« PreviousContinue »
called, by Luke, Judas; and by Mark, Thaddeus.* Origen, however he came at his information, appears to have believed that there was an impostor of the name of Theudas before the nativity of Christ.t
IV. Matt. xxiii. 34. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar."
There is a Zacharias, whose death is related in the second book of Chronicles,t in a manner which perfectly supports our Saviour's allusion. But this Zacharias was the son of Jehoiada.
There is also Zacharias the prophet; who was the son of Barachiah, and is so described in the superscription of his prophecy, but of whose death we have no account.
I have little doubt, but that the first Zacharias was the
person spoken of by our Saviour; and that the name of the father has since been added, or changed, by some one, who took it from the title of the prophecy, which happened
to be better known to him than the history in
Chronicles. There is likewise a Zacharias, the son of Baruch, related by Josephus to have been slain in the temple a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem. It has been insinuated, that the words put into our Saviour's mouth contain a reference to this transaction, and were composed by some writer, who either confounded the time of the transaction with our Saviour's age, or inadvertently overlooked the anachronism.
* Luke vi. 16. Mark iii. 18.
Orig. cont. Cels. p. 44. * " And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the son of Jehojada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commapdments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper ? Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired againet him, and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the ding in the court of the house of the Lord." 2 Chron xxiv. 20, 21.
Now suppose it to have been so; suppose these words to have been suggested by the transaction related in Josephus, and to have been falsely ascribed to Christ; and observe what extraordinary coincidence (accidentally, as it must in that case have been) attend the forger's mistake.
First, that we have a Zacharias in the book of Chronicles, whose death, and the manner of it corresponds with the allusión.
Secondly, that although the name of this person's father be erroneously but down in the Gospel, yet we have a way of accounting for the error, by showing another Zacharias in the Jewish Scriptures, much better known than the former, whose patronymic was actually that which appears in the text.
Every one who thinks upon the subject, will find these to be circumstances which could not have met together in a mistake, which did not proceed from the circumstances themselves.
I have noticed, I think, all the difficulties of this kind. They are few: some of them admit of a clear, others of a probable solution. The reader will compare them with the number, the variety, the closeness, and the satisfactoriness, of the instances which are to be set against them; and he will remember the scantiness, in many cases, of our intelligence, and that difficulties always attend imperfect information.
Undesigned coincidences. Between the letters which bear the name of Saint Paul in our collection, and his history in the Acts of the Apostles, there exist many notes of correspondency. The simple perusal of the writings is sufficient to prove, that neither the history 'was taken from the letters, nor the letters from the history. And the undesignedness of the agreements (which undesignedness is gathered from their latency, their minuteness, their obliquity, the suitableness of the circumstances in which they consist, to the places in which those circumstances occur,
and the circuitous references by which they are traced out) demonstrates that they have not been produced by meditation, or by any fraudulent contrivance. But coincidences, from which these causes are excluded, and which are too close and numerous to be accounted for by accidental concurrences of fiction, must necessarily have truth for their foundation.
This argument appeared to my mind of so much value (especially for its assuming nothing beside the existence of the books,) that I have pursued it through Saint Paul's thirteen epistles, in a work published by me four years ago, under the title of Horæ Paulinæ. I am sensible how feebly any argument which depends upon an induction of particulars, is represented without examples. On which account, I wished to have abridged my own volume, in the manner in which I have treated Dr. Lardner's in the preceding chapter. But, upon making the attempt, I did not find it in my power to render the articles intelligible by fewer words than I have there used. I must be content, therefore, to refer the reader to the work itself.' And I would particularly invite his attention to the observations which are made in it upon the first three epistles. I persuade myself that he will find the proofs, both of agreement and undesignedness, supplied by these epistles, sufficient to support the conclusion which is there maintained, in favour both of the genuineness of the writings and the truth of the narrative.
It remains only, in this place, to point out how the argument bears upon the general question of the Christian history.
First, Saint Paul in these letters affirms, in unequivocal terms, his own performance of miracles, and, what ought particularly to be remembered, “That miracles were the signs of an apostle.'
"* If this testimony come from Saint Paul's own hand, it is invaluable. And that it does so, the argument before us fixes in my mind a firm assurance.
Secondly, it shows that the series of action represented in the epistles of Saint Paul, was real;
* Rom, xv. 18, 19. 2 Cor. xii. 12.
which alone lays a foundation for the proposition which forms the subject of the first part of our present work, viz. that the original witnesses of the Christian history devoted themselves to lives of toil, suffering, and danger, in consequence of their belief of the truth of that history, and for the sake of communicating the knowledge of it to others.
Thirdly, it proves that Luke, or whoever was the author of 'the Acts of the Apostles, (for the argument does not depend upon the name of the author, though I know no reason for questioning it,) was well acquainted with Saint Paul's history; and that he probably was, what he professes himself to be, a companion of Saint Paul's travels; which, if true, establishes, in a considerable degree, the credit even of his Gospel, because it shows, that the writer, from his time, situation, and connexions, possessed opportunities of informing himself truly concerning the transactions which he relates. I have little difficulty in applying to the Gospel of Saint Luke what is proved concerning the Acts of the Apostles, considering them as two parts of the same history; for, though there are instances of second parts being forgeries, I know none where the second part is genuine, and the first not so.
I will only observe, as a sequel of the argument, though not noticed in my work, the remarkable similitude between the style of Saint John's Gospel, and of Saint John's Epistle. The style of Saint John's is not at all the style of Saint Paul's Epistles, though both are very singular; nor is it the style of Saint James's or of Saint Peter's Epistle : but it bears a resemblance to the style of the Gospel inscribed with Saint John's name, so far as that resemblance can be expected to appear which is not in simple narrative, so much as in reflections, and in the representation of discourses. Writings so circumstanced, prove themselves, and one another, to be genuine. This correspondency is the more valuable, as the epistle itself asserts, in Saint John's manner indeed, but in terms sufficiently explicit, the writer's personal knowledge of Christ's history; * That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life, that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you."
Who would not desire, -who perceives not the value of an account, delivered by a writer so well informed as this?
CHAP. VIII, Of the history of the resurrection. The history of the resurrection of Christ is a part of the evidence of Christianity ; but I do not know, whether the proper strength of this passage of the Christian history, or wherein its peculiar value, as a head of evidence, consists, be generally understood. It is not that, as a miracle, the resurrection ought to be accounted a more decisive proof of supernatural agency than other miracles are ; it is not that, as it stands in the Gospels, it is better attested than some others; it is not, for either of these reasons, that more weight belongs to it than to other miracles, but for the following, viz. That it is completely certain that the apostles of Christ, and the first teachers of Christianity, asserted the fact. And this would have been certain, if the four Gospels had been lost, or never written. Every piece of Scripture recognises the resurrection. Every epistle of every apostle, every author contemparary with the apostles, of the age immediately succeeding the apostles, every writing from that age to the present, genuine or spurious, on the side of Christianity or against it, concur in repre.. senting the resurrection of Christ as an article of his history, received without doubt or disagreement by all who called themselves Christians, as alleged from the beginning by the propagators of the institution, and alleged as the centre of their testimony:. Nothing, I apprehend, which a man does not himself see or hear, can be more certain to him than this point. I do not mean, that nothing can be more certain than that Christ rose
* Chap. i. verses l_3.