Hermann Marcus Kottinger.

The youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment online

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The tempter then approached him, and said: ' If thou art a son of God, com-
mand that these stones be made bread.' But he answered : ' It is written :
Man does not only live on bread, but on every word, which proceeds from the
mouth of God.' Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, sets him on
the pinnacle of the temple, and says to him : ' If thou art the Son of God,
cast thyself down ; for it is written : He will give charge to his angels concern-
ing thee, and they will bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy loot
against a stone.' Jesus said to him : * Again it is written : Thou shalt not

tempt the Lord, thy God.' Again the devil takes him up into a very high
mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and
says to him : ' I will give thee all this, if thou fall down and worship me.'
Then Jesus says to him : ' Begone, Satan ! for it is written : Thou shalt
alone adore God, thy Lord, and serve him alone.' Then the devil left him ; and
behold angels approached, and ministered unto him."

Here in the New Testament we meet the devil the first time. The Israelites
had received him at the time of the Babylonian captivity from the Zend religion ;
he is the Ahrmian of the Zend Avesta. Besides, he is also called Satan (the
adversary) and diabolos (the accuser), wherefrom the term devil has originatea.
Moses, the Israelites, and the prophet Elias, before Christ, dwelt in the desert,
Elias during forty days; the Israelites and Elias were there in want of food;
those were fed with celestial manna, Elias by a raven. Moses, too, fasted on
the mount of Sinai during forty days and nights. Therefore Jesus also, like his
models, was to wander and to fast in the desert. But it can be justly asked^
how the devil could possess so much power with regard to the Son of God, to
carry him along with himself; how it could be done to carry him (of course
through the air) to Jerusalem, to put him upon the pointed pinnacle of the
temple, from there to conduct him upon a mountain, and to show him all
countries of the earth. Did Matthew not know that even on the highest
mountain only a small part of the earth can be observed, because it has the
shape of a sphere ? The Jews and Greeks imagined the earth to be a level
disk. And finally, was the devil entitled to give away all the kingdoms of the
world ? Matthew wanted to tell a miracle.

4. The Miracles of Jesus in General.

Already in the Old Testament, Moses and Elias, besides others, were miracle-
workers ; in the New, Jesus and his apostles are their successors. The miracles
of the Old Testament refer to entire countries and nations ; those of the New
concern most only single individuals ; as a whole, they are imitations of the
former, which are their models. The lame, blind, deaf and mute, the palsied,
leprous, feverish, lunatic, demoniac, are here healed, nay, defuncts resus-
citated, hungry ones wonderfully fed, tempests appeased, water changed into
wine, etc. This nummary already shows that among tht* miracles of Jesus the
cures by far outweigh ; this is a proof that the spirit of the New Testament has
grown milder — Moses is an austere legislator, Jesus the meek, merciful Savior.

How must the miracles of Jesus be considered ?

If any event is pretended to be a miracle, we are only to prove that it con-
travenes some general law of nature ; the reporter of the miracle must prove that
the exception of the law really took place ; he cannot do this but by introducing
trustworthy witnesses, who observed the narrated fact. But as the evangelies
were written about one hundred years after the death of Jesus, such a proof by
witnesses is impossible ; for suppose even that the miracles really happened, still


the witnesses who saw them could not have lived after so long an interval o f
time , consequently the evangelists could only from the third or fourth hand
collect their reports, in a word, they could not tell but by heai-say. It is usually
objected to this argument that the authors of these documents were guided by
the Holy Ghost, during their compositions, consequently that they could not err.
But this assertion finds no longer many advocates in our age, for it was evinced
long ago that the authors of the Bible often contradict each other. Besides,
many errors occur therem, concerning the truths of astronomy and natural
science, of universal history, geography and other sciences. Therefore now-a-
days the view is generally admitted that the contents of the biblical writings
must be judged by the same rules which are applied to other books.

The origin of the belief in miracles also demonstrates its fallacy. How does,
it take rise ? Men would like to govern nature, e. g., to get rid of diseases
to abolish even death, to cross rivers without bridges, to command storm and
weather. The light way to reach this scope, are the knowledge of nature and
the subjection of its forces; e. g., the force of steam is known, and employed
for rail-roads, in order to move fast to a place. But this way is wearisome and
protracted, and demands thousands of years, till mankind attains its aims by it.
Imagination takes it easier : it skips the limits of nature, and likes the belief
that this can be governed by witchcraft and miracles ; it recurs to superstition.

If Jesus was the Lord of nature, it can be asked, why he did not heal every
disease, and revive all the dead, or at least eveiy young person who died. Why
remained there yet hunger and thirst, poverty, in general, any evil in the world ?
He could surely extend his power to perform miracles over all countries, over
all mankind. But this did not take place, nor is it related, because the common
experience would have plainly contradicted ; in single cases contradiction was
less to be feared.

Furthermore, how was it possible that not the whole people, and even the
priesthood believed his words? It is objected that Jesus did not operate his
miracles in the presence of people. So the evangelists say in some passages;
but in others they state to the contrary, namely that these miracles were per-
formed in the presence of large crowds. The gospels, then, contradict them -
selves, and do not deserve any trust.

Many object also that Jesus would build the creed of men upon the excellence
of his doctrine. Neither this assertion is true. When John's disciples asked
him if he was the Messiah, he bade them to consider his miracles. He rebukes
the incredulity of the towns which did no penance, though he had there per-
formed the greatest number of his miracles. His disciples believed in him, because
he had changed water into wine (as Matthew assures us) ; but John reports that
the enemies of Jesus, after he liad resusciated Lazarus, even on account ol his
miracles, resolved to kill him. Therefore it remains incomprehensible how by
the miracles attributed to him, the Jews were not persuaded that he was the ex-
pected Messiah, nay even the son of God. As this persuasion failed coming;


on the contrary, as they even murdered him: we justly conchide that those mi-
raculous narratives are nothing but pious myths.

But how was it possible that so many contradictions crept into the reports of
the authors ? Every one composed his gospel for the circle of his readers, with-
out knowing the other evangels, and without anticipating that their narratives
would ever be compared, and that on account of their contradictions their
purpose — to strengthen the belief in Jesus — would be frustrated.

5. His Miraculous Cures— Demoniacs.

Jesus healed every disease and bodily defect, in all towns and villages ; his
miraculous cures were said to be innumerable. He healed merely by his word
or contact. Even from afar he is healing. The patients recover by touching his
garment. He requires only faith. These cures are effected in a moment and
thoroughly. The terrible and protracted disease of leprosy disappears in a trice
by his word and touching. A man who had been suffering from gout, during
thirty-eight years, had been bedridden, rises, encouraged by his word, and carries his
bed home. Every one who acknowledges the l?.ws of nature, and their neces-
sity, conceives that such cures are impossible. (Cf. Views of the Univ., ^ 3.)
These tales suppose total ignorance in matters of the human body, and ijiedical
science. So, e. g., Mark tells (7, 22,) that a man who since his birth had been
deaf and mute, suddenly commenced to speak and understand human language.
The evangelist likely ignored that the deaf and mute are disabled to learn a
language, because tney cannot hear it, that, therefore, they would neither be
able to speak it, suppose that they at once obtained their hearing, because they
never learnt to speak.

Some presumed that Jesus had acquired a superior knowledge of medical
science. But no physician heals hi^ patients with the mere finger and saliva, or
with a few words. Neither did the bare faith in Jesus suffice to cure every dis-
ease, e. g., leprosy, blindness, deafness, gout. The authors of the Gospels want
the cures to be miracles; they shall and must happen, in spite of nature's laws,
and be incomprehensible, because also other men before the appearance of their
hero had effected similar miracles, and Jesus ought to pass for the Messiah of
the Jews, of whom the prophets had predicted : " Then the eyes of the blind,
and the ears of the deaf are opened ; then the lame jumps like a stag, and the
tongue of the dumb exults" (Isaiah 35, 5). The ground from which the mirac-
ulous cures of the evangelies have sprung, is the expectation of a Messiah.

A particular species of patients, many of whom are healed by Jesus, are the
demoniacs. According to the notions of the New Testament, sometimes unclean
spirits, devils, demons, take possession of a man, and then dwell in his soul, and
rule it. The effects of these spirits were considered to be : madness, melancholy,
epilepsy, etc. Jesus expels them merely by his word, and they leave the demoniac
usually with much bustle and cries. The strangest miracle of this kind is that


which he works among the Gergesenes (Matlh. S., cf. Mark 5). A demoniac
is possessed by a legion of devils (10,000 — 12,000) ; they ask Jesus to not drive
them in the abyss of hell, but to suffer them to pass in a herd of hogs, which
there was pastured. Jesus allows it ; the demons rush into the swine, and the
whole herd, namely 2,000 head, plunge into the lake of Genesaret, and are
drowned. The Jews, indeed, found nothing wrong in this event, because
they despised hogs, as being unclean animals; but what would the owner of so
large a herd think now-a-days, if he should lose it in such a manner, and what
sentence would our courts of justice pass if he should sue at law the abettor of
such a damage ? "If the proprietor of the swine came to demand justice, when
Jesus was apprehended, it is clear that he was deservedly condemned, as there
never was a jury in England that would not have found him guilty." — Woolston

6. Resuscitations of the Dead.

The Gospels narrate three resuscitations which Jesus is told to have effected.
In Nain he revived the son of a widow, and delivered him to his mother. In
Capernaum, Jairus, the chief of a synagogue, came to him, saying : " My
daughter just died; but come, put your hand upon her, and she will be again
alive," When Jesus came in his house, he ordered the people and the musicians
to go out, approached the girl, seized her hand and she arose. So Matthew tells.
But Luke and Mark say : " The girl lay a-dying, was about to die," Accord-
ing to Luke, Jesus took Peter, James and John, with the parents of the girl, to
the room ; then he sent the rest of the people away, Mark, on the contrary,
reports : He let nobody follow him in the house, except Peter, James and John,
put them all out, took the parents of the girl, and those who were with him, and
entered the room w^here the dead was deposited. The three reporters, then, do
neither agree mutually in this story. According to Mark, the girl was twelve
years old. Both revivals are imitations of those which are attributed to Elias
and Elisha. Even the words : " And he delivered him to his mother," which
occur in the story of the youth of Nain, are used ah-eady in the model legend.

In the fullest detail John relates the revival of Lazarus, This was the friend of
Jesus, and lived with his sisters Mary and Martha, in Bethany, near to Jerusalem,
When he fell sick, the sisters sent for Jesus, and, of course, asked him to come
and to restore the friend and brother to health. But he did not come, tarrying yet
two days in the place where he was ; not till then he went to Bethany. When
he arrived, he found that Lazarus was already four days in the grave. It must,
therefore, he concluded that Jesus was at least a two-days' journey from Bethany.
It looks strange that the messenger could find him at such a distance. He
proceeded to the grave ; it was a cave covered with a stone. Jesus ordered this
to be removed, Martha remarked that the defunct already smelled, because he
had lain four days in the tomb. Nevertheless, Jesus cried : " Lazarus, come
forth !•" The dead came forth, bound hand and feet with grave clothes, and so
also the face bound about with a napkin. Jesus ordered them to loose him and


to let him go. Many Jews, who were present and saw this achievement, be-
lieved in Jesus, but some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them what
Jesus had done.

Without urging the impossibility that a corpse which is already putrifying,
could come again to life, it cannot be understood how a man, with his hands and
feet bundled up, could walk, and it is incredible that some witnesses of the ex-
traordinary miracle could turn spies and betray the Messiah. Finally, it cannot
be explained why the three other evangelists do not mention at all the greatest
miracle Jesus had performed. *' A dead man restored to life would have been
an object of attention and astonishment to the universe; all the Jewish magis-
trates, and more especially Pilate, would have made the most minute investiga-
tion. But so far from these wonders being mentioned, the world knew nothing
about them till more than one hundred years had rolled away from the date of
the events. Neither any Jewish, nor any Greek or Roman historian, at all notices
these prodigies." — Th. Woolston.

7. Miraculous Feedings— Water Changed to Wine— The Storm


Two evangelists report two mi raculous feedings, the others only one. At one time
5,000 men (without counting the women and children) are fed and satiated with
live loaves of bread and two fish, the other time 4,000 with seven loaves and a few
fish ; and there are yet many fragments left, the first time twelve, and the second
seven baskets full. It has been supposed that among the people were many rich
persons, who shared their provisions with the poor; but it cannot be believed
that they were able to fill with them so many thousands ; the reporters, too,
mean certainly that the victuals were increased by a miracle. Their models
were the flour-barrel, and the oil cruet of the widow in the legend of Elias
(both were never drained), besides, a similar miracle, eftected by Elisha with
twenty loaves, and the feeding of the Israelites on manna in the wilderness.
Jesus also operated his feeding in the desert.

As Jesus here provides food, so he procures a pleasant drink at the wedding of
Cana, to which he with his mother and disciples was invited, by changing water
into wine. The miraculous wine was, perhaps, not much in the taste of some
guests, as the water from which it originated had been poured into wash-basins,
in which they used to wash the feet. In the desert Moses furnished the Israelites
water, by a miracle, from a rock; perhaps the transformation story took its
origin from that myth.

Once Jesus naviguted wilh the disciples on the lake, when a storm arose so that'
while he was sleeping, they were much endangered. They awake him ; he
commands the storm and waves, and the lake is immediarely appeased. At an-
other time he follows his disciples who crossed the lake, and walks upon the
waves. Peter descends on the billows in order to proceed to him, but sinks 5


Jesus seizes his hand, and both mount on board. Both legends may be imitations
of the myth of the crossing of the Red Sea, effected by the Israelites. The
second contradicts the general law of the specific gravity of bodies. According
to this law, a solid body, if immersed in water, displaces of the latter a quantity
equal to its own volume ; if the displaced quantity ol water is lighter than the
solid body, this sinks down ; but if heavier, the body swims on the surface of
the water. Now, we know from experience that the human body is somewhat
heavier than water. Therefore it sinks in the latter to the bottom, even if it is
lying flat upon it, as it happens in swimming, so that the swimmer must restore
the equipoise of his body and of the water by the skillful motion of the hands
and feet. But if he stands perpendicularly on the water (as this narrative re-
ports), his body displaces perhaps only the twentieth part as much water as
if he swims, and must, therefore, sink so much easier. Jesus, then, necessarily
had to sink in the lake, for he, too, had a human body, neither could he save
Peter from sinking by his offered arm.

8. Solemn Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem— His Last Supper.

A short time before his death Jesus traveled to Jerusalem. The reports of the
Gospels, concerning this journey, are rather confused, and contradict each other
in several particulars. He is said to have performed a solemn entry in Jerusa-
lem, riding on one or, according to Matthew, on two asses, namely on a she-ass
and her colt. The people spread their garments on the road, cut down branches
from the trees, strewed them in his passage and cried : " Hosianna (hail) to the
son of David ; the coming reign of David be praised, the King of Israel be
praised !" Even the children took part in these cries. In a word, the people
proclaimed him their King. The whole city was terrified by his entry. In
Isaiah (ch. 62) a similar passage is written : " Say to the daughter of Sion (to
Jerusalem) : Behold, thy King comes to thee riding on an ass, on a colt.''
The narrative of the entry of Jesus may have been occasioned by this passage of
the prophet.

After the procession the cleaning of the temple followed. "Jesus (it is said)
entered the temple, overturned the tables of the money-changers, and the seats
of the dove-sellers, scattered the money of the bankers, made a whip of ropes,
and expelled all sellers of bulls, sheep and doves, together with the money

This action could not happen in the temple itself, but only in its yard, where
the venders were permitted to offer victims for sale ; even there it could hardly
be executed, because the superintendents of the temple would probably have in-
terfered with it, as it subverted the established order of the temple.

All evangelists mention a supper which Jesus is said to have eaten with his
disciples the evening before his death. They speak of it with difterent words
and considerable variations. One makes Jesus say : " That is my body, that is
my blood ;" another : " That is my blood which will be spilled for many, for the


pardon of their sins;'' a third: "Do ye that to my memory." The first
Christians frequently celebrated the Lord's Supper, as it is called ; but that soon
an abuse crept in this custom appears from a letter of Paul, in which he blames
the Corinthians that eveiy one brought along his meal for himself, so that the
rich ate and drank delicately, the destitute poorly. It is not probable that Jesus
instituted a supper in memory of his death, nor that he declared bread and wine
to be his real flesh and blood because John does not mention such things. How
could he pass silently such an important institution of his beloved master? Ac-
cording to his report Jesus took his last supper one day sooner as the Jews used
to eat the legal paschal lamb ; therefore it was an ordinary repast. It is also
only Matthew, who has the words : " For the pardon of the sins.'' In any case
it is more probable that the disciples continued, to the memory of their dearest
teacher, his custom to pass them bread and wine at their common lepasts. In
general, posterity institutes festivals in memory of eminent men, not these them-

At the last repast Jesus is said also to have revealed to his disciples that one
of them, Judas, would betray him. The statements of the evangelists are also
here contradicting each other ; e. g., according to Matthew, Jesus says to the
disciples : " He who dips his hand with me into the dish, will betray me."
But according to John: "This will betray me to whom I shall give the morsel
I dip." It cannot be seen, in what Judas would have committed treason.
Thirty shekels (about ^18.65) were indeed a too paltry profit, even for the
greediest man, in order to sell for them the life of his friend and teacher. Why
did the priests want the help of a traitor? Jesus appeared according to the
evangelies, every day in the temple, and went every evening before the city to
the mount of Olives, where he rested during the night in the open air. If they
would not arrest him in the temple, they could easily espy his nocturnal sojourn,
and seize him without any danger.

9. Arrest, Trial and Condemnation of Jesus.

After the hymn of praise they went out to the mount of Olives ; but accord-
ing to John, " over the brook Kedron in a garden.'' Here Jesus prayed that God
might remove the cup of suffering from him. His mental agony was so great
that his sweat broke forth, and fell to the ground as it were drops of blood. An
angel appeared fi'om heaven, and comforted him (Luke 22). (Who could hear
the prayers of Jesus, and see the angel ?) Meanwhile the disciples sleej-), though
Jesus had admonished them to watch, and predicted them that he would be
arrested in that night. While he awakes them, and speaks to them, Judas
arrives with the bailiffs, whom the high priests and the elders of the people had
sent, furnished wilh torches, lamps and swords. Luke states that the high
priests and elders themselves were present. According to Matthew, Judas had
given the bailifis a signal, namely, saying : " lie whom I shall kiss, is the man, of


htm lay hold I " Forthwith he approached Jesus, kissed him and said : " Hail,
master ! " The words which Jesus is said to have then spoken to Judas, are
diPerently quoted by the different evangelists ; John does not mention the kiss of
Judas at all. Jesus then was seized ; but the disciples forsook him, and took to

After the arrest of Jesus his trial followed immediately in the presence of the
High Council and Pilate. Three evangelists report that the trial and the con-
demnation of Jesus took place the same night. Such a hasty proceeding of the
tribunal would have been, to be sure, an extraordinary measure, for which hardly
a sufficient reason could be alleged. Luke contradicts them, too, positively, say-
ing that the trial and condemnation did not take place till the morning. Nay,
the other evangelists also mention, contradicting themselves, a meeting of the
High Council, held in the morning.

In the presence of the high priests false witnesses testify against Jesus ; but
their depositions do not agree (Mark). At last the high priest asks him, " Art
thou the Christ? " Jesus affirms it. Then they tore his clothes, saying : " He
has spoken blasphemy. What's the use of more witnesses ? What do you
think ? " They answered : " He is guilty of death 1 " John represents the trial
of Jesus in a way quite different from that of the three other evangelists. As
the trial before the priests was done, Jesus was conducted to Pontius Pilate. He
was Governor of Palestine, because this country then was a Roman Province
The members of the High Council accompany Jesus even themselves to the
Governor (?). They accuse him that he has revolted the Jewish nation and for-
bidden it to pay taxes to the Emperor, saying that he is the Christ, and a King.
Pilate asks him : " Art thou the King of the Jews? " Jesus affirms the question,
and consequently confesses to be a revolter, guilty of high treason. Thus he
deserved to suffer death, and according to Roman law, even death by crucifixion.
Nevertheless Pilate declares him guiltless I This declaration provokes the high
priests and the multitude, and they repeat their accusation : " He excites the
people, teaching in the whole country of Judea, commencing in Galilea till

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Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 20 of 28)