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THE CHARACTER OF THE EVANGELISTS-DISCREPANCIES
AND COINCIDENCES OF THE GOSPELS.
HE unimpeachable character of the Evangelists for
truthfulness, integrity, and general holiness, as
required by the high standard of the Gospel itself which they preached, is attested by the fact that Christ Himself made them His intimate friends and followers, appointed some of them to the Apostleship, and intimated prophetically that they should sustain this character to the end, inasmuch as they, with the others, should become actual inhabitants of heaven, "sitting upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The fact of their undoubted holiness and uprightness of character, as thus sealed by the Son of God Himself, however, does not satisfy M. Renan; for not only has he charged the early, uninspired disciples and primitive Christians generally with a wholesale, unscrupulous tampering with the Word of God, but the Evangelists themselves are charged with a want of good faith and veracity in the accounts they have given of some of the sayings of Jesus, and of the incidents they have recorded as connected with His life. Such passages as the following, for example, may be found interspersed here and there throughout his work : "Certainly, I think, that if we except certain short and almost mnemonic axioms, none of the discourses reported by Matthew textual.” This
particular passage, however, he does not appear to give as an impeachment of Matthew's integrity ; but rather, that it was the necessary result of his having, in his early day, lacked the advantages of a "stenographic reporter !" Perhaps the Supreme Author of all science and art lacked these or other necessary advantages, also—lacked, at least the ability to write in stenographic or other intelligible characters such discourses on the tablets of the Apostles' memories; or to re-write them in case time and circumstances had erased them—but perhaps not, Renan.
“It is scarcely necesssary to say," he further remarks, “ that with such documents, in order to present only what is indisputable, we must limit ourselves to general features." Has M. Renan really presented "only what is indisputable?” Perhaps he thinks so 1-But let us hear him out: “In almost all ancient histories, even in those which are much less legendary than these, details open up innumerable doubts. Many anecdotes were conceived to prove that in Jesus the prophecies regarded as Messianic had had their accomplishments. Several narratives, especially in Luke, are invented in order to bring out more vividly certain traits of the character of Jesus.”1 How does Renan reconcile this last most unwarrantable and mischievous assumption, with a statement he has made on page 9 respecting Luke's Gospel ?—“We are here then upon solid ground; for we are concerned with a work written entirely by the same hand, and of the most perfect unity.” Very
Very "solid ground” truly, if we have nothing better to rest upon than the fabrications and inventions of men, palmed upon us in the name of the Most High! M. Renan has not yet disposed of Luke, however. Like an instrument in full play, being set to the tune of false accusation and calumny, he is determined to
1 pp. 26-27.
the succeeding fathers of the Church, and from which (as
MODERN INFIDELITY DISARMED,
IN A REPLY TO M. RESAN.
wrote in the early part of the third century, the date of his birth being A.D. 185, and of his death A.D. 253. This distinguished Father, whose extensive biblical knowledge highly qualified him to form a correct judgment in reference to the canon of Scripture, has furnished us also with a catalogue of the books of the New Testament, as recognised by the Church, in that early day. It is true that the names of two books (James and Jude) are omitted in his catalogue, as transmitted to us, but the omission is evidently an accident, for in other parts of his writings, he acknowledges these Epistles as a part of the canon. And in his enumeration of the books, none are included but those which are in the present canon, “which proves," as a writer in the “ American Religious Encyclopedia,” remarks, " that in his time the canon was well settled among the learned, and that the distinction between inspired writings and human compositions was as clearly marked as at any subsequent period."
About a century afterwards, catalogues of the sacred books were published by Eusebius and Athanasius, both including all the books in our present canon, and no others; and of which Athanasius says, “In these alone the doctrine of religion is taught; let no man add to them, or take anything from them.”
Speaking of the reverence with which the Jews had been taught to regard their sacred writings, Dr. Paley remarks :
According to the statements of Philo and Josephus, they would suffer any torments, and even death itself, rather
then change a single point or iota of the Scriptures. A law
The “ popular elaborations” of the Gospels and unsa tu.
were read in the Jewish synagogues. Moreover,
the very time of the Apostles, and these testimonies are equally applicable to prove its tuowapted preservation."
agreement of the ancient versions and quotationis from the New Testament which are made in the writings of the Christians of the first three centuries, and in those of
mistaken in the authors to whom they ascribed them. Not one of them expressed an opinion upon this subject different from that which is holden by Christians. And when we consider how much it would have availed them to cast a doubt upon this point, if they could, and how ready they showed themselves to take every advantage in their power, and that they were men of learning and inquiry, their concession, or rather their suffrage upon the subject, is extremely valuable.”
has been frequently observed) the whole body of the
than change a single point or iota of the Scriptures. A law was also enacted by them, which denounced him to be guilty of inexpiable sin, who should presume to make the slightest possible alteration in their sacred books." To which we may add, so careful were they to correctly preserve the sacred text, that when a copy was made out, not only the number of words, but even the number of letters in it was counted, and compared with the original in order to prevent mistakes.
The "popular elaborations" of the Gospels and unscru. pulous tampering with them, of which M. Renan speaks, could not possibly have been made without immediate detection and exposure ; for not only were there copies of the New Testament Scriptures "dispersed before the death of their authors among the different communities of Christians who were scattered throughout the then known world, but in all the churches-some of which were formed in the principal cities of the Roman empire within twenty years of the ascension—the books of the New Testament, especially the four Gospels, were read as a part of their public worship, just as the writings of Moses and the Prophets were read in the Jewish synagogues. Moreover, we have an unbroken series of testimonies for the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament, which can be traced backwards to the very time of the Apostles : and these testimonies are equally applicable to prove its uncorrupted preservation.”
"The agreement of the ancient versions and quotations from the New Testament which are made in the writings of the Christians of the first three centuries, and in those of the succeeding fathers of the Church, and from which (as has been frequently observed) the whole body of the
play it out, and proceeds: “ We feel that we have to do with a man who exaggerates the marvellous, and who labours at the texts (of Matthew and Mark) and wrests their sense to make them agree." He gives him credit, however, for relating “certain words of Jesus of delightful beauty," but in which, he says, “we detect the presence of legend.” Credit also is given him for bringing to his Gospel "a degree of skill in composition which singularly augments the effect of the portrait, without seriously injuring its truthfulness.” Now St. Luke, if alive, would perhaps consider himself under great obligation to the kind consideration of our French philosopher in thus ascribing to him such good motives for his untruthfulness; but for our own part, we should experience a difficulty in regarding it as complimentary, even though it had proceeded from a philosopher of still higher repute.
Of the apostle John, that remarkably holy man whom Jesus specially loved, M. Renan writes, we should say, in the style of a charlatan rather than a philosopher. As to one of the leading motives which actuated that holy man in writing his gospel, he, says “ We are tempted to believe that John in his old age, having read the Gospel narratives, was hurt at seeing that there was not accorded to him a sufficiently high place in the history of Christ ; thať then he commenced to dictate a number of things which he knew better than the rest, with the intention of showing that in many instances, in which only Peter was spoken of, he had figured with him and even before him.” Renan is “ tempted to believe ” on more points than one; and in this instance, at least, * it is not hard to discern who is his tempter. John's real object in writing his Gospel as given by himself in
1 Page 24.
2 Page 15.