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reason upon the paragraph itself, in the following manner, (vol. 1. page 158):
“Let us now observe the paragraph itself, and consider, whether it be suitable or unsuitable, to the general character of Josephus.
“ At that time lived Jesus, a wise man, may be called a man. For he performed many wonderful works.
“But why should Josephus scruple to call Jesus a man? Were not Moses, Elijah, Elesha, and other prophets men ? The wonderful works, done by them, were not done by their own power, but by the power of God, bearing testimony to their commission, or supporting them in the execution of it. Moreover Moses himself
, who is so highly extolled and magnified by Josephus, is often called by him a man. Why then should he scruple to say the same of Jesus ?...
“ He was a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure.
“Very honourable to Jesus and his followers ! But would Josephus say this of them ? And would he call the Christian religion the truth ?
And Dr. Lardner might have further asked, Would Josephus compliment his own 'sect so much as to say, that that sect which was opposed to it, received the truth with pleasure ? If they received the truth with pleasure, his own sect must have rejected the truth. However pure and immaculate the Father might have been, who forged this paragraph, he had very little cunning or ingenuity about him. The thing is glaringly, a forgery. And although this is the case, it has passed for the genuine sentiment of Josephus, for about fifteen hundred years. It shows the fraud of the Fathers, on the one hand, and the intellect of their dupes on the other.
“ He drew over to him many Jews and Gentiles.
“ That is not true of the Lord Jesus, if intended of his own personal preaching, before his crucifixion. It was done indeed afterwards. But this manner of speaking is more suitable to a writer in the second, or third century, than to Josephus.
“ This was the Christ.
“ Jerome in his article of Josephus, in his book of illustrious men, quoting this passage cites it thus : And he was believed to be the Christ. Which is a qualifying expression, for which there is no ground. Nor did Sophronius, Jerome's Greek interpreter, follow that translation, but puts it as it is in Eusebius, and other Greek writers, This was the Christ. But it cannot be supposed, that Josephus either thought, or said, that Jesus was the Christ.”
St. Jerome, it appears, saw the unsuitableness of the language to the character of Josephus, and therefore he would modify it; thus exhibiting his pure and immaculate character. He would have it, He was believed to be the Christ, instead of, This was the Christ. He saw that the language was calculated to let the cat out of the bag, and therefore to secure the cat, he would alter the language. He would adapt it more to the character of Josephus, who was a Jew, and rejected Jesus as the Christ. Dr. Lardner however, had honesty enough to declare, that there was no ground for it. And St Jerome would have shown himself to be an honester man, had he exposed the cheat, instead of endeavouring to promote it.
Dr. Lardner then quotes the remainder of the paragraph, which may be seen in my last Letter, page 102, and then observes :
“ All must be sensible, that this could not be said by any man, but a professed Christian. Which Josephus
Therefore he could not write this."
A professed Christian then, even according to Dr. Lardner, was the author of this infamous fraud. His piety must have been excessive. And Dr. Lardner further observes :
“Moreover, the expression, subsists to this time, or is not extinct at this day, imports a considerable space of time, since the crucifixion of Jesus. And does very reasonably lead us to think, that the composer of this paragraph lived later than Josephus."
I am sorry to say any thing to the disadvantage of Dr. Lardner, for he seems to have been a man of considerable honesty, which is more than can be said of one priest out of twenty, but he here exhibits inconsistency in relation to other parts of his professions. I fully agree with the reasoning contained in the last cited paragraph, and so must every
But Dr. Lardner believed in the New Testament, and he believed that the Gospel of Matthew, was written by Matthew; and yet in that Gospel an expression occurs, exactly similar to that upou
which he here raises an objection, and disputes the genuineness of the passage which contains it, in consequence. This is an instance of the inconsistencies into which men fall, when they adopt sentiments in the first instance, not founded on truth and reason.
In the last chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, we are favoured with an account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are told, amongst other things, that when the chief priests found that Christ had risen from the dead, they bribed the watch, who guarded the sepulchre, to say, that his disciples stole him away while they slept, and that he had not risen from the dead. They were unwilling that the idea should get abroad, that Christ had risen from the dead, and therefore they resorted to this artifice in order to prevent it. And says St. Matthew, if he was the writer of this Gospel :
“ So they took the money, and did as they were taught:
It does ap
and this saying that the chief priests bribed the watch is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”
Here then is the expression alluded to, in relation to which Dr. Lardner discovers inconsistency. But I wish first to say something, relative to what we are here told about the chief priests bribing the watch. pear very unlikely to me, that any set of men, whether Jews or Gentiles, or any other sort, would endeavour to conceal the fact, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, if they were conscious that he did so. They would then be compelled to believe that Christ was the Son of God, or something approaching to it, in spite of themselves. And the idea also is worthy of notice, of the watch bearing witness to that which happened while they were sleeping. The watch were to tell people, that Christ did not rise from the dead, but that his disciples stole him away while they were sleeping. Would people not be ready to ask, how did the watch know that his disciples stole him away, if they were sleeping during the time? The absurdity is too great to be expected from Jews; it is therefore what I will not describe. Impostors should always have the bump of Secretiveness very large, for unless they possess a large amount of cunning, they are sure to betray themselves.
And now for the inconsistency of Dr. Lardner.
In the above cited passage, from the word of God, we have the expression, until this day; which is exactly similar to that in the paragraph of Josephus, upon which Dr. Lardner raises an objection, and disputes the genuineness of the passage which contains it, in consequence. Would Dr. Lardner dispute the genuineness of the Gospel of St. Matthew, because it contains the same expression ? Would he deny that Matthew was the writer of that Gospel ? Yet he has precisely the same reason to do this, as he had to do the other. And a greater reason, as I shall now show.
Matthew lived in the time of Jesus Christ, and Josephus did not live until after his time.' Cave tells us, in his Lives of the Apostles, that Epiphanius says, that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Palestine, about eight years after the death of Christ. Josephus was not born until five years after the death of Christ. So that a much greater length of time must have intervened, between the death of Christ, and the writing of Josephus's works, than between the death of Christ, and the writing of St. Matthew's Gospel. Sixty years must have been about the intervening time in the one case, and only eight in the other. The expression therefore, subsists to this day, can be sooner allowed to pass in the writings of Josephus, than a similar expression can be allowed to pass in the writings of St. Matthew, because a greater length of time intervened. Dr. Lardner therefore had more reason to dispute the genuineness of the Gospel of St. Matthew, than he had the genuineness of the paragraph in Josephus. And yet, what does he do? Why, he admits the genuineness of the one, without even the expression of a doubt, and that of the other he disputes. This I call inconsistency. Whether from design, or want of perception, I do not know. The latter I should think not, because he was a man of learning and ability, and the former I am unwilling to think, because it would be an impeachment of his honesty.
I wish, my Lord, to make this matter plain to the comprehension of all
. It is of very great consequence; for if the reasoning be admitted in the case of the paragraph of Josephus, it must also be admitted in the case of St. Matthew's Gospel; and then what becomes of this part of the word of God? I will again transcribe this reasoning, in order that all may clearly understand it. Dr. Lardner says :
“Moreover the expression, subsists to this time, or is not extinct at this day, imports a considerable space of time, since the crucifixion of Jesus. And does
very reasonably lead us to think, that the composer of this paragraph lived later than Josephus.”