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
Page: 266[458:1] We look in vain for an express recognition of the four canonical Gospels, or for a distinct mention of any one of them, in the writings of St. Clement (A. D. 96), St. Ignatius (A. D. 107), St. Justin (A. D. 140), or St. Polycarp (A. D. 108). All we can find is incidents from the life of Jesus, sayings, etc.
That Irenæus is the author of it is very evident. This learned and pious forger says:
"John, the disciple of the Lord, wrote his Gospel to confute the doctrine lately taught by Cerinthus, and a great while before by those called Nicolaitans, a branch of the Gnostics; and to show that there is one God who made all things by his WORD: and not, as they say, that there is one the Creator, and another the Father of our Lord: and one the Son of the Creator, and another, even the Christ, who descended from above upon the Son of the Creator, and continued impassible, and at length returned to his pleroma or fulness."[458:2]
The idea of God having inspired four different men to write a history of the same transactions,—or rather, of many [Pg 459]different men having undertaken to write such a history, of whom God inspired four only to write correctly, leaving the others to their own unaided resources, and giving us no test by which to distinguish the inspired from the uninspired—certainly appears self-confuting, and anything but natural.
The reasons assigned by Irenæus for being four Gospels are as follows:
"It is impossible that there could be more or less than four. For there are four climates, and four cardinal winds; but the Gospel is the pillar and foundation of the church, and its breath of life. The church therefore was to have four pillars, blowing immortality from every quarter, and giving life to man."[459:1]
It was by this Irenæus, with the assistance of Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, one of the Latin Fathers, that the four Gospels were introduced into general use among the Christians.
In these four spurious Gospels, and in some which are considered Apocryphal—because the bishops at the Council of Laodicea (A. D. 365) rejected them—we have the only history of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, if all accounts or narratives of Christ Jesus and his Apostles were forgeries, as it is admitted that all the Apocryphal ones were, what can the superior character of the received Gospels prove for them, but that they are merely superiorly executed forgeries? The existence of Jesus is implied in the New Testament outside of the Gospels, but hardly an incident of his life is mentioned, hardly a sentence that he spoke has been preserved. Paul, writing from twenty to thirty years after his death, has but a single reference to anything he ever said or did.
Beside these four Gospels there were, as we said above, many others, for, in the words of Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian:
"Not long after Christ's ascension into heaven, several histories of his life and doctrines, full of pious frauds and fabulous wonders, were composed by persons whose intentions, perhaps, were not bad, but whose writings discovered the greatest superstition and ignorance. Nor was this all; productions appeared, which were imposed upon the world by fraudulent men, as the writings of the holy apostles."[459:2]
Dr. Conyers Middleton, speaking on this subject, says:
"There never was any period of time in all ecclesiastical history, in which so many rank heresies were publicly professed, nor in which so many spurious books were forged and published by the Christians, under the names of Christ, and the Apostles, and the Apostolic writers, as in those primitive ages. Several of these forged books are frequently cited and applied to the defense of Christianity, by the most eminent fathers of the same ages, as true and genuine pieces."[459:3]
Archbishop Wake also admits that:
"It would be useless to insist on all the spurious pieces which were attributed to St. Paul alone, in the primitive ages of Christianity."[460:1]
Some of the "spurious pieces which were attributed to St. Paul," may be found in our canonical New Testament, and are believed by many to be the word of God.[460:2]
The learned Bishop Faustus, in speaking of the authenticity of the New Testament, says:
"It is certain that the New Testament was not written by Christ himself, nor by his apostles, but a long while after them, by some unknown persons, who, lest they should not be credited when they wrote of affairs they were little acquainted with, affixed to their works the names of the apostles, or of such as were supposed to have been their companions, asserting that what they had written themselves, was written according to these persons to whom they ascribed it."[460:3]
Again he says:
"Many things have been inserted by our ancestors in the speeches of our Lord, which, though put forth under his name, agree not with his faith; especially since—as already it has been often proved—these things were not written by Christ, nor his apostles, but a long while after their assumption, by I know not what sort of half Jews, not even agreeing with themselves, who made up their tale out of reports and opinions merely, and yet, fathering the whole upon the names of the apostles of the Lord, or on those who were supposed to follow the apostles, they mendaciously pretended that they had written their lies and conceits according to them."[460:4]
What had been said to have been done in India, was said by these "half-Jews" to have been done in Palestine; the change of names and places, with the mixing up of various sketches of the Egyptian, Persian, Phenician, Greek and Roman mythology, was all that was necessary. They had an abundance of material, and with it they built. The foundation upon which they built was undoubtedly the "Scriptures," or Diegesis, of the Essenes in Alexandria in Egypt, which fact led Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian—"without whom," says Tillemont, "we should scarce have had any knowledge of the history of the first ages of Christianity, or of the authors who wrote in that time"—to say that the sacred writings used by this sect were none other than "Our Gospels."
We offer below a few of the many proofs showing the Gospels to have been written a long time after the events narrated are said to have occurred, and by persons unacquainted with the country of which they wrote.
"He (Jesus) came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis," is an assertion made by the Mark narrator (vii. 31), when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as known before the reign of the emperor Nero.
Again, "He (Jesus) departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea, beyond Jordan," is an assertion made by the Matthew narrator (xix. 1), when the Jordan itself was the eastern boundary of Judea, and there were no coasts of Judea beyond it.
Again, "But when he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither, notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee, and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene," is another assertion made by the Matthew narrator (ii. 22, 23), when—1. It was a son of Herod who reigned in Galilee as well as Judea, so that he could not be more secure in one province than in the other; and when—2. It was impossible for him to have gone from Egypt to Nazareth, without traveling through the whole extent of Archelaus's kingdom, or making a peregrination through the deserts on the north and east of the Lake Asphaltites, and the country of Moab; and then, either crossing the Jordan into Samaria or the Lake of Gennesareth into Galilee, and from thence going to the city of Nazareth, which is no better geography, than if one should describe a person as turning aside from Cheapside into the parts of Yorkshire; and when—3. There were no prophets whatever who had prophesied that Jesus "should be called a Nazarene."
The Matthew narrator (iv. 13) states that "He departed into Galilee, and leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt in Capernaum," as if he imagined that the city of Nazareth was not as properly in Galilee as Capernaum was; which is much such geographical accuracy, as if one should relate the travels of a hero, who departed into Middlesex, and leaving London, came and dwelt in Lombard street.[461:1]
There are many other falsehoods in gospel geography beside these, which, it is needless to mention, plainly show that the writers were not the persons they are generally supposed to be.