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to the calling of the lake Tiberias a sea; to the expres sion in St. Matthew, "the abomination of desolation;" to the variation in Matthew and Mark upon the text, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," Matthew citing it from Isaias, Mark from the prophets; to John's application of the term "word;" to Christ's change of intention about going up to the feast of tabernacles, (John vii. 8.) to the judgment denounced by St. Peter upon Ananias and Sapphira, which he calls an imprecation of death.*
The instances here alleged serve, in some measure, to show the nature of Porphyry's objections, and prove that Porphyry had read the gospels with that sort of attention, which a writer would employ, who regarded them as the depositaries of the religion which he attacked.
these specifications, there exists in the writings of ancient Christians general evidence, that the places of scripture upon which Porphyry had remarked, were very numerous.
In some of the above-cited examples, Porphyry, speaking of St. Matthew, calls him your evangelist; he also uses the term evangelists; in the plural number. What was said of Celsus, is true likewise of Porphyry, that it does not appear that he considered any history of Christ, except these, as having authority with Christians.
III. A third great writer against the Christian religion was the Emperor Julian, whose work was composed about a century after that of Porphyry.
In various long extracts transcribed from this work by Cyril and Jerome, it appears,† that Julian noticed by name Matthew and Luke, in the difference between their genealogies of Christ; that he objected to Matthew's application of the prophecy, "Out of Egypt have I called my son," (ii. 15.) and to that of a "virgin shall conceive;" (i. 22.) that he recited sayings of Christ, and various passages of his history, in the very words of the evangelists; in particular, that Jesus healed lame and blind people, and exercised demoniacs, in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany; that he alleged that none of Christ's disciples ascribed to him the creation of the world except John; that neither Paul, nor Matthew, nor Luke, nor Mark, have dared to call Jesus God; that John wrote later than the evangelists, and at a time when a great number of men in the cities of Greece and Italy were converted; that he alludes to the conversion of Cornelius and of Sergius Paulus, to Peter's *Jewish and Heathen Test. vol. III. p. 166 et seq.
vision, to the circular letter sent by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, which are all recorded in the Acts of the apostles; by which quoting of the four gospels and the Acts of the apostles, and by quoting no other,Julian shows that these were the historical books, and the only historical books received by Christians as of authority, and as the authentic memoirs of Jesus Christ, of his apostles, and of the doctrines taught by them. But Julian's testimony does something more than represent the judgment of the Christian church in his time. It discovers also his own. He himself expressly states the early date of these records. He all along supposes, and no where attempts to question their genuineness. The argument in favour of the books of the New Testament drawn, from the notice taken of their contents by the early writers against the religion, is very considerable. It shows that the accounts, which Christians had then, were the accounts which we have now; that our present scriptures were theirs. It shows, moreover, that neither Celsus in the second, Porphyry in the third, nor Julian in the fourth century, suspected the authenticity of these books, or ever insinuated that Christians were mistaken in the authors to whom they ascribed them. Not one of them expressed an opinion upon this subject different from that which was held by Christians. And when we consider how much it would have availed them to have cast a doubt upon this point if they could; and how ready they showed themselves to be, to take every advantage in their power; and that they were all men of learning and inquiry; their concession, or rather their suffrage upon the subject, is extremely valuable.
In the case of Porphyry, it is made still stronger, by the consideration that he did in fact support himself by this species of objection, when he saw any room for it, or when his acuteness could supply any pretence for alleging it.
The prophecy of Daniel he attacked upon this very ground of spuriousness, insisting that it was written after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and maintains his charge of forgery by some, far-fetched indeed, but very subtle criticisms. Concerning the writings of the New Testament, no trace of this suspicion is any where to be found in him.* SECT. X.
Formal catalogues of authentic scriptures were published, in all which our present sacred histories were included. THIS species of evidence comes later than the rest, as it
d's Introduction to the New Test. vol. I. p. 43. Marsh's Translation.
was not natural that catalogues of any particular class of books should be put forth, until Christian writings became -numerous, or until some writings showed themselves, claiming titles which did not belong to them, and thereby rendering it necessary to separate books of authority from others. But when it does appear, it is extremely satisfactory; the catalogues, though numerous, and made in countries at a wide distance from one another, differing very little, differing in nothing which is material, and all containing the four gospels. To this last article there is no exception.
I. In the writings of Origen which remain, and in some extracts preserved by Eusebius, from works of his which are now lost, there are enumerations of the books of scripture, in which the four gospels and the Acts of the apostles are distinctly and honourably specified, and in which no books appear beside what are now received.* The reader, by this time, will easily recollect, that the date of Origen's works is A. D. 230.
II. Athanasius, about a century afterwards, deliverd a catalogue of the books of the New Testament in form, con taining our scriptures and no others; of which he says, "In these alone the doctrine of religion is taught; let no man add to them, or take any thing from them.”†
III. About 20 years after Athanasius, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, set forth a catalogue of the books of scripture, publicly read at that time in the church of Jerusalem, exactly the same as ours, except that the "Revelation" is omitted.
IV. And, fifteen years after Cyril, the Council of Laodicea delivered an authoritative catalogue of canonical scripture, like Cyril's, the same as ours, with the omission of the "Revelation."
V. Catalogues now become frequent. Within thirty years from the last date, that is, from the year 363 to near the conclusion of the fourth century, we have catalogues by Epiphanius,§ by Gregory Nazienzen,|| by Philaster bishop of Brescia in Italy,** by Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, all, as they are sometimes called, clean' catalogues, (that is, they admit no books into the number beside what we now receive) and all, for every purpose of historic evidence, the same as ours.ft
* Vol. III. p. 234, et seq. vol. VIII. p. 196. † Ib. vol. VIII. p. 223. Vol. IX. p. 132. ** Ib. p. 373.
Ib. p. 368.
Ib. p. 270.
Epiphanius omits the Acts of the apostles. This must have been an accidental mistake either in him or in some copyist of his work, for he elsewhere expressly refers to this book, and ascribes it to Luke.
VI. Within the same period, Jerome, the most learned Christian writer of his age, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament, recognizing every book now received, with the intimation of a doubt concerning the epistle to the Hebrews alone, and taking not the least notice of any book which is not now received.*
VII. Contemporary with Jerome, who lived in Palestine, was St. Augustine in Africa, who published likewise a catalogue, without joining to the scriptures, as books of authority, any other ecclesiastical writing whatever, and without omitting one which we at this day acknowledge.†
VIII. And with these concurs another contemporary writer, Rusin, a presbyter of Aquileia, whose catalogue, like theirs, is perfect and unmixed, and concludes with these remarkable words: "These are the volumes which the fathers have included in the canon, and out of which they would have us prove the doctrine of our faith."‡ SECT. XI.
These propositions cannot be predicated of any of those books, which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.
I Do not know that the objection taken from apocryphal writings is at present much relied on by scholars. But there are many, who, hearing that various gospels existed in ancient times under the names of the apostles, may have taken up a notion, that the selection of our present gospels from the rest, was rather an arbitrary or accidental choice, than founded in any clear and certain cause of preference. To these it may be very useful to know the truth of the case. I observe therefore,
1. That, beside our gospels and the Acts of the apostles, no Christian history, claiming to be written by an apostle or apostolical man, is quoted within three hundred years after the birth of Christ, by any writer now extant, or known; or, if quoted, is quoted with marks of censure and rejection.
I have not advanced this assertion without inquiry; and I doubt not, but that the passages cited by Mr. Jones and Dr. Lardner, under the several titles which the apocryphal books bear; or a reference to the places where they are mentioned, as collected in a very accurate table, published in the year 1773, by the Rev. J. Atkinson, will make out the truth of the proposition to the satisfaction of every fair and competent judgment. If there be any book which may
seem to form an exception to the observation, it is a Hebrew gospel, which was circulated under the various titles of the gospel according to the Hebrews, the gospel of the Nazarenes, of the Ebionites, sometimes called of the twelve, by some ascribed to St. Matthew. This gospel is once, and only once, cited by Clement Alexandrinus, who lived, the reader will remember, in the latter part of the second century, and which same Clement quotes one or other of our four gospels in almost every page of his work. It is also twice mentioned by Origen, A. D. 230; and both times with marks of diminution and discredit. And this is the ground upon which the exception stands. But what is still more material to observe, is, that this gospel, in the main, agreed with our present gospel of St. Matthew.*
Now if, with this account of the apocryphal gospels, we compare what we have read concerning the canonical scriptures in the preceding sections; or even recollect that general, but well-founded assertion of Dr. Lardner's, “that in the remaining works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, who all lived in the two first centuries, there are more, and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero, by writers of all characters, for several ages;† and if to this we add, that notwithstanding the loss of many works of the primitive times of Christianity, we have, within the abovementioned period, the remains of Christian writers, who lived in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, the part of Africa that used the Latin tongue, in Crete, Greece, Italy, and Gaul, in all which remains, references are found to our evangelists; I apprehend, that we shall perceive a clear and broad line of division between those writings, and all others pretending to a similar authority.
II. But beside certain histories which assumed the names of apostles, and which were forgeries properly so called, there were some other Christian writings, in the whole or in part of an historical nature, which, though not forgeries, are denominated apocryphal, as being of an uncertain, or of no authority.
Of this second class of writings, I have found only two, which are noticed by any author of the three first centuries, without express terms of condemnation; and these are,
*In applying to this gospel, what Jerome, in the latter end of the fourth century has mentioned of a Hebrew gospel, I think it probable that we sometimes confound it with a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's gospel, whether an original or version which was then extant.
+ Lard. Cred. vol. XII. p. 53