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Take, for instance, two Prussian officers giving an account of the “ Seven Years' War,” and let them narrate it from strict and painful memory, there will still be variations, and in nothing more than in the two main points of time and number, and yet the groundwork will be essentially true. Writers from memory are more subject to mistakes, than those who copy from some book in which they have confidence, or who have agreed upon some data of history: In using the words “ eye-witnesses," I beg to observe, that, in the instance of the resurrection, John, who was present, is the chief and the most important witness; Matthew and Mark are the next in value; and that Luke entirely depends upon what he has heard. Supposing, therefore, a contradiction to exist, namely, that two of the evangelists should say, " the women brought spices, in order to embalm Jesus on Sunday morning," but that another, an eyewitness, should say, “ No; this was already done by Joseph and Nicodemus, when he was laid into the grave,” this only proves that two have erred in what is by no means a fundamental point, not that the history is fundamentally false. Were this not the fact, we should have no history at all, for contemporary histo
rians are always at variance, and if their writings were examined with the same scrupulous diligence as the New Testament, this would immediately be admitted. There are two things here to be separated : the investigation of an historian, and the testimony of witnesses in a court of law. The evidence given in the last case, generally takes place soon after the fact, but the historian writes several years afterwards, and this was the situation of the evangelists. In law, we usually hear those only who have been eye-witnesses, and if we appeal to the hearsay evidence of others, it is only for the benefit of more general information, although at the same time, it is not evidence, that we can adduce, or upon which we can rely. In the case of a murder or a theft, the main fact will remain undisputed, although no two witnesses may agree as to the quantity of money the person robbed may have in his strong box, or who struck the first blow : a court of law has the advantage over the historian, because they examine living witnesses, cross-examine them with jealousy, and finally obtain, what they believe to be the truest statement. Even if
any contradictions should remain unexplained, the main fact will be still admitted. The conduct of Daniel, when a young man, in the apocry
phal story of Susannah and the elders, is really an elucidation of the question. The main fact may have been true, and a person may take notice of what occurs under a tree, and yet not notice what the tree was. Such, however, is the criticism of a man, inimical to the Christian religion, who inconsistently denies the most important fact in the history of Jesus, solely in consequence of some apparent contradiction between historians, who were eye-witnesses, or who profess to have received their testimony from others, nor does it invalidate the same fact, when they differently relate, that the women saw one or two angels.
The opinion of Lessing deserves here to be recorded, because it is upon this opinion that certain authors have concluded him to be hostile to Christianity. What history, written by another, who lived at the same time, or who drew from books, and therefore more likely to agree, could stand the test of examination, if every collateral circumstance is expected to coincide with its fellow in another work? Take the Roman history, which presents, through different authors, such different statements, that the scholar is at a loss which to credit, although he may never have doubted the existence of a Punic war.
A scholar, therefore, will imme
diately feel the force of this observation, and will apply it substantially to the truth of that history which we are now to examine. Cæsar, the victor in the battle of Pharsalia, and Florus, a subsequent writer, make a difference in the number of combatants, to the amount of 150,000 men. Cæsar says nothing of his German soldiers, although through them he is said to have won the battle, and other historians speak of this circumstance as a recognised fact. No two authors ever agree in the amount of troops who formed the expedition of Xerxes; in the number of individuals, this is an easy error; but the groundwork remains undisputed. In modern history this is equally so, of which I would take for an example, two histories of the German empire, the one by Pütter, the other by Selchow. But would any one doubt the main facts which they relate ? would he say there is no history of the German empire? No; he would say these historians, at least one of them, has been in error. The fact is, that the very nature of the Bible itself makes us more anxious and more diligent than we are, or should be, in profane history. The decapitation of John the Baptist is consistently recorded by those evangelists, but Josephus relates it in some degree differently. The sudden disease
which attacked Herod, and is recorded Acts xii. 19-23, and by Josephus in the nineteenth chapter of his Antiquities are much more opposed to each other, and in essential points too, than any contradictions, which occur in the history of the resurrection. But these two main facts are generally admitted. The history of the Maccabees presents some extraordinary circumstances, and this history is equally recorded by Josephus; it is probable, that this latter historian, as well as the author of the second and inferior book of the Maccabees, have committed great errors; but the grand historical fact is shown by the progress and independence of this Jewish aristocracy. Josephus, both in his Jewish kistory, as well as his subsequent Antiquities of the Jews, contradicts himself, but no one doubts the general excellence of Josephus as an historian. If, therefore, the account of the resurrection should present some apparent contradictions, are we, therefore, to conclude the whole account to be a fable? Such a conclusion is against all analogy, and against all reason. To this, however, it is answered, " Is the concurrent testimony
of four writers sufficient to establish, not a circumstance which may occur every day, but the miraculous fact of the resurrection of a dead man ?” To which I reply, “ If the combined