Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning

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The same charge was constantly urged against them by Julian, Porphyry and others. Similar sentiments were entertained by Polybius, the Pagan philosopher, who considered all miracles as fables, invented to preserve in the unlearned a due sense of respect for the deity.[273:5]

[Pg 274]

Edward Gibbon, speaking of the miracles of the Christians, writes in his familiar style as follows:

"How shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world, to those evidences which were represented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled, and the laws of nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world."[274:1]

The learned Dr. Middleton, whom we have quoted on a preceding page, after a searching inquiry into the miraculous powers of the Christians, says:

"From these short hints and characters of the primitive wonder-workers, as given both by friends and enemies, we may fairly conclude, that the celebrated gifts of these ages were generally engrossed and exercised by the primitive Christians, chiefly of the laity, who used to travel about from city to city, to assist the ordinary pastors of the church, and preachers of the Gospel, in the conversion of Pagans, by the extraordinary gifts with which they were supposed to be indued by the spirit of God, and the miraculous works which they pretended to perform. . . .

"We have just reason to suspect that there was some original fraud in the case; and that the strolling wonder-workers, by a dexterity of jugglery which art, not heaven, had taught them, imposed upon the credulity of the pious Fathers, whose strong prejudices and ardent zeal for the interest of Christianity would dispose them to embrace, without examination, whatever seemed to promote so good a cause. That this was really the case in some instances, is certain and notorious, and that it was so in all, will appear still more probable, when we have considered the particular characters of the several Fathers, on whose testimony the credit of these wonderful narratives depends."[274:2]

Again he says:

"The pretended miracles of the primitive church were all mere fictions, which the pious and zealous Fathers, partly from a weak credulity, and partly from reasons of policy, believing some perhaps to be true, and knowing all of them to be useful, were induced to espouse and propagate, for the support of a righteous cause."[274:3]

Origen, a Christian Father of the third century, uses the following words in his answer to Celsus:

"A vast number of persons who have left those horrid debaucheries in which they formerly wallowed, and have professed to embrace the Christian religion, [Pg 275]shall receive a bright and massive crown when this frail and short life is ended, though they don't stand to examine the grounds on which their faith is built, nor defer their conversion till they have a fair opportunity and capacity to apply themselves to rational and learned studies. And since our adversaries are continually making such a stir about our