the original, how often idiom has stood
in the way of a perfect rendering, and how often the attempt to preserve
a familiar form of words, or even a familiar cadence, has only added
another perplexity to those which have already beset us."

THE END.





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