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 14 of 18)
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idolatry ; I am perfectly convinced, that this
Gospel was not written earlier than near .the
middle of the second century ; and that it is
the patched- work composition of some con-
vert from the Pagan schools. Whether my
arguments may work the same conviction
upon any of my readers, is not for me to
judge ; but I am confident, that whoever im-
partially considers, that, according to Luke's
histories, the Christians of the apostolic age
did not baptize in the terms of the form
here prescribed, but simply in the name of
the Lord Jesus; that his disciples were so far
from knowing a watch was set round the se-
pulchre, that the women came early on Sun-
day morning to embalm the body; and were
perplexed at finding the stone rolled away,
and that the body was not in the sepulchre ;
that a vision of two angels, in human shape,
informed them he was risen, and reminded
them, that it was only what he had foretold
them must come to pass, long before they
came to Jerusalem ; that they gave them no
orders to send the Apostles into Galilee to
see him ; on the contrary, that, though he did
not appear to two of the women, as the pre-


tended Matthew asserts, yet he appeared
that same day to Peter, at Jerusalem ; to two
other disciples, as they went to Emmaus ;
and, the succeeding night, to the whole con-
gregation of the disciples, not, in Galilee, but
at Jerusalem; and that, by his express com-
mand, the Apostles did not go into Galilee,
but remained at Jerusalem till the feast of
Pentecost; cannot rationally believe both these
contradictory histories, and consequently he
must be satisfied that one of them is grossly
fabulous and false.

VIII. I]\ T reviewing the miracles of Jesus
recorded by this writer, we find most of
them, like those of Luke, works of mercy and
benevolence ; only he relates more of them;
and, with a view, no doubt, to aggrandize the
miracle, it is observable that he frequently
doubles the object or the malady to be healed,
making two where Luke mentions but one ;
or making the demoniac, that Luke tells us
was dumb, both blind and dumb also. But
there are a few of a very different kind re-
lated by this author, of w^hich Luke makes
not the least mention ; those are, c. xiv. our
Saviour's walking on the water of the sea of
Galilee, in the night time, to overtake his


disciples, whom he had " constrained to get
" into a ship, to go before him unto the other
" side/' though, as the ship was detained by
contrary winds in the midst of the sea, till he
came to them, their embarking seems to have
answered no end, except the display of his
supernatural power in this singular miracle ;
and his curin all the ma-adies of the people
of Gennesaret, by letting them only touch the
hem of his garment; c. xvii. his paying tribute
at Capernaum, by directing Peter to take the
required piece of money out of a fish's mouth,
where the miracle is rendered the more won-
derful by the fish's being able to hold the
money fast in its mouth till Peter took it out,
though it was caught and pulled up with an
hook arid line; and c. xxi. the cursing the
fig-tree because he found no fruit on it,
wherewith to mitigate his hunger. Whether
such miracles as these are suitable to the cha-
racter of Jesus Christ ; and whether it be any
disparagement to the Gospel according to
Luke, that they are not to be found in it, I
leave to the candid reader to determine.

As to that most important mark, and to us
the only convincing evidence of the authen-
ticity of any sacred scripture, the testimony
of the prophecies recorded in it, when com-


pared with their corresponding events, I find
but one in this Gospel attributed to Matthew,
which is not evidently borrowed, and for the
most part verbally copied from Luke; that is
c. xv i. v. 18 and 19, where the author makes
our Jj',vd foretell, that " the gates of hell shall
" not prevail against his church;" and that
he will give to Peter the keys of the king-
dom of heaven, and that whatsoever he shall
bind or loose on earth shall be bound or
loosed in heaven. But what is meant here
by the gates of hell, and by not prevailing
against the church of Christ? Does the first
^expression mean impious violence, or death
jaud destruction, or all together ? And does
the last mean only, according to the literal
sense of the original Greek word, growing
strong and powerful against it? or does it
.signify utterly destroying it, so as to prevent
its being finally established in the world ? If
the last only be all that is intended, it is not
30 intelligibly expressed, but predicts merely
the same thing as the two prophetic parables
of the mustard-seed and the leaven hid in
three measures of meal ; but, in every other
sense, it is a false prediction : for the violence
and deadly persecution of Pagans and of the
orthodox church, as other better authenti-


cated prophecies foretold they would da,
have prevailed so greatly against the true
church of Christ, that a very small number of
its members is any where to be found. And
should any be inclined to think, as without
doubt many do, that the orthodox church it-
self is the true church of Christ, yet ask Asia,
Africa, and the south-east of Europe, whe-
ther Mahomedanism has not prevailed against
her ? And with respect to the latter part of
the prediction, the very nature of the Gospel
Covenant, as well as the whole history of
Peter and the other Apostles, shews us, that
neither he nor any of them had the power of
forgiving? or retaining sins; and that neither
the whole college of Apostles, nor 'even J6sus
Christ himself, ever have been or will be able
(if it were possible to suppose them willing)
to admit one vicious, uareformed person into,
nor to exclude one virtuous, benevolent man
out of, the kingdom of heaven. Indeed the
whole conversation, of which this prophecy
makes a part, is so exceedingly different from
that which Luke tells us our Saviour held on
the same occasion, that it cannot be entitled
to any degree of credit, except with those, if
anjr such can be, who think fit rather to re-
ject the Gospel of Luke.


The twenty-fourth chapter is one entire
long prophecy concerning the destruction of
Jerusalem, and, as the author expresses it,
the end of the world, composed of two sepa-
rate prophecies of that event recorded by
Luke, with a few alterations and additions.
From some of these, one is led to think, the
author must have intended to allude to the
final day of judgment; but since he has
adopted the very words of Luke, that the ge-
neration living in our Saviour's time should
not pass away till all those predictions were
fulfilled, we must suppose him to mean only
the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem
and the Jewish nation, and the commence-
ment of the end of the world^ as signifying the
last dispensation of the New Covenant of the
Gospel, by the actual abolition of the Old
Covenant of Moses. But then one addition
which he has made to these prophecies is ma-
nifestly false; for he says, v. 14, "This GQS-.
" pel of the kingdom shall be preached in all
" the world for a witness unto all nations, and
" then shall the end come :" yet the Gospel
was so far from being preached to all the na-
tions of the \vorld, before the destruction of
Jerusalem, that there are still many amongst
whom it is utterly unknown even at this day.


At v. 9> he has directly contradicted Luke,
at the time he was copying from him ; for he
tells us, that " then" (after the civil wars and
great natural evils, which were to precede the
destruction of Jerusalem,) " the Christians
" should be persecuted, killed, and universally
"hated;" all which our Lord, according to
Luke, expressly said would come to pass, be-
fore all these things: and the whole Christian
history demonstrates that the fact was as he
has stated the prediction. There is also ano-
ther remarkable difference between these two
writers in stating this prophecy : Luke in-
forms us, that our Lord told his disciples
plainly, that they needed not apprehend the
ruin of the Jewish nation, at the beginning of
the insurrections and wars in Palestine, for it
would be some years afterwards before that
calamity would take place; but that when
they should see Jerusalem itself invested with
armies, then the fatal period was arrived, and
they should lose no time in saving themselves
from the general ruin, by a speedy flight out
of the devoted country; and there is every
reason to believe, that the Christians actually
profited by this plain and timely admonition :
but this writer makes our Lord tell them to*
flee out of Judea, when they shall see the abomi-


nation of desolation spoken of by Daniel stand in
the holy place ; words to them absolutely unin-
telligible without an explanation, and which
must, therefore, have rendered the prophetic
warning entirely useless to them. And what
could the author mea i by adding, v. 22, that,
" except those days should be shortened,
" there should no flesh be saved ; but that for
46 the elect's sake those days should be shorten-
" ed ?" To what circumstances, in the destruc-^
tion of Jerusalem and the ruin of the Jewish
nation, can such a sentence refer ?




IT ET us next examine what internal evi-
-" ^ dence of authenticity is to be found in
the Gospel according to Mark ; and compare
that also with the Evangelical history of
Luke. This is the more necessary, because
the author himself no where pretends to be
Mark ; and nothing can be slighter or less
satisfactory than the external testimony or
historic evidence in its favour ; as every can-
did inquirer will be convinced, who atten-
tively peruses the collection of those testimo-
nies prefixed to the best editions of this Gos-
pel, the chief of which, respecting a revela-
tion to Peter of Mark's having written it, &c.
are manifestly fabulous.

If we pursue the plan adopted with the
two others, and begin by examining the style
in which this history is composed, we shall


find it, with a very few exceptions, and no
greater alterations than modern harmonists
and paraphrasers make in these books every
dny, compiled entirely of passages copied, of-
ten literally, either from the Gospel called
Matthew's, or Luke's. It is certain, therefore,
that whoever. the author was, he must have
had both those Gospels before him, and con-
sequently could not have written till after the
former was published ; that is, if there be any
force in the arguments already submitted to
the reader, not sooner than the beginning of
the second century. He too, like the writer
called Matthew, uses several Latin words
written in Greek characters, contrary to the
custom of all ordinary writers in Greek, prior
to the reign of Trajan. From these circum-
stances, it seems impossible to consider the
unknown author of this Gospel, in any other
light, than as the first person who attempted
to harmonize the two contradictory Gospels
of Matthew and Luke ; and, by extracting
from each what he thought the most mate-
rial passages, to compose of them one regular,
consistent history of the public ministry of
our Saviour. With this view, finding it ab-
solutely impracticable to reconcile the two
genealogies and accounts of the ^ativity and



infancy of Jesus, like many other later com-
mentators, when they find themselves unable
to elucidate the text, he has entirely omitted
those parts of the two histories ; and begins,
where the original writing of Luke certainly
began, with the preaching and baptism of
John. For the same reason, as it is impossi-
ble to make the conclusions of those two
Gospels harmonize together, this compiler
abruptly broke off his history, at the eighth
verse of the last chapter; and the twelve fol-
lowing verses, which are compiled partly from
Luke and Matth'ew, and still more from the
Gospel attributed to John, not having been
found in the earliest and best copies of this
work, are undoubtedly the addition of some
still later hand, who has betrayed himself, by
inadvertently making his addition expressly
contradict the author whom he personated ;
for, in conformity to Matthew's Gospel,
which he transcribed from, the pretended
Mark, in the seventh verse, makes the angel
order the two women to tell his disciples to go
into Galilee, and there they should see him ; but
this Gospel -finishing copy is t> at the ninth
verse, begins a distinct history of our Lord's
resurrection, ^different from that related six or
seven verses before ; and infomis us, that in-


stead of their seeing him in Galilee^ he ap-
peared ut Jerusalem, to Mary Magdalene, in
one form ; to two of the disciples, who were
walking into the country, in another form,
and afterwards, at Jerusalem again, (he does
not say, whether in a third form or not) " to
" all the eleven, as they sat at meat."

In enumerating the names of the twelve
Apostles, in chap. iii. it is observable, that,
though this writer has followed the Gospel
called Matthew's, in making the Apostle An-
drew^ brother to Simon Peter, he has placed
the name of Andrew, not second, but fourth
in the list, as he stands in that given us by
Luke, in Acts i, ; which, since this writer has al-
most always transcribed literally from the Gos-
pel of Matthew or Luke, affords great reason
to think, that, in his copy of Luke, Andrew
stood there, in that order, at the time of his
writing. Yet he also shews his entire igno-
rance, that the Apostle James was the bro-
ther of the Lord Jesus, by calling him the
son of Zebedee, and John, his brother ; so
that it is plain, he could be no writer of the
Apostolic age.

In a book, which contains but a very few
sentences, that are not directly copied from
the two other Gospels, or close imitations of

R 2


them,* there can be but very little, peculiar
to the author, to remark upon. One of these
few passages is a parable, c. iv. v. 26', &c.
which, though the hint is obviously taken
from that of Matthew, of the wheat and tares,
as it is here stated, is entirely this author's.
He has kept clear of the solecism in the be-
ginning, customary with the pretended Mat- ,
thew ; and uses the words kingdom of God, in
the same sense with Luke; but with what pro-
priety can it be said, that the conversion of
mankind to the religion of the Gospel, is as
imperceptible and unaccountable, as the ve-
getation of plants from seed ? Was it not the
reasonable and visible effects of the miracles
and doctrines of its first preachers, which
produced a conviction of its truth and di-
vine authority ? And if the harvest here re-
presents the day of judgment, as in the Gos-
pel of Matthew, (which, without doubt, the
author intended) the insinuation, that that
day would take place, as soon as the state of
mankind, under the influence of the Gospel,
is maturely accomplished, is equally repug-
nant to common sense and reason, and to the

* According to the tables of Ammianus, there are but twenty pas-
sages of any kind, in the whole Gospel, which are peculiar to .this


clearest and most expressive prophecies of
the New Testament.

II. IN the sixth chapter, verse .13, this
writer tells us, without the least warrant from
his originals, Luke and Matthew, that when
our Lord sent out the twelve Apostles, with
miraculous power, to cure diseases, they
anointed the sick they healed, with oil.
Now, since the very intent of these miracu-
lous cures was to convince the Jews who be-
held them, in a way peculiarly adapted to the
kind, benevolent genius of the Gospel, of the
supernatural interposition of the Deity, in fa-
vour of the new religion they announced ;
every application, though of the most simple
kind, must necessarily tend to counteract the
belief of the miracle, and afford ground for
suspicion, that the cure was effected by some
medical virtue of the oil they used, not by
the immediate power of God ; and therefore,
as no such application is ever said to have
been used by our Saviour, or any of his dis-
ciples, in either of Luke's histories, it is in
the highest degree improbable, that any such
unction was ever used by them ; and the very
mention of such a circumstance in this Gos-
pel, and in the Epistle attributed to James,

R 3


affords a very strong presumptive proof, that
neither of the writers lived in the Apostolic
age ; but that, they both wrote in the second
century, when the preachers of Christianity,
no longer having the miraculous gift of heal-
ing, yet pretending to possess it, conscious
that no effect would be produced upon the
patient, by their word or touch, introduced
the formal ceremony of anointing with oil,
accompanied by the united prayer of the
Presbytery ; and if, as, no doubt, sometimes
happened, the sick person recovered, the
cure was attributed to the miraculous effica-
cy of the pious, greasy ritual, which, that it
might not be deemed, in any case absolutely
ineffectual, whenever the patient died, was
transferred to the next world, to secure his
eternal salvation there ; for which purpose
alone, under the title of extreme unction^ it is
still used by the most perfectly and most con-
sistently orthodox Church in Christendom.

The seventh chapter, v. 33, contains an
account of our Lord's curing a deaf and
dumb person, with such unmeaning gesticula-
tions, as are very unworthy the character of
the messenger of Almighty God putting his
fingers into his ears, and touching his tongue
with his spittle.


In the eighth chapter, v. 12, the author, un-
able to reconcile his mind to what the pre-
tended Matthew has said of the sign of the
prophet Jonas, though he was actually co-
pying from him, has thought proper flatly to
contradict both him and Luke, and to make
our Saviour declare, that no sign at all should
be given to that generation.

At the twenty-third verse, this writer again
represents our Saviour, in a very unbecoming
manner, applying his spittle to the eyes of a
blind man, in order to give him sight; and, as
if one interposition of Almighty power were
not sufficient to accomplish a perfect cure,
the man's sight is not completely acquired,
till he has applied his hands a second time to
his eyes. It is worth observing also, that if
this blind man had ever seen before, as seems
to v be insinuated in the word restored, it is
inconceivable how, with even an indistinct
vision, he could find the least resemblance
between men and trees walking; and, if he had
never eftjoyed the blessing of sight till then,
it was not possible for him to have had any
idea of the ocular appearance of either men
er trees.

To convince us, how improbable it is, that
cither our Saviour, or the Apostles whom he

R 4


delegated, should, in curing diseases, have
used any such external applications as are
recorded in this and the preceding chapter;
and how displeasing such a conduct would
have been to the Deity ; it is only necessary
to advent to the history of Moses striking the
rock,* which tended to make the people be-
lieve that his stroke alone gave vent to the
imprisoned waters, and made them flow. For
it is recorded, as being immediately con-
demned by the Deity himself; and in pu-
nishment for his not clearly manifesting the
miraculous interposition of the Almighty,
by merely speaking to the rock, as he was
commanded, he was doomed, like all the
other rebellious Israelites, to die in the wil-
derness, and not to enter into the promised
land. And had Jesus of Nazareth been
guilty of the practices ascribed to him in this
Gospel, and in that attributed to John, he
in 'ust have been equally criminal in the sight
of God.

The only prophecies that I have observed
peculiar to this Gospel, attributed to Mark,
are, first, c. x. v. 30, where he makes our
Lord predict, that whosoever hath forsaken
houses, lands, or friends, for his sake and the

* Num. xx, 712.


Gospel's, ' s'haU' receive not only eternal life in
the world fo 6-0we,'but now in this time, the very
same articles multiplied an hundred fold, with
persecution. As persecution ean be exerted
only upon a person's property, liberty, or life,
it seems inconceivable how possessions of any
kind should be so greatly multiplied in a state
of persecution; and the very terms of the
prediction appear to imply in them a mani-
fest contradiction: but, howsoever they may
be interpreted, the whole history of religious
persecution, from the illustrious messenger of
the New Covenant to the present, hour, proves
the prophecy to be absolutely false, and the
writer of it altogether unworthy of credit.

The second is the prediction respecting
Peter's denying his Master, c. xiv. v. 30,
where, in direct contradiction to both the
writings he had before him, he makes our Lord
tell him, that before the cock should crow
twice he would thrice deny him. Accord-
ingly, v. 68 72, he says, the cock crew as
soon as Peter had once denied him ; and, after
he had repeated his denial twice more, with
oaths and curses very unbecoming a chosen
disciple of Jesus Christ, the cock crew a se-
cond time. This relation is so absolutely ir-


reconcilable with what is given us in the Gos-
pel according to Matthew, and that with the
circumstances of the same event recorded by
Luke, that two of the three must inevitably
be false ; and which those are, the judicious
reader will decide as he thinks fit.




WE come now to the fourth of the ge-
nerally received Evangelical histories,
which, by the tradition of the orthodox
Church, is attributed to the Apostle John, the
avowed autiior of the prophetic book of the
Apocalypse. And as in our examination of
the internal evidence of the authenticity of
the other three, we have begun with taking
notice of their style, it is impossible not to
observe the striking difference there is be-
tween toe language of the Apocalypse, and
that in which this Gospel is written. To re-
move so obvious a difficulty in the way of at-
tributing these two works to the same writer,
commentators are accustomed to insinuate,
(but without any proof of the fact) that, as
John wrote his Gospel many years after he
had written the Apgcalypse, he had acquired,


by practice and experience, a much better
knowledge of the Greek, than had been com-
municated by the miraculous gift of tongues :
and, on that account, the style of his later
work is quite unlike that of his first. The
same critics might, with equal reason and
equal satisfaction to their readers, have re-
marked also, that the same superior advan-
tage of time and experience had given him a
knowledge of the Platonic philosophy, of
.which, in his earlier days, he was entirely ig-
norant; for whoever the writer of this Gospel
really was, it must be evident to every com-
petent, unprejudiced judge, who reads it in the
original, particularly the exordium, that he
was well acquainted with the writings of

According to the tradition, that John wag
the Apostle who, in this Gospel, is said to
have been the beloved .disciple of Jesus, and
to have leaned upon his bosom, at the last
supper, the book itself tells us he was the au-
thor ; for, speaking of him, c. xxi. v. 24, it
says, " This is the disciple which testificth of
" these things and wrote these things, and we
" know that his testimony is true :" but since
it is unaccountable, how any writer should
speak of himself in such a manner as this, the


same critical sagacity has invented a mode of
solving this difficulty also, and informs us,
merely upon its own conjecture, that the
Gospel written by John ends with the twen-
tieth chapter; and that the following chapter
is an addition made afterwards by the Church
of Ephesus : by which means, the palpable
falsehood contained in the last verse, under
the pretence of an hyperbole, is also entirelv
thrown upon the same Church. However,
since both the diction and credibility of the
narrative appear to be the same in the twenty-
first, as in all the other chapters, the whole
seems to merit to be accounted equally spu-
rious, or equally genuine and authentic. Let

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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 14 of 18)