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

. (page 5 of 18)
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 5 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

never, there was, which is its only jneaning here, and for which
-JLukc always u^eV^v*.


a degree of respectability much inferior to
what Luke is, on many accounts, justly en-
titled to, should so grossly, so absurdly con-
tradict himself in the same histor\% without
so much as attempting to reconcile, or even
noticing, such palpable inconsistencies; and,
had we no other grounds to proceed upon,
we need not hesitate to pronounce, that the
writer of the twenty-six last chapters, and of
the Acts of the Apostles, could not be the
author of the wonderful two first chapters of
the Gospel according to Luke.

Happily, however, for the cause of truth
and rational religion, we have Luke's own
testimony to convince us, that this is the case;
anel do not depend upon any man's inferences
or opinion. He has addressed both his his-
tories to the same Theophilus ; and in the ad-
dress, which is introductory to his second
book, he gives an accurate description of the
contents of the first. " The former treatise,"
says he, " I have made of all that Jesus began
" to do and to teach, until the day in which
" he was taken up." That is, my former book
is a history of the acts and doctrine of Jesus,
from theii; first commencement to his ascen-
sion. Luke himself, therefore, assures us,
(and a writer's word may surely be taken for


the contents of his own work) that his first
history went no higher than the beginning of
the public ministry of Jesus, and ended with
his ascension into heaven. Now, if we turn
to the third chapter of what is called the Gos-
pel according to Luke, we find the proper,
regular commencement of an accurate his-
tory, specifying, with precision, in what year
of the reigning Emperor, and under what sub-
ordinate Magistrates of the several divisions
of Palestine, the Baptism of John, which im-
mediately preceded the public ministry of
Jesus, took place ; and ending in the twenty-
fourth chapter, as Luke himself describes it,
with a brief account of his ascension. And
this history, so accurately described by the
author of it, comprises only a period of two
years ; whilst the two first chapters, of which
Luke takes not the ieast notice, comprehend
a history of near fourteen years, beginning,
according to the generally received opinion,
full thirty years before John's Baptism and
the commencement of our Lord's ministry ;
which Luke himself mentions to Theophilus,
tor whose information both his books were
written, as the beginning of his first treatise.
Nay, even in his introduction to his Evange-
lical history itself, he in reality asserts the


very same thing, that it commenced with the
account of the Baptism of John : for- he tells
Thecphilus, that to the end he might know
the certainty of the doctrine in which he had
been instructed, having diligently investigated
every circumstance from the very first, after
the example of many others, he had written
for him a regular narration of those things, of
which they had received a full assurance, hav-
ing been taught them by those, who from the
beginning were eye-witnesses, and were made
ministers of the Christian doctrine, that is, by
the Apostles. ; Now it is evident, that the
beginning and the very first, here alluded to,
must be the public preaching and baptism
of John, not only because that is the rera of
the Christian instruction determined by the
Apostles themselves, as hath been before re-
marked, from their election of Matthias and
their own preaching recorded in the Acts ; but
also because the full assurance of the disci-
ples here mentioned, depended upon the
circumstance of their teachers having been
eye-witnesses of the facts they taught; and
since, before the mission of the Baptist, the
Apostles were all strangers both to John and
Jesus, they could not have been eye-witnesses
of any fact antecedent to it, nor, of course,



to any thing related in those two first chap
ters. As to the fundamental article of the
faith of the church of Constantine, the mira-
culous conception of Jesus, it is not capable
of being assured by the testimony of any eye-
witness whatsoever.

There is also another unaccountable in*
consistency between the story of the miracu-
lous conception, and the subsequent history
of Luke, as it now stands ; I mean, the genea*
logy of Jesus to prove his lineal descent from
David and Abraham : for it is the genealogy
of Joseph, which indeed, if Jesus be allowed
to be his natural born son, and the genealogy
to be a correct one, would answer the purpose
of proving him to be, in that respect, the ob-
ject of the prophecies concerning the family
of the Messiah contained in the Pentateuch,
and the book of Psalms; but if his miraculous
birth related in the first chapter be admitted,
he was no more the son of Joseph than of
Pontius Pilate; and to answer any, even the
sophistical purpose of a polemic divine on the
. occasion, the writer should have given us the
genealogy of Mary, and not of Joseph. Such
a genealogy, however, derived from the female
line, could not have been allowed by any
Jew, nor indeed by any unprejudiced person;


for in every country, and more especially
where a plurality of wives is customary, as in
Judea, men being at liberty to marry women,
not only of any family, but of any nation,
were the caprice of deriving a genealogy
from the female instead of the male to be
indulged, the same man's children might be
proved to be of different families, and perhaps
of different nations, and the confusion of
pedigrees would be inexplicable. By taking
the mother's side at Obed, David's grandfa-
ther, David, and consequently his descendant,
the Messiah, might be proved to be a Moa-
bite, the offspring of the incestuous bed of
Lot, instead of being proved an Israelite, the
lineal, legitimate son of Abraham: for which
reason, even the genealogy attributed to Mat-
thew is the genealogy of Joseph, not of Mary.
However, this additional contradictory cir-
cumstance is not much to be insisted on,
because it must be frankly confessed, that
there is room for doubts likewise about the
authenticity of this genealogy; for from the
second letter of Paul to Timothy, compared
with Luke's own history of the Apostles, it
appears that Luke was the constant, faithfully
attached disciple, friend, and companion, of
Paul; and therefore it is most probable he


had approved and adopted the same precepts
and instructions, which Paul urged upon his
other disciples ; and, in his first letter to Ti-
mothy, we find Paul earnestly dissuading him
from giving heed to endless genealogies, as fur-
nishing matter of dispute and vain jangling,
rather than Godly, edifying, and Christian cha-
rity. There is, therefore, very strong reason
to believe that the genealogy was not con-
tained in the original history as written by
Luke. In the list of the twelve apostles, also
given ch. vi. 13, compared with that which
the author has given us in his second history,
i. 13, there is a perturbation of the order of
their enumeration, evidently occasioned by a
similar interpolation from the Gospel accord-
ing to Matthew, with what we have seen
was practised respecting the Lord's Prayer,
in order to make Luke agree with the pre-
tended Matthew, in asserting the Apostle
Andrew to be Simon Peter's brother. Al-
though from the whole tenor of Luke's history
of Peter, in both his books, it plainly ap-
pears, that he had no brother; and that
between him and Andrew, there was no do-
mestic connexion of any kind. But of this,
more when we come to the Gospel of Mat-
thew. There are also two or three other


passages of little moment, not mentioned on
this occasion, of which, from some suspicious
circumstances attending them, or from their
abrupt incoherence with both the preceding
and following sentences, one is tempted to
exclaim, assuitur pannus ! This savours much
of a patch tacked on by some interpolating
copyist of the second century !





before mentioned passages except-
ed, the internal evidence of both these
histories, the Gospel according to Luke and
the Acts of the Apostles, agrees with the
external testimony of all the earliest writers,
that they were written by Luke, who was not
himself indeed an Apostle, but one of the
first converts amongst the Jews, a disciple,
and personal attendant, of the Apostles : for
though the author does not call himself Luke,
but Silas, yet he professes to have been the
companion and fellow traveller of Paul, which
from Paul's Epistles we learn that he really
was. These histories also, which contain a
record of the principal transactions amongst
the first Christians, during a period of above
thirty years, are perfectly consistent with
themselves and each other, and with the

F 2


Jewish and Roman .histories of the same
period : and the talents, the temper, and
thorough information of his subject, displayed
by the writer, are such as would vindicate
his credibility, and claim our respect, in any
ordinary historian.

But in the historian of a supernatural
event, such as the promulgation of a divine
revelation of the will of God to Man, still
more is requisite. The duly authorized pro-
mulger must necessarily be enabled to pro-
duce immediate acts of miraculous power, in
attestation of the truth of his divine mission,
and to confirm it by the more sober, rational,
and satisfactory testimony .of prophecy. The
history of such a person, therefore, must con-
tain a relation of thoscmiracles,and of the seve-
ral events predicted by the extraordinary mes-
senger, before they came to pass : and, be-
fore we give implicit credit to. the veracity of
the relater, reason suggests, that, we should
examine whether the recorded miracles be
such as are properly adapted to the circum-
stances of the case, and worthy of the inter-
position of that almighty being, by whose
power only they could have been effected;
an Deo dignus vindice nodus ? For no icason-
ing mind can think it probable, that the


divine fountain of all wisdom, as well as of
all power, should enable any person to work
miracles for trivial, unimportant purposes ;
much less such as are inconsistent with equity
and goodness, or any other of his eternal, im-
mutable attributes. And with regard to the
predictions he records, we should consider
whether the events are such as human sagacity
could not foresee ; whether they are predicted
to take place at such different intervals as to
afford the indispensably requisite testimony of
completed prophecy to the hearers of that
time, and to all succeeding generations : and
above all, whether such of them, the period
of whose accomplishment is already past,
have really been completed. It will be ne-
cessary, therefore, to examine both the mira-
cles and predictions attributed to Jesus
Christ, in the Gospel according to Luke, in
these points of view.

II. IN considering the recorded miracles,
and the degree of probability which arises
from their propriety, the leading criterion must
be the genius and spirit of the revelation, the
divine authority of which they are intended
to attest. Thus in the religion revealed by
Moses, in an age of the world when the im*

* 3


improved, unenlightened state of human rea-
son, taken in the aggregate, may be justly
deemed the intellectual childhood of man-
kind, the chief object intended by it being,
to preserve a just and rational idea of the
Deity amongst men, till the maturity of their
reasoning faculties, and an increase of light
and knowledge should render them capable
of a purer and more spiritual religion ; and,
for that purpose, to teach the Jews that, both
as individuals, and as a nation, they and all
mankind depended solely upon the power and
providence of the one true God, for every in-
stance of temporal prosperity or adversity,
for their preservation or destruction. Nothing
could accord better with the genius and in-
tent of that revelation than the miracles
wrought in Egypt and at the Red Sea, to ef-
fect their deliverance from Pharaoh's tyranny,
and afterwards amongst themselves, during
their peregrination in the Wilderness; be-
cause they could not fail of making a lasting,
national impression upon their minds, and
convincing them of the tremendous power of
God to accomplish all those temporal blessings
or curses which were the sanction of that Law
of Fear. But to gain attention to- the hea-
venly promulgation of the New Covenant,


the Evangelical Law of Love, which teaches
mankind to look up to the supreme Deity
with grateful affection, as to their common
Father, Friend, and Benefactor, and to regard
the whole human race as brethren entitled to
every instance of kindness, beneficence, and
love from each other, miracles of a very dif-
ferent nature seem obviously requisite to
make them correspond with the intent and
spirit of the revelation itself. Accordingly,
in the history which Luke hath given us of
instances of miraculous power exerted in
proof of the divine authority of their mission,
both by Jesus Christ himself and his Apostles,
if we except the interpolated miracle of the
destruction of the herd of swine, and the*
miraculous suppression of the dangerous
storm which had alarmed the fears of his
disciples in crossing the Lake, (a miracle sin-
gularly calculated to confirm their entire con-
fidence in the protection of that almighty
power by which their Master was commis-
sioned to preach the Gospel) they are all

* I have omitted the wonderful draught of fishes, not knowing
whether it be universally admitted to be a miracle. Yet, consider-
ing the situation and circumstances of the Apostles, no miracu-
lous act could have been more proper, both to attach them to their
Master, and to prove their own disinterestedness concerning worldly


works of mercy, benevolence, and tender
compassion : such as feeding the hungry,
healing every kind of sickness and disease,
giving sight to the blind, and soundness to the
lame, and restoring suspended animation, to
comfort a disconsolate widow or the deeply af-
flicted parents of an only child: works which
breathe the same spirit of benevolence and
universal love as the religion whose divine au-
thority they were intended to attest, and
which hold forth to all the disciples of that
religion a most striking lesson of duty, to
exert, on all occasions, whatever faculties
they are endowed with, for the same amiable
purposes of charity and beneficence. And that
this suitableness of the nature of the miracles
to the spirit of our religion itself was not ac-
cidental, but intentional, our Lord himself
teaches us, in the rebuke he gave to his dis-
ciples, when, provoked by the inhospitable
affront put upon their Master by some Sama-
ritans, they proposed his calling down mira-
culous destruction upon them, like one of the
Jewish prophets, " Ye know not," says he,
" what manner of spirit ye are of. For the
" son of man is not come to destroy men's
" lives, but to save them." And also by de-
legating to his apostles and the ^ seven ty dis-


ciples, power exerted only in the
benevolent acts.

III. IN reviewing the predictions contained
in the evangelical history of Luke, the two
first which present themselves, are in the con-
cise account given us, in the third, or, as
I reckon it, in the first chapter, of the preach-
ing of John the Baptist. When John asks
the people, who had warned them to flee from
the wrath about to come upon them ? and
teaches them the only way to avoid it ; and
adds, even now the axe is laid at the root of
the trees; he plainly intimates that the divine
vengeance, denounced upon that nation by
their own prophets, was fast approaching, and
would actually come upon that depraved ge-
neration. A prophetic admonition of an
event which it was not in the power of any
man to foresee by his own sagacity; but
which we know was fully and fatally accom-
plished, within little more than forty years
afterwards, by the intire destruction of Jeru-
salem, and extirpation of the Jews from their
.own country. The second is a prediction of
the Baptist respecting the true Messiah,
whom he declares himself not to be, but says


that he is coming ; and instead of baptising
his disciples with water, like himself, should
baptize them with the holy inspiration and with
fire. This very prediction is repeated by
Jesus Christ himself to his disciples, after his
resurrection;* and, by its literal completion a
few da\'S afterwards, on the memorable day
of Pentecost, afforded the Apostles and first
followers of our Lord a most convincing,
double proof of the truth and divine authority
of the mission, both of their Master and the
Baptist John.

In the fifth chapter, verse 35, we find our
Saviour, in the answer he gives to the question
of the Scribes and Pharisees, why his disciples
never fasted ? which those of John and of the
Pharisees did frequently, foretelling, that he
the Bridegroom, adopting the same parabolical
denomination by which he is sometimes
spoken of, both in the preceding predictions
of the Jewish prophets, and in the subsequent
Christian prophecy of the Revelation, should
he taken away from them; and that, during
that separation, his disciples indeed should
fast ; that is, should really be in a state of
humiliation, suffering, and affliction. That

Acts i. 5.


this is our Lord's true meaning, and not that
his disciples would adopt days of voluntary
fasting and humiliation, as a religious obser-
vance like the Pharisees, is evident from the
parable which he subjoins immediately to this
answer, by which he teaches the Jews, that
for him to graft his spiritual religion upon the
carnal ordinances of the Mosaic ritual, would
be as improper and as absurd as for a man
who had purchased a new garment, instead of
wearing it and laying aside his old one, to
repair and patch his old garment with pieces
cut out of the new ; which could only spoil
the new, and make a ridiculous motley of the
old: And though it was no more wonderful,
that they should prefer the rites and ceremo-
nies of their Law to the simple purity of his
Gospel, than that men, whose palates had
been long habituated to old wine, should not
immediately relish new, though perhaps of a
superior quality, which they had never tasted
before; yet the old ordinances and observan-
ces of their Law were as ill suited to the
spirit of the religion he preached, as old, de-
cayed, leathern bottles were, to contain new
wine whose fermentation was not yet over.
That fasting, in its strictest sense, made a part


of the afflictions endured by his Apostles and
earliest disciples, appears from Paul's enu-
meration of the sufferings he had endured for
the Gospel's sake,* where he recounts his
being in hunger and thirst, in fastings often;
and therefore our Lord, by a very common
figure of speech, putting a part for the whole,
answers the question as if he had said, "Fast-
" ing is a state of grief, affliction, and humilia-
" tion; and whilst I, the delegate of heaven,
" who announce to them the joyful tidings of
" the New Covenant, remain with them, such
" a state were as improper and as unnatural
" for them, as it would be for the attendants of
" the bridegroom at a marriage feast: but the
" time approaches, when I shall be removed
" from them, and during rny absence, it will
u be their lot to be amply grieved, humbled,
" and afflicted." To the same purport many
other prophetic admonitions, contained in
this history, in the Acts and in the Apoca-
Ivpso, repeatedly assert the constant state of
affliction and persecution, in which the faith-
ful, conscientious disciples of Jesus Christ
would continue, from his ascension to the
period of his appearing again to mankind, in

* 3 Cor. xi. 27.


the prophetic character of the lamb-like
bridegroom, when the true Christian church,
his wife,* shall have made herself ready.

It is the more , necessary to point out to
public notice the real meaning of this predic-
tion, because, whilst the well-known, too
literal completion must convince us of the
divine authority of the prophet, the very
recording this and similar prophecies, of the
same import, by the Apostles and first Disci-
ples of Jesus Christ, affords the most striking
and satisfactory proof that can be conceived,
of their own disinterested sincerity in embrac-
ing and preaching to the world the religion of
the Gospel; for, the spirit of prophecy being
expressly declared to be the testimony of Jesus,
and of every authentic messenger of heaven,
the truth of their master's mission, and even
their own veracity, depended upon the ac-
complishment of these predictions in 'their
own persons^ anji those of their fellow
Christians. From their writings it appears, that
they were well aware of this; and accordingly
expected, and were prepared, as the certain
consequence of the religious profession they
embraced, and to which they zealously invited
others, not only to abandon all hopes of tem-

* Apoc. xix. 7.


poral emolument and prosperity, but also
to undergo the contempt and hatred of
the rest of the world, and all the most inju-
rious or painful inflictions of unrelenting
persecution. Unless, therefore, we suppose
them to have been the grossest fools and
madmen, which no person, who enjoys his
own senses, and has read the genuine writings
of Luke and Paul, can suppose, it is abso-
lutely impossible that any thing less than the
most satisfactor} r conviction of the actual
resurrection of their illustrious Master to an
immortal life, and the firmest confidence that,
their present life ended, they, like him, should
be amply recompensed for all their sufferings
for the Gospel's sake, could have induced them
to profess, much less to propagate^ the religion
of Jesus Christ.

The orthodox church, indeed, established
by the Emperor Constantine, hath experi-
enced none of these prophetic marks of the
true disciples of Christ. She very early placed
herself under the protection, and prostituted
herself to the will, of the Princes of the pre-
sent world ; and, instead of suffering humili-
ation or afflictions of any kind, by her influ-
ence over them, she hath amply shared the
authority of her royal paramours, and even


wantoned in the continual enjoyment of tem-
poral honours, opulence, and power. But
though, for this, amongst many other reasons,
she herself cannot be justly allowed the title of
the true Church of Christ,* yet, from the first
moment of her establishment to the present
hour, she hath been the chief means of ac-
complishing these prophecies upon the con-
scientious disciples of Jesus and his apostles,
by the confiscation of their property, the im-
prisonment and punishment of their bodies,
the deprivation, in numberless cases, of their
lives, and, in all, of their natural rights, as
men and denizens of their native countries,
And it must be matter of no small consola-
tion to those faithful Christians, who are able
to discern the signs of the times, that the pre-
dicted period of her presumptuous," cruel
triumph, and of their own state of degra-
dation and oppression, hastens fast to its

In the ninth chapter, verse 21, &c. Luke
informs us, that our Lord checked his disci-

* It is obvious that, by parity of reason, her elder Sister, the
Church of Arius, is also barred of all claim to the same title ; for
though the contest ended at last in favour of the orthodox Church,
they were long rivals in the affections of the same worldly potentates,
and, during several reigns, enjoyed alternately the same imperial
protection, the same honours and emoluments, and displayed the
very same spirit of intolerant persecution.


pies, for calling him the Christ of God ; that
is, the predicted anointed King of the Jews ;
and forbad them to call him so to any man ;
telling them (without doubt, both to remove
-from their minds all expectation of present
emolument to themselves, from the idea, so
prevalent amongst the Jews, that the pro-
mised Messiah was to reign over them in all

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

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 5 of 18)