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 3 of 18)
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*' hard pressed, by deceit and lies. This vi-
" cious eagerness, not to vanquish their ad-
" versaries by reason and fair argument, but
' *' tfe -,overthrow and confound them/' conti-

* .Hist, Eccl. ssec. III. p. 2. c. iii.



nues the Professor, " produced so many
" books, falsely attributed to persons of great
" eminence and renown. For, since great
" part of mankind are guided more by autho-
" rity than by reason, or the word of God
" itself, they thought it their best way to coun-
" terfeit the authority of writers of the great-
" est renown, to oppose to their antagonists/*
There is also another well-known, incon-
testable proof of the deceit and falsehood of
the orthodox Christians of early times, of
which every person in the least conversant
with the ecclesiastical history of those times,
must be convinced their pretended power
of working miracles. From the history of
the first age of the Gospel dispensation, as re-
corded in the Acts of the Apostles, we learn
that the supernatural power of working mira-
cles, which could only be intended to gain
the new religion- attention from the world,
and to be a present testimony of its divine
origin and authority, till the more lasting and
more satisfactory proof of completed pro-
phecy could take place, was communicated
only two ways ; first, by the signal, miraculous
effusion of the holy inspiration, whereof there
were but two instances, the one general, at
the feast of Pentecost, which followed our


Lord's ascension; the other particular, in the
house of Cornelius: and, secondly, by the
If tying on of the hands of the Apostles, a pri-
vilege confined, as appears from the story of
Simon the Magician, and other circumstances,
solely to the persons of the Apostles them-
selves. And as there is no record of their
ever delegating, or of their having the power
to delegate, this privilege to any other per-
sons, it is manifest, that all the supernatural
effects of that divine inspiration which was
vouchsafed to the Christians of the apostolic
age, must have ceased and determined with
the lives of Christians of that generation; that
is, before the expiration of the first half of
tlje second century. Yet it is well known,
that both the Fathers of the orthodox Church
of the latter half of that century, and of the
third, and the members of the same Church,
after it was established by Constantine, dur-
ing several succeeding centuries, pretended
to the supernatural power of working mira-
cles. But so indeed it was predicted* of the
antichrist! an apostasy, that it should estab-
lish itself by lying wonders, and deceive the
world by falsehood and pretended miracles.

* 2 Thess, ii. 9. &c. and Apoc. xiii. 14*



Since, then, the external evidence of the au-
thenticity of the four Evangelical Jastoi L s, is
so very unsatisfactory to an unprejudiced
mind; a rational inquirer into the truth of
the Christian revelation, will consider tho-
jroughly the internal evidence of veracity and
authority which the histories themselves af-
ford. For different composers of false, ficti-
tious narratives, will, almost inevitably, be
found frequently inconsistent with themselves*
or with each other, and contradictory to ob-
vious truth and probability*

Vl. IK this investigation, as the Gt>spel
attributed to Matthew stands first in the ca-
nonical collection; as it is said to have been
written by him, an eye-witness of what h&
records, by much the first in order of lime,
viz. about eight yeai's after our Saviour's cru-
cifixion; whereas Luke's appears to have
been written at least twenty-eight years after
that extent; it should seem most regular to
begin with that, and make it a sort of stan-
dard, by which we might compare- the other
three : but the very reading over the histories
themselves in thfe original, with airy critical
attention, seems to render this impossible.


For it is to be observed, that the Gospels ac-
cording to Matthew and Mark, contain not
the slightest insinuation that their authors
were apostles of Jesus Christ, or even men of
the apostolic age; whilst the writer called
Luke professes himself to have been a fellow-
traveller of Paul ; and is the author of two
distinct histories, which, if we except some
interpolations of the pabxpyoi,- the ready-fin-
gered scribes of those times, which appear
not difficult to be distinguished by an accu-
rate, attentive reader, are perfectly rational,
probable, and consistent, not only with them 7
selves and with each other, but also with all
other histories of the same times. That these
histories were originally written by Luke in
the language in which we have received them,
is also unanimously asserted by all the writers
of Christian antiquity. But it is not so with
the Gospel attributed to ]\Jatthew. The only
writers who inform us that he wrote any evan*
gelical history, assure us he wrote it in He-
brew; and, one of the earliest, that he wrote
it when Peter and Paul were preaching the
Gospel and founding the Church at Rome ;
that is, at the Greek Calends ; for there is no
sufficient reason to induce us to believe, that;

c 4


Peter, peculiarly the apostle to the Jews, as
Paul was to the Gentiles, was ever at Rome :
at least, he certainly was not there when
Paul first went to Rome, in the beginning of
Nero's reign ; and yet we learn from the Acts,
that then Paul founded the Christian Church
at Rome, when he preached the Gospel there
for two years, in his own hired house. And
if we inquire how the Gospel received as
Matthew's, came to be in Greek, if he wrote
it in Hebrew; the same writers inform us,
that it was afterwards translated into Greek:
but we find, nobody knows when, where, or
"by whom. So far are they also from assuring
us, that any one person, who understood both
languages, had compared the translation with
the original Hebrew, and certified its fidelity
and correctness, that they do not even afford us
any satisfactory evidence, that such an origi-
nal copy was ever seen by any person capa-
ble of reading it. Surely, mankind are very
easy of belief, in whatsoever is offered them
under the pretended sanction of religion!
otherwise they could never, under such cir-
cumstances, have been satisfied, that the
Greek book which bears his name was really
a correct and faithful translation of the He-


brew Gospel of Matthew, and have acqui-
esced in it for so many centuries, as the words
of divine inspiration, even if it had been
certain that Matthew actually wrote such a

But a critical attention to the language of
the Greek writing itself, compared with that
of Luke's histories, seems sufficient to con-
vince any impartial reader, that it cannot be
a translation from any uniform original ; that
it must have been written long after Luke's
second history, and Mark's after that ; that
both of them were of later date than Jose-
phus's history, most probably not earlier than
the latter end of Trajan's reign, or beginning
of Adrian's ; and that the writer of what we
call Matthew's Gospel, is so far from being
an Apostle, that his ignorance, both of the
geography of Palestine, and of the customs
of the Hebrew people, shew that he was
not a Jew. To the same purpose might be
alleged, his not understanding the prophecies
of the Jewish scripture, particularly those
applied by him in the first and second chap-
ters : but as one of those he has quoted is an
obvious forgery, existing in no part of the Old
Testament, and since it is not possible that a


writer who had the whole of the othei* pro*
j>hecies before him, either in the original or
the Greek translation, could misunderstand
their real meaning, and not be conscious that,
if he had quoted any one of them entirely, it
would have appeared to have had no relation
to the subject of his histoiy ; the maimed $
partial quotation, which he has given from
feach, must have been done designedly, and
with intent to deceive those who were unac-
quainted with the Jewish scriptures : and
therefore the author was assuredly one of
those many champions of Orthodoxy with
Xvhich the second and succeeding centuries
abounded, who thought it allowable to sup-
port the religious, system he had adopted,
even by fraud and falsehood.

If the reader has patience enough to sustain
the shock, which these assertions will most
probably give to his earliest formed preju-
dices, and to peruse the following pages with
a candid dispassionate mind, *it is hoped he
will be convinced, that, new and harsh as
they may seem, they are far from being rash
and unfounded ; though in this place they
are anticipated, merely as reasons for giving
the preference to the histories of Luke, which


were certainly first in order .of time; and for
making them the standard of comparison be-
tween the several Evangelical histories. We
will begin therefore with the Gospel accord-
ing to Luke; and examine the internal evi-
dence which it affords of its own, "or of the
authenticity of the others.




this investigation, the first thing that pre-
sents itself to our observation in this Gos-
pel,. is the style and language in which it is writ-
ten ; which in both Luke's histories is, in ge-
neral, not only pure and unexceptionable,
but the diction and composition of the para-
bles and speeches recorded by him, are so just
and elegant, that, independently of the sub-
jects on which he writes, as hath before been
remarked by much abler critics, he well de-
serves to be reckoned amongst the fine writ-
ers of the Greek language. But the found-
ers of the orthodox faith of the second cen-
tmy, were so ready at interpolating genuine,
as well as at forging spurious writings, that
we must not take it for granted, that the
whole of what is received as Luke's histories,
is in every part and passage just what he


wrote. I have already mentioned one famous
passage, respecting a paradise, and the rea-
sons why I think it a manifest interpolation.
There are also some others, in each of his
histories, which are liable to much reasona-
ble distrust. Such, for instance, in his Gos-
pel, is the story of the demoniac possessed
by a legion of demons, who petitioned and
were permitted to enter into the herd of
swine ; and, in the Acts of the Apostles, the
passage which says, that diseases and luna-
cies w^ere cured by handkerchiefs or aprons
brought from Paul's body. In the first, there
is every circumstance of improbabilit} r , and
of inconsistency with .the rest of the history,
that can well be imagined ; for Luke repeat-
edly speaks of what was then called by the
ignorant, superstitious vulgar, being possessed
of demons, and in more modern terms, being
bewitched, as bodily diseases, which they un-
doubtedly were, and calls, what was termed
casting out the demon> healing the patient ;
the exclamations therefore recorded by him
in other cases, were evidently the ravings of
me lunatics ; and no preternatural cause of
the disease is insinuated as subsisting, and
acting, after the cure was effected: but in this
story of the demoniac of Gadara, tlui man i*


gaid 1 , not, as when other demoniacs ait) men-*

tioned, to have an unclean spirit^ but, t& have

maui/ demons. These demons silso,

quite distinct from the man, hol

with Jesus, and, having obtained

sion, enter into and destroy an whole iierd qt


Strong objections .to the veracity 6f this
story have been frequently urged, botlrVfrom
the great improbability of Jewish people
keeping herds of $wine, and from the uni-
versally benevolent, instead of injurious cha-
racter, of our Lord himself: but there appear
to occur still stronger objections against it,
from the history itself ; and such as may well
warrant a conclusion, that the whole passage
was interpolated in the second cent my, For
in the preceding part of Luke's narrative, we


find our Lord was at Capernaum, on the
western side of the Lake or Sea of Galilee;
&nd, in the eighth chapter, he takes ship with
liis disciples, to go unto the other $ide of the
Lake, without doubt, to preach the Gospel to
those parts of Palestine which were situated
on the eastern side ; but, according to this
most extraordinary story of the demoniac
and the herd of swine, almost as soon as he
wus landed on the eastern shore, the


renes, terrified and alarmed by the injurious
though miraculous destruction of their swine,
entreated him to leave their coasts : and he
accordingly went up into the ship, and returned
back again to Capernaum. In Galilee, there-
fore, on the western side of the Lake, he ought
to be found in the following part of the his-
tory ; yet, in the very next chapter, we are
plainly told, without the slightest insinua-
tion of his having crossed the Lake again,
that he was on the eastern side of the Lake ;
for from thence 'he sent out his twelve Apos-
tles, and thither they returned to him again :
because, immediately on their return, he took
them aside into a desert place belonging to the
city Bethsaida , which we learn from Jose-
phus,* who, having had the command of the
forces of the Jews in that district, must haye
been perfectly acquainted with the situation
of every town upon the Lake, was on the east-
ern side-f of the Sea of Galilee. If then this
very exceptionable miracle be an interpola-
tion, and not part of the original writing of
Luke, the narrative proceeds consistently
and regularly: but if it be taken as authen-
tic, there is such a geographical confusion

* Josephusjp. 1066. Ed. Hudson.
f See Josephus, Ant- Lib xvir


and disorder in this part of the history, asoo
curs no where else in this author's works ; and
such as can neither be allowed, nor indeed
supposed, in an historian, who, writing upon a
subject of the greatest importance, sets out
with professing to write accurately and in

There is, however, another circumstance in
this story of the demoniac, as also in the pas-
sage cited as objectionable in the Acts of the
Apostles, which, if considered as it deserves,
appears very satifactorily to evince the spu-
riousness of both passages, and even to point
out nearly the date of their interpolation:
which is, that the word legion in the first, and
the words aprons and handkerchiefs^ in the
second, are not Greek, but Latin words
written in Greek characters.

When different and distant nations, by the
means either of conquest or commerce, have
much and frequent intercourse with each
other, they must of necessity soon adopt the
proper names of many places and persons,
and also of coins, and perhaps of some mea-
sures, in use amongst each other ; but in all
other cases, where the words of one language
are capable of being rendered by correspond-
ing words of the other, the writers in the one


will not adopt the words of the other and use
them as their own, especially where the cha-
racters, in which the two languages are writ-
ten, are totally different, till after a great-
length of time, and a concurrence of many
particular - circumstances, have introduced
such a custom. And, with respect to the
Greek and Latin languages in particular, the
Romans themselves acknowledged the Greeks
to be so superior to them in the arts and sci-
ences, and their language so much more
copious and expressive than their own,
that for many ages after their first inter-
course with the nations who spoke Greek,
instead of the Greeks introducing Latin
words into their language, the Roman writ-
ers were continually adding to their na-
tive tongue, by the adoption of words and
phrases from the Greek. It is not probable,
therefore, that common Latin words were
' adopted into the Greek language by any, and
still less so by good writers, till after the arms
and arrogant haughtiness of the Romans, and
the servile adulation of the conquered pro-
vinces, had been carried to their greatest
height ; that is, till the latter end of the reign
of Trajan, or beginning of the second cen-
tury of the Christian sera. The conquests of



Rome reached their utmost extent under
that Emperor: and the consequent insolence
of the Roman Nobility, and fawning servility,
even of Philosophers and men of letters
amongst the Greeks, so indignantly described
by Lucian* not long afterwards, easily ac-
count for the adulatory practice of later
Greek writers, in affecting to borrow words
from the Latin; as if the language of the
Romans was more copious and expressive
than the Greek, and as much superior to
the languages, as their arms had proved to
the arms, of all other nations. I do not re-
collect any Greek writer of note who has
adopted such a. practice, prior to the histo-
rian Herodian, in the third century. But
Lucian, in his tract upon the proper man-
ner of writing history, Sect. 15, tells us,
that one of the Greek historians of Aurelian's
war with the Parthians, which was not ended
till the year 164, though a professed imitator
of the style of Thucydid'es, had adopted
many Roman names of arms and machines,
and even those of a foss, a bridge, and the
Tike. His manner of noticing it, however,
and the indignation he expresses at-seeing-

* In his discourse about those Greeks who were hired to be com-
panions to the wealthy -Romans.


the language of Attica interspersed with Ita->
lie words, as if by way of ornament, shews
that the practice even then was quite novel ;
and therefore it cannot be supposed to have
been in use at all earlier than near the mid-
dle of the second century. At least, that it
was not in use some time after the writings
of Luke's histories, appears evidently from
the writings of Josephus, who, though he
composed some of his works in the very camp
of Titus, and was induced by every considera-
tion to adopt such a mode of expression, as was
most likely to please the Emperor and ingra-
tiate himself with the Romans, instead of
using Latin military terms, even those which
had no directly corresponding term in the
Greek language, such as Legio for instance,
never once writes the Latin word itself in
Greek characters, but translates it by an ori-
ginal Greek word, denoting a corps of sol-
diers regularly arrayed. In the same man-
ner, in every other passage of Luke's histo-
ries where a Roman legion is mentioned, it
is expressed by a Greek word which signifies
a band or collection of soldiers, even where
some particular Legion* is spoken of to dis*
tinguish it from the others, and consequently

_* Legio Ital'ica, Legio Augusti,
D 2


where there was some reason to consider the
Roman appellation as a kind of proper name
of that particular corps.

This seems satisfactorily to demonstrate,
that, in and after the age of Luke, it was
not usual for writers in. Greek to adopt words
from thQ Latin language, even in military
terms peculiar to the Romans, much less to
Jborrow Roman words, as in the passage
quoted from the Acts, to express, in Greek,
articles of dress or personal convenience in
common use Amongst both nations. If there-
fore we could suppose a lunatic of the He-
brew common people, intending, according
to the story, to make a company of Jews ap-
prehend that many demons had entered into
mm* upon being asked his name, (a question,
by the way, which seems to be asked for no
other purpose than merely to draw forth the
conceit of the term Legion) would pass over
all the literal or figurative terms of multitude,
in common use amongst the Jews, and adopt
a Latin word, never used in such a significa-
tion even by the Romans themselves ; yet still
the historian, when relating the circumstance,
would undoubtedly -have rendered the term
Legion by the same Greek word which he hath
used to express it on every other occasion.


I must confess that this single circumstance
of the language strikes niy mind so strongly*
that I suspect every passage and writing,
wherein it is found, to be either an interpola-
tion or fiction of no earlier date than the mid-
dle of the second century ; and, if corrobo-
rated by other circumstances of inconsistency
or great improbability, it affords to me a full
conviction of their spuriousness and want of
apostolic authenticity.

If the plain, express dictates of the Lord
Jesus himself could not escape free from ma-
terial alterations and additions, by the pens
of copyists of these books, in the third,
fourth, or fifth centuries, what other parts of
them can we suppose secure from their daring
interpolations, whenever they hoped to serve
by them the cause of their particular religious
system ? Yet, that the concise, instructive
formula, in which Luke tells us, he, at their
own request, taught his disciples to pray to
God, has been so interpolated out of the
Gospel called Matthew's the latest eminent
editor of the Christian Scriptures in their ori-
ginal language, that learned and diligent
collator, professor Griesbach, has so satisfac-
torily shewn, from the earliest comments
upon, and the best authenticated copies of,

D 3


Luke's Gospel now existing, that he himseif
has rejected the additions out of the original
text of that prayer; and, in so doing, has
been followed by the late learned and candid
Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Newcome,
in his English translation of the New Testa-
ment. And we now know that the Lord's,
Prayer, as originally recorded by this Evan-
gelist, consisted only of the following words
Luke xi. 2 4* : Father, hallowed be ihy
name. Thy kingdom come. Give us day by
day our daily bread. And for give us our sins;
for we forgive every one that is indebted to us.
And lead tis not into temptation. Now we
may reasonably ask, what unprejudiced, re-
flecting mind does not perceive, that those
interpolated words which assign a local ha-
bitation to God, in heaven, are as incon-
gruous to the attribute of omnipresence,
which both reason and revelation teach us is
essential to the Deity, as the insinuation that
his will is not done upon earth, is to his om-
nipotence or wisdom ? And with what pro*
priety can men pray to God, to deliver them
from evi! 5 when, under the all-directing pro-
vidence of an almighty, benevolent Being, no
evil can be supposed to exist, but for the wise
gracious purpose of producing fiijal good?


After so convincing a proof of the daring,
unwarrantable liberties taken with this most
important and sacred part of the evangelical
history of Luke, for the purpose of making
it more conformable to that attributed to
Matthew, one sees clearly; that for the same
purpose, from the fabulous fictions of the
same source, Luke's history has been inter-
polated also, with the story of the baptism
of Jesus, by John ; of his forty days' fasting ;
and most extraordinary kind of temptation by
some powerful antagonist of omnipotence, here
called the Devil ; and of his transfiguration
on the mountain. For it well deserves our
notice, that if we pass from the account of
John's imprisonment, by Herod, Luke iii. 20,
to iv. 14*, and read, Then came Jesus, instead
of, and Jesus returned, the histories both of
John and Jesus proceed regularly and in or-
der ; and the ministry of Jesus, as is most
probable, commenced upon the cessation of
the Baptist's ministry, by his being shut up
in prison* But if the account of our Lord's
being baptized by John were genuine, He-
rod's imprisoning the latter must have been
related very much out of its proper order ;
and Luke would have given us no date for

* See Acts x, 37.
D 4


the commencement of our Lord's ministry,
which, it was reasonably to be expected, an
historian would have done, who professes to
relate every thing accurately and in order.,
though he has been so particularly exact in
fixing the date of the commencement of
John's preaching. Besides, the purpose of
John's mission was merely to prepare the
Jews, for the reception of the Messiah and his
new covenant, by preaching to them the bap-
tism of repentance for the remission of sms ; and,
to say nothing of the bodily shape like a dove,
which savours strongly of the superstition of
the second century, with what propriety
could he, who knew no sm, receive such a

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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 3 of 18)