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Edward Evanson.

The dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical online

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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 11 of 18)
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tions of our Saviour, which in Luke are sepa-
rated by the intervention of no less than nine
chapters, the author affords us a very striking
proof of his entire ignorance of the Gospel
meaning of the phrase, the kingdom of God, or,
as h calls it, of heaven ; for, not comprehend-
ing the sense of Luke, c. xvi. v. 16, he says,
" From the days of John the Baptist, Until



THE DISSONANCE OF

p, the kingdom of heaven suflereth violence,
and the violent take it by force/' From the
days of John the Baptist, until the age of this
writer, I have no doubt, was a period of many
years; but what sense can the words -until noi*
have, supposing them to have been used by
our Saviour whilst John was living, and within
two months, or perhaps less, after his baptiz-
ing and preaching publicly ? And in what
meaning can the New Covenant of the king-
dom of God, which was in no degree estab-
lished in the world, till after our Lord's resur-
rection, be said, at any time, but especially
at the very beginning of his ministry, to suffer
violence, and to be taken forcibly by violent men?
Can any unprejudiced person believe, that
an Apostle of Jesus Christ could be the author
of such a sentence ?

In chapter xii. v. 14 21, we have another
instance of the uncommon ingenuity of this
writer, in the application of the old prophecies
so conspicuously displayed by him in the first
and second chapters of his work. Not to
dwell upon the impossibility of a person's re-
maining unknown, who was followed by great
multitudes^ and healed all the sick whom those
multitudes brought unto him, consequently
the unreasonable absurdity of such a person's



THE EVANGELISTS. 191

charging the multitudes not to make him
known, the writer tells us, that this very cir-
cumstance was the completion of a well known
prophecy of Isaiah respecting the Messiah,
which, like many prophecies of the New Tes-
tament, predicts, that the religion of the new
covenant should be embraced by the Gentiles,
and that all nations will become subject to the
authority of Christ ; a prophecy which at this
day remains to be fulfilled, and which had
therefore no more reference to the circum-
stances here recorded of our Saviour, than the
prophecy of the return of the Jews from their
Babylonish captivity, applied in the second
chapter, had to the pretended slaughter of the
infants.

At verse 40, the author, not understanding
our Lord's meaning about the sign which
Jonas was to the Ninevites, as recorded by
Luke, not only shews that his credulity easily
swallowed die fabulous legend of the prophet
in the whale's belly ; but, in order to make
out some kind of similitude between his situa-
tion there and our Saviour's, tells us, that as
Jonas was confined in that extraordinary
prison three days and three nights, so the son
of man should be three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth, Even this pre-



19^ THE DISSONANCE OF

tended similitude, however, has not one coiv
responding feature in the two parts ; for, in
the first place, our Lord was in the grave
only one day and two nights ; and, in the
next, Jonas, according to this incredible
story, was alive the whole time, praying to
and praising God, whereas Jesus was amongst
the dead, and buried, of whom the Psalmist
says,* " the dead praise not thee, O Lord,
" neither they that go down into silence."

III. Ix the thirteenth chapter we find that,
according to this writer, our Lord had greatly
changed his mode of preaching to the peo-
ple since the time of his delivering to them
his sermon on the mount : for though in that
ample collection of unconnected moral apho-
risms, there is scarcely any thing like a para-
ble to be met with, now, the author tell us,
" he spake not unto them without a parable."
Accordingly, the whole of his discourses given
us in this chapter, both from the ship and even
after he was come into the house, except
where they are interrupted by explanations
to his disciples alone, consists of a collection
of seven parables, three of which are evident-
ly borrowed from Luke ; two of them ver-

*. Psalm cxv. 17.



THE EVANGELISTS. 193

batim, and the other four are the autho/s
own composition. To this circumstance the
reader's particular attention is requested; for,
I persuade myself, there is no person of taste
or feeling, who has attentively read the writ-
ings of Luke, and has not admired the para-
bles of his first, and the speeches of his se-
cond history, as pieces of masterly Composi-
tion, whether he considers the elegant sim-
plicity of the diction, the justness and force
of the sentiment and doctrine intended to be
conveyed by them, or the strict propriety,
and consistency of character, of the several
agents or speakers introduced, either allego-
rical or real : but whoever impartially consi-
ders the various parables, related by the
writer called Matthew, will find that every
one of them, which is not taken from Luke,
is grossly defective in some or all of those
particulars ; and that, of those which he has
evidently copied from Luke, there is not one
which is not injured, exactly in the propor-
tion in which he has thought fit to deviate
from the very words of Luke. Of all this,
the parables that compose this chapter afford
us most striking examples. The first is the-
well known parable of the sower ; from se-
veral circumstances of which, it is as clear as

N



194 THE DISSONANCE OF

light* as Dr. Mills expresses it, that the au-
thor must have borrowed it, and transcribed
several sentences from Luke; but he has
chosen to vary some parts of the phraseolo-
gy, and, instead of telling us, in the. words of
the latter, that "some fell upon,a rock, and,
" as soon as it sprung up, it withered away
" because k lacked moisture," he says, " some
" fell on stoney places, where they (the seeds)
" had not much earth, and forthwith they
" sprung up, because they had no depth of
u earth, and when the sun was up they were
" scorched^ and because they had not root
" they withered away/' Here, the concise
simplicity and strict propriety of; Xuke's ex-
pression, and the aukwardly laboured pe-
riphrasis of this author, together ;with the
false idea it suggests, that seed vegetates
the sooner for want of depth of soil, form
so glaring a contrast, as must surely strike
every attentive reader: and where Luke
tells us, "other fell on good, ground, and
w sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred fold,"
this writer says, no doubt, with intent to
improve upon his model, that "oilier fell
" into good ground, and brought forth fruit,
" some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, and

- * Luce Clarius,



THE EVANGELISTS. 1$5

*< some thirty fold/' Now, if the criterion of
good ground be, its producing an hundred
fold, that which produces only thirty or even
sixty fold, is certainly not good ground ;
and the author, instead of apprehending our
Saviour's meaning, in the parable recorded
by Luke, seems to have been misled into
these three different degrees of produce, of
what he calls good ground, by the very dis-
similar parable of the talents, and an atten-
tion to the different capacities of men ; but
that difference is by no means the object of
this parable, as stated by Luke; and, there-
fore, he is far from attributing the product of
the fruit of the Gospel, in any degree, like
this writer, to the mental capacity of the
hearer, but represents his Master as teaching
us, that by the seed on the good ground, is
meant all those, who, "in an honest and
" good heart, having heard the word, keep it,
" and bring forth fruit with patience/' The
intellectual abilities of riien, indeed, vary as
greatly as the degrees of their bodily strength,
but in capacity for moral virtue they 'are all
equal ; the weakest and most illiterate may
possess as honest and as good a heart, as the
wisest and most exalted genius that ever
lived : the moral virtue of the latter may have

N 2



190 THE DISSONANCE OF

a more extensive influence than that of the
former, but that difference is merely acci-
dental ; his heart cannot be justly represented
?s a better and more fruitful soil in its pro-
portion, though it might, with propriety, be
compared to a more extensive field of
equally productive soil, whose produce must
of consequence be more extensively bene-
ficial.

The second parable of this collection is
entirely the author's own ; and the reader
will in vain search in it for that propriety of
expression, and consistency of doctrine, which
are so eminently conspicuous in Luke's com-
positions of the same kind. It begins with
resembling the kingdom of heaven to " a
" man who sowed good seed in his field ; v
but what idea must this writer have formed
to himself, of the meaning of the kingdom of
heaven, that he could think of likening it to
a husbandman ? The kingdom of heaven (or,
as it is always called by other writers, of God,
or of Christ, as that phrase is used by Jesus
in the prayer he taught his disciples, by Luke,
Paul, and John in the apocalypse) uniformly
signifies, as I have before observed, the duti-
ful state of submission and obedience of
mankind, to the terms of the New Covenant



THE EVANGELISTS, 197

of the Gospel ; and what similitude can
there be between such a state of the world,
and the husbandman in this parable ? It is
said, indeed, to obviate objections to many
solecisms that are observable in the language
of some parts of the canonical scriptures, that
though the miraculous gift of tongues sup-
plied the writers with a knowledge of differ-
ent languages, so far as to enable them to
make themselves understood by those to
whom they preached the Gospel ; it did not
endow them with that elegance, and pro-
priety of diction, which is acquired gradually
by the cultivation of natural learning : but
why the knowledge of any language, infused
into the mind at once, by the influence of
divine inspiration, should be less complete
and perfect than the slower attainments of
human industry and application, is not easy
to see. It is certain, if Luke acquired his
Greek on the memorable day of Pente-
cost, few scholars, in the ordinary w r ays of
learning, could ever make a greater profi-
ciency; and, whether he did of not, it must
be remembered that, according 'to all those
who tell us this history was written by Mat-
thew, he wrote it not in\ Greek, but : in his

N 3



198 THE DISSONANCE OF

own native language, Hebrew : imd iviiat
credit or regard ought to be paid to an un-
known translator, who presumes to translate
any work, and, above all, a work of import-
ance, into a language of which he himself is
not thoroughly master ? A work, however,
so evidently borrowed in many passages, and
in some literally transcribed, from Luke, and
in all the rest of it so badly written, cannot
be a translation of any original Hebrew
work ; but must have been composed, in the
very form in .which we have received it, long
after the publication of the Gospel of Luke,
and consequently not by Matthew nor any
other Apostle. Indeed if, after all the in-
structions of their great Master, and the su-
pernatural illumination of their minds, by di-
vine inspiration, any one of them could still
remain so ignorant of the propriety of the
common forms of speech, as to tells us, our
Saviour cpmpared the kingdom to the person-*
age of his parable, who represents the King,
he was very unlike those pieachers of Chris-
tianity, whom we read of in the Acts, and
very unfit for the important object of his
itfission; But let us pass by this obvious so-
iecisj&.at the beginning, a^d attend to



THE EVANGELISTS. 19 9

JP caning of the parable, as it is explained by
the author himself, v. 37 5 c. We are there
given to understand that, according to the
system of the Manichees, the world, even
under the Gospel Covenant, is still subject
to the influence of two opposite principles,
counteracting each other ; that as fast as Je-
sus Christ, the delegate of God, sows the
seeds of virtue and righteousness amongst
men, his equally potent enemy, the Devil,
sows the seeds of vice and wickedness ; that
God himself cannot cause the wicked to be
rooted out of the world, without destroying
the righteous with them ; that, therefore, the
good and bad will always remain blended to-
gether amongst men, whilst the world lasts ;
but that, at the end of the world, the angels
will separate them, and the wicked will be
thrown into hell-fire ; but the righteous will
be received with honour into the kingdom of
God. By the writer's giving that appellation
to the future existence of the virtuous, in a
state of happiness and immortality in hea-
ven, it is manifest that, whoever he was, he
did not understand our Saviour's meaning iu
that expression, so frequently used by him,
and so peculiar to his Gospel ; for, besides



200 THE DISSONANCE F

that no other writer of the New Testament
uses it in that sense, the obvious meaning of
the second petition of the Lord's Prayer, and
of all the prophecies of both Testaments, re-
lating to the Messiah or Christ, makes it re-
fer merely to the state of human affairs in the
present world, and not to that future state
which is to succeed the general resurrection :
-and, instead of teaching us, like this parable,
that sin and wickedness will continue amongst
men to the end of this world, all the other
scriptures assure us, that the very purpose of
the mission of Christ, and the preaching his
Gospel, is to eradicate, and put an end to,
the growth of these tares of vice and iniquity ;
and that the reformed state of mankind in
the present world, under the universal influ-
ence of the righteousness and moral virtue of
the Gospel, is what is peculiarly denominated
the kingdom of God, or of his Christ. Who
then can believe that an Apostle of Jesus
Christ could either be so ignorant of the great
end and design of the Gospel, or so culpa-
bly daring as to put into the mouth of our
blessed Saviotir a doctrine so absurdly false
and impioiL^f as is taught us in this parable,
and so directly contradictory to every idea



THE EVANGELISTS. :OJ

of the new covenant of the Messiah
by all the other sacred writers, whether Jew*
or Christians ?

The two prophetic parables or similitudes
introduced at verses 31 and 33, are tran-
scribed evidently from Luke; so that there
is nothing worthy of remark in them, except
that the author, from his own misconceived
idea, that what Luke calls the kingdom of God,
means the future state of the virtuous in hea-
ven, has, in both these cases, changed it for
the kingdom of heaven, as he has done in most
instances throughout his book, though he is
the only writer who has made that alteration
of the phrase.

In the two next parables, verses 44, 45,
and 46, we have the same idea held out to
us of the kingdom of heaven, as meaning a
future state of happiness ; only in the latter,
the author has been guilty of a similar sole-
cism to that observed in the parable of the
wheat and tares ; and, instead of comparing
the eternal happiness of heaven to the pearl
of great value, as he does to the hidden trea-
sure in the former, he here compares it to the
trader, who purchases the pearl.

In the last of these seven parables, v. 47,
this writer gives us another idea of the king*



THE DISSONANCE OF

dom of heaven, according to which, it signifies,
neither the earthly nor the heavenly state of
men, but the day of general judgment, and
final distribution of punishments and rewards
to the wicked and the just. So* little con-
sistent is he with himself, as well as so contra-
dictory to the best attested scriptures ?

IV. Ix the fourteenth chapter, we have a
very singular story told us, of the cause of the
.death of John the Baptist ; but it is the pe-
culiar fate of this historian, to have almost all
the uncommon facts he has related, uncon-
firmed by any other writer, Luke, though
he mentions John's being beheaded by He-
rod, speaks of it in the person of Herod, as
his own voluntary act, and gives not the least
hint, that he w r as artfully drawn in to murder
him, against his own inclination : and Jose-
phus, who is equally silent about the daugh-
ter of Herodias, pleasing Herod by her danc-
ing, expressly assures us, that Herod, after he
had imprisoned him,, put him to death, be-
cause he was jealous of the great influence
his character and preaching had upon the
people, and because he thought it easier and
more prudent, by his death to prevent any
insurrection upon his account, than to inflict



THE EVANGEL: ^

the same punishment on him, after a tumult
might be begun.

In chapter xv. verse 11, we have the fol-
lovving curious piece of instruction addressed
to the multitude : " N;;t that which goeth
"into t :e mouth defileth a man; but that
4C which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth
" a man :" and at v. ; 15. this is called a para-
ble. Surely this writer did not consider what
constitutes a parable, when he. called it by
that name ; for here is no similitude nor alle-
gorical allusion whatsoever, but a plain, di-
dactic aphorism, so- very perspicuous, that
even the explanation of it, said to be given
to the disciples, at the request of Peter, in
the 17th and following verses, is not in any
degree more intelligible, though much more
absurd : for, with what propriety can evil
thoughts, murders, and thqfts, be said to pro-
cccdout of the mouth? Indeed, to say that
any thing which proceeds out of the mouth, or
even out of the heart of man, defileth him, is
as absurd as it were; to say, that the turbid
stream, which flows from a polluted fountain,
defileth the fountain. According to Luke,
our Saviour, on the contrary, with much more
reason and propriety, taught both his disciples
and the multitude, c. vi. v, 45, that " a good.



to* THE DISSONANCE OF

" man, out of the good treasure of his heart,
" bringeth forth that which is good ; and an
" evil man, out of the evil treasure of his
" heart, bringeth forth that which is evil : for
" out of the abundance of the heart his mouth
" speaketh." We cannot wonder, however,
that this writer should be found inconsistent
with Luke, when he even palpably contra-
dicts himself. We have seen above, that, in
the sermon on the mount, he makes our Lord
expressly declare, that he was not come to
destroy one jot or one tittle of the Law of
Moses. Yet that Law prohibited many un-
clean meats, the eating of which certainly
defiled any member of that covenant: to
teach, therefore, that nothing which a man
eat defiled him, was at once to destroy a very
considerable part of that Law, for the observ-
ance of which, Peter himself, notwithstanding
this pretended early instruction to the con-
trary, was zealous, long after his Master's
ascension, as appears from his vision in the
matter of Cornelius, and of which every Jew,
to this day, is particularly tenacious.

The author, chapter 18, has introduced
another parable of his own composition, the
obvious scope of which is an exceeding good
one, viz. the enforcing the Christian doctrine



THE EVANGELISTS. ios

of mutual forgiveness : but he has been very
far from attaining that happy propriety of
figurative expression and character, which so
strikingly distinguishes all the parables of our
Saviour recorded by Luke. It begins with a
repetition of his former solecism, the likening
the kingdom to the king ; and here the king-
dom of heaven, instead of meaning what the
kingdom of God always means in Luke, has a
new signification, different even from any
which he himself has before assigned to it ;
for it represents the government of the divine
providence over the affairs of men : but in hi*
endeavours to inculcate the necessity of the
duty he intended to teach, he has entirely
lost sight of justice and honour, in the con*
duct of his parabolic king. Had he repre-
sented him, as the Lord's Prayer represents
the Almighty to us, forgiving his offending
subject, on condition that he forgave his fel-
low subjects, the conclusion of the parable
had been consistent both with propriety and
equity ; but after ail absolute, unconditional
forgiveness once granted, to recant that par-
don, and enforce the payment of his debt by
the severest penalties, because the man did
not shew similar mercy to his own debtor, is
downright tyranny and injustice. Let us sup*



206 THE DISSONANCE OF

pose, that a subject had on some occasion
aimed a stroke with his sWoi'd at an easily
sovereign, and that, with uncommon magna-
nimity and mercy, moved by his submission
and apparent penitence, the sovereign had
granted him a full and free pardon ; and that,
on his return from the palace, -'he received a
blow himself from one of his fellow subjects,
against whom he immediately instituted a
prosecution in the courts of justice, that the
offender might be legally punished for the
assault; in such a case, could the sovereign,
with any shadow of equity or honour, break
his own word, and cause the man to be ap-
prehended, tried and executed for that high
treason, which he. had already pardoned?
Yet such and so unjustifiable is the conduct
attributed to the king in thia parable !

In chap. xix. v. 12, the author, very inad-
vertently, puts into the mouth of our Saviour
an expression, which plainly betrays the age
in which this spurious Gospel was written,
and the particular sect of apostate Christians,
which he himself favoured ; for in reply to a
remark of the disciples, upon a pretended
condemnation of the divorces allowed by the
Mosaic Law, our Lord is made to say, that
u there are some eunuchs, which were so born



THE EVANGELISTS.

" from their mother's womb ; and there are
" some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs
" of men ; and there be eunuchs, which have
" made themselves eunuchs, for the kingdom of
" heaven's sake" Now the prophetic marks
of the predicted anticlmstian apostasy given
us by Paul, 1 Tim. c. iv. and 3, are first,
that, its authors would speak lies in hypocrisy,
having a seared conscience (a character, as far
as I am able to judge, strongly and strik-
ingly exemplified in this writer); and secondly,
that they ..would forbid tnarriage^ and abstain
from meats : in conformity to the last distin-
guishing character of this early apostasy, this
author, as 1 have before observed, in contra-
diction, not only to what Luke, but to what
he himself elsewhere relates, as our Saviour's
doctrine, makes hlni give directions for fast-
ing; and, on another occasion, to. say $ that
even the miraculous power of God, in curing
some kind of Demoniacs, could not be effi-
caciously exerted " without prayer andfast-
" ing" on the part of the Almighty's agent ;
and here he clearly discovers to us the second
of these prophetic marks, pre-noticed by
Paul, by making our Saviour approve of a
determined, unnatural abstinence from mar-
riage, for the kingdom of heaven's sake. These



eu8 TH DISSONANCE OF

were the peculiar doctrines of the Endra*
tites or Continentes, a sect which appeared
very early in the second century > and amongst
whom it is not improbable, that the same
madness of superstitious enthusiasm, which
soon after led men into hermitages, monaste-
ries, and even to stand for a great length of
time in an erect posture on the top of a pillar,
might have produced some instances of the
unnatural self-violence the author speaks of>
not long after the rise of that sect, the very
allusion to which convicts him of being a wri-
ter later than those instances, that is, not ear-
lier than near the middle of the second cen-
tury; but it is absolutely impossible that in
our Saviour's time, almost as soon as the New
Covenant of the kingdom of God was begun
to be preached, and even before his disciples
comprehended its nature and intent, any men
could have made themselves eunuchs for the
sake of it. In the latter half of the second,
and within the third century, indeed, such
numerous instances occurred in consequence
of the approbation of our Saviour himself,
supposed to be given in this spurious Gospel,
which had been received as the Apostle
Matthew's, that early in the fourth century,
the first Council of Nice, in conformity to



THE EVANGELISTS. 209

the Mosaic Law* which forbad any Man,
that had a blemish or defect, from performing
the office of a priest, decreed that no man,
who had castrated himself, should be admit-
ted into, or retained in any clerical office :
though the same Council evinced their at-
tachment to the principles and doctrines of
the Encratites, by decreeing, at the same


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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 11 of 18)