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an interpolation of the absurd Pagan fable of the Phønix. Irenæus informs us* that the different sectarists of those early ages, had published an innumerable multitude of apocryphal and spurious scriptures to astonish the weak and ignorant. And Tertulliant mentions that an Asiatic priest had been detected in ascribing to Paul a work entirely his own. And that the writings of Luke, on many accounts by far the most respectable historian in the canonical collection, did not escape untouched by the hands of the interpolators, even after the second century, we have the clearest conviction; for Origen tells us that several believers in his time were offended with that part of Luke's Gospel, wherein our Lord promises the penitent thief upon the cross that he should that day be with him in Paradise, as being absolutely inconsistent with the history of our Lord's own circumstances and situation from his death to his resurrection; and declared, that passage was not in the older copies, but a late addition of some of the interpolators. And though Origen himself does not agree with them, yet --:* Lib. I. c. xvii.. + De Bap. sec. xvii.
; Padioupiou. See his Comm. on John.
EVANGELISTS. they were assuredly in the right; for neither Justin, nor Irenæus, nor Tertullian, take the least notice of so very remarkable a circumstance, though they have quoted almost every other passage of Luke relating to the crucifixion; and though Tertullian in particular has written a treatise upon the soul, in which he expressly considers the different opinions concerning the intermediate state of the souls of good and bąd men between their death and resurrection, repeatedly quotes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, from which, as being only a parable constructed upon the popular notions of the Jews, no satisfactory argument can be deduced: whereas that single passage of Luke's history, had it existed in his time, must have settled the point beyond all dispute: and consequently it could not have been omitted by him when writing on such a subject. It is clear therefore that as the doctrine of an intermediate state of Purgatory and Paradise gained ground in the orthodox church after the sccond century, that particular passage was interpolated to give the sanction of holy scripture to the newly received doctrine; as Sir Isaac Newton has proved to the conviction, of every unprejudiced* mind, the famous seventh verse of John's first Epistle was inserted some ages later, to countenance another long controverted doctrine of the same Church, the Trinity in Unity.
IV. The whole weight of the historical evidence in favour of the authenticity of the four Gospels, amounts to no more than this, that those books, in the main of their contents, were extant in the latter end of the second century, and were received by all the Christian writers, whose works have been suffered to come down to us, as the writings of the several apostles and apostolic men whose names they bear. But besides the suspicious circumstance already mentioned, arising from the prophecies of the Gospel, this evidence is defective in such essential points as render it wholly unsatisfactory and insufficient to prove any matter of consequence, even in the ordinary courts of justice: for neither the competency nor veracity of the witnesses can be depended on.
* Even the prejudiced and uncandid must surely, now, be silenced, at least, by the learned and ingenious letters of Mr. Porson to Archdeacon Travis.
To convince me, for instance, that histories recording such very extraordinary, useless, ill-supported, improbable facts as are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and John, are really the works of those apostles, and not either some of the many spurious productions with which, we learn from Irenæus, that early age abounded, calculated to astonish the credulous and susperstitious, or else writings of authors, of the same age, who, were themselves infected with the grossest superstitious credulity ; of what use can it be to adduce the testimony of the very few writers of the same or the next succeeding age, when the very reading their works shews me that they themselves were tainted with that same superstitious credulity of which I suspect the real authors of the histories in question ? When one* of them illustrates and pleads for the toleration of the orthodox doctrine of the generation of the Word by the hea. then Emperors, because of its resemblance to the fabulous origin of their own Deities Mercury and Minerva; and justifies the doctrine of the incarnation by its similarity to the births of Esculapius and Hercules, and the , other illustrious God-men of pagan mytholo
... ... Justin Martyr, Apol. 1.
gy; and accounts for this similarity between the orthodox doctrines and the fables of the Poets, by asserting that the Poets delivered them through the inspiration of Demons and evil geniuses, in order to prejudice the world against the reception of those orthodox tenets, when the time should come for their promulgation. When another, * describing the Millennium, gravely assures me, upon the autho, rity of the apostle John himself, not only that every productive part of the vine from the stem to the bunch, and of wheat from the root to the ear, shall be multiplied by ten thousand, every bunch containing ten thousand grapes, and every ear ten thousand grains, but that every grain of wheat shall yield ten pounds of pure fine flour, and every grape four hogsheads of wine, and that when any of the Saints shall be going to gather one of these bunches, another will cry out, I am a better bunch, take me and bless God by me. When a thirdt asserts, upon his own knowledge, that the corpse of one dead Christian, at the first breath of the prayer made by the Priest, on occasion of its own funeral, removed its hands from its sides, into the usual posture of a supplicant, and, when the service was ended, restored
, * Irenæus Lib. v. c. xxxiii. t Tertullian, De. An. c. li...