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 4 of 18)
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baptism ? or the destined Messiah attend the
preaching of his own precursor, to be pre-
pared by him for the coming of himself? And
what probability is there, that OUT Lord
would have studiously avoided calling him-
self the Son of God 9 during his whole minis-
try; and forbidden his disciples before his
death, to announce him as such to the Jews,
if God himself had miraculously declared
him to be so, by a voice from heaven, in the
auclipnce of so great a multitude ? Or how
could John, after such an attestation, have
$ver entertained a doubt whether Jesus was


the expected Messiah; which, from Luke
vii. 18, 19, &c. it appears he did entertain.
As to the account of the transfiguration, it is
so directly contradictory to the repeated doc-
trine of the Gospel, that Jesus was the first
man whom God raised from the dead, that it
cannot be a true, authentic story. For what-
ever may be thought of Elias, Moses, we are
expressly assured, died, and was buried: if,
therefore, he was alive in the reign of Tibe^-
rius, and visited our Saviour on the Mount,
Moses, and not Jesus, must have been the
first fruits from the dead.

But there is a part of the Gospel accord-
ing to Luke of much greater magnitude and
importance, which, from the testimony of
Luke himself, as well as from the numerous
circumstances of inconsistency and improba-
bility that attend it, we need not hesitate to
pronounce none of his, but the daring fiction
of some of the easy working interpolators, as
Origen calls them, of the beginning of the
second century, from amongst the pagan con-
verts ; who, to do honour, as they deemed it,
to the author of their newly-embraced reli-
gion, were willing that his birth should, at
least, equal that of the pagan heroes and
demi-gods, Bacchus and Hercules, in its won-


derful circumstances and high descent ; and
thereby laid the foundation of the succeeding
orthodox deification of the man Jesus, which,
in degree of blasphemous absurdity, exceeds
even the gross fables of pagan superstition :
inasmuch as it makes him equal in Godhead,
power, and even in eternity of existence, with
his celestial Sire, the supreme Deity himself.
What I mean is, the whole of the two first
chapters, which follows the short introduc-
tory preface to Theophilus, containing the
narrative of the birth of John the Baptist,
and the history of the birth, infancy, and
twelve first years of the life of our Lord Jesus.
To an impartial reader many difficulties
will occur in this part of the history attributed
to Luke, besides the repeated appearance of
an Angel under the same appellation, by
which Daniel denominates one that appeared
to him in his prophetic visions, as if the word
Gabriel did not signify a celestial being in
human form, that is, an Angel; but as if
Angels like Men were distinguished from each
other by proper names: and he will find no
small stumbling block at the very threshold.
For Elizabeth is said to be not only of the
tribe of Levi, but, of the daughters of Aaron;
yet she i& spoken of as nearly related to


Mary, who if -there could be any truth in thb
story of the miraculous birth of Jesus, must
necessarily have been, in an uninterrupted
line, of the tribe of Juclah and family of
David, to make him, in any sense, a descend-
ant from that Prince. It is true that among
the Jews, heiresses alone were forbidden to
marry out of their own tribe, but since the
whole tribe of Levi, and more especially the
family of Aaron, were separated from all the
other tribes and families, and peculiarly sanc-
tified and appropriated to the rites and offices
of their religion; it is in the highest degree
improbable that they should intermarry with
any other tribe. Neither is it at all probable,
that the providence of the Almighty should
destine the Jewish prophecies, respecting the
Messiah and his precursor, to be accomplished
in two persons, related by consanguinity to
each other ; and whose parents were so inti-
Tnately connected, as might afford the incre-
dulous strong grounds whereon to apprehend
some family-collusion in the case, and to sus-
pect the pretensions, of both the cousins, to
distinguished regard, of artful imposture.

Had the familiar intimacy, described by the
author of these two chapters, and which is so


natural and usual amongst relations, really
subsisted between the mothers of John and
Jesus, strengthened and increased as it must
have been by the very extraordinary circum-
stances of the two angelic annunciations, and
the two miraculous conceptions, the two chil-
dren must have passed great part of their
early years together; must have been in-
formed by their parents, and those about
thpm, of the angelic and human testimonies,
the predictions and uncommon events respect-
ing each of them ; and have grown up in ha-
bits of mutual regard and personal intercourse
and intimacy, at least, to the time of John's
retiring into the wilderness. Yet> if we might
rely upon the testimony of the Baptist him-
self, as recorded by the Gospel attributed to
the apostle John, he was an intire stranger to
Jesus when he came to be baptised by him ;
and he should not have known him to be the
predicted Messiah, but for an immediate re-
velation from heaven. But though this palpa-
ble inconsistency, between these two histories,
affords one striking proof of the easy credulity
of those who receive them both for authentic
scripture, and even as the inspired, infallible
word of God, no stress is laid upon it, in the


case before us, for reasons which will appear
hereafter. What is much more to our present
purpose is, that this whole history of the con-
sanguinity and intimate familiarity between
Mary and Elizabeth, is equally irreconcileable
to the subsequent narration of Luke himself.
For in the seventh chapter he informs us, that
upon the fame of Jesus being celebrated
throughout the Land, on account of the won-
derful miracles effected by him, the disciples
of John, who was at that time confined in
prison by Herod, related to him all that past
concerning the new prophet Jesus: and we
find that John, like a person unacquainted
with Jesus, and uncertain whether he was the
Messiah, the promised prophet, to whose ap-
pearance his own mission and preaching were
only preparatory, sent two of his disciples to
ask him the question in direct terms, whether
he really was the predicted Messiah, or they
were to expect another person to fulfil that
important character. In his answer, our
Lord, instead of reminding him of the angelic
testimonies of his being the true Messiah,
which he must know preceded both their mi-
raculous births, and of the subsequent testi-
monies of his own father Zacharias, and the


prophet and prophetess, Simeon and Anna,
refers him only to some well known predic-
tions of Isaiah respecting the Messiah, which
John's messengers saw were then singularly
accomplished* in his wonderful works. Now
it seems absolutely impossible that John,
after being from his earliest infancy personally
acquainted with Jesus, and not only in pos-
session of all the information respecting him 5
which he must have learnt from the two fa-
milies, but so miraculously impressed with af-
fection and reverence for him, as to exult for
joy, though but an embryo in the womb, at
the mere sound of his mother's voice, could,
at any time, have entertained the least doubt
of Jesus being the Messiah. And since cir-
cumstances and facts of such public notoriety,
must have been known to the disciples of
both, if their masters were faithful instructors
as indeed it is evident they were, if the two
chapters in question were written by Luke >
it appears to be next to impossible, if not
quite so, that any serious, consistent writer
should be the author of the first chapter, and
afterwards relate the story of John's embassy,
without the smallest reference to the contra-
dictory narrative of that chapter, and without


a single remark upon either the unaccount-
able incredulity or farcical absurdity of Jdhu.'
displayed in such a legation.

In the first chapter also, the Angel is made
to inform Mary, that the child to be born of
her should be called the Son of Gor/, and for
this reason, because it was to be produced
by the Holy Ghost coming upon her, and the
power of the highest over-shadowing her : yet
in the subsequent part of hi$ history, Luke,
as if he meant directly to contradict this
heavenly annunciator, except in the acclama-
tions of some lunatics, never once mentions
him by any other appellation than Son of
Man or Son of David, till after his resurrec-
tion. Then, indeed, he speaks of him as
being commonly and publicly called the Son
of God; but in the discourses of the Apos-
tles, where they call him so, they give a very
different reason for it from that alleged by the
Angel; and refer for the cause of it, not to
any circumstances of his carnal birth, but
to his being raised from the dead to a new
and spiritual life, by the immediate power of
the Almighty. Indeed were the story of his
miraculous birth undoubted truth, yet, since
it could be certainly known to be so by no
mortal 'besides Mary herself, it could not be


of sufficient notoriety to induce men to call
him by that name; especially since, in the
whole course of his own and his Apostles'
preaching the Gospel, the circumstance of
his preternatural conception is not once men-
tioned, nor so much as alluded to. The
falsehood, fro/waver, of this prediction of the
pretended Angel, that he should be called
Son of God because of his miraculous birth,
appears incontestibly from other scriptures,
both of the Old and New Testament, which
teach us that the Son of God was so far from
being a title which the Messiah promised to
the Jews, acquired from any wonderful cir-
cuipLstances of his nativity, in the reign of
Augustus Caesar, that he had been commonly
spoken of under that very denomination long
before his birth, even from the time of his
progenitor David ; for that God himself had
given him that appellation in the prophecies
of him recorded in the book of Psalms 5 where,
speaking to and of this future descendant of
David, in the name of his forefather, he says,
" thou art my Son, this day have I begotten
" thee ;" and again, " he shall be to me a Son
" and I will be to him a Father-;" and again,
"I will make him, my first-born, higher than
" His 'Kings of the Earth," Now that Jesus


could not become the first-born of God, in
any sense respecting his human birth, is evi-
dent, because in that sense Adam was beyond
all controversy his first-born. And that the
begetting here spoken of had not the least re-
ference to the carnal birth of the Messiah, but
to his regeneration after death, to a new and
spiritual state of existence, in which he is
truly the first-born of God, is expressly taught
us by the Apostles in their discourses to the
Jews, recorded by Luke himself, in his his-
tory of their Acts.

From Luke's own narrative of what passed
at our Lord's examination before the Jewish
council, previous to their accusation of him
before Pilate, it is evident that, in the esti-
mation of the Jews, occasioned, without
doubt, by the above quoted prophecies, to
declare a person to be the Christ, or to declare
him to be the Son of God, was exactly the
same thing; for intending to render him ob
noxious to the Roman Governor, as a rebel
against the authority of Caesar, the only
point on which they examined him was, whe-
ther he avowed himself to be the Christ, that
15, the person, of whom their prophecies pre-
dicted, that God would anoint him to reign
over them to the end of time: to which he


answered, that if he told them he was so, they
would not believe him, neither, if he at-
tempted to argue with them, about the mean-
ing of their prophecies, would they answer
him nor let him go. But, adds he, from this
time forth (so it should have been translated)
shall he, who, at present, assumes no title nor
character but the Son of Maji, be exalted to
that super-eminent station of empire and au-
thority, which, in, the 110th Psalm, is pro-
phesied of by the term, sitting on the right
hand of the power of God. Knowing that to
be a prophecy of the Messiah, that Son of
David, whom God had promised to make his
own Son, wadfirst-born, and with reason sup-
posing himself to be the Son of Man he spake
of, they all exclaimed together,, art thou then
the Son of God? art thou the 0/2 of Man,
who is to be exalted to the glorious character
of Son of God? And on his acknowledging
himself to be so, they cried out, what need we
any further witness? for we ourselves have
heard of his own mouth; and immediately
conducted him to Pilate, and accused him of
perverting the nation, and forbidding to give
tribute to Caesar, by saying, that he himself was
. Christ, a King. The Christ, therefore, or
Anointed King, and the SonofGod, had pre


cisely the same meaning. Yet both our Lord
himself and his Apostles, expressly teach us,
that he could not become the Christ, or Son
of God, but by his resurrection after death to
a new and spiritual life. Even in his life
time, he taught the Sadducees 3 that it was the
being raised from the dead, by the immedi-
ate vivifying power of God himself, which
alone could make him or any man the Son of
God ; when he told them that, " they which
" shall be accounted worthy to obtain that
" world and the resurrection from the dead,
" are equal unto the Angels, and are the
" Children of God 9 being the Children of the
" resurrection." And to lead them to apply
this instruction, that men became Sons of
God by a resurrection to a future life, to the
particular case of the predicted Messiah or
Christ, and thereby to a right understanding
of their own prophecies respecting himself,
immediately after this defence and explana-
tion of the doctrine of the resurrection, he
asks how the Scribes could say that any Son
of David would, as such, be the expected
Christ : when David himself, in the very pro*
phecies concerning him, acknowledges the
Christ to be his Lord? plainly intimating,
that by dying to this mortal life, he must

s 2


cease to be David's Son, and by a resurrec-
tion to a spiritual life, be made the Son of
God, before he could become the Christ, and
be exalted to that high degree of celestial
power, which is called being seated at the right
hand of God, where he would be Lord,
not only over David, but over all the gene-
rations of men, whether dead or living. To
the same purpose, after his resurrection,
Luke assures us, he expounded the prophe-
cies respecting himself, to the two disciples
at Emmaus, and afterwards to the whole
assembly of disciples at Jerusalem ; to con-
vince them, that it w^as necessary he should
have suffered death and burial before he
could -enter into the glorious character of the
Christ. Impressed with this conviction, Pe-
ter, on the memorable day of Pentecost, ex-
plains the same prophecies to the Jews in ge-
neral ; informs them of the actual resurrec-
tion from the dead of this promised Son of
David, and that the miraculous gift of
tongues, which they then witnessed, was the
influence of that power to which God had,
since his ascension into heaven, exalted him ;
-and adds, " therefore let all the house of Is-
" rael know assuredly that God hath made
" that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified,


* ; both Lord and Christ/' Paul also, some
time after, preaching at Antioch, interprets
the predictions of the Messiah, contained iu
the book of Psalms, in the very same man-
ner ; and particularly refers to the resurrec-
tion, for that birth, \vhereby he was made the
Son of God. " The promise," says the Apos-
tle, *" which was made unto the Fathers, God
" hath fulfilled the same Unto us, their chil-
*' dren, in that he hath raised up Jesus again,
" as it is also written in the second Psalm,
** Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten
" thee." And the author of the Epistle to
the Romans, in the same spirit of interpreta*
tion, asserts that Jesus Christ " was made of
" the seed of David according to the flesh;"
that is, at his first birth, was the natural bom
Son of David, and " determined, or consti*
" tuted, the Son of God, with power, accord-
" ing to the spirit of holiness, by" his second
birth, " the resurrection from the dead."

But the falsehood of the pretended Angel
respecting the reason of our Lord's being de-
nominated the Son of God, is not the only in-
consistency between this Pagan fable of the
miraculous conception of Jesus Christ, and
the subsequent narrative of both the histories
written by Luke. It contains in it a contra-

35 S


diction of much greater importance, which,
if admitted to be true, would destroy the very
fundamental article of the Christian Faith, as
Luke himself informs us it was originally
preached both by our Lord and his apostles;
and would utterly overthrow every pretension
of Jesus to be the Messiah predicted in the
scriptures of the Old Testament. For the pro-
phecies concerning the Messiah, in the books
of Moses ? assure us that he was to be the seed.,
that is, the natural born descendant of Abra-
ham, through Isaac. Jacob, and Judah; to
which subsequent predictions add, that he
should also b&'the Son or seed of David ; and
that he was to be a prophet, raised tip from
amongst the Jewish people, like unto Moses.
Under these prophecies, our Saviour claimed
.the title of the promised Messiah or Christ,
in his conversations wkh his Apostles after
Jiis resurrection: and to the completion of
these same prophecies in their Master's per-
son, the Apostles themselves constantly ap-
pealed* in preaching his Gospel to their bre-
thren the Jews. They assert,* that he was
.the seed of Abraham, promised and sent to
faless all mankind ; th^t-f he was the seed of

* Acts Hi. 25 and : 26. Gal. iii. 16,
t.Aft? ii,. ?Q t xiii, 23. 2


David; the fruit of his l&ins; the*" predicted
Jewish prophet like unto Moses. It necessa*
rily follows, therefore, either that our Lord Je*
sus was such a Jewish prophet as Moses ? and
the naturally descended Son of Abraham and
David, or he was not the Christ, the Messiah
promised in the Jewish prophecies ; and all
our faith in him, as such, is vain. The futile
sophistry of school divines is well known,
whereby they attempt to satisfy the preju-
dices of orthodox minds, respecting these pro-
phetic descriptions of the Messiah, suggesting
a partial resemblance between Moses and the
miraculously conceived Son of Mary, in
their common characters of mediators, and
deliverers, and promulgers of God's will to
Men; and supposing that nothing more is
meant by his being the lineal descendant of
Abraham and David, than his being, though in
a preternatural manner, the offspring of a
daughter of Abraham and David: but the
express words of the sacred scriptures them-
selves, will by no means warrant these misei*
ble subterfuges of bigotted superstition.

The words of Moses are, " God will raise
" thee up from amongst thy brethreji, a pro-
'* phet like unto me " that is, will exalt a

*Acts iii. 22 vii. 37.


common Jewish man like myself to the dis-
tinguished character of such a prophet as I
am. Now a God, or an Angel incarnate,
though commissioned to every office that Mo-
ses was, is so far from being one of the Jewish
people raised up to the prophetic character,
that it is a being, infinitely, ortranscendently
superior to any man, degraded into the station
of an human prophet: and even a mere Man,
created without the intervention of an human
Father, by the miraculous influence of God
himself on the mother, is not one of the Jew-
ish people like Moses, nor like any thing else
that was ever heard or read of, except in the
absurd, fabulous legends of pagan mythology.
Neither will the derivation of Mary's genea-
logy from David and Abraham at all remove
the obvious contradiction between this story
of the miraculous conception of her son, and
those scriptures which assert, that he was the
seed of Abraham and the fruit of the loins of
Da-vid ; for the female, from whatsoever fa-
mily descended, is no more than the seed-
bed formed to mature the seed of the male;
and therefore, in the genealogies of all na-
tions, the children are accounted the seed or
lineal descendants of the male line only,
without any regard to the family, or even the



nation, of the female. Thus, for
David is justly accounted the seed of 'I
ham, and as true an Israelite as any other
descendant from Jacob, though he and his
father Jesse were the offspring of Obed, the
son of a Moabitis'h -woman. Were it tnife,
therefore, that the Almighty, in the single in-
stance of Mary's conception, had miracu-
lously created seed, lik$ that of the human
species, to become an embryo in her womb,
to be matured and brought forth like other
children, after the usual period of gestation;
yet such a child would no more be the seed
of Abraham, nor the fruit of David's loins,
than Adam himself. He would be the seed
of no man; but, like the first created of our
species, the immediate production of the
plastic power of God. For this reason, either
this very extraordinary history of Mary's mi-
raculous conception of her son Jesus, must be
false and fabulous, or else Jesus is not the
Messiah promised to the Jews.

Ever since these two chapters annexed to
Luke's history, and the Gospel according to
Matthew, have been acknowledged by the
Fathers of the orthodox Church to be the ge-
nuine writings of Matthew and Luke, that is,
ever since the latter half of the second cen-


eury of the Christian aera, the miraculous con-
ception of Jesus by a virgin has been taught,
referred to, and commented upon, by every
apologist for the orthodox religion, and every
expositor of those four Gospels, which the
Church of Constantine, some ages later, for-
jnally decreed in council to be the only true,
apostolic histories of the Gospel ; has been a
fundamental article of the orthodox faith,
andj as such, expressly recited in every creed
or formulary of belief which has ever been in
use. It is evident, indeed, that this must ne-
cessarily have been the case. And, for the
same reasons, if this story of the preterna-
tural origin of our Lord Jesus, had been
known and credited by the a.postles and first
preachers of Christianity, they also must have
mentioned it in their discourses and letters of
instruction to their converts, and instead of
dwelling upon prophecies concerning the de-
scent of the Messiah, absolutely incompatible
with so extraordinary a circumstance, without
once alluding to it, they must have enume-
rated it amongst the necessary articles of a
Christian's belief. Yet in no one apostolic
Epistle, in no one discourse recorded in the
Acts of the Apostles, is the miraculous con-
ception, or in any one circumstance of, the


history of Jesus, previous to John's Baptism,
hinted at even in the most distant manner:
on the contrary, that Baptism is repeatedly *
referred to and mentioned as the proper
commencement of evangelical instruction ;
and when the eleven Apostles proceeded to
elect a twelfth, to supply the place of Judas,
the only qualification made essentially requi-
site in the candidates was, their having been
eye-witnesses of our Lord's ministry, from
the Baptism of John to his Ascension. Now,
to lay no stress upon the dissimilarity of style
observable between these two first chapters
and the rest of Luke's histories, and the af-
fected, but sometimes unsuccessful imitation^
of his common phraseology, nor upon the
inconsistency of the stories they contain, of
the prophet Simeon and the prophetess An-
na, with the well known historic truth, that
there never was a prophet amongst the Jews,
from the time of their return from their cap-
tivity to the preaching of John the Baptist, it
appears impossible that any. writer, though of

* Acts i. fa. x. 37.- xiii. 23, 24.

f For example, this interpolated fable begins with the same word
r/mrc, with which Luke begins most of his paragraphs; but in Luke
it always means, it came to pass, or he was made or became, and

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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 4 of 18)