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is perfectly absurd to suppose, that the Jews, in the days of Zerobabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, were looking out for any great prince to lead them out of a captivity from which they had just returned, or from a captivity which they had been assured, or flattered themselves would never commence; and, if possible, still more absurd to suppose, that they were looking out for a prince who was to come and die before their final dispersion, and then come again, thousands of years after this dispersion, and lead them back to Jerusalem.
For some time anterior to the birth of Christ, the Jews were expecting this great Messiah. They must, therefore, have been in thraldom. If so, what becomes of the Shiloh prophecy? The sceptre was not to depart from Judah till he snould cɔme. The christians not knowing what else to do with it, reverse it so as to make it read, “Shiloh shall not come till the sceptre depart from Judah.”
Had the Jews not been 'subjugated and brought under the Roman yoke, that is, had the sceptre not departed from Judah, they never would have dreamed that these prophecies had reference to any other Messiahs than those who led them out of Babylon. The christians laugh at them, because they are still expecting a Messiah. Why should they laugh? Are they not expecting him also? What is to be the object of his coming ? Both answer, “To gather the Jews from all nations, and reign over thein as a temporal king, in the land of their fathers.”
The christians never could explain to me why they are compassing sea and land to convert the Jews to christianity, and thus to frustrate the prophecy touching their return to Palestine.
If the Jews pervert the prophecies by contending that a Messiah is yet to come for the first time, what shall we say of the christians who insist that he was here once, and will be here again, of which second appearance there is not even a hint in all their prophetical books.
I advise them both” to read the writings of their prophets, and put that construction upon them, and only that which their words taken in their common acceptation will warrant, and thus become convinced, as the Jews were at the restoration, that those who had led them out of their captivity, such as Zerobabel and others, were the Messiahs and the only Messiahs to whom they had reference.
The reader will perceive that this chapter is somewhat of a salmaCHAPTER VII.
We are now prepared to introduce Jesus Christ more formally upon the stage. The first question to be asked and answered is: Who are the witnesses of the remarkable facts respecting him? The christians answer: “ Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude.” This is as far as they can go. They can enumerate no more. On the supposition that the books and letters, composing the volume of the new testament, were written by the persons whose names they bear, there are but Matthew, John, and Peter. It is not pretended that Mark was one of the immediate followers of Jesus. Luke tells us, expressly, he wrote from hearsay. Paul never saw Jesus Christ, but in a vision. James and Jude, if they were the brothers in blood of Jesus, were not his followers while living, if you credit Matthew and John. But call them all witnesses. Our business is to examine their testimony. I must here repeat, that nothing is to be presumed in favor of any one of them. You must not presume that they were inspired, for that is presuming the whole question. If you presume inspiration, you are bound to admit that all they have written is true.
We will begin with the book called the Gospel, according to St. Matthew, one of the biographies of Christ, written that men might believe that Jesus was what the book says he said he was. It is matter of indifference with me whether St. Matthew, one of the twelve immediate attendants on Christ, shall be determined to have been the author of this book. Truth, however, compels me to state, that its genuineness is very questionable. There is not the least hint or intimation given, throughout the whole of it, from which we can draw a conjecture as to its authorship. It is certainly very strange, that a man who had seen those numerous miracles, said to have been wrought by Christ, and who had witnessed his resurrection and ascension, should have written an account of them, and never even hint to us who he was, or that he was an eye or ear witness of all he wrote. · John is the only one of the biographers that tells us he saw what he gave an account of. The author of this first book does not let us know when he wrote. We are told, but no ancient authority is given for the assertion, that this book was written in the year 64.
We have modern authority, in abundance, on this subject--some bishops contending for the year 36, others for 38, and others for 61. As to Mark, some contend for 63, some 64, others for 65, and others for no time;. that is, the subject is involved in so much doubt and difficulty, that they · can fix upon no date. As to John, some contend for 67 and 8, and some for 97. Strange that the date of inspired writings should be lost.
Doctor Paley, in an elaborate work, entitled, “ Evidences of Christianity,” has brought forward (it is to be presumed) all the proof that exists in support of the genuineness of these books. It all amounts to this:
First. Clement of Alexandria, in Africa, in the year 194, wrote a book, in which he quotes a letter ascribed to Barnabas, which letter contains this passage: “Let us beware, lest it come upon us as it is written: There are many called, few chosen.” Barnabas, to whom this letter is ascribed, is alleged to have been the companion of Paul. It is to be remarked, that this letter has no date, nor any thing upon its face, shewing that Barnabas was the author. “ It purports,” says Dr. Paley, “ to have been writien soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, during the calamities which followed that disaster; and it bears the character of the age to which it professes to belong."
The expression, « There are many called, few chosen,” which this let, ter quotes from some book or writing then existing, is twice found in. Matthew's gospel; therefore, argues Dr. Paley, the author, Barnabas, must have had reference to this gospel, and therefore this gospel was written before the letter. In order to arrive at his conclusion, the Doctor supposes, first, that Barnabas wrote the letter--the only proof of which is, that it was ascribed to him by Clement and other fathers; and, secondly, that it was written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, because it purports to have been. Granting the Doctor all his premises: is he justified in his conclusion? This quotation from a certain writing, (“there are many called, few chosen,”') is of six words only. It was, no doubt, a favorite expression, being pithy and antithetical. We have hundreds such in as many books at the present day. The expression, as it is written, is equivalent to . ours, as the saying is. If I should, to-day, in a letter to a friend, write thus: “We are, as the saying is, going the whole hog for Harrison, is : Kentucky,” could any writer, hereafter, with the least propriety, argue that I had reference to a particular book that might fall into hịs hands, containing this favorite expression of the West?
I have, though contrary to my settled convictions, agreed to admit the genuineness of the gospels of the New Testament. We are now enquiring as to their date. This letter of Barnabas, it is admitted by the Doctor, wąs written after the destruction of Jerusalem. The writing to which it refers may also have been written after. It does not follow, because Barnabas wrote at some time, no one knows how long after, that the book, or writing to which he refers, was written before the destruction of Jerusalem,
Secondly. The Doctor avers, that one «Papias, a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, as Irenus attests, and of that age, as all agree, in a passage quoted by Eusebius, from a work now lost, expressly ascribes the respective gospėls to Matthew and Mark, and in a manner which proves that these gospels must have publicly borne the names of these authors at that time, and probably long before.” This Papias, in this lost letter, undertook to state from what source Mark collected materials for his book, viz: Peter's preaching, and that Matthew wrote in Hebrew. All, which the Doctor doubts.
The reader will keep in mind that the question before us is, “ At what time were the books written?” and not who were their authors.
We must, however, necessarily blend them a little. What, then, is this argument of the Doctor's? Papias was a hearer of John. Who says so? Irenus attests it. When did this father write? In the year 178. How, then, could he attest? He says nothing about this lost work ascribed to Papias. Who dues? Eusebius. Who is Eusebius, and when did he write? He is the father who gives a most ridiculous correspondence between Christ and Abgarus, king of Edessa, which the Doctor argrees is either a forgery on the part of Eusebius, or an interpolation upon him. He wrote in 315. Admitting that Papias did write a book, there is no proof, or even an insinuation, that he wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem; consequently, there is no proof ariping, from his ascribing certain works to Matthew and Mark, that these works were written before this event.
Thirdly. One Hermas, the same Hermas (so the Doctor contends) mentioned by St. Paul, it is said, wrote a book, entitled, “ The Shepherd of Hermas." Irenus quotes from it in 178. Its antiquity, says the Doctor, is therefore incontestable. We are also told, that, in this work of Hermas, there are tacit allusions to St. Matthew's, St. Luke's, and St. John's gospels. Grant all this, and more grant that he makes direct allusions to them—the question when he wrote is not touched. (It has been mentioned before, that the siege of Jerusalem was about the year 70.)
Fourthly. Ignatius and Polycarp are said to have written epistles, in which are allusions to the books of the New Testament; but no one presumes to allege that they wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem. If there be any proof whatever extraneous of the New Testament, that any part of it was written before the memorable siege, I have never met with it. That most of the books were written but one or two years before, and one some twenty years after, is admitted by the most learned divines.
Alexander Campbell, who may properly be styled the champion of the erose of modern times, acknowledges that “much difficulty is found in mattling, with chronological accuracy, the dates of the several books, of the
new institution." " Matthew, for example,” says Mr. Campbell, “is said to have written his testimony in Hebrew, in the year 38, and it is said to have been translated into Greek in the year 61. Now, some contend for the Greek as the original, and some for the Hebrew,” &c.
Who said that Matthew wrote in this or that language? Let us have their names. We want to know on what authority they ground their age sertions. Who are these some that are contending, and on what documents do they rely? They can have none that are satisfactory, or there would be no doubt, no difficulty, no perplexity on this important point. Just think of it for a moment. You have many books, said to have been written at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and not one soul of you can determine, with certainty, when any one of them was written, or in what language. It is admitted that the original christians kept their books a secret to all but the initiated, just as the Thompsonians do their patent books at this day. Hence has arisen the great difficulty in fixing, with accuracy, their respective dates; and the more than rational conjecture, that no such books, as we have at present, existed in the first days of christianity. But you all contend that the three first Evangelists wrote before the siege of Jerusalem. Now, why? Because they make Christ predict its destruction. How fond you all are of miracles! You will bclieve that these books, the dates of which are involved in such great perplexity and doubt, were written before a particular event, in order that you may not be deprived of the pleasure of believing in a miracle. A miracle you will have. Did it never strike you, as passing strange, that these followers of Christ should have put off writing his history for thirty odd years after his ascension? Matthew is the only one who is alleged, by any divine, to have written before the year 63. Christ was crucified, you all say, in his 33d year. Had the christians no books during these thirty years? No doubt they had, but they were all rejected, and declared apoc: ryphal by later christians, in council, and other books substituted..
There is one expression in Matthew's gospel, which proves, conclusively, that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem. I allude to the 35th verse of his 23d chapter. It is in these words: “ 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,i whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”
Jesephus informs us, that a man, named Zacharias, the son of Barachias, was thus slain, during the siege of Jerusalem, by the Romans. His account is as follows:
“And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely kill. ing, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals for that