« PreviousContinue »
pel according to him, well known to all the churches under heaven." The author then proceeds to relate the occasions of writing the Gospels, and the reasons for placing Saint John's the last, manifestly speaking of all the four as parallel in their authority, and in the certainty of their ori. ginal.* The second passage is taken from a chap: ter, the title of which is, of the Scriptures universally acknowledged, and of those that are not such." Eusebius begins
his enumeration in the following manner :-" In the first place, are to be ranked the sacred four Gospels; then the book of the Acts of the Apostles; after that are to be reckoned the Epistles of Paul. In the next place, that called the First Epistle of John, and the Epistle of Peter, are to be esteemed authentic. After this is to be placed, if it be thought fit, the Revelation of John, about which we shall observe the different opinions at proper seasons. Of the controverted, but yet well known or approved by the most, are, that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the Second of Peter, and the Second and Third of John, whether they are written by the evangelist, or another of the same name.”He then proceeds to reckon up five others, not in our canon, which he calls in one place spurious, in another controverted, meaning, as appears to me, nearly the same thing by these two words.
It is manifest from this passage, that the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles (the parts of Scripture with which our concern principally lies) were acknowledged without dispute, even by those who raised objections, or entertained doubts, about some other parts of the same collection. But the passage proves something more than this. The author was extremely conversant in the writings of Christians, which had been published from the commencement of the institution to his own time : and
Lardner, vol. viii. p. 90.
t Ib. p. 39. I That Eusebius could not intend, by the word rendered "spurious," what we at present mean by it, is evident from a clause in this very chapter, wbere, speaking of the Gospels of Peter, and Thomas, and Matthias, and some others, he says, “ They are not so much as to be reckuped among the spurious, but are to be rejected as altogether absurd and impious." Vol. viii. p. 98.
it was from these writings that he drew his know. ledge of the character and reception of the books in question. That Eusebius recurred to this medium of information, and that he had examined with attention this species of proof, is shown, first, by a passage in the very chapter we are quoting, in which, speaking of the books which he calls spurious, “ None (says he) of the ecclesiastical wri. ters, in the succession of the apostles, have vouchsafed to make any mention of them in their wri. tings ;” and, secondly, by another passage of the same work, wherein, speaking of the First Epistle of Peter, “ This (says he) the presbyters of ancient times have quoted in their writings as undoubtedly genuine ;"'* and then, speaking of some other writings bearing the name of Peter, “We know (he says) that they have not been delivered down to us in the number of Catholic writings, forasmuch as no ecclesiastical writer of the ancients, or of our times, has made use of testimonies out of them.” “ But in the progress of this history," the author proceeds,“ we shall make it our business to show, together with the successions from the apostles, what ecclesiastical writers, in every age, have used such writings as these which are contradicted, and what they have said with regard to the Scriptures received in the New Testament, and acknowledged by all, and with regard to those which are not such." +
After this it is reasonable to believe, that when Eusebius states the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, as uncontradicted, uncontested, and acknowledged by all; and when he places them in opposition, not only to those which were spurious, in our sense of that term, but to those which were controverted, and even to those which were well known and approved by many, yet doubted of by some; he represents not only the sense of his own age, but the result of the evidence which the wri. tings of prior ages, from the apostles' time to his own, had furnished to bis inquiries. The opinion of Eusebius and his contemporaries appears to have been founded upon the testimony of writers whom they then called ancient : and we may observe, that
* Lardeer, vol. viii. p. 99.
t Ib. p. 111.
such of the works of these writers as have come down to our times, entirely confirm the judgment, and support the distinction, which Eusebius proposes. The books which he calls “ books univer. sally acknowledged,” are in fact used and quoted in the remaining works of Christian writers, during the two hundred and fifty years between the apostles' time and that of Eusebius, much more frequently than, and in a different manner from, those, the authority of which, he tells us, was disputed.
SECT. IX. Our historical Scriptures were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded.
NEAR the middle of the second century, Celsus, a heathen philosopher, wrote a professed treatise against Christianity. To this treatise, Origen, who came about fifty years after him, published an an. swer, in which he frequently recites his adversary's words and arguments. The work of Celsus is lost; but that of Origen remains. Origen appears to have given us the words of Celsus, where he professes to give thein, very faithfully; and, amongst other reasons for thinking so, this is one, that the objection, as stated by him from Celsus, is sometimes stronger than his own answer. I think it also probable, that Origen, in his answer, has retailed a large portion of the work of Celsus: “ That it may not be suspected (he says) that we pass by any chapters, because we bave no answers at hand, I have thought it best, according to my ability, to confute every thing proposed by him, not so much observing the natural order of things, as the order which he has taken himself."*
Celsus wrote about one hundred years after the Gospels were published; and therefore any notices of these books from him are extremely important for their antiquity. They are, however, trendered more so by the character of the author ; for, the re,
* Orig. cool. Cels, l1. sect, xli,
ception, credit, and notoriety, of these books must have been well established amongst Christians, to have made them subjects of animadversion and opposition by strangers and by enemies. It evinces The truth of what Chrysostom, two centuries afterward, observed, that “the Gospels, when written, were not hidden in a corner, or buried in obscurity, but they were made known to all the world, before enemies as well as others, even as they are now."'*
1. Celsus, or the Jew whom he personates, uses these words :-“I could say many things concern. ing the affairs of Jesus, and those, too, different from those written by the disciples of Jesus; but I purposely omit them.”+-Upon this passage it has been rightly observed, that it is not easy to believe, that if Celsus could have contradicted the disciples upon good evidence in any material point, he would have omitted to do so, and that the assertion is, what Origen calls it, a mere oratorical flourish.
It is sufficient, however, to prove, that, in the time of Celsus, there were books well known, and allowed to be written by the disciples of Jesus, which books contained a history of him. By the term disciples, Celsus does not mean the followers of Jesus in general; for them he calls Christians, or believers, or the like; but those who had been taught by Jesus himself, i.e. his apostles and companions.
2. In another passage, Celsus accuses the Christians of altering the Gospel. The accusation refers to some variations in the readings of particu. lar passages : for Celsus goes on to object, that when they are pressed hard, and one reading has been confuted, they disown that, and fly to another. We cannot perceive from Origen, that Celsus spe. oified any particular instances, and without such specification the charge is of no value. But the true conclusion to be drawn from it is, that there were in the hands of the Christians, histories, which were even then of some standing : for, various readings and corruptions do not take place in recent productions.
* In Matt. Hom. 1. 7. Lardner, Jewish and Herthen Tert. rol isi p. 274. Ib. p. 275.
The former quotation, the reader will remember, proves that these books were composed by the disciples of Jesus, strictly so called; the present quotation shows, that, though objections were taken by the adversaries of the religion to the integrity of these books, none were made to their genuineness.
3. In a third passage, the Jew, whom Celsus in. troduces, shuts up an argument in this manner :“ These things then we have alleged to you out of your own writings, not needing any other weapons."* It is manifest that this boast proceeds up. on the supposition that the books, over which the writer affects to triumph, possessed an authority by which Christians confessed themselves to be bound.
4. That the books to which Celsus refers were no other than our present Gospels, is made out by his allusions to various passages still found in these Gospels. Celsus takes notice of the genealogies, which fixes two of these Gospels ; of the precepts, Resist not him that injures you, and, If a man strike thee on the one cheek, offer to him the other also it of the woes denounced by Christ ; of his predictions ; of his saying, that it is impossible to serve two masters ;f of the purple robe, the crown of thorns, and the reed in his hand; of the hood that flowed from the body of Jesus upon the cross, which circumstance is recorded by John alone; and (what is instar omnium for the purpose for which we produce it) of the difference in the ac. counts given of the resurrection by the evangelists, some mentioning two angels at the sepulchre, others only one. T
It is extremely material to remark, that Celsus not only perpetually referred to the accounts of Christ contained in the four Gospels,** but that he referred to no other accounts ; that he founded none of his objections to Christianity upon any thing delivered in spurious Gospels.
II. What Celsus was in the second century, Por. phyry became in the third. His work, which was
*Lardner, Jewish and Heathen-Test, vol. ii. p. 275. Ib. 276. Ib. p. 277. || Ib. p. 280, 281.
T Ib. p. 283. ** The particulars, of which the above are only a few, are well collected by Mr. Bryant, p. 140.