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those things which were spoken of him ;' in v. 41, Joseph and Mary are spoken of as his PARENTS;' and in v. 48, Mary is represented as saying to him, · Thy FATHER and I have sought thee sorrowing. And if we proceed into the universally acknowledged writings of Luke, we find expressions of the same import. He records the words of Peter,* implying that Jesus was the descendant of David; and those of Paul, expressly asserting it :f he records also the words of the people of Nazareth, ' Is not this the son of Joseph,' # without any where informing us that Jesus was not so: and he does himself expressly declare, that Jesus was the son of Joseph,ş and through him traces up his descent to David.
When the idea was first suggested to me, that Luke's Introduction would not, by itself, authorize the doctrine of the miraculous conception, I could not but regard it as improbable. Further examination, however, has led me to the conclusion, that though the narrative in ch. i. 26–38 of Luke's Introduction, admits of a suitable interpretation agreeable to the assertions of the Writer of the Introduction to Matthew, yet of itself it neither declares, nor necessarily implies, that Jesus was not the son of Joseph; and that as the remainder of Luke's Introduction, and various other parts of the New Testament (and even of Luke's writings,) plainly imply, or directly declare, that he was the son of Joseph, every solid principle of interpretation should lead us to reject the doctrine of the miraculous conception, unless it can be proved that the Introduction to Matthew formed a part of the original Gospel.* That there is great internal presumption against that doctrine must be obvious to all ; and I have no doubt that it has been, in the minds of many, one of the greatest stumbling-blocks with respect to Christianity : but I must repeat, that, true or false, it scarcely affects the question as to the nature of Christ. To give the fullest efficacy to his example, and particularly to give full force to the pledge which his resurrection affords, that all men shall be raised from the dead, it was, perhaps, expedient that he should be like his brethren in this as well as in all other respects : but whether he were conceived by the miraculous agency of God, or by the agency of God operating according to the usual laws of nature, determines nothing as to the question whether or not he were a proper human being.
probable reading, “ bis parents did not know it,' further marking his parents' as somewhat probably to be omitted.
• Acts ii. 30-32, + Acts xiii. 22, 23. Luke iv. 22.
§ Luke iii. 23. I am aware that the words wv wg evouiSeto vios Iwong, ' being as was supposed the son of Joseph,' are, when taken separately from their connexion, somewhat ambiguous: in their connexion, however, they can scarcely have more than one meaning, viz. that Jesus really was the son of Joseph ; for it is highly improbable, indeed next to impossible, that such a judicious writer as Luke should give a genealogy of our Lord's descent from David, through Joseph, if Joseph were only supposed to be his father. The force of ws evouiSETO appears to me to be this. It is far from improbable, that some Gentile converts had taken up the idea that Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but had been conceived by the immediate interposition of God, (see note, p. 47). If Luke knew that such an opinion had ever been entertained, he would naturally say, in reference to our Lord, 'being, as he was considered, the son of Joseph,' i.e. being not what some have imagined, but what he was generally believed to be, the son of Joseph.-If the meaning of vousoual given by Pearce be adopted, (see Improved Version,) the expression ws evouiSETO does not require this reference.
In the Reply to Archbishop Magee, p. 299, I expressed the expectation tbat I should be led to examine a little the statements in the Notes of the Improved Version (the 4th and 5th Ed.) respecting the Introduction of St. Luke's Gospel. The paper which was inserted in the Monthly Repository for 1822, p. 345–350, seems, however, to render the execution of this purpose less necessary; and I have only to state here, in reference to the summary objection urged against the above interpretation in the Note on Luke i. 4. (viz. “ that the words have hitherto been universally “understood as plainly asserting the miraculous conception of Jesus “ Christ, and that no other interpretation was heard of for 1700
years,'') that the doctrine of the Introduction to Matthew necessarily led to the common interpretation of that of Luke; that when the genuineness of the former is relinquished, we are to interpret the latter independently of it; and that so interpreted, there is nothing adequate to justify the common opinion. The representation given by the Writer of Matt. i. 18, was probably originally derived from the relation of the circumstances which St. Luke has recorded; and when that representation was received as authentic, (that is, undoubtedly, from the earliest period of the Greek translation of St. Matthew's Gospel,) it would naturally be employed to explain them.
I may be allowed to subjoin here an extract from the Paper just referred to, as conveying my sentiments of the value of this introductory portion of St. Luke's Gospel,
“ As to the Introduction of Luke, I see no reason to deny its genuineness.- I cannot estimate its evidence as of equal weight with those parts of the Gospel which respect the ministry of Christ : St. Luke could scarcely have had such indubitable means of knowledge with respect to the events recorded in the Introduction, as he possessed of those which occurred thirty years after. But the diligent research, sound judgment, and faithful accuracy, which his invaluable writings shew to have been his constant character. istics, will not allow me to withhold my assent to facts which he has recorded, and which he obviously believed with undoubting credit, till better cause is assigned than the ' fabulous appearances of some parts of the things related. I am not witbout a perception of the difficulty attending some parts of the Introduction ; but, taken generally, I think the history of great moment; and among
Evidence of the Old Testament. In the preceding sheets I have very little entered into three clases of arguments of some importance respecting the Unitarian controversy; because my object was to show that Unitarianism is the doctrine of the Gospel : viz. 1. The difficulties attending the Trinitarian and Arian schemes, without reference to those derived from
the great objects which the events recorded would accomplish, were the strengthening the expectations which even then existed of the near approach of the Messiah; the preparing Mary to watch with peculiar assiduity over the spiritual growth of one who was to he holy from his birth; and the training of Jesus himself to that character of mind, and in that culture of holy faith and obedience, which made him eminently fitted for the great work before him. The character of Jesus, as we know it must have been before his great work commenced from what we see of it afterwards, affords to my mind a powerful evidence to the general authenticity of the Introduction.” (3d Ed.)
the Scriptures : 2. The evidence of the Old Testament: 3. The opinions of the early Christian believers. As to the first class, so far as respects the doctrine of the Trinity as maintained in the Creeds and Articles of the Church of England, I wish to refer my readers to the Summary of Unitarian Arguments, at the end of Thomas Cooper's Essays, where they will find a complete and rigid demonstration, that that doctrine necessarily involves“ contradictions and absurdities.”—With respect to the third class, J refer to Mr. Belsham's Letters to Mr. (now Dr.) Pye Smith, (first printed in the Universal Theological Magazine, and since published separately,) which contain a masterly summary of the progressive steps by which Christians have advanced from the simplicity that is in Christ,' to doctrines which I am satisfied no unlearned, unphilosophical, unprejudiced reader of the Scriptures could ever have derived from the perusal even of our authorized version of them. The conclusion of that summary I shall here quote. 6. From this brief re“ view of the rise and progress of anti-christian errors,
concerning the person of Christ, I conceive that it will
appear to every competent and impartial judge, that “notwithstanding the late rise of Arianism, the date of “ what now passes for orthodox Trinitarianism is still “ later; and that I was perfectly correct in the assertion, " that from the condition of a man approved of God, “ which is the doctrine of the New Testament, our Lord “ has been advanced, by the officious zeal of his mis“ taken followers, first to the state of an angelic or super
angelic being, which was the error of the Gnostics; " then to that of a delegated maker and governor of the
world, which was the opinion of Platonists and Arians; “ and in the end to a complete equality with God him. “self, which is the doctrine of the Athanasian creed, and " which was not known till the latter end of the fourth
century.” See Universal Theological Magazine, N.S. Vol. III. p. 95. Or, Mr. Belsham's Letters, p. 67.
That the Old Testament should have been pressed to give evidence in favour of the proper deity of Jesus Christ, might not appear very wonderful, when it is
considered how little there is to the point in the New; but when we read the express and positive declarations of Moses and the Prophets, respecting the absolute unity and unrivalled supremacy of Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then it seems almost incredible that any passages should be imagined to teach a doctrine so directly in opposition to those declarations. Cooper, in his Summary ahove referred to, has collected a few of the latter, and I shall here give his references. Exod. xx. 3. Deut. iv. 35. · That thou mightest know that the Lord, he is God, there is none else besides him.' iv. 39. v. 7. xxxii. 39. 2 Sam. vii. 22. xxii. 32. 1 Kings xviii
. 39. 2 Kings xix. 15. 19. 1 Chron. xvii. 20. Ps. xviii. 31. lxxxvi. 10. Isa. xxxvii. 16. xliv. 6. 8. xlv. 5. “ I am the Lord, and there is NONE else; there is no God besides ME. xlv. 21, 22. Hos. xiii. 4.—See also p. 94; and the Comparative View.
Yet there are two or three texts, which, as they stand in the Public Version, do seem to favour the opinion that there is a God besides Jehovah. And though I cannot enter as fully as I should be willing to do, into the consideration of them, it may not be amiss to state what I regard as the true interpretation of them. The chief
passage is Isa. ix. 6, which thus stands in the Public Version.— For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given : and the government shall be upon
his shoulder: and HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,* The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.' When considering this passage, two things strike me. (1) It is not said respecting the person who was to be, that he would be what is after
• Some eminent critics have supposed that 5x was not originally in the Hebrew, but this is chiefly upon the authority of the Septuagint. Now it appears to me probable, that the Greek translators had 58 though they have rendered it ayyeros, for they have done so in another instance, Job. xx. 15. It may add some confirmation to this opinion, by showing a cause for it, that the names of angels commonly bad 5x for their termination, e.g. Gabriel, my strong God, or, strength of God, Raphael, healing God, Samael, God of desolation, Zedekiel, Zuriel, Michael, &c.