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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: 326

15. Tacitus is also made to say that the Christians had their denomination from Christ, which would apply to any other of the so-called Christs who were put to death in Judea, as well as to Christ Jesus. And

16. "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts xi. 26), not because they were followers of a certain Jesus who claimed to be the Christ, but because "Christian" or "Chrēstian," was a name applied, at that time, to any good man.[567:3] And,

[Pg 568]

17. The worshipers of the Sun-god, Serapis, were also called "Christians," and his disciples "Bishops of Christ."[568:1]

So much, then, for the celebrated passage in Tacitus.


Note.—Tacitus says—according to the passage attributed to him—that "those who confessed [to be Christians] were first seized, and then on their evidence a huge multitude (Ingens Multitudo) were convicted, not so much on the charge of incendiarism as for their hatred to mankind." Although M. Renan may say (Hibbert Lectures, p. 70) that the authenticity of this passage "cannot be disputed," yet the absurdity of "a huge multitude" of Christians being in Rome, in the days of Nero, A. D. 64—about thirty years' after the time assigned for the crucifixion of Jesus—has not escaped the eye of thoughtful scholars. Gibbon—who saw how ridiculous the statement is—attempts to reconcile it with common sense by supposing that Tacitus knew so little about the Christians that he confounded them with the Jews, and that the hatred universally felt for the latter fell upon the former. In this way he believes Tacitus gets his "huge multitude," as the Jews established themselves in Rome as early as 60 years B. C., where they multiplied rapidly, living together in the Trastevere—the most abject portion of the city, where all kinds of rubbish was put to rot—where they became "old clothes" men, the porters and hucksters, bartering tapers for broken glass, hated by the mass and pitied by the few. Other scholars, among whom may be mentioned Schwegler (Nachap Zeit., ii. 229); Köstlin (Johann-Lehrbegr., 472); and Baur (First Three Centuries, i. 133); also being struck with the absurdity of the statement made by some of the early Christian writers concerning the wholesale prosecution of Christians, said to have happened at that time, suppose it must have taken place during the persecution of Trajan, A. D. 101. It is strange we hear of no Jewish martyrdoms or Jewish persecutions till we come to the times of the Jewish war, and then chiefly in Palestine! But fables must be made realities, so we have the ridiculous story of a "huge multitude" of Christians being put to death in Rome, in A. D. 64, evidently for the purpose of bringing Peter there, making him the first Pope, and having him crucified head downwards. This absurd story is made more evident when we find that it was not until about A. D. 50—only 14 years before the alleged persecution—that the first Christians—a mere handful—entered the capitol of the Empire. (See Renan's Hibbert Lectures, p. 55.) They were a poor dirty set, without manners, clad in filthy gaberdines, and smelling strong of garlic. From these, then, with others who came from Syria, we get our "huge multitude" in the space of 14 years. The statement attributed to Tacitus is, however, outdone by Orosius, who asserts that the persecution extended "through all the provinces." (Orosius, ii. 11.) That it was a very easy matter for some Christian writer to interpolate or alter a passage in the Annals of Tacitus may be seen from the fact that the MS. was not known to the world before the 15th century, and from information which is to be derived from reading Daillé On the Right Use of the Fathers, who shows that they were accustomed to doing such business, and that these writings are, to a large extent, unreliable.


FOOTNOTES:

[564:1] The Rev. Dr. Giles says: "Great is our disappointment at finding nothing in the works of Philo about the Christians, their doctrines, or their sacred books. About the books indeed we need not expect any notice of these works, but about the Christians and their doctrines his silence is more remarkable, seeing that he was about sixty years old at the time of the crucifixion, and living mostly in Alexandria, so closely connected with Judea, and the Jews, could hardly have failed to know something of the wonderful events that had taken place in the city of Jerusalem." (Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. ii. p. 61.)

The Rev. Dr. assumes that these "wonderful events" really took place, but, if they did not take place, of course Philo's silence on the subject is accounted for.

[564:2] Both these philosophers were living, and must have experienced the immediate effects, or received the earliest information of the existence of Christ Jesus, had such a person as the Gospels make him out to be ever existed. Their ignorance or their willful silence on the subject, is not less than improbable.

[564:3] Antiquities, bk. xviii. ch. iii. 3.

[564:4] Ibid. bk. xx. ch. ix. 1.

[564:5] John, Bishop of Constantinople, who died....

[565:1] Lardner: vol. vi. ch. iii.

[565:2] Bible for Learners, vol. iii. p. 27.

[565:3] Life of Christ, vol. I. p. 63.

[565:4] Hebrew and Christ. Rec. vol. ii. p. 62.

[565:5] In his Eccl. Hist. lib. 2. ch. xii.

[565:6] Ch. 31, bk. xii. of Eusebius Præ paratio Evangelica is entitled: "How far it may be proper to use falsehood as a medium for the benefit of those who require to be deceived;" and he closes his work with these words: "I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace of our religion."

[566:1] The original MSS. containing the "Annals of Tacitus" were "discovered" in the fifteenth century. Their existence cannot be traced back further than that time. And as it was an age of imposture, some persons are disposed to believe that not only portions of the Annals, but the whole work, was forged at that time. Mr. J. W. Ross, in an elaborate work published in London some years ago, contended that the Annals were forged by Poggio Bracciolini, their professed discoverer. At the time of Bracciolini the temptation was great to palm off literary forgeries, especially of the chief writers of antiquity, on account of the Popes, in their efforts to revive learning, giving money rewards and indulgences to those who should procure MS. copies of any of the ancient Greek or Roman authors. Manuscripts turned up as if by magic, in every direction; from libraries of monasteries, obscure as well as famous; the most out-of-the-way places,—the bottom of exhausted wells, besmeared by snails, as the History of Velleius Paterculus, or from garrets, where they had been contending with cobwebs and dust, as the poems of Catullus.

[567:1] A portion of the passage—that relating to the manner in which the Christians were put to death—is found in the Historia Sacra of Sulpicius Severus, a Christian Father, who died A. D. 420; but it is evident that this writer did not take it from the Annals. On the contrary, the passage was taken—as Mr. Ross shows—from the Historia Sacra, and bears traces of having been so appropriated. (See Tacitus & Bracciolini, the Annals forged in the XVth century, by J. W. Ross.)

[567:2] "Christ is a name having no spiritual signification, and importing nothing more than an ordinary surname." (Dr. Giles: Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. ii. p. 64.)

"The name of Jesus and Christ was both known and honored among the ancients." (Eusebius: Eccl. Hist., lib. 1, ch. iv.)

"The name Jesus is of Hebrew origin, and signifies Deliverer, and Savior. It is the same as that translated in the Old Testament Joshua. The word Christ, of Greek origin, is properly not a name but a title, signifying The Anointed. The whole name is therefore, Jesus the Anointed or Jesus the Messiah." (Abbott and Conant; Dic. of Relig. Knowledge, art. "Jesus Christ.")

In the oldest Gospel extant, that attributed to Matthew, we read that Jesus said unto his disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" whereupon Simon Peter answers and says: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. . . . Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus THE Christ." (Matt. xvi. 15-20.)

This clearly shows that "the Christ" was simply a title applied to the man Jesus, therefore, if a title, it cannot be a name. All passages in the New Testament which speak of Christ as a name, betray their modern date.

[567:3] "This name (Christian) occurs but three times in the New Testament, and is never used by Christians of themselves, only as spoken by or coming from those without the Church. The general names by which the early Christians called themselves were 'brethren,' 'disciples,' 'believers,' and 'saints.' The presumption is that the name Christian was originated by the


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