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tant, were addressed only to individuals, or to no persons at all: and we have no authority to affirm that they were read in public; on the contrary, we know that a liberal education was uncommon, books were scarce, and the knowledge of them was confined to a few individuals in every nation.
The New Testament was read over three quarters of the world, while profane writers were limited to one nation or to one country. An uninterrupted succession of writers, from the apostolic ages to the present time, (many of whom were men of distinguished learning and acuteness,) either quote the sacred writings, or make allusions to them and these quotations and allusions, as will be shown in a subsequent page, are made not only by friends, but also by enemies. This cannot be asserted of the best classic authors: and as translations of the New Testament were made in the second century, which in the course of one or two centuries more were greatly multiplied, it became absolutely impossible to forge new writings, or to corrupt the sacred text, unless we suppose that men of different nations, sentiments, and languages, and often exceedingly hostile to each other, should all agree in one forgery. This argument is so strong, that, if we deny the authenticity of the New Testament, we may with a thousand times greater propriety reject all the other writings in the world;
we may even throw aside human testimony.1 But as this subject is of the greatest importance (for the arguments that prove the authenticity of the New Testament also prove the truth of the Christian religion), we shall consider it more at length; and having first shown that the books, which compose the canon of the New Testament, are not spurious, we shall briefly consider the positive evidence for their authenticity.
A genuine book, as already remarked, is one written by the person whose name it bears as its author; the opposite to genuine is spurious, supposititious, or, as some critics term it, pseudepigraphal, that which is clandestinely put in the place of another. The reasons which may induce a critic to suspect a work to be spurious, are stated by Michaelis to be the following:
1. When doubts have been entertained from its first appearance in the world, whether it proceeded from the author to whom it is ascribed; -2. When the immediate friends of the pretended author, who were able to decide upon the subject, have denied it to be his production; -3. When a long series of years has elapsed after his death, in which the book was unknown, and in which it must unavoidably have been mentioned and quoted, had it really existed ;4. When the style is different from that of his other writings, or, in case no other remain, different from that which might reasonably be expected; 5. When events are recorded which happened later than the time of the pretended author;-6. When opinions are advanced which contradict those he is known to maintain in his other writings. Though this latter argument alone leads to no positive
1 Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. xvii. p. 135. 3d edit.
conclusion, since every man is liable to change his opinion, or, through forgetfulness, to vary in the circumstances of the same relation, of which Josephus, in his Antiquities and War of the Jews, affords a striking example.
Now, of all these various grounds for denying a work to be genuine, not one can be applied with justice to the New Testament. For, in the first place, it cannot be shown that any one doubted of its authenticity in the period in which it first appeared; - Secondly, no antient accounts are on record, whence we may conclude it to be spurious;-Thirdly, no considerable period elapsed after the death of the apostles, in which the New Testament was unknown; but, on the contrary, it is mentioned by their very contemporaries, and the accounts of it in the second century are still more numerous; Fourthly, no argument can be brought in its disfavour from the nature of the style, it being exactly such as might be expected from the apostles, not Attic but Jewish Greek ; Fifthly, no facts are recorded, which happened after their death;- Lastly, no doctrines are maintained, which contradict the known tenets of the authors, since, besides the New Testament, no writings of the apostles are in existBut, to the honour of the New Testament be it spoken, it contains numerous contradictions to the tenets and doctrines of the fathers of the second and third centuries; whose morality is different from that of the Gospel, which recommends fortitude and submission to unavoidable evils, but not that enthusiastic ardour for martyrdom, for which those centuries are distinguished: the New Testament also alludes to ceremonies, which, in the following ages were disused or unknown; all which circumstances infallibly demonstrate that it is not a production of either of those centuries.1
IV. From the preceding considerations it is evident, that there is not the smallest reason to doubt that these books are as certainly genuine, as the most indisputable works of the Greeks and Romans. But that the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament do not rest on merely negative proof, we have evidence the most direct and positive which can be desired, and this evidence may be arranged under the following heads; namely, 1. The Impossibility of a forgery, arising from the nature of the thing itself; -2. External or Historical Evidence, arising from the antient Christian, Jewish, and Heathen testimonies in its favour, and also from the antient versions of the New Testament, which were made into various languages in the very first ages of the church, and which versions are still extant; - and, 3. Internal Evidence, arising from the character of the writers of the New Testament, from its language and style, from the circumstantiality of the narrative, and from the undesigned coincidences of the accounts delivered in the New Testament with the history of those times. 1. The IMPOSSIBILITY OF A FORGERY, arising from the nature of the thing itself, is evident.
It is impossible to establish forged writings as authentic in any
1 Michaelis's Introduction, vol. i. pp. 25-30.
place, where there are persons strongly inclined and well qualified to detect the fraud. Now the Jews were the most violent enemies of Christianity: they put its founder to death; they persecuted his disciples with implacable fury; and they were anxious to stifle the new religion in its birth. If the writings of the New Testament had been forged, would not the Jews have detected the imposture? Is there a single instance on record, where a few individuals have imposed a history upon the world against the testimony of a whole nation? Would the inhabitants of Palestine have received the gospels, if they had not had sufficient evidence that Jesus Christ really appeared among them, and performed the miracles ascribed to him? Or would the churches at Rome or at Corinth have acknowledged the epistles addressed to them as the genuine works of Saint Paul, if he had never preached among them? Or, supposing any impostor to have attempted the invention and distribution of writings under his name, or the names of the other apostles, is it possible that they could have been received without contradiction in all the Christian communities of the three several quarters of the globe? We might as well attempt to prove that the history of the reformation is the invention of historians, and that no revolution happened in Great Britain during the seventeenth century, or in France during the eighteenth century, and the first fifteen years of the nineteenth century. Indeed, from the marks of integrity, simplicity, and fidelity, which every where pervade the writings of the apostles, we may be certain that they would not have attempted a forgery: and, if they had made the attempt in the apostolic age, when the things are said to have happened, every person must have been sensible of the forgery. As the volume, called the New Testament, consists of several pieces which are ascribed to eight persons, we cannot suppose it to have been an imposture; for if they had written in concert, they would not differ, (as in a subsequent page we shall see that they do), in slight matters; and if one man wrote the whole, there would not be such a diversity, as we see in the style of the different pieces. If the apostles were all honest, they were incapable of a forgery; and if they were all knaves, they were unlikely to labour to render men virtuous. If some of them were honest, and the rest cheats, the latter could not have deceived the former, in respect to matters of fact; nor is it probable that impostors would have attempted a forgery which would have exposed them to many inconveniences. Had parts of the Scripture been fabricated in the second or third century by obscure persons, their forgeries would have been rejected by the intelligent and respectable: and if pious and learned men had forged certain passages, their frauds, however well intended, would have been discovered by the captious
1 Witness (to mention no other instances) the attempt unsuccessfully made a few years since by Mr. Ireland, junior, in his celebrated Shakspearian Manuscripts, the fabrication of which was detected by the late Mr. Malone, in his masterly "Inquiry into the Authenticity of the miscellaneous Papers and legal instruments published December 24, 1795, and attributed to Shakspeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry Earl of Southampton." 8vo. London, 1796.
2 Michaelis, vol. i. p. 31. Ency. Brit. vol. xvii. p. 135.
and insignificant, who are ever prone to criticise their superiors in virtue or abilities. If the teachers of Christianity, in one kingdom, forged certain passages of Scripture, the copies in the hands of laymen would discover such forgery: nor would it have been possible to obtain credit for such a forgery in other nations. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, having understood Greek and Hebrew, their gospels, which were written in the former language, contain many Hebrew idioms and words. Hence we may be certain that the gospels were not forged by those early Christian writers or fathers (as they are called) who were strangers to Hebrew, since in such case they would not abound with Hebrew words; nor by Justin Martyr, Origen, or Epiphanius, since the style of the Greek writings of these fathers differs from that of the gospels. Lastly, as the New Testament is not calculated to advance the private interest of priests or rulers, it could not be forged by the clergy or by princes: and as its teachers suffered in propagating it, and as it was not the established religion
any nation for three hundred years, it is perfectly absurd to suppose it the offspring of priestcraft, or mere political contrivance. For three hundred years after Christ, no man had any thing to dread from exposing a forgery in the books of the New Testament; because, during that time, the Christians had not the power of punishing informers.1 It was therefore morally impossible, from the very nature of the thing, that those books could be forged.
2. Satisfactory as the preceding argument for the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament, arising from the impossibility of a forgery, unquestionably is, the direct and positive testimony arising from the EXTERNAL or HISTORICAL EVIDENCE is by no means inferior in decisiveness or importance. This evidence is furnished by the testimony of antient writers, who have quoted or alluded to the books of the New Testament, and also by antient versions of the New Testament, in various languages, which are still extant. The books of the New Testament are quoted or alluded to by a series of Christian writers, as well as by adversaries of the Christian faith, who may be traced back in regular succession from the present time to the apostolic age.2
This sort of evidence, Dr. Paley has remarked, "is of all others the most unquestionable, the least liable to any practices of fraud, and is not diminished by the lapse of ages. Bishop Burnet, in the History of his own Times, inserts various extracts from Lord Clarendon's History. One such insertion is a proof that Lord Clarendon's Histo
1 Dr. Ryan's Evidences of the Mosaic and Christian Codes, pp. 150, 151. 8vo. Dublin, 1795. The argument above, briefly stated, is urged at length with much force and accuracy by Abbadie, in his Traité de la Verité de la Religion Chretienne, tom. ii. pp. 39-45. Amsterdam, 1719.
2 In the first edition of this work, the historical evidence for the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament, was exhibited chronologically from the Apostolic age down to the fourth century; but as the chronological series of that evidence has been cavilled at by the opponents of Christianity, it is now traced backwards from the fourth century to the Apostolic Age, for the weighty and satisfactory reasons (which do not admit of abridgment), assigned by Bishop Marsh, in his "Course of Lectures on Divinity," part v. pp. 11–19.
ry was extant at the time when Bishop Burnet wrote, that it had been read by Bishop Burnet, that it was received by Bishop Burnet as the work of Lord Clarendon, and also regarded by him as an authentic account of the transactions which it relates; and it will be a proof of these points a thousand years hence, or as long as the book exist." This simple instance may serve to point out to a reader, who is little accustomed to such researches, the nature and value of the argu
In examining the quotations from the New Testament, which are to be found in the writings of the fathers, the learned Professor Hug has laid down the following principles, the consideration of which will be sufficient to solve nearly all the objections which have been made against their citations.
1. The antient Christian writers cite the Old Testament with greater exactness than the New Testament; because the former, being less generally known, required positive quotations, rather than vague allusions and perhaps also evinced more erudition in the person who appealed to its testimony.
2. In passages taken from the historical books of the Old or New Testament, we seldom meet with the identical words of the author cited but this does not prevent allusions to circumstances, or to the sense, in very many instances, from rendering evident both the origin of the passage and the design of the author.
3. Quotations from the didactic writings of the Old Testament are generally very exact, and accompanied with the name of the author quoted. In this case his name is, indeed, generally necessary.
4. In like manner, when quotations are made from the epistles of the New Testament, the name of the author cited is generally given, especially when the passage is not literally stated.
5. The fathers often amplify sentences of Scripture, to which they allude: in which case they disregard the words, in order to develope the ideas of the sacred writers.
6. When Irenæus, and the fathers who followed him, relate the actions or discourses of Jesus Christ, they almost always appeal to Him, and not to the evangelist whom they copy. The Lord hath said it-The Lord hath done it- are their expressions, even in those instances, where the conformity of their writings with our copies is not sufficiently striking to exclude all uncertainty respecting the source whence they drew the facts or sayings related by them. (This remark is particularly worthy of attention, because, of all the antient fathers, Irenæus3 is he who has rendered the strongest and most express testimony to the authenticity of our four gospels, and who has consequently drawn from them the facts and discourses which he has related in his writings.)
1 Paley's Evidences, vol. i. p. 173.
2 Melanges de Religion, de Morale, et de Critique Sacrée, tom. iv. pp. 83, 84.; where the remarks above given are translated from Prof. Hug's (German) Intreduction to the writings of the New Testament.
3 The testimony of Irenæus is given in pp. 82. 84. infra.