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within the limits of the first century, use for Taxes or Tribute, Legion, Spearman, Watch or Guard, Centurion, to Scourge, and some others, they give us the names by which the Romans expressed them in their own language written in Greek characters: a circumstance which, though in itself not fully demonstrative of the age in which they were really written, when corroborated by other evidence of their spuriousness, is of considerable weight to convince us, that these two Gospels can'not be older than nearly the middle of the second century: and, therefore, the writer called Matthew might very probably see and transcribe from the Gospel according to Luke, and the pretended Mark from both. Let us examine each Gospel in its turn.
II. The two first chapters of Matthew contain so many wonderful circumstances, repugnant both to the other scriptures and to common sense, and so entirely unsupported by any other history, sacred or profane, that many persons, both of the present and former ages, have rejected them as a forgery, added by some other writer to the work of Matthew, * (as,' I persuade myself, I have demonstrated to have been the case with Luke's Gospel) and that this book also originally began at the third chapter, with the Baptism of John; though there is no proper beginning of a history at that chapter, as there evidently is in Luke's. But to me, who find full as many extraordinary things, equally inadmissible, in the two last chapters, and several more in the body of the work, the whole appears to be of equal authenticity, or rather, equally spurious and false. With the reader's leave, therefore, we will take a cursory review of the whole.
Of the Genealogy, with which this Gospel begins, it is unnecessary to remark its irreconcileable contradiction to that introduced into Luke's Gospel, because it has been so generally noticed by all commentators, and must strike the most superficial reader, as it traces Joseph's descent from David, through a line totally different: I only wonder that, under such a circumstance, any rational creature can be found, who can really believe both these contradictory pedigrees to be true, and, what is still more, the inspired word of God. My intent, therefore, is only to point out the glaring inconsistency of the author, on this occasion, with himself.
The sole purpose of these two first chapters, is to teach, that Jesus was not the son of
Joseph, but, like Bacchus and Hercules amongst the Pagans, the offspring of Mary, impregnated by the influence of the supreme Deity of heaven. Yet, to prove to ús that, as the completion of the old prophecies concerning the Messiah required, he was the lineal descendant of David and Abraham, he gives us the pretended genealogy of Joseph only from those Patriarchs: and with such å proof the orthodox church hath been satisfied for 1600 years !! But whüst the celestiál origin he attributes to our blessed Saviour effectually précludes the possibility of many prophecies of the Old Testament, relative to the Christ, being accomplished in his person, the author has endeavoured to persuade us, that the miraculous circumstance he relates of his birth, was predicted in another prophecy, and accordingly refers us to thắt well known prophecy in Isaias, c. víi. v. 14. “Behold a young woman shall conceive and “ bear a son,” &c. The word which I translate a'young woman, he renders à virgin, and insinuates that, by virtue of that single word, the prophet meant a miraculous conception, without the intervention of a man; and thật ' tlie child intended in the prophecy was the
chila Jesus. Nothing more, however, is ne
cessary to convince an unprejudiced person that both these insinuations are perfectly groundless, than to turn to the book of Isaiah itself. We there find that the child, whose birth is predicted, is given to King Ahaz and his subjects, who were alarmed at the prospect of an invasion by the confederate kings of Syria and Samaria, as a sign, that before the child which was at that time to be conceived should be born, and be old enough “to chuse * good from evil,” or, as it is repeated in the subsequent chapter, (where the child is expressly said to be a child of Isaiah's, by his own wife, and that he took faithful witnesses to record the time, that they might be certain the promised male child was actually born at nine months from the delivery of the prophecy) before the child should be able to speak, that is, within two years from the day of the prediction, the enemy's country should be deprived of both the menacing kings, who should be slain, and the spoil of Damascus and Samaria be carried away by the king of Assyria. So that the prophecy has no more reference to the age of Augustus Cæsar, or the son of Mary, than it has to the author of this Gospel himself. As to the word translated a virgin, on which so much stress is, in
vain, unreasonably laid, it is evident, that in the original it does not necessarily signify any thing more than a woman young enough to bear children, from its being the very same word which is used in Proverbs, c. xxx. v. 19, and there translated a maid ; for a virgin, in the strict sense of the word, could not be meant in that place, because, “ the way of a man with” such an one is by no means trackless and undiscernible; and because the writer expressly uses it to signify a married woman, saying, “ such is the way of the adulte“rous woman."
In the second chapter, this writer informs us that our Saviour was born at Bethlehem, in Judea, in direct contradiction to both the histories of Luke, which, by repeatedly calling him Jesus of Nazareth, assure us he was born at Nazareth, in Galilee, as Paul of Tarsus, Timotheus of Derbe, and the like, always signify that those persons were natives of the places so mentioned ; and as a reason for his being born there, he alleges a prophecy of Micah, respecting the Messiah, which, if the · author had been, I do not say an Apostle of Christ, but merely an intelligent Jew, he could not have so misapprehended or misapplied. The purport of the prophet is simply, that of