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Since, then, the external evidence of the authenticity of the four Evangelical histories, is so very unsatisfactory to an unprejudiced mind; a rational inquirer into the truth of the Christian revelation, will consider tho. roughly the internal evidence of veracity and authority which the histories themselves af· ford. For different composers of false, fictitious narratives, will, almost inevitably, be found frequently inconsistent with themselves, or with each other, and contradictory to ob. vious truth and probability.
VI. In this investigation, as the Gospel attributed to Matthew stands first in the canonical collection; as it is said to have been written by him, an eye-witness of what he records, by much the first in order of time, viz. about eight years after our Saviour's cruicifixion; whereas Luke's appears to have been written at least twenty-eight years after that event; it should seem most regular to begin with that, and make it a sort of standard, by which we might compare the other three: but the very reading over the histories themselves in the original, with attention, seems to render this impossible. For it is to be observed, that the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, contain not the slightest insinuation that their authors were apostles of Jesus Christ, or even men of the apostolic age; whilst the writer called Luke professes himself to have been a fellowtraveller of Paul; and is the author of two distinct histories, which, if we except some interpolations of the padispyas, the ready-fingered scribes of those times, which appear not difficult to be distinguished by an accurate, attentive reader, are perfectly rational, probable, and consistent, not only with them, selves and with each other, but also with all other histories of the same times. That these histories were originally written by Luke in the language in which we have received them, is also unanimously asserted by all the writers of Christian antiquity. But it is not so with the Gospel attributed to Matthew. The only writers who inform us that he wrote any evangelical history, assure us he wrote it in Hebrew; and, one of the earliest, that he wrote it when Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel and founding the Church at Rome; that is, at the Greek Calends; for there is no sufficient reason to induce us to believe, that
Peter, peculiarly the apostle to the Jews, as Paul was to the Gentiles, was ever at Rome: at least, he certainly was not there when Paul first went to Rome, in the beginning of Nero's reign; and yet we learn from the Acts, that then Paul founded the Christian Church at Rome, when he preached the Gospel there for two years, in his own hired house. And if we inquire how the Gospel received as Matthew's, came to be in Greek, if he wrote it in Hebrew; the same writers inform us, that it was afterwards translated into Greek: but we find, nobody knows when, where, or by whom. So far are they also from assuring us, that any one person, who understood both languages, had compared the translation with the original Hebrew, and certified its fidelity and correctness, that they do not even afford us any satisfactory evidence, that such an original copy was ever seen by any person capable of reading it. Surely, mankind are very easy of belief, in whatsoever is offered them under the pretended sanction of religion! otherwise they could never, under such circumstances, have been satisfied, that the Greek book which bears his name was really a correct and faithful translation of the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, and have acquiesced in it for so many centuries, as the words of divine inspiration, even if it had been. certain that Matthew actually wrote such a Gospel.
But a critical attention to the language of the Greek writing itself, compared with that of Luke's histories, seems sufficient to convince any impartial reader, that it cannot be a translation from any uniform original ; that it must have been written long after Luke's second history, and Mark's after that; that both of them were of later date than Josephus's history, most probably not earlier than the latter end of Trajan's reign, or beginning of Adrian's; and that the writer of what we call Matthew's Gospel, is so far from being an Apostle, that his ignorance, both of the geography of Palestine, and of the customs of the Hebrew people, shew that he was not a Jew. To the same purpose might be alleged, his not understanding the prophecies of the Jewish scripture, particularly those applied by him in the first and second chapters : but as one of those he has quoted is an obvious forgery, existing in no part of the Old Testament, and since it is not possible that a
writer who had the whole of the other pio: phecies before him, either in the original or the Greek translation, could misunderstand their real meaning, and not be conscious that, if he had quoted any one of them entirely, it would have appeared to have had no relation to the subject of his history; the maimed, partial quotation, which he has given from each, must have been done designedly, and with intent to deceive those who were unacquainted with the Jewish scriptures: and therefore the author was assuredly one of those many champions of Orthodoxy with which the second and succeeding centuries abounded, who thought it allowable to support the religious, system he had adopted, even by fraud and falsehood.
If the reader has patience enough to sustain the shock, which these assertions will most probably give to his earliest formed prejudices, and to peruse the following pages with a candid dispassionate mind, 'it is hoped he will be convinced, that, new and harsh as they may seem, they are far from being rash and unfounded; though in this place they are' anticipated, merely as reasons for giving the preference to the histories of Luke, which