« PreviousContinue »
world, but was manifested in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.
iii. 18, Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by (in ?) the spirit.
This is the language of a man who sincerely believed that Christ had been raised from the dead. But the testimony to his having appeared again in a bodily form is wanting. Peter does not say or imply that he had seen Jesus alive again; and at verses 7 and 13, ch. i., he speaks of his appearing as an event still to come.
« That the trial of your faith might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
Hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
The Epistle of James does not mention the resurrection of Jesus.
Neither do the Epistles of John, nor that of Jude, allude to it.
The reasons for concluding that Matthew the Apostle did not write the Gospel under his name have been stated.
John remains the only one of the twelve Apostles who can be said to have asserted that he had seen Jesus alive after his death; and the reasons for supposing this Apostle capable of fiction have been considered.
The argument, therefore, that a disbelief of the resurrection of Christ renders it necessary to attribute wilful falsehood to the twelve Apostles rests on an over-statement. This charge need only apply to John. The extent of deception proveable upon Peter only amounts to this,—that he allowed stories which he knew to be false to become current, without leaving on record his contradiction of them. But it will be seen shortly that there is reason to believe that Peter did not himself confirm these stories. With respect to the other Apostles, Andrew, Philip,
Bartholomew, Thomas, the two Jameses, Matthew, Simon Zelotes, Jude, and Matthias, it is seen that we have little or no testimony from them upon the point in question. It seems probable that they, as well as Peter and John, at first treated the stories of Jesus's appearance as idle tales, but in the end allowed them to pass current without protest. In the perplexity occasioned by the removal of the body of Jesus in a manner unknown to them, they might easily be led to believe some of these tales; and for such of them as they could not but know to be false, the honour of the church might be in later times a sufficient motive for silence at least.
In all parties, and particularly such as are hard pressed by opponents, men are unwilling to produce an appearance of disunion by contradicting their associates. They would rather let their party bear the burden of some extravagant but well-meant assertions, than cool the zeal of valuable adherents by an ill-timed rigour. The Apostles having preached that Jesus was raised from the dead, their followers soon spread accounts of his having appeared to them in visions or otherwise. Perhaps, some of the Apostles believed that they had had such visions: at any rate, it was not to be expected that they should feel much offended at such rumours, or that they should take much pains to prove their falsehood. They were intent upon proving that their master was the Messiah, and had risen from the dead; and it might appear to them harsh and unnecessary to contradict stories which assisted the faith of the multitude.
It may be asked, if Jesus had not really appeared to them, what was their motive for preaching so earnestly the novel doctrine of his resurrection? Why should they make this the most prominent topic in almost every speech and writing? The answer is, that, without this doctrine, their cause must be given up. A crucified malefactor was not the Messiah of the prophets; and if all they could say for Jesus ended in this, their claim for him would seem to bear absurdity on the face of it. But that he had risen, ascended into heaven, and was soon to come again, opened a very different view of the matter; he might then still be the Messiah, and his crucifixion, which for a moment had appeared even to themselves an end of their hopes, became a very trifling objection. Their unwillingness to renounce a cause to which they were so strongly engaged, might of itself have begun to suggest the idea of a resurrection; but whether this were so or not, the disappearance of the body of which they had ocular demonstration, followed by reports of his having appeared which came to their ears, might easily seem to men in their circumstances evidence so strong as to lead them to class the resurrection of Jesus amongst the things which they had seen and heard. Thus their master was proved to them to be the Messiah by the resurrection from the dead, and thus they must prove him so to others.
II. Paul only joined the church some time after the death of Jesus, and could therefore only say what he had been told concerning his resurrection; but as he was the founder of Gentile Christianity, the nature of his testimony forms an important feature in the inquiry.
The grounds on which he embraced the cause of the church were, according to his own statement, the direction of the Holy Spirit, and his belief that the Messiahship of Jesus fulfilled the Prophets. “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” 1 Cor. xii. 3.* “Whereof (the church) I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, ,
* See also Eph. i. 17; Gal. i. 16; i. 2; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22; 1 Cor. ii. 10–15.
to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages, and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. i. 25–27.*
But, besides the motives which men acknowledge to themselves, they are often unconsciously actuated by others arising from their position and character. And in the case of Paul, it seems reasonable to conjecture, that an active and enterprising spirit, which rendered the task of proselytism and the administration of church affairs in reality a pleasure rather than a burden ; an enlarged understanding, which perceived and overleaped the narrow boundaries of the Mosaic or orthodox Judaism; a turn for ingenious disputation, which made the search for new meanings of the Scriptures a congenial employment; a vivid imagination, which was gratified by the romance of the Messiah's advent; and his Pharisaic belief of the resurrection of the dead; that all this, unknown to himself, or included by him in the operation of the Spirit, assisted Paul's conversion to the rising branch of the Essene sect.
He nowhere states, however, that his conversion was owing to the strong evidence which the followers of Jesus were able to bring of their Master's miracles and appearance since his death; for he says, that James, Peter, and John, who were the very persons to give such information, added nothing to him. Gal. ii. 6,9. There are no indications in his Epistles that he investigated the evidence of the alleged facts in a calm and judicial manner, and that he made this investigation the foundation of his new faith. In this case the
In this case the company of the eyewitnesses would have been most interesting to him; he
* See also Rom. i. 2; xvi. 26.
would have diligently collected particulars from them, compared their different accounts, and eagerly sought any one who could bring to light additional circumstances. But he says, after speaking of his persecuting, “But when it pleased God to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood : neither went I up to Jerusalem, to them which were apostles before me; but I went unto Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea, which were in Christ : but they heard only that he, which persecuted us in times past, now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me. Then, fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles .... But of those who seemed to be somewhat, (from verse 9, evidently James, Peter, and John,) they added nothing to me.” Gal. i., ii.
Thus the convert of the greatest talents and learning in the apostolic times, who had all facilities of access to the Apostles, not only did not attribute his conversion to their testimony, but boasts that he hardly came into their company during the process. With what eagerness would a modern inquirer seek Peter, and James the Lord's brother! But Paul, three years after he had begun to entertain the subject, cared so little for the information which they were able to give, that he merely saw James, did not visit most of the Apostles, and as if to shew that the fifteen days which he spent with Peter could not possi