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 16 of 18)
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IV. IN prosecution of the plan of in-
quiry laid down and pursued with the other
three Evangelical histories, our next step is


id observe the miracles and extraordinary acts
attributed to our Savi >ur, which are peculiar
to this writer; and then the prophecies re-
corded by him.

The first niiracle he has related, and which
he calls the beginning of the miracles; ot Je-
sus, is the changing the water into wine at a
marriage feast, when 'the ihviter's stock of
wine grew low; though the story itself in-
forms us, that the guests had already drunk so
zvell, that the master of the feast judged " it-
more probable^ that if any more wine had
been brought them, it would have been
of an inferior quality to what they had been?
drinking; but this miraculous wine was of so
superior and excellent a flavour, that it must
necessarily re-excite even the sated appetite*
and tempt them to continue their intempe-
tance with a: fresh relish^ That this writety
and many another orthodox preacher of what
is called Christianity, had he been endowed
with sufficient pawer, would have performed,
and gladly partaken of, the intemperate jo >s
of so wonderfully seasonable a transmutation^
I can easily suppose ; and think it not impro-
bable that he would alsa have exerted his su-*
pernatural ability to the enriching himself and
Jys poor disciples^ by transmuting tue cheap;


and baser metals into gold, and to the enjoy-
ment of many other instances of sensual in-
dulgence, equally laudable and equally Chris-
tian as the intemperate use of strong liquor :
but whosoever rightly apprehends the cha-
racter and doctrine of the holy Mediator of
the New Covenant, and has observed how ut-
terly incompatible every degree of sensual ex-
cess is with the Gospel precepts of sobriety,
temperance, moderation, and the subjection
of our bodily appetites to reason and reli-
gious duty, will find such a miracle as this in-
credible, though it had been recorded in all
the four histories ; and coming in so very ex-
ceptionable a form, upon the single, unsup-
ported testimony of so very exceptionable an
historian, it is altogether as unworthy of be-
lief as the fabulous Roman Catholic legend
of St. Nicholas's Chickens, of later times.
To Luke's credit, he is so far from giving it
the least confirmation, that though he informs
us our Lord, from motives of compassion for
a large multitude who had followed him to
such a distance from their own homes, and
staid to hear him so late, that they could
not otherwise have been provided with ne-
cessary sustenance, miraculously fed five
thousand persons with only five loaves and


two fishes ; yet he does not tell us of his
changing so much as one firkin of water into
wine on that charitable occasion, though,
here, he is said to transmute eighteen firkins,
to prolong the festivity of those who, by their
own confession, had already drank very

The second miracle recorded by this writer
is the healing the nobleman's son at Caper-
naum, without seeing him, in the fourth
chapter: a miracle much more becoming
the character of Jesus than the foregoing. It
appears, however, to be an imitation of the
healing the centurion's servant of the same
city, delated by Luke; though many of the
principal circumstances are so altered, that it
cannot pass for the same ; and it is highly
improbable, that two different cases, so simi-
lar to each other, should occur at the same
place, within so short a space of time.

In the fifth chapter, our author relates the
miraculous cure of a poor, friendless, impo-
tent man. So far all is credible. $ut unfor-
tunately he tells us, this man had been long
waiting to obtain his cure from the miracu-
lous efficacy of the Pool of Bethesda, whose
waters, being disturbed at certain seasons, by
an Angel, who descended for that purpose*

T 2


acquired for a moment the wonderful virtue of
healing every kind of sickness or disease; but
lost it again so instantaneously, that none, but
the single patient who got first into the pool af-
ter the troubling of the water, could receive the
least benefit from it. In contradiction, there-
fore, to the whole tenor of the Jewish history^
from whence we learn, that there was no pro-
phet, nor any supernatural interposition of di-
vine providence, amongst the Jews, from the
time of their last return from Babylon, to the
coming of Jesus Christ, this writer informs us
of a standing miracle amongst them, notorious-
ly and frequently repeated in the sheep-mar-
ket, that is, in one of the most public places in
Jerusalem. Had this been true, it could ne-
ver have escaped the notice of either Jew or
-Roman, resident in that metropolis ; but must
have been often spoken of by every historian
who gave an account of that city: yet no
such circumstance is so much as once hinted
-it by Luke, Josephus, nor any of the Roman

The next extraordinary, though not pro-
perly miraculous, transaction related of our
Saviour by this writer, is his conduct respect-
ing the woman taken in adultery, c. viiL a
story, which has not one single circumstance


attending it to recommend it to our belief. In
the first place, the Jewish law did not order
the convicted of adultery to be stoned, but
only to be put to death. Secondly, before
any criminal could be stoned to death, as we
see in the case of Stephen, he was to be
brought, not before a private individual, like
our Saviour, in no office of magistracy, but
before the Jewish Council; where, if he was
condemned, the whole congregation of the
people were to stone him ; and the witnesses
of his guilt, not those who were without sin
amongst the people, were to cast the first
stone at him. Thirdly, the Mosaic law says,
" the man who committed adultery with his
" neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adul-
" teress shall surely be put to tleath:" yet,
though the woman is said to have been taken


in the very fact, the man, who must have
been taken so too, and whom the law points
out as principal, both in the crime and in
the punishment, is not brought by these
Scribes and Pharisees together with the wo-
man. Fourthly, our Lord, to the very end
of his life, shewed himself a zealous observer
of the laws of the Mosaic Covenant, which
were not cancelled till after his resurrection
and the promulgation of the New Covenant

T 3


of the Gospel, And, lastly, Luke assures us,
tliat, when applied to on another occasion, to
settle a dispute between two brothers respect-
ing the division of their patrimony, he referred
them to the proper legal arbitrators of such
matters, asking the party that applied to
him,* who made me a judge or a divider over

The next miracle, mentioned by this author,
is in the ninth chapter, the giving sight to a
man born blind, by anointing his eyes with
clay, made from the dust of the ground, and
his spittle, and then sending him to wash it
off in the pool of Siloam ; upon which, as I
have done on similar instances, in the Gospel
according to Mark, I must observe, that, if
he would have us think that Jesus intended
to persuade the people, that such an unguent,
worthy only of a mountebank, had any me-
dical virtue, he deceived them, and trans-
ferred the honour of the cure from the imme-
diate influence of the supernatural power of
the Almighty, to his own medical sagacity,
which could combine simple natural causes,
of such apparent inefficacy, so as to produce
the most wonderful effect ; and, whether he
intended it or not, such an application could

* Luke c, xii. v, 14.


only derogate from the glory due to God, by
bringing the miracle into suspicion with the
Jess credulous amongst the people, and in*
ducing them to attribute the cure to the vir-
tue of some more powerful medicine, con-
cealed under the form of an unguent, made
of powder of dirt and human spittle. In every
view, therefore, such trifling mummery is too
unbecoming the character of our blessed Sa-
viour, to be received upon the bare testimony
of such a writer as this.

The only other miracle recorded by this
author, remaining unnoticed, is the resurrec-
tion of Lazarus of Bethany, in the eleventh
chapter, a legend which, as far as 1 am ca-
pable of judging, has many strong marks
upon it of fictitious falsehood ; but not one
single feature of probability belonging to it.
For, first, Lazarus is represented as being
our Lord's particularly beloved friend ; and
if any one man had been so preferred by him,
it seems impossible that the man himself,
arid above all, his miraculous restoration to
life, should not have been repeatedly men-
tioned by Luke, in both his histories ; yet he
is so far from suggesting to us that Jesus had
any such friend, that he informs us, when
he was told that his mother and brethren were

T 4


enquiring for him, he answered, that his near*
est and dearest friends and relations were his
disciples, who heard the word of God ami
obeyed it. Secondly, our Lord repeatedly
declared, that no man was worthy of him, or
could be his disciple, who did not forsake fa-
mily, friends, and all he had, for his sake and
the Gospel's; yet, according to this history,La-
zarus, his dearly beloved friend, never forsook
his family and abode at Bethany, to accom-
pany him, like his Apostles ; nor is he said,
even by this only writer who mentions him, to
have ever taken an active part in the promul-
gation of that New Covenant to mankind,
to establish which, was the sole object of our
Lord's life, death, and r resurrection from the
dead; and which, during his whole public
ministry,, seemed alone to occupy his thoughts
and attention. Thirdly, of all the instances
of dead persons restored to life again, related
in either the Old or New Testament, this of
Lazarus is by for the most wonderful mira-
cle ; for, in all the other cases, the renovation
of life so soon followed the expiration of the
deceased, that they appear to have been in-
stances of suspended respiration restored;
and the supernatural influence of divine
power had only to cause the same renewal of


the vital motion of the fluids, whereon sense
#,nd animation depend, which, in cases of
drowned or suffocated persons, is frequently
produced in our times, by warmth, persever-
ing friction, and the application of stimulate
ing medicines ; nay, even of our Lord's resur-
rection' itself, we are told,, that David's pro*
phecy concerning it, was literally fulfilled,
and that " he, whom God raised up, saw no
" corruption :" but of Lazarus, we are in-
formed, that ** he had lain in the grave four
" days," and that, (as to be sure was likely in
that hot climate) his body was already pu-
trified. Now, for what purpose is this greatest
of all such miracles supposed to be wrought?
Here was no desolate, disconsolate widow, or
distressed, aged parent, to be supported and
comforted by his restoration to life, where the
miraculous exertion would have strikingly
displayed 'the spirit of compassion, and mer-
ciful benevolence, so peculiar to the religion
of the New Covenant ; no use proposed from
it, for the conversion of the Jews, for our
Lord had foretold, that even his own resur-
rection would be ineffectual for that purpose,
declaring, that if they hearkened not to the
predictions of Moses and the prophets, con-
cerning him, " they would not be persuaded.


" though one rose from the dead." And with
respect to the Gospel, the grand object of
of our Saviour's mission, Lazarus was never
of the least use in preaching it ; so that the
Almighty is here introduced, as enabling Je-
sus to perform the greatest miracle imagina-
ble, for no kind of purpose whatsoever. The
writer, indeed, tells us, that, on this account,
many of the Jews at Jerusalem believed on
him ; but this is flatly contradicted by Luke,
who, as I have before observed, assures us,
that all his disciples, at his death, were Gali-
leans ; and that the whole number amounted
but to one hundred and twenty. Fourthly,
the name Lazarus signifies a person, destitute
of aid and support, and as such, is with great
propriety applied by our Lord, in the para-
ble, to the wretched object of commiseration,
that lay begging at the rich man's gate. But
was the groundless fancy of some commenta-^
tors justly founded, that Lazar, without the
Greek termination, is the same as Elea^ar,
still, who can imagine, that our Saviour would
have chosen to denominate the feigned beg-
gar, of a parable of his own invention, by the
peculiar name of a beloved friend, so dear to
Siim, as he is here represented to have been? a
Fiit.jiv, the very relation of the circumstances


of this pretended miracle asserts an absolute
impossibility ; for it tells us, that, at our
Lord's command, Lazarus came forth from
from the sepulchre, though he was bound hand
and foot, with grave clothes, and his face was
bound about with a napkin, and that, after he
was come forth, Jesus bid them loose him and
let him go. Such, and so very different from
those recorded by Luke, are the miracles of
what the orthodox receive for the Gospel ac-
cording to the Apostle John !

V. As to what is to us the grand internal
testimony of authenticity, indispensably ne-
cessary in every scripture, which contains the
history of a supernatural revelation, predic-
tions of future events, verified by their actual
completion, after all that we have already
seen of this writer, to find out such evidence
in his work, peculiar to himself, would be as
unaccountable and wonderful as any of the
extraordinary miracles, with which he has en-
deavoured to astonish the ignorant credulity
of the second century ; but though, with a
degree of circumstantial minuteness, which no
writer of credit would have pretended to, he
has reported, with verbal exactnesss, the dis-
courses, not of Jesus only, but of John the


Baptist also, to his particular disciples, at
the distance of, at least, thirty-six years af-
ter they were uttered, and some of them
of very considerable length; he has not
thought fit to introduce any thing, which
can, with propriety, be deemed a prophe-
cy. Some few short sentences, however,
are scattered here and there, which, as they
seem to refer to futurity, demand our atten-
tion on this occasion ; although the sense of
them, so far as it is discoverable, is only what
is met with in better authenticated scriptures,
confessedly written long before this history.
Of these, the first that occurs is, c. ii. v. 19,
where, speaking, as the author himself ex-
plains it to us, of the. temple of his body, Jesus
says to the Jews, " destroy this temple, and in
* ; three days, I will raise it up." The obvious
sense is only, what is much more clearly
expressed by our Saviour to his disciples, ac-
cording to Luke, viz, that, after his cruci-
fixion he should rise to life again the third
day ; but the mode of expressing it, in this
place, contradicts the account given of that
important event, by e^ery other primitive
preacher of the Gospel ; for it makes our
Lord assure them, that, though dead, he

would raise himself, up ; whereas, all the other


THE EVANGELISTS. . . , . 301

Apostles, and even John himself (for he was .
in company with, and therefore agreed with
Peter, Acts iii. 15) unanimously assert, that .
it was not himself, but God, who. rtiised hirfi .
from the dead.

In chapter iv. y. 21, the author makes our
Saviour say to the Samaritan woman, "be-,
" lieve me the hour cometh, when ye shall,
" neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusa-
" lem, worship the Father." Had the Words
been, that, under the New Covenant, God
should no longer be 1 worshipped there with
sacrifices and oblations, they would have been
true, and of the same import with' many other
passages, both of the Old and New Testa-
ment; but in the indefinite sense, in which
they are here used, nothing can be falser;
for Christianity teaches men to worship God',
both at Jerusalem and Samaria, and in ever}
place upon the globe.

In chapter v. verse 43, we find our Lord
saying to the Jews, " I am come in my fa-
" ther's name, and ye receive me not ; if ano-
"ther shall come in his own name, him ye
" will receive." Which words evidently im-
ply, first, that some one would falsely assuure
the character of the predicted Wessiah, witli-
out deriving his authority from God; and se-


condly, that the Jewish nation would receive
him as such ; but of all the false Christs, who
appeared amidst the final wars and calamities
of Judea, there was not one who did not pre-
tend to come with the authority of God, and
to be able to evince it, by working miracles ;
and though each was followed by more or
fewer of the common people, yet the Jewish
nation in general, who rejected our blessed
Saviour, from that time to this, have never re-
ceived any man as their expected Messiah.

In chapter viii. v. 51, our Lord is repre-
sented, as saying, " verily, verily if a man
" keep my saying, he shall never see death,"
or, as it is repeated in the next verse, " shall
" never taste of death ;" and again, c. xi.
v. 25 and 26, he not only says " he who be-
" lieveth on me, though he were dead, yet
" shall he live," but also, " whosoever livcth
" and believeth in me, shall never die/'
What meaning could the writer have, in such
absurd and groundless predictions as these ?
Paul, as well as daily experience, assures us,
that in Adam, in our human nature, all men
die, and we know, that our Lord himself, his
Apostles, and all his most faithful disciples,
died, or, in the words of the author, have seen
or tasted of death; and if we should suppose


that he only intended to insinuate that, ou
account of the certainty of the resurrection
of his disciples, their natural death was not
to be accounted dying; yet still, according
to this author himself, the quibble would
hold as truly of the most profligate unbeliever
as of those who believed on him ; for, c. v.
v. 28 and 29? he says, " the hour is coming
" in which all that are in the graves shall hear
" the voice of the Son of God, and shall come
44 forth, they that have done good unto the re-
" surrection of life, and they that have done
" evil unto the resurrection of damnation.' 1 '

In chapter xiv. v, 16, &c. our Lord, in the
style peculiar to this writer, is made to pro-
mise his disciples, after his death, the spiri-
tual comfort and assistance of divine inspi-
ration ; but this is an event, which had taken
place long before the earliest date allotted foi*
the composition of this pretended GospeL

In chapter xvi. v. 32, Jesus, in his last dis-
course, says to his disciples, " Behold the
" hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall
44 be scattered, every man to his own home,
" and shall leave me alone :" and according to
this writer, they not only deserted him at his
apprehension, but after his death and resur-
rection; and even after his giving them the


Holy Ghost, they went every one to his
home in Galilee, and recommenced their for-
mer occupations : but, unhappily for the au-
thor's credit, this is not only repugn an: to rea-
son and probability, but irreconcilably contra^
dictory to both the histories of Luke. These,
and two or three more sentences such as these,
to be picked out of the long, valedictory con-
versation of Jesus y said to be held with his
disciples immediately preceding his cruci-
fixion, make up the whole of the internal tes-
timony of the spirit of prophecy to be met
with in this scripture, so long injuriously at-
tributed to the prophetic Apostle John.




AVING thus stated, what to me appear
contradictions absolutely irrecoucila*
ble; and submitted to the public, the reasons
which have long induced me to reject three
of the four generally received Gospels, as
spurious fictions of the second century, un-
necessary*- and even prejudicial, to the rause
of true Christianity, and in every respect un-
worthy of the regard which so many ages
have paid to them ; I have accomplished all
that I at first proposed. Leaving every
reader^ therefore, to judge for himself, as I
have done., and to criticise hiy reasoning with
the same unreserved freedom, with which*
though a sincere convert to the Gospel Co-
venant, I have found it necessary for my owu
rational conviction to scrutinize the respective
authenticity and credibility of these import*


ant scriptures, it was my original intention,
here to have closed the present disquisition.
But, because the same train of investigation
hath ted me to reject likewise several of the
canonical Epistles, upon the sole authority
of which, several fundamental doctrines of
the orthodox Church, ami of various sects of
professed Christians, are confidently taught
the people, for doctrines of the Gospel of
Christ, I think it my duty, to add briefly my
reasons for expunging also out of the volume
of duly authenticated scriptures of the New
Covenant, the Epistles, to the Romans to the
Ephesians to the Colossians-^-to the He-
brews of James of Peter of John of
Jude^ and, in the book of the Revelation,
the Epistles to the seven Churches of Asia.
Of these, whosoever is at all acquainted
\vith the history of the constitution of the
present canon of the Christian scriptures, well
knows that the Epistles to the Hebrews, of
James, second of Peter, second and third of
John and of JudeJ, were rejected as spurious
bj many Churches, from the first of their ap-
pearance ; and not universally received as
genuine writings of the authors whose names
they bear, till the fifth century, when a ma-
jority of votes^ in -the Council of Carthage,


for the Greek Church, and the decision of
Pope Innocent, for the Latin, determined
the long controverted question, in favour of
their genuine authenticity ; a determination
which, to me, who am both a Protestant
against papal infallibility, and fully convinced
of the corrupt apostasy of the prelates of the
Church, much earlier than the fifth century,
affords no kind of satisfaction, but rather ex-
cites the contrary.

In the Epistle to the Romans, the author
writes indeed in the name of Paul ; but he
writes to a Christian Church, already subsist-
ing at Rome, and celebrated for its faith in
Christ throughout the whole world, before he
himself had been there; for, v. 13 15, he says,
" I would not have you ignorant, brethren,
" that often-times I purposed to come unto
" you (but was let hitherto), that I might have
" some fruit among you also, even as among
" other Gentiles ; I am debtor bothto the
" Greeks and the barbarians, both to the wise
<* and the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I
" am ready to preach the Gospel to you that
" are at Rome also/' In c. xv. v. 25, &c. he as-
certains the time of Paul's writing this Epistle
to be, when he was going to Jerusalem, with the
contributions for the poor Christians of that

u 2


cky, that is, in the reign of Claudius ; and
says that, when he has performed that good
office, he will come, by way of Rome, into
Spain. Now, whoever has read, with proper
attention, the history of Paul's travels,
written by his friend and fellow-traveller, Si-
las or Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, must
be convinced, that Paul never had the least
idea of travelling into Spain; and that he did
not go to Rome, till, by the partiality of Fes-
tus to his persecutors, he was constrained to ap-
peal unto Ccesar. From the same history it
is evident also, that when Paul arrived at
Rome, for the first time, in the reign of Nero,
there was no Christian Church there, as in-
deed it is not at all probable there should
have been; because Paul was the Apostle
particularly chosen and delegated for that
purpose, and he, accordingly, first preached
the Gospel to the distant Gentiles, as re-
corded in the Acts. From the same history,
there is every reason to believe, that the Gos-
pel had never been preached beyond the li-
mits of Asia, till Paul was, in a vision, ad-
monished to go into Macedonia, and from
thence into Greece ; yet Paul is made to
write this Epistle to the Christian converts at
Rome, .whilst he was preaching the Gospel

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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 16 of 18)