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of Christ confessing his sins, and being unwilling to be baptized by John till his mother compelled him ; see N°. VII. in the foregoing chapter, and compare it with the passage in the Hebrew Gospel above in this part, Chap. XXV. No. XV.) so also the passage produced by Origen out of the Doctrine of Peter, concerning Christ's not being an incorporeal demon, (above, Chap. preced. No VI.) seems taken out of the Nazarene Gospel as above, Chap. XXV. No. XXVII. XXVIII. The Preaching therefore and Doctrine of Peter being confessed to be the same book, I argue against Dr. Grabe, that Origen's rejecting the one is rejecting the other; and therefore, though he do not in one place determine, whether it be spurious, genuine, or mixed; (see Chap. preced. No. V. and II.) yet he doth so fully determine the matter here, by not allowing it to be so much as an ecclesiastical book, that we need say no more of his sentiments concerning it. I conclude it therefore apocryphal by Prop. IV. V. and VI. And whereas it may be objected, that though it be not cited but rejected by these fathers, yet it was approved by Heracleon, Theodotus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Lactantius: I only answer as to the two first, they were heretics of the worst sort; Heracleon was indeed an early one, the predecessor of Cerdo, and a companion of Valentinus, who were at Rome in the time of Hyginus, the eighth bishop of that place, and consequently about the year of Christ CXXX. He had the same principles with Valentinus, and added several new ones. He who will read Irenæus's account of Valentinust, and that in Epiphaniusù concerning Heracleon, his Ogdoades, his Thirty Æones, his Two first Principles of all Things, his First Man the parent of all, whom he calls Bythus, and declares to have been neither male nor female, from whom the universal mother of all things, whom he calls Sige, arose, will not think it any credit to this book that he received it. Theodotus lived towards the end of that century, a heretic so infamous, that he was excommunicated by pope Victor: he entertained the most ridiculous tenets concerning Christ, as being a mere man, the angels
r See Iren. adv. Hæres. 1. 2. C. 4. et Hæres. 41. §. I. Augus de Hæres. lib. 3. C. 4.
ad Quodvult. N. 16. Tertull. de Præscript. adv. Hæres. * Adv. Hæres. I. 2. passim. C. 49. Epiphan, Hæres. 36. §. 2. and u Locis jam citatis.
being material beings, and more or less so, according to their respective dignities ; that they were of different sexes, commanded the stars, which had so great influence upon human bodies and actions, that Christ came in our nature, and suffered, to deliver those who believed in him therefrom *. Such were the persons who first used this Preaching; from whence it is not difficult to form a judgment concerning the design and tendency of the book. As to the passages taken out of it by Clemens Alexandrinus and Lactantius, I shall consider them presently, and also in what manner they cited them.
Secondly, I observe, that this book was spurious and apocryphal, by Prop. VIII. because it contained several things contrary to those which are certainly known to be true.
Such is that of Christ confessing his sins, and being unwilling to be baptized, in that passage, Chap. preced. No. VII. This is contrary to the whole design of Christianity, as has been above proved; (see Chap. XXIX.) which supposes the person, who was to make atonement, to have been without sin; and what is worth observing, directly contradicts what both Paul and Peter (the pretended authors of this book) have wrote elsewhere, 2 Cor. v. 21. Heb. iv. 15. and 1 Pet. ii. 22. Not much different is the story of Christ's being compelled by his mother to submit to John's baptism; which implies him either to have been defective in wisdom, not knowing what he ought to do; or else in duty, not being inclined to what he ought to have done, or both.
Thirdly, I argue it of falsehood or contrariety to known truths, and therefore apocryphal, by Prop. VIII. because it was intended and wrote with a design to support the doctrine of the eternal obligation of the ceremonial law of Moses. This is most undeniably evident from the several passages in the pretended Letter of Peter to James, (produced in the preceding Chapter, N°. I.) which, though evidently a forgery, cannot be supposed to have taken things out of this book of Peter's Preaching, which were not in it. Now in that Epistle the pretended Peter, §. 2. calls his Preaching vóuopov, that is, according to the law; and in the same place speaks in very hard language of those who opposed the observation of the law, calling such opposition mischievous; and him, who was the opposer, an enemy, and a teacher of trifling doctrines against the law; by whom, without doubt, the author meant Paul, whom the Ebionites ever esteemed as their great enemy, because he opposed their law, and therefore were wont to call him an apostate from the law, and scandalized him, as being induced to this by a disappointment he met with in an amour with the high priest's daughter. See above in this part, Chap. XVII. No. XVII. A little after, the same author blames some who expounded some places of his works, as countenancing the doctrine of the abrogation of the law, declares he had no such thoughts, and introduces Christ as asserting the necessity of a perpetual observation of the law. From all which it is most clearly manifest, the great design of the book, called The Preaching of Peter, was to encourage the Judaizing Christians, viz. the Nazarenes and Ebionites, in their medley religion of obeying the precepts of Moses, and believing in Christ. But all this, every Christian knows, is directly contrary to the very principles of his religion, which necessarily supposes the entire abolishment of the Mosaic economy; and as one of the foundations of which, he believes that not only Christ, but St. Paul repealed the whole system of ceremonies, as what neither the Jews nor Gentiles were to be obliged by. It would be superfluous for me to say any more on this head, it being agreed on by all Christians; only I cannot but remark here, that though St. Peter was indeed for some time (till he had his vision, Acts x.) an observer of the law, yet afterwards he was not wanting in declaring against the obligation of the law, and in the council at Jerusalem calls it a yoke, which neither the Jews nor their fathers were able to bear, Acts xv. 10. And in this doctrine we shall find the primitive Christians generally agreed, except only those called Nazarenes and Ebionites ; of whom the catholic churches had so very mean an opinion, that they always styled them heretics, and reckoned them to be Christians no further than that they bore the name of Christ; and hence Epiphanius y tells us, “they would not “ be called, nor call themselves, Christians, and were in all re
* Vid. Excerpt. ad fin. Opp. Clem. Alex. per tot. et Epiphan. Hæres. 54.
spects Jews, only that they professed to believe on Christ.” I confess indeed, Mr. Toland has troubled the world with a book, in which he would endeavour to prove, that these were the only true Christians, and therefore calls it Nazarenus; but his attempt is so weak, and has been so well answered by Dr. Mangey, that I shall take no further notice of it; only will be so kind to tell Mr. Toland, that this spurious Epistle of Peter to James will be of great service to him in any further endeavours he may engage in to promote his original plan of Christianity. As to the Epistle itself, I shall perhaps have occasion in the next volume more critically to inquire into it; in the mean time I only observe, that it was made by some Ebionite, and consequently must be an ancient piece ; for, if I mistake not, the Ebionites did not continue in any considerable numbers, if at all, as a sect after the fifth century; but whether it was the preface of this Preaching of Peter, as Mr. Dodwell imagines 2, or of the Recognitions of Clement, as Dr. Grabe conjectures a, is not material here to inquire, though I rather incline to the former opinion. Whichsoever it was, it affords us a good argument against this apocryphal Preaching of Peter.
y Hæres. 29. §. 7.
Fourthly, I argue the Preaching of Peter to be apocryphal, as containing things false, because it makes both Paul and Peter appeal to the Sibylline Oracles, the books of Hystaspes, and such like, for the confirmation of the Christian religion. The matter of fact, as to Paul, is undeniable from that fragment in Clemens Alexandrinus in the preceding chapter, No. III. where he is in so many words introduced, as exhorting those to whom he wrote, to acknowledge the Sibylline Oracles and their predictions; to read Hystaspes, and observe the clear descriptions he gives of Christ, his sufferings, and the opposition he and his followers were to meet with in the world: so also Peter is introduced (No. VI.) as saying, that he had perused the books of the prophets, in which were very particular descriptions of Christ, his coming, death, cross, sufferings, resurrection, ascension, and even his very name. To me it is evident, the prophets here referred to are the same with those mentioned in the foregoing passage, viz. the Sibyls, Hystaspes, &c. not only because the prophecy there is of the same 2 Dissert. 6. in Iren. §. 10.
Spicileg. Patr. t. 1. p. 59, 60.
sort with these, but because we know of no other prophetic books, containing such things. Indeed Dr. Grabe, in his notes at the end of the volume b, supposes they were taken out of some apocryphal book of the Old Testament: but this is plainly a groundless conjecture; if he means any book that pretended to belong to the canon of the Jews. It is enough to answer, there never appears to have been any such book; if otherwise, then there is all imaginable reason to conclude this apocryphal author meant the Sibyls, Hystaspes, &c. The fact therefore is certain, that both Paul and Peter in this book made use of the Sibyls' Oracles, and Hystaspes, to confirm the truth of Christianity: and who, at first thought, will not condemn this as a falsehood ? Could there be any necessity these apostles, who had so much better arguments to convince the world, should make use of such abominable methods as these ? Besides, it was quite contrary to their practice; we find them, upon all occasions, appealing to the records and prophecies of the Jews to prove Jesus to be the Messiah ; but never, besides here, to any prophets among the Gentiles. In all their writings to the Gentiles, as well as Jews, no mention, no distant intimation, is to be found of their having seen or heard of any such books. I might urge a variety of this sort of arguments, but the matter is so plain, as not to need it; I shall only urge, that these pretended prophecies were not in being when Peter and Paul lived. The truth is, the Sibylline Verses, and the books of Hystaspes, Mercurius Trismegistus, &c. which speak so clearly of Christ, and so highly of the Christian religion, were no other than the forgeries of some more pious than honest Christians in the first ages, designed to gain credit to their new religion. This has been largely proved by many, and is the opinion of Casaubonc, Daillé d, Dr. Cavee, Spanheim f, Le Clercs, Fabritius h, and in a manner all who have wrote of them. And indeed, were there no other arguments to prove them spurious, besides what may be gathered from
b P. 329.
Spanh. Hist. Christ. Sect. 2. p. 677. 8 Hist. Eccles. Sect. 2. ad ann. cxxxi.
p. 598. &c.
c Advers. Baron. Exercit. 1, No. 18. &c.
d Right Use of the Fathers, c. 3. p. 18, 19.
e Hist. Liter. in Voc. Sibyll. p. 34.
ñ Cod. Apocr. Nov. Testam. p. 300.