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his hand upon few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief” Mark, chap. vi., verses 5-6. evidently not from want of will on the part of Jesus, but from want of faith in the people, for the word “marvelled ” implies a degree of disappointment, and that he had not anticipated that “he could not do any mighty work.”
“Verily I say unto you,” said Jesus to bis disciples, “there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” Matthew, chap. xvi., verse 28; Mark, chap. ix.,verse i.; Luke, chap. ix., verse 27. Unless there really be a Wandering Jew, and this Wandering Jew be one of the disciples whom Jesus addressed on this occasion, this can be considered in no other light than as a false prophecy. There can be no doubt that the second advent of Christ, with the millennium, the judgment-day, or something of that sort, was confidently expected by the primitive Christians to occur, before the total disappearance of that generation which had witnessed the ministry and sufferings of the Messiah. After speaking of the coming of the Son of man, and the gathering together of the elect, Jesus says to his disciples, “Verily I say unto you, this generation sball not pass away till all these things be fulfilled” Matthew, chap. xxiv., verse 34 ; Mark, chap. xiii., verse 26. And in Paul's first Epistle to the Thessalonians, “We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have died” chap. iv., v, 15. " The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be canght up together with them into the clouds” verses 16.17. John in his first Epistle, “Little children, it is the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time” chap. ii., verse 18.
The triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem is thus described by Matthew, with his characteristic close attention to prophecy : “ All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy king cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus
commanded them; and they brought the ass and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him upon them.” This is the literal translation of the last two words; the authorised!
they set him thereon." Mark and Luke describe the directions of Jesus, and the manner in which the ass's colt was procured by the disciples in nearly the same language as Matthew, but they mention a colt only, and both say that “they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus upon it." How Jesus could have sat upon two beasts at once, as in Matthew's version of the story, it is difficult to imagine; and how that extraordinary feat of equilibrium can have escaped the notice of Mark, Luke, and John, becomes an equally puzzling question. Matthew has here made an absurd exaggeration, in his anxiety to make his account correspond exactly with the prophecy. John says that “ Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon." He also says that the people came to meet him because they had been told of his raising Lazarus from the dead ; Matthew, Mark, and Luke, not having heard of this miracle, do not allude to it on this or any other occasion. John immediately after this reports another circumstance which is not narrated in the other gospels -a voice from heaven, which was heard by all the people who stood near him, 80 that “some said that it thundered; others said, an angel spake to kim” Jobn, chap. xii., verses 28-29.
During the accusation of Christ before Pontius Pilate, it is said, in Matthew's gospel, that the governor's wife sent to him, “saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” Matt. chap, xxvii., verse 19. The writer of this narrative must have had a peculiar taste for dreams; this is the sixth narrated by him, not one of which is in any way alluded to by the other three evangelists.
The causes which led to Christ's condemnation and cruel death are not clearly explained in the gospel narratives, and no other history gives us any information on the subject. A mystery hangs over many of the last incidents in the life of Christ. Why was it necessary for his apprehension that one of his immediate followers should betray him--so necessary that he was handsomely
paid for the service ? Was the person of Jesus unknown, or was he supposed to be in concealment? Would a Roman governor have condemned an innocent man on a mere general charge of blasphemy and sedition by a mob of fanatics?
Mark says it was the third hour when they crucified Jesus; John says it was at the sixth hour that Pilate delivered him over to his murderers. John makes no remark on the behaviour of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ. Matthew and Mark say that they both reviled him, and cast in his teeth that he ought to save himself and them also, if he were indeed the Christ (Matthew, chap. xxvii., verse 44 ; Mark, chap. xv., verse 32). Luke alone gives the story of the penitent thief, and how Christ promised him," To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise" Luke, chap. xxiii., verse 43. And yet all the Christian creeds declare that Christ descended into hell, and did nut ascend into heaven until the third day after his death; and Jesus himself tells Mary Magdalene, when he meets her in the garden after his resurrection, not to touch him, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father" John, chap. XX., verse 17. But perhaps heaven and paradise are not the same places. Who knows ? Jesus promised his twelve apostles that they should sit upon twelve thrones, judging the tribes of Israel (Matthew, chap. xix., verse 28 ; Luke, chap. xxii., verse 30). In Matthew's gospel, Jesus says this in answer to Peter's question, “ Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore ?" In Luke's it is said in reply to the strife among the apostles as to which of them should be the greatest. And among the twelve to whom this promise is represented to have been made was Judas, who betrayed his master and committed suicide!
According to Matthew, Judas, in a fit of remorse and despair, threw down the thirty pieces of silver before the priests, and went and hanged himself. And the “priests took the silver pieces and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called the field of blood unto this day” Matthew, chap. xxvii., verses 6-8. In the Acts a totally different account is given of
THE FOUR STORIES OF THE RESURRECTION.
the transaction. Judas is said himself to have purchased a field with the money, which is expressly termed “the reward of iniquity.” And, without a word to imply a suicide, it is said that “falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out” Acts, chap. i., verse 18. This describes a very different death from hanging, and in the next verse we are told that “it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem, insomuch as that field is called the field of blood :" evidently in consequence of the horrible and bloody death of Judas, and not on account of the purchase money being the price of blood," as stated by Matthew, for this term is not mentioned in the Acts.
These discrepancies, however, are far surpassed by the inextricable contradictions in the four accounts of Christ's resurrection from the dead. Matthew, who introduces an earthquake on the occasion, which is not alluded to by the others, states that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulchre at dawn, and saw the angel of the Lord sitting outside the sepulcbre on the stone which he had rolled away from its entrance, and he told them that Jesus had risen. Mark says that these two women with Salome came at the same hour, found the stone rolled away, went in, and saw an angel sitting inside the sepulchre, who addressed them in nearly the same words related by Matthew. Luke says, that the party of women came early in the morning, and finding the stone rolled away from the door, went into the sepulchre, and were much perplexed when they saw that the body was not there. Suddenly they were alarmed by the appearance of two angels, who told them that Jesus was risen from the dead. John says that Mary Magdalene having discovered the absence of the body without seeing any angel or angels, and having informed Peter and John, a visit was made by these two apostles to the sepulchre without any result, but after their departure Mary saw two angels sitting inside the tomb, who merely said to her, * Woman, why weepest thou ?” and having turned round after replying to the angels, she saw Jesus himself, who told her for the first time of his resurrection, which she hastened to declare to the disciples.
As to the ascension of Jesus into heaven, it is related by Mark
THE GOSPELS ARE NOT AUTHENTIC.
and Luke, who were not even disciples at the time of its supposed occurrence, while Matthew and John, who are stated to have been eye-witnesses, do not make the least allusion to it.*
These few remarks will show that the gospel narratives present none of the characteristics of truth; they were not written sooner than irty or forty years certainly after the death of Christ, and probably not sooner than a hundred; and they contain a great
1 number of incredible stories of prophetic dreams, angels, devils, sorcerers, and miracles. In relating these wonderful stories, names of persons who took part in their events are very seldom hazarded, and many inexplicable discrepancies are found in the different accounts. In ordinary narratives of ordinary circumstances these discrepancies would cause much doubt and inquiry, but when the incidents are miraculous and the various histories all claim to be divinely inspired, these contradictions alone would be utterly destructive of their pretensions to truth and inspiration, even if we had no more potent reasons doubt the veracity of the evangelists.
The Acts of the Apostles continues the history of Christianity until the arrival of the apostle Paul at Rome; it contains some miraculous stories, and appears to have been written by Luke, who mentions, in a sort of dedication addressed to Theophilus, that he had formerly written an account of the life and preaching of Jesus. In all the epistles attributed to Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude, and in the Revelations, there is not a single allusion to the existence or necessity of a written gospel.
Paul, who appears to have been a man of considerable learning
* Notwithstanding the want of novelty in the class of objections pursued in this chapter, I have deemed it advisable not to omit all notice of them, for two special reasons: 1st. Lest it should be supposed that the numerous answers which have been attempted by Christian writers are acknowledged as satisfactory, All the discrepancies and absurdities that I have adduced, I consider to be unrefuted. 2nd. Because this book may perhaps be read by many persons who would never be likely to read such works as Strauss's “ Leben Jesu,” the very bulk and learning of which might deter and disgust' them, and also by many who have never seen a book impugning Christianity before.