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 13 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 13 of 18)
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verse, by a communication of his Godhead
and divine honours to a mortal man, have
rejected also this doctrine of an universal
asylum for sin and wickedness) tell us, that
the religion which they preach is an uncom-
fortable religion. Uncomfortable ! Are these
right reverend and reverend personages then
unacquainted with the heart-felt comfort of
a life duly regulated by the moral precepts of
the Gospel of Christ ? Are the conscious expe-


rience, except in very extraordinary cases,
of the continual blessing of God in this life,
and the certainty of enjoying after death, im-
mortality and happiness in a future life, no
comforts ? Or, are these to be accounted of
no value, unless the orthodox doctrine of
atonement afford men the additional comfort
of being able, securely to lead lives incon-
sistent with Christian righteousness, and to
attain the rewards of the next life, through
the unwarrantable gratifications of their pas-
sions and sensual appetites in this? Such
divines, howsoever eminent in worldly dig-
nity or learning, may teach what they please ;
but they, and their flocks too, will find, at
last, that under the Christian, as well as the
Mosaic Covenant, there is no comfort, saith
God, to the unrighteous.

Luke informs us, that, after the supper
was ended, a very serious, important conver-
sation took place, between our Saviour and
his Apostles, upon several subjects suited to
the occasion, in the course of which he pre-
dicted Peter's thrice denying that he. knew
him ; and that, after this, he went out of Je-
rusalem, to his lodging at the Mount of
Olives, as usual. This writer, on the con-
trary, informs us, that " when they had sung

p 3


"an. hymn/' after supper, " they went out'
" into the Mount of Olives," and that there
he predicted not Only Peter's denial of him,
but that all his Apostles should that night he
offended because of him ; of the verification of
which there is not the smallest degree of evi-
dence. He makes our Lord declare also,
that, after he is risen, he will go before them
into Galilee, though Luke assures us, that af-
ter his resurrection, he appeared to them all
at Jerusalem ; that he there daily conversed
with them till his ascension ; that, by his ex-
press command, they continued at Jerusa-
lem, from the Passover to the feast of Pente-
cost : and that the Apostles abode there long

In Luke too, our Lord is represented, as
from his station and character we might Ex-
pect him to be, perfectly collected and undis-
turbed, (for the two verses, recording his
agony and the vision of an angel strengthen-
ing him, are -known to bean interpolation,
because they are not found in the oldest and
best copies of Luke) introducing into his
nightly devotions, -a single petition to God,
to remove that cup from him, if it was his
will'; but immediately resigning himself, with
the most calm and dutiful submission, to


the accomplishment of the divine will, in pre-
ference to his own inclination. The writer
before us, on the contrary, represents him as
greatly afflicted, and exceeding sorrow/til, at
the approach of his expected death, solicit-
ing heaven with prayers, repeated three dif-
ferent times, that, if possible, that .cup might
pass from him, and, after the offering up
his reiterated prayers, so very confused and
discomposed, as to address his sleepy Apos-
tles in the following incoherent, irrational
language : " Sleep on now and take your rest,
" behold the hour is at hand, and the son of
" man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
" Rise, let us be going; behold he is at Hand
" that doth betray me/'

Luke tells us, as is most probable, that those
who apprehended our Lord detained him
all night in custody in the hall of the High
Priest's palace ; and that Peter sat down ,iu
the hall amongst them ; that after his fear had
thrice induced him, simply to deny his ac-
quaintance, and connexion with Jesus, upon
the cock's crowing, our Lord turned and
looked upon him, which, making him imme-
diately recollect what had before passed upon
that subject, affected him so much that he
was fwced to go out, in order to give the

v 4


tural vent to his sorrow ; that " as soon as it
" zvas day, the elders of the people, and the
" chief priests, and the scribes, came together,
" and led him into their council ;" that, there
he answered every question put to him, as he
did afterwards before Pontius Pilate, to whom
they carried him, as soon as they had drawn
from him the ground of their accusation of
him to the Romans, a declaration that he was
the object of the prophecies respecting the
Christ, or anointed king of the Jewish na^
tion, which they strove to construe into a re-
bellion against Caesar; and the words in
which he made that declaration, Luke says,
were, " from this time forth" (not hereafter,
as our translation hath it) " shall the son of
" man sit on the right hand of the power of
46 God ;"" intimating, as he did on several other
occasions, that it was not till after his death
that he should be invested with the glorious
character of the Christ. The pretended
Matthew, on the other hand, informs us, that
the apprchenders of our Lord led him directly
" to Caiaphas the High Priest, where," at
that late hour of the night, the whole Jewish
council " was assembled" to receive witnesses
against iiini, that they might " put him to
That hero, as also afterwards


fore Pilate, he persisted in an indecent, sul-
len silence, till the High Priest adjured him,
by the living God, to say, whether he was the
predicted Christ, or not; that then he ac-
knowledged he was, and added, " neverthe-
" less, from this time forth, shall ye see the son
" of man sitting on the right hand of power,
** and coming in the clouds of heaven :" a pre-
Fion absolutely false, because the Jewish
nation, from that time to this, have never
any such tiling, but still remain incredu-
lous to his being the promised Christ. Upon
his speaking thus, however, the author makes
the High Priest rend his clothes, through in-
dignation at the blasphemy of the speech, which
I believe no man else can discover in it ; and
tells us, the members of the council, after
pronouncing him guilty of death, amused
themselves till morning, in putting on him all
sorts of contemptuous, ludicrous, and wanton
indignities and abuse ; and that then, having
consulted together in what manner he should
be put to death, "they bound him, and led
" him away, and delivered him to Pontius
*' Pilate the Governor ;" that, in the mean
while, Peter was not admitted into the coun-
cil chamber, as we may easily suppose, but
as " he sat without in the palace/' where it


was impossible for our Lord to look upon
Jiim, as Luke assures us he did, three dif-
ferent persons successively challenged him as
feeing a follower of Jesus ; and that he was
fiat contented with barely denying any know-
ledge of his master, but accompanied his de-
nial with oaths and imprecations, as- unwor-
thy the character of one chosen to be an
Apostle, as they are contradictory to the* ac-
caimt given us by Luke.

In the beginning of the twenty-seventh
chapter, the author informs us, that when
Judas saw that the Jewish council had con-
demned our Lord to die, (though he must
liave known from the first, when he cove*-
manted with them to betray him into their
liands, that they could have no other intent,)
he repented, brought again the price of his
treachery, threw the money down in the tem-
ple, and went and hanged himself* and that
the priests did not put the money info the
treasury of the temple, because it was the
price of blood ; but purchased with it the
potter's field, to bury strangers in, which, says
the author, " was called the field of blood
wi unto this daj/;" an expression denoting that
a long interval of time had elapsed between
.that event and the date of his history, not


eight or nine years only, the period at which
Matthew is said to have written. Hereby,
he tells us, they accomplished a prophecy of
Jeremiah; but, like the prophecy of the
Messiah's being called a Nazarene, quoted in
the second chapter, it is no where to be
found in Jeremiah, nor in the writings of any
other pro'phet of the Old Testament. Luke,
on the contrary, in the first chapter of the
Acts, assures us, that Judas, far from repent-
ing and restoring the money he had received,
having traiterously abandoned his apostleship,
that he might go to a place peculiarly his own,
purchased some land with the reward of his
iniquity; and that he was afterwards killed
upon the land he had bought by -the violence
of a fall, which was so great as to force out
his very bowels ; that the circumstance was
well known to all the inhabitants of Jerusa-
lem, who ffom thence, or on account of the
nature of the purchase money, or perhaps
from both together, denominated it the field
of blood. It is not possible to draw up two
stories of the same tiling more directly con-
tradictory to each other than these two; one
of them, therefore, must necessarily be a fic-
tion, and a shameful falsehood. Let the reader
judge to which author the imputation most


justly belongs. From a Note of the late learned
Bishop of Rochester, upon this passage in the
Acts, it appears, that the irreconcilable con-
tradiction of these two accounts struck him
so forcibly, that he infers from it, as well as
from other circumstances, which he does not
specify, but which are sufficiently obvious
to an attentive and unprejudiced reader, that
Matthew's Gospel was not written till after
the publication of both the histories of Luke;
and his inference is certainly just : for since
Luke professes to write of every thing as it
had been delivered to them by the apostles,
he never could have so flatly contradicted the
written account of an apostle. But if this
Gospel of Matthew was published later tlian
the fifth or sixth year of Nero's reign, as it
must have been, to make it posterior to Luke's
second history, the testimony of all the early
writers, who inform us it was prior to Luke's
Gospel, must be false; and not the slightest
evidence of any kind remains, that Matthew
ever wrote an Evangelical History. Besides,
as Luke, we have seen, lived with Matthew
and all the other apostles at Jerusalem; and,
on account of the election of Matthias to sup-
ply his place, the story of Judas, must have
been often mentioned amongst them, he could


not 'be ignorant of the circumstances with
which Matthew himself related the story; and
it is equally improbable that he should con-
tradict his oral as his written account of this
transaction; at the same time, no man can
suppose, that an apostle of Jesus Christ, or
any other person, who had the least regard to
truth, or to his own character, could deliver
a verbal account of any fact to Luke and the
other disciples, in one manner, and, in writing
afterwards, relate the same fact in another,
utterly inconsistent with it.

I omit to animadvert upon the dream and
extraordinary interference of Pilate's wife; as
also upon the improbability of the Governors
washing his hands before the multitude, to
cleanse himself from the guilt of the innocent
blood of a just person, which he was going to
shed ; and upon the horrid imprecation of the
people upon themselves and their posterity,
which are all peculiar to this writer. But I
cannot forbear remarking, that as Pilate was
convinced of our Lord's innocence and inof-
fensive behaviour, and sacrificed him to the
clamorous entreaties of the Jews, against his
own judgement and inclination, it isr not at all
consistent with the polished humanity of the
Romans, that he should have subjected him


to any unnecessary, barbarous, and cruelly
insulting treatment from the Roman soldiers ;
that, according to Luke, the gorgeous robe
arid contemptuous mockings were put upon
him, not by them but by Herod ; and that
liis history of the crucifixion makes no men-
tion of the crown of thorns, nor of the other
wanton indignities attributed to the Roman
soldiers by this writer.

At verse 44, we are told, that both the
thieves joined with the people in taunting
him when on the cross; whereas Luke as-
sures us, that one of them only did so; and
that he was reproved for it by the other ma*

In verse 46, &c. we read, that, when he
had hung three hours upon the cross, our
Lord exclaimed, "my God, my God, why
ci hast thou forsaken me?" and, when he had
exclaimed a second time, expired. Luke,
on the contrary, is so far from making him
utter any thing that could lead the people to
think, or that might appear as if he himself
thought, he was in any sense forsaken by Al-
mighty God, that he tells us, at the ninth
hour, " he cried with a loud voice, and said,
" Father, into thy hands I commend my spir
" rit; and having said thus, died."


They both mention, that the vail of
temple was rent: but this author alone in^
forms us of the earthquake that rent the rocks
and opened the graves ; and that many bo-
dies of the dead saints arose, and, taking ad-
vantage of the aperture, " came out of the
*' graves after his resurrection/' (what they
did in the interval is not mentioned,) " and
4 < went into the holy city, and appeared unto
" many/' Surely this story is well worthy of
those spurious legends of the beginning oi
the second century, which, Irenaeus tells UK,
were calculated to astonish the credulous and
superstitious! For who can be meant by the
saints? That was an. appellation commonly
given to the Christians in after times ; but at
the time of our Lord's crucifixion it was ap-
plied to no particular set of people. And
what became of these bodies of the saints
after they came into the city ? Had they joined
the society of our Lord's disciples, we should
have heard of them in the Acts; but per-
haps the author meant we should understand,
that, after just exhibiting so extraordinary an
appearance, they returned quietly unnoticed,
every one to his own. narrow sepulchral cell;
and there let us leave them undisturbed.


Luke informs us, that " when the Centu-
" rion saw what was done" at our Saviour's
expiration, he said, " certainly this was a
" righteous man." But this writer tells us,
that he and those who were with him said,
" truly this was the" (or rather a) " son of
" God/' In what sense a Roman Centurion
could use the latter expression, and which
denomination it is most probable he should
make use of, I submit to the reader's deter-

According to Luke, as soon as Jesus was
dead, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate 9
and begged his body; and hasted to bury it,
because the sabbath, which began at sun-set,
drew on; that his female disciples attended
the burial, observed how his body was placed
in the sepulchre, and returned and prepared
spices and ointments to embalm it with, be-
fore the sabbath commenced; and then rested
the sabbath day, according to the command-
ment. The pretended Matthew, however,
tells us, that " when even was come" that is,
when the sabbath was actually begun, Joseph
went to beg the body, took it down, wrapped
it in linen, and buried it; and that Mary Mag-
dalene and the other Mary were sitting over


against the sepulchre. From the time this
writer has thought fit to allot for the burial
of our Saviour, it is evident that he was not
only no Jew himself, but so ignorant of the
customs of the Jews, that he did not know
their day always began with the evening ;
or he could never have employed Joseph in
doing what no Jew would, nor dared to have
done, after the commencement of the sab-
bath. He takes no notice at all of the pre-
paration made by the women to embalm the
body ; for that would not have agreed with
the sequel of his truly wonderful story ; but,
to make up for that omission, he informs us
of a circumstance, with which Luke's history
shews us he was perfectly unacquainted : for
he tells us, that " the next day that followed
" the day of the preparation" such is the peri-
phrasis that he uses for the sabbath day ! It
is well known, that amongst the Jews, it was
customary to prepare and set out, in the af-
ternoon of the Friday, all the food and neces-
saries for every family, during the sabbath
day, because they were forbid to light a fire, or
to do any the most trivial servile work, on that
day, and therefore Friday was very properly
called the day of preparation; but it ap-
pears to me next to impossible, that any Jew r



or any other person who had been accustomed
to keep the sabbath as a religious ordinance,
should call the sabbath the day that followed
the day of the preparation: yet this singular his-
torian so denominates it, and goes on to in-
form us, that the Chief Priests and Pharisees
went to Pilate, to ask for a guard to be placed
round the sepulchre till the third day, to pre-
vent his disciples from stealing away his body,
and then saying he was risen from the dead ;
and that, after obtaining the Governor's per-
mission, they went and secured the sepulchre,
by sealing the stone that was rolled against
it, and setting a watch. Here it is wonder-
ful, that the Jewish rulers should, in so public
a manner, thus violate the precept for ob-
serving the sabbath day ; more wonderful,
that they should have so much better attended
to and comprehended the meaning of our
Lord's prediction of his rising to life again,
than any of his own disciples did ; and most
wonderful, that a Roman Proconsul should
consent to let his troops keep watch round
a tomb, for fear it should be thought that a
dead man was come to life again. But
though our author's history of these extraordi-
nary facts is neither consistent with reason
and probability, nor with any other history


the same event, it proceeds in pretty strict
conformity to the manner in which it sets out ;
for, to convince us still more fully that the
author was totally ignorant of the mode of
computing time, in use amongst the Jews, and
habituated to that used by the Greeks and
Romans, he reckons the sabbath to last till
day-light on the Sunday morning, and says,
c. 28, that, " in the end of the sabbath, as it
" began to dawn toward the first day of the
" week," the two Marys, before mentioned,
came, not, as according to Luke, to embalm
the body, for, with a guard round the sepul-
chre, that must have been impracticable, but
#o see the sepulchre. Whilst they were there,
the author tells us, there was another great
earthquake, and an angel descended, rolled
away the stone, and sat upon it ; at whose
sight, the soldiers trembled and were frighted
to death ; but to prevent the like effect of his
appearance upon the women, he said unto
them, " fear not ye, for I know that ye seek
" Jesus who was crucified/' That the women,
as well as the soldiers, were present afc the
descent of this angel, appears, not only from
there being nobody else, by whom these un-
common circumstances could have been re-
lated, but also by the pronoun personal ye,

Q 2


inserted in the original Greek, which in that
language is never done, unless it be empha-
tically to mark such a distinction or antithe-
sis, as there was, on this occasion, between
them and the Roman guard. Here, how-
ever, the author is, inadvertently, inconsistent
with himself, as well as with every other his-
torian, agreeably to the vulgar proverb of
our own country; and, forgetting that the
sole intent of rolling away the stone, was to
open a passage absolutely necessary for our
Lord's body to come forth out of the sepul-
chre, and that, if he had risen after the angel
had rolled it away, both the women and the
soldiers must have seen him rise, he makes
the angel bid them look into the sepulchre
to see -he was not there, and tell them, that
he was already risen; that they should in-
form his disciples of it ; and that he was
going before them into Galilee, where they
should see him. In their way, the author adds,
Jesus himself met the women, and said, " be
"not of raid; go, tell my brethren to go into
" Galilee, and there shall they see me :" that
the eleven Apostles accordingly went\into
Galilee to an appointed mountain, and not
only saw him there, but, contrary to what they
ever did at any other time, either before or


after, they worshipped him, notwithstanding
some of them were so incredulous, as not to
believe even the testimony of their own
senses. In the interim, whilst the women
were going to the Apostles, the author tells us,
" some of the watch," some strictly disciplined
Roman soldiers, left their station, to bring an
account of what had passed, not to the Go-
vernor their General, nor to any other of
their own officers, but to the Chief Priests
of the Jews ; that they assembled a council
of the Elders upon the occasion, and, after
deliberating what was to be done, induced
the soldiers, by large bribes, to run the risk
of being put to death themselves, upon the
highly improbable chance of the Jewish ru-
lers having influence sufficient, with a Ro-
man Proconsul, to prevail on him, to submit
to the indelible infamy of neglecting the dis-
cipline of the army under his command, to
such a degree, as to suffer an entire guard of
soldiers avowedly to sleep upon their station,
without any notice being taken of it, and to
say, that our Lord's disciples stole his body
away, whilst they slept. This incredible
story is another instance how necessary it is,
that those, who do not adhere closely to the
truth, should have extraordinary good memo-

Q 3


ries, to enable them to keep clear of gross
absurdities, or palpable contradictions, in
their narrations ; for how were the tongues of
these soldiers to be restrained, amongst the
inquisitive inhabitants of a great city, at that
time particularly crowded., on account of
the Paschal feast, not only in their way to
the Chief Priests, but also during the whole
time whilst^the Priests assembled the council,
and deliberated with the Elders what was to
be done ? And if that part of the watch,
who, the author says, came to inform the
Jews, were .poltroons enough, for the sake of
a bribe, to undergo so shameful a disgrace to
themselves, as well as to hazard the re sent -
nient of their General, how could they uu-
,dertake that all their comrades, who re-
mained at the sepulchre, would do the same ?
And to what purpose could the Jewish Coun-
cil bribe some, without a possibility of know-
ing how the rc,st of the corps would act ? And,
even supposing all these difficulties sur-
mounted, and that the whole guard had
agreed and persisted in saying, that " his
" disciples sto^e him away whilst they slept,'*
of what service could that be to the Jewish
rulers, except to demonstrate the .folly of
.setting any guard at all ?* .For,, if the guards




were asleep, they could be no evidence that
his body was stolen away ; and it must be
just as probable, that he might rise to life
again whilst the watch was asleep, as it was if
no watch had been set. Our author subjoins,
" And this saying is commonly reported
" amongst the Jews, until this day ;" another
inadvertent slip, if he really meant to pass for
Matthew, (of which, however, I must do him
the justice to say, I see not the least proof;)
for it evidently implies, that from these events
to the time of the author, a long series of
years had intervened : and, therefore, such an
expression could not, at any time, have been
used with propriety by Matthew, especially
if he wrote his Gospel so early as is asserted.
For my own part, from the number of La-
tin words written in Greek characters, which
this book contains; from the author's evident
ignorance of the customs, prophecies, and
country of the Jews ; from the form of bap-
tism enjoined at the conclusion ; from the
Roman centurion being made to call our Sa-
viour a Son of God, which words, in the
mouth of a Pagan, could only mean, that he
must be a Hero or Demigod, like Bacchus,
Hercules, or^Esculapius; and from the women
and all the Apostles being represented as

Q 4


.worshipping their Master, without any rea-
son alleged, or even suggested, for their

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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 13 of 18)