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: 297In his Epistle to the Philadelphians he says:[513:1]
"I have heard of some who say, unless I find it written in the originals, I will not believe it to be written in the Gospel. And when I said, It is written, they answered what lay before them in their corrupted copies."
Polycarp, in his Epistle to the Philippians, says:[513:2]
"Whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, he is Antichrist: and whosoever does not confess his sufferings upon the cross, is from the devil. And whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts; and says that there shall neither be any resurrection, nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan."
Ignatius says to the Magnesians:[513:3]
"Be not deceived with strange doctrines; nor with old fables which are unprofitable. For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish law, we do confess ourselves not to have received grace. For even the most holy prophets lived according to Jesus Christ. . . . Wherefore if they who were brought up in these ancient laws came nevertheless to the newness of hope; no longer observing Sabbaths, but keeping the Lord's Day, in which also our life is sprung up by him, and through his death, whom yet some deny. By which mystery we have been brought to believe, and therefore wait that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only master. . . . . These things, my beloved, I write unto you, not that I know of any among you that be under this error; but as one of the least among you, I am desirous to forewarn you that ye fall not into the snares of vain doctrine."
After reading this we can say with the writer of Timothy,[513:4] "Without controversy, great is the MYSTERY of godliness."
Beside those who denied that Christ Jesus had ever been manifest in the flesh, there were others who denied that he had been crucified.[513:5] This is seen from the words of Justin Martyr, in his Apology for the Christian Religion, written A. D. 141, where he says:
"As to the objection to our Jesus's being crucified, I say, suffering was common to all the Sons of Jove."[513:6]
This is as much as to say: "You Pagans claim that your incarnate gods and Saviours suffered and died, then why should not we claim the same for our Saviour?"
The Koran, referring to the Jews, says:
"They have not believed in Jesus, and have spoken against Mary a grievous calumny, and have said: 'Verily we have slain Christ Jesus, the son of Mary' (the apostle of God). Yet they slew him not, neither crucified him, but he was represented by one in his likeness. And verily they who disagreed concerning him were in a doubt as to this matter, and had no sure knowledge thereof, but followed only an uncertain opinion."[514:1]
This passage alone, from the Mohammedan Bible, is sufficient to show, if other evidence were wanting, that the early Christians "disagreed concerning him," and that "they had no sure knowledge thereof, but followed only an uncertain opinion."
In the books which are now called Apocryphal, but which were the most quoted, and of equal authority with the others, and which were voted not the word of God—for obvious reasons—and were therefore cast out of the canon, we find many allusions to the strife among the early Christians. For instance; in the "First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,"[514:2] we read as follows:
"Wherefore are there strifes, and anger, and divisions, and schisms, and wars, among us? . . . Why do we rend and tear in pieces the members of Christ, and raise seditions against our own body? and are come to such a height of madness, as to forget that we are members one of another."
In his Epistle to the Trallians, Ignatius says:[514:3]
"I exhort you, or rather not I, but the love of Jesus Christ, that ye use none but Christian nourishment; abstaining from pasture which is of another kind. I mean Heresy. For they that are heretics, confound together the doctrine of Jesus Christ with their own poison; whilst they seem worthy of belief. . . . Stop your ears, therefore, as often as any one shall speak contrary to Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David, of the Virgin Mary. Who was truly born, and did eat and drink; was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate; was truly crucified and dead; both those in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, being spectators of it. . . . But if, as some who are atheists, that is to say, infidels, pretend, that he only seemed to suffer, why then am I bound? Why do I desire to fight with beasts? Therefore do I die in vain."
We find St. Paul, the very first Apostle of the Gentiles, expressly avowing that he was made a minister of the gospel, which had already been preached to every creature under heaven,[514:4] and preaching a God manifest in the flesh, who had been believed on in the world,[514:5] therefore, before the commencement of his ministry; and who could not have been the man of Nazareth, who had certainly not been preached, at that time, nor generally believed on in the world, till ages after that time.[514:6] We find also that:
1. This Paul owns himself a deacon, the lowest ecclesiastical grade of the Therapeutan church.
2. The Gospel of which these Epistles speak, had been extensively preached and fully established before the time of Jesus, by the Therapeuts or Essenes, who believed in the doctrine of the Angel-Messiah, the Æon from heaven.[515:1]
Leo the Great, so-called (A. D. 440-461), writes thus:
"Let those who with impious murmurings find fault with the Divine dispensations, and who complain about the lateness of our Lord's nativity, cease from their grievances, as if what was carried out in later ages of the world, had not been impending in time past. . . .
"What the Apostles preached, the prophets (in Israel) had announced before, and what has always been (universally) believed, cannot be said to have been fulfilled too late. By this delay of his work of salvation, the wisdom and love of God have only made us more fitted for his call; so that, what had been announced before by many Signs and Words and Mysteries during so many centuries, should not be doubtful or uncertain in the days of the gospel. . . God has not provided for the interests of men by a new council or by a late compassion; but he had instituted from the beginning for all men, one and the same path of salvation."[515:2]
This is equivalent to saying that, "God, in his 'late compassion,' has sent his Son, Christ Jesus, to save us, therefore do not complain or 'murmur' about 'the lateness of his coming,' for the Lord has already provided for those who preceded us; he has given them 'the same path of salvation' by sending to them, as he has sent to us, a Redeemer and a Saviour."
Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Typho,[515:3] makes a similar confession (as we have already seen in our last chapter), wherein he says that there exists not a people, civilized or semi-civilized, who have not offered up prayers in the name of a crucified Saviour to the Father and Creator of all things.
Add to this medley the fact that St. Irenæus (A. D. 192), one of the most celebrated, most respected, and most quoted of the early Christian Fathers, tells us on the authority of his master, Polycarp, who had it from St. John himself, and from all the old people of Asia, that Jesus was not crucified at the time stated in the Gospels, but that he lived to be nearly fifty years old. The passage which, most fortunately, has escaped the destroyers of all such evidence, is to be found in Irenæus' second book against heresies,[515:4] of which the following is a portion:
"As the chief part of thirty years belongs to youth, and every one will confess him to be such till the fortieth year: but from the fortieth year to the fiftieth he declines into old age, which our Lord (Jesus) having attained he taught us the Gospel, and all the elders who, in Asia, assembled with John, the disciple of the Lord, testify; and as John himself had taught them. And he (John?) remained with them till the time of Trajan. And some of them saw not only John but other Apostles, and heard the same thing from them, and bear the same testimony to this revelation."
The escape of this passage from the destroyers can be accounted for only in the same way as the passage of Minucius Felix (quoted in Chapter XX.) concerning the Pagans worshiping a crucifix. These two passages escaped from among, probably, hundreds destroyed, of which we know nothing, under the decrees of the emperors, yet remaining, by which they were ordered to be destroyed.