« AnteriorContinuar »
Correspondents will please address, “ THOMAS COOPER, 5, Park Row, Knightsbridge, London." T. J.-Yes; I shall have pleasure in giving the weekly list of Lectures, delivered at any popu
lar Institution in London—if the Secretaries will forward to me the necessary information. W. L. requests that I will give notice of my own appointments in London, and of the
subjects of discourse, during the present month. They are as follows:January 6. (Sunday evening at 7), Hall of Science, City Road. Gospel History: the Trans
figuration,” &c. 7. (Monday evening at 81), Finsbury Hall, Bunhill Row. “ Life and Genius of Sir William
Jones." 9. (Wednesday evening at 8), Mechanics' Institute, Gould Square. “ The Wrongs of Ireland.” 13. (Sunday evening at 7), Literary Institution, John-street. “ The English Commonwealth,
to the Execution of Charles Ist." 14. (Monday evening at 8]), Finsbury Hall, Bunhill Row. “ Life and Character of Sir Isaac
Newton.” 16. (Wednesday evening at 8), Mechanics’ Institute, Gould Square. “Raleigh, and the Age
of Elizabeth.” 20. (Sunday evening at 7), Hall of Science, City Road. “ Gospel History: the Crucifixion,” &c. 23. (Wednesday evening at 8), Mechanics’ Institute Gould Square. “ Life and Genius of
Sir William Jones." 27. (Sunday evening at 7), Literary Institution, John-street. “The English Commonwealth :
Guvernment by the Council of State and Parliament: the Protectorate and Character of
Oliver Cromwell." 28. (Monday evening at 8), Temperance Hall, Broadway, Westminster. “ The Wrongs of
Ireland.” 30. (Wednesday evening at 8), Mechanics’ Institute, Gould Square. “Life and Character of
Sir Isaac Newton.”
Bright spirit of another life, arise !
And bear me with thee where thy fancy flies
Through grove and valley, under summer skies.
Let fearless Holiness still be the guard
With all thy magic grace, tales yet untold
WHO ARE THE Truly VALUABLE IN SOCIETY.—The value set upon a member of society, should be, not according to the fineness or intensity of his feelings, to the acuteness of his sensibility, or his readiness to weep for, or deplore the misery he may meet with in the world; but in proportion to the sacrifices which he is ready to make, and to the knowledge and talents which he is able and willing to contribute towards removing this misery. To benefit mankind is a much more difficult task than some seem to imagine; it is not quite so easy as to make a display of amiable sensibility: the first requires long study and painful abstinence from the various alluring pleasures by which we are surrounded; the second in most cases demands only a little acting, and even when sincere, is utterly useless to the public.-Westminster Review, No. 3.
CRITICAL EXEGESIS OF GOSPEL HISTORY,
ON THE BASIS OF STRAUSS'S LEBEN JESU.' A SERIES OF EIGHT DISCOURSES ; DELIVERED AT THE LITERARY INSTITUTION, JOHN
STREET, TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD, AND AT THE HALL OF SCIENCE, CITY ROAD,
BY THOMAS COOPER,
I. THE BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD OF JESUS. [All who are afraid of thinking, and who dread that the People should think, on the most important of all subjects, will censure me for the publication of these discourses. Let none of these, however, misrepresent my motives. I yield to none in fervent admiration and love for the character of Christ. Under all changes of opinion, his moral beauty has ever kept its throne in my heart and mind, as the most worshipful of all portraitures of goodness. I seek to multiply, not to lessen, the number of his true disciples, Deeply convinced that the rapid growth of enquiry, and the spread of scientific information, among the great body of the People, are destroying all belief in what is evidently legendary, I am anxious to aid the F. reservation, in some minds at least, of continued and purified attachment to the substance of Christianity, while its shadows are being dispelled. I know no higher teaching than Christ's: I acknowledge none. But his religion no longer commends itself to me by mysterious or miraculous sanctions. I hold it to be the most perfect version of the Religion of Humanity; and for that reason, desire to see it divested of all legendary incrustations that may prevent its reception with sincere and earnest thinkers. The great work of Strauss assisted me much in coming to a clear and determinate conclusion respecting the source of the corruptions in the real history of Christ; and with a view to help others who might experience similar difficulties to mine, I delivered these discourses. The reader must be informed, however, that since I had very few written notes, these papers will contain the thoughts, rather than the words, addressed to my audiences in London.-T. C.] "WHERE did it come from?' 'Who made it?' “Who wrote it?'_These are questions in the mouth of every man which not only excite no wonder, but are held to be natural marks of human intelligence. Men who can view, for the first time, some natural product, such as a metal or a fruit, unlike
any metal or fruit found in their own clime, and never feel a spark of desire to know where it came from, are accounted but a kind of incurious idiots by enquiring people. A highly-wrought piece of mechanism it is usual to receive with the query of 'Who made it?”—at least by an intelligent beholder; and if the looker-on merely exclaims, 'Well, how wonderful!' and passes away, we usually set him down either as very indolent or very simple. In becoming acquainted with a book which we prize highly when we learn its contents, the question of 'Who wrote it?' is so natural, that a man would be accounted a strange sort of reader if he did not ask it. And inasmuch as the more valuable a man esteems a book to be, the more eagerly he is expected to ask that question, so we expect him to be proportionately diligent and persevering in sifting the question if it be disputed.
Nay! There is one book, or collection of books, which hundreds and thousands of men regard as the most valuable of all books, and concerning the authorship of which it is demanded that these rules of human judgment be reversed. For labouring to ascertain the real authorship of any other valuable book, such as the Letters of Junius,' for instance; for disproving that any inferior composition, such as “Titus Andronicus can be the work of Shakspere, and for shewing that it ought to be excluded from the volume which bears his immortal name--a literary toiler is deemed meritorious. But to produce an essay on the authorship of the Four Gospels, without closing your work in the orthodox style, by setting them
down as the authentic penmanship of Matthew, the publican, who became one of the twelve Apostles; Mark, the hearer of Peter; Luke, the physician, and companion of Paul; and John the beloved disciple—is certain to ruin a man's reputation for piety; while every youth who might read the book, and happen to tell a clergyman of it, would be received with a look of consternation, and an assurance that it was almost as dangerous as dealing with the devil!
Now, what is the common-sense inference to be drawn from this clerical dread of sincere enquiry into Christian history-enquiry which, if pursued respecting any other proposition presented to the mind would be held praiseworthy? If the evidence be so pellucidly clear—if every link in the concatenation of evidence be so perfectly welded—why should there be this dread that anybody should look at it? and why has the evidence been collected and published, if we are not to consider it? Do not men either stultify themselves by affirming the certainty of the evidence while they warn people of the dreadful danger of examining it—or, otherwise, manifest their own consciousness that the evidence, upon real inquiry will be found somewhat unworthy of the name?
Never having heard an honest and a sensible reason why the New Testament history, either as it regards its authorship or its facts, should not be judged like other books—that is, fairly, wisely, sincerely, and earnestly -I propose to enter with you, to-night, on an examination of the Four Gospels. The examination, to be as complete as I wish it to be, and as I believe it must be to answer any useful purpose, cannot be concluded until the lapse of many weeks. That portion of the history, so called, which professes to relate the birth and childhood of the great and good Jesus of Nazareth, will form the limits of our enquiry to-night. But I cannot enter, even on this introductory portion of the professed history, without a few words—and they shall be few-respecting the evidence for the authorship of the Four Gospels.
1. Papias, who lived in the middle of the second century, asserts (accordto a passage quoted by Eusebius, from a work now lost—the same Eusebius being Bishop of Cesarea in A.D. 315) that Matthew the apostle wrote Royca of Christ—that is to say, 'words or sayings. This writing was made by Matthew, in Hebrew, Papias says. Jerome, and other Fathers, in after times, assert that our Gospel of Matthew is a translation of this book; but there is no evidence for it—nor does the description of 'words or sayings' of Christ properly characterise our Gospel of Matthew, since it professes to relate Christ's life and death and resurrection. Justin Martyr, who died in A.D. 166, and several other Fathers, give precepts and narratives corresponding more or less with passages in Matthew; but the name of Matthew is not mentioned. Justin Martyr uses the words 'gospels, or memoirs of the Apostles;' but some of the phrases he quotes are not found in any of our gospels. Celsus says that the disciples of Jesus wrote his history, and speaks of the divergence of their accounts of his resurrection; but as far as we know his writings through Origen, he does not name any author of a gospel.
2. Mark, according to the same Papias (quoted by Eusebius), wrote down the discourses and actions of Jesus from his recollections of what was taught him by Peter. But our Mark's gospel is distinguished by a professed order of time and circumstance; and so far from being an original work, it is evidently no more than a compilation-sometimes abridged, and now and then with a dramatic effect added
from Matthew and Luke.
3. Our Luke's gospel has no testimony to its authorship so anciently equivocal as the first two gospels. It does not mention its own author any more than the first two; but it asserts its author (in the preface to Theophilus) to have had 'perfect understanding of all things from the very first;' and in the preface to the Acts of the Apostles, which commences The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach'—we have the author's testimony, whoever he was, that he is the author of some part of that book also. In the latter half of the Acts, the writer, speaking of himself together with Paul, uses the first person plural. In the first half of the Acts, however, this never occurs, nor does the writer, either there, or in the Gospel we call Luke's, ever hint that he had any personal acquaintance with Paul. Some scholars, who can judge of the Greek, conjecture that the ‘Acts' was written by two different hands; but there is no strict evidence as to who wrote the latter part, nor as to who wrote that earlier part which was certainly written by the person who wrote our "Gospel of Luke.'
' 4. The earliest quotation expressly stated to be from any gospel, is from John, and is found in Theophilus of Antioch, about the year 172. This gospel about the same time was greatly prized by the Valentinians and Montanists, but was denied to be John's Gospel by the Alogi, and attributed by them to Cerinthus, because it did not harmonize with the other gospels. Irenæus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Tertullian, also in the latter half of the second century, tell us that the orthodox church recognised our four gospels as the works of the persons whose names they now bear, and separated them from many similar productions not containing a true record of the life of Jesus.
Now, how imperfect does the evidence for the authenticity of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, appear to be, when we thus anaIyze it and present it in its nakedness, compared to the plausible picture it presents in Paley, and other writers on the 'Evidences!' The testimony of Papias, even if it described our Gospels of Matthew and Mark, we have only in the secondary form of quotation by Eusebius, at the beginning of the fourth century. Justin Martyr's quotations have often only a resemblance to some passages in our Gospel of Matthew; and, like many other passages in the early Fathers, may have been taken from other gospels, now lost; or have been traditionally reported, from Christ's oral preaching. For Luke's authorship, it has been shewn, we have no early testimony; and no gospel is quoted with the name of its author before A.D. 172, when Theophilus of Antioch (the sixth bishop of that city in succession from the Apostles, according to Lardner) quotes the opening passage of our fourth gospel, “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God," and ascribes it to John.' Irenæus must be placed with Theophilus of Antioch, in point of time, since he succeeded Pothinus; who was bishop of Lyons, in France, in 170—Pothinus being then ninety years old.
The words of Irenæus are—
"Matthew, then among the Jews, wrote a gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding a church there; and after their exit, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that had been preached by Peter; and Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him (Paul). Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a gospel while he dwelt at Ephesus in Asia.”
After some remarks on this passage, Paley observes-
others. I allude to a remarkable passage in his works, in which, for some reasons suffciently fanciful, he endeavours to show that there could be neither more nor fewer gospels than four. With his argument we have no concern. The position itself proves that four, and only four, gospels were at that time publicly read and acknowledged. That these were our gospels, in the state in which we now have them, is shown from many other places of this writer besides that which we have already alleged. He mentions how Matthew begins his gospel-how Mark begins and ends his and their supposed reason for so doing. He enumerates at length the several passages of Christ's history in Luke, which are not found in any other of the evangelists. He states the particular design with which Saint John composed his gospel, and accounts for the doctrinal declarations which precede the narrative.”
Grant that our four gospels are word for word, and letter for letter, identical with the four gospels mentioned by Irenæus-yet the remark applied already, in the case of Papias, occurs now with like force: neither our Mark nor our Luke could have composed their books from independent sources, for they frequently copy Matthew-if it be granted that our Matthew wrote first. And although Dr. Paley 'has no concern' with the ‘reasons sufficiently fanciful' of Irenæus, why there can be but four veritable gospels, we must have a little concern with them while weighing the worth of the judgment of such a writer. “There ought to be but four gospels,” says Irenæus, “because there are but four quarters of the world, four cardinal points, and Ezekiel saw but four animals!” Well might Paley shrewdly disclaim “concern' with the “reasons sufficiently fanciful!" Clever Paley—to keep respectable silence about these “reasons, while striving with all the power of his masculine intellect to make a perfect chain of 'Evidences' for Christian and English readers, in the year
grace, 1794. It was too late in the day to produce the orthodox “reasons' of Irenæus.
We may grant that our four gospels are nearly or altogether identical with the four gospels read by Irenæus, at Lyons, between A.D. 170 and A.D. 180; but we cannot trust the judgment of such a "reasoner,' respecting what he has heard of their authorship: we do not wonder that he did not perceive in the books themselves, a proof — three of them consisting so largely of passages composed of the very same words as well as ideas—that no two of them, and perhaps not one of them, could have been written independently.
But what ample space of time for the growth of legend upon a substratum of fact, in the lapse of 140 years after the death of Christ—for so long it is before we can say we have clear and positive evidence that our. four narratives of the history of Christ are the identical narratives acknowledged by the Christian church, and attributed to the authors whose names they now bear. All the Apostles except John, are understood to have died before A.D. 100. · The greater number of the Apostles are said to have dispersed themselves abroad. The gospel, at first, was preached orally—from the oral preaching of Christ, who wrote nothing himself. This oral gospel was, doubtless, the loose type for writing. Thus we find many sayings of the Apostles in Justin Martyr, not to be found in our gospels. One person began to write, and then another: perhaps some of the 'twelve.' And then, what they wrote would be transcribed with additions or alterations; but, as the time sped on, whoever wrote would write with greater latitude, and more (after the stamp Paul gave to the Faith," as well as owing to the particular tendency of the Jewish mind of the age) with the purpose of shewing that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah, by his having fulfilled all that it was expected the Messiah should fulfil. The 'Gospels' multiplied; and, at length, from the diversifications of their