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 8 of 18)
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VI. LET us then, after this brief review of
the miracles and prophecies recorded in the
evangelical history of Luke, consider what
the whole combined weight of evidence, in
favour of its genuine authenticity, amounts
to, when cleared of those fabulous and
groundless additions, which the converts


from Paganism, and the schools of the later
Platonists, made to it in the beginning of the
second century.

All the historical and other writings of pro-
fessed Christians, which are extant, agree, as,
is before observed, in attributing this Gospel
and the Acts of the Apostles, to a very early
disciple, though not an apostle, named Luke.
The writer himself informs us, that his name
was Silas ; that he was one of those chief men
among the brethren, whom the Apostles and
the Elders, with the whole church at Jerusa-
lem, sent to acquaint the converted Gentiles
in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, with their de-
cision respecting the only observances of the
Jewish Law, that were judged necessary for
them ; that he himself was a prophet, a duly
qualified teacher of the Gospel, and preached
much to the people at Antioch, to exhort
them to continue in the faith they had adopt-
ed; that when his co-delegate, Judas, re-
turned to Jerusalem to the Apostles there, he
chose to remain in Antioch with Paul and
Barnabas ; that upon the separation which
took place, in consequence of a dissension
between these two, he was chosen by Paul to
supply the place of Barnabas ; and that from
that time, to his being sent prisoner to Rome,

i 3


and during his residence in that imperial city,
he continued Paul's constant adherent, friend
and fellow-traveller.

That it was Silas, who wrote these two his-
tories, appears thus. From the conclusion of
the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth
chapter of the Acts, we find that when Paul
left Antioch, no one but Silas accompanied
him, as far as Derbe and Lystra; and that
there they were joined by Timotheus, whom
Paul chose also to travel with him ; that they
three went through Phrygia and Galatia, and
came to Troas, where Paul, in a vision, was
directed to go over into Macedonia : " and
" after he had seen the vision," says the au-
thor, " immediately we endeavoured to go
" into Macedonia, assuredly gathering, that
" the Lord had called us to preach the Cos-
" pel unto them." This is the first passage
in which the writer speaks in his own person ;
and in the same person, he frequently ex-
presses himself afterwards to the end of his
history. Now, since it is evident from this
part of the Acts, compared with 2 Cor. c. i. v.
.19, and with the address of both the epistles
to the Thessalonians, that Paul had no at-
tendants when he first preached the Gospel
in Macedonia and Greece, besides Silas or


Silvanus, of which last name Silas is merely
an abbreviation, and Timotheus, one of those
two must be professedly the writer of these
histories. That it was not Timotheus, ap-
pears from Acts c. xx. v. 4 and 5, where the
author enumerates Timotheus amongst those
disciples who accompanied Paul, on his re-
turn into Asia, and adds, " these going before,
" tarried for us at Troas." It is Silas or Silva-
nus alone, therefore, who professes himself to
have been the author of both these important
histories. And his manner of informing us
that he was so, affords infinitely greater satis-
faction respecting the truth of his informa-
tion, than could be derived from any titular
ascription of them to him, either by himself
or others. And though this circumstance, at
first, has the appearance of contradiction to
the universal historic testimony, which attri-
butes them to Luke, they really only confirm
the veracity of each other; for Lucas, that is
Luke, is exactly the same abbreviation of
Lucanus, a name derived from lucus, a grove
or wood, that Silas is of Silvanus from Sylva,
a word of the same signification. Since,
therefore, we find that amongst those Jewish
Chrbtians, particularly, who were most con-

i 4


versant amongst the Greeks and Romans, it
was customary to change their original Hebrew
names, without doubt, the more to familiarize
themselves to those people, as Tabitha was
exchanged for the Greek word Dorcas, and
Saul for the Roman name Paulus ; and as is
still usual with the Jews in every country ; it
seems clear that the name of the author of
these histories, which in the Hebrew most
probably was some word of similar import,
viz. belonging to a grove or wood, might be
translated indifferently by the Roman names,
Lucanus or Silvanus,* and though he was, at
first, called Silas, yet upon the persecution
raised by Nero, or some other prudential rea-
son, it might be deemed right to vary it to
Luke, for many circumstances concur to ren-
der it highly probable, that the Lucas w.hom
Paul mentions to Timothy in his second Epis-
tle, as the only person who remained with him,
is the very same as Silas, both which names, if
re-translated into the original Hebrew name,
must be expressed by the same word, A very

* In the same manner, the Hebrew name Aaron, might have been
familiarized to the Romans, by being rendered Collinus or Monta-
nus j and an Englishman of the name of Wood, might domesticate
his very name in France, by calling himself either Du Bois 3 or Lai


probable circumstance, which may well ac-
count for later writers calling him by that

It appears, then, upon the united testimon}-
of the early Christian writers, and of the au-
thor himself, corroborated by that of the
Apostle, 'with whom he was joined in the
commission to preach the Gospel in Mace-
donia and Greece, that these two books were
really written by Silas or Luke, who was so
well qualified a witness of what he relates,
that he was the approved friend and assistant
of all the Apostles, from whom he could not
fail to receive perfect information, of every
fact and doctrine he has recorded, previous to
his own conversion; and was so considerable
a personage in the transactions he has related
afterwards, that, in the words of the Roman
Poet, he might justly have called himself a
relater of events, quosqite ipse vidi, et quorum
pars magna fid; events whereof he had not
only been an eye-witness, but in which he
himself had been, for the most part, actively

On reviewing and comparing these two
histories of Luke, we find the dates of all the
important facts clearly and accurately ascer-
tained ; there appears in them a perfect har-


mony and consistency, not only with each
other and with the epistles of Paul, but with
all other historians, who have written of the
same times.* The miracles recorded in them,

* Of how great Importance it is to have the true Author of these
histories ascertained, may be seen from the xii. Section of Michaellis's
Introduction to the New Testament. For, owing to his not having
observed the satisfactory information given us by the Author him-
self, that these histories were written by the Silas mentioned in the
second of them, as being himself an inspired Prophet, delegated by
James and the rest of the Apostles resident at Jerusalem* the learned
Professor is led to imagine, that the Author " was not a native of
* e Palestinr, but, having accompanied St. Paul thither, made only a
* c short stay in Jerusalem, ani spent the greatest part of his time in
' Cesarea." And merely on the grounds of this misapprehension,
though he allows him " to appear in all other respects to most ad-
" vantage, when put in competition with the other writers of the
* New Testament," except " in some particular facts which disagree,
' either really or apparently, with the relations which have been-
" given by profane Historians." And tells us, that even admitting
some errors, " he ceases not to be a most valuable Historian, espe-
< cially in the Acts of the Apostles, where he speaks either as an
" eye-witness himself, or instructed by St. Paul, the companion of
11 his journey." Yet lays a greater stress upon the difficulties sup-
posed to be found in Luke's writings, than upon those which appear
in all the rest, as being more irreconcilable to profane History. All
these suppose 1 difficulties except one, exist in the Acts of the Apos-
tles, w hkh the learned Professor himself, as well as Dr. Lardner, has, in
a masterly manner, shewn to be ungrounded ; and that Luke's His-
tory is entitled to greater credit than that of Josephus, who chiefly
contradicts him. So that the only irreconcilable difficulty is, that,
" in the beginning of the Second Chipter of his Gospel, that Christ
" was born during the taxation of Judea, when Quirmius was Go-
" vernorof Syrh, when it is certain, from the Roman historians, that
" Qmrimus war, at that period in a different country." And as I
have shewn, from the testimony of the Author himself, that Silas or
Lulis was not the Author of the two first Chapters of his Gospel, he
mir-t remain, according to the testimony of the learned Professor


breathe all thesame compassionate, benevolent
spirit, which is so peculiarly characteristic of'
the religion of Jesus Christ ; and they contain
the requisite evidence of sundry prophecies,
some for the conviction of the first disciples,
fulfilled within a few days or weeks after their
prediction, others, at the interval of forty
years, when the writer himself, in all proba-
bility, was not alive, and others extending to
all ages, from the first promulgation of the
Christian Covenant to the present time, and
to a period yet to come. We have here,
then, every kind of evidence, whereof the na-
ture of the case admits, to convince us of the
genuine authenticity and veracity of both
these histories; and with these, for my own
part, I am abundantly satisfied. Others, per-
haps, submitting their judgments to early pre-
possessions, or to the decisions of the ortho-
dox church, may persuade themselves, with
that father of the Church, Theophylact, that
God has given the world just four Gospels,
neither more nor less, because there are just
four cardinal virtues, four seasons of the year,
four quarters of the world, north, east, south

himself, a most valuable Historian ; and appear in all respects to supe-
rior advantage, when compared with the writers of the other Evan-
gelical Histories.


and west ; and because, as these Gospels arc
intended to be pillars to support the whole
world, it is necessary there should be one for
each of those four principal points of the com-
pass: but these and all such ingenious, rheto-
rical arguments, have so little weight with me;
that I profess myself better pleased with
one evangelical history, satisfactorily authen-
ticated, than with four thousand that should
be found spurious, or even of doubtful - and
reasonably suspicious authority.*

* tf It is very probable, that every one of the four Evangelists hatfi
in his book the whole substance, all the necessary parts, of the Gos^
pel of Christ. But for St. Luke, that he hath written such a perfect
Gospel, in my judgment, it ought to be with them that believe him no
manner of question. Consider, first the introduction to his Gos-
pel, where he declares., what he intends to write, in these words *
Forasmuch as mam/ have, taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration
(>f those things are most surety believed amongst us, even as they
delivered titan unt.) us, which .from the beginning were Eye-witnesses, and
?,liniiters of the Wrd, it szcmcd goad to me also, naming had perfect
understanding of all things, from the very first, to write to thte, in order,
most excellent Theupkitus, that t.hou mightest know the certainty of those
things, wherein thou hast been inslructed. Add to this place, the en-
trance to his History of the Acts of the Apostles : The former Treatise
Jtave I made, () Thcophilm, of alt that Jesus began, both to do and teach,
until the day in which he was taken tip. Weigh well these two places,
and then answer me freely and ingenuously to these demands :
t. Whether St. Luke doth not undertake the very same thing, which,
he says, tunny had taken in hand ? 2. Whether this were not to set
/;,//// in order, a declaration of those things which were, mo&t surely be-
ILvcd amongst Christians? 'J. Whether the whole Gospel of Christ,
and every necessary decline of it, were not surely believed among
Christians? 4. Whether they, which were Eye-witnesses and, Ministers
<>f the Wo/ d, from the begin ningj delivered not the whole Gospel of Christ?


From what Luke and other writers inform us.
there is no doubt but the orthodox church, if
she had chosen to preserve them, might at this
hour have had forty instead of four different
Gospels ; and many of them much more de-
serving her regard, than three of those she
hath thought tit to select and save from the
general wreck, in which the writings of the
primitive Christians have been involved : but,
as far as the providence of Almighty God is
concerned in preserving sufficient notice of
the Evangelical Covenant, which he hath


proposed to all mankind, I can see no more
reason why there should be four distinct an-

5. Whether he cloth not undertake to write in order there things,
whereof he had perfect understanding from the first ? 6. Whether he had
not perfect understanding of the whole Gospel of Christ ? 7. Whether
he doth not undertake to write to Theopbilus of all those things, where-
in he. had been instructed ? 8. And whether he had not been instructed
in all the necessary parts of the Gospel of Christ ? P. Whether, in
the other text, All t Jungs which Jesus began to do and teach, must
at least imply, all the principal and necessary things ? 10. Whether
this be not the very interpretation of your Wtarith Doctors, in
their annotation upon tkis place ? 11. Whether all these Articles ci"
the Christian Faith, without the belief whereof, no man can be saved,
be not the principal and most necessary things which Jesus taught .r
12, and lastly . Whether many things which St. Luke hath wrote >u
his Gospel, be not less principal, and less necessary, than all ::iixi
every one of these ? When you have well considered these prcpo-
:Js, I believe you will be very apt to think (it St. Luke be of c:
with you) that all things necessary to salvation, are certainly con
tuined in his writings alone." 1 "

CHILLJNO VVORTH, chap. iv. art, 4Z.


thentic histories of the very short period from
the Baptism of John to the resurrection of
Jesus, than that there should be four histories
of the much longer, and equally important
period, comprised in the Acts of the Apostles ;
or than the Jews should have had four dif-
ferent histories of the creation and their
Patriarchs, and of the deliverance of their
forefathers from the Egyptian bondage. How-
ever, since many great, learned and saga-
cious men have been in the habit of taking
the authenticity of the other three for granted,
they certainly ought not to be rejected as
spurious, unless sufficient reason can be
shewn for so doing. Having, therefore, in
Luke's two histories, found a firm and so-
lid basis for the genuine religion of Jesus se-
curely to stand upon, I the more willingly
and cheerfully proceed to examine the pre-
tensions and merits of each of the other three
Gospels, and to try them also by the same
criterion : only remarking previously upon the
Gospel according to Luke, that from the
manner in which it is referred to in the intro-
duction to the Acts, it appears not to have
been written any great length of time before
the latter history, which must have been com-
posed after the fourth year of the reign of Ne-


ro, that is full thirty years after our Saviours
death and resurrection ; and from the reason
alleged in the short preface to what is called
his Gospel, for writing it, we may conclude
with certainty, that he knew of no such his-
tory then written by any of the Apostles
themselves. For he tells Theophilus, {whe-
ther that be the real name of any particular
frknd, or only the common appellation of
every sincere Christian) for whose use and in-
formation he intended both his works, that,
because many had undertaken to publish an
account of the great objects of their faith, as
they had been taught them by the Apostles,
and those who had been eye-witnesses of
what they had related, he also having had
perfect information from the beginning, had
written to him an account of every thing, in
order, that he might know the certainty of
those things in which he had been instructed.
Now had Matthew or any other Apostle,
published a history of this kind, it would
have entirely superseded the necessity of
Lukes writing ; and instead of a treatise of
his own* he would undoubtedly have sent, or
recommended to him, the narration of the
Apostle : at least he could never have pre-
sumed to differ from that account, in either

144 THfc DISSONANCE, &c.

the order or circumstances of the facts re-
corded, in the manner in which every atten-
tive reader of the Gospels must know he does
differ from the history attributed to Matthew*
So that Luke's work itself very strongly im-
plies, that Matthew had written no Gospel
at all before the fourth year of Nero: for as
he had resided several years with Matthew
and the other Apostles at Jerusalem, syid
did not leave them till nineteen years after
their Master's death, that is full ten years
after the date usually allotted to Matthew's
Gospel, he could not have been ignorant of
such a publication, had it really existed at that
time. It is true, some critics, on very insuf-
ficient grounds, postpone the Gospel of Mat*
thew to a much later date ; yet still they all
agree that it was written before Luke's.




TFN observing critically the Gospel attri-
^ buted to Matthew, the first circumstance
to be remarked is, that the author himself
.gives not the slightest hint to suggest to us
who he was, much less that he was an Apos-
tle of Jesus Christ; so that the mere opinion
of the fathers of the orthodox church of the
second century, is all the foundation there is
for its being called Matthew's, which, we have
seen, is not the case with Luke's histories.
The next is, that all those early writers, who
inform us that Matthew wrote a Gospel, as-
sure us he wrote it in Hebrew ; and that our
copy is a translation of it into Greek, by
what hand is uncertain. The work itself,
however, has by no means the appearance of
an uniform translation from any language:
for one can hardly suppose that any person


not duly skilled in the Greek language, would
undertake to translate it; and whilst the
greatest part of it is exceeding bad Greek,
abounding with barbarous idioms, which is
not to be accounted for, if the translator was
properly qualified for the work, there are
many passages, and several of them of con-
siderable length, which are not only ex-
pressed in pure and elegant diction, but are
nearly word for word the same as they stand
in the Gospel according to Luke. This last
circumstance is so obviously remarkable,
both in this and the Gospel according to
Mark, that to account for so improbable a
fact, Grotius, Mills, and every candid critic,
who has adopted the orthodox persuasion,
tlrat these Gospels were written in the same
order in which the canon of the church hath
placed them, have been forced to acknow-
ledge that, it is evident, the writer of one
must have transcribed from the other : and
that, therefore, when Mark wrote his Gospel
he must have had Matthew's before him, and
Luke both the others. But it is absolutely im-
possible for me to suppose that Silas or Luke,
who suffered so much, and so disinterestedly,
to testify the truth of the Gospel, could profess
to. write accurately, and in order, an account


of those acts and doctrines of Jesus, Xvhich
were taught them bv those who had been

o *

eye-witnesses of his ministry, and were his
chosen Apostles; and yet, with the written
account of an Apostle before his eyes, not
only in many places invert the order of the
narration, but differ greatly from him in the
circumstances attending some of the most re-
markable facts, and in others directly contra-
dict him. Besides, in Luke, those verbally
corresponding passages of the different Gos-
pels are regular coherent parts of one uni-
form, well composed whole; whereas in
Matthew they are quite incongruous to the
rest of the language in which the book is
written, and, like the ill-suited passages of
those inconsistent poems condemned by Ho-
race, purpurei late splendent panni. It must
be observed also, that these two Gospels of
Matthew and Mark abound in instances of
Latin words, written in Greek letters; I do
not mean proper names, nor even the names
of coins, weights or measures, such as the
Romans perhaps made use of, even in the
most distant provinces, but military terms and
words of common use in every language. In-
stead of the Greek words which Luke, Jose-
phus, and, I believe, every other Greek writer

K 2


within the limits of the first century, use for
Taxes or Tribute, Legion, Spearman, Watch
or Guard, Centurion, to Scourge, and some
others, they give us the names by which the
Romans expressed them in their own language
written in Greek characters : a circumstance
which, though in itself not fully demonstra-
tive of the age in which they were really
written, when corroborated by other evidence
of their spuriousness, is of considerable weight
to convince us, that these two Gospels can-
not be older than nearly the middle of the
second century : and, therefore, the writer
called Matthew might very probably see and
transcribe from the Gospel according to Luke,
and the pretended Mark from both. Let us
examine each Gospel in its turn.

II. THE two first chapters of Matthew
Contain so many wonderful circumstances,
repugnant both to the other scriptures and to
common sense, and so entirely unsupported
by any other history, sacred or profane, that
many persons, both of the present and former
ages, have rejected them as a forgery, added
by some other writer to the work of Matthew,
(as, I persuade myself, I have demonstrated
to have been the case with Luke's Gospel)


and that this book also originally began at
the third chapter, with the Baptism of John;
though there is no proper beginning of a his-
tory at that chapter, as there evidently is in
Luke's. But to me, who find full as many
extraordinary things, equally inadmissible, in
the two last chapters, and several more in the
body of the work, the whole appears to be of
equal authenticity, or rather, equally spuri-
ous and false. With the reader's leave, there-
fore, we will take a cursory review of the whole.

Of the Genealogy, with which this Gospel
begins, it is unnecessary to remark its irrecon-
cileable contradiction to that introduced into
Luke's Gospel, because it has been so gene-
rally noticed by all commentators, and must
strike the most superficial reader, as it traces
Joseph's descent from David, through a line
totally different : I only wonder that, under
such a circumstance, any rational creature
can be found, who can really believe both
these contradictory pedigrees to be true, and,
what is still more, the inspired word of God.
My intent, therefore, is only to point out the
glaring inconsistency of the author, on this
occasion, with himself.

The sole purpose of these two first chap-
ters, is to teach, that Jesus was not the son of

K 3


Joseph, but, like Bacchus and Hercules
amongst the Pagans, the offspring of Mary,
impregnated by the influence of the supreme
Deity of heaven. Yet, to prove to us that,
as the completion of the old prophecies con-
cerning the Messiah required, he was the li-
neal descendant of David and Abraham, he
gives us the pretended genealogy of Joseph
only from those Patriarchs : and with such a
proof the orthodox church hath been satis-
fied for 1600 years!! But whilst the celes-
tial origin he attributes to our blessed Saviour
effectually precludes the possibility of many
prophecies of the Old Testament, relative to
the Christ, being accomplished in his per-
son, the author has endeavoured to persuade
us, that the miraculous circumstance he re-

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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 8 of 18)