« 前へ次へ »
Porphyry, Celsus, and various other writers inimical to Christianity; and, as to the actions and conduct of himself and his followers, it has never been denied, either by the Jews, or by the ancient pagan philosophers, who had the best opportunity of detecting imposition, that a true account has been given of them by those authors whom Christians deem sacred and inspired.
In truth, the whole narrative approves itself to be authentic by its exact falling in with general history. Christianity now exists: it must therefore have had a commencement. But we are quite sure, from the numerous writings of that period which have come down to us, that, al: though Christ himself was born in the Augustan age, his religion was not then in existence: hence it must have been brought into existence subsequent to the Augustan age. Now Tacitus expressly bears witness, both that it
in the reign of Tiberius; that its author was crucified by the procurator Pontius Pilate; that, proceeding from Judèa, it had spread, even before his days, as far as Rome; and that its proselytės were subjected to a bloody persecution during the reign of Nero*. Accordingly, from Tacitus
Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et quæsitissimis poenis adfecit, quos, per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat, Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat, Repressaque in præsens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judæam originem hujus mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. Igitur primo correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens, haud perinde in crimina incendii, quam odio generis humani, convicti sunt. Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti, laniatu canum interirent, aut crucibus affixi, aut flammati, atque ubi defecisset dies in usum nocturni luminis urerentur. Annal. lib. xv. g. 44.
downward, Christ and Christianity and Christians are perpetually mentioned by writers both pagan and ecclesiastical. Henceforth, the history of the Church becomes a portion of the history of Rome: nor can the one proceed a step without the other.
It has been observed with truth as well as propriety, says a'writer, who will not be suspected of much affection for Christianity, though his acquaintance with the laws of evidence forbad his contradicting the general veracity of the evangelical narrative, that the conquests of Rome prepared and facilitated those of Christianity. The authentic histories of the actions of Christ were composed in the Greek language, after the Gentile converts were grown extremely numerous. As soon as those histories were translated into the Latin tongue, they were perfectly intelligible to all the subjects of Rome, excepting only to the peasants of Syria and Egypt, for whose benefit particular versions were afterwards made. The public high-ways, which had been constructed for the use of the legions, opened an easy passage for the Christian missionaries from Damascus to Corinth, and from Italy to the extremity of Spain or Britain.
There is the strongest reason to believe, that, before the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine, the faith of Christ had been preached in every province and in all the great cities of the empire. The rich provinces, that extend from the Euphrates to the Ionian sea, were the principal theatre, on which the apostle of the Gentiles displayed his zeal and piety. The seeds of the Gospel, which he had scattered in a fertile soil, were diligently cultivated by his disciples : and it should seem, that, during the two first centuries, the most considerable body of Christians was contained within those limits. Among the societies which were instituted in Syria, none were more ancient or more illustrious than those of Damascus, of Berea or Aleppo, and of Antioch. The prophetic introduction of the Apocalypse has described and immortalised the seven churches of Asia; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardes, Laodicea, and Philadelphia : and their colonies were soon diffused over that populous country. In a very early period, the islands of Cyprus and Crete, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia, gave a favourable reception to the new religion : and Christian republics were soon founded in the cities of Corinth, of Sparta, and of Athens. To these domestic testimonies we may add the confession, the complaints, and the apprehensions, of the Gentiles themselves. From the writings of Lucian, a philosopher who had studied mankind and who describes their manners in the most lively colours, we may learn, that, under the reign of Commodus, his native country of Pontus was filled with Epicurèans and Christians.
Within fourscore years after the death of Christ, the humane Pliny laments the magnitude of the evil which he vainly attempted to eradicate. In his very curious epistle to the Emperor Trajan, he affirms, that the temples were almost deserted, that the sacred victims scarcely found any purchasers, and that the superstition had not only infected the cities but had even spread itself into the villages and the open country of Pontus and Bithynia *.
3. From such innumerable testimonies it might have been thought, that the proper existence of Christ upon earth would at least have been universally allowed. But, while Mr. Gibbon, judg. ing by the common and well-known laws of moral evidence, entertains no doubt of the fact; Mr. Volney chooses rather to follow the extraordinary speculations of Mr. Burigni. This person he whimsically styles a sagacious writer: doubtless because his rare sagacity has been shewn by what his admirer calls an absolute demonstration, that even the personal existence of Christ in this our nether world rests not upon a more solid basis than that of Hercules or Osiris or Buddha. By any sober judge of historical evidence, the testimony of such a writer as Tacitus to the fact of Christ's existence upon earth and his crucifixion by the Roman govenor Pontius Pilate, even if we omit the cloud of other concurring parallel testimonies, would not be placed upon a light footing: but Mr. Volney, quite satisfied with the demonstration of Burigni, lays it down as a clear case, that no such person as our Lord ever flourished in this world ; and, on that position, frames a theory, which, on pain of being ridiculed as a generation of credulous dupes, we are forthwith required to adopt. · What then is the theory in question ? Truly, if it can be set forth without a smile, it is no other than the following.
* Gibbon's Hist. of the Decline and Fall, chap. xv. vol, ii. p. 357–360,
Mr. Volney gravely assures us, on the word of à philosopher emancipated from all vulgar prejudices in favour of historical testimony, that the divine personage, whom Christians, during the space of 'well nigh eighteen centuries, have ignorantly revered as their crucified Redeemer, is neither more nor less than the sun in the firmament; that the virgin Mary is one of the zodiacal signs, the constellation Virgo to wit; and that Christ's crucifixion by Pontius Pilate and his resurrection from the dead on the third day are nothing more than the sun's declension to the winter solstice and his subsequent return to the summer solstice through the vivifying season of spring *.
* The theory of Mr. Volney is discussed at large in Faber's Origin of Pagan Idol. book vi. chap. 6. $. dr. 1. vol. iii. 648-654. Mr. Volney, to rid himself, of the troubles me evidence of Tacitus, who flourished only about seventy years