The Antiquity Of Pagan Religions
We shall now compare the great antiquity of the sacred books and
religions of Paganism with those of the Christian, so that there may be
no doubt as to which is the original, and which the copy. Allusions to
this subject have already been made throughout this work, we shall
therefore devote as little space to it here as possible.
In speaking of the sacred literature of India, Prof. Monier Williams
"Sanskrit literature, embracing as it does nearly every branch
of knowledge is entirely deficient in one department. It is
wholly destitute of trustworthy historical records. Hence,
little or nothing is known of the lives of ancient Indian
authors, and the dates of their most celebrated works cannot
be fixed with certainty. A fair conjecture, however, may be
arrived at by comparing the most ancient with the more modern
compositions, and estimating the period of time required to
effect the changes of structure and idiom observable in the
language. In this manner we may be justified in assuming that
the hymns of the Veda were probably composed by a succession
of poets at different dates between 1500 and 1000 years B.
Prof. Wm. D. Whitney shows the great antiquity of the Vedic hymns from
the fact that,
"The language of the Vedas is an older dialect, varying very
considerably, both in its grammatical and lexical character,
from the classical Sanscrit."
And M. de Coulanges, in his "Ancient City," says:
"We learn from the hymns of the Vedas, which are certainly
very ancient, and from the laws of Manu," "what the Aryans of
the east thought nearly thirty-five centuries ago."[450:2]
That the Vedas are of very high antiquity is unquestionable; but
however remote we may place the period when they were written, we must
necessarily presuppose that the Hindostanic race had already attained
to a comparatively high degree of civilization, otherwise men capable of
framing such doctrines could not have been found. Now this state of
civilization must necessarily have been preceded by several centuries of
barbarism, during which we cannot possibly admit a more refined faith
than the popular belief in elementary deities.
We shall see in our next chapter that these very ancient Vedic hymns
contain the origin of the legend of the Virgin-born God and Saviour,
the great benefactor of mankind, who is finally put to death, and rises
again to life and immortality on the third day.
The Geetas and Puranas, although of a comparatively modern date,
are, as we have already seen, nevertheless composed of matter to be
found in the two great epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata,
which were written many centuries before the time assigned as that of
the birth of Christ Jesus.[451:1]
The Pali sacred books, which contain the legend of the virgin-born God
and Saviour--Sommona Cadom--are known to have been in existence 316 B.
We have already seen that the religion known as Buddhism, and which
corresponds in such a striking manner with Christianity, has now existed
for upwards of twenty-four hundred years.[451:3]
Prof. Rhys Davids says:
"There is every reason to believe that the Pitakas (the
sacred books which contain the legend of 'The Buddha'), now
extant in Ceylon, are substantially identical with the books
of the Southern Canon, as settled at the Council of Patna
about the year 250 B. C.[451:4] As no works would have been
received into the Canon which were not then believed to be
very old, the Pitakas may be approximately placed in the
fourth century B. C., and parts of them possibly reach back
very nearly, if not quite, to the time of Gautama
The religion of the ancient Persians, which corresponds in so very
many respects with that of the Christians, was established by
Zoroaster--who was undoubtedly a Brahman[451:6]--and is contained in
the Zend-Avesta, their sacred book or Bible. This book is very
ancient. Prof. Max Mueller speaks of "the sacred book of the
Zoroastrians" as being "older in its language than the cuneiform
inscriptions of Cyrus (B. C. 560), Darius (B. C. 520), and Xerxes (B. C.
485) those ancient Kings of Persia, who knew that they were kings by the
grace of Auramazda, and who placed his sacred image high on the
mountain-records of Behistun."[452:1] That ancient book, or its
fragments, at least, have survived many dynasties and kingdoms, and is
still believed in by a small remnant of the Persian race, now settled at
Bombay, and known all over the world by the name of Parsees.[452:2]
"The Babylonian and Phenician sacred books date back to a fabulous
antiquity;"[452:3] and so do the sacred books and religion of Egypt.
Prof. Mahaffy, in his "Prolegomena to Ancient History," says:
"There is indeed hardly a great and fruitful idea in the
Jewish or Christian systems which has not its analogy in the
Egyptian faith, and all these theological conceptions pervade
the oldest religion of Egypt."[452:4]
The worship of Osiris, the Lord and Saviour, must have been of extremely
ancient date, for he is represented as "Judge of the Dead," in
sculptures contemporary with the building of the Pyramids, centuries
before Abraham is said to have been born. Among the many hieroglyphic
titles which accompany his figure in those sculptures, and in many other
places on the walls of temples and tombs, are, "Lord of Life," "The
Eternal Ruler," "Manifester of Good," "Revealer of Truth," "Full of
Goodness and Truth," etc.
In speaking of the "Myth of Osiris," Mr. Bonwick says:
"This great mystery of the Egyptians demands serious
consideration. Its antiquity--its universal hold upon the
people for over five thousand years--its identification with
the very life of the nation--and its marvellous likeness to
the creed of modern date, unite in exciting the greatest
This myth, and that of Isis and Horus, were known before the Pyramid
The worship of the Virgin Mother in Egypt--from which country it was
imported into Europe[453:2]--dates back thousands of years B. C. Mr.
"In all probability she was worshiped three thousand years
before Moses wrote. 'Isis nursing her child Horus, was
represented,' says Mariette Bey, 'at least six thousand years
ago.' We read the name of Isis on monuments of the fourth
dynasty, and she lost none of her popularity to the close of
"The Egyptian Bible is by far the most ancient of all holy
books." "Plato was told that Egypt possessed hymns dating back
ten thousand years before his time."[453:3]
"The origin of the ancient prayers and hymns of the 'Book of
the Dead,' is anterior to Menes; it implies that the system of
Osirian worship and mythology was already formed."[453:4]
And, says Mr. Bonwick:
"Besides opinions, we have facts as a basis for arriving at a
conclusion, and justifying the assertion of Dr. Birch, that
the work dated from a period long anterior to the rise of
Ammon worship at Thebes."[453:5]
Now, "this most ancient of all holy books," establishes the fact that a
virgin-born and resurrected Saviour was worshiped in Egypt thousands of
year before the time of Christ Jesus.
P. Le Page Renouf says:
"The earliest monuments which have been discovered present
to us the very same fully-developed civilization and the
same religion as the later monuments. . . . The gods whose
names appear in the oldest tombs were worshiped down to the
Christian times. The same kind of priesthoods which are
mentioned in the tablets of Canopus and Rosetta in the
Ptolemaic period are as ancient as the pyramids, and more
ancient than any pyramid of which we know the date."[453:6]
In regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. We have just seen that "the
development of the One God into a Trinity" pervades the oldest religion
of Egypt, and the same may be said of India. Prof. Monier Williams,
speaking on this subject, says:
"It should be observed that the native commentaries on the
Veda often allude to thirty-three gods, which number is also
mentioned in the Rig-Veda. This is a multiple of three,
which is a sacred number constantly appearing in the Hindu
religious system. It is probable, indeed, that although the
Tri-murti is not named in the Vedic hymns,[454:1] yet the
Veda is the real source of this Triad of personifications,
afterwards so conspicuous in Hindu mythology. This much, at
least, is clear, that the Vedic poets exhibited a tendency to
group all the forces and energies of nature under three heads,
and the assertion that the number of the gods was
thirty-three, amounted to saying that each of the three
leading personifications was capable of eleven
The great antiquity of the legends referred to in this work is
demonstrated in the fact that they were found in a great measure on the
continent of America, by the first Europeans who set foot on its soil.
Now, how did they get there? Mr. Lundy, in his "Monumental
Christianity," speaking on this subject, says:
"So great was the resemblance between the two sacraments of
the Christian Church (viz., that of Baptism and the Eucharist)
and those of the ancient Mexicans; so many other points of
similarity, also, in doctrine existed, as to the unity of
God, the Triad, the Creation, the Incarnation and Sacrifice,
the Resurrection, etc., that Herman Witsius, no mean scholar
and thinker, was induced to believe that Christianity had been
preached on this continent by some one of the apostles,
perhaps St. Thomas, from the fact that he is reported to have
carried the Gospel to India and Tartary, whence he came to
Some writers, who do not think that St. Thomas could have gotten to
America, believe that St. Patrick, or some other saint, must have, in
some unaccountable manner, reached the shores of the Western continent,
and preached their doctrine there.[454:4] Others have advocated the
devil theory, which is, that the devil, being jealous of the worship of
Christ Jesus, set up a religion of his own, and imitated, nearly as
possible, the religion of Christ. All of these theories being untenable,
we must, in the words of Burnouf, the eminent French Orientalist, "learn
one day that all ancient traditions disfigured by emigration and legend,
belong to the history of India."
That America was inhabited by Asiatic emigrants, and that the American
legends are of Asiatic origin, we believe to be indisputable. There is
an abundance of proof to this effect.[454:5]
In contrast to the great antiquity of the sacred books and religions of
Paganism, we have the facts that the Gospels were not written by the
persons whose names they bear, that they were written many years after
the time these men are said to have lived, and that they are full of
interpolations and errors. The first that we know of the four gospels
is at the time of Irenaeus, who, in the second century, intimates that he
had received four gospels, as authentic scriptures. This pious forger
was probably the author of the fourth, as we shall presently see.
Besides these gospels there were many more which were subsequently
deemed apocryphal; the narratives related in them of Christ Jesus and
his apostles were stamped as forgeries.
"The Gospel according to Matthew" is believed by the majority of
biblical scholars of the present day to be the oldest of the four, and
to be made up principally of a pre-existing one, called "The Gospel of
the Hebrews." The principal difference in these two gospels being that
"The Gospel of the Hebrews" commenced with giving the genealogy of
Jesus from David, through Joseph "according to the flesh." The story
of Jesus being born of a virgin was not to be found there, it being an
afterpiece, originating either with the writer of "The Gospel according
to Matthew," or some one after him, and was evidently taken from "The
Gospel of the Egyptians." "The Gospel of the Hebrews"--from which, we
have said, the Matthew narrator copied--was an intensely Jewish
gospel, and was to be found--in one of its forms--among the Ebionites,
who were the narrowest Jewish Christians of the second century. "The
Gospel according to Matthew" is, therefore, the most Jewish gospel of
the four; in fact, the most Jewish book in the New Testament, excepting,
perhaps, the Apocalypse and the Epistle of James.
Some of the more conspicuous Jewish traits, to be found in this gospel,
are as follows:
Jesus is sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The
twelve are forbidden to go among the Gentiles or the Samaritans.
They are to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. The genealogy of Jesus is traced back to Abraham, and there
stops.[455:1] The works of the law are frequently insisted on. There
is a superstitious regard for the Sabbath, &c.
There is no evidence of the existence of the Gospel of Matthew,--in its
present form--until the year 173, A. D. It is at this time, also, that
it is first ascribed to Matthew, by Apollinaris, Bishop of Hierapolis.
The original oracles of the Gospel of the Hebrews, however,--which were
made use of by the author of our present Gospel of Matthew,--were
written, likely enough, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem,
but the Gospel itself dates from about A. D. 100.[456:1]
"The Gospel according to Luke" is believed to come next--in
chronological order--to that of Matthew, and to have been written some
fifteen or twenty years after it. The author was a foreigner, as his
writings plainly show that he was far removed from the events which he
In writing his Gospel, the author made use of that of Matthew, the
Gospel of the Hebrews, and Marcion's Gospel. He must have had, also,
still other sources, as there are parables peculiar to it, which are not
found in them. Among these may be mentioned that of the "Prodigal
Son," and the "Good Samaritan." Other parables peculiar to it are
that of the two debtors; the friend borrowing bread at night; the rich
man's barns; Dives and Lazarus; the lost piece of silver; the unjust
steward; the Pharisee and the Publican.
Several miracles are also peculiar to the Luke narrator's Gospel, the
raising of the widow of Nain's son being the most remarkable. Perhaps
these stories were delivered to him orally, and perhaps he is the
author of them,--we shall never know. The foundation of the legends,
however, undoubtedly came from the "certain scriptures" of the Essenes
in Egypt. The principal object which the writer of this gospel had in
view was to reconcile Paulinism and the more Jewish forms of
The next in chronological order, according to the same school of
critics, is "The Gospel according to Mark." This gospel is supposed to
have been written within ten years of the former, and its author, as of
the other two gospels, is unknown. It was probably written at Rome, as
the Latinisms of the author's style, and the apparent motive of his
work, strongly suggest that he was a Jewish citizen of the Eternal City.
He made use of the Gospel of Matthew as his principal authority, and
probably referred to that of Luke, as he has things in common with Luke
The object which the writer had in view, was to have a neutral
go-between, a compromise between Matthew as too Petrine (Jewish), and
Luke as too Pauline (Gentile). The different aspects of Matthew and Luke
were found to be confusing to believers, and provocative of hostile
criticism from without; hence the idea of writing a shorter gospel, that
should combine the most essential elements of both. Luke was itself a
compromise between the opposing Jewish and universal tendencies of
early Christianity, but Mark endeavors by avoidance and omission to
effect what Luke did more by addition and contrast. Luke proposed to
himself to open a door for the admission of Pauline ideas without
offending Gentile Christianity; Mark, on the contrary, in a negative
spirit, to publish a Gospel which should not hurt the feelings of either
party. Hence his avoidance of all those disputed questions which
disturbed the church during the first quarter of the second century. The
genealogy of Jesus is omitted; this being offensive to Gentile
Christians, and even to some of the more liberal Judaizers. The
supernatural birth of Jesus is omitted, this being offensive to the
Ebonitish (extreme Jewish) and some of the Gnostic Christians. For every
Judaizing feature that is sacrificed, a universal one is also
sacrificed. Hard words against the Jews are left out, but with equal
care, hard words about the Gentiles.[457:1]
We now come to the fourth, and last gospel, that "according to John,"
which was not written until many years after that "according to
"It is impossible to pass from the Synoptic[457:2] Gospels," says Canon
Westcott, "to the fourth, without feeling that the transition involves
the passage from one world of thought to another. No familiarity with
the general teachings of the Gospels, no wide conception of the
character of the Saviour, is sufficient to destroy the contrast which
exists in form and spirit between the earlier and later narratives."
The discrepancies between the fourth and the Synoptic Gospels are
numerous. If Jesus was the man of Matthew's Gospel, he was not the
mysterious being of the fourth. If his ministry was only one year
long, it was not three. If he made but one journey to Jerusalem, he
did not make many. If his method of teaching was that of the
Synoptics, it was not that of the fourth Gospel. If he was the Jew of
Matthew, he was not the Anti-Jew of John.[457:3]
Everywhere in John we come upon a more developed stage of Christianity
than in the Synoptics. The scene, the atmosphere, is different. In the
Synoptics Judaism, the Temple, the Law and the Messianic Kingdom are
omnipresent. In John they are remote and vague. In Matthew Jesus is
always yearning for his own nation. In John he has no other sentiment
for it than hate and scorn. In Matthew the sanction of the Prophets is
his great credential. In John his dignity can tolerate no previous
"Do we ask," says Francis Tiffany, "who wrote this wondrous Gospel?
Mysterious its origin, as that wind of which its author speaks, which
bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof and canst
not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. As with the Great Unknown
of the book of Job, the Great Unknown of the later Isaiah, the ages keep
his secret. The first absolutely indisputable evidence of the existence
of the book dates from the latter half of the second century."
The first that we know of the fourth Gospel, for certainty, is at the
time of Irenaeus (A. D. 179).[458:1] We look in vain for an express
recognition of the four canonical Gospels, or for a distinct mention
of any one of them, in the writings of St. Clement (A. D. 96), St.
Ignatius (A. D. 107), St. Justin (A. D. 140), or St. Polycarp (A. D.
108). All we can find is incidents from the life of Jesus, sayings, etc.
That Irenaeus is the author of it is very evident. This learned and pious
"John, the disciple of the Lord, wrote his Gospel to confute
the doctrine lately taught by Cerinthus, and a great while
before by those called Nicolaitans, a branch of the Gnostics;
and to show that there is one God who made all things by his
WORD: and not, as they say, that there is one the Creator, and
another the Father of our Lord: and one the Son of the
Creator, and another, even the Christ, who descended from
above upon the Son of the Creator, and continued impassible,
and at length returned to his pleroma or fulness."[458:2]
The idea of God having inspired four different men to write a history
of the same transactions,--or rather, of many different men having
undertaken to write such a history, of whom God inspired four only to
write correctly, leaving the others to their own unaided resources, and
giving us no test by which to distinguish the inspired from the
uninspired--certainly appears self-confuting, and anything but natural.
The reasons assigned by Irenaeus for there being four Gospels are as
"It is impossible that there could be more or less than
four. For there are four climates, and four cardinal
winds; but the Gospel is the pillar and foundation of the
church, and its breath of life. The church therefore was to
have four pillars, blowing immortality from every quarter, and
giving life to man."[459:1]
It was by this Irenaeus, with the assistance of Clement of Alexandria,
and Tertullian, one of the Latin Fathers, that the four Gospels were
introduced into general use among the Christians.
In these four spurious Gospels, and in some which are considered
Apocryphal--because the bishops at the Council of Laodicea (A. D. 365)
rejected them--we have the only history of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, if
all accounts or narratives of Christ Jesus and his Apostles were
forgeries, as it is admitted that all the Apocryphal ones were, what
can the superior character of the received Gospels prove for them, but
that they are merely superiorly executed forgeries? The existence of
Jesus is implied in the New Testament outside of the Gospels, but
hardly an incident of his life is mentioned, hardly a sentence that he
spoke has been preserved. Paul, writing from twenty to thirty years
after his death, has but a single reference to anything he ever said or
Beside these four Gospels there were, as we said above, many others,
for, in the words of Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian:
"Not long after Christ's ascension into heaven, several
histories of his life and doctrines, full of pious frauds
and fabulous wonders, were composed by persons whose
intentions, perhaps, were not bad, but whose writings
discovered the greatest superstition and ignorance. Nor was
this all; productions appeared, which were imposed upon the
world by fraudulent men, as the writings of the holy
Dr. Conyers Middleton, speaking on this subject, says:
"There never was any period of time in all ecclesiastical
history, in which so many rank heresies were publicly
professed, nor in which so many spurious books were forged
and published by the Christians, under the names of Christ,
and the Apostles, and the Apostolic writers, as in those
primitive ages. Several of these forged books are frequently
cited and applied to the defense of Christianity, by the most
eminent fathers of the same ages, as true and genuine
Archbishop Wake also admits that:
"It would be useless to insist on all the spurious pieces
which were attributed to St. Paul alone, in the primitive ages
Some of the "spurious pieces which were attributed to St. Paul," may be
found to-day in our canonical New Testament, and are believed by many to
be the word of God.[460:2]
The learned Bishop Faustus, in speaking of the authenticity of the New
"It is certain that the New Testament was not written by
Christ himself, nor by his apostles, but a long while after
them, by some unknown persons, who, lest they should not be
credited when they wrote of affairs they were little
acquainted with, affixed to their works the names of the
apostles, or of such as were supposed to have been their
companions, asserting that what they had written themselves,
was written according to these persons to whom they ascribed
Again he says:
"Many things have been inserted by our ancestors in the
speeches of our Lord, which, though put forth under his name,
agree not with his faith; especially since--as already it has
been often proved--these things were not written by Christ,
nor his apostles, but a long while after their assumption, by
I know not what sort of half Jews, not even agreeing with
themselves, who made up their tale out of reports and opinions
merely, and yet, fathering the whole upon the names of the
apostles of the Lord, or on those who were supposed to follow
the apostles, they mendaciously pretended that they had
written their lies and conceits according to them."[460:4]
What had been said to have been done in India, was said by these
"half-Jews" to have been done in Palestine; the change of names and
places, with the mixing up of various sketches of the Egyptian, Persian,
Phenician, Greek and Roman mythology, was all that was necessary. They
had an abundance of material, and with it they built. The foundation
upon which they built was undoubtedly the "Scriptures," or Diegesis,
of the Essenes in Alexandria in Egypt, which fact led Eusebius, the
ecclesiastical historian--"without whom," says Tillemont, "we should
scarce have had any knowledge of the history of the first ages of
Christianity, or of the authors who wrote in that time"--to say that the
sacred writings used by this sect were none other than "Our Gospels."
We offer below a few of the many proofs showing the Gospels to have
been written a long time after the events narrated are said to have
occurred, and by persons unacquainted with the country of which they
"He (Jesus) came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the
coasts of Decapolis," is an assertion made by the Mark narrator (vii.
31), when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as
known before the reign of the emperor Nero.
Again, "He (Jesus) departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of
Judea, beyond Jordan," is an assertion made by the Matthew narrator
(xix. 1), when the Jordan itself was the eastern boundary of Judea, and
there were no coasts of Judea beyond it.
Again, "But when he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in
the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither,
notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into
the parts of Galilee, and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth;
that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, he shall
be called a Nazarene," is another assertion made by the Matthew narrator
(ii. 22, 23), when--1. It was a son of Herod who reigned in Galilee as
well as Judea, so that he could not be more secure in one province than
in the other; and when--2. It was impossible for him to have gone from
Egypt to Nazareth, without traveling through the whole extent of
Archelaus's kingdom, or making a peregrination through the deserts on
the north and east of the Lake Asphaltites, and the country of Moab; and
then, either crossing the Jordan into Samaria or the Lake of Gennesareth
into Galilee, and from thence going to the city of Nazareth, which is no
better geography, than if one should describe a person as turning
aside from Cheapside into the parts of Yorkshire; and when--3. There
were no prophets whatever who had prophesied that Jesus "should be
called a Nazarene."
The Matthew narrator (iv. 13) states that "He departed into Galilee, and
leaving Nazareth, came and dwelt in Capernaum," as if he imagined that
the city of Nazareth was not as properly in Galilee as Capernaum was;
which is much such geographical accuracy, as if one should relate the
travels of a hero, who departed into Middlesex, and leaving London, came
and dwelt in Lombard street.[461:1]
There are many other falsehoods in gospel geography beside these,
which, it is needless to mention, plainly show that the writers were not
the persons they are generally supposed to be.
Of gospel statistics there are many falsehoods; among them may be
mentioned the following:
"Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto
John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness," is an assertion made by
the Luke narrator (Luke iii. 2); when all Jews, or persons living among
them, must have known that there never was but one high priest at a
time, as with ourselves there is but one mayor of a city.
Again we read (John vii. 52), "Search (the Scriptures) and look, for out
of Galilee ariseth no prophet," when the most distinguished of the
Jewish prophets--Nahum and Jonah--were both Galileans.
See reference in the Epistles to "Saints," a religious order, owing
its origin to the popes. Also, references to the distinct orders of
"Bishops," "Priests," and "Deacons," and calls to a monastic life;
to fasting, etc., when, the titles of "Bishop," "Priest," and "Deacon"
were given to the Essenes--whom Eusebius calls Christians--and, as is
well known, monasteries were the abode of the Essenes or Therapeuts.
See the words for "legion," "aprons," "handkerchiefs,"
"centurion," etc., in the original, not being Greek, but Latin,
written in Greek characters, a practice first to be found in the
historian Herodian, in the third century.
In Matt. xvi. 18, and Matt. xviii. 17, the word "Church" is used, and
its papistical and infallible authority referred to as then existing,
which is known not to have existed till ages after. And the passage in
Matt. xi. 12:--"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence," etc., could not have been written
till a very late period.
Luke ii. 1, shows that the writer (whoever he may have been) lived long
after the events related. His dates, about the fifteenth year of
Tiberius, and the government of Cyrenius (the only indications of time
in the New Testament), are manifestly false. The general ignorance of
the four Evangelists, not merely of the geography and statistics of
Judea, but even of its language,--their egregious blunders, which no
writers who had lived in that age could be conceived of as
making,--prove that they were not only no such persons as those who have
been willing to be deceived have taken them to be, but that they were
not Jews, had never been in Palestine, and neither lived at, or at
anywhere near the times to which their narratives seem to refer. The
ablest divines at the present day, of all denominations, have yielded as
much as this.[463:1]
The Scriptures were in the hands of the clergy only, and they had every
opportunity to insert whatsoever they pleased; thus we find them full of
interpolations. Johann Solomo Semler, one of the most influential
theologians of the eighteenth century, speaking of this, says:
"The Christian doctors never brought their sacred books before
the common people; although people in general have been wont
to think otherwise; during the first ages, they were in the
hands of the clergy only."[463:2]
Concerning the time when the canon of the New Testament was settled,
"The opinions, or rather the conjectures, of the learned
concerning the time when the books of the New Testament were
collected into one volume; as also about the authors of that
collection, are extremely different. This important question
is attended with great and almost insuperable difficulties to
us in these later times."[463:3]
The Rev. B. F. Westcott says:
"It is impossible to point to any period as marking the date
at which our present canon was determined. When it first
appears, it is presented not as a novelty, but as an ancient
Dr. Lardner says:
"Even so late as the middle of the sixth century, the canon
of the New Testament had not been settled by any authority
that was decisive and universally acknowledged, but Christian
people were at liberty to judge for themselves concerning the
genuineness of writings proposed to them as apostolical, and
to determine according to evidence."[464:1]
The learned Michaelis says:
"No manuscript of the New Testament now extant is prior to the
sixth century, and what is to be lamented, various readings
which, as appears from the quotations of the Fathers, were in
the text of the Greek Testament, are to be found in none of
the manuscripts which are at present remaining."[464:2]
And Bishop Marsh says:
"It is a certain fact, that several readings in our common
printed text are nothing more than alterations made by
Origen, whose authority was so great in the Christian Church
(A. D. 230) that emendations which he proposed, though, as he
himself acknowledged, they were supported by the evidence of
no manuscript, were very generally received."[464:3]
In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius gives us a list of what books at
that time (A. D. 315) were considered canonical. They are as follows:
"The four-fold writings of the Evangelists," "The Acts of the
Apostles," "The Epistles of Peter," "after these the first
of John, and that of Peter," "All these are received for
undoubted." "The Revelation of St. John, some disavow."
"The books which are gainsaid, though well known unto many,
are these: the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, the
latter of Peter, the second and third of John, whether
they were John the Evangelist, or some other of the same
Though Irenaeus, in the second century, is the first who mentions the
evangelists, and Origen, in the third century, is the first who gives us
a catalogue of the books contained in the New Testament, Mosheim's
admission still stands before us. We have no grounds of assurance that
the mere mention of the names of the evangelists by Irenaeus, or the
arbitrary drawing up of a particular catalogue by Origen, were of any
authority. It is still unknown by whom, or where, or when, the
canon of the New Testament was settled. But in this absence of positive
evidence we have abundance of negative proof. We know when it was not
settled. We know it was not settled in the time of the Emperor
Justinian, nor in the time of Cassiodorus; that is, not at any time
before the middle of the sixth century, "by any authority that was
decisive and universally acknowledged; but Christian people were at
liberty to judge for themselves concerning the genuineness of writings
proposed to them as apostolical."
We cannot do better than close this chapter with the words of Prof. Max
Mueller, who, in speaking of Buddhism, says:
"We have in the history of Buddhism an excellent opportunity
for watching the process by which a canon of sacred books is
called into existence. We see here, as elsewhere, that
during the life-time of the teacher, no record of events, no
sacred code containing the sayings of the Master, was wanted.
His presence was enough, and thoughts of the future, and more
particularly, of future greatness, seldom entered the minds of
those who followed him. It was only after Buddha had left the
world to enter into Nirvana, that his disciples attempted to
recall the sayings and doings of their departed friend and
master. At that time, everything that seemed to redound to the
glory of Buddha, however extraordinary and incredible, was
eagerly welcomed, while witnesses who would have ventured to
criticise or reject unsupported statements, or to detract in
any way from the holy character of Buddha, had no chance of
ever being listened to. And when, in spite of all this,
differences of opinion arose, they were not brought to the
test by a careful weighing of evidence, but the names of
'unbeliever' and 'heretic' were quickly invented in India
as elsewhere, and bandied backwards and forwards between
contending parties, till at last, when the doctors disagreed,
the help of the secular power had to be invoked, and kings and
emperors assembled councils for the suppression of schism, for
the settlement of an orthodox creed, and for the completion of
a sacred canon."[465:1]
That which Prof. Mueller describes as taking place in the religion of
Christ Buddha, is exactly what took place in the religion of Christ
Jesus. That the miraculous, and many of the non-miraculous, events
related in the Gospels never happened, is demonstrable from the facts
which we have seen in this work, that nearly all of these events, had
been previously related of the gods and goddesses of heathen nations of
antiquity, more especially of the Hindoo Saviour Crishna, and the
Buddhist Saviour Buddha, whose religion, with less alterations than
time and translations have made in the Jewish Scriptures, may be traced
in nearly every dogma and every ceremony of the evangelical mythology.
* * * * *
NOTE.--The Codex Sinaiticus, referred to on the preceding page,
(note 2,) was found at the Convent of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, by
Tischendorf, in 1859. He supposes that it belongs to the 4th cent.;
but Dr. Davidson (in Kitto's Bib. Ency., Art. MSS.) thinks different. He
says: "Probably it is of the 6th cent.," while he states that the
Codex Vaticanus "is believed to belong to the 4th cent.," and the
Codex Alexandrinus to the 5th cent. McClintock & Strong's Ency. (Art.
MSS.,) relying probably on Tischendorf's conjecture, places the Codex
Sinaiticus first. "It is probably the oldest of the MSS. of the N.
T., and of the 4th cent.," say they. The Codex Vaticanus is considered
the next oldest, and the Codex Alexandrinus is placed third in order,
and "was probably written in the first half of the 5th cent." The
writer of the art. N. T. in Smith's Bib. Dic. says: "The Codex
Sinaiticus is probably the oldest of the MSS. of the N. T., and of the
4th cent.;" and that the Codex Alexandrinus "was probably written in
the first half of the 5th cent." Thus we see that in determining the
dates of the MSS. of the N. T., Christian divines are obliged to resort
to conjecture; there being no certainty whatever in the matter. But
with all their "suppositions," "probabilities," "beliefs" and
"conjectures," we have the words of the learned Michaelis still before
us, that: "No MSS. of the N. T. now extant are prior to the sixth
cent." This remark, however, does not cover the Codex Sinaiticus,
which was discovered since Michaelis wrote his work on the N. T.; but,
as we saw above, Dr. Davidson does not agree with Tischendorf in regard
to its antiquity, and places it in the 6th cent.
[450:1] Williams' Hinduism, p. 19. See also, Prof. Max Mueller's Lectures
on the Origin of Religion, pp. 145-158, and p. 67, where he speaks of
"the Hindus, who, thousands of years ago, had reached in Upanishads the
loftiest heights of philosophy."
[450:2] The Ancient City, p. 13.
[451:1] See Monier Williams' Hinduism, pp. 109, 110, and Indian Wisdom,
[451:2] See Isis Unveiled, vol. ii. p. 576, for the authority of Prof.
[451:3] "The religion known as Buddhism--from the title of 'The Buddha,'
meaning 'The Wise,' 'The Enlightened'--has now existed for 2400 years,
and may be said to be the prevailing religion of the world." (Chambers's
[451:4] This Council was assembled by Asoka in the eighteenth year of
his reign. The name of this king is honored wherever the teachings of
Buddha have spread, and is reverenced from the Volga to Japan, from
Ceylon and Siam to the borders of Mongolia and Siberia. Like his
Christian prototype Constantine, he was converted by a miracle. After
his conversion, which took place in the tenth year of his reign, he
became a very zealous supporter of the new religion. He himself built
many monasteries and dagabas, and provided many monks with the
necessaries of life; and he encouraged those about his court to do the
same. He published edicts throughout his empire, enjoining on all his
subjects morality and justice.
[451:5] Rhys Davids' Buddhism, p. 10.
[451:6] See Chapter VII.
[452:1] Mueller: Lectures on the Science of Religion, p. 235.
[452:2] This small tribe of Persians were driven from their native land
by the Mohammedan conquerors under the Khalif Omar, in the seventh
century of our era. Adhering to the ancient religion of Persia, which
resembles that of the Veda, and bringing with them the records of
their faith, the Zend-Avesta of their prophet Zoroaster, they settled
down in the neighborhood of Surat, about one thousand one hundred years
ago, and became great merchants and shipbuilders. For two or three
centuries we know little of their history. Their religion prevented them
from making proselytes, and they never multiplied within themselves to
any extent, nor did they amalgamate with the Hindoo population, so that
even now their number only amounts to about seventy thousand.
Nevertheless, from their busy, enterprising habits, in which they
emulate Europeans, they form an important section of the population of
Bombay and Western India.
[452:3] Movers: Quoted in Dunlap's Spirit Hist., p. 261.
[452:4] Prolegomena, p. 417.
[452:5] Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 162.
[453:1] Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 163.
[453:2] Ibid. p. 142, and King's Gnostics, p. 71.
[453:3] Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, pp. 135, 140, and 143.
[453:4] Quoted in Ibid. p. 186.
[453:6] Renouf: Religion of Ancient Egypt, p. 81.
[454:1] That is, the Tri-murti Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, for he tells
us that the three gods, Indra, Agni, and Surya, constitute the Vedic
chief triad of Gods. (Hinduism, p. 24.) Again he tells us that the idea
of a Tri-murti was first dimly shadowed forth in the Rig-Veda, where a
triad of principal gods--Agni, Indra and Surya--is recognized. (Ibid. p.
88.) The worship of the three members of the Tri-murti, Brahma, Vishnu
and Siva, is to be found in the period of the epic poems, from 500 to
308 B. C. (Ibid. pp. 109, 110, 115.)
[454:2] Williams' Hinduism, p. 25.
[454:3] Monumental Christianity, p. 890.
[454:4] See Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi.
[454:5] See Appendix A.
[455:1] The genealogy which traces him back to Adam (Luke iii.) makes
his religion not only a Jewish, but a Gentile one. According to this
Gospel he is not only a Messiah sent to the Jews, but to all nations,
sons of Adam.
[456:1] See The Bible of To-Day, under "Matthew."
[456:2] See Ibid. under "Luke."
[457:1] See the Bible of To-Day, under "Mark."
[457:2] "Synoptics;" the Gospels which contain accounts of the same
events--"parallel passages," as they are called--which can be written
side by side, so as to enable us to make a general view or synopsis of
all the three, and at the same time compare them with each other. Bishop
Marsh says: "The most eminent critics are at present decidedly of
opinion that one of the two suppositions must necessarily be adopted,
either that the three Evangelists copied from each other, or that all
the three drew from a common source, and that the notion of an absolute
independence, in respect to the composition of the three first Gospels,
is no longer tenable."
[457:3] "On opening the New Testament and comparing the impression
produced by the Gospel of Matthew or Mark with that by the Gospel of
John, the observant eye is at once struck with as salient a contrast as
that already indicated on turning from the Macbeth or Othello of
Shakespeare to the Comus of Milton or to Spenser's Faerie Queene."
"To learn how far we may trust them (the Gospels) we must in the first
place compare them with each other. The moment we do so we notice that
the fourth stands quite alone, while the first three form a single
group, not only following the same general course, but sometimes even
showing a verbal agreement which cannot possibly be accidental." (The
Bible for Learners, vol. ii. p. 27.)
[458:1] "Irenaeus is the first person who mentions the four Gospels by
name." (Bunsen: Keys of St. Peter, p. 328.)
"Irenaeus, in the second century, is the first of the fathers who, though
he has nowhere given us a professed catalogue of the books of the New
Testament, intimates that he had received four Gospels, as authentic
Scriptures, the authors of which he describes." (Rev. R. Taylor:
Syntagma, p. 109.)
"The authorship of the fourth Gospel has been the subject of much
learned and anxious controversy among theologians. The earliest, and
only very important external testimony we have is that of IRENAEUS (A.
D. 179.)" (W. R. Grey: The Creed of Christendom, p. 159.)
[458:2] Against Heresies, bk. ii. ch. xi. sec. 1.
[459:1] Against Heresies, bk. iii. ch. xi. sec. 8.
[459:2] Mosheim: vol. i. p. 109.
[459:3] Middleton's Works, vol. i. p. 59.
[460:1] Genuine Epist. Apost. Fathers, p. 98.
[460:2] See Chadwick's Bible of To-Day, pp. 191, 192.
[460:3] "Nec ab ipso scriptum constat, nec ab ejus apostolis sed longo
post tempore a quibusdam incerti nominis viris, qui ne sibi non
haberetur fides scribentibus quae nescirent, partim apostolorum, partim
eorum qui apostolos secuti viderentur nomina scriptorum suorum frontibus
indiderunt, asseverantes secundum eos, se scripsisse quae scripserunt."
(Faust, lib. 2. Quoted by Rev. R. Taylor: Diegesis, p. 114.)
[460:4] "Multa enim a majoribus vestris, eloquiis Domini nostri inserta
verba sunt; quae nomine signata ipsius, cum ejus fide non congruant,
praesertim, quia, ut jam saepe probatum a nobis est, nec ab ipso haec sunt,
nec ab ejus apostolis scripta, sed multo post eorum assumptionem, a
nescio quibus, et ipsis inter se non concordantibus SEMI-JUDAEIS, per
famas opinionesque comperta sunt; qui tamen omnia eadem in apostolorum
Domini conferentes nomina vel eorum qui secuti apostolos viderentur,
errores ac mendacia sua secundum eos se scripsisse mentiti sunt."
(Faust.: lib. 88. Quoted in Ibid. p. 66.)
[461:1] Taylor's Diegesis.
[463:1] Says Prof. Smith upon this point: "All the earliest external
evidence points to the conclusion that the synoptic gospels are
non-apostolic digests of spoken and written apostolic tradition, and
that the arrangement of the earlier material in orderly form took place
only gradually and by many essays."
Dr. Hooykaas, speaking of the four "Gospels," and "Acts," says of
them: "Not one of these five books was really written by the person
whose name it bears, and they are all of more recent date than the
heading would lead us to suppose."
"We cannot say that the "Gospels" and book of "Acts" are unauthentic,
for not one of them professes to give the name of its author. They
appeared anonymously. The titles placed above them in our Bibles owe
their origin to a later ecclesiastical tradition which deserves no
confidence whatever." (Bible for Learners, vol. iii. pp. 24, 25.)
These Gospels "can hardly be said to have had authors at all. They had
only editors or compilers. What I mean is, that those who enriched the
old Christian literature with these Gospels did not go to work as
independent writers and compose their own narratives out of the accounts
they had collected, but simply took up the different stories or sets of
stories which they found current in the oral tradition or already
reduced to writing, adding here and expanding there, and so sent out
into the world a very artless kind of composition. These works were
then, from time to time, somewhat enriched by introductory matter or
interpolations from the hands of later Christians, and perhaps were
modified a little here and there. Our first two Gospels appear to have
passed through more than one such revision. The third, whose writer says
in his preface, that 'many had undertaken to put together a narrative
(Gospel),' before him, appears to proceed from a single collecting,
arranging, and modifying hand." (Ibid. p. 29.)
[463:2] "Christiani doctores non in vulgus prodebant libros sacros,
licet soleant plerique aliteropinari, erant tantum in manibus
clericorum, priora per saecula." (Quoted in Taylor's Diegesis, p. 48.)
[463:3] Mosheim: vol. i. pt. 2, ch. ii.
[463:4] General Survey of the Canon, p. 459.
[464:1] Credibility of the Gospels.
[464:2] Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. p. 160. The Sinaitic MS. is believed
by Tischendorf to belong to the fourth century.
[464:3] Ibid. p. 368.
[464:4] Eusebius: Ecclesiastical Hist. lib. 3, ch. xxii.
[465:1] The Science of Religion, pp. 30, 31.