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CHAP. XXI. Miscellaneous Reflections on both of them. 157 cond Chapter of Matthew, forgets what he had before said, and agrees with St. Matthew, that our Saviour was born at Bethlebem. See ch. xxi.

ARG. VIII. It is Apocryphal, because it is not contained in the Syriack Version, by Prop. XV.

CHAP. XXI.

Several miscellaneous Reflections on the Gospel.of Mary, and the

Protevangelion of James. Poftellus's Account of the Protevangelion. His Arguments for its Authority particularly

refuted. HITHER TITHERTO I have been endeavouring to entertain the

reader with my own observations and remarks on these two famous Apocryphal Gospels. It remains only now, that I give some account of the remarks of others concerning them, with some fuitable reflections. Mr. Fabritius has indeed with much labour done this in a great measure already, and at length set down what the learned have wrote concerne ing them ; to whom therefore I would refer the curious reader, judging it sufficient (after what I have above faid) to give here the following accounts.

1. There are several manuscript copies of this Gospel now extant in Europe. Father Simon a tells us, that he saw two Greek manuscript copies of it in the French King's library s the one entitled, Το μακαρία Ιακώβε τα αδελφοθέου λόγος ιστορικός εις το γενέσιον της υπεραγίας Θεοτόκε, An Hiftorical Account of the Nativity of the most Holy Mother of our Lord, by James the blessed Brother of our Lord; the other very little different, Të pazapis Ιακώβε το 'Αποςόλε, και αδελφά το Κυρία, περί της γεννήσεως της αγίας Storíne, A Discourse of James the Blefjed, an Apostle and Bro

a Nouvelles Observ, sur la Texte & les Versions du Nouv. Teft.c.).

apud Fabrit. Cod. Apocr. t. i. P. 58.

ther

ther of our Lord, concerning the Nativity of the holy Mother of our Lord. Daniel de Neffel, in his Abridgment and Supplement to Lambecius's Commentary on the library of the Emperor at Vienna, among other of the Greek MSS. which are in his catalogue, tells us, there are five MSS. of the Protevangelion of James in that library *.

II. The first person who made this Gospel (viz. the Protevangelion) known in Europe, was Poftellus, who entertained a very high opinion of it. He brought it from the Levant, translated it into Latin, sent it to Oporinus, a printer at Basil; where Bibliander meeting with it, caused it to be printed, A. D. 1552. The substance of what Bibliander, after Poftellus, faith, concerning it, I shall here give the reader, as I find it collected by Father Simon , and afterwards by Fabritius ; viz.“ That it was publickly read in the Eastern Churches,

among whom it was reckoned authentick, they never mak« ing any doubt but that James was the author of it: that it « is to be looked upon as a jewel among the books of divi« nity, as the basis and foundation of all the Gospel history, « and the beginning of the present Gospel of Mark :-that " the Gospels now received can never be sufficiently regarded « by the Jews without this : for which he offers among others “ this reason, that the rulers of the Jews made use of the water « of trial mentioned (Numbers v.) to prove the innocency of the « Virgin. (See ch. xvi.) He observes from the Jewish writ« ings, that it was made a law among the Jews, that what. ever woman of the tribe of Judah, and especially of the fa-, « mily of David, was found with child, the matter was to be «s referred to the confideration of the Priests, and thence con« cludes, they could not be unacquainted with the delivery of “ Mary, she being given to Joseph by them, but must have « an incontestable proof of the miraculous birth of Christ. « The Evangelist Luke, in the Preface to his Gospel, wit“ nesses, that many have taken in hand to set forth a declara« tion of those things which are most surely believed among « Christians, even as they delivered them, who from the begin.

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ning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word. This “ does not seem so well to agree to Matthew and John, as to

James the brother of our Lord, the author of the history " which I now publish, concerning the Nativity of Christ; " of which Luke gives a more compendious account, but does “ not at all differ from this Protevangelion. St. Austin refers " to it in the first chapter of the first book, De Consens. " Evang. Besides, that this tradition (viz. concerning the “ birth of Christ) is very old, and has been received in the

Church, and owes its original to no other than James the “ brother of our Lord, I am persuaded from Epiphanius

against the Collyridians and Antidicomarians ", who men« tions the cave, and other miracles. But if any one think " this book ought not to be placed among the Ecclefiaftical “ writings, because Jerome, Eufebius, and others, who have

wrote concerning the life and writings of James, have « made no mention of it, nor reckoned it among the facred “ books, he may be answered by good reasons : for Epipha" nius, who was before Jerome and Eufebius, proves the an“tiquity of the history. Besides, some things have escaped “ the knowledge of the most diligent writers, and others have “ been long concealed in the Church, as the Book of the Law " in the time of Jofah, The Second Epistle of Peter, The Epistle

of Paul to the Hebrews, The Epistle of Jude, and the Re« velation, were unknown to many Christians for a long time, « and not till very late received into the Canon. But this "much recommends this writing of James, that it is never “ reckoned among the Apocryphal and spurious writings, as " the Gospel of Nicodemus, Thomas, Bartholomew, and “ others. Nor are we for that reason to reject this book as “ Apocryphal, because it contains some of those things which

are in the Book of Joachim, or the Nativity of Mary (which

Jeroine translated out of Hebrew into Latin), or the book « of the Infancy of our Saviour, of the Birth of our Saviour, of « Mary, or the Midwife of our Saviour, which Gelasius “ ranks among Apocryphal books. For we do not esteem

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" the four received Gospels of the less credit, because they

agree in many things with the Gospel of Nicodemus, Tho

mas, Bartholomew, the Nazarenes, or the Alcoran of Ma“ homet. But if any one be offended at the multitude of “ miracles therein, let him consider the incarnation of Christ

was a great work, which was to be supported by divine « works and evidences against the infidelity of Jews, Maho“ metans, Heathens, deceivers, and Hereticks. Besides, « these miracles have no tendency to draw men's minds from “ the knowledge and worship of God, but the contrary ; 66 which is the nature of a true miracle.

Nor is there any " thing in this writing of James, which is repugnant to the « sacred history; nor does there appear any motive which « would induce the oriental Christians to forge it, viz. neiso ther their temporal interest, reputation, power, &c. so that « if ever any thing was received by just tradition, this book

was formerly, and is still preserved in the Eastern Churches, “ and ought not to be despised by us in the Western. After « all, as I do not contend for its being advanced to the same “ height as the Canonical books of the Old and New Testa« ment, so I think it should not be rejected among the Apo

crypha. For if the little book of Ruth, which contains the « pedigree of David from Booz to Ruth, is placed in the Ca

non, though we know not the writer's name, it seems to

me very unjust, that this first Gospel of St. James concern. « ing the Nativity of Christ and the Virgin, which is reckoned « among the authentick (i. e. Canonical) books by the East“ ern Churches, should not at least be placed among the Ha

giographa, or Ecclesiastical books, fuch as the Epistle of « Clemens, and the Shepherd of Hermas formerly were « esteemed, and the book of Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of So< lomon, Ecclefiafticus, the History of the Maccabees, the third s and fourth Books of Ezra, are now esteemed by all the " Churches; which books, as to excellency of argument, " and that simplicity of stile which is usual in inspired writ« ings, are far exceeded by this book of James.” Such was the very high opinion which Poftellus, and after him Bibliander, have entertained of this Protevangelion. III. Nothing that Poftellus or Bibliander have said for the

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credit of this Gospel of fames is of any real force to support its authority. It would be superfluous to enter into a distinct critical examination of all his pretended arguments; I shall think it enough briefly to discuss that which seems most considerable of what he offers in the preceding abstract of his opinion.

1. He urges in the beginning, that it was publickly read in the Eastern Churches, and acknowledged as authentick and genuine ; and towards the end says, it was reckoned by them among the Canonical books. But to this it is easy to answer,

(1.) That the practice or opinion of the Oriental Churches, in the time of Poftellus, viz. in the sixteenth century, can be no good rule for us to determine by in this matter; nor can we be more obliged to receive this or any other book which the Oriental Christians of several preceding centuries received, because they did or do receive it, than we are to acknowledge the idle fables of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, because they are received by the Western Christians of the Church of Rome.

(2.) It is not unreasonable to question the truth of the fact, seeing it is only related by Poftellus, and seems in itself improbable. This, says Mr. Fabritius a, is asserted without any reason, and cannot be proved. I have not seen any persons, or observed any whole Churches, who reckon it among the Canonical Scriptures.-Nor shall I easily believe Poftellus herein, &c.

2. What he urges, that it is of use to convince the Jews, and agreeable to some Jewish stories, is of no account, because this is very consistent with its being a forgery.

3. That St. Luke (chap. i. 1.) respected it, and that what he says will better agree to it than Matthew and John, is indeed in one sense true, because I have above proved that St. Luke in those words respected only the false Gospels, which were then published, and therefore his argument will only prove

ch. 2.

• Cod. Apocr. N.'T. t. i. p. Vindic. of St. Matthew's Gospel, 33, 57 o Vol. I. Ch. II. p. 23. See my Vol. II. M

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