We shall now compare the great antiquity of the sacred books and religions of Paganism with those of the Christian, so that there may be no doubt as to which is the original, and which the copy. Allusions to this subject have already been made throughout this work, we shall therefore devote as little space to it here as possible.
In speaking of the sacred literature of India, Prof. Monier Williams says:
“Sanskrit literature, embracing as it does nearly every branch of knowledge is entirely deficient in one department. It is wholly destitute of trustworthy historical records. Hence, little or nothing is known of the lives of ancient Indian authors, and the dates of their most celebrated works cannot be fixed with certainty. A fair conjecture, however, may be arrived at by comparing the most ancient with the more modern compositions, and estimating the period of time required to effect the changes of structure and idiom observable in the language. In this manner we may be justified in assuming that the hymns of the Veda were probably composed by a succession of poets at different dates between 1500 and 1000 years B. C.”[450:1]
Prof. Wm. D. Whitney shows the great antiquity of the Vedic hymns from the fact that,
“The language of the Vedas is an older dialect, varying very considerably, both in its grammatical and lexical character, from the classical Sanscrit.”
And M. de Coulanges, in his “Ancient City,” says:
“We learn from the hymns of the Vedas, which are certainly very ancient, and from the laws of Manu,” “what the Aryans of the east thought nearly thirty-five centuries ago.”[450:2]
That the Vedas are of very high antiquity is unquestionable; but however remote we may place the period when they were written, we must necessarily presuppose that the Hindostanic race had already attained to a comparatively high degree of civilization, otherwise men capable of framing such doctrines could not have been found. Now this state of civilization must necessarily have been preceded by several centuries of barbarism, during which we cannot possibly admit a more refined faith than the popular belief in elementary deities.
We shall see in our next chapter that these very ancient Vedic hymns contain the origin of the legend of the Virgin-born God and Saviour, the great benefactor of mankind, who is finally put to death, and rises again to life and immortality on the third day.
The Geetas and Puranas, although of a comparatively modern date, are, as we have already seen, nevertheless composed of matter to be found in the two great epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which were written many centuries before the time assigned as that of the birth of Christ Jesus.[451:1]
The Pali sacred books, which contain the legend of the virgin-born God and Saviour—Sommona Cadom—are known to have been in existence 316 B. C.[451:2]
We have already seen that the religion known as Buddhism, and which corresponds in such a striking manner with Christianity, has now existed for upwards of twenty-four hundred years.[451:3]
Prof. Rhys Davids says:
“There is every reason to believe that the Pitakas (the sacred books which contain the legend of ‘The Buddha’), now extant in Ceylon, are substantially identical with the books of the Southern Canon, as settled at the Council of Patna about the year 250 B. C.[451:4] As no works would have been received into the Canon which were not then believed to be very old, the Pitakas may be approximately placed in the fourth century B. C., and parts of them possibly reach back very nearly, if not quite, to the time of Gautama himself.”[451:5]
The religion of the ancient Persians, which corresponds in so very many respects with that of the Christians, was established by Zoroaster—who was undoubtedly a Brahman[451:6]—and is contained in the Zend-Avesta, their sacred book or Bible. This book is very ancient. Prof. Max Müller speaks of “the sacred book of the Zoroastrians” as being “older in its language than the cuneiform inscriptions of Cyrus (B. C. 560), Darius (B. C. 520), and Xerxes (B. C.485) those ancient Kings of Persia, who knew that they were kings by the grace of Auramazda, and who placed his sacred image high on the mountain-records of Behistun.”[452:1] That ancient book, or its fragments, at least, have survived many dynasties and kingdoms, and is still believed in by a small remnant of the Persian race, now settled at Bombay, and known all over the world by the name of Parsees.[452:2]
“The Babylonian and Phenician sacred books date back to a fabulous antiquity;”[452:3] and so do the sacred books and religion of Egypt.
Prof. Mahaffy, in his “Prolegomena to Ancient History,” says:
“There is indeed hardly a great and fruitful idea in the Jewish or Christian systems which has not its analogy in the Egyptian faith, andall these theological conceptions pervade the oldest religion of Egypt.”[452:4]
The worship of Osiris, the Lord and Saviour, must have been of extremely ancient date, for he is represented as “Judge of the Dead,” in sculptures contemporary with the building of the Pyramids, centuries before Abraham is said to have been born. Among the many hieroglyphic titles which accompany his figure in those sculptures, and in many other places on the walls of temples and tombs, are, “Lord of Life,” “The Eternal Ruler,” “Manifester of Good,” “Revealer of Truth,” “Full of Goodness and Truth,” etc.
In speaking of the “Myth of Osiris,” Mr. Bonwick says:
“This great mystery of the Egyptians demands serious consideration. Its antiquity—its universal hold upon the people for over five thousand years—its identification with the very life of the nation—and its marvellous likeness to the creed of modern date, unite in exciting the greatest interest.”[452:5]
This myth, and that of Isis and Horus, were known before the Pyramid time.[453:1]
The worship of the Virgin Mother in Egypt—from which country it was imported into Europe[453:2]—dates back thousands of years B. C. Mr. Bonwick says:
“In all probability she was worshiped three thousand years before Moses wrote. ‘Isis nursing her child Horus, was represented,’ says Mariette Bey, ‘at least six thousand years ago.’ We read the name of Isis on monuments of the fourth dynasty, and she lost none of her popularity to the close of the empire.”
“The Egyptian Bible is by far the most ancient of all holy books.” “Plato was told that Egypt possessed hymns dating back ten thousand years before his time.”[453:3]
“The origin of the ancient prayers and hymns of the ‘Book of the Dead,’ is anterior to Menes; it implies that the system of Osirian worship and mythology was already formed.”[453:4]
And, says Mr. Bonwick:
“Besides opinions, we have facts as a basis for arriving at a conclusion, and justifying the assertion of Dr. Birch, that the work dated from a period long anterior to the rise of Ammon worship at Thebes.”[453:5]
Now, “this most ancient of all holy books,” establishes the fact that a virgin-born and resurrected Saviour was worshiped in Egypt thousands of year before the time of Christ Jesus.
P. Le Page Renouf says:
“The earliest monuments which have been discovered present to us the very same fully-developed civilization and the same religionas the later monuments. . . . The gods whose names appear in the oldest tombs were worshiped down to the Christian times. The same kind of priesthoods which are mentioned in the tablets of Canopus and Rosetta in the Ptolemaic period are as ancient as the pyramids, and more ancient than any pyramid of which we know the date.”[453:6]
In regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. We have just seen that “the development of the One God into a Trinity” pervades the oldest religion of Egypt, and the same may be said of India. Prof. Monier Williams, speaking on this subject, says:
“It should be observed that the native commentaries on the Veda often allude to thirty-three gods, which number is also mentioned in the Rig-Veda. This is a multiple of three, which is a sacred number constantly appearing in the Hindu religious system. It is probable, indeed, that although the Tri-murti is not named in the Vedic hymns,[454:1] yet the Veda is the real source of this Triad of personifications, afterwards so conspicuous in Hindu mythology. This much, at least, is clear, that the Vedic poets exhibited a tendency to group all the forces and energies of nature under three heads, and the assertion that the number of the gods was thirty-three, amounted to saying that each of the three leading personifications was capable of eleven modifications.”[454:2]
The great antiquity of the legends referred to in this work is demonstrated in the fact that they were found in a great measure on the continent of America, by the first Europeans who set foot on its soil. Now, how did they get there? Mr. Lundy, in his “Monumental Christianity,” speaking on this subject, says:
“So great was the resemblance between the two sacraments of the Christian Church (viz., that of Baptism and the Eucharist) and those of the ancient Mexicans; so many other points of similarity, also, in doctrine existed, as to the unity of God, the Triad, the Creation, the Incarnation and Sacrifice, the Resurrection, etc., that Herman Witsius, no mean scholar and thinker, was induced to believe that Christianity had been preached on this continent by some one of the apostles, perhaps St. Thomas, from the fact that he is reported to have carried the Gospel to India and Tartary, whence he came to America.”[454:3]
Some writers, who do not think that St. Thomas could have gotten to America, believe that St. Patrick, or some other saint, must have, in some unaccountable manner, reached the shores of the Western continent, and preached their doctrine there.[454:4] Others have advocated the devil theory, which is, that the devil, being jealous of the worship of Christ Jesus, set up a religion of his own, and imitated, nearly as possible, the religion of Christ. All of these theories being untenable, we must, in the words of Burnouf, the eminent French Orientalist, “learn one day that all ancient traditions disfigured by emigration and legend,belong to the history of India.”
That America was inhabited by Asiatic emigrants, and that the American legends are of Asiatic origin, we believe to be indisputable. There is an abundance of proof to this effect.[454:5]
In contrast to the great antiquity of the sacred books and religions of Paganism, we have the facts that the Gospels were not written by the persons whose names they bear, that they were written many years after the time these men are said to have lived, and that they are full of interpolations and errors. The first that we know of the four gospels is at the time of Irenæus, who, in the second century, intimates that he had received four gospels, as authentic scriptures. This pious forger was probably the author of the fourth, as we shall presently see.
Besides these gospels there were many more which were subsequently deemed apocryphal; the narratives related in them of Christ Jesus and his apostles were stamped as forgeries.
“The Gospel according to Matthew” is believed by the majority of biblical scholars of the present day to be the oldest of the four, and to be made up principally of a pre-existing one, called “The Gospel of the Hebrews.” The principal difference in these two gospels being that “The Gospel of the Hebrews” commenced with giving the genealogy of Jesus from David, through Joseph “according to the flesh.” The story of Jesus being born of a virgin was not to be found there, it being an afterpiece, originating either with the writer of “The Gospel according to Matthew,” or some one after him, and was evidently taken from “The Gospel of the Egyptians.” “The Gospel of the Hebrews“—from which, we have said, the Matthew narrator copied—was an intensely Jewish gospel, and was to be found—in one of its forms—among the Ebionites, who were the narrowest Jewish Christians of the second century. “The Gospel according to Matthew” is, therefore, the most Jewish gospel of the four; in fact, the most Jewish book in the New Testament, excepting, perhaps, theApocalypse and the Epistle of James.
Some of the more conspicuous Jewish traits, to be found in this gospel, are as follows:
Jesus is sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The twelve are forbidden to go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans. They are to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The genealogy of Jesus is traced back to Abraham, and there stops.[455:1] The works of the law are frequently insisted on. There is a superstitious regard for the Sabbath, &c.
There is no evidence of the existence of the Gospel of Matthew,—in its present form—until the year 173, A. D. It is at this time, also, that it is first ascribed to Matthew, by Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis. The original oracles of the Gospel of the Hebrews, however,—which were made use of by the author of our present Gospel of Matthew,—were written, likely enough, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem, but the Gospel itself dates from about A. D. 100.[456:1]
“The Gospel according to Luke” is believed to come next—in chronological order—to that of Matthew, and to have been written some fifteen or twenty years after it. The author was a foreigner, as his writings plainly show that he was far removed from the events which he records.
In writing his Gospel, the author made use of that of Matthew, the Gospel of the Hebrews, and Marcion’s Gospel. He must have had, also, still other sources, as there are parables peculiar to it, which are not found in them. Among these may be mentioned that of the “Prodigal Son,” and the “Good Samaritan.” Other parables peculiar to it are that of the two debtors; the friend borrowing bread at night; the rich man’s barns; Dives and Lazarus; the lost piece of silver; the unjust steward; the Pharisee and the Publican.
Several miracles are also peculiar to the Luke narrator’s Gospel, the raising of the widow of Nain’s son being the most remarkable. Perhaps these stories were delivered to him orally, and perhaps he is the author of them,—we shall never know. The foundation of the legends, however, undoubtedly came from the “certain scriptures” of the Essenes in Egypt. The principal object which the writer of this gospel had in view was to reconcile Paulinism and the more Jewish forms of Christianity.[456:2]
The next in chronological order, according to the same school of critics, is “The Gospel according to Mark.” This gospel is supposed to have been written within ten years of the former, and its author, as of the other two gospels, is unknown. It was probably written at Rome, as the Latinisms of the author’s style, and the apparent motive of his work, strongly suggest that he was a Jewish citizen of the Eternal City. He made use of the Gospel of Matthew as his principal authority, and probably referred to that of Luke, as he has things in common with Luke only.
The object which the writer had in view, was to have a neutral go-between, a compromise between Matthew as too Petrine (Jewish), and Luke as too Pauline (Gentile). The different aspects of Matthew and Luke were found to be confusing to believers, and provocative of hostile criticism from without; hence the idea of writing a shorter gospel, that should combine the most essential elements of both. Luke was itself a compromise between the opposing Jewish and universal tendencies of early Christianity, but Mark endeavors by avoidance and omission to effect what Luke did more by addition and contrast. Luke proposed to himself to open a door for the admission of Pauline ideas without offending Gentile Christianity; Mark, on the contrary, in a negative spirit, to publish a Gospel which should not hurt the feelings of either party. Hence his avoidance of all those disputed questions which disturbed the church during the first quarter of the second century. The genealogy of Jesus is omitted; this being offensive to Gentile Christians, and even to some of the more liberal Judaizers. The supernatural birth of Jesus is omitted, this being offensive to the Ebonitish (extreme Jewish) and some of the Gnostic Christians. For every Judaizing feature that is sacrificed, a universal one is also sacrificed. Hard words against the Jews are left out, but with equal care, hard words about the Gentiles.[457:1]
We now come to the fourth, and last gospel, that “according to John,” which was not written until many years after that “according to Matthew.”
“It is impossible to pass from the Synoptic[457:2] Gospels,” says Canon Westcott, “to the fourth, without feeling that the transition involves the passage from one world of thought to another. No familiarity with the general teachings of the Gospels, no wide conception of the character of the Saviour, is sufficient to destroy the contrast which exists in form and spirit between the earlier and later narratives.”
The discrepancies between the fourth and the Synoptic Gospels are numerous. If Jesus was the man of Matthew’s Gospel, he was not the mysterious beingof the fourth. If his ministry was only one year long, it was not three. If he made but one journey to Jerusalem, he did not make many. If his method of teaching was that of the Synoptics, it was not that of the fourth Gospel. If he was the Jew of Matthew, he was not the Anti-Jew of John.[457:3]
Everywhere in John we come upon a more developed stage of Christianity than in the Synoptics. The scene, the atmosphere, is different. In the Synoptics Judaism, the Temple, the Law and the Messianic Kingdom are omnipresent. In John they are remote and vague. In Matthew Jesus is always yearning for his own nation. In John he has no other sentiment for it than hate and scorn. In Matthew the sanction of the Prophets is his great credential. In John his dignity can tolerate no previous approximation.
“Do we ask,” says Francis Tiffany, “who wrote this wondrous Gospel? Mysterious its origin, as that wind of which its author speaks, which bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof and canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. As with the Great Unknown of the book of Job, the Great Unknown of the later Isaiah, the ages keep his secret. The first absolutely indisputable evidence of the existence of the book dates from the latter half of the second century.“
The first that we know of the fourth Gospel, for certainty, is at the time of Irenæus (A. D. 179).[458:1] We look in vain for an express recognition of the fourcanonical Gospels, or for a distinct mention of any one of them, in the writings of St. Clement (A. D. 96), St. Ignatius (A. D. 107), St. Justin (A. D. 140), or St. Polycarp (A. D. 108). All we can find is incidents from the life of Jesus, sayings, etc.
That Irenæus is the author of it is very evident. This learned and pious forger says:
“John, the disciple of the Lord, wrote his Gospel to confute the doctrine lately taught by Cerinthus, and a great while before by those called Nicolaitans, a branch of the Gnostics; and to show that there is one God who made all things by his WORD: and not, as they say, that there is one the Creator, and another the Father of our Lord: and one the Son of the Creator, and another, even the Christ, who descended from above upon the Son of the Creator, and continued impassible, and at length returned to his pleroma or fulness.”[458:2]
The idea of God having inspired four different men to write a history of the same transactions,—or rather, of many different men having undertaken to write such a history, of whom God inspired four only to write correctly, leaving the others to their own unaided resources, and giving us no test by which to distinguish the inspired from the uninspired—certainly appears self-confuting, and anything but natural.
The reasons assigned by Irenæus for there being four Gospels are as follows:
“It is impossible that there could be more or less than four. For there are four climates, and four cardinal winds; but the Gospel is the pillar and foundation of the church, and its breath of life. The church therefore was to have four pillars, blowing immortality from every quarter, and giving life to man.“[459:1]
It was by this Irenæus, with the assistance of Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, one of the Latin Fathers, that the four Gospels were introduced intogeneral use among the Christians.
In these four spurious Gospels, and in some which are considered Apocryphal—because the bishops at the Council of Laodicea (A. D. 365) rejected them—we have the only history of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, if all accounts or narratives of Christ Jesus and his Apostles were forgeries, as it is admitted that all theApocryphal ones were, what can the superior character of the received Gospels prove for them, but that they are merely superiorly executed forgeries? The existence of Jesus is implied in the New Testament outside of the Gospels, but hardly an incident of his life is mentioned, hardly a sentence that he spoke has been preserved. Paul, writing from twenty to thirty years after his death, has but a single reference to anything he ever said or did.
Beside these four Gospels there were, as we said above, many others, for, in the words of Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian:
“Not long after Christ’s ascension into heaven, several histories of his life and doctrines, full of pious frauds and fabulous wonders, were composed by persons whose intentions, perhaps, were not bad, but whose writings discovered the greatest superstition and ignorance. Nor was this all; productions appeared, which were imposed upon the world by fraudulent men, as the writings of the holy apostles.”[459:2]
Dr. Conyers Middleton, speaking on this subject, says:
“There never was any period of time in all ecclesiastical history, in which so many rank heresies were publicly professed, nor in which so many spurious books were forged and published by the Christians, under the names of Christ, and the Apostles, and the Apostolic writers, as in those primitive ages. Several of these forged books are frequently cited and applied to the defense of Christianity, by the most eminent fathers of the same ages, as true and genuine pieces.“[459:3]
Archbishop Wake also admits that:
“It would be useless to insist on all the spurious pieces which were attributed to St. Paul alone, in the primitive ages of Christianity.”[460:1]
Some of the “spurious pieces which were attributed to St. Paul,” may be found to-day in our canonical New Testament, and are believed by many to be the word of God.[460:2]
The learned Bishop Faustus, in speaking of the authenticity of the New Testament, says:
“It is certain that the New Testament was not written by Christ himself, nor by his apostles, but a long while after them, by some unknown persons, who, lest they should not be credited when they wrote of affairs they were little acquainted with, affixed to their works the names of the apostles, or of such as were supposed to have been their companions, asserting that what they had written themselves, was written according to these persons to whom they ascribed it.”[460:3]
Again he says:
“Many things have been inserted by our ancestors in the speeches of our Lord, which, though put forth under his name, agree not with his faith; especially since—as already it has been often proved—these things were not written by Christ, nor his apostles, but a long while after their assumption, by I know not what sort of half Jews, not even agreeing with themselves, who made up their tale out of reports and opinions merely, and yet, fathering the whole upon the names of the apostles of the Lord, or on those who were supposed to follow the apostles, they mendaciously pretended that they had written their lies and conceits according to them.”[460:4]
What had been said to have been done in India, was said by these “half-Jews” to have been done in Palestine; the change of names and places, with the mixing up of various sketches of the Egyptian, Persian, Phenician, Greek and Roman mythology, was all that was necessary. They had an abundance of material, and with it they built. The foundation upon which they built was undoubtedly the “Scriptures,” or Diegesis, of the Essenes in Alexandria in Egypt, which fact led Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian—”without whom,” says Tillemont, “we should scarce have had any knowledge of the history of the first ages of Christianity, or of the authors who wrote in that time”—to say that the sacred writings used by this sect were none other than “Our Gospels.”
We offer below a few of the many proofs showing the Gospels to have been written a long time after the events narrated are said to have occurred, and by persons unacquainted with the country of which they wrote.
“He (Jesus) came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis,” is an assertion made by the Mark narrator (vii. 31), when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as known before the reign of the emperor Nero.
Again, “He (Jesus) departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea, beyond Jordan,” is an assertion made by the Matthew narrator (xix. 1), when the Jordan itself was the eastern boundary of Judea, and there were no coasts of Judea beyond it.
Again, “But when he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither, notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee, and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene,” is another assertion made by the Matthew narrator (ii. 22, 23), when—1. It was a son of Herod who reigned in Galilee as well as Judea, so that he could not be more secure in one province than in the other; and when—2. It was impossible for him to have gone from Egypt to Nazareth, without traveling through the whole extent of Archelaus’s kingdom, or making a peregrination through the deserts on the north and east of the Lake Asphaltites, and the country of Moab; and then, either crossing the Jordan into Samaria or the Lake of Gennesareth into Galilee, and from thence going to the city of Nazareth, which is no better geography, than if one should describe a person as turning aside from Cheapside into the parts of Yorkshire; and when—3. There were no prophets whatever who had prophesied that Jesus “should be called a Nazarene.”
The Matthew narrator (iv. 13) states that “He departed into Galilee, and leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt in Capernaum,” as if he imagined that the city of Nazareth was not as properly in Galilee as Capernaum was; which is much such geographical accuracy, as if one should relate the travels of a hero, who departed into Middlesex, and leaving London, came and dwelt in Lombard street.[461:1]
There are many other falsehoods in gospel geography beside these, which, it is needless to mention, plainly show that the writers were not the persons they are generally supposed to be.
Of gospel statistics there are many falsehoods; among them may be mentioned the following:
“Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness,” is an assertion made by the Luke narrator (Luke iii. 2); when all Jews, or persons living among them, must have known that there never was but one high priest at a time, as with ourselves there is but one mayor of a city.
Again we read (John vii. 52), “Search (the Scriptures) and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet,” when the most distinguished of the Jewish prophets—Nahum and Jonah—were both Galileans.
See reference in the Epistles to “Saints,” a religious order, owing its origin to the popes. Also, references to the distinct orders of “Bishops,” “Priests,” and “Deacons,” and calls to a monastic life; to fasting, etc., when, the titles of “Bishop,” “Priest,” and “Deacon” were given to the Essenes—whom Eusebius calls Christians—and, as is well known, monasteries were the abode of the Essenes or Therapeuts.
See the words for “legion,” “aprons,” “handkerchiefs,” “centurion,” etc., in the original, not being Greek, but Latin, written in Greek characters, a practice first to be found in the historian Herodian, in the third century.
In Matt. xvi. 18, and Matt. xviii. 17, the word “Church” is used, and its papistical and infallible authority referred to as then existing, which is known not to have existed till ages after. And the passage in Matt. xi. 12:—”From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,” etc., could not have been written till a very late period.
Luke ii. 1, shows that the writer (whoever he may have been) lived long after the events related. His dates, about the fifteenth year of Tiberius, and the government of Cyrenius (the only indications of time in the New Testament), are manifestly false. The general ignorance of the four Evangelists, not merely of the geography and statistics of Judea, but even of its language,—their egregious blunders, which no writers who had lived in that age could be conceived of as making,—prove that they were not only no such persons as those who have been willing to be deceived have taken them to be, but that they were not Jews, had never been in Palestine, and neither lived at, or at anywhere near the times to which their narratives seem to refer. The ablest divines at the present day, of all denominations, have yielded as much as this.[463:1]
The Scriptures were in the hands of the clergy only, and they had every opportunity to insert whatsoever they pleased; thus we find them full of interpolations. Johann Solomo Semler, one of the most influential theologians of the eighteenth century, speaking of this, says:
“The Christian doctors never brought their sacred books before the common people; although people in general have been wont to think otherwise; during the first ages, they were in the hands of the clergy only.”[463:2]
Concerning the time when the canon of the New Testament was settled, Mosheim says:
“The opinions, or rather the conjectures, of the learned concerning the time when the books of the New Testament were collected into one volume; as also about the authors of that collection, are extremely different. This important question is attended with great and almost insuperable difficulties to us in these later times.”[463:3]
The Rev. B. F. Westcott says:
“It is impossible to point to any period as marking the date at which our present canon was determined. When it first appears, it is presented not as a novelty, but as an ancient tradition.”[463:4]
Dr. Lardner says:
“Even so late as the middle of the sixth century, the canon of the New Testament had not been settled by any authority that was decisive and universally acknowledged, but Christian people were at liberty to judge for themselves concerning the genuineness of writings proposed to them as apostolical, and to determine according to evidence.”[464:1]
The learned Michaelis says:
“No manuscript of the New Testament now extant is prior to the sixth century, and what is to be lamented, various readings which, as appears from the quotations of the Fathers, were in the text of the Greek Testament, are to be found in none of the manuscripts which are at present remaining.”[464:2]
And Bishop Marsh says:
“It is a certain fact, that several readings in our common printed text are nothing more than alterations made by Origen, whose authority was so great in the Christian Church (A. D. 230) that emendations which he proposed, though, as he himself acknowledged, they were supported by the evidence of no manuscript, were very generally received.”[464:3]
In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius gives us a list of what books at that time (A. D. 315) were considered canonical. They are as follows:
“The four-fold writings of the Evangelists,” “The Acts of the Apostles,” “The Epistles of Peter,” “after these the first of John, and that of Peter,” “All these are received for undoubted.” “The Revelation of St. John, some disavow.”
“The books which are gainsaid, though well known unto many, are these: the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, the latter of Peter, the second and third of John, whether they were John the Evangelist, or some other of the same name.”[464:4]
Though Irenæus, in the second century, is the first who mentions the evangelists, and Origen, in the third century, is the first who gives us a catalogue of the books contained in the New Testament, Mosheim’s admission still stands before us. We have no grounds of assurance that the mere mention of the namesof the evangelists by Irenæus, or the arbitrary drawing up of a particular catalogue by Origen, were of any authority. It is still unknown by whom, or where, orwhen, the canon of the New Testament was settled. But in this absence of positive evidence we have abundance of negative proof. We know when it was notsettled. We know it was not settled in the time of the Emperor Justinian, nor in the time of Cassiodorus; that is, not at any time before the middle of the sixth century, “by any authority that was decisive and universally acknowledged; but Christian people were at liberty to judge for themselves concerning thegenuineness of writings proposed to them as apostolical.”
We cannot do better than close this chapter with the words of Prof. Max Müller, who, in speaking of Buddhism, says:
“We have in the history of Buddhism an excellent opportunity for watching the process by which a canon of sacred books is called into existence. We see here, as elsewhere, that during the life-time of the teacher, no record of events, no sacred code containing the sayings of the Master, was wanted. His presence was enough, and thoughts of the future, and more particularly, of future greatness, seldom entered the minds of those who followed him. It was only after Buddha had left the world to enter into Nirvâna, that his disciples attempted to recall the sayings and doings of their departed friend and master. At that time, everything that seemed to redound to the glory of Buddha, however extraordinary and incredible, was eagerly welcomed, while witnesses who would have ventured to criticise or reject unsupported statements, or to detract in any way from the holy character of Buddha, had no chance of ever being listened to. And when, in spite of all this, differences of opinion arose, they were not brought to the test by a careful weighing of evidence, but the names of ‘unbeliever‘ and ‘heretic‘ were quickly invented in India as elsewhere, and bandied backwards and forwards between contending parties, till at last, when the doctors disagreed, the help of the secular power had to be invoked, and kings and emperors assembled councils for the suppression of schism, for the settlement of an orthodox creed, and for the completion of a sacred canon.”[465:1]
That which Prof. Müller describes as taking place in the religion of Christ Buddha, is exactly what took place in the religion of Christ Jesus. That the miraculous, and many of the non-miraculous, events related in the Gospels never happened, is demonstrable from the facts which we have seen in this work, that nearly all of these events, had been previously related of the gods and goddesses of heathen nations of antiquity, more especially of the Hindoo SaviourCrishna, and the Buddhist Saviour Buddha, whose religion, with less alterations than time and translations have made in the Jewish Scriptures, may be traced in nearly every dogma and every ceremony of the evangelical mythology.
Note.—The Codex Sinaiticus, referred to on the preceding page, (note 2,) was found at the Convent of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, by Tischendorf, in 1859. He supposes that it belongs to the 4th cent.; but Dr. Davidson (in Kitto’s Bib. Ency., Art. MSS.) thinks different. He says: “Probably it is of the 6th cent.,” while he states that the Codex Vaticanus “is believed to belong to the 4th cent.,” and the Codex Alexandrinus to the 5th cent. McClintock & Strong’s Ency. (Art. MSS.,) relying probably on Tischendorf’s conjecture, places the Codex Sinaiticus first. “It is probably the oldest of the MSS. of the N. T., and of the 4th cent.,” say they. The Codex Vaticanus is considered the next oldest, and the Codex Alexandrinus is placed third in order, and “was probably written in the first half of the 5th cent.” The writer of the art. N. T. in Smith’s Bib. Dic. says: “The Codex Sinaiticus is probably the oldest of the MSS. of the N. T., and of the 4th cent.;” and that the Codex Alexandrinus “was probably written in the first half of the 5th cent.” Thus we see that in determining the dates of the MSS. of the N. T., Christian divines are obliged to resort to conjecture; there being no certainty whatever in the matter. But with all their “suppositions,” “probabilities,” “beliefs” and “conjectures,” we have the words of the learned Michaelis still before us, that: “No MSS. of the N. T. now extant are prior to the sixth cent.” This remark, however, does not cover the Codex Sinaiticus, which was discovered since Michaelis wrote his work on the N. T.; but, as we saw above, Dr. Davidson does not agree with Tischendorf in regard to its antiquity, and places it in the 6th cent.
[450:1]Williams’ Hinduism, p. 19. See also, Prof. Max Müller’s Lectures on the Origin of Religion, pp. 145-158, and p. 67, where he speaks of “the Hindus, who, thousands of years ago, had reached in Upanishads the loftiest heights of philosophy.”
[450:2]The Ancient City, p. 13.
[451:1]See Monier Williams’ Hinduism, pp. 109, 110, and Indian Wisdom, p. 493.
[451:2]See Isis Unveiled, vol. ii. p. 576, for the authority of Prof. Max Müller.
[451:3]“The religion known as Buddhism—from the title of ‘The Buddha,’ meaning ‘The Wise,’ ‘The Enlightened’—has now existed for 2400 years, and may be said to be the prevailing religion of the world.” (Chambers’s Encyclo.)
[451:4]This Council was assembled by Asoka in the eighteenth year of his reign. The name of this king is honored wherever the teachings of Buddha have spread, and is reverenced from the Volga to Japan, from Ceylon and Siam to the borders of Mongolia and Siberia. Like his Christian prototype Constantine, he was converted by a miracle. After his conversion, which took place in the tenth year of his reign, he became a very zealous supporter of the new religion. He himself built many monasteries and dagabas, and provided many monks with the necessaries of life; and he encouraged those about his court to do the same. He published edicts throughout his empire, enjoining on all his subjects morality and justice.
[451:5]Rhys Davids’ Buddhism, p. 10.
[452:1]Müller: Lectures on the Science of Religion, p. 235.
[452:2]This small tribe of Persians were driven from their native land by the Mohammedan conquerors under the Khalif Omar, in the seventh century of our era. Adhering to the ancient religion of Persia, which resembles that of the Veda, and bringing with them the records of their faith, the Zend-Avesta of their prophet Zoroaster, they settled down in the neighborhood of Surat, about one thousand one hundred years ago, and became great merchants and shipbuilders. For two or three centuries we know little of their history. Their religion prevented them from making proselytes, and they never multiplied within themselves to any extent, nor did they amalgamate with the Hindoo population, so that even now their number only amounts to about seventy thousand. Nevertheless, from their busy, enterprising habits, in which they emulate Europeans, they form an important section of the population of Bombay and Western India.
[452:3]Movers: Quoted in Dunlap’s Spirit Hist., p. 261.
[452:4]Prolegomena, p. 417.
[452:5]Bonwick’s Egyptian Belief, p. 162.
[453:1]Bonwick’s Egyptian Belief, p. 163.
[453:2]Ibid. p. 142, and King’s Gnostics, p. 71.
[453:3]Bonwick’s Egyptian Belief, pp. 135, 140, and 143.
[453:4]Quoted in Ibid. p. 186.
[453:6]Renouf: Religion of Ancient Egypt, p. 81.
[454:1]That is, the Tri-murti Brahmā, Vishnu and Siva, for he tells us that the three gods, Indra, Agni, and Surya, constitute the Vedic chief triad of Gods. (Hinduism, p. 24.) Again he tells us that the idea of a Tri-murti was first dimly shadowed forth in the Rig-Veda, where a triad of principal gods—Agni, Indra and Surya—is recognized. (Ibid. p. 88.) The worship of the three members of the Tri-murti, Brahmā, Vishnu and Siva, is to be found in the period of the epic poems, from 500 to 308 B. C. (Ibid. pp. 109, 110, 115.)
[454:2]Williams’ Hinduism, p. 25.
[454:3]Monumental Christianity, p. 890.
[454:4]See Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi.
[455:1]The genealogy which traces him back to Adam (Luke iii.) makes his religion not only a Jewish, but a Gentile one. According to this Gospel he is not only a Messiah sent to the Jews, but to all nations, sons of Adam.
[456:1]See The Bible of To-Day, under “Matthew.”
[456:2]See Ibid. under “Luke.”
[457:1]See the Bible of To-Day, under “Mark.”
[457:2]“Synoptics;” the Gospels which contain accounts of the same events—”parallel passages,” as they are called—which can be written side by side, so as to enable us to make a general view or synopsis of all the three, and at the same time compare them with each other. Bishop Marsh says: “The most eminent critics are at present decidedly of opinion that one of the two suppositions must necessarily be adopted, either that the three Evangelists copied from each other, or that all the three drew from a common source, and that the notion of an absolute independence, in respect to the composition of the three first Gospels, is no longer tenable.”
[457:3]“On opening the New Testament and comparing the impression produced by the Gospel of Matthew or Mark with that by the Gospel of John, the observant eye is at once struck with as salient a contrast as that already indicated on turning from the Macbeth or Othello of Shakespeare to the Comus of Milton or to Spenser’s Faerie Queene.” (Francis Tiffany.)
“To learn how far we may trust them (the Gospels) we must in the first place compare them with each other. The moment we do so we notice that the fourth stands quite alone, while the first three form a single group, not only following the same general course, but sometimes even showing a verbal agreement which cannot possibly be accidental.” (The Bible for Learners, vol. ii. p. 27.)
[458:1]“Irenæus is the first person who mentions the four Gospels by name.” (Bunsen: Keys of St. Peter, p. 328.)
“Irenæus, in the second century, is the first of the fathers who, though he has nowhere given us a professed catalogue of the books of the New Testament, intimates that he had received four Gospels, as authentic Scriptures, the authors of which he describes.” (Rev. R. Taylor: Syntagma, p. 109.)
“The authorship of the fourth Gospel has been the subject of much learned and anxious controversy among theologians. The earliest, and only very important external testimony we have is that of Irenæus (A. D. 179.)” (W. R. Grey: The Creed of Christendom, p. 159.)
[458:2]Against Heresies, bk. ii. ch. xi. sec. 1.
[459:1]Against Heresies, bk. iii. ch. xi. sec. 8.
[459:2]Mosheim: vol. i. p. 109.
[459:3]Middleton’s Works, vol. i. p. 59.
[460:1]Genuine Epist. Apost. Fathers, p. 98.
[460:2]See Chadwick’s Bible of To-Day, pp. 191, 192.
[460:3]“Nec ab ipso scriptum constat, nec ab ejus apostolis sed longo post tempore a quibusdam incerti nominis viris, qui ne sibi non haberetur fides scribentibus quæ nescirent, partim apostolorum, partim eorum qui apostolos secuti viderentur nomina scriptorum suorum frontibus indiderunt, asseverantes secundum eos, se scripsisse quæ scripserunt.” (Faust, lib. 2. Quoted by Rev. R. Taylor: Diegesis, p. 114.)
[460:4]“Multa enim a majoribus vestris, eloquiis Domini nostri inserta verba sunt; quæ nomine signata ipsius, cum ejus fide non congruant, præsertim, quia, ut jam sæpe probatum a nobis est, nec ab ipso hæc sunt, nec ab ejus apostolis scripta, sed multo post eorum assumptionem, a nescio quibus, et ipsis inter se non concordantibus semi-Judæis, per famas opinionesque comperta sunt; qui tamen omnia eadem in apostolorum Domini conferentes nomina vel eorum qui secuti apostolos viderentur, errores ac mendacia sua secundum eos se scripsisse mentiti sunt.” (Faust.: lib. 88. Quoted in Ibid. p. 66.)
[463:1]Says Prof. Smith upon this point: “All the earliest external evidence points to the conclusion that the synoptic gospels are non-apostolic digests of spoken and written apostolic tradition, and that the arrangement of the earlier material in orderly form took place only gradually and by many essays.”
Dr. Hooykaas, speaking of the four “Gospels,” and “Acts,” says of them: “Not one of these five books was really written by the person whose name it bears, and they are all of more recent date than the heading would lead us to suppose.”
“We cannot say that the “Gospels” and book of “Acts” are unauthentic, for not one of them professes to give the name of its author. They appeared anonymously. The titles placed above them in our Bibles owe their origin to a later ecclesiastical tradition which deserves no confidence whatever.” (Bible for Learners, vol. iii. pp. 24, 25.)
These Gospels “can hardly be said to have had authors at all. They had only editors or compilers. What I mean is, that those who enriched the old Christian literature with these Gospels did not go to work as independent writers and compose their own narratives out of the accounts they had collected, but simply took up the different stories or sets of stories which they found current in the oral tradition or already reduced to writing, adding here and expanding there, and so sent out into the world a very artless kind of composition. These works were then, from time to time, somewhat enriched by introductory matter or interpolations from the hands of later Christians, and perhaps were modified a little here and there. Our first two Gospels appear to have passed through more than one such revision. The third, whose writer says in his preface, that ‘many had undertaken to put together a narrative (Gospel),’ before him, appears to proceed from a single collecting, arranging, and modifying hand.” (Ibid. p. 29.)
[463:2]“Christiani doctores non in vulgus prodebant libros sacros, licet soleant plerique aliteropinari, erant tantum in manibus clericorum, priora per sæcula.” (Quoted in Taylor’s Diegesis, p. 48.)
[463:3]Mosheim: vol. i. pt. 2, ch. ii.
[463:4]General Survey of the Canon, p. 459.
[464:1]Credibility of the Gospels.
[464:2]Marsh’s Michaelis, vol. ii. p. 160. The Sinaitic MS. is believed by Tischendorf to belong to the fourth century.
[464:3]Ibid. p. 368.
[464:4]Eusebius: Ecclesiastical Hist. lib. 3, ch. xxii.
[465:1]The Science of Religion, pp. 30, 31.
Extract from CHAPTER XXXVIII THE ANTIQUITY OF PAGAN RELIGIONS, “BIBLE MYTHS AND THEIR PARALLELS IN OTHER RELIGIONS” By T. W. DOANE, 1882. Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Lisa Reigel, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31885/31885-h/31885-h.htm#Page_36