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of Peter, quoted repeatedly by Clement Alexandrinus, A.D. 196; the other, a book entitled the Revelation of Peter, upon which the above-mentioned Clement Alexandrinus is said, by Eusebius, to have written notes; and which is twice cited in a work still extant, ascribed to the same author,
I conceive therefore, that the proposition we have before advanced, even after it hath been subjected to every exception, of every kind, that can be alleged, separates, by a wide interval, our historical Scriptures from all other writings which profess to give an account of the same subject,
We may be permitted, however, to add,
1. That there is no evidence that any spurious or apocryphal books whatever existed in the first century of the Christian æra, in which century all our historical books are proved to have been extant. • There are no quotations of any such books in the apostolical fathers, by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, whose writings reach from about the year of our Lord 70, to the year 108,” (and some of whom have quoted each and every one of our historical Scriptures); say this,” adds Dr Lardner, “ because I think it has been proved *.”
2. These apocryphal writings were not read in the churches of Christians ;
3. Were not admitted into their volume;
4. Do not appear in their catalogues ;
5. Were not noticed by their adversaries;
6. Were not alleged by different parties, as of authority in their controversies;
7. Were not the subjects, amongst them, of commentaries, versions, collations, expositions.
Finally; beside the silence of three centuries, or evidence, within that time, of their
* Lardner, Cred. vol. xii. p. 158.
rejection, they were, with a consent nearly universal, reprobated by Christian writers of succeeding ages.
Although it be made out by these observations, that the books in question never obtained any degree of credit and notoriety which can place them in competition with our Scriptures ; yet it appears, from the writings of the fourth century, that many such existed in that century, and in the century preceding it. It may be difficult at this distance of time to account for their origin. Perhaps the most probable explication is, that they were in general composed with a design of making a profit by the sale. Whatever treated of the subject, would find purchasers. It was an advantage taken of the pious curiosity of unlearned Christians. With a view to the same purpose, they were many of them adapted to the particular opinions of particular sects, which would naturally promote their circulation amongst the favourers of those opinions. After all, they were probably much more obscure than we imagine. Except the Gospel according to the Hebrews, there is none of which we hear more than the Gospel of the Egyptians; yet there is good reason to believe that Clement, a presbyter of Alexandria, in Egypt, A. D. 184, and a man of almost universal reading, had never seen it *. A Gospel according to Peter, was another of the most ancient books of this kind ; yet Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, A. D. 200, had not read it, when he heard of such a book being in the hands of the Christians of Rhossus in Cilicia ; and speaks of obtaining a sight of this Gospel from some sectaries who used it f: Even of the Gospel of the Hebrews, which confessedly stands at the head of the catalogue, Jerome, at the end of the fourth century, was glad to procure a copy by the favour of the Nazarenes of Berea. Nothing of this sort ever happened, or could have happened, concerning our Gospels.
One thing is observable of all the apocryphal Christian writings, viz. that they procced upon the same fundamental history of
* Jones, vol. i. P.
243. + Lardner, Cred, vol. ij p. 557,
Christ and his apostles, as that which is disclosed in our Scriptures. The mission of Christ, his power of working miracles, his communication of that power to the apostles, his passion, death, and resurrection, are assumed or asserted by every one of them. The names under which some of them came forth; are the names of men of eminence in our histories. What these books give, are not contradictions, but unauthorized additions. The principal facts are supposed, the principal agents the same; which shows, that these points were too much fixed to be altered or disputed.
If there be any book of this description, which appears to have imposed upon some considerable number of learned Christians, it is the Sybilline oracles; but, when we reflect upon the circumstances which facilitated that imposture, we shall cease to wonder either at the attempt or its success. It was at that time universally understood, that such a prophetic writing existed. Its contents were kept secret. This situation afforded to some one a hint, as well as an