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Modern Orthodoxy, the dilemma still remains that Jesus either cancelled the mysticism of the fourth through the simplicity of the first Gospel, or shut up the kingdom of heaven proclaimed in Matthew, by the later revelations of Johannine theosophy. But is not the true solution of this difficulty found in the candid admission that pseudo-John is a pious fiction of the second century, composed by some unknown Gnostic so deeply imbued with the doctrinal novelties of his own generation, that he borrowed the name of an apostle to authenticate his own imaginative ideal of Jesus of Nazareth? This pious fraud may have been even conscientiously committed through faith in the miraculous reproduction of the language of Jesus by the intervention of the Paraclete 1 -an illusion through which the author would have considered his own thoughts worthy of confirmation in the name of an apostle, as the veritable teaching of the Hebrew Messiah.
At a more advanced stage of our inquiries, we shall consider the important influence exercised by pseudoJohn in the evolution of Christianity ; meanwhile, we place this work absolutely external to the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. In thus rejecting the fourth Gospel as an authentic record, we would reluctantly part with that great scene in the Messianic drama which depicts the merciful compassion of Jesus towards the woman hypocritically accused by the Scribes and Pharisees, but that, if we could even sustain the authenticity of the fourth Evangelist, this interesting episode, absent from the most ancient manu
1 Jobn xiv. 26.
2 John viii. 2-11.
scripts, is rejected as an interpolation by modern criticism.
St. Augustine sustains the apostolic origin of the narrative, and suggests that it was excluded from written Gospels, through apprehension that its teaching might be accepted by women as a licence for immorality! We must excuse so great a saint for thus libelling woman. It was customary with primitive piety to give her a name for evil second only to Satan himself; but when so great an authority suggests that evangelical records were tampered with, to prevent the compassionate consideration of Jesus towards female frailty from encouraging immorality, what becomes of the theory of an infallible New Testament; and who shall disclose the omissions and interpolations of centuries veiled in darkness, when one stroke of the pen created dogmas or blotted out revelation ?
THE SYNOPTICAL GOSPELS.
ORTHODOXY dates the first three or Synoptical Gospels A.D. 60–63, but, as we have seen, their historical existence only begins in the second century. Conflicting commentators vainly seek to determine priority of date ; but, whichever was first written, the later Evangelists obviously utilised its contents, or all compiled their Gospels from an older version, abridged or interpolated in harmony with the current traditions and legends of their locality and generation.
Internal evidence proves the interpolation of Luke. The preface promises to Theophilus a simple record of events known from the beginning to eye-witnesses, and cannot, therefore, contemplate the miraculous intercourse of Zachariah and Mary with angels, for there was no one present to confirm the wondrous tale ; and if the narrative had therefore reached the hands of Theophilus in its present form, he would have been fully justified in rejecting all unattested prodigies. A fresh surprise would have, however, awaited him in a pedigree tracing the descent of Jesus from Adam to his putative father Joseph ; for would it not necessarily have occurred to Theophilus to inquire, “If supposed to be the son of Joseph, what eye-witness can prove to the contrary? It is, however, only necessary to com
pare Luke üü. 26 with the first verse of the ensuing chapter, to at once detect that the genealogy has been awkwardly inserted between consecutive verses, and therefore absent from the original manuscript-a discovery which acquits the author of the exordium of claiming the faith of his friend for a mythical pedigree of the Messiah. Is it not, also, obvious that the genealogy was originally inserted by men believing that Jesus was the veritable son of Joseph, and afterwards interpolated with the words “as was supposed,' when the fiction of a supernatural birth had corrupted the primitive faith of Galilee?
The Gospel of Mark is so comparatively free from the supernatural, that, if no other Evangelist had reached posterity, Unitarianism would have been the inevitable creed of the Reformation. For even the title, “Son of God,' not necessarily implying divinity, assigned to Jesus in the opening verse, is from the pen of an interpolator. And when the last twelve spurious verses of the closing chapter are struck out, Mark, said to have been the companion of Peter, knew nothing more of the Resurrection than that three women had seen a young man in a white robe, who told them that Jesus was risen from the dead.2
The earliest version of the Gospel of Matthew was written in Aramaic, the vernacular language of Judea. Papias, writing in the second century, says : ' Matthew wrote the discourses (rà dóy.a) in the Hebrew dialect; and everyone interpreted them to the best of his ability. This priceless manuscript has perished.
1 Mark xvi. 9-20.
2 Mark xvi. 1-8. * Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. iii. 39.
Egyptian papyri, written two thousand years before the Christian era, have reached us through a natural process of preservation; but all the miraculous powers of Christianity could not save for us an apostolic transcript of the Sermon on the Mount. Orthodoxy suggests that apostolic autograms were withdrawn by divine wisdom to prevent their becoming objects of worship; but surely medieval Christians might as well have adored sacred books as holy relics, and we could then have reverted, at the Reformation, to the original teaching of the school of Galilee.
What has become of primitive Christian manuscripts ? The oldest only dates from the fourth century. Were they destroyed to conceal the interpolations of later editions, or hidden away in secret holes and corners, whence some fortunate discoverer may yet bring them forth, to startle the world with the secret history of the evolution of ecclesiastical Christianity ?
As Tischendorf found the Sinaitic MS., dating from about A.D. 350, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, and Bruce brought home the long-lost Book of Enoch from Abyssinia, may we not yet hope to see a MS. Gospel of the second century—a treasure for which united Christendom might well pay millions, if willing to imperil the prescriptive rights of Christian dogmas and mysteries, through the publication of a primitive Evangelist ?
What important results may be attained in the detection of ecclesiastical interpolations through the discovery of ancient MSS. is disclosed in the history of the epistles of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, supposed to