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Letters On Christianity.

No. II.

To Rev. M. R. Miller.

Dear Sir:

You are, as it appears, the apologist of the Synod of the Presbyterian Ministers in the State of New York, who addressed the Jewish community, in a very solemn style, to join their Church; but after they have been answered, I think by the Rev. Isaac Leeser and Rev. Dr. Schlessinger, you come forth again with the same ridiculous idea; and as you are an esteemed friend of mine, I will give you first my reason, why I call this plan ridiculous.

Your ecclesiastical historian, the talented Mosheim, tells us, the apocryphal gospels were, therefore, rejected, because they are “full of pious frauds and fabulous wonders,” emanating from the greatest superstition and ignorance (Mosheim, vol. i. p. 109). We have the very same reason to reject the canonical gospels. Is it not a fabulous wonder, that Mary conceived of the Holy Ghost, who is an issue of the Father and of the Son? That the Holy Ghost came down from heaven in the shape of a dove to sit on the head of the baptized Jesus? That the devil (a personage of Persian origin) had, during forty days, so great a power over the very same Jesus? That the unclean spirits knew him at the first sight, and were so sorely afraid of him? That one man was possessed of a legion of devils, which were strong enough to drive two thousand swine into the sea? That he fed an innumerable mass of people with less than nothing (for the fragments were more than the food first brought), and that he changed water into wine? That the sun was darkened, the rocks split, and many saints revived when he died on the cross? That he arose with his wounded body, and ascended to God to sit at his right hand?—for that Jesus is himself a part of God, is not said in the Gospels, but is the invention of later philosophers.

Every man, who is not brought up a Christian, must call these stories “pious (?) frauds and fabulous wonders,” because they are too inconsistent with human reason, and contradict the results of modern sciences.

Concerning the superstition of the authors of the gospels, I have nothing to say; for men who believed in the existence of a devil, a hell, and a host of evil and unclean spirits; who believed in astrology (Matthew 1, 2) and all the thousand and one stories which they narrate, must have been very superstitious indeed. But about their ignorance, I must make some farther remarks. Matthew in his genealogy (chap. i.), gives us fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian exile. He makes a mistake here, in not mentioning between Joram and Uzziah, three kings, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (2 Chron. xxvi). Verse eleven, the author says, “And Josias begat Jechonias,” &c. Here he forgot to mention Jehoiakim, who was the son of Josias and the father of Jechonias (2 Chess. xxxvi. 8; 2 Kings xxiv. 6). Luke, who contradicts altogether the genealogy of Matthew, having other names and more generations than the former, calls Salathiel a son of Neri, when he was a son of Jechonias (1 Chron. iii. 17-19); between Arphaxsad and Sala he has a certain Cainan, of whom neither the Bible nor any Jewish historian makes mention.

Luke (chap. ii.) tells us: “And it came to pass in those days (?) that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world (?) should be taxed.” “And this taxing was first made, when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria.” But, unfortunately, his fellow-labourer, Matthew, says, that Jesus was born under the reign of Herod the Great, when no Roman census could be undertaken in Judea, it not being a Roman province; no ancient historian knows anything about it; and to the greatest misfortune of the evangelist, there was at the time of the birth of Jesus (according to Matthew) no Cyrenius Governor of Syria, but Sentius Saturnius, who was succeeded by Quintilius Varus. In Matthew i. 16-18, we are told, that ever so many children were slain by Herod, in order to kill also Jesus; all which Luke (chap. ii.) flatly contradicts ; and the other evangelists not only knew nothing of it, but Josephus also, <<234>>and the Rabbis, the antagonists of Herod, who painted him with the darkest colours, and said all of him that could be said, tell not a word of that inhuman massacre.

But the author made the slight mistake of calling the sons of Herod many babes. We read in Luke (iii. 1, 2), “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being Governor of Judea, and Herod being Tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip Tetrarch of Ituraea, and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the Tetrarch of Abilené.” Here are only the following slight errors:

1. That Lysanias was never a ruler of Abilené, but of Chalcis on the Lebanon; and

2. That this Lysanias was assassinated thirty-four years before the commencement of the vulgar era (Antiq. xiii. xvi. 3; and Dio Cass. 49, 32). But Luke knows it as a certainty that John, of whom he speaks in this passage, was a few months older than Jesus. Luke (chap. iii.) tells us “Annas and Caiaphas being the high-priests.” Anybody, acquainted with the history of the Jews, must know that two high-priests never officiated together.

Mark (vii. 31) tells us, “He came unto the sea of Galilee, and came unto the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan.” There are again two mistakes:

1. The Jordan was the eastern boundary of Judea, and coming from Galilee he could not say “Judea beyond Jordan,” where Paraea was.

2. Samaria was between Galilee and Judea.

Matthew (ii. 22) makes Jesus return to Nazareth, “That it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene.”

But, unfortunately, no reader of the Bible has ever yet found such a verse, or one at all like it, in any of the prophets. Matthew (iii. :3) states: “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” No such verse exists in the book of Esaias, but is the evangelist’s own invention. Luke (iii. 4, 5, 6) has the same mistake, and makes Esaias say, in addition, “All flesh shall see the salvation of <<235>>God,” which words no one can find; for if they meant to refer to Isaiah xl. 3-5, they have committed a grievous mistake; for it is said there: “A voice crieth, In the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made a straight path, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.”

Matthew (i. 23) states, that God spoke, through his prophet, “Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emanuel.” No such verse exists in any part of the Scriptures. If Matthew referred to Isaiah vii. 14, he committed another unpardonable mistake; for no Hebrew grammarian can translate that passage with other words than “Behold this young woman is with child, and thou (in the feminine gender) bringest forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Imanuel.” (See Genesis, xvi. 11, where the same words are used.)

When Mark (xv. 34) lets Jesus say, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” and Matthew (xxvii. 46) “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” they display an entire ignorance of the Hebrew language; for this passage reads “Eli, Eli, lamah gnasabthani,” אלי אלי למה עזבתני (Psalm xxii. 2.)

The most ridiculous mistakes occur in Acts viii. 15,16, where we read, “So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he and our fathers; and were carried ever into Sychem, and laid into the sepulchre, that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor, the father of Sychem.” Here are the following unpardonable mistakes:

1. Jacob and Joseph only were brought up from Egypt, and this at different periods of time; wherefore, it should read “and he was brought up,” instead of “and were carried over.”

2. No one was carried “over.” but “up” from Egypt.

3. Jacob was not buried in Sychem, but in Hebron; Joseph, only was buried in Shechem.

4. The sepulchre which Abraham bought was in “Hebron” and not in “Sychem.”

5. Abraham bought the sepulchre of “Ephron, the Hittite,” <<236>>and not of “Emmor, the father of Sychem.” Again (Acts viii. 19): “The same (Pharaoh) dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.” Pharaoh commanded all new born male children to be cast in the water by any one who might find them; this the author of the Acts calls “the same dealt subtly.” The Israelites concealed their children, and saved them as long as possible; but the author of the Acts tells us, that they cast out (voluntarily) their children to save them from the subtlety of Pharaoh.

We could easily find some dozens of mistakes in the canonical gospels, but I think those mentioned will suffice to make a man confess, with the learned Christian divine Evanson, that though the canonical gospels are to be received as the compositions of Jews, contemporaries and even witnesses of the scenes and actions they describe, these compositions do, nevertheless, betray so great a degree of ignorance of the geography, statistics, and circumstances (history and language) of Judea at the time supposed, as to put it beyond all question, that the writers were neither witnesses nor contemporaries, neither Jews, nor at any time inhabitants of Judea. (Dissonance of the Four Gospels, p. 289. See also, Dr. Bretschneider’s Probabilia de Evangelio Johannis.)

We are, therefore, entitled, according to Mosheim’s principle of rejecting the apocryphal gospels, and according to sound common sense, to reject the canonical gospels as being neither the result of a divine revelation, nor a reliable historical source; since they are full of pious frauds and fabulous wonders, emanating from the grossest superstition and ignorance.

I recommend this letter to the fair consideration of the learned Synod, and after they have given us satisfaction on these points (which, however, must be by sound and calm reasonings), I will then take the liberty to lay other historical and philosophical objections, which I have against Christianity before that reverend body, which to disqualify, by honest and fair evidence, must be the first business of the Synod; but before this is done, I must call the plan to pervert the Jews very ridiculous.

But be assured of my fraternal feelings towards you, and towards every good man, whatever he may believe or disbelieve. “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” is the biblical command, which conveys my sentiments towards you and mankind at large.

Fraternally yours,

I. M. WISE, D. D.
Albany, July 8, 5610 A. M.