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and fixed his tent there, and fasted forty days and forty nights."* We are not told whether he abstained from all food, or only from a certain species to which he had been accustomed. The Roman Catholics sometimes fast from meat, but meanwhile eat to satiety of vegetable food! But Luke says that during forty days Jesus "did eat nothing." However, this statement is not unparalleled, even in the canonical scriptures: for we are told that Moses went up on Mount Sinai, and "was there forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water." And the prophet Elijah also abstained from food for the same length of time, "forty days and forty nights."§ May it not be possible that this numerical expression was merely proverbial?
Certainly some language in the New Testament needs essential modifying;—say, for instance, the following: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even THE WORLD ITself could NOT CONTAIN THE BOOKS that should be written."||
We have no documents, reckoned as canonical, which purport to have been written by Jesus. The only instance which the Bible mentions of his having written anything, was when he "stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground," while certain scribes and Pharisees were addressing to him some captious queries.
"Protevangelion," chap i. verse 6. §1 Kings, xix. 8. || John, xxi. 25.
+ Luke, iv. 2. Ex. xxxiv. 28. ¶lbid, viii. 6.
He preached "without notes;" or rather, his notes were continually before him, wherever he went. To him, the Book of God was never closed; and, for his convenience, the summer-breeze of Palestine turned over its varied leaves. When he would teach impressively the beautiful lesson of filial trust in Providence, he said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"*
As Jesus left no written transcript of his religious and moral instructions, and no record of his personal history, we depend solely, for our knowledge of these matters, upon the testimony of others. And two of the four canonical biographers, Mark and Luke, who assert some important particulars entirely omitted by the others, were never commissioned by him, either to write or preach, and do not pretend that they ever saw him. Is it extremely irrational to suppose that they may have committed some mistakes? Was it impossible for the others to mis-report Jesus, slightly, in making a record of his public, oral instruction,—especially as they, in all probability, wrote them out from remembrance? I see nothing which warrants the conclusion that they were exempt from such liability. They were once
Matt. vi. 28-38.
confessedly mistaken in regard to the nature of their Master's kingdom. What reason, then, have we to sup pose them infallible when they wrote the books ascribed to them?
But some one may ask if these implied admissions that mistakes have probably occurred in the Gospels, do not, in effect, tend to invalidate the whole history, and leave us no ground for supposing that the reputed biography of Jesus is any thing more than a romance. If there be a querist of this description, to him I say, in reply, that, reasoning from what we know, there must have been some person whose character corresponded with that of Jesus, or exceeded it; for who could invent the story of such a beautiful and harmonious life,—a life so much above the average of that of the Jews, taking the testimony of their own historians? He who could do so would be about equal to Jesus, to say the least ;else, how could he realizingly conceive of such a person? If there never was such a being as Christ, where did the first writer of the account obtain his model? If he never saw such a person, he must have found the ideal in his own mind,—in which case, he himself would be as great, as respects mental and moral capacity, as Jesus! Nay, more; in the language of the eminent philosopher, Rousseau, "the inventor would be a more astonishing character than the hero." Who but one equal to Jesus could originally engender the pure ideal of moral excellence that was embodied in his life; and that gleams out, irresistibly, amid the blindly reverential and (as it
seems to me) only half-rightfully appreciating eulogies of the New Testament writers ?
What descriptive poet or romancer ever exceeded his own ideal, except when describing some real personage greater and better than himself, or when constructing a fictitious character according to the model of such an one ?
What painter ever surpassed the ideal creations of his own genius, except when copying the higher work of a great master, or when imitating Nature? To say that any one could do so, is a perfect solecism!
THE EPISTLES, AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION; WITH REMARKS UPON THE APOCRYPHAL NEW TESTAMENT.
THE term Epistle is synonymous with the word Letter: and either phrase may be applied as the proper title to all written communications that pass between separate individuals or associations.
In the New Testament we have twenty-one books of this description. Fourteen of them are attributed to Paul the Apostle. Their succession, and the names of the churches and individuals to whom they are severally addressed, are as follows:-one is directed to the Romans; two to the Corinthians; one to the Galatians ; one to the Ephesians; one to the Philippians; one to the Colossians; two to the Thessalonians; two to Timothy; one to Titus; one to Philemon; and one to the Hebrews. It has, however been questioned whether the last (the Epistle to the Hebrews) was written by Paul. Some of the early Christian Fathers spoke of its origin and canonical authority in rather dubious terms. And Dr. Lardner (who himself, however, unhesitatingly ascribes the work to Paul) says it has been attributed to Luke, the Evangelist; to the Apostle Barnabus; and to Clement, bishop of Rome.