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 17 of 18)
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at Corinth. Who then was that other Apos-
tle to the Gentiles, who so far preceded Paul,
as already to have reached Rome, without
preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of
the intervening countries of Asia Minor and
Greece, and to have founded a Church there,
early enough for its being spoken of through-
out the whole world, when Paul, in the execu-
tion of the commission miraculously given to
him by Christ himself, had advanced no far-
ther than Macedonia and Greece? Besides,
from the last chapter of the Acts, it appears
incontestably, that they were not Christians,
but Jews, who met Paul at Appii Forum ;
that his first step, when he arrived at Rome,
was to call together the Jews resident there,
and exculpate himself for having appealed
to the Emperor ; that those Jew^s, far from
knowing the Gospel to have been already
preached and received at Rome, declared
themselves totally ignorant concerning it, ex-
cept that it was every where spoken against,
and were desirous to be informed of its doc-
trines by him ; that they all assembled for
that purpose, at his lodging, on an appointed
day, when he preached to them the New Co-
venant of the kingdom of God the whole day,
and pointed out to them those passages of

IT 3



the Law of Moses and the prophets, wherein
it was predicted ; that upon their disagreeing
and leaving him, he said, u Be it known to
" you, that the salvation of God is sent (that
" is, the Gospel is to be preached) to the
" Gentiles, and that they will hear it/'
Whereas, according to this Epistle, it must
have been known already to the Jews of Rome,
that the Gospel had been preached to the
Gentiles of that city, and that they had re*
ceivedit. These palpable, and as they seem
to me, irreconcilable contradictions, oblige
me utterly to reject this Epistle, called Paul's,
and to regard it only as one of the many spu-
rious forgeries of the second century, unwor-
thy the least serious attention. I cannot,
however, forbear remarking farther the incon-
sistency of this writer, (which indeed must
generally be discernible in all falsifiers) in mak-
ing Paul personally acquainted with so long a
list of members of the Church at Rome, where
he had never been, amongst whom we find
Aquila and Priscilla, and even his own mo-
ther, to whom he sends salutation in the last
chapter, v. 13. Of the two first, Luke tells
us, that, about or rather before the pretended
date of this Epistle, they had left Rome, be-
ing Jews, in obedience to an edict of Clau-


dius. And, if there is any reason to believe
that Paul's mother was then living, is it credi-
ble, that an old woman of Tarsus, in Cilieia,
whose son was so wonderfully appointed to
preach the Gospel, and who was occupied in
that commission in Asia and Greece, shotild
jeave her native covmtry and such a son, arid
ramble after other preachers of the Gospel,
at so advanced an age, to the far distant
metropolis of Italy ? But, in the eleventh
chapter, the author clearly betrays himself to
be, not Paul, but some person who lived and
wrote some time after the destruction of Je-
rusalem and the dispersion of the Jews ; for
to these events alone, can the following sen-
tences refer : v. 12, " If the fall of them"
(the Jews) " be the riches of the world, and
" the diminishing of them the riches of the
" Gentiles, how much more their fullness ?"
Again, v. 15, " If the casting away of them
" be the reconciling of the world, what shall
"the receiving of them be?" Again, v. 21
and 22, " If God spared not the natural
" branches, take heed lest he also spare
" not thee. Behold the goodness and severity
" of God : on them which fell severity ; but
"towards thee goodness, if thou continue .in

u 4


" his goodness ; otherwise, thou also shalt
" cut

II. THE Epistle to the Ephesians is also writ-
ten in the name of Paul, but under a suppo-
sition that a Christian Church was settled at
Ephesus, before Paul himself preached the
Gospel there; for, c. i. v. 15 and 16, the
writer makes him say, " Wherefore I also,
" after / heard of your fqith in the Lord Je-
" sus and love unto all the Saints, cease not
" to give thanks for you," &c. and c. iii. v. 1 5
&c. " for this cause, I Paul, the Prisoner of
" Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles, if ye have
" heard of the dispensation of the grace of God
" which is given to me to you-ward ; how that
" by revelation he made known unto, me
" the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words) ;
" whereby when ye read, ye may. understand
" my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,"
This supposition, however, cannot possibly
be allowed by any one who credits the his-
tory of the Acts of the Apostles; for in that
we are expressly told, c. xviii. and xix. that
Paul himself preached the Gospel at Ephe-
sus, first in the synagogue of the Jews, at twQ
different times, and afterwards in the school


t>f Tyrannus, for the space of two years; and
to read over his valedictory discourse to the
ciders of the Church of Ephesus, at Miletus,
recorded Acts xx. is amply sufficient to con-
vince every impartial mind, that Paul could
never have written to the Ephesians in the
above quoted language of this Epistle. Some
critics indeed, without the least proof, sug-
gest that this Epistle was originally inscribed
to the Church of Laodicea, and not of Ephe-
sus; but if there was really any satisfactory
evidence, that, notwithstanding the great
dissimilarity of the names, the transcribers of
ell the -existing copies had conspired to make
so extraordinary a change, still the difficulty
would not be removed ; because, according to
the Acts, Paul was the first preacher of the
Gospel at Laodicea also, and every other
part of Asia Minor

The same insuperable objection lies against
the Epistle to the Colossians, which is mani-
festly fabricated by the same opificer who
composed that to the Ephesians. In c. i.
v, 4 9, the author makes Paul say, that it
was Epaphras who first preached the Gospel
to the Colossians ; and that it was from him
he had heard of their faith and love in Christ
Jesus. And, c. ii, v. 1, he makes him ex-


pres&ly declare, that neither they nor the Lao
ddeeans had seen his jace in the flesh. Yet
Coiosse aiad Laodicea were both cities of
Phrygia, where Luke assures us,,* Pul, ac-
companied by himself, repeatedly preached
the Gospel to every, city m order.

.Ill; THERE are also some circumstances,
in the Epistles to the. Philippians and to Ti~
4us, which render them both apocryphal in
-my estimation ; bat as they may not, per-
Jaaps, be thought by others to afford the same
^satisfactory demonstration of their spurious-
ness, as I persuade ;myself I have produced
in the three preceding cases, I only mention
them by the way ; arid submit them to the
mature consideration of those who, as well as
myself, may think it of the first importance,
to both the teacher and learner of -.the Gospel,
to separate truth from fabulous falsehood*
and the genuine scriptures of Christ's primi-
tive disciples from the presumptuous fictions
. and forgeries of the fathers of the grand apos-
tasy in the second and third centuries.

In the very first verse of the Epistle to the
. Philippiuns, there is a distinction made be-
tween, the general 'oo-ujregatkm of the Saints

* Acts-xvi, 0;


or Christians, and the Bishops and Beacons,
which is not to be found in any other episto-
lary address of Paid ; and .which, if it be not
an interpolation, savours .very strongly of a
much later age than that of the Apostles.
At verse 13 18, compared with c. iv. v. 22,
we are informed, that through the notice
taken of him during his imprisonment, many
of the Emperor Nero's court were converted
to Christianity, a fact .in the highest degree
improbable, and far from being confirmed by
Luke or any Roman historian ; and that ma-
ny xlisciples of the Gospel, who, to be many,
must have been converted before Paul's ar-
rival at Rome, wtjicii Luke's history makes
quite incredible, emboldened by his success,
preached the Gospel there at. the same time
that he did, some of them, good Christians!
only enviously for contention and strife's
sake, in hopes to vex and teaze him; all
which seems irreconcilable to the account
given us in the last chapter of the Acts. In.
c. iii. v, 2, the Philippians are bid to beware
of dogs and of the concision, expressions never
used by Paul in any other writing. The latter
seems a very improper, unbecoming manner
of speaking of a divine ordinance, which, as
the Mosaic Covenant was not then actually


abrogated, still subsisted, and was even prac-
tised by Paul himself on his disciple Timo-
thy, though he was only the son of a Jewish
mother by a Greek father. And if by the
former we are to understand the Cynic philo-
sophers, what was there in their numbers,
doctrines, or lives, that could make Paul
point them out as so peculiarly inimical to
Christianity above the other philosophic
sects? In chap, iv< v. 3, he intreats his yoke-
fellow, whom, however, he does not name, to
tt help those women who labour with him in
*. the Gospel ;" yet Luke assures us, that
none but he and Timoth} f accompanied Paul
into Macedonia and Greece: and, 1 Cor.
c. ix. v. 5, Paul himself plainly intimates, that
though some other Apostles and preachers of
the Gospel were accompanied by their wives
or female relations, he and Barnabas had
no woman who attended them. In the fifth
verse the writer says, the Lord is at hand; ap-
parently meaning that the predicted coining
of Christ was nearly approaching; but that is
directly contradictory to Paul's own explicit
doctrine in the serond chapter of his second
Epistle to the Thessakmians. In verses
10 19, we find the author describing him-
self as in a state of affliction and pecuniary


distress, and very seasonably relieved by the
supply they had sent him by Epaphroditus;
reminding them, that at his first preaching
the Gospel in Macedonia, they were tlie only
Christian Church who gave him anything;
and that they, two or three times, relieved
his necessity i when he was at Thcssalonica*
Yet Luke tells us, that, no accusation being
sent to Rome by the Jews against Paul, lie
was under no affliction and very little re-
straint, being permitted to dwell where lie
pleased, under the guard of a single soldier;
and that he " dwelt two whole years in his
" own hired house, and received all that came
" in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God
" and teaching Christianity boldly, no man
" forbidding him/' And we know that Pauls
constant boast was, that he always* main-
tained himself by his own labour, and never
made his preaching the Gospel a charge to
any body; and though, 2 Cor. xi. 9, he says,
that the Macedonian converts supplied that
pecuniary deficiency, which was occasioned
by the persecutions that interrupted his ma-
nual labour, far from intimating that the Plii-
lippians had been particularly benevolent
and liberal towards him, at his first preach-

S 1 Cor. ix. 15 and 18. See also Acts xx. 3335.


irig the Gospel to them and to the Thessala-
tiians, he says to the latter, 1 Thess. c. ii.
v. 2,6,9, "After we had suffered before, and
" were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at
" Philippic we were bold in our God, 'to speak
''* unto you the Gospel of God, with much
^contention. Ndr of men sought we glory,,
" neither of yon, nor yet of others, when we
" might have been burdensome, as the Apos-
" ties of Christ. For ye remember^ brethren y
" our labour and travel : for labouring night
'" and day, because we would not be charge-
* 6 able unto any of you, we preached unto
" you th Gospel of God."

In the Epistle to Titus, the very introduc-
tory address excites in my mind a strong sus-
picion, that it was not written by Paul; for
he calls himself, what he never does in any
other Epistle, a servant of God; though, to
the Galatians, c. iv. v. 6 and 7, he says, " be-
" cause ye are sons, God hath sent forthth e
" spirit of his son into 3 r our hearts, crying Abba
" Father, wherefore thou art no more a servant,
" but a son, &c." He adds also, " an Apostle
<c of Jesus Christ/' (not by the mil of God, as
he usually expresses it, but) " according to the
"faith of Gods elect and the acknowledging of
w the truth? all which, in Paul's mouth, is


quite a new kind of language. As T proceed.
tny suspicion is greatly confirmed by finding
a most malicious, illiberal, national reflection
of a Greek Poet upon the moral character of
the Cretans quoted by the author, affirmed by
liim to be true, and the Poet hirfrself deno-
minated # Prophet. The -satirical verse here
quoted is taken from Epimenides, a Poet of
Crete, but that part of it which accuses the
Cretans of being liars, is copied literally from
a hymn of Callimachus in honour of Jupiter.
and he explains the grounds of his accusation
to be, that the Cretans had always boasted,
"" that they load the sepulchre of Jupiter in
"" their island^ which must be false, because it
" was impossible for the supreme of the am-
46 mortak to have died and been buried any-
*' where/' Who can believe that the Apostle
Paul would have Sanctioned such a slander,
founded upon sudh grounds as these? Be-
sides, the state of the Church in Crete, its
described in the seven last verses' of the first
chapter, and the direction about heretics,
c. iii. v. 10, are riiuch -more suitable tb the
state of the Church m later times, predicted
by Paul to Timothy,* than at any period
during the life of PauL The author of tho

* 1 Tim/ iv. 1, and 2 Tim, iv. 3 and 4.


Epistle also, c. iii. v. 3, represents himself
and Titus, as having, in the former part of
their lives, before their conversion to Chris-
tianity, been " foolish, disobedient, deceived,
" serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in
" malice and envy, hateful, and hating one
" another." Now, when Paul enumerates
several unchristian immoralities to the Corin-
thians,* he adds, not including himself, nor
even the majority of the heathen converts*
" and such were some of you; but ye are
" washed,'' &c. And of himself he confi-
dently declared before the Jewish Council*
Acts c. xxiii. v. 1, " Men and brethren, I
" have lived in all good conscience before
a God, until this day/'

As to the Epistle to Philemon, it is too in-
significant to merit much attention ; but it is
observable, that, in this short letter* Paul not
only talks of his bonds, a phrase not uncom-
monly applied to any kind of confinement or
restraint, but speaks of his fellow-prisoner;
and yet we learn from the Acts, that he him-
self was the only Christian prisoner sent thi-
ther by Festus; and that he was permitted
" to dwell by himself, with a soldier that kept
" him/'


IV. THAT the Epistle to the Hebrews
could a ,)t be written by Paul, is so evident to
any ivadev, who compares the style and scope
of it with those of his other Epistles, that it
seems astonishing that, even in the fifth
century, it should have been decreed to
be his, especially since the writer does not
pretend to be Paul ; and the only circum-
stance of probability that he was so, is the
mention of Timothy, in the close of the Epis-
tle ; as if there never was more than one
Christian of that name. But that it is of
much later date than the Apostolic age, is
manifest from chap. xiii. v. 7 and 17 5 where
the teachers of Christianity are said to rule
over their congregations, in direct contra-
diction to our Saviour's express injunctions,
and to the constant practice of Paul himself
and all the primitive preachers of the Gos-
pel. Indeed, I cannot imagine a grosser af-
front to the memory of the great Apostle to
the Gentiles, than to ascribe to him, either
the interpreting the Greek word for Covenant
to signify a will or testament ; or the assertion
of this writer, c. iv. v. 2, that the Gospel was
preached to the Israelites in the wilderness,
as well as to us ; or all t e nonsensical absur-
dity, in chap. vii. about Melchisedec, as a



man having neither beginning of days nor end
of life ; or, lastly, the reckoning as the per-
fection of the Christian doctrine, c. vi. v. 1
and 2, far superior to the doctrines of Re-
pentance, Faith, the Resurrection, and a fu-
ture Judgment, the explanation of the Old
Covenant of the Mosaic Law, as a type and
.shadow of the New Covenant of the Gospel,
which, upon the principles laid down by
Paul himself, in his Epistle to the Galatians,
is just as trifling and useless, as it would be to
represent the scholastic discipline, under
which we are educated in our childhood, as
the type and shadow of our conduct, when
arrived at manhood, and a full maturity of
reason. It must be considered also, that the
writing to the Jewish converts particularly,
either in general or in any one country, by
the appellation of Hebrews, is to make and
keep up a distinction between them and the
Gentile converts to Christianity, a behaviour
quite unjustifiable in any teacher of the Gos-
pel ; because all distinctions tend naturally
to destroy that unity and mutual affection ne-
cessary in the disciples of Jesus Christ ; and,
as far as our religion is concerned with the
writings of the Old Testament, the Gentile con-
verts were equally interested iu them with the


Hebrew disciples ; and Paul, especially, could
never have made such a distinction ; for he
assures us, Gal. iii. 2? and 28, that, " as many
" as have been baptized into Christ, have put
" on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek,
" there is neither bond nor free, there is nei-
" ther male nor female ; for ye are all one in
" Christ Jesus." The author too has thought
fit to change the original words of the fortieth
Psalm, in order to make them confirm his new
doctrine, that the body of Jesus crucified was
a propitiatory sacrifice for sin ; and quotes the
Psalmist, as saying " sacrifice and offering
" thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou pre-
" pared me ;" whereas David really says,
" sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire,
" mine ears hast thou opened :" that is, thou
hast made rne obedient to thy word ; express-
ing the superiority of the New Covenant
over tli Old, in nearly the same sentiment
with that of Samuel, " behold, to obey is bet-
" ter than sacrifice, and to hearken than the
" fat of rams." Whether this extraordinary
transmutation of the sense of the royal Psal-
mist, was made by the error of the translators
of the Septuagint, or whether the Septuagint
itself was thus altered by the ready -fingered
interpolates of much later times, to accom-

x 2


modate it to the doctrine taught in this Epis-
tle, I know not ;* but this I know, that \no
Hebrew, writing particularly to the Hebrews,
could have quoted the scriptures of the Old
Testament, in the words of the Greek trans-
lation, instead of those of the original He-
brew ; especially where the sense of the two
differed very materially ; and, therefore, I am
fully satisfied, that neither Paul, nor any other
Jew, was the author of this Epistle. In c: ii.
v. 13, the author has had the effrontery, to
quote the words of Isaiah, c. viii. v. 18, as
meaning Jesus Christ and his disciples,
though, whoever turns to the book of the
Jewish prophet must see, that he is speaking
only of himself and his own children, as ap-
pointed by God to be signs to Ahaz and the
inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time. In
c. iii. v. 1, this writer calls Christ Jesus, the
Apostle of our profession, that is, I suppose, of
the Christian faith; but the denomination,
Apostle, in all the genuine scriptures, is pe-

. * Doctor Whitby supposes, that this accommodation was made by
tlie suggestions of the Holy Spirit to the minds of the seventy trans-
lators 3 but it is more consonant to reason to believe, that the Holy
Spirit supplied the Royal Prophet, in the 6rst instance, with words
duly expressive of the meaning of the Deity : and, therefore, they,
who are acquainted with the practices of the pnheygyoi of the second
and third centuries of the Christian aera, will think it much more
probable, that the accommodating alteration was their ingenious work.


culiarly appropriated to those who were de-
legated by him to preach the Gospel ; and,
as Paul's constant boast is, that he was an
Apostle of Jesus Christ, it seems impossible,
that he should have given the same denomi-
nation to Jesus Christ himself. Let us con-
sider also, to whom this Epistle could h?tve
been sent by Paul. It is said to be written
from Italy to the Hebrews, that is, the Jews;
but there were Jews in every city where he
had preached the Gospel, and he had first
taught in their synagogues ; and when the
majority of them had every where rejected
the Gospel, he had determined to turn froin
them to the Gentiles, whose conversion was
the peculiar object of his apostleship, as
that of the Jews was of Peter's; the Jews,
therefore, in every Gentile city, made too
small a part of the Christian Church, to
be particularly written to by Paul; and,
since there were some in every city, to which
of them was this letter sent ? for it could
not be delivered to them all. If, by the
word Hebrews, is meant the Hebrew nation
of Palestine, and we are to understand, that
this Epistle was sent to the Jews of the
Christian Church at Jerusalem ; it is by no
means credible, that Paul should so tar de-

x 3


part from his own peculiar province, and in*
vacle that of Peter, as to send such a letter as
this to that Church, of which Peter himself,
and all the other surviving Apostles, were re-
sident members. Besides, in c. ii. v. 3 and
4, the author expresses himself in terms,
which plainly shew, he was not Paul, and that
he lived after the Apostolic age ; for he says,
the Gospel " at the first began to be spoken
by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by
them that heard him ; God also bearing
them witness, both with signs and wonders,
" and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy
" Ghost/' The writer is here evidently speak-
ing of persons, circumstances, and times al-
ready past ; and distinguishes himself and his
contemporaries from the Apostles and first
preachers of the Gospel, who confirmed their
doctrine by the testimony of miracles, lie
cannot therefore be Paul, who repeatedly as-
sures us, that he received his instruction in
the Gospel from no man living, but by imme-
diate revelation from Jesus Christ ; and who
was himself endued with the power of work-
ing miracles, and enjoyed the gifts of the
holy inspiration in the highest degree.

The same objections which have been urged
against the Epistle addressed particularly to


the Hebrews, lie in full force against the
Epistle of James also; for though it is pro-
fessedly written to Christians, who, as such,
were no longer Jews, it is addressed " to the
" twelve tribes which are scattered abroad?
an expression which seems to refer to the
final dispersion of the Jews under Vespasian,
and consequently to imply that it was not
penned till after that event: yet such a de-
nomination, even if we should suppose, that
some out of all the twelve tribes of the Jews
had been converted to Christianity during the
ministry of the Apostles, could no longer be
given to them with the least propriety, for
reasons which I have already mentioned.
And to what place could a letter so addressed
have been sent? Indeed, from the whole te-
nor of the Epistle it is evident, that it was
not written in the age of the Apostles, but in
after times, when professed Christians were
guilty of many immoralities plainly repug-
nant to the precepts of their religion ; and
one cannot suppose that the converts from
Judaism alone merited the writer's admoni-
tions and reproofs, nor see why they should
be so particularly directed to them. In c. v.
v. 8, the writer tells them, that " the coming

x 4


" of the Lord draweth ftigh," which he con-
firms in the next verse, by adding, " behold
" the judge standeth before the door;"
whereby he plainly shews that he was no
Apostle of Christ, nor well instructed in the
Gospel prophecies respecting our Lord's com-
ing again : for Paul wrote expressly to the

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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 17 of 18)