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: 152

St. Chrysostom declares that "miracles are proper only to excite sluggish and vulgar minds, men of sense have no occasion for them;" and that "they frequently carry some untoward suspicion along with them;" and Saint Chrysostom, Jerome, Euthemius, and Theophylact, prove by several instances, that real miracles had been performed by those who were not Catholic, but heretic, Christians.[271:1]

Celsus (an Epicurean philosopher, towards the close of the second century), the first writer who entered the lists against the claims of the Christians, in speaking of the miracles which were claimed to have been performed by Jesus, says:

"His miracles, granted to be true, were nothing more than the common works of those enchanters, who, for a few oboli, will perform greater deeds in the midst of the Forum, calling up the souls of heroes, exhibiting sumptuous banquets, and tables covered with food, which have no reality. Such things do not prove these jugglers to be sons of God; nor do Christ's miracles."[271:2]

[Pg 272]

Celsus, in common with most of the Grecians, looked upon Christianity as a blind faith, that shunned the light of reason. In speaking of the Christians, he says:

"They are forever repeating: 'Do not examine. Only believe, and thy faith will make thee blessed. Wisdom is a bad thing in life; foolishness is to be preferred.'"[272:1]

He jeers at the fact that ignorant men were allowed to preach, and says that "weavers, tailors, fullers, and the most illiterate and rustic fellows," set up to teach strange paradoxes. "They openly declared that none but the ignorant (were) fit disciples for the God they worshiped," and that one of their rules was, "let no man that is learned come among us."[272:2]

The miracles claimed to have been performed by the Christians, he attributed to magic,[272:3] and considered—as we have seen above—their miracle performers to be on the same level with all Gentile magicians. He says that the "wonder-workers" among the Christians "rambled about to play tricks at fairs and markets," that they never appeared in the circles of the wiser and better sort, but always took care to intrude themselves among the ignorant and uncultured.[272:4]

"The magicians in Egypt (says he), cast out evil spirits, cure diseases by a breath, call up the spirits of the dead, make inanimate things move as if they were alive, and so influence some uncultured men, that they produce in them whatever sights and sounds they please. But because they do such things shall we consider them the sons of God? Or shall we call such things the tricks of pitiable and wicked men?"[272:5]

He believed that Jesus was like all these other wonder-workers, that is, simply a necromancer, and that he learned his magical arts in Egypt.[272:6] All philosophers, during the time of the Early Fathers, answered the claims that Jesus performed miracles, in the same manner. "They even ventured to call him a magician and a deceiver of the people," says Justin Martyr,[272:7] and St. Augustine asserted that it was generally believed that Jesus had been initiated in magical art in Egypt, and that he had written books concerning magic, one of which was called "Magia Jesu Christi."[272:8] In the Clementine Recognitions, the charge is brought against Jesus that he did not perform his miracles as a Jewish prophet, but as a magician, an initiate of the heathen temples.[272:9]

[Pg 273]

The casting out of devils was the most frequent and among the most striking and the oftenest appealed to of the miracles of Jesus; yet, in the conversation between himself and the Pharisees (Matt. xii. 24-27), he speaks of it as one that was constantly and habitually performed by their own exorcists; and, so far from insinuating any difference between the two cases, expressly puts them on a level.

One of the best proofs, and most unquestionable, that Jesus was accused of being a magician, or that some of the early Christians believed him to have been such, may be found in the representations of him performing miracles. On a sarcophagus to be found in the Museo Gregoriano, which is paneled with bas-reliefs, is to be seen a representation of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. He is represented as a young man, beardless, and equipped with a wand in the received guise of a necromancer, whilst the corpse of Lazarus is swathed in bandages exactly as an Egyptian mummy.[273:1] On other Christian monuments representing the miracles of Jesus, he is pictured in the same manner. For instance, when he is represented as turning the water into wine, and multiplying the bread in the wilderness, he is a necromancer with a wand in his hand.[273:2]

Horus, the Egyptian Saviour, is represented on the ancient monuments of Egypt, with a wand in his hand raising the dead to life, "just as we see Christ doing the same thing," says J. P. Lundy, "in the same way, to Lazarus, in our Christian monuments."[273:3]

Dr. Conyers Middleton, speaking of the primitive Christians, says:

"In the performance of their miracles, they were always charged with fraud and imposture, by their adversaries. Lucian (who flourished during the second century), tells us that whenever any crafty juggler, expert in his trade, and who knew how to make a right use of things, went over to the Christians, he was sure to grow rich immediately, by making a prey of their simplicity. And Celsus represents all the Christian wonder-workers as mere vagabonds and common cheats, who rambled about to play their tricks at fairs and markets; not in the circles of the wiser and the better sort, for among such they never ventured to appear, but wherever they observed a set of raw young fellows, slaves or fools, there they took care to intrude themselves, and to display all their arts."[273:4]