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

. (page 12 of 18)
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 12 of 18)
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time, that no man of the clerical order should
be allowed to marry. It should be observed
also, that in the introduction to this curious
discourse, the writer again betrays the gross-
est ignorance of the geography of the coun-
try ; for he says, it passed when our Saviour
" leaving Galilee, came into the coasts of
" Judea beyond Jordan ;" though the Jordan
was the eastern boundary of both the Jewish
and Roman province of Judea, and conse-
quently no part of it was beyond the Jordan.

V. THE twentieth chapter begins with ano-
ther parable peculiar to this author* who,
with his usual incongruity of figurative lan-
guage, here resembles the kingdom of heaven
to an householder hiring labourers into his
vineyard, at different hours of the day, and
in the evening, paying those who were hired

* Lev. xxi.


early in the morning, the stipulated, custom-
ary price of their day's labour, and generously
giving the very same sum to all those who
were hired later, or even to such as had
worked only a single hour. But if, by work-
ing in the vineyard, is meant men's perform-
ing the moral duties of the Gospel ; and by
their payment in the evening, is to be under-
stood, the rewards of that future life, which
Gdd has promised to all faithful and true
Christians ; there is not the least resemblance
of any kind between the circumstances of
the Gospel Covenant and those of the bar-
gain made with the labourers in the parable :
for ever since the Gospel has been preached
to the world, wheresoever it is known, the
labourers in the Christian vineyard are in-
vited all together to enter into it ; and the
same covenanted terms are proposed to all,
without any partial choice or predilection,
viz. an eternal life of happiness in heaven.
Now in this parable, though the labourers,
who had wrought the entire day, having re-
ceived the bare payment they had earned,
had certainly no right to complain of injus-
tice in the householder, nor to controul his
generosity towards the others, in giving them
more than they had earned ; yet surely they


must feel the great difference between his
mere justice to themselves, and his extraordi-
nary liberality to those who had wrought but
one hour ; and we cannot wonder that they
murmured at so seemingly unreasonable a
preference and partiality, in the distribution
of his bounty. But the eternity of happiness,
promised us in the Gospel, is so transcendent
a recompense that, in comparison of it, the
difference between the longest and the short-
est life of man becomes perfectly evanescent ;
we are all, therefore, taught to consider our-
selves as unprofitable, that is, unmeriting ser-
vants, who, in constantly doing our utmost,
can barely do our duty : and, instead of
finding cause to murmur, the best of men
must see reason for endless gratitude to the
Deity, for the Gospel promises of such an
infinite and undeserved portion of his be-

The beginning of the twenty-first chapter
contains the history of our Lord's entry into
Jerusalem, amidst the hosannas of the peo-
ple, as predicted by the prophet Zechariah,
" meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt,
" the foal of an ass :" but this writer was so
ignorant of the usual pleonasm and redun-
dancy of the Hebrew idiom, that, misunder-

o 2


standing the prophet, who only means to say,
that the promised king would come riding on
an ass, and that the ass he should ride on,
would be a young one, or an ass's colt, he
supposes him to predict his riding upon two
asses ; and therefore, to shew that the pro-
phecy was more literally accomplished than
Luke's history had shewn it to be, he informs
us, our Lord sent two of his disciples to fetch
an ass and a colt with her : that " they
" brought the ass and the colt, and put on
" them their clothes, and they set him upon
'" them" In what position either the writer
himself, or those who, for so many centuries,
have believed him to be an Apostle of Jesus
Christ, conceived our Saviour to have been
seated on two animals at a time, I pretend
not to determine ; but surely, a more glaring
instance of the gross ignorance of the one, re-
specting the Jewish prophecies, and of the
extreme credulity of the others, need not
be produced ! !

At the twenty-eighth verse of this chapter,
there is a kind of an attempt at another pa-
rable ; but whether working in the vineyard
means becoming Christians, or living righte-
ously under any religious institution ; why
publicans and harlots are styled the eldest


son of the master of the vineyard, and the
chief priests and elders of the Jews, his
younger son ; whether the repentance and
righteousness preached by John the Baptist,
or the Gospel of Christ, be here meant by
the kingdom of God ; and upon what autho-
rity, harlots are mentioned as particularly
flocking to John's baptism ; does not appear
from the parable itself, at least, it is not in
my power to discover.

The following parable, verse 33, with some
trifling alterations in the expression, is taken
entirely from Luke, and is very perspicuous
and intelligible ; but, towards the close of it,
Luke represents our Saviour, as asking,
" what, therefore, shall the Lord of the vine-
" yard do unto them?" and supplying the an-
swer himself in these words, " He shall come
" and destroy these husbandmen, and shall
" give the vineyard to others :" whereas, this
writer tells us, the chief Priests and Pharisees
answered his question, in words nearly to the
same purpose, in direct contradiction to Luke,
who assures us, they were so far from de-
nouncing such a judgment against them-
selves, that, when they heard our Saviour ut-
ter it, they exclaimed, God forbid !

O 3


The twenty-second chapter begins with
another remarkable parable, the idea of which
is evidently borrowed from one of Luke's ;
but the time, place, language, circumstances,
and general scope of the whole, are so altered,
that it may, with reason, pass for the author's
own. In Luke, c. 14, the parable is merely
prophetic of the preaching of the Gospel to
the Gentiles, in consequence of the chief per-
sons of the Jewish nation refusing to receive
it, from an interested attachment to, what
they thought, their temporal welfare, an
event which took place before the destruction
of Jerusalem; and, therefore, the poor and
lower classes of the Jews, whereof our Lord's
first disciples mostly consisted, are repre-
sented by the indigent and distressed fre-
quenters of the streets and lanes of the
Jewish, city, and the Gentiles, by those who
were found about the highways and hedges :
but this author, who, I have no doubt, wrote
long after the destruction of Jerusalem, makes
the invitation of the Gentiles, to accept the
Gospel Covenant, posterior to that calamity.
The parable, therefore, in the first seven
verses, refers only to the preaching the New
Covenant to the Jews ; describes their cruel


persecution of the Apostles and the first
preachers of the Gospel, and the vengeance
inflicted on them by heaven, in the utter
ruin of their city and nation ; after which, the
messengers of the Gospel are ordered to go
and preach it to the Gentiles. The manner,
ho wever, in which that is done in the parable,
shews that the writer did not live in the age
of Matthew, but at a time, when Christianity
was, with great numbers, a mere external pro-
fession, and the state of the Church so cor-
rupt, that the majority of its members were
bad men ; for he tells us, the king's ser-
vants furnished the wedding w r ith guests, by
collecting together " as many as they found,
" both bad 'and good." This is a pretty accu-
rate description of the state of professed
Christianity, as it is at present, and as I am
well convinced it was in the age of this
writer, and has been ever since ; but nothing
can be more unlike the state of the true
Church of Christ, as it was founded by Mat-
thew and the other Apostles ; and as, where
it subsists at all, it must for ever continue to
be : for the Apostles and the first preachers of
the Gospel were so far from admitting bad
men into the Christian society, that Paul
strictly enjoins the Gentile converts, 1 Cor.

o 4


c. v. v. 11, not to suffer any man, who was
guilty of any of the vices prohibited in the
Gospel, to remain a member of their commu-
nity, nor to associate, nor even so much a?
to eat, with him. In the conclusion of the
parable of the labourers in the vineyard, the
author informs us, as the reason of the mas-
ter's partiality, that though, under the Gos-
pel Covenant, " many are called, yet few
" are chosen ;" and he repeats the same
words at the end of this parable also : for,
since he considered all the professed christi-
ans of his own time to be called, and was
sensible that but few of them, in comparison
of the whole number, were really virtuous,
good men ; and ignorantly supposed, that
such would be the state of the Christian reli-
gion to the end of the world ; it was natural
for him to conclude, that those, whom God
would finally approve at the day of judgment,
would be very few indeed. But had he been
an Apostle of Jesus Christ, or had he under-
stood the Gospel meaning of the kingdom of
God, or the sense of the old prophecies, re-
specting the state of the world under the New
Covenant of the Messiah, he would have
known,, that no immoral, bad man could be
a member of the true Church of Christ,


whatever his profession might be ; and that,
therefore, the whole congregation of faith-
ful Christians are denominated the chosen or
elect of God; and, instead of their being
found to be few at the day of general judgment
and retribution, he would have known also,
that the very end and design of the religion
of Jesus Christ, is to bless all the families of the
earth* with the happy effects of its moral in-
fluence in the present life; and that, when
the marriage of the king's son really takes
place, righteousness will overspread the
earth, as completely as the waters cover the
sea. With respect to the guest, who had not
on a wedding garment, whatever the author
meant by that figurative expression, though
the man, it seems, had nothing to say for
himself, one cannot help pitying him: be-
cause, from the circumstances of the para-
ble, he appears to have been, in a manner,
pressed to attend at the marriage feast ; and,
if any particular robe was necessary, since
the king's servants must see that he had
none, they ought either to have supplied him
with one, or not to have Invited him at all :
and it seems rather hard, that, in conse-
quence of their inattention or neglect, the
unhappy wretch should be bound hand and


foot, and thrown into outer darkness, there to
remain weeping and gnashing his teeth.

VI. AT the close of the twenty- third chap-
ter, we meet with a very remarkable instance
of this writer's ignorance of, and astonishing
inattention to, the meaning of Luke's history,
though he has made so free and copious an use
of it in patching up his own. The reader will
recollect, that, in the thirteenth chapter of
Luke, our Saviour is represented, whilst he
was yet in Galilee, as breaking out into a
beautiful, pathetic ejaculation, upon the fore-
sight of his own death, .and the consequent
destruction of the city of Jerusalem ; and,
though he was urged to hasten out of Herod's
jurisdiction, saying, he should still stay a few
days longer in Galilee, and predicting that
the people of Jerusalem should not see him,
till they were prepared to receive him with
exclamations of " Blessed is he that cometh
" in the name of the Lord ;" a prediction
which, we have seen, was literally fulfilled,
at his entering Jerusalem upon a young ass,
as the prophet Zechariah had foretold. But
this writer having already, in his own ex-
traordinary manner, related the accomplish-
ment of that prophecy, in the twenty-first


chapter, here, when our Lord is aetually
teaching at Jerusalem, in the temple, not
only makes him utter the same tender apos-
trophe to that city, but makes him also add
the same prediction of the people's hosannas,
at hisentr} into Jerusalem, after it had been
fulfilled, " For 1 say unto you, ye shall not
" see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed
" is he that cometh ia the name of the Lord/'
What meaning the writer could intend to con-
vey by these words, I cannot imagine ; be-
cause such a prediction, given at the date
which he has assigned to it, even according to
his own history, was not completed, and was,
therefore, absolutely false : for, in the very
next chapter, he informs us, that, as soon as
our Saviour had so said, he left the temple,
and went out of the city, to the Mount of
Olives, from thence to Bethany, where he
was a guest to Simon the Leper ; and though
he returned again to Jerusalem to eat the
Passover, and was seen by the whole city,
during his examination before the council,
and before Pontius Pilate, and at his cruci-
fixion, yet no such circumstance, as is here
predicted, is so much as said to have taken


The twenty-fifth chapter contains two more
parables, the first entirely this author's, in
which the kingdom of heaven is compared to
ten virgins, half of them prudent, and careful
to be always prepared for the expected com-
ing of the bridegroom ; and the other half
improvident, and unprepared for his sudden
appearance. Here again we have a just re-
presentation of the state of mankind in gene-
ral, under every other system of religion ; but
not at all suited to the circumstances, that
are predicted of the world under the Gospel
Covenant, when it is become the kingdom of
God. This parable, therefore, is another proof
that the writer^either did not comprehend, or,
at least, did not believe, the universal, moral
reformation of that prophetic state of man in
the present life ; and, consequently, that he
was not an Apostle of Jesus Christ.

The next is the parable of the talents,
which is evidently an imitation, though a
very auk ward and faulty one, of Luke's pa-
rable of the ten pounds. In the latter, our
Saviour is represented as distributing the ad-
vantages of light and knowledge displayed in
his Gospel, in the same equal proportion, to
all his followers of every rank and. degree, a$


is strictly the case ; because his precepts and
religious instructions are equally intelligible
to all ; but, since the natural powers and abi-
lities of men are very different, his servants are
described, as making different degrees of im-
provement of those equal advantages, except
one, who, corresponding to those persons,
who, having been instructed in the religion
of Jesus Christ reject it, as the unwarranted
imposture of an artful, unjust man, refused
to make any use of them at all.* The pre-
tended Matthew, on the contrary, makes him
distribute his talents in the most partial, un-
equal manner one only to one of his fok
lowers, twice as many to another, and five
times as many to a third, as he himself ex-
presses it, " to every man according to his
" abilities ;" as if the religious instruction of

* It should be remarked, that the word napkin, used in this ser-
vant's answer, in our copies of Luke's Gospel, is a Latin word,
written in Greek characters j but that it cannot be the word origi-
nally used by Luke himself, is manifest from the obvious sense of
the sentence, and the participle annexed to the substantive napkin,
which is not wrapped or tied up, but laid up j for the servant means
to tell his Lord, that he has kept the pound deposited in a place of
security, tfcat he might be sure of receiving his own, when he re-
turned, though nothing more j accordingly, in this parable attri-
buted to Matthew, he is said to have concealed the money under
ground $ but a napkin is no place of security to lay up money in ;
and therefore, the deficiency of the original word in the earliest co-
pies of Luke, has undoubtedly been capriciously supplied, by some
unskilful copiest of the second century,


that Gospel, so peculiarly preached to the
poorest and most illiterate, was not equally
intelligible to men of all capacities and

The latter part of this chapter is a descrip-
tion of the day of judgment, and expressly
teaches, not only that the righteous will then
be rewarded with eternal life in heaven, but
also, that the wicked will suffer everlasting
punishment. There is such palpable injus-
tice ascribed to the righteous Lord of heaven
and earth, by all those who represent him as
inflicting infinite punishment for the definite,
momentary offences of finite creatures, that
such a doctrine would make me strongly sus-
pect the authenticity of any scripture in
which I found it ; and it is with great satis-
faction I can remark, that this doctrine is
peculiar to this spurious Evangelical history,
and as repugnant to the positive declaration
of the other scriptures of the New Testament,
as it is to strict justice and the voice of rea-
son ; for they assure us, that, not an endless
life of torment, but utter destruction and a
second death await* the unreformed wicked.

The history of our Saviour's eating the
Paschal lamb with his Apostles, and of the in-

See 2 Thess. i. 9 Apoc. xx. 6.


stitution of the Lord's supper, is contained
in the twenty-sixth chapter; but attended
with so many different and contradictory cir-
cumstances, that it is absolutely irreconcila-
ble to Luke's history of the same things. For
Luke informs us, that, according to the uni-
versal practice of the Jews in celebrating the
Passover, our Lord began with taking a cup
of wine, which, after thanking God for the
mercies recorded in that festival, he handed
round to the Apostles, with an apology for
his own non-observance of the custom of
drinking of it first himself, as every master of
a family did on the same occasion ; that next,
as was customary also, he took a loaf of
bread, and, having offered up the usual
thanksgiving to God, brake the bread, and
distributed of it to each of them, bidding
them consider that bread as an emblem of
his body, which was given for them, and to
observe a similar ceremony amongst them-
selves in remembrance of him ; that he then
partook with them of the Paschal supper ;
and that, after supper, he distributed to them
in the same manner, the grace-cup, with
which that festive meal was always closed,
bidding them to consider the wine also as an
emblem of his blood, which was about to be


shed, to ratify the New Covenant, which
God now made with them ; that, immedi-
ately after, as if it were by way of contrast to
that affectionate, grateful remembrance of
him, which he had just enjoined them prac-
tically to retain, he exclaimed, u But, be-
" hold, the hand of him that betrayeth me,
" is with me on the table :" that so extraordi-
nary a declaration set them to enquire amongst
themselves, which of them could be meant :
as the annunciation of his approaching death
made them contend, which of them should be
accounted their chieftain after that event ;
that, to put an end to a strife so unbecoming
the spirit of his unassuming religion, he told
them, no one of his disciples, as such, should
arrogate a superiority over his Christian
brethren ; and that they were to expect no-
other authority or pre-eminence, besides
what they were destined to partake of, in
some degree with himself, after their death,
at the final, complete establishment of his
kingdom, or the kingdom of God, upon earth :
but, according to Luke, he did not interpose
one word to settle their doubts about the per-
son of the traitor. The writer, called Mat-
thew, on the contrary, who, instead of being
a Jew himself, appears to have been very


imperfectly acquainted with either the pro-
phecies or customs of the Jews, takes not the
least notice of the cup preceding the supper,
and in telling us that the apology for his own
not drinking of the wine, was made by Jesus
at the grace-cup, when he ordained the ce-
remony of the Lord's supper, he really be-
trays his own ignorance, by teaching us that
lie did not begin the feast, as was customary,
with the cup ; for if he did 5 and the apology for
his not drinking of it himself was given then,
there could be no propriety in his repeating
it so soon after, at the grace-cup; especially
when we consider, that the latter was pro-
posed to them, as a commencement of that
commemorative rite of which he was to be
the object, not the partaker: whereas, the*
participation of the cup before the supper
was the common form of beginning the Pas-
chal feast, which, as a Jew, concerned him
as much as his disciples. In contradiction
also to Luke, who tells us, that what was said
of the traitor, was said after the supper was
ended, and the commemorative observance
instituted and plainly intimates, that he
did not explain whom he meant this writer
informs us, that it passed whilst they were
eating the supper, and, what is singularly un-


accountable, even before the breaking and
distributing the unleavened bread ; and says,
that every one of the Apostles asked him,
whether it was he, and upon Judas's asking
him the same question, he declared before
them all, that he was the person ; yet he im-
mediately proceeded to institute, what we
call, the Lord's supper, and enjoined it upon
Judas equally with the rest. One of these
two histories, therefore, must be false; and
which it is, another very remarkable differ-
ence, concerning the express terms, in which
that part of the Lord's supper that regards
the wine, was instituted, will perhaps help
us to determine; for this author tells us, our
Lord's words were, " This is my blood of
"the New Covenant, which is shed for many,
(i for the remission of sins; 1 ' words which have
proved the source of that fatal inefficacy of
the moral influence of the Gospel, occa-
sioned by representing the death of Jesus as
a propitiatory sacrifice, and a satisfactory
atonement for the sins of the whole world ;
whereas, Luke mentions nothing of the re-
mission of sins; but says, his words were,
*< This cup is the New Covenant in my
" blood* which is shed for you." And that
Luke s accouut is the true one, we have the


most convincing evidence from Paul, who,
1 Cor. c. xi. v* 25, assures us, that he re*
ceived the account of this institution from
our blessed Saviour himself; and that his
words were, as Luke has recorded them,
" This cup is the New Covenant in my
"blood," without one syllable of the remission
of $!ns.

VII. FROM hence, to the conclusion of
this Gospel, the differences and contradic-
tions, between this writer and Luke, are so
numerous and so great, that it appears asto-
iiishing, notwithstanding Paul's early predic-
tion to the Thessalonians, that so it would
be, that the inhabitants of Christendom, of
every intellectual degree, should, for so many
centuries, have received, for the word of truth
itself, the most gross and palpable falsehood,
which, of two contradictory histories, one of
them must certainly be. But it is well worth
our while tp consider, with all our attention,
that Paul tells us, that, even under the influ-
ence of this predicted, strong delusion, men
would stand condemned in the sight of God ;
because the real, though unavowfid reason of
their rejecting truth for fables and fictitious
falsehood, has been their taking pleasure in

p 2


unrighteousness. Now that the doctrine of
Christ's death being a full satisfaction to the
divine justice, for all the sins and unrighteous-
ness of men, which is founded principally
upon this fabulous and spurious Gospel called
Matthew's, is particularly alluded to, by the
Christian prophet, in this prediction, I have
no doubt : and that this hath always been the
grand inducement, with the members of the
orthodox Church of Constantine, next to the
compulsion and temporal allurements of the
civil magistrate, to attach them to its fabu-
lous, idolatrous superstition, is evident from
the testimony even of her present most zea-
lous champions, bishops, and other grave di-
vines, who, to disparage those modern
preachers of the Gospel, (who, ceasing to
blaspheme the Almighty Creator of the uni-

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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 12 of 18)