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Title: Frauds and Follies of the Fathers - A Review of the Worth of their  Testimony to the Four Gospels
Author: Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini
Language: English
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A Review Of The Worth Of Their  Testimony
To The Four Gospels

By Joseph Mazzini Wheeler


To expose the delirium and delinquencies of a respected or even
respectable body of men is always an ungracious, though it may not be
an unnecessary, task. But when we are informed that rejection of
certain supernatural stories means our condemnation here and damnation
hereafter, we feel tempted to examine the kind of men who first accepted
and promulgated those stories. The man who tells me I shall be damned if
I do not believe in his theories or thaumaturgy may have many estimable
qualities, but he must not be surprised if, disregarding these, I call
attention to instances of his credulity. When, moreover, priests
assume authority over conduct on the ground that their Church or their
doctrines were God-given, it becomes necessary to investigate how that
Church and those doctrines were built up; and if we find superstitious
fooleries and pious frauds mixed therein, it may do something to abate
our confidence in priestly pretentions.

In regard to the Fathers, as to much else, the Catholic is the most
consistent of all Christian Churches. The men who established the
Church, and fixed what was and what was not Canonical Gospel, are surely
entitled to some authority on the part of believers. When Protestants
wish to prove the authenticity of their infallible book, they have to
fall back upon the witness of the fallible Fathers whose authority they
are at other times always ready to repudiate.

The intellectual and moral character of the men who were the original
depositaries of Christian faith and literature is then evidently of the
utmost importance. All historical evidence as to the authenticity of
the New Testament, or the faithfulness of ecclesiastical history, comes
through them. If they were credulous and untrustworthy, the edifice
built upon their testimony or their faith will be found to be tottering.

Now, concerning the Fathers of the Christian Church, we have, at the
outset, to allege that, as a class, not only were they superstitious
and credulous, and therefore unreliable, but that many of them were
absolutely fraudulent, not hesitating to use any and every means to
further the interests of their religion.

Bishop C. J. Ellicott, in his article on the Apocryphal Gospels, which
appeared in the "Cambridge Essays" for 1856, pp. 175, 176, says: "But
credulity is not the only charge which these early ages have to sustain.
They certainly cannot be pronounced free from the influence of pious
frauds.... It was an age of literary frauds. Deceit, if it had a good
intention, frequently passed unchallenged.... However unwilling we may
be to admit it, history forces upon us the recognition of pious fraud
as a principle which was by no means inoperative in the earliest ages of

Jeremiah Jones says: "To make testimonies out of forgeries and spurious
books to prove the very foundation of the Christian revelation, was a
method much practised by some of the Fathers, especially Justin Martyr,
Clemens Alexandrinus, and Lactantius."--"A New and Full Method of
Settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament," part ii., chap,
xxxiv., p. 318, vol. i. 1827.

B. H. Cowper, a well-known champion of Christianity, and once editor of
the _Journal of Sacred Literature_, confesses in the Introduction to his
"Apocryphal Gospels" (p. xxv., 1867): "Ancient invention and industry
went even further, and produced sundry scraps about Herod, Veronica,
Lentuius, and Abgar, wrote epistles for Christ and his mother, and
I know not how much besides. No difficulty stood in the way; ancient
documents could easily be appealed to without necessarily existing;
spirits could be summoned from the other world by a stroke of the pen,
and be made to say anything; sacred names could be written and made a
passport to fictions, and so on _ad libitum_."

M. Daillé says: "For these forgeries are not new and of yesterday; but
the abuse hath been on foot above fourteen hundred years."--"The
Right Use of the Fathers," p. 12, 1675. Mosheim mentions a variety of
commentaries filled with impostores or fables on our Savior's life and
sentiments, "composed soon after his ascent into heaven, by men who,
without being bad, perhaps, were superstitious, simple, and piously
deceitful. To these were afterwards added other writings
falsely accredited to the most holy apostles by fraudulent
individuals."--"Institutes of Ecclesiastical History," part iii, chap.
ii, sec. 17, p. 65, vol. i. Stubbs's edition, 1863.

The same justly-renowned historian declares that "a pernicious maxim
which was current in the schools, not only of the Egyptians, the
Platonists, and the Pythagoreans, but also of the Jews, was very
early recognised by the Christians, and soon found among them numerous
patrons--namely, that those who made it their business to deceive with
a view of promoting the cause of truth were deserving rather of
commendation than censure."--"Commentaries on the Affairs of the
Christians before the time of Constantino the Great." Second century.
sec. 7, pp. 44, 45. R. S. Vidat's translation. 1813.

Dr. Gieseler, Professor of Theology in Gottingen, says: "In reference to
the advancement of various Christian interests, and in like manner also
to the confirmation of those developments of doctrine already mentioned,
_the spurious literature_ which had arisen and continually increased
among the Jews and Christians, was of great importance. The Christians
made use of such expressions and writings as had already been falsely
attributed by Jews, from partiality to their religion, to honored
persons of antiquity, and altered them in parts to suit their own wants,
such as the book of Enoch and the fourth book of Ezra. But writings of
this kind were also fabricated anew by Christians, who quieted their
conscience respecting the forgery with the idea of their good intention,
for the purpose of giving greater impressiveness to their doctrines and
admonitions by the reputation of respectable names, of animating their
suffering brethren to steadfastness, and of gaming over their opponents
to Christianity."--"Compendium of Ecclesiastical History," sec. 52, vol.
i., pp. 157, 158. Translated by Dr. S. Davidson. T. & T. Clark's Foreign
Theological Library.

But as our purpose is to examine these writings somewhat in detail, we
will commence with


This name is given to those Christian writers who are alleged to have
had intercourse with the Apostles. These writings are said to date
from about 97 to 150 a.c. Dr. J. Donaldson says: "Of these writers
investigation assures us only of the names of three, Clement, Polycarp
and Papias. There is no satisfactory ground for attributing the 'Epistle
of Barnabas' to Barnabas, the friend of Paul, nor the 'Pastor' of Hermas
to the Hermas mentioned in the Epistle to the Romans."* Yet it is to
be noticed that both these works were read in the primitive churches as
Scripture, and are included in the Sinaitic Codex, which is asserted to
be the most ancient manuscript of the New Testament extant.

    * "The Apostolical Fathers," chap, i., p. 101, 1874.

We take first


There is a "fellow-laborer" with Paul of the name of Clement, mentioned
in his Epistle to the Philippians (iv., 3), but whether this is the
same individual whom the Catholics make a Pope of Rome, and some of the
Fathers say was a kinsman of the Roman Emperor, is a matter of dispute,
and much doubted by the best authorities. Bishop Lightfoot ("St. Paul's
Epistles: Philippians," p. 166) says: "The notices of time and place are
opposed to the identification of the two." A sufficient evidence of the
estimation in which St. Clement was held, however, is to be found in the
number of forgeries which Christian piety have palmed upon the world in
his name. In the Alexandrian Codex, one of the oldest and most important
manuscripts of the New Testament, two epistles addressed to the
Corinthians stand inscribed with his name, and are enumerated in the
list of books of the New Testament. Of these, the second is on all hands
allowed to be a forgery, and the first is generally considered to be
interpolated. That forgeries or interpolations have taken place in
regard to those books of the same Codex which, upon the authority of
certain Fathers, have been formed into the received canon of sacred
Scripture, must not, of course, be suspected on pain of everlasting
burning. The fact of the Epistle to the Hebrews being ascribed to St
Paul, the second Epistle ascribed to St Peter, and such texts as those
of the heavenly witnesses (1 John v., 7, 8), show any scholar that
nothing of the kind could have taken place by any possibility whatever.
Is it likely that God would allow his Holy Word to be tampered with?

The history of Clement of Rome, says Canon Westcott ("On the Canon," p.
22,1881), "is invested with mythic dignity which is without example in
the Ante-Nicene Church." It was too utterly impossible for other Fathers
and founders of the Church to be invested with mythic dignity. Jesus
must have come of the seed of King David, even though Joseph had nothing
to do with his genealogy. "The events of his life," Westcott goes on to
say, "have become so strangely involved in consequence of the religious
romances which bear his name, that they remain in inextricable
confusion." And so indeed they are; almost as badly as those of the
founder of Christianity.

Clement is called at one time a disciple of St. Paul, and at another of
St. Peter, who Paul withstood to his face because he was to be blamed
(Gal. ii., 11). The Abbé Migne, in his Patrologie, makes him Pope in
91 A.C. The Clementine Homilies, purporting to be written by Clement
himself, says he was ordained by Peter. Some put the first Popes as
Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, and then Clement; others give their order as
Linus, Cletus, Clement, Anacletus; others Clement, Linus, &c.; in
short, they are given every way. Baron Bunsen called Anacletus a purely
apocryphal and mythical personage, and some wicked sceptics have thought
the same of the whole batch. In addition to the two epistles which stand
on the same parchment with Holy Scripture, St. Clement is credited with
two epistles to Virgins--which, though superstitious, are possibly none
the less authentic; two epistles to James the brother of the Incarnate
God, the Apostolic Canons (which include his own writings as sacred
scripture), the Apostolic Constitutions, the Recognitions, a Liturgy,
and twenty Clementine Homilies. All of these, says Mosheim, were
fraudulently ascribed to this eminent father by some deceivers, for
the purpose of procuring them greater authority. Clement has also been
supposed the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Acts of the

Restricting ourselves for the present to the first epistle, generally
put forward as genuine, until a comparatively late date quoted as
authoritative scripture by the Fathers, put in the apostolic canons
among sacred and inspired writings, and which Eusebius tells us ("Hist.
Eccl." iii., 16) was publicly read in very many churches in old times
and even in his own day; we at once discover evidence that the writer
could not have been akin to the Caesars or of a noble Roman family. He
bespeaks his Jewish birth by his continual citation of the Jew books, by
his references to the services at Jerusalem (chaps. xl. and xli.), and
by speaking of "our father Jacob." But, like other Christian writers, he
is very loose in his quotations. For instance, he jumbles up the first
Isaiah and an apocryphal Ezekiel in the following quotation, "Say to the
children of my people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, and
though they be redder than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, yet if
ye turn to me with your whole heart, and say, 'Father,' I will listen to
you as to a holy people."* He mentions (chap, lv.) "the blessed Judith,"
which book, by the way, Volkmar and others think must be dated a.c.
117-118. He also (chap, xvii.) quotes Moses as saying, "I am but as the
smoke of a pot," and other passages (chap. xxiii.-xxvi), probably from
the apocryphal "Assumption of Moses." But this is no worse than Matthew
(ii., 23) quoting as from the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene;"
Paul's wrongly quoting the Psalms (Eph. iv., 8); or Jude (ver. 14)
citing the apocryphal book of Enoch as by "the seventh from Adam." But
it somewhat vitiates his supposed testimony to the canonical books. It
is evident, however, that he was acquainted with Paul's Epistles to the
Corinthians, and his own reads at times like a bad imitation of Paul.

     * Pp. 12 and 13, vol i., "Ante-Nicene Christian Library."
     All our citations, unless otherwise mentioned, will be taken
     from this valuable series of volumes.

The apostle to the Gentiles, and thereby the real founder of modern
Christianity, disregarding a certain threat of its supposed founder
(Matt, v., 22), ventured, in arguing for the resurrection, the somewhat
questionable statement, "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not
quickened except it die" (1 Cor. xv., 36). Clement altogether outdoes
this. He says (chap, xxv.):

"Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes
place in eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round
about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the
only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of
its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of
frankincense and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is
fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of
worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird,
brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up
that nest in which are the bones of its parents, and bearing these
it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called
Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places
them on the altar of the sun, and, having done this, hastens back to its
former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates,
and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was
completed." This is the way the Christian evidences were presented by
the authoritative head of the Church in the first century. Tertullian
("De Resurr. Cam.," sec. 10), takes Psalm xcii., 12, as referring to
this prodigy. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, St.
Epiphanius, and other of the Fathers, follow Clement in his fable. It
is said that Clement in this only followed Herodotus, Pliny, Ovid, and
Tacitus, who mention the phoenix. This is false. Herodotus (ii., 13)
simply relates the report of others, and does not intimate that he
believed any part of it, but positively declares that some of the
statements were not credible. Pliny ("Nat. Hist," x., 2) states
expressly that the accounts may be fabulous. Ovid ("Metam.," xv.,
392) uses the legend for poetical purposes. Tacitus ("Ann.," vi., 28)
declares that the statements are uncertain. These, be it remembered,
were unenlightened heathen, but the apostolic saint founds the
distinguishing article of the Christian creed upon this mistake of an
Egyptian myth. May it not have been a phoenix, instead of a dove, which
descended on Jesus at Jordan? The cherubim described by Ezekiel were
curious fowl. There are some queer animals mentioned in the Apocalypse;
Isaiah and Job mention unicorns, and the former dragons. The Jews were
indeed great in the natural-history department. Rabbinical references to
the phoenix are numerous. The Talmud speaks of the zig, a bird of such
magnitude that when it spread out its wings the disc of the sun was
obscured; and the bar-juchne, one of whose eggs once fell down and broke
three hundred cedars and submerged sixty villages.*

     * See B. H. Cowper's article on the Talmud, in "The Journal
     of Sacred Literature," Jan., 1868.

The second epistle, or rather homily, of Clement, though equally bound
up with the sacred records, and placed in the Apostolical Canon, is
admitted to be spurious, and is every way less notable. The concluding
leaves of the Alexandrian manuscript have been lost. It ends abruptly
with this interesting chapter:--

"Let us expect, therefore, hour by hour, the kingdom of God in love and
righteousness, since we know not the day of the appearing of God.
For the Lord himself, being asked by one when his kingdom would come,
replied, 'When two shall be one, and that which is without as that which
is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.'
Now, two are one when we speak the truth one to another, and there is
un-feignedly one soul in two bodies. And 'that which is without as that
which is within' meaneth this: He calls the soul 'that which is within,'
and the body 'that which is without.' As, then, thy body is visible to
sight, so also let thy soul be manifest by good works. And 'the male
with the female, neither male nor female, this "....

Here is an interesting quotation by the earliest Christian Father of
words uttered by God Incarnate upon an important matter. Had they found
their way into the Canonical Gospels, what books would have been written
upon their beauty and sublimity! As it is, we gather from Clement of
Alexandria* that these words and other important sayings of Jesus were
found in the Gospel of the Egyptians. This gospel was certainly an
ancient one, and is supposed by Grabe, Erasmus, Du Pin, Father Simon,
Grotius, Mills, and others, to have been among those referred to by Luke
in his preamble: "Forasmuch as _many_ have taken in hand to set forth in
order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed
among us." This Gospel of the Egyptians was received by the Ophites, the
Encratites, the Valentinians, and the Sabellians. It was evidently at
one with the doctrines of the Essenes in regard to women. For instance,
Clement of Alexandria quotes from it the following: "The Lord says to
Salome: 'Death shall prevail as long as women bring forth children.'" "I
am come to destroy the works of the woman, that is, the works of female
concupiscense, generation, and corruption. When you despise a covering
for your nakedness, and when two shall be one, and the male with
the female neither male nor female." Intimations that similar views
regarding marriage were found in the early Christian Church may be
gathered from Matt, xix., 12; Rev. xiv., 4; 1 Cor. vii., 8, etc. But the
subject is too delicate to be handled by other than a divinity student.

     * "Stromata," book ill-, 9, 13.     The English editors have
     deemed it best to give the whole of this book in Latin.

Passing, then, Clement's two epistles to virgins with the remark
that although generally rejected as spurious by Protestants, they are
considered genuine by their editors, Wetstein, Bellet, and Cardinal
Villecourt, we come to "The Recognitions of Clement." Of these
remarkable documents Hilgenfeld says, "There is scarcely a single
writing which is of so great importance for the history of Christianity
in its first stage." The editors of the Anti-Nicene Christian Library
call it "a theological romance;" but it is a question whether that
epithet would not equally fit every other so-called historical
composition of the first three centuries of the Christian era. Cardinal
Baronius ("Annal." tom, i., an. 51) call sit "a gulf of filth and
uncleanliness, full of prodigious lies and frantic fooleries." But
Cardinal Beliarmine says it was written either by Clement or by some
other author as ancient and learned as he.

It begins, "I, Clement, who was born in the city of Rome," and proceeds
to narrate his thoughts on philosophy, his doubts and hopes of a future
life. To resolve these the worthy Father determined to go to Egypt,
and bribe a magician to bring him a soul from the infernal regions to
consult whether the soul be immortal. But he heard of the Son of God
in Judea and was ready to accredit the wonders ascribed to him.
Having heard Barnabas, Clement proceeds to Cæsarea and sees Peter, who
instructs him concerning the True Prophet. And now comes the curious
part of the story. Peter is engaged in continuous controversy on the
true Mosaic and Christian religion with a miracle worker, called Simon
the magician, who it is said confessed he wrought his wonders by the
help of the soul of a healthy young boy, who had been violently put to
death for that purpose, and then called up from the dead and compelled
to be his assistant. Peter follows this Simon about from place to
place, exposing him. He especially follows him to Rome. The astounding
revelation in connexion with this story we give in the words of the
author of "Supernatural Religion" (vol. ii., p. 34): "There cannot be a
doubt that the Apostle Paul is attacked in it, as the great enemy of
the true faith, under the hated name of Simon the magician, who Peter
followed everywhere for the purpose of unmasking and confuting him. He
is robbed of the title of 'Apostles of the Gentiles,' which, together
with the honor of founding the Churches of Antioch, of Laodicea, and of
Rome, is ascribed to Peter. All that opposition to Paul which is implied
in the Epistle to the Galatians and elsewhere (1 Cor. i., 11, 12; 2 Cor.
xi., 13--20; Philip i., 15, 16) is here realised and exaggerated, and
the personal difference with Peter to which Paul refers is widened into
the most bitter animosity."

The most able authorities, such as Davidson, B. Lightfoot, Mansel,
Hilgenfeld, Reuss, Baur, Scholten, and Schwegler agree in this view,
which is strongly confirmed by the epistle of Peter to James, which
stands as a preface to the Clementine Homilies, dealing with the same
matter of Simon Magus. Peter says: "For some among the Gentiles have
rejected my lawful preaching, and accepted certain lawless and foolish
teaching of the hostile man." Canon Westcott, in his edition of 1866,
said on this passage: "There can be no doubt that St. Paul is referred
to as 'the enemy'" (on the Canon, p. 252). Since the quotation of this
damaging admission by the author of "Supernatural Religion," it has been
removed. But whether the fact that the Simon Magus who is reviled in the
Clementine Recognitions is intended to represent Paul has the authority
of Canon Westcott or not, there can be no doubt that this view better
agrees with Paul's epistles, and all we know of the early Christians,
than the reconciling but unhistoric "Acts of the Apostles," which took
the place of the Clementine "theological romance," because, in the
struggle for existence, the Christian Church which was built on Paul
rather than that which was built on Peter (Matt. xvi., 18), proved to be
the fittest to survive.



St. Barnabas is the next of the Apostolic Fathers demanding our
attention. Here, again, it is very doubtful if we have any of the
authentic words of the companion of Paul, so highly extolled by Renan,
and declared by the author of the Acts of the Apostles to have been "a
good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith" (xi., 24).

The epistle ascribed to St. Barnabas, although generally received as
his for many ages, and repeatedly cited as Apostolic by Clement of
Alexandria, and also cited by Origen, and found, together with the
"Shepherd" of Hermas, in the Sinaitic Codex, is repudiated by most
modern scholars, and declared by the author of "Supernatural Religion"
to be an instance of "the singular facility with which, in the total
absence of critical discrimination, spurious writings were ascribed by
the Fathers to Apostles and their followers" (vol. i., p. 233, 1879).
Although the weight of authority is against its authenticity, it is
still supported as genuine by such scholars as Schmidt, Grieseler, and
Samuel Sharpe; and it must be admitted that most of the arguments used
against it have been based upon its contents not coming up to what
critics have supposed ought to be the Apostolic standard. At any rate,
it is an-interesting relic of the early Church which is considered
genuine by the most important section of Christendom, the Roman
Catholics. In Jerome's time it was still read among the Apocryphal
Scriptures, and in the Stichometria of Nicephorus (ninth century) it is
put among the disputed books of the New Testament.

Barnabas is still more questionably fathered with a gospel of his own,
which is no longer extant. But as it appears to have contained a very
peculiar statement to the effect that Jesus did not actually die upon
the cross, and that it was Judas who was crucified in his stead, which
statement has been taken up, from whatever quarter, by the Mohammedans,
this gospel is, of course, set down as a Mohammedan forgery.

The Catholics have a tradition that Barnabas was converted after
witnessing the miracle at that wondrous pool of Bethesda, where the
angel came down troubling the waters. He was a Levite of Cyprus, and his
name was formerly Joses. It is noteworthy that upon entering the Church,
Christian converts took new names, a custom common to the Buddhists.
Clement of Alexandria says he was one of the seventy Apostles. He is
stated to have converted Clement of Rome, and to have been stoned by the
Jews about the year 64. All these statements rest on the mere authority
of the Church, not the slightest proof being forthcoming either for or
against them. Nothing was known of his tomb until the year 478, when the
Cypriotes, being required to submit to the episcopal sway of Peter
the Fuller, Patriarch of Antioch, his coffin, with the Gospel of Saint
Matthew inside, turned up in the nick of time to avert the calamity and
assert the independence of a place having such indubitable relics.
The Church of Toulouse yet claims to have his body, and eight or nine
churches pretend to having possession of his head. Of the value of this
wondrous head we shall presently have sufficient proof.

"The Acts of Barnabas," a so-called apocryphal book, gives an account,
by Mark, of the journeyings and martyrdom of this Apostle (Vol. XVI.,
"Ante-Nicene Christian Library"). The Evangelist tells how Paul was
quite enraged against him so that, although he gave repentance on
his knees upon the earth to Paul, he would not endure it. "And when I
remained for three Sabbaths in entreaty and prayer on my knees, I was
unable to prevail upon him about myself; for his great grievance against
me was on account of my keeping several parchments in Pamphylia" (p.
294). Paul, according to this story, refused to accompany Barnabas if he
took Mark with him, and Barnabas elected to stand by Mark. They removed
a fever from one Timon by laying their hands upon him. "And Barnabas
had received documents from Matthew, a book of the Word of God, and a
narrative of miracles and doctrines. This Barnabas laid upon the sick
in each place we came to, and it immediately made a cure of their
sufferings" (p. 297). Once in their journeyings they found a certain
race being performed, and upon Barnabas rebuking the city, the western
part fell, so that many were killed and wounded, and the rest fled for
safety to the Temple of Apollo. But our purpose is with the Apostolic
epistle which goes under his name.

Joses may have been a ready speaker, as is judged by his Christian name
of Barnabas, or _Son of Exhortation_; but he certainly cannot be classed
as a brilliant letter writer. His epistle, like many other Apostolic
documents, would be considered dreadfully prosy but for its age and
reputation. Though no great hand at _composing_, Barney had a remarkable
faculty for dealing with _types_. Types are an attractive study to
theologians; biblical stories--like that of Jonah and the whale,
for instance--which, taken in a plain and natural way, are evident
absurdities, serve capitally as divine types and symbols. At this sort
of interpretation Barnabas was, as we shall see, a perfect master. He
outdoes the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, by the way,
Tertullian ("De Pudicitia, 20") ascribes to Barnabas.

He prides himself upon his exegesis of Scripture, which he does not
hesitate to ascribe to divine inspiration. "Blessed be our Lord," he
exclaims, "who has placed in us wisdom and understanding of secret
things" (c. vi., p. 110, vol. i., "Ante-Nicene Christian Library"); and,
further on, he boldly avows inspiration on behalf of what Osburn calls
"a tissue of obscenity and absurdity which would disgrace the Hindoo
Mythology" ("Doctrinal Errors of the Apostolic and Early Fathers," p.
25, 1835).

According to Barnabas, the Mosaic legislation had Christ in view rather
than the sanitary condition of the Jews. He even manufactures a law of
Moses in order to make out a type of Christ having vinegar to drink. He
says (c. vii., pp. 112, 113)  "Moreover, when fixed to the cross, he
had given him to drink vinegar and gall. Hearken how the priests of the
people gave previous indication of this. His commandment having been
written, the Lord enjoined, that whosoever did not keep the fast should
be put to death, because He also Himself was to offer in sacrifice for
our sins the vessel of the Spirit, in order that the type established in
Isaac, when he was offered upon the altar, might be fully accomplished.
What, then, says He in the prophet? 'And let them eat of the goat, which
is offered with fasting, for all their sins.' Attend carefully: 'And
let all the priests alone eat the inwards, unwashed with vinegar.'
Wherefore? Because to me, who am to offer my flesh for the sins of my
new people, ye are to give gall with vinegar to drink: eat ye alone,
while the people fast and mourn in sackcloth and ashes."

Some have supposed these spurious regulations were taken from
traditions, but the Rev. J. Jones says: "I rather look upon it as _a
pious forgery and fraud_, there being nothing of the sort known to have
been among the Jewish customs, and this book having several such frauds
in it" ("A New and Full Method of Settling the Canonical Authority of
the New Testament," vol. ii., p. 377, 1827). If it is not either of
these it is very clear that we have lost some important portions of
God's inspired word in the Pentateuch. Barnabas also has a chapter on
the red-heifer, which was sacred to Typhon among the Egyptians, as a
type of Christ, and says (chap, viii., p. 115) "The calf is Jesus."

It appears, too, that Abraham was a Greek scholar some time before the
Greek language was known, and that he circumcised his servants as a
type of Christianity. Barnabas knew, probably by inspiration, the exact
number who were circumcised, and tells us (chap, ix., p. 116): "Learn,
then, my children, concerning all things richly, that Abraham, the first
who enjoined circumcision, looking forward in spirit to Jesus, practised
that rite, having received the mysteries of the three letters. For [the
Scriptures] saith, 'And Abraham circumcised ten, and eight, and three
hundred men of his household." "What, then, was the knowledge given to
him in this? Learn the eighteen first, and then the three hundred. The
ten and eight are thus denoted--Ten by I, and Eight by H, you have [the
initials of the name of] Jesus. And because the cross was to express the
grace [of our redemption] by the letter T, he says also 'Three Hundred.'
He signifies, therefore, Jesus by two letters, and the cross by one. He
knows this, who has put within us the engrafted gift of His doctrine. No
one has been admitted by me to a more excellent piece of knowledge than
this, but I know that ye are worthy."

Verily Barnabas must have been full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.
No wonder he was "expressly set apart and sent forth to the work of
an apostle by the order of the Holy Ghost" (Acts xiii., 2--4). The
importance which he places upon numbers may be compared with that
assigned by the author of the book of Revelation. Barney tells us that
the world will last 6,000 years because it was made in six days, and the
inference is doubtless as true as the fact (?) on which it is based. His
system of finding types in the Old Testament has lasted in the Christian
Church to our own time, and derives countenance from several passages
of Paul. This most excellent piece of knowledge concerning Abraham
is hardly more far-fetched than saying that Levi paid tithes to
Mel-chisedek because he was potentially in the loins of his forefather
Abraham when he met him (Heb. vii., 9,10), or that Agar was a type of
Jerusalem (Gal. iv., 25).

Barney applies to Jesus the passage, Isaiah xlv., 1, "Thus saith the
Lord to his annointed, to _Cyrus_." This the Rev. J. Jones (p. 384)
calls "a wilful and designed mistake." But his reference to prophecies
are scarcely more disingenuously ingenious than Matthew's making Jesus
go to Egypt, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by
the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my son;" he dwelt at
Nazareth, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets,
He shall be called a Nazarene" (ii., 23); or, saying that Jesus spoke in
parables, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,
saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which
have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (xiii., 35). His
loose system of quotation may also be paralleled from the sacred
volume. In Matt, xxvii., 9, the passage from Zechariah xi., 12, 13, is
attributed to Jeremiah; in Mark i., 2, a quotation from Malachi iii., 1,
is ascribed to Isaiah; in 1 Corinth, ii., 9, a passage is quoted as Holy
Scriptures which is not found in the Old Testament, but is taken, as
Origen and Jerome state, from an apocryphal work, "The Revelation of

One more specimen of this Apostolical Father will suffice. It occurs
chap, xi., p. 118, and is as remarkable for the Levite's understanding
of the laws of Moses as for his information upon natural history: "'And
thou shalt not eat,' he says, 'the lamprey or the polypus, or the cuttle
fish.' He means, 'Thou shalt not join thyself to be like to such men as
are ungodly to the end and are condemned to death.' In like manner as
those fishes above accursed, float in the deep, not swimming like the
rest, but make their abode in the mud at the bottom. Moreover, 'Thou
shalt not,' he says, 'eat the hare.' Wherefore? 'Thou shalt not be a
corrupter of boys, nor like unto such.' Because the hare multiplies,
year by year, the places of its conception; for as many years as it
lives so many [----Gr.----] it has. Moreover, 'Thou shalt not eat the
hyena.' He means, 'Thou shalt not be an adulterer, nor corrupter,
nor like them that are such.' Wherefore? Because that animal annually
changes its sex, and is at one time male and at another female.
Moreover, he has rightly detested the weasel. For he means, 'Thou shalt
not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the
mouth, on account of their uncleanness; nor shalt thou be joined to
those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth. For this animal
conceives by the mouth.'" We will leave this shocking old Father with a
very serious question, as to the value of his testimony to the truth of


This Apostolic saint need not detain us long. He is alleged to have
been the identical babe taken up in the arms of Jesus as an example of
innocence and humility to his none too innocent or humble disciples.
But in truth his history is as untrustworthy and fabulous as that of the
other heroes of the early Christian Church. St. Chrysostom tells us
that Ignatius never saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and he might have added
neither did any of the other early Christian writers, with the possible
exception of the author of the Revelation; unless, like Paul, they saw
him in a trance. He is said to have been a Syrian Bishop of Antioch,
but, like the Galilean fishermen, to have written in Greek. Fifteen
epistles are ascribed to him, but of these eight are universally
admitted to be spurious, and the other seven are exceeding doubtful,
three only being found in the Syrian manuscript. Calvin said: "Nothing
can be more disgusting than those silly trifles which are edited in the
name of Ignatius." The reason for the Presbyterian's condemnation lay
in the stress which these epistles place upon Episcopacy. The writer
declares himself to have been inspired by the Spirit saying on this
wise: "Do nothing without the bishops (Phil. vii., p. 233). He says
bishops are to be looked on even as the Lord himself (ad. Ephes. vi., p.
152). Again, let all reverence deacons as Jesus Christ, of whose place
they are the keepers" (ad. "Trail.," chap, iii., p. 191), and "He who
honors the bishop has been honored by God; he who does anything without
the knowledge of the bishop does [in reality] serve the devil" (ad.
"Smyrn," chap, ix., p. 249).

Dr. Donaldson ("Apostolic Fathers," p. 102) says: "The writings now
ascribed to him present a problem which has not yet been solved"--"in
whatever form they be examined, they will be found to contain opinions
and exhibit modes of thought entirely unknown to any of the Ep-Apostolic

Ignatius, who was surnamed Theophorus, is said to have been martyred,
but the year in which his death occurred is among the obscurities of
early Christian chronology. It is alleged that he voluntarily courted
death by giving himself up as a Christian to Trajan when that emperor
was at Antioch, and that he was sent by a circuitous route all the way
to-Rome in order to be devoured by wild beasts there, or, apparently,
rather in order to write his epistles while a prisoner on his journey.
But no reference to this legend is to be traced during the first six
centuries of the Christian era. This absurd story is now generally
discredited. The life and writings of Ignatius must be classed in the
vast catalogue of Christian myths and fabrications.


Most of the little that is reported of this saint is also probably
mythical. His importance chiefly depends upon his being made the link
between the Apostle John and Irenæus, the first writer who towards the
close of the second century names the four Gospels.

Archbishop Usher ("Proleg. ad Ignat. Ep.," chap, iii.). thought Polycarp
was the angel of the Church at Smyrna, referred to in Revelations ii.,
8. A trivial objection to this is, that it would make Polycarp live
until 100 years afterwards, as the old father is alleged to have lived
on through all the early persecutions, only to suffer death in 167,
under the reign of the mild and gentle Antoninus. Later critics,
however, have decided that Statius Quadratus, under whom he is said to
have died, was pro-consul in a.d. 154-5 or 155-6--all of which shows
the very reliable nature of early Christian records. He is said to
have declared that he served Christ for eighty-six years, but learned
authorities are again divided as to whether he meant that as his age, or
as dating from the time of his conversion. Irenæus, from whom we get our
information concerning Polycarp, gives us the following choice anecdote,
which illustrates how these Christians loved one another: "There are
also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going
to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of
the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, 'Let us fly, lest even
the bathhouse fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is
within.' And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one
occasion and said, 'Dost thou know me?' 'I do know thee, the firstborn
of Satan'" ("Irenæus against Heresies," book iii., chap, iii., sec.
4., p. 263, Vol. V. "Ante-Nicene Christian Library"). In the so-called
Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, which consists of a string of
quotations from the Old Testament and Paul, occurs this passage: "For
whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is
antichrist; and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross,
is of the Devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his
own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment,
he is the first-born of Satan" (chap, xii., p. 73). Schwegler and
Hilgenfeld consider the insertion of this phrase, "firstborn of Satan,"
as proof of the inauthenticity of the Epistle. They argue that the
well-known saying was employed to give an appearance of reality to the
forgery. Nor are there wanting other indications of its spuriousness.
It refers to the mythical martyr journey of Ignatius, and while treating
him as dead in chapter ix., has him alive and kicking again in chapter

The Church of Smyrna is said to have issued an encyclical letter
detailing Polycarp's martyrdom, which is reported by that eminent Church
historian, or rather mythographist, Eusebius ("Ec. Hist.," iv., 15). It
relates how "as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to
him a voice from heaven, saying, 'Be strong, and show thyself a man O,
Polycarp.' No one saw who it was that spoke to him, but those of our
brethren who were present heard the voice" (chap, ix., p. 88). Upon
which Dr. Donaldson quietly says ("Apostolical Fathers," chap, iii.,
p. 202; 1874): "It is not very probable that there was any voice from
heaven; and it is improbable that there were Christians in the place to
hear the voice."

The old father proved to be of the asbestos-like nature of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego. "When he had pronounced this _amen_, and so
finished his prayer, those who were appointed for the purpose kindled
the fire. And as the flame blazed forth in great fury, we, to whom it
was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle, and have been preserved
that we might report to others what then took place. For the fire,
shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when
filled with wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And
he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that
is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace. Moreover, we
perceived such a sweet odor, as if frankincense or some precious
spice had been smoking there" (chap, xv., p. 92). But this divine
interposition was only to make a display--Polycarp was not to escape; he
was only saved from the flames to perish by the dagger. "At length, when
those wicked men perceived that his body could not be consumed by the
fire, they commanded an executioner to go near and pierce him through
with a dagger. And on doing this, there came forth a dove, and a great
quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished; and all the people
wondered that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers
and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having in
our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the
Catholic church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his
mouth either has been, or shall yet be, accomplished" (chap, xvi., p.
92). The account relates that Polycarp had a vision of his pillow on
fire, and prophesied therefrom that he should be burnt alive.

The dove which flew out of Polycarp's side proved him to have been
possessed of the Holy Ghost. Herodian relates that at the Apotheosis of
the Roman emperors it formed part of the solemnity to let an eagle fly
from out of the burning pile of wood on which the corpse of the new
deity was cremated, to intimate that this bird of Jove carried the
soul of the deceased to heaven. Lucian, in his account of the death of
Peregrinus, relates how he told the simpletons that at the death of this
Christian martyr, a vulture flew up out of the flames, taking his course
direct to the skies, and screaming out in an articulate voice, "Soaring
above the earth, I ascend to Olympus." The miracles at the death of
Polycarp may be just as true as that of the earthquake and the saints
having come out of their graves at the death of Jesus; but sceptics will
doubtless be found who consider, with Dr. Donaldson (p. 219), that "not
one of the facts has proper historical testimony for it."



The "Pastor" of Hermas, the editors of the _Ante Nicene Christian,
Library_ inform us in their Introductory notice (vol. I., p. 319), was
one of the most popular books, if not the most popular book, in the
Christian Church during the second, third, and fourth centuries. W.
Osburn, in his "Doctrinal Errors of the Early Fathers," p. 35, 1835,
declares--with much show of reason--it is "the silliest book that ever
exercised an influence over the human understanding." This gives a
sufficient gauge of the value of the judgment of those centuries. As
with all other early Christian writings, with the exception of some of
the epistles of Paul, much doubt exists as to its author. The earliest
opinion was that it was the production of the Hermas who is saluted by
Paul in his Epistle to the Romans xiv., 14. Origen, in his commentary
on the Romans (bk. x., 31), states this opinion distinctly, and it is
repeated by the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius (hi., 3.,), and by
Jerome in his work against heresies (iv., 20, 2). There is an early
Æthiopic version of Hermas which contains the curiously bold figment
that it was written by the Apostle Paul himself, under the title of
"Hermes," which name, as stated in the twelfth verse of the fourteenth
chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, was bestowed upon him by the
inhabitants of Lystra.

The Muratorian fragment on the Canon, however (the authorship of which
is unknown, but which may plausibly be dated about the year 200,)
asserts that "The 'Pastor' was written very lately in our times, in
the city of Rome, by Hermas, while Bishop Pius, his brother, sat in the
chair of the church of the city of Rome" (i.e., 142--157 A.C.), and
the best modern authorities since the time of Mosheim incline to this
opinion. Yet it is quite possible that the name of the author is as
fictitious as the contents of the work.

It is a threefold collection of visions, commandments, and similitudes.
The author claims to receive a divine message and to record the words of
angels, and there is evidence that in the early days of the Church
this claim was unquestioned. C. H. Hoole, in the introduction to his
translation of the work (p. xi.) says: "At the very earliest period it
was undoubtedly regarded as on a level with the canonical books of the
New Testament being distinctly quoted by Irenæus as Scripture." Irenæus,
as everyone knows, is the first who mentions the four Gospels by name.
Clement of Alexandria speaks of it as divine revelation (Strom. I.,
xxix). Origen claims it as inspired by God (loc. cit.) All the early
Fathers accepted its authority except Tertullian, and he only disputed
it after he became an heretical Montanist. In his orthodox works he too
cites it as part of Holy Scripture. Eusebius tells us that it was read
publicly in the churches, and it is found in the Sinaitic Codex of the
New Testament, together with the epistle of Barnabas, along with the
canonical books. Dupin ("Ecclesiastica Writers," p. 28, 1692,) says:"The
'Pastor' hath been admitted by many churches as canonical."

Hermes makes no mention of a Trinity nor of the Incarnation, and, though
he speaks of the Son of God, this Son of God seems to be the same as
the Holy Spirit. Of the man Jesus he makes no mention. When the Arians
appealed to this book its reputation sank with the orthodox party. About
the year 494 it was condemned in the decree of Pope Gelasius, and from
that time it has declined in public favor. Jerome, who in his Chronicon
had lauded it, in his commentary on Habakkuk taxes it with _stultia_
foolishness. And not unjustly. Its visions are almost as fantastic as
those recorded in the Apocalypse. Its divine revelations are about on a
level with the maudlin platitudes uttered through the lips of spiritist
trance mediums. Although so highly appreciated by the primitive
Christians, there are few among the moderns who would not find his
vagaries puerile and unreadable. He has a complete system of angelology.
"There are two angels with a man--one of righteousness, and the other of
iniquity--" (Commandment Sixth, chap, ii., p. 359,) and these originate
all evil and all good. There is even an angel over the beasts. Hermes is
acquainted with this angel's name. It is Thegri (Vision iv., 2, p. 346).
From these angels he receives much valueless information. Mosheim says
of his work: "It seems to have been written by a man scarcely sane,
since he thought himself at liberty to invent conversations between
God and angels, for the sake of giving precepts, which he considered
salutary, a more ready entrance into the minds of his readers. But
celestial spirits with him talk greater nonsense than hedgers, or
ditchers, or porters among ourselves" (Ec. Hist., pt. ii., chap, ii.,
sec. 21; vol. i., p. 69,1863). If we bear in mind that this book was the
most popular among the primitive Christians, we shall have a good idea
of the extent of their attainments. In his work on Christian affairs
before the time of Constantine, Mosheim gives his opinion of this Father
that "he knowingly and wilfully was guilty of a cheat." "At the time
when he wrote," continues Mosheim, "it was an established maxim with
many of the Christians, that it was pardonable in an advocate for
religion to avail himself of fraud and deception, if it were likely
that they might conduce towards the attainment of any considerable good"
(vol. i., p. 285; Vidal tr., 1813). He has also been deemed the forger
of the Sibylline oracles. It is curious that in his second vision he
confounds an old woman, who is said to represent the Church, with the
Sibyl (Ch. iv., p. 331). Neither his reputation for veracity nor the
value of his ethical teaching, as given by angels, is enhanced by his
statement that when commanded to love the truth he said to his angelic
messenger: "I never spoke a true word in my life, but have ever spoken
cunningly to all, and have affirmed a lie for the truth to all; and no
one ever contradicted me, but credit was given to my words." Whereupon
the divine visitor informs him that if he keeps the commandments now,
"even the falsehoods which you formerly told in your transactions may
come to be believed through the truthfulness of your present statements.
For even they can become worthy of credit" (Commandment Third, p. 351).

The testimony of such a man would be of very little value indeed, but it
is certain that he gives none whatever to the New Testament, and this,
although his writings are the most extensive of any of the Apostolic
Fathers. Dr. Teschendorf even does not suggest that Hermas gives
any indication of acquaintance with our Gospels, and although Canon
Westcott, who admits "it contains no definite quotation from either Old
or New Testament" (on the Canon, p. 200, 1881), strives to show that
some of his similitudes, such as that of the Church to a tower, may have
been derived from the New Testament, Canon Sanday, another Christian
apologist, admits that these references are very doubtful. The only
direct quotation from Scripture is from a part which is not included in
our Holy Bible, and which, indeed, is no longer extant. In the Second
Vision, chap. iii., he says: "The Lord is near to them who return unto
Him, as it is written in Eldad and Modat, who prophesied to the people
in the wilderness." In Numbers xi, 26, 27, we read of Eldad and Medad
who prophesied in the camp, and a book under their name appears in the
Stichometria of Nicephorus among the apocrypha of the Old Testament.

Having thus cursorily reviewed the writings of the first five Fathers,
who are usually, though unwarrantably, denominated "Apostolic," we will
briefly examine


The matter indeed might be summarily dismissed with the remark that they
afford no testimony to the Gospels whatever. But so much stress is laid
upon them in this respect by orthodox writers (and necessarily so, for
if the so-called Apostolical Fathers testify not of the Gospels, there
is no evidence of their existence until the latter half of the second
century) that we must pause and examine how far they bear the burden
that is laid upon them.

We have already seen that both the age and the authorship of every one
of these works is of a most doubtful character. The names of every
one of the twelve apostles, of Paul, of Ignatius, of Polycarp, of the
Diognetus mentioned in Acts xvii, 34, of Clement, of Linus, and of other
early Christians of repute, have been appended to the most unblushing
forgeries. Among these so-called genuine remains, as found in Archbishop
Wake's version and the Ante-Nicene Christian Library, those attributed
to Barnabas and Hermas are almost as certainly forged. Of the epistles
assigned to Ignatius, Professor Andrews Norton says: "There is, as
it seems to me, no reasonable doubt that the seven shorter epistles
ascribed to Ignatius are, equally with all the rest, fabrications of a
date long subsequent to his time" ("The Evidence of the Genuineness
of the Gospels," p. 350, vol. i., 2nd ed., 1847). The second of the
epistles attributed to Clement is recognised by most scholars as
spurious. The only remaining documents which we can at all allow to
be genuine are the first epistle of Clement and that of Polycarp. Even
these have not been undisputed. The former has been challenged as a
forgery by Mr. J. M. Cotterill, in a curious work, entitled "Peregrinus
Proteus," published by T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1879; and the
latter by Blondel, Schwegler, Hilgenfeld, Tayler, and others, and it is
generally allowed to be interpolated.

Dr. Giles ("Christian Records," p. 109, 1877,) says: "The writings
of the Apostolical Fathers labor under a more heavy load of doubt and
suspicion than any other ancient compositions either sacred or profane.
In former times, when the art of criticism was in its infancy, these
writings were ten times as extensive as they are now, and they were
circulated without the slightest doubt of their authenticity. But,
as the spirit of inquiry grew, and the records of past time were
investigated, the mists which obscured the subject were gradually
dispersed, and the light of truth began to shine where there had
previously been nothing but darkness. Things which had chained and
enslaved the mind for ages, dissolved and faded into nothing at the
dawn of day, and objects that once held the most unbounded sway over the
belief, proved to be unreal beings, creatures of superstition, if not
of fraud, placed like the lions in the path of the pilgrim, to deter him
from proceeding on the way that leads to the heavenly city of truth."

In another place Dr. Giles remarks in regard to the question of the age
and authorship of the these Fathers: "The works which have been written
on this question are almost as numerous as those which concern the age,
authorship, and authenticity of the Gospels themselves, but the general
issue of the inquiries which have been instituted, has been unfavorable
to the antiquity of these works as remains of writers who were
contemporary with the Apostles, but favorable to the theory that they
are productions of the latter half of the second century. That was the
time when so many Christian writings came into existence, and all the
records of our religion were sedulously sought out, because tradition
was then becoming faint, original and even secondary witnesses had gone
off the stage, and the great increase of the Christian community gave
birth to extended curiosity about its early history, whilst it furnished
greater safety to those who employed themselves in its service"
("Christian Records," chap, xi., p. 89).

If the Gospels were written by eye-witnesses of the miracles, and these
so-called Apostolic Fathers had conversed with them, it is scarcely
credible that they would have omitted to name the actual books
themselves which possessed such high authority. This is the only way
in which their evidence could be of real service to support the
authenticity of the New Testament writings as being the work of
Apostles. But this they fail to supply. There is not a single sentence
in all their remaining works in which an unmistakeable allusion to the
Gospels, as we have them, is to be found. It is in vain that Christian
evidence-mongers appeal to their citations of certain sayings of Jesus
or certain doctrines of Christianity. No one disputes that these were in
general vogue early in the second century. But the point to be proved to
the Rationalist is that the supernatural events of the four Gospels were
testified to by eye-witnesses, who published their accounts at the time
and in the place where the alleged supernatural occurrences took place.
And of this the Apostolic Fathers afford no scrap of evidence. Of the
supernatural history of Jesus they know no more than Paul. They neither
mention his immaculate conception nor his miracles; nor do they refer
to any of the circumstances connected with his alleged material
resurrection. This especially applies to the possibly genuine writings
of Clement and Polycarp. Hermas, as we have mentioned, has no reference
to any of the acts of Jesus. Barnabas has an allusion to "great signs
and wonders which were wrought in Israel," but he does not say what
they were nor when they happened. Ignatius alone, in a probably spurious
epistle to the Ephesians, chap, xix, alludes to the virginity of Mary,
her offspring, and the death of the Lord as "three mysteries of renown;"
but the details he gives concerning the brilliant star which appeared,
and how all the rest of the stars and the sun and moon formed a chorus
to this star, and its light was exceedingly "great above them all,"
and how "every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness
disappeared," show that the writer referred to other sources of
information than those found in Matthew and Luke. In the full part of
the ninth chapter of the epistle to the Trallians,' he gives almost the
whole of the Apostles creed. This in itself would be sufficient evidence
of its spuriousness.

Stress is laid by all writers on the external evidences upon certain
alleged quotations from our gospels, which are said to be found in the
early Fathers. But the question naturally arises, if they considered
them to be of Apostolic authority why did they not mention them by name?
They say Moses says, but they never say Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John
says. They cite the words of Jesus, but not of his Evangelists. They
also say "The Lord _said_" rather than saith, which indicates they were
rather indebted to tradition than to written accounts. Irenæus says he
heard Polycarp repeat the oral relations of John and of other hearers
of the Lord, and Clement may have received his knowledge in the same
manner. We shall see from the testimony of Papias that he at least
preferred tradition to the books with which he was acquainted. Moreover,
such quotations of the sayings of Jesus as occur are never given in the
same words nor in the same order. Attempts are made to account for this
by saying that they quoted loosely from memory. But is it likely they
would quote loosely words which they believed to be written by the
inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This does not say much for their
intellectual ability. Clement and Polycarp, for instance, both give, "Be
pitiful that ye may be pitied," word for word; while the Gospel shews,
"Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." Clement says,
"Forgive that it may be forgiven you;" Polycarp, "Forgive and it shall
be forgiven you." The nearest to which is, "For if ye forgive men their
trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Such facts have constrained Mr. Sanday to admit in his work on the
Gospels in the Second Century that "The author of Supernatural Religion
is not without reason when he says they may be derived from other
collections than our actual Gospels" (p. 87, 1876.) Canon Westcott
himself in summing up the results says:-- "(1) No Evangelic reference in
the Apostolic Fathers can be referred certainly to a written record. (2)
It appears most probable from the form of the quotations that they were
derived from oral tradition" (p. 63, 1881.) We shall see, however, that
whether they went to other collections or relied upon oral traditions,
their Evangelic references are never exactly the same as in our gospels.
They manifestly had other sources of information. Moreover it must be
borne in mind that the Christian sayings very frequently crept into the
text by way of gloss. An illustration of this kind of interpolation is
found in the "Epistle of Barnabas," chap, xix., p. 133, where we read,
"Thou shalt not hesitate to give, nor murmur when thou givest." "_Give
to everyone that asketh thee_, and thou shalt know who is the good
Recompenser of the reward." But for this supposed quotation being
omitted in the oldest MS., the "Codex Seaiticus," it would be considered
evidence that the writer of the epistle was quoting from Luke vi.,
30. In copying manuscripts there was no such strictness as in a modern
printing-office, where "follow your copy" is the compositor's rule. If
a transcriber at the time when our Gospels were in vogue (and be it
remembered we have no manuscripts either of the Fathers or of the New
Testament older than the fourth or fifth century after Jesus) saw a
quotation different from the way in which he had been accustomed to
see it, he would not hesitate to alter it So that many of the alleged
literal quotations from our Gospels may be only emendations of the
scribes who found the quotations were wrong and put them right. Dr.
Donaldson, in the introduction to his Apostolical Fathers, chap, iii.,
p. 27, tells us how "Each transcriber, as he copied, inserted the notes
of previous readers into the text, and often from his heated imagination
added something himself." He also informs us (p. 28) "That we know
for certain that even in the second and third centuries the letters of
bishops and others were excised and interpolated in their lifetime." So
pure is the stream through which our Gospels have descended!

The able and learned author of "Supernatural Religion" well puts the
argument: "When, therefore, in early writings, we meet with quotations
closely resembling, or we may add, even identical with passages
which are found in our Gospels, the source of which, however, is not
mentioned, nor is any author's name indicated, the similarity or even
identity cannot by any means be admitted as proof that the quotation is
necessarily from our Gospels, and not from some other similar work now
no longer extant, and more especially not when, in the same writings,
there are other quotations from sources different from our Gospels"
(vol. i., pp. 213, 214, 1879.) That citations similar to those found in
our Gospels are not necessarily taken therefrom may be instanced from
Ignatius, or the writer who used his name who in his Epistle to the
Smyrnæans, chap, iii., p. 242, says: "When, for instance, He came to
those who were with Peter He said to them: 'Lay hold, handle me and see
that I am not an incorporeal spirit.'" According to Jerome (Vir. Illust.
16) this quotation is from the Gospel of the Nazarenes. But for
this direct statement, it would of course be assigned by orthodox
traditionalists to a quotation from memory of Luke xxiv., 39. Origen,
however, quoted this self-same passage from another work well known in
the early Church, but since lost or destroyed, the "Preaching of Peter."

But whilst similarity would not prove their use, variation from the
Gospels is the best proof that they were not used. Such passages abound.
Clement, for instance, says: "Our Apostles also knew, through the Lord
Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the episcopate"
(chap, xliv., p. 38.) He says "it is written cleave to the holy, for
those that cleave to them shall themselves be made holy" (chap, xlvi.,
p. 40.) He also quotes (chap. 1., p. 43) "I will remember a propitious
day, and will raise you up out of your tombs," which is probably from
the apocryphal fourth book of Ezra. Barnabas declares: "The Lord says
'He has accomplished a second fashioning in these last days. The Lord
says I will make the last like the first'" (chap, vi., p. 3, Sinaitic.)
He quotes as a saying of Jesus: "Those who wish to behold me, and lay
hold of my kingdom, must through tribulation and suffering obtain me"
(chap, vii., p. 114.) And again: "For the Scripture saith, 'And it shall
come to pass in the last days that the Lord will deliver up the sheep of
His pasture and their sheepfold and tower to destruction" (chap, xvi.,
p. 129.) Other instances might be given. In the second Epistle of
Clement there are at least five such passages, but these suffice to show
that other documents than the Gospels were referred to, and that even
where the sentiment is similar the expression is different It must
be borne in mind also that we have it on the authority of Luke in his
preface that already in his time _many_ had taken in hand to set forth
in order a declaration of those things which were most surely believed
among Christians.

Mosheim, in his "Ecclesiastical History" (pt. ii., chap. ii., sec. 17,
p. 65, Stubbs' ed., 1863) speaks of "A variety of commentaries, filled
with impostures and fables, on our Savior's life and sentiments composed
soon after his ascent into heaven, by men who without being bad,
perhaps were superstitious, simple, and piously deceitful. To these
were afterwards added other writings, falsely ascribed to the most holy
apostles by fraudulent individuals." But these fraudulent individuals
were Christians, and the purpose of their frauds was to subserve the
interests of the Church. We have record of many other Gospels, not to
mention Acts of Apostles and Revelations. Some of these were certainly
anterior to our own. Such were probably the Gospel of Paul, whence
Marcion's Gospel and Luke's were derived, the Gospel of Peter from
which possibly Mark was compiled. The Oracles or Sayings of Jesus which
probably entered into the construction of Matthew together with the
Gospel to the Hebrews. The Gospel of the Egyptians, which we have
already seen as quoted by Clement, the original of which C. B. Waite
thinks "may have been in use among the Therapeutæ of Egypt a long time
before the introduction of Christianity, the passages relating to Christ
being afterwards added" ("History of the Christian Religion to the
year 200," p. 77, Chicago, 1881.) According to Origen, Theophylact and
Jerome, this Gospel was written before the Gospel of Luke, and many
learned moderns have deemed it earlier than any of the Canonical
Gospels. At least contemporary with these were the Gospel of James
or Protevangelion, the Gospel of Thomas or Infancy, and the Gospel of
Nicodemus or Acts of Pilate, all of which remain, although the Christian
Church has lost the doubtless equally respectable Gospels of Matthias,
of Philip, of Bartholomew, of Andrew, and even of Judas Iscariot.


We have thus far seen that the five earliest Fathers of the Christian
Church have no claim to be considered Apostolic, and that, so far from
bearing testimony to the authenticity of our canonical Gospels, their
own age and authorship are disputed. We have noticed that their works
never mention by name any of the writers of the New Testament with the
exception of Paul; that the sayings they ascribe to Jesus, while often
similar to those found in our Gospels, are never identical with them,
and that they contain much that is evidently derived from other sources.
We have in addition seen that there were numerous Gospels current in the
early days of the Christian Church; thus confirming the account of Luke
that _many_ had taken in hand to set forth in order the things believed
among them.

The early Christian ages were characterised by anything rather than
by investigation, or even by accuracy of representation. Deception
in literary productions appears to have been the rule rather than
the exception. It was not only practised but defended. The author of
"Supernatural Religion" says of these Fathers (pp. 460--1, vol. 1,
1879):--"No fable could be too gross, no invention too transparent, for
their unsuspicious acceptance, if it assumed a pious form or tended to
edification. No period in the history of the world ever produced so many
spurious works as the first two or three centuries of our era. The name
of every Apostle, or Christian teacher, not excepting that of the great
Master himself, was freely attached to every description of
religious forgery. False gospels, epistles, acts, martyrologies, were
unscrupulously circulated, and such pious falsification was not even
intended or regarded as a crime, but perpetrated for the sake of
edification. It was only slowly and after some centuries that many of
these works, once, as we have seen, regarded with pious veneration, were
excluded from the canon; and that genuine works shared this fate, whilst
spurious ones usurped their places, is one of the surest results of

Yet we are to suppose that while words written for edification were
falsely ascribed to other Apostles, it was utterly impossible with
regard to our four Evangelists. We shall be better able to judge this
question upon examining the testimony of the first person who mentions
the writings of the first two.


The first information we get concerning this Father shows him to have
been acquainted with other stories than those found in our Gospels. It
occurs in Irenæus against Heresies (book v., chap. xxxiii., sec. 3 and
4, p. 146, vol. ix., _Ante-Nicene Christian Library_). Speaking of the
rewards which will come in the flesh to Christians, he tells us that
"elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord, related that they had
heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to these times,
and say: The days will come in which vines shall grow, each having ten
thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in
each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten
thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes,
and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine.
And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another cry
out, 'I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.'"

Taking Smith's Bible Dictionary as authority for the value of a metrete,
viz., eight and two-thirds of a gallon, it follows that the product of
one millenial grape-vine will make a quantity of wine equal in bulk to
the planet Mercury, and allowing to the thousand million of the earth's
inhabitants enough to keep them constantly intoxicated, say two gallons
of wine a day to each person, it would keep them all dead drunk for
the space of thirty thousand million years! What a jolly old Father was
this! or, if he is to believed, what a jolly Jesus to promise and
jolly John to report such a millenial prospect. It beats the Mahommedan
Paradise. Irenæus continues:--

"In like manner [the Lord declared] that a grain of wheat would produce
ten thousand ears, and that every ear should have ten thousand grains,
and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and
that all other fruit-bearing trees, and seeds and grass, would produce
in similar proportions; and that all animals feeding on the productions
of the earth should become peaceful and harmonious among each other,
and be in perfect subjection to man. Sec. 4. And these things are borne
witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of
Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled by him.
And he says in addition, 'Now these things are credible to believers.'
And he says that when the traitor Judas did not give credit to them,
and put the question, 'How then can things, about to bring forth so
abundantly, be wrought by the Lord? The Lord declared, They who shall
come to these [times] shall see.'" Which, in evasiveness, is on a par
with some of the utterances of Jesus in the Gospels. Dr. Donaldson
("Apostolical Fathers," p. 897,1874,) says: "There is nothing improbable
in the statement that the Lord spoke in some such way, and it is not at
all improbable that Papias took literally what was meant for allegory."
Dr. Giles seems to concur in the view that Papias repeated words of

J. Jones (on the Canon, vol. i., p. 370,1827,) thinks Papias both
the manufacturer of the doctrine of the Millenium and of this passage
ascribed to Christ calculated to support it. The idea he considers
borrowed from the Jews. Perhaps it was, but it certainly finds some
countenance in the Apocalypse.

The statement that Papias was a hearer of the Apostle John conflicts
with the account in Eusebius (Ec. Hist, iii., 89), which implies that he
received information from John the Presbyter after all the Apostles were
dead. According to Eusebius (Ec. Hist, iii, 36,) and Jerome (De Viri
Illust. xviii.), Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis, a city of Phyrgia.
He is supposed to have suffered martyrdom about 163 or 167. His work, in
five books, was entitled "An Exposition of the Oracles (or Words) of
the Lord." Eusebius, in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History,
chapter 39, gives us most of our information about Papias. His estimate
of him, as a man of very limited understanding, does not deter us from
regretting the loss of his writings. The fragments which remain cast
such radiance on some of the dark points of the Christian evidences.
Paley and all the school of evidence-writers cite him as proving the
existence of our Matthew and Mark. But he is now generally seen to prove
the very reverse.

Let us first examine his statement in regard to Matthew. As given on
the authority of Eusebius, it reads that "Matthew composed the _logia_
[oracles or sayings] in the Hebrew dialect, and everyone interpreted
them as he was able."

Now it is somewhat curious that Papias, probably in the second half
of the second century, should be the first to give currency to the
tradition that Matthew wrote a Gospel if that Gospel had been in
existence 100 years.

But that the work referred to was not the same we now have is manifest
from its name _logia_, discourses, sayings, or oracles. It would be an
utter misnomer for an historical narrative beginning with a detailed
history of the genealogy, birth and infancy of Jesus, and the preaching
of John the Baptist, and concluding with an equally minute account
of his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, giving all his
movements and miracles, and which has for its evident aim throughout the
demonstration that Jesus was the Messiah. Our Gospel, not written by,
_but according to_ Matthew, has no such title.

Moreover, ours is a Greek and not a Hebrew Gospel. The testimony
of Papias on this point is explicit It is, moreover, confirmed by a
consensus of all the Fathers: Irenæus, Pantænus, Origen, Eusebius,
Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Augustine, and all others
who allude to Matthew's Gospel declare that it was written in Hebrew.
Now our Gospel is considered by the most competent authorities an
original document. There is no ground whatever for considering it a
translation, even if we knew that Matthew's Gospel had been properly
translated, instead of everyone interpreting it as he was able. Many
of the quotations in it from the Old Testament are taken not from the
Hebrew but directly from the Greek Septuagint. Its turns of language
have the stamp of Greek idiom, and could not have come in through
translation. So that there is no reason for even indirectly connecting
our Canonical Gospel according to Matthew with the _logia_ which Papias
had heard were composed by him.

This position is somewhat strengthened when we find in the Fragments
of Papias, p. 442: "Judas walked about in this world a sad example of
impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not
pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot,
so that his bowels gushed out." Theophylact, after quoting this passage,
adds other particulars, as if they were derived from Papias. He says
that Judas's eyes were so swollen that they could not see the light,
that they were so sunk that they could not be seen, even by the optical
instruments of physicians; that the rest of his body was covered with
runnings and worms, etc.

If Papias knew from Matthew that Judas had already hanged himself, and
further from the Acts of the Apostles that he had fallen headlong in
a field and burst asunder, it was really too hard to inflict on poor
oft-killed Judas these additional cruelties. Surely it were better
_that_ man had never been born, though in that case we know not how
Christian Salvation would have been brought to the world. It seems as if
each new Christian writer felt himself at liberty to invent a new death
for Judas, who was divinely appointed to bring about their redemption.
By Paul's saying Jesus appeared to the twelve (1 Cor. xv., 5), it is
evident he knew nothing of Judas's suicide.

Among the fragmentary remains of Papias is one found in Eusebius, who
tells us that: "He also relates the story of a woman accused of many
crimes, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews."
It would thence appear likely that if Papias saw and quoted from any
Gospel, though we have no other evidence than this that he did either,
it was from the Gospel to the Hebrews, which some have thought the
original of Matthew, and which would agree with the language in which he
declares Matthew to have written. Orthodox writers endeavor to make out
that here Papias alludes to the story found in the eighth chapter of
John. But surely if Eusebius knew the story in John was the same he
would not have ascribed it to another Gospel. In truth there is no
evidence that John's narrative of the woman taken in adultery was extant
even in the time of Eusebius. It is an undoubted interpolation contained
in no ancient manuscript of value, and may have been taken from some
tradition similar to that found in Papias, yet certainly not the same
since Papias speaks of many crimes, John only of one.

We think the reader will agree with Dr. Samuel Davidson, who in his
"Introduction to the Study of the New Testament," vol. i., p. 383, 1882,
says: "There is no tangible evidence to connect the present Gospel
with the Apostle Matthew." Even the orthodox apologist, Neander, admits
"Matthew's Gospel, in its present form, was not the production of the
Apostle whose name it bears, but was _founded_ on an account written by
him in the Hebrew language, chiefly (but not wholly) for the purpose
of presenting the discourses of Christ in a collective form" ("Life of
Christ," cap. ii., sec. 4, p. 7). An admission sufficient to destroy the
credit of any profane work much less a divinely inspired record of the
sayings and doings of an alleged God.

The author of "Supernatural Religion," vol. i. p. 486, 1879, says: "It
is manifest from the evidence adduced, however, that Papias did not
know, our Gospels. It is not possible that he could have found it better
to inquire 'What John or Matthew, or what any other of the disciples of
the Lord.... say, if he had known of Gospels such as ours, and believed
them to have been actually written by those Apostles, deliberately
telling him what they had to say. The work of Matthew being, however, a
mere collection of discourses of Jesus, he might naturally inquire what
the Apostle himself said of the history and teaching of the Master. The
evidence of Papias is in every respect most important. He is the first
writer who mentions that Matthew and Mark were believed to have written
any works at all; but whilst he shows that he does not accord
any canonical authority even to the works attributed to them, his
description of those works and his general testimony comes with crushing
force against the pretensions made on behalf of our Gospels to Apostolic
origin and authenticity."

We will now look at his testimony to Mark. "Mark," he tells us, "having
become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he
remembered, though he did not arrange in order the sayings or deeds
of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him. But
afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his
instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention
of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made
no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one
thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard and not
to put anything fictitious into the statements."

This description likewise shows that our actual second Gospel could not,
in its present form, have been the work of the Mark referred to. Mark or
Marcus was an extremely common name in the early Christian period.

In the first place, our Gospel is no more like a man's preaching than it
is like an epic poem. It has, moreover, no Petrine characteristics. Mark
does not give the important passage about Christ's church being built
upon Peter (Matt, xvi., 18); nor the distinguishing addition "called
Peter," in the calling of Simon; nor the narrative of Peter's miraculous
draught of fishes; of his walking on the sea; his being sent to prepare
the Passover, or the reproachful look of Jesus when Peter denied him. It
also omits the expression "bitterly" when the cock crew, and Peter wept.
These omissions have been attributed to Peter's excessive modesty. Apart
from the absence of any evidence of this trait in the Apostle whom Paul
withstood to his face because he was to be blamed, it must have been a
peculiar kind of modesty indeed to omit important passages and events
lest the chief Apostle should seem too prominent, and to suppress the
bitterness of his penitence!

But Irenæus tells us the Gospel of Mark was written after Peter's death,
while Clement of Alexandria makes out that he wrote it at the request of
friends which, when Peter knew, he neither hindered nor encouraged.
So from these accounts, neither of which accord with Papias, it would
appear that Mark had no motive for lessening the prominence of Peter.
Peter is alleged to have died about the year 60; so that, Papias dying
about the year 165, and writing late in life, his evidence on behalf of
Mark's Gospel would be about 100 years after it is alleged to have been
written. This applies with equal force to Matthew. But so marvellous
are the contents of these Gospels that even the most certain evidence of
their existence 100 years later would be very unsatisfactory.

It will also be noticed that Papias no more mentions a _Gospel_ of Mark
than he does of Matthew. What he speaks of is not an inspired narrative,
but records written from memory. Now if Mark wrote from memory he did
not write from inspiration. The argument for the genuineness of the
Gospel is at the expense of its inspiration. But the evidence from the
numerous passages in which Mark agrees with Matthew and with Luke is
overwhelming that it is not an original document written from memory
at all, but with the writer having other documents directly before him.
This is admitted by all the best critics.

Papias says Mark did not arrange in order the things which were said and
done by Christ, and that he was careful to omit none of the things which
he heard. How can this apply to our Gospel, which we have seen omits
many most important things with which Peter was most especially
concerned, and which moreover is the most orderly and consecutive of the
Gospels. Canon Sanday says ("Gospels in the Second Century," p. 151):
"The second Gospel _is_ written in order, it is _not_ an original
document. These two characteristics make it improbable that it is in its
present shape the document to which Papias alludes." And again (p. 155):
"Neither of the two first Gospels, as we have them, complies with the
conditions of Papias' description to such an extent that we can claim
Papias as a witness to them." Once more (p. 159), "I am bound in candor
to say that, so far as I can see myself at present, I am inclined to
agree with the author of 'Supernatural Religion' against his critics,
that the works to which Papias alludes cannot be our present Gospels in
their present form."

Dr. Davidson (Introduction to N. T., vol. i., p. 539, 1882,) declares:
"A careful examination of Papias's testimony shows that it does not
relate to our present Gospel, nor bring Mark into connection with it as
its author. All we learn from it is, that Mark wrote notes of a Gospel
which was not our canonical one."

The description of Papias would lead us to expect, not a regularly
concocted Gospel, but fragmentary reminiscences of Peter's preaching. It
seems altogether more likely that the allusion is to the work known
as the "Preaching of Peter," which was undoubtedly popular in early
Christian times, and which was used by Heracleon and Clement of
Alexandria as authentic canonical Scripture. Since Papias gives no
quotations whatever from these alleged writings of Matthew and Mark the
whole matter remains a bare tradition resting on the authority of this
weak-minded Father. We are unaware if he took the slightest pains to
test the truth of the statements made. It is highly improbable that he
did anything of the kind. Dupin says: "The judgment that ought to be
given concerning him is that which hath been already given by Eusebius,
that is to say, that he was a very good man, but very credulous, and of
very mean parts, who delighted much in hearing and telling stories and
miracles. And since he was exceedingly inquisitive, and inclined to
believe everything that was told him, it is not to be admired that he
hath divulged divers errors and extravagant notions as the judgments of
the Apostles, and hath given us fabulous narratives for real histories,
which shows that nothing is so dangerous in matters of religion, as
lightly to believe, and too greedily to embrace, all that hath the
appearance of piety without considering in the first place how true it
is" ("A New History of Ecclesiastical Writers," vol. i., p. 50, 1692).

Traditions coming from such a source could be of very little value. It
is, however, certain that Papias preferred tradition to any book with
which he was acquainted He says: "For I imagined that what was to be
got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living
abiding voice "--a saying which doubtless included the books of Matthew
and Mark he referred to, and possibly others of the "many" who had
written "a declaration of those things which are surely believed among
us," referred to by Luke. Jeremiah Jones thinks he refers to spurious
productions, as "he never would have said this concerning any inspired
book" ("New and Full Method of Settling the Canonical Authority of
the New Testament," vol. i., p. 24). The idea of a Christian bishop
preferring uncertain tradition to the sure and certain testimony of an
infallibly inspired revelation is well-nigh incredible to a Protestant

This extreme credulity is evinced throughout the slight fragments which
has come down to us. He relates on the authority of Philip's daughters
that a man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another
miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly
poison and received no harm. After this we are not surprised at the
information that the government of the world's affairs was left to
angels, and that they made a mess of it. It is noticeable that while
mentioning Matthew and Mark, and especially mentioning John, he never
ascribes to the latter any such writing as our fourth Gospel The only
saying which he does ascribe to him: "The days shall come when vines
shall grow, having each ten thousand branches," etc., is not only
uncanonical but entirely dissimilar to the style of both Gospel and
First Epistle, though not to that of the Apocalypse. Dr. Davidson
considers his notices of St. John preclude Papias from having believed
him to be the author of a Gospel Had he known of such a document he
would surely have mentioned it as much as Matthew and Mark, and Eusebius
would not have failed to reproduce the testimony.

Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, seems to have been a fair average specimen
of the early Christian. Probably he was very devout and pious, but most
certainly he was not strong in intellect, and was ready to give credence
to old wives' tales concerning the Christ or his Apostles. It is
upon such authorities as these that the whole fabric of historical
Christianity rests.



Justin, who is said to have derived his surname from having suffered
martyrdom about a.d. 166-167, is the first of the Fathers who shows any
detailed acquaintance with the statements found in the Gospels. A large
number of spurious works have been attributed to him, but we take as
genuine the Apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew. In the first
of these (chap, xlvi.) he indicates that he wrote about 150 years after
the birth of Jesus. He was born at Neapolis in Palestine, being by
descent a Greek, and in the early part of his life a heathen. He tells
us he was converted to Christianity by an old man, whom his biographer,
Father Halloix, thinks may have been an incarnate angel. Tillemont, the
learned Catholic historian, considers this highly probable. Fabricius
thought it was Bishop Polycarp, but Credner considers the narrative
a fiction. It is difficult to believe that his Apologies were ever
presented to the Roman Emperors or that his Dialogue with the Jew
represents an actual controversy with an opponent.

Dr. Jortin speaks of Justin as "of a warm and credulous temper"
("Remarks on Ecclesiastical History," chap, xv., p. 243, vol. i., 1846),
aind Mosheim declares "The learned well know that Justin Martyr is not
to be considered in every respect as an oracle, but that much of what
he relates is wholly undeserving of credit" ("Commentaries," vol i.,
p. 112; 1813). The Rev. John Jones includes him among those who did not
scruple to use forged writings.

In chapters 20 and 44 of his first Apology, for instance, he appeals
to the Sibylline book of prophecies respecting Christ and his kingdom,
which it has been proved to a demonstration by David Blondell and
others, were forged by some early Christians with a view to persuading
the ignorant and unsuspecting heathen that their oracles had
foretold Christ. Celsus, the heathen, detected and pointed out this
falsification.* He quotes spurious productions of Hystaspes, of Orpheus
and Sophocles, in which Christians had foisted their own ideas. For
not content with counterfeiting the writings of celebrities among
themselves, they were equally unscrupulous in regard to the writings of
the Pagans.

     * Origen, bk. vii;, 53; p. 475:--The Sibyl was appealed to
     by Theophilus and other early Christian apologists. The
     author of "Questiones et Responsiones ad Orthodoxos," a work
     falsely ascribed to Justin, says that Clement of Rome, in
     his epistle to the Corinthians, appeals to the writings of
     the Sibyl. In the present version there is no such allusion.

Justin confidently affirms that Plato and Aristophanes mention the
ancient Sibyl as a prophetess, and he gravely relates concerning her
being the daughter of Berosus, who wrote the Chaldean history.

He says (1st Apol., chap. xxi., p. 25): "And when we say also that the
Word, who is the first birth of God, was produced without sexual union,
and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose
again and ascended into heaven, we propound _nothing different_ from
what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter." He
argues (chap, xxiii., p. 27) that devils inspired the heathen poets and
priests to relate beforehand the Christian narratives as having already
happened; and makes out (chap, liv.) that the devils, knowing
the prophetic words of Moses, invented the stories of Bacchus and
Bellorophon; "And when they heard it said by the other prophet Isaiah
that he should be born of a virgin, and by his own means ascend into
heaven, they pretended that Perseus was spoken of." And so with Hercules
and Æculapius. All of which puts us in mind of the learned divine who
argued that God put the fossils into the earth less than 6000 years
ago, in order to deceive the geologists and exhibit the vanity of human

Justin also informs us (Apol., lxvi.) that through the suggestions
of wicked demons, bread and wine were placed before the persons to be
initiated into the mysteries of Mithras in imitation of the Eucharist.
He could believe that Jesus, sitting at a table, actually offered his
own body and blood to eat and drink, but the idea that the Christian
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was copied from the Mysteries never
struck him. Having plenty of devils he put them to a deal of use. He
tells us how they came into existence: "God committed the care of men
and of all things under heaven to angels whom he appointed over them.
But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by
love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons"
(2nd Apol. v., p. 75). These subdued the human race partly by magical
writings and partly by fears and punishments. Not content with inventing
the heathen mythology they raised up the Samaritans, Simon and Menander,
"who did many mighty works by magic." This is what he says the Jews said
of Jesus (Dial, chap. Ixix). Justin twice has the audacity to assert
that the Romans erected a statue to the Samaritan Simon, as a god. He
gives the inscription Simoni Deo Sancto. To Simon the Holy God. This, if
not a fraud, was a very gross error. Apart from the unlikelihood of the
story and its absence of corroboration by any heathen writer, a fragment
has been found with the inscription "Semoni Sanco Deo," being probably
the base of a statue erected to the Sabine Deity, Semo Sancus. He
further charges the Romans with human sacrifices in celebrating the
mysteries of Saturn; a charge absolutely false and unsupported by
any Pagan author, although repeated by the Christian Fathers, Tatian,
Cyprian, Tertullian, Lactantius, Epiphanius, etc. Justin also says the
devils put forward and aided Marcion the follower of Paul, who accused
the other apostles of having perverted the Gospel doctrines. He
frequently alleges that the Christians cast out devils in the name of
Jesus Christ, and that women and men among them possessed prophetic
gifts, but he gives no special instance of any miracle wrought in his
own time. He makes maniacs and demoniacs to be possessed by the spirits
of the dead, and appeals to "necromancy, divination by immaculate
children, dream-senders and assistant spirits" in proof of life after
death (immortality he seems to have considered the gift of God). All the
early Fathers believed in necromancy. Lactantius ("Divine Institutes,"
book iv., chap, xxvii.) calls it the most certain proof of Christianity,
because those who are skilled in calling forth the spirits of the dead
bring Jupiter and other gods from the lower regions, but not Christ, for
he was not more than two days there. Justin says we ought to pray that
the evil angel may not seize our soul when it departs from the body.

He makes the victory over Amalek a type of Christ's victory over demons,
and declares that Isaiah said evil angels inhabit the land of Tanis in
Egypt. He declares of the Jews in the wilderness: "The latchets of your
shoes did not break, and your shoes waxed not old, and your garments
wore not away, but _even those of the children grew along with them_"
("Dialogue with Trypho," 131, p. 266.) This is a very consistent
addition to the fable found in Deut xxix., 5.

He charges (Dial., chap, lxxii.) the Jews with having removed passages
from Ezra and Jeremiah, and in the following chapter with having taken
away the words "from the wood" in the passage from the ninety-sixth
Psalm, "Tell ye among the nations the Lord hath reigned '_from the
wood._''" To which the note appended in the "Ante-Nicene Christian
Library" edition (p. 189) is "These words were not taken away by the
Jews, but added by some Christian."--Otto. Tertullian follows Justin in
regard to this passage.

He complains of their rejecting the Septuagint version, and gravely
tells how Ptolemy, King of Egypt, had seventy different translators shut
up in seventy separate cots or cells for the purpose of translating the
Hebrew Scriptures. After the completion Ptolemy found the seventy men
"had not only given the same meaning but had employed the same words,"
whereupon he believed "the translation had been written by divine
power." Byway of proof that he narrates no fable, he says, "We
ourselves, having been in Alexandria, saw the remains of the little
cots still preserved" ("Address to Greeks" chap. xiii., p. 300). Ptolemy,
however, he makes contemporary with Herod (Apol. xxxi., 33.) Christ,
he says, suffered under Herod the Ascalonite. He calls Moses the first
Prophet, yet declares "He was predicted before he appeared, first, 5000
years before, and again 3000, then 2000, then 1000, and yet again 800;
in the succession of generations, prophets after prophets arose" (1st
Apol., chap, xxxi., p. 38). David, he makes to have lived 1500 B.C.

Speaking of the Polygamy of the patriarchs (Dial., chap, cxxxiv.,
p. 269) he tells us "certain dispensations of weighty mysteries were
accomplished in each act of this sort." "The marriages of Jacob were
types of that which Christ was about to accomplish." The bloodthirsty
General Joshua was a type of Christ, and the sun standing still by his
order shows "how great the power was of the name of Jesus in the Old
Testament" He tells us the two advents were prefigured by the two goats,
and continually finds clear prophecies of Christianity in passages which
have not the remotest allusion to it. To give one instance, he says:
'And that it was foreknown that these infamous things should be uttered
against those who confessed Christ, and that those who slandered
him, and said it was well to preserve the ancient customs, should be
miserable, hear what was briefly said by Isaiah, it is this: 'Woe unto
them that call sweet bitter, and bitter sweet.' Such interpretations
are innumerable in Justin.

In his 1st Apology, chap, lv., "On Symbols of the Cross," he says the
seas cannot be sailed without cross-shaped masts, nor the earth tilled
save with cross-shaped instruments. "And the human form differs from
animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the hands
extended, and having on the face, extending from the forehead, what
is called the nose, through which there is respiration for the living
creature, and this shows no other form than that of the cross. And so
it was said by the prophet, 'The breath before our face is the Lord
Christ,' which is a perversion of Lam. iv., 20: 'The breath of our
nostrils, the anointed of the Lord.'"

He put into the mouth of his antagonist Trypho, the following words
which possibly represent the usual position taken up by the Jews: "But
Christ--if he has indeed been born and exists anywhere--is unknown, and
does not even know himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint
him, and make him manifest to all. And you having accepted a
groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are
inconsiderately perishing" (chap, viii., p. 97). In answer to this home
thrust, Justin promises "I shall prove to you as you stand here that we
have not believed empty fables." Justin was acquainted with the works of
Josephus, and if the passage had been then in existence concerning Jesus
being the Christ, who was punished on the Cross, and who appeared again
the third day, the divine prophets having spoken these and many other
wonders about him; here was the opportunity to bring it forward. Instead
of doing so, or stating who testified to the existence of Christ and his
wonderful works, he rambles off to his favorite argument from prophecy
and piles up a heap of interminable nonsense, which if put forward as a
serious defence of Christianity at the present time, would either excite
suspicion of covert infidelity or be greeted with derision.

In his Apology he twice calls in evidence the Acts of Pilate, but as
with the books of the Sibyl, it is again a Christian forgery and not a
heathen document he refers to. This is clear from one of the passages
he refers to being found in the extant Acts of Pilate or Gospel of
Nicodemus. If any official report had been sent by Pilate, it is not
likely to have related the miracles of the person put to death. Nor
is it probable that Justin would have known the contents of such a

Justin, in the beginning of the second half of the second century,
being the very first Father who tells us of Jesus being God, born of the
Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead and rising again and
ascending into heaven (for the spurious epistles attributed to Ignatius
must be dated after Justin's time) it is important to know where he got
his startling information from. He never once mentions Gospels by either
Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. He refers indeed at least thirteen
times to "Memoirs" or "Memoirs of the Apostles," but without the least
indication of their nature, number or extent. In one place (Dial.,
106) he seems to identify them with the Gospel of Peter, referred to
by Serapion, Tertullian and Origen. Canon Westcott, who argues that it
refers to the Gospel of Mark, commonly placed under the authority of
Peter, thus translates the passage: "The mention of the fact that Christ
changed the name of Peter, one of the Apostles, and that the event has
been written in his (Peter's) Memoirs." The best authorities agree
that upon strictly critical grounds the passage refers to Peter. The
"Ante-Nicene Christian Library" (p. 233) however reads: "And when it is
said that he changed the name of one of the Apostles to Peter; and when
it is written in the memoirs of him that this so happened." Making the
work referred to to be the memoirs of Jesus.

The only direct mention Justin makes of any writer in the New Testament
is the following: "And further, there was a certain man with us, whose
name was John, one of the Apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a
revelation that was made to him that those who believed in our Christ
would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the
general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men
would likewise take place" (Dial., chap, lxxxi., p. 201). The author
of "Supernatural Religion" says: "The manner in which John is here
mentioned after the memoirs had been so constantly referred to, clearly
shows that Justin did not possess any Gospel also attributed to John"
(vol. i., p. 298; 1879).

This conclusion is corroborated by many circumstances also adduced by
Dr. Davidson. For instance, his doctrine of the Logos is different from
that in the Gospel ascribed to John. He does not mention any of
the miracles found in that Gospel, and instead of knowing the long
discourses given therein, declares "Brief and concise utterances fell
from him, for he was no sophist" (Apol. i., chap, xiv., p. 18).

That he does name John, however, as the author of the Apocalypse, and
refers by name to the Old Testament writers no less than 197 times,
while in about as many passages from the "Memoirs" he never identifies
their writer, unless in that concerning Peter, is surely incompatible
with the idea that they were the Canonical Gospels.

The whole question of the identity of these "Memoirs" with our Gospels
is ably and lengthily dealt with in English on the orthodox side, by
Lardner, Bishop Kaye, Professor Norton, and Canons Westcott and Sanday.
These arguments the inquiring reader should compare with those of
Bishop Marsh, Dr. Giles, Dr. Davidson, and the author of "Supernatural

It is evident that the account of the sayings and doings of Jesus in the
"Memoirs" are, in the main, very similar to the Synoptics, especially
Matthew, and it is likely they were the principal materials from which
our canon was formed. But it is not certain if Justin had one document,
two, three, four, or a dozen. In his first Apology (chap, lxvi.) there
is certainly found this expression: "For the apostles in the memoirs
composed by them, _which are called Gospels_, have thus delivered
unto us," etc. (p. 69). But Dr. Donaldson says of the words in
italics "Schliermacher, Marsh, and others, regarded these words as an
interpolation, and they certainly look like one" (Critical History of
Christian Literature, vol. ii., p. 329; 1866).

Except in one or two instances, parallels with our Gospels are only made
by patching together passages from different Gospels. By this process
the connexion is broken, while the quotations in Justin have for the
most part a consecutive order, and, as is shown by the context, had such
an order in the "Memoirs" from which they were taken. While quoting
them nearly 200 times he makes hardly a single allusion to those
circumstances of time and place which are found in our Gospels. He also
gives particulars not to be found in the Canonical books. Thus he says
(Dial., chap, lxxviii,) that Jesus was born in a cave, and cites Isaiah
xxxiii., 16, as prophecying this. This contradicts Luke but is found in
the Gospel of James, the Gospel of the Infancy, and the Gospel according
to the Hebrews. Matthew and Luke give discrepant accounts of the
genealogy of Jesus. Justin differs from both. He traces the Davidian
descent of the Christ through Mary, which again agrees with James. He
nine times mentions the Magi coming from Arabia, not from the East. His
quotation of the angel's message to Mary (Apol. i., 33) agrees better
with the Gospel of James than with Luke or Matthew. Speaking of the
journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlelem, Justin says: "On the occasion of
the first census which was taken in Judaea, under Cyrenius, he (Joseph)
went up from Nazareth, where he lived, to Bethlehem, to which he
belonged, to be enrolled." The differences between the account of Justin
and that in Luke are manifest.

He states that Jesus made ploughs and yokes as a carpenter, which is
found in the Gospel of the Infancy. Thrice he speaks of John as "sitting
by Jordan" (Dial. 49, 51, and 88), and he even narrates that when Jesus
stepped into the water a fire was kindled in the Jordan. This also was
from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Epiphanius gives it from a
version found among the Ebionites. It was also mentioned in another
early Christian publication the "Preaching of Paul." Justin has the Holy
Ghost say to Jesus at his baptism: "This is my beloved son; to-day have
I begotten thee." The same form of expression was used in the Gospel of
the Hebrews, and was so quoted by others of the Fathers.

He says (Dial., ciii.) that when the Jews went out to the Mount of
Olives to take Jesus there was not a single man to help him. This is
in contradiction to all our Gospels. He says that when Herod succeeded
Archelaus, Pilate, by way of compliment, sent to him Jesus bound (chap,
ciii). He tells how they sat Jesus on the judgment seat, and said "Judge
us" (Apol., chap, xxxv.) He also relates that Jesus said: "In whatsoever
things I apprehend you, in those also will I judge you." Grotius and
others think this taken from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Upon
two occasions Justin says that the Jews sent persons about the world to
spread calumnies.

So manifestly has Justin gone to other sources than our four Gospels
that Canon Sanday admits: "Either Justin has used a lost gospel or
gospels, besides those that are still extant, or else he has used a
recension of these gospels with some slight changes of language and
some apocryphal additions" ("The Gospels in the Second Century," p. 129;
1876). We conjecture that the "Memoirs" of Justin were the materials
from which our Gospels were compiled, and that they were similar to or
used in conjunction with the Gospel according to the Hebrews.

Credner argues that he used the Gospel of Peter. It is noticeable that
the Diatessaron of Justin's pupil, Tatian, was called by Epiphanius the
Gospel according to the Hebrews. Theodoret tells us that the Nazarenes
made use of the Gospel of Peter, and we know by the testimony of the
Fathers generally that the Nazarene Gospel was that commonly called the
Gospel according to the Hebrews. That Justin used this once celebrated
Gospel seems all the more probable since we have the express testimony
of Eusebius ("Ec. History, iv.," 22) that it was used by Hegesipus,
his contemporary and compatriot.


Nearly all our information concerning this worthy is derived from
Eusebius. He was born in Palestine of Jewish parents, and wrote five
books of memoirs or commentaries no longer extant.

As he therein mentions Pope Eleutherius they must have been written
after B.C. 177. The date 185 is a probable one. The work of Hegesippus
appears to have been the earliest attempt to give a history of
early Christianity, and as it is evident he represented the Jewish
anti-Pauline school, which eventually was swamped by the Gentile
element, the loss or destruction of his writings is much to be
regretted. Such fragments as Eusebius has thought proper to preserve
certainly makes one curious for more. The longest fragment concerns no
less a person than the brother of the incarnate God. Eusebius gives it
in the second book of his "Ecclesiastical History," chap, xxiii., from
which we extract the following:--

"James the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name,
was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of our Lord until now,
received the Government of the Church with the Apostles. This Apostle
was consecrated from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor
fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came
upon his head" [i.e., He was a Nazarite, see Numbers vi., 2-5; Judges
xiii, 4-7; and xvi., 17. Jesus, we are told in the Gospel, came eating
and drinking, and ordered his disciples when fasting to anoint the
head.] Hegesippus tells us of James, his brother: "He never anointed
with oil" [see James v., 14--17]; "and never used a bath." [In this
latter respect too many holy saints have followed his insanitary
example], "He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore
woollen, but linen garments. He was in the habit of entering the temple
alone, and was often found upon his bended knees and interceding for the
forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as a camel's
in consequence of his habitual supplication and kneeling before God."

In another fragment he takes to task Paul and those who say "Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the
things which God hath prepared for them that fear him." Hegesippus says
that "those who say such things, lie against the divine scriptures and
our Lord who says, 'Blessed are your eyes which see, and your ears which
hear, 'etc."

All of which is very suggestive of the variety of faith and practice
which existed among primitive Christians.



The accounts of this father which are given in various biographies are
purely conjectural. His very existence has been disputed in a little
book published by Thomas Scott, of Ramsgate,* the author of which
contends that the Greek word _Eirenaios_, meaning "peaceful" is simply
the title of a treatise against heresies, the object of which was to
allay sectarian discord, and that Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, is a purely
mythical personage. Certain it is that very little is known of this old
saint. But in that respect he in no way differs from the other early
founders of Christianity.

     * "Irenæus: A Leaf of Primitive Church History Corrected
     and Re-Written," 1876.

Dodwell makes him to have been born in the year 97, but Dupin and the
best modern authorities place his birth about 140; a number, however,
strike a medium at about 120. The importance of his date is evident
since the work against heresies is the first writing which makes any
mention of the four Gospels, and Irenæus claims to have been a disciple
of Polycarp, who was a hearer of John. This claim can only be made at
all plausible by giving each of these holy martyrs an exceedingly long
life, for we have the word of Eusebius, that the book against heresies
was composed in the time of Eleutherius, the twelfth Pope, between 177
and 192, and Irenæus lived until the third century. He is said to have
been made bishop of Lyons in 178, but how he managed to get transplanted
from Asia Minor to Gaul, is one of those things which are left to our
faith and wonder.

The fact is, it is extremely doubtful if the author of the book against
heresies ever saw Polycarp, and still more doubtful if Polycarp ever
saw John. He says John leaped out of the bath when he saw Cerinthus.
Now Cerinthus was a heretic, who lived about the middle of the second
century. He described John as wearing the _petalon_, the bishops
insignia of office. Fancy the retired fisherman, the beloved disciple,
who was told by his master to carry neither purse nor scrip, wearing the
priestly robes of office! George Reber, in his curious book, "The Christ
of Paul," (New York, 1876), says (p. 178): "The studied dishonesty of
Irenæus in attempting to palm off the Presbyter John for the Apostle, is
as dark a piece of knavery as is to be found in the history of a church,
which has encouraged such practices from the time it claimed to be the
depositary of all the divine wealth left by the apostles."

Irenæus is alleged to have suffered martyrdon about 202, but there is no
evidence of this prior to the ninth century, when Gregory of Tours first
circulated a story to that effect. Even such orthodox writers as
Cave, Basnage, Dodwell, and others, doubt the martyrdon, since neither
Tertullian, Eusebius, Theodoret, nor other early writers refer to it.
Two churches in Lyons dispupted for centuries about the possession of
his relics, which the Catholics allege were afterwards sacriligeously
despoiled by the Calvinists: a story often refuted. His sacred head
is said to have been kicked about in the gutters, but of course it was
miraculously restored to its place, and the skull, we believe, may be
seen for a consideration at the present day. The original Greek text
of the book against heresies is lost, and it exists only in a barbarous
Latin version. At whatever time it was written, and it may probably be
dated between 182 and 188, it testifies to the existence of numerous
heresies in the Church. It contains many statements respecting the
Gnostics, particularly the Valentinian heresy. There we may read of
their peculiar theories concerning God and Christ. Some thought the
Hebrew Jahveh a malignant deity whom Christ had come to destroy. Others
were foolish and wicked enough to ask whence God got the matter for
his creation. Cerinthus and his followers denied the virgin birth.
Carpocrates and his school held that Jesus was the son of Joseph, and
just like other men with the exception that inasmuch as his soul was
stedfast and pure a power descended on him from the Father that by means
of it he might escape from the creators of the world. Basilides taught
that Jesus did not suffer death, but Simon of Cyrene, being compelled,
bore the cross and was crucified in his stead. Irenæus does not forget
to denounce these heretics as blasphemers and shameless sophists who
speak not a word of sense. He calls them slippery serpents and other
choice epithets such as the orthodox usually have in store for heretics,
so that the reader is tempted to wish that the wretches could show cause
why they should not summarily be damned. It is a notable fact that none
of the heretical books or heretical gospels have been preserved; they
come to us only through the medium of such representations as their
opponents chose to make of them.

George Reber says: "The Fourth Gospel was written with no other purpose
than to prove the incarnation, and that purpose is so persistently kept
up in every line and verse, from the beginning to the end, that if we
strike out this, and the miracles which are mere supports of the
main idea, there is nothing left, and so with the third book against
Heresies--it has but one theme. The writer sets out with the _Logos_
idea of this gospel, which is never lost sight of. He finds proof in
the traditions of the Church--in every page of the Old Testament--in
the Synoptics as well as in the fourth Gospel; and as we read his
misapplication of words and sentences, we should conclude that he was a
lunatic if we did not know he was something else" (p. 188). "As we read
whole pages in Irenæus, charging his adversaries with forgeries and
false interpolations, we smile at the impudence and audacity of the man,
who has done more to pollute the pages of history than any other, and
whose footprints we can follow through the whole century, like the slime
of a serpent" (p. 216).

Reber, it will be seen, can be as abusive as Irenæus himself. He calls
him "one of the most dishonest historians of any age" and "the great
criminal of the second century;" and endeavors to make out, on quite
insufficient grounds, that he was the forger of the Gospel according to

Dr. Samuel Davidson, in his able work on "The Canon" (p. 155; 1880),
says "Irenæus was credulous and blundering," and our case against him
will be sufficient if we prove these charges.

The orthodox Dr. Donaldson observes: "What he says about the apostle
John has the appearance of being, to say the least, highly colored"
("History of Christian Literature," vol. i., p. 157; 1864). The whole
purport of his account concerning John was to refute heretics by the
allegation of an apostolical succession which rests on his unsupported
testimony alone. The author of the work against Heresies was essentially
a priest, dwelling much on the authority of the priesthood and priestly
traditions. He did more perhaps than any other to lay the foundations
of the Romish hierarchy. In his third book, chapter four, he gives
the opinion that every Church should agree with the Church of Rome on
account of its pre-eminent authority.

He considers oral traditions of no less importance than Scripture, and
cites Clement, Polycarp, and those who were alleged to have heard the
apostles as decisive authorities. Hermes he calls divine Scripture. To
be outside the Church is to be outside truth. Holy Scripture is only
safely interpreted under control of the bishops.

Our Father cites the authority of John, and all the elders in Asia, for
the assertion that the ministry of Jesus lasted twenty years, and
that he was over fifty years of age when he was crucified. In the
twenty-second chapter of his second book, he discusses the question at
considerable length, and quotes John viii., 56-57, as establishing his
opinion. For he argues the Jews would not have said to Jesus "Thou art
not yet fifty years old," if he had only been thirty. Their object being
to remind him of the short period he had been on earth, they certainly
would not extend it eighteen or twenty years. If Irenæus was right in
this important matter, the evidence of the Gospel history is falsified;
if wrong, what is the worth of his testimony as to the origin of the
four Gospels?

In regard to these he tells us there are mystic reasons why there could
only be four Gospels. "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either
more or fewer in number than they are. For since there are four zones of
the world in which we live, and four principal winds [or four Catholic
Spirits] while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the
pillar and ground of the Church is the gospel and the spirit of life; it
is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality
on every side, and vivifying men afresh" (Book iii., chap, xi, sect 8.,
p. 293). Dr. Giles in his "Christian Records" (p. 137), points out
that as this work was written many years after the apologies of Justin
Martyr, there was ample time in the interval for the compilation of our
Gospels, out of the authentic "Memoirs of the Apostles" and "Sayings of
our Lord."

In his third book, chapter xxi., Irenæus follows Justin in his foolish
tale about the seventy Jewish elders, who made separate translations of
the Bible into Greek in the very same words from beginning to end.
He further tells us there was nothing astonishing in this since God
inspired Ezra to re-write all the words of the former prophets and to
re-establish the Mosaic law, destroyed during the captivity in Babylon.
The object of making the Septuagint version of Divine authority, was
because the quotations in the Christians' Scriptures were taken from
it, strangely enough, had the writers of those Scriptures been Jews. But
despite their boasted accuracy, Irenæus (book iii., chap, xx., sec. 4)
quotes Isaiah as saying, "And the holy Lord remembered his dead Israel,
who had slept in the land of sepulture; and he came down to preach his
salvation to them that he might save them." In another place he quotes
this same passage as from Jeremiah, but it is in neither prophet Justin
in his dialogue with Trypho had brought it forward as an argument
against him, and accused the Jews of having fraudulently removed it from
the sacred text. The passage is, however, found in no ancient version
or Jewish Targum, which fact may be regarded as a decisive proof of its

He follows Justin also in his tales of miracles asserting "some do
certainly and truly drive out devils. Others have foreknowledge of
things to come, they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions.
Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they
are made whole. Yea, moreover, the dead even have been raised up, and
remained among us for many years." As with the other Fathers, he gives
only general statements not particular instances. He allows that
the heretics Simon and Carpoerates and their followers also perform
miracles, "but not through the power of God but for the sake of
destroying and misleading mankind, by means of magical deceptions."
None of these Christian miracles were known to the heathen, and, as Dr.
Conyers Middle ton pointed out, in his "Free Enquiry into the Miraculous
Powers in the Christian Church," at this very same time when one
Autolycus, an eminent heathen, challenged his friend Theophilus, Bishop
of Antioch, a convert and champion of the Gospels, to show him but
one person who had "been raised from the dead, on the condition of him
turning Christian himself," Theophilus made plain by his answer that he
was not able to give him that satisfaction.

Irenæus follows Justin in making the angels mix with the daughters of
men, and also in his absurd typology. He even makes Balaam's ass a
type of the Savior. The cohabitation of Lot with his two daughters was
providential and typical of the two sister synagogues, the Jewish and
the Christian.

In common with all the early Fathers he asserts the doctrine of the
millenium, and this in the grossest sense. We have already seen the
quotation which he gives from Papias as the actual words of Jesus upon
this matter. He believed it would be a purely earthly glory and felicity
after the sort depicted in the Jewish apocalypses. This portion of his
writings, having been utterly discredited, is very often omitted. He
believed the end of all things was near at hand. The world would last
six thousand years because made in six days. Antichrist would come from
the tribe of Dan and reign three years and five days in Jerusalem, when
he would be vanquished. The fall of Antichrist and the end of the world
would coincide with the fall of the Roman Empire, for the mysterious
name of the beast is _Latinus_. Then the Lord was to come, and there
would be no more labor "but unlimited wine swilling."

Irenæus affirms also on the same authority of tradition delivered to
him by those who had received it from the apostles, that Enoch and Elias
were translated into that very Paradise from which Adam was expelled,
and that this was the place into which St. Paul was caught up. This is
affirmed also by all the later Fathers, both Greek and Latin.

Our space will not permit us to further enlarge on the vast appeals to
faith made by Irenæus. Nor can we pause to deal with Tertullian,
who, with more impetuosity and no less acerbity, championed the same
orthodoxy, shrinking not from the "credo quia absurdum est," and who
ended by turning heretic. Nor with the learned Clement of Alexandria,
whose high speculations led also into contempt of the world and its
ways of science, art, and civilisation. Nor with the ascetic and
self-emasculated Origen, at once profound and prolific, who, in his
attempt to reconcile Christianity with reason, fell into such errors as
believing in the pre-existence and pretemporal fall of souls, and the
redemption of the inhabitants of the stars and even of Satan himself.

We must reserve a brief space for the great ecclesiastical historian.


It is to this eminent Father that we are indebted for almost all we know
of the lost Christian literature of the time preceding the establishment
of Christianity by Constantine. He was born about 264 or 270, and was a
priest in the time of Diocletian.

During the persecution in that reign he retired to Egypt, where,
however, he was imprisoned, but speedily released. This gave rise to a
suggestion that he had apostatised. "Who art thou, Eusebius?" exclaimed
Potamon, Bishop of Heraclea, at the Council of Tyre, where Eusebius
violently conducted the "persecution of Athanasius," "to judge the
innocent Athanasius. Did'st thou not sit with me in prison in the time
of the tyrant? They plucked out my eye for the confession of the truth.
Thou comest forth unharmed. How didst thou escape?"

In 315 he became Bishop of Cæsarea. His friendships were among the Arian
party in the Church, and his views, to say the least, inclined that way,
and Dr. Newman, in his "History of the Arians in the Fourth Century,"
speaks of him as "openly siding with the Arians, and sanctioning and
sharing their deeds of violence." This, however, did not stand in the
way of his sitting beside the Emperor Constantine, at the Council of
Nice, to anathematise and put down the Arians. He subscribed the
Nicene Creed, apparently with some reservations, as to the word
_consubstantial._ It is noticeable that his history breaks off abruptly
before the Council of Nice. Perhaps it was one of those matters he
thought best to suppress as little to the credit of the Church or
himself. Athanasius, Petavius, Baronius, Montfaucon, and Moller consider
him an Arian. Bull, Cave, and Hely, defend his orthodoxy.

On account of his Arianism he has been violently attacked by Cardinal
Baronius, who impugns the faith of the bishop, the character of the man,
and the sincerity of the historian. He makes out Eusebius to have been
simply an ambitious and cruel courtier; calls him a calumniator, a
panegyrist rather than an historian, and accuses him of falsifying the
edicts of Constantine.

Gibbon, in his sixteenth chapter, says: "The gravest of the
ecclesiastical historians, Eusebius himself, indirectly confesses that
he has related whatever might redound to the glory, and that he has
suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace of religion. Such an
acknowledgment will naturally excite a suspicion that a writer who has
so openly violated one of the fundamental laws of history has not paid
a very strict regard to the observance of the other; and the suspicion
will derive additional credit from the character of Eusebius, which was
less tinctured with credulity, and more practised in the arts of
courts than that of almost any of his contemporaries."* "No one," says
Scaliger, "has contributed more to Christian history, and no one has
committed more mistakes." C. B. Waite, ("History of the Christian
Religion," p. 28) goes further and says: "Not only the most unblushing
falsehoods, but literary forgeries of the vilest character darken the
pages of his apologetic and historical writings." G. Reber (p. 104)
says: "If we except Irenæus, no writer has so studiously put himself to
work to impose falsehoods on the world as Eusebius."

     * Dean Milman, in his Notes to Gibbon, vol. ii., p. 285;
     1854, speaks of "the loose and, it must be admitted, by no
     means scrupulous authority of Eusebius."

Constantine said of him that he ought not only to be bishop of Cæsarea,
but bishop of the whole world. In his life of that emperor he amply
repays the flattery. That work is not an history but an extravagant
rhetorical panegyric upon the man who murdered his son Crispus, his
nephew Licinius, suffocated his wife Fausta, and who, to revenge a
pasquinade, was with difficulty restrained from the massacre of Rome,
and who used the altar of the Church, which promised absolution and
offered atonement for all sins, as a convenient footstool to the throne
of the empire. In regard to Constantine's murders, Gibbon says (chap,
xxviii.): "The courtly bishop who has celebrated in an elaborate work
the virtues and piety of his hero, observes a prudent silence on the
subject of these tragic events."

He makes Constantine to have been converted by the miraculous appearance
of a cross in the sky. It is a great question if his account of his
baptism is correct or if he was baptised in Rome by Pope Sylvester.
Indeed, it is a question if Constantine was anything but a Pagan at
heart until the end of his days.

The title of the thirty-first chapter of Eusebius's twelfth book of
"Evangelical Preparation," is a caution. It reads "That falsehood, may
be employed by way of medicine for those who need it." He ascribes to
Porphyry (a learned Pagan who had written against Christianity, but
whose works were destroyed by order of Theodosius) a forgery of his own
time, called "The Philosophy of Oracles," and then cites it as evidence
for Christianity. He gives a forged passage ascribed to Phlegon, where
that Pagan is made to speak of the darkness which happened at the death
of Jesus. If such a passage had been in existence it would have been
mentioned by Origen, who refers to Phlegon, but who in his comment on
Matthew xxvii., 45, concludes we must not be too positive that he spoke
of this darkness in Matthew. He also makes Thallus, another heathen,
bear testimony to the eclipse of the sun--another forgery.

At the very outset of his "Ecclesiastical History," he knocks us over
with a pretended correspondence which passed between Jesus, who, Jerome
says, knew not how to write, and Abgarus, king of Edessa.

This correspondence, wherein Jesus is made to cite the words of the
Gospel of John, written probably a hundred years after, long did duty
among Christian evidences, but is now given up by every critic of note
as a forgery. Addison was one of the last to quote it as genuine.

As it would occupy too much space to follow this Father through all his
misstatements, we shall confine our attention to his misrepresentations
of Josephus. One of the most notorious of these is the account of the
death of Herod Agrippa, grandson of the monster who is supposed to
have ordered the slaughter of all the male children in the inland town
"Bethlehem, and the coasts thereof," on account of an obscure prophecy.
In the 12th chapter of Acts it is stated that Herod, as the people
were calling him a god, was smitten by an angel and was eaten by worms.
Josephus says: "Agrippa, casting his eyes upward, saw an owl, sitting
upon a rope, overhead." Eusebius, in order to make Josephus agree with
the Acts of the Apostles, in transcribing the text of Josephus, struck
out about the owl and substituted an angel. Lardner says: "I know
not what good apology can be made for this." Nor do we, unless that
one-winged fowl is just as good as any other.

He makes Josephus' account of Theudas confirmatory of Acts v., 36;
while, in fact, it disagrees with that account so much as to give
commentators the utmost perplexity. He also, tries to reconcile Josephus
with Luke by confounding the taxing in the time of Herod with that after
the banishment of Arche-laus, who reigned for nine years after Herod's
death. Dr. Lardner's works (vol. i, p. 344) says: "I must confess I
ascribe that not to ignorance but to somewhat a great deal worse. It is
impossible that a man of Eusebius's acuteness, who had the New Testament
and Josephus before him, should think a census made after Archelaus was
the same with that before Herod died; but Eusebius was resolved to have
St. Luke's history confirmed by the express testimony of the Jewish
historian, right or wrong."

Such instances make us suspect Eusebius in regard to the celebrated
interpolation in which Josephus is made to give evidence to Jesus as the
Christ (Antiq. xviii., hi., 3). He at any rate first cited the forgery,
which was unknown to Origen, and distinctly asserts that Josephus did
not acknowledge Christ. Dr. Lardner tells us the style of the paragraph
is very Christian, if it be not the composition of Eusebius himself, as
Tanaquil Faber suspected.

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