Imatges de pÓgina

Greek, because it is, I think, very evident, that he did not understand that language a. This being premised, I shall offer the following arguments against the genuineness of these Epistles and History, viz.

ARG. 1. The Epistles and History of our Saviour and Abgarus are spurious and apocryphal, because they are not referred to, or mentioned, either in the now received Gospels, or by any writer or writers of the three first centuries after Christ. It is true indeed, there were many transactions in the life of Christ not mentioned in our present Gospels, nor was it the intention of the authors to publish every thing he said and did; but it is on the other hand as disagreeable to their design to omit a history so very remarkable as this, than which nothing, if true, could have a greater tendency to raise men's opinion of our Saviour: but that which seems to make this argument undeniable, is, that there was the most urgent necessity for the apostles to have published this history, because a controversy was arose not only between them and the believing Jews, but even between themselves, whether the Gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles at all, or whether it was not only to be confined to the Jews ? Now, if this history were true, and known to the apostles, as there could not have been any foundation for this controversy, so, if it had arose, this Epistle of Christ must soon have ended it, seeing he there expressly appoints the preaching of the Gospel to this Gentile king and his city. I conclude it therefore a forgery after Christ's time, and consequently apocryphal. Add to all this the prevailing opinion among the ancients, that Christ himself never wrote any thing. Thus Origen b, Jeromec, and Austind, in so many words assure us; and the last particularly writing against an Epistle under the name of Christ, which the Manichees boasted of, thus reasons €; “ If there really be any such letter, how “ comes it to pass that it is not publicly read, and received in “ the church with the highest regard by those who are the suc“cessors of the apostles?” The Epistle therefore of Christ to Abgarus, and consequently the whole history, not being mentioned by our evangelists, nor any of the primitive writers till Eusebius, and expressly rejected by pope Gelasius, I conclude to be apocryphal by Prop. IV. V. VI. Part I.

a Vid. Cleric. jam cit.
b Contr. Cels. 1. 1. p. 34.

e Contr. Faust. Manich. I. 28. c. 4. « Comment. in Ezek. xliv.

t. opp. 6. See the passage at large d De Consens. Evang. lib. 1. c. 7. above, Part II. Chap. XV.

opp. 4.

ARG. 2. I argue against this Epistle under the name of Christ, viz. that it was a spurious piece, because even after the publication of it by Eusebius, it was universally rejected. It does not appear that the credit and zeal of that historian procured it any respect, but on the contrary, as it was not known in the three preceding centuries, so it was as much disregarded in the fourth, no one writer of that century having made any mention of it, except only Ephraem Syrus and Darius Comes, though I much question, whether that Epistle under his name to Austin be genuine, because that father (as in the place now cited) knew nothing of any letter under the name of Christ, of which that Epistle, if there had been any such one, must have informed him. Now hence I argue, that if the story of Eusebius had been genuine, concerning the communication between Christ and Abgarus, it would have been regarded by Lactantius, Athanasius, Epiphanius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory, Jerome, or some of the writers of that century; every one who had credited Eusebius's account must have received the Epistle with the greatest veneration, and undoubtedly it would have been admitted into the canon of the books of the New Testament, and established at the council of Laodicea, which was soon after his time, and determined concerning the canonical books. But on the contrary we find nothing of this, but an entire silence, as much as in the former ages, and therefore I conclude it apocryphal by Prop. IV. V. and VI. I might add here, that the story of Eusebius appears the more evidently to be discredited and disregarded, in that it was now, when he published it, the time when the Arian controversy was come to a great height, and it cannot be thought but those who were warm against the Arians, would have urged the testimony of Abgarus against them in his letter, where he confesses Christ to be either God, or the Son of God, if they had looked upon it as genuine.

ARG. 3. The Epistle under the name of our Saviour to Abgarus is apparently spurious and apocryphal, inasmuch as it relates that to have been done by Christ, which could not pos


sibly have been done till a considerable time after Christ's ascension. The instance which I assign of this is, that in the beginning of the Epistle a passage is cited out of St. John's Gospel, which was not written till a considerable time after our Lord's ascension: the words are, Abgarus, you are happy, forasmuch as you have believed on me whom you have not seen ; for it is written concerning me, That those who have seen me should not believe on me, that they who have not seen might believe and live. This is a manifest allusion to those words of our Saviour to Thomas, John xx. 29. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed. Here indeed that, which the Epistle says, is written concerning Christ, but nowhere else besides : Valesius indeed says, the words of the prophet Isai. vi. 9. are like to this supposed citation of Christ f; but though he did not believe it himself, Dr. Grabe greedily swallows it as a sufficient answer 8, whereas nothing can be more evidently a mistake; for besides that the words of the prophet there (viz. Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not) are not at all like to the citation in this Epistle, it is observable that our Saviour has several times in the Gospels cited these words of the prophet quite different from what they are in this Epistle, both as to the words and sense, but exactly as they are in the prophet; and so also has St. Paul more than once; see Matt. xiii. 14. John xii. 40. Acts xxviii. 26. Rom. xi. 8. Dr. Cave h and Dr. Parkeri, being aware of the insufficiency of this evasion, do, with no greater probability, solve the difficulty, by supposing, that the citation in the Epistle respects not one particular prophecy, but many, concerning the stubbornness and infidelity of the Jews. But this is evidently a conjecture to serve an hypothesis. I conclude therefore, that seeing the Gospel of John was wrote long after Christ's ascension, this Epistle could not be written by Christ, and consequently is to be judged apocryphal by

Prop. X.

ARG. 4. It is no small evidence of the spuriousness of this Epistle under the name of Christ, that Christ is made therein to defer the curing of Abgarus, till after his ascension one of his apostles should come and do it; for

i Annot. iu Euseb. 1. 1. c. 13.
6 Spicileg. Patr. tom. 1. p. 322.
b Histor. Literar. in Christo, p. 3.

i Demonstrat. of the Law of Nature, &c. preface, p. 37.

1.) Christ always immediately cured those who made believing applications here to him, as Abgarus is said to do.

2.) It would not be much satisfaction to Abgarus to be told of a cure to be wrought in an uncertain time to come, which consequently must shock his faith which he is supposed to have; and therefore Christ would not write after this manner, when he could with one word speaking have performed the cure, and so not only established, but increased his faith. This is to make Christ act not only different from what he usually did, but contrary to the designs of his kingdom and mission, and therefore apocryphal by Prop. VIII.

ARG. 5. The account of our Saviour's ascension in the Epistle seems to be a further proof of its spuriousness. It is there twice mentioned in very plain terms; but in the whole history of the Gospels we do not find above one or two, and those very obscure intimations of this event before our Saviour's resurrection. There follows therefore one or other of these absurdities hereupon, viz. either that Abgarus was more acquainted with this doctrine than Christ's constant apostles and companions were, or else, that Christ was willing he should be so; or if not, that he wrote to him that which he could not possibly understand; each of which being contradictions to known fact, prove the Epistle to be apocryphal by Prop. VIII.

CHAP. III. Other arguments against Abgarus's Epistle to Christ, and the

whole History, viz. The improbability of a heathen prince's acknowledging Christ's divinity. A contradiction in it. Several improbabilities. The article of Christ's descent into hell, mentioned in this History, not known till several centu

ries after Christ. THE preceding arguments seem evidently to conclude against the Epistle; the first of them indeed concludes equally against the Epistle and the whole History; and by a just consequence, whatever proves against the one, will prove against the other, the truth of both depending upon the same evidence. But it


may not be amiss to add a few distinct arguments also against the genuineness of the Epistle of Abgarus to Christ, and the whole History. As,

1. It is exceedingly improbable, that a heathen prince should so readily acknowledge the divinity of our Saviour, as Abgarus is made to do in his letter. Mr. Le Clerc's k remark on this matter seems very just, as to the Greek words ότι συ ει ο Θεός

viòs el toũ @eo. The article, says he, prefixed in Greek to the name God, shews, that the author meant God the Father (Deus xat' écoxony), which is a phraseology not likely to have proceeded from a heathen, who would rather have omitted the article, and said Tis eòs, thou art some God; the other way of expressing being peculiar to those who believed in one God. Prop. VIII.

2. There seems to me in this Epistle a contradiction so manifest, as to demonstrate its spuriousness. In the beginning of the Epistle Abgarus is made to confess his faith in Christ as God, or as the Son of God; in the latter end he invites Christ to dwell with him in his city, because of the malice of the Jews, who intended him mischief. This, I say, is a plain contradiction ; for had he really thought him God, he must certainly think him possessed of almighty power, and consequently to be in no need of the protection of his city. This seems to me as clear demonstration, as subjects of this sort are capable of receiving; nor am I sensible of any objection that can be made, unless it be that Peter, who had confessed him to be the Son of God, Matt. xvi. 16. yet when he came to be apprehended, thought it necessary to interpose with human force to attempt his rescue, Matt. xxvi. 51. compared with John xvii. 10. To which it is easy to answer, that whatever opinion Peter, or indeed any of the apostles, had of Christ before this time, they seem now to have changed it, and by the prospects of his danger and death to have grown cool in their opinion of his almighty power, else they would never all have forsaken him at his crucifixion as they did. But nothing of this can be supposed in the case of Abgarus, who cannot be imagined to have

k Hist. Eccl. sæc. 1. ann. 29. §. 13. portant objection that can be raised where he well answers the only im- against the force of this argument.

« AnteriorContinua »