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BOOK III.-CHRISTIANITY.

CHAPTER I.

THE RESURRECTION.

THE history of Christianity begins with the alleged Resurrection, as recorded in the conflicting narratives of the Evangelists.

According to Mark, Mary Magdalene, with two companions, approached the tomb of Jesus early in the morning, on the first day of the week following the crucifixion, found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, entered and saw, with natural alarm, a young man clothed in a white robe, who informed them that Jesus had risen from the dead, and would meet the disciples in Galilee. * And they went out quickly and fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.'1 Thus ends the second Gospel. The remaining twelve verses, absent from the oldest Greek MSS., are the interpolation of a later writer; and thus, the Evangelist, said to have written under the direction of the apostle Peter, is silent respecting the apparition and ascension of Jesus. In the Gospel according to

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1 Mark xvi. 1-8.

Luke we read: · Moreover, certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb; and when they found not his body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.'1 This

passage,

read in connection with Mark's version, and amounting to nothing more than hearsay evidence, obviously reproduces one of the earliest legends of the Resurrection.

But let us test the interpolated passage of Mark by a reasonable criticism. The Apostles could not accept the truth of the Resurrection, on the evidence of three witnesses ; and yet, when Jesus subsequently appeared to the Eleven, he said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.' Salvation is, therefore, denied to all but baptized believers, possessed of a faith impossible to Apostles !

In the same passage we find, among the proposed evidences of Christianity, miracles which would have classed primitive Christians with snake-charmers and jugglers.

We furthermore learn that, after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.' It seems strange that the position of honour should be the same in heaven as on earth ; but our surprise vanishes when we find that the interpolator is simply borrowing his ideas from Psalm cx. Luke also mentions that Jesus was carried up into heaven ;'? but as these words are also an interpolation, we thus receive further confirmation of the imaginative origin of the last twelve verses of Mark's Gospel

1 Luke xxiv. 22, 23.

2 Luke xxiv. 51.

The compilers of Matthew freely accept the legends of their age. Mark's white-robed stranger becomes the angel of the Lord, with a countenance like lightning, descending from heaven to roll back the stone, as if a risen God required miraculous help to burst the fetters of the grave! They also tell us that the chief priests and elders placed a guard of Roman soldiers at the tomb of Jesus, because he had foretold his resurrection ;2 and yet, the Apostles were so unconscious of the prediction, that they treated the evidence of Mary and her companions as merely idle gossip. They had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, and had received, as apostolic missionaries, the marvellous gift of restoring the dead to life, and yet were incredulous of the Messianic Resurrection.

The Roman guard saw an angel descend from heaven, and Jesus rise from the grave, but instead of rushing forth wildly to spread the marvellous tale, they kept and sold the priceless secret of the Resurrection to high priests, who conspired to defraud the Hebrew race of their Messiah, and mankind of attested Immortality. But, if men ever existed capable of so monstrous a design, could gold, however freely lavished, purchase the unbroken silence of those who had witnessed the marvels of the Resurrection?

The action of the chief priests was a crime against Humanity, and yet Jesus, in seeking the solitude of a mountain, concurred in the design of concealing that he had risen from the dead. If the Roman sentinels,

1 Matt. xxviii.

2 Matt. xxvi. 62-66.

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instead of selling the secret, had openly proclaimed the miracle, would Jesus have confirmed their evidence by making a public entry into Jerusalem, or permitted them to be punished as impostors, by his own persistent concealment of his bodily existence ?

The credulous compilers of Matthew's Gospel overlook the fact that, if Jesus had openly forecast the Resurrection, his concealment of the accomplished miracle placed him under the ban of Moses, as a prophet whose prediction had not been fulfilled. But if the prophecy had ever been uttered, could Mary and the Apostles have forgotten what priests and elders so easily recalled ?

Matthew alone records that, when Jesus died, the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the Holy City, and appeared unto many.Whilst, therefore, these visitants from the unseen world were walking about the streets of Jerusalem attesting Immortality, the Apostles were denying the credibility of the Messianic Resurrection, because they understood not the Scriptures. The chief priests and elders bought the silence of the Roman guards ; did they also purchase the evidence of the numerous witnesses who had seen and conversed with the risen saints at Jerusalem ? But the presence of legendary fiction is at once disclosed in the anomaly of saints restored to life on Friday and remaining in their graves until the following Sunday, that their appearance in the streets of Jerusalem might synchronise with the Resurrection of Jesus—an incongruity probably arising from the interpolation of the words, after his resurrection,' to

1 Matt. xxvii. 52, 53.

reconcile the legend with the statement of Paul that Jesus was the first-fruits of them that slept.'

The compilers of Matthew depict Jesus carefully concealing his victory over death by meeting his Apostles in the solitude of a mountain, where, although he could now speak with the infinite knowledge and wisdom of Divinity, in freedom from the embarrassing rôle of the Hebrew Messiah, he has nothing more to say than that all power is given to him in heaven and on earth, and that his disciples are to teach and baptize all nations, in the name of a Trinity never previously heard of, whose personality is disclosed in the formula-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost-unknown to Christianity until the second century.

Convinced of the interpolation of Matthew and Mark, we necessarily reject the legendary accretions of Luke and John. According to the former, Jesus rose from the dead, appeared twice to his disciples, and was carried up into heaven within four-and-twenty hours, and yet, the same author declares, in the Acts of the Apostles, that Jesus appeared several times during a period of forty days before his ascension. According to this Evangelist, however, Jesus said nothing of baptism, creeds, Trinity, or miracles, but simply repeated the Gospel message of repentance and remission of sins, and explained the Scriptures in confirmation of prophetic fatality. He also instructed the Apostles to wait at Jerusalem for power from on high, in which Orthodoxy sees the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. But, on the contrary, John affirms that the Holy

1 Matt. xxviii. 16-20.

2 Luke xxiv.

3 Acts i.

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