William Paley.

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from ditiercnt quarters.

XLI. (Larduer's Jewish and Heathen Testi-
monies, vol. iii. f). "21.) Acts xvii. 22. " Then Paul
stood in the midst of Mars-hill, and said, Ye men
of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too
superstitious ; for as I passed by and beheld your
devotions, I found an altar with this inscription,
TO the' UNKNOWN GOD. Whom there-
fore ye ignoranth' worship, him declare I unto you."

Diogenes La'ertius, who wrote about the year
210, in his history of Epimenides, who is sup-
posed to have flourished nearly six hundred years
before Christ, relates of him the following story :
that being invited to Athens for the purpose, he
delivered tiie city from a pestilence in this man-
ner; — " Taking several sheep, some black, others
white, he had them up to the Areopagus, and
then let them go where they would, and gave or-
ders to those who followed them, wherever any of
them should lie down, to sacrifice it to the god to
whom it belonged ; and so the plague ceased. —
Hence," says the historian, " it has come to pass,
that to this present time, may be found in the bo-
roughs of the Athenians anonymous altars: a
memorial of the expiation then made."* These
altars, it may be presumed, were called anony-
mous, because there was not the name of any par-
ticular deity inscribed upon them.

Pausanias, who wrote before the end of the
second century, in his description of Athens,
having mentioned an altar of Jupiter Olympius,
adds, '• And nigh unto it is an altar of unknown
godsTi And in another place, he speaks "o/"
altars of gods called unknownTt

Philostratus, who wrote in the beginning of
the third century, records it as an observation of
ApoUonius Tyanffius, " That it was wise to speak
well of all the gods, especially at Athens, where
altars of unknown demons were erected.''^

The author of the dialogue Philopatris, by
many supposed to have been Lucian, who wrote
about the year 170, by others some anonymous
He.ilhen writer of the fourth century, makes
Critias swear by the unknown god of Athens ;
B.nd, near the end of the dialogue, has these words,
" Rut let us find out the unknown god of Athens,
ard, stretching our hands to heaven, ofler to him
our praises and thanksgivings. "II

This is a very curious and a very important
coincidence. It appears beyond controversy, that
al'ars with this inscription were existing at
Athens, at the time when Saint Paul is aUeged
to have been there. It seems also (which is very
worthy of observation), that this inscription was
peculiar to the Athenians. There is no evidence
that there were altars inscribed " to the unknown
god" in any other country. Supposing the his-
tory of Saint Paul to have been a talile, how is it
possible that such a writer as the author of the Acts
of the Apostles was, should hit uponacircumstance
so extraordinary, and introduce it by an allusion
so suitable to Saint Paul's office and character 1

The examples here collected will be sufficient,
I hope, to satisfy us, that the writers of the Chris-
tian history knew something of what they were

* III Epimenide, 1. i. segm. 1 10. t Pans. I. v. p. 412.
t Paus. I. i. p. 4. § Philos. Apoll. Tyaii. I. vi. c.3.

\ Luciau. iu Philop. lorn. ii. Grsv. p. 767, 780,

writing about. The argument is also strengthen
ed by the following considerations : —

I. That these agreements appear, not only ir
articles of public history, but sometimes, in mi-
nute, recondite, and very peculiar circumstances,
in which, of all others, a forger is most hkely to
have been found tripping.

II. That the destruction of Jerusalem, which
took place forty years after the commencement of
the Christian institution, produced such a change
in the state of the country, and the condition of
the Jews, that a writer who was unacquainted
with the circumstances of the nation before that
event, would find it dilficult to avoid mistakes, in
endeavouring to give detailed accounts of transac-
tions connected with those circumstances, foras-
much as he could no longer have a living exemplar
to copy from.

III. That there appears, in the writers of the
New Testament, a knowledge of the aflairs of
those times, which we do not find in authors of
later ages. In particular, " many of the Christian
writers of the second and third centuries, and of
the following 'ages, had false notions concerning
the state of Judea, between the nativity of Jesus
and the destruction of Jerusalem."* Therefore
they could not have composed our histories

Amidst so many conformities, we are not to
wonder that we meet with some difficulties. The
principal of these I will put down, together with
the solutions which they have received. But in
doing this, I must be contented with a brevity
better suited to the limits of my volume than to
the nature of a controversial argument. For the
historical proofs of my assertions, and for the
Greek criticisms upon which some of them are
founded, I refer tlie reader to the second volume
of the first part of Dr. Lardncr's large work.

I. The taxing during which Jesus was born,
was "first made," as we read, according to our
translation, in Saint Luke, "whilst Cyrenius was
governor of Syria."+ Now it turns out that Cy-
renius was not governor of Syria until twelve or,
at the soonest, ten years after the birth of Christ;
and that a taxing, census, or assessment, was
made in Judea in the beginning of his govern-
ment. The charge, therefore, brought against
the evangelist is, tliat, intending to refer to this
taxing, he has misplaced the date of it by an error
of ten or twelve years.

The answer to the accusation is found in his
using the word "first;" — "And this taxing was
first made :" for according to the mistake imputed
to the evangelist, this word could have no signifi-
cation whatever ; it could have had no plat'e in
his narrative : because, let it relate to what it will,
taxing, census, enrolment, or assessment, it im
ports that the writer had more than one of those
in contemplation. It acquits him therefore of the
charge : it is inconsistent with the supposition of
his knowing only of the taxing in the beginning
of Cyrenius's government. And if the evangelist
knew (which this word proves that he did) of
some other taxing beside that, it is too much, for
the sake of convicting him of a mistake, to lay it
down as certain that he intended to refer to that.

The sentence in Saint Luke may be construed
thus : " This was the first assessment (or enrol-
ment) of Cyrenius, governor of Syria ;"t the words

» I^ardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 9(i0. t Chap. ii. v. 2.
1 If tbe word wbich we render " first," be rendered



" governor of S3Tia" being used after the name of
Cj'renius as his addition or title. And this title
belonging to him at the time of writing the ac-
count, was naturally enough subjoined to his
name, though acquired after the transaction which
the account describes. A modern writer who
was not very exact in the choice of his expres-
sions, in relating the affairs of the East Indies,
might easily say, that such a thing was done by
Governor Hastings ; though, in truth, the thing
had been done by him before his advancement to
the station from which he received tiie name of
governor. And this, as we contend, is precisely
t!ie inaccuracy which has produced the difficulty
in Saint Luke.

At any rate, it appears from the form of the
expression, that he had two taxings or enrolments
in contemplation. And if Cyrenius had been
sent upon this business into Judea, before he be-
came governor of Syria (against which supposi-
tion there is no proof, but rather external evidence
of an enrolment going on about this time under
some person or other,*) then the census, on all
hands acknowledged to have been made by him
in the beginning of his government, would form
a second, so as to occasion the other to be called
the Jirst.

II. Another chronological objection arises upon
a date assigned in the beginning of the third
chapter of Saint Luke.t " Now in the fifteenth
year of the reign of Tiberius Cassar," — Jesus
began to be about thirty years of age : for, sup-
posing Jesus to have been born, as Saint Mat-
thew, and Saint Luke also himself, relate, in the
time of Herod, he must, according to the dates
given in Josephus and by the Roman historians,
have been at least thirty-one years of age in the
fifteenth year of Tiberius. If he was born, as
Saint Matthew's narrative intimates, one or two
years before Herod's death, he would have been
thirty-two or thirty-three years old at that time.

This is the difficulty : the solution turns upon
an alteration in tiie construction of the Greek.
Saint Luke's words in the original are allowed,
by the general opinion of learned men, to signify,
not " that Jesus began to be about thirty years of
age," but " that he was about thirty j'ears of age
when he began his ministry." Tlus construction
being admitted, the adverb "about" gives us all
the latitude we want, and more, especially when
applied, as it is in the present instance, to a deci-
mal number; for such numbers, even without
this qualifying addition, are often used in a laxer
sense, than is here contended for.t

" befiire," which it has been strongly contended that
the Greek idinin allows of, the whole difficulty va-
nishes : for then the passage would be, — " Now this
ta.^ing was made before Cyrenius was governor of
Syria :" which corresponds with the chronology. But I
rather choose to argue, that however the word " first"
be rendered, to give it a meaning at all, it militates
with the objection. In this I think there can be no

* Josephus (Antiq. xvii. c. 2. sect. 6.) has this re-
markable passage : " 't\''hen therefore the whole Jewish
nation took an oath to be faithful to C^sar, and the
interests of the king." This transaction corresponds
in the course of the history with the ti(ne of Christ's
birth. What is called a census, and which we render
taxing, was delivering upon oath an account of their
property. This might be accompanied with an oath of
fidelity, or might be mistaken by Josephus for it.

t Lardner. part i. vol. ii. p. 7i5b.

t Livy, speaking of the peace which the conduct of
Romulus had procured to the state, during the whole

III. Acts V. 36. " For before these days rose
up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to
whom a number of men, about four hundred,
joined themselves : who was slain ; and all, as
many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought
to nought.''

Josephus has preserved the account of an im-
postor of the name of Theudas, who created some
disturbances, and was slain; but according to the
date assigned to this man's appearance (in which,
however, it is very possible that Josephus may have
been mistaken, *) it must have been, at least, seven
years after Gamaliel's speech, of which this t«xt
is a part, was delivered. It has been replied to
the objection, t that there might be two impostors
of this name : and it has been observed, in order
to give a general probability to the solution, that
the same thing appears to have happened in other
instances of the same kind. It is proved from Jo-
sephus, that there were not fewer than four per-
sons of the name of Simon within forty vcars,
and not fewer than three of the name of Judas
within ten years, who were all leaders of insurr
rections : and it is likewise recorded by the histo-
rian, that, upon the death of Herod the Great,
(which agrees very well with the tune of the
commotion referred to by Gamaliel, and with his
manner of stating that time, "before these days,")
there were innmuerable disturbances in Judea. t
Archbishop Usher was of opinion, that one of the
three Judases above-mentioned was Gamahel's
Theudas ; § and that with a less variation of the
name than we actually find in the Gospels, where
one of the twelve apostles is called, by Luke,
Judas ; and by Mark, Thaddeus. II Origen,
however he came at his information, appears to
have believed that there was an impostor of the
name of Theudas before the nativity of Christ. U

IV. Matt, xxiii. 34. "Wherefore, behold I
send unto you prophets, and wise men, and
scribes ; and some of them ye shall kill and cru-
cify ; and some of them shall ye scourge in your
synagogues, and persecute them from city to
city ; that upon you may come all the righteous
blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of
righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son.
of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple
and the altar."

There is a Zacharias, whose death is related in
the second book of Chronicles,** in a manner
which perfectly supports our Saviour's allusion.
But this Zacharias was the son of Jehoiada.

There is also Zacharias the prophet ; who was

reign of his successor (Numa), has these words :tt — " A b
illo enini prufectis viribus datis tantum valuit, ut, in
guadraginta deinde annos, tutain pacem haberet :" yet
afterward, in the same chapter, " Romulus (he savs)
septem et triginta regnavit annos. Numa tres et qiia-

* Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament
(Marsh's Translation,) vol. i. p. CI.

t Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 922.

t Antiq. 1. xvii. c. 12. sect. 4. § Annals, p. 707.

11 Luke vi. 16. Mark iii. 18.

iy Orig. cont. Cels. p. 44.

** '■ And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the
son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the
people, and said unto them. Thus saith God, Why
transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye
cannot prosper ? Because ye have for.^aken the Lord, he-
hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against
him, and stoned him withstones, at the commandment of
the Icing, in the court of the house of the Lord! — 2Chron
x.Tiv. 20,21.

ft Liv. Hist. c. l.seet. 16.




the son of Barachiah, ami is so described in the
BUijerscription of liis prophecy, but of whose death
we have no account.

1 have little doubt, but that the first Zacharias
was the person spoken of by our Saviour; and
that tlie name of the father has been ?ince added,
or changed, by some one, who t(Jok it from the
title of the prophecy, which happened to be better
known to him than the history in the Chroni-

There is likewise a Zacharias, the son of Ba-
ruch, related by Josephus to have been slain in
the temple a few years before the destruction of
Jerusalem. It has been insinuated, that the words
put into our Saviour's mouth contain a reference
to this transaction, and were composed by some
writer, who either confounded the time of the
transaction with our Saviour's age, or inadvert-
ently overlooked the anachronism.

Now suppose it to have been so ; suppose these
words to have been suggested by the transaction
related in Josephus, and to have been falsely as-
cribed to Christ ; and observe what extraordinary
coincidences (accidentally, as it must in that case
have hveii) attend the forger's mistake.

First, tliat we have a Zacharias in the book of
Chronicles, whose death, and the manner of it,
corresponds with the allusion.

Secondly, that although the name of this per-
son's father be erroneously put down in the Gos-
pel, yet we have a way of accounting for the error,
by showing another Zacharias in tho Jewish
Scriptures, much better known than the former,
whose patronymic was actually that which ap-
pears in the text.

Every one who thinks upqn this subject, will
find these to be circumstances whicli could not
have met together in a mistake, wliich did not
proceed from the circumstances themselves.

I have noticed, I think, all the difficulties of this
kind. They are few : some of them admit of a
clear, others of a probable solution. The reader
will compare them with the number, the variety,
the closeness, and the satisfactoriness, of the in-
stances which are to be set against them ; and he
will remember the scantiness, in many cases, of
our intelligence, and that difficulties always attend
imperfect mformation.


Undesigned Coincidences,

Between the letters which bear the name of
Saint Paul in our collection, and his history in
the Acts of the Apostles, there exist many notes
of correspondency. The simple perusal of the
writings is sufficient to prove, that neither the his-
tory was taken from the letters, nor the letters
from the history. And the undesignedness of
the agreements (which undesignedness is gather-
ed from their latency, their minuteness, their ob-
liquity, the suitableness of the circumstances in
which they consist, to the places in which those
circumstances occur, and the circuitous references
by which they are traced out) demonstrates that
they have not been produced oy meditation, or by
any fraudulent contrivance. But coincidences,
from which those causes are excluded, and which

are too close and numerous to be accounted for by
accidental concurrences of fiction, must necessari-
ly have truth for their foundation.

This argument appeared to my mind of so
much value (especially for its assuming nothing
beside the cxi.stence of the books,) that I have
pursued it through Saint Paul's thirteen epistles,
in a work published by me four years ago, under
the title of Horse Paulinae. I am sensible how
feebly any argument which depends upon an in-
duction of particulars, is represented without
examples. On which account, I wished to have
abridged my own volume, in the manner in which
I have treated Dr. Lardner's in the preceding
chapter. But, upon making the attempt, [ did
not find it in my powt>r to render the articles in-
telligible by fewer words than I have there used.
I must be content, therefore, to refer the reader to
the work itself And I would particularly invite
his attention to the observations which are made
in it upon the first three epistles. I persuade
myself that he will find the proofs, both of agree-
ment and undesignedness, supplied by these epis-
tles, sufficient to support the conclusion which is
there maintained, in favour both of the genuine-
ness of the writings and the truth of the narra-

It remains only, in this place, to point out how
the argument bears upon the general question of
the Christian history.

First, Saint Paul in these letters affirms in
unequivocal terms, his own performance of mira-
cles, and, what ought particularly to be remem-
bered, " That miracles loere the signs qf an
apostle."* If this testimony come from Saint
Paul's own hand, it is invaluable. And that it
does so, the argument before us fixes in my mind
a firm assurance.

Secondly, it shows that the series of action re-
presented in the epistles of Saint Paul, was real ;
which alone lays a foundation for the proposition
which forms the subject of the first part of our
present work, riz. that the original witnesses of
the Christian history devoted themselves to lives
of toil, suffering, and danger, in consequence of
their belief of the truth of that history, and for the
sake of communicating the knovvletlge of it to

Thirdly, it proves that Luke, or whoever was
the author of the Acts of the Apostles (for the ar-
gument does not depend upon the name of tho
author, though I know no reason for questioning
it,) was well acquainted with Saint Paul's history;
and that he probably was, what he professes him-
self to be, a companion of Saint Paul's travels ;
which, if true, establishes, in a considerable de-
gree, the credit even of his Gospel, because it
shows, that the writer, frozn his time, situation,
and connexions, possessed opportunities of in-
forming himself truly concerning the transactions
which he relates. I have little difficulty in ap-
plying to the Gospel of Saint Luke what is
proved concerning the Acts of the Apostles, con-
sidering them as two parts of the same history ;
for, though there are instances of second parts
being forgeries, I know none where the second
part is genuine, and the first not so.

I will only observe, as a sequel of the argument,
though not noticed in my work, the remarkable
similitude between the style of Saint John's Gos-

* Rom. XV. 18, 19. 2 Cor. xii. 11



peJ, and of Saint John's Epistle. The style of
Saint John's is not at all the style of Saint Paul's
Epistles, though both are very singular ; nor is it
the style of Saint James's or of Saint Peter's
Epistle : but it bears a resemblance to the style of
the Gospel inscribed with Saint John's name, so
far as that resemblance can be expected to appear,
which is not in simple narrative, so much as in
reflections, and in the representation of discourses.
Writings, so circumstanced, prove themselves,
and one another, to be genuine. This corres-
pondency is the more valuable, as the epistle
itself asserts, in Saint John's manner indeed, but
in terms suliiciently explicit, the writer's personal
knowledge of Christ's history; " That which was
from the beginning, which we have heard, which
we have seen with our eyes, which we have look-
ed upon, and our hands have handled, of the word
of life; that which we have seen and heard, de-
clare we unto you."* Who would not desire —
who perceives not the value of an account, deliver-
ed by a writer so well informed as this ]


Of the History of the Resurrection.

The history of the resurrection of Christ is a
part of the evidence of Christianity : but I do not
know, whether the proper strength of this passage
of the Christian history, or wherein its peculiar
value, as a head of evidence, consists, be generally
understood. It is not that, as a miracle, the re-
surrection ought to be accounted a more decisive
proof of supernatural agency than other miracles
are ; it is not that, as it stands in the Gospels, it
is better attested than some others; it is not, for
either of these reasons, that more weight belongs
to it than to other miracles, but for the following,
viz. That it ia completely certain that the apostles
of Christ, and the first teachers of Christianity,
asserted the fact. And this would have been cer-
tain, if the four Gospels had been lost, or never
written. Every piece of Scripture recognises the
resurrection. Every epistle of every apostle, every
author contemporary with the apostles, of the age
immediately succeeding the apostles, every writing
from that age to the present, genuine or spurious,
on the side of Christianity or against it, concur in
representing the resurrection of Christ as an
article of his history, received without doubt or
disagreement by all who call themselves Chris-
tians, as alleged from the beginning by the pro-
pagators of the institution, and alleged as the
centre of their testimony. Nothing, I apprehend,
which a man does not himself see or hear, can he
more certain to him than this point. I do not
mean, that nothing can be more certain than
thit Christ rose from the dead ; but that nothing
can be more certain, than that, his apostles, and
the first teachers of Christianity, gave out that he
did so. In the other parts of the gospel narrative,
a question may he made, whether the things re-
lated of Christ be the very things which the apos-
tles and first teachers of the religion delivered con-
cerning himi And this question depends a good
deal upon the evidence we possess of the genuine-
ness, or rather, perhaps, of the antiquity, credit,
and reception, of the books. On the su'.iject of

* Chap. i. ver. 1—3.

the resurrection, no such discussion is necessary,
because no such doubt can be entertained. The
only points which can enter into our consideration
are, whether the apostles knowingly published a
fdsehood, or whether they were themselves de-
ceived; whether either of theac. suppositions be
possible. The first, I think, if pretty generally
given up. The nature of the undertaking, and of
the men ; the extreme unlikelihood that such men
should engage in such a measure as a scheme ;
their personal toils, and dangers, and sufferings,
in the cause ; their appropriation of their whole
time to the object ; the warm, and seemingly un-
affected, zeal and earnestness with which they
profess their sincerity ; exempt their memory from
the suspicion of imposture. The solution more
deserving of notice, is that which would resolve
the conduct of the apostles into enthvsiasm ;
which would class the evidence of Christ's resur-
rection with the numerous stories that are extant
of the apparitions of dead men. There are cir-
cumstances in the narrative, as it is preserved in
our histories, which destroy this comparison en-
tirely. It was not one person, but many, who

Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : containing his life, moral and political philosophy, evidences of christianity, natural theology, tracts, Horae Paulinae, clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions, complete in one volume → online text (page 93 of 161)