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Sketch of the Controversy between the Rev. J. R. Beard, and the Rev. Robert Taylor.
(Continued from page 349.)
Mr. T.-Tertullian, in his apology for the Christian faith, was anxious to enumerate all the facts that might recognise the origin of Christianity.
Mr. B.-It was not the object of the Christian apologists, so much to defend their religion, as to deprecate persecution. With this view, it is, that Tertullian says, in his Apology, cap. v. "Consult your histories, where you will find that Nero was the first to draw the bloody and imperial sword against this sect, then rising in Rome." What histories were there but those which we now have? Now, none of these could teach the fact, that Christians were then rising at Rome, except it is the history of Tacitus. From him, and from the very part that Mr. Taylor boldly rejects, we learn the circumstance alluded to by Tertullian. (L. iii. p. 72, 73.)
Mr. T. The passage of Tacitus is spurious, the words, auctor nominis ejus Christus, &c. bearing evidently the character of a marginal note.
Mr. B. And yet it is strange, if this be the case, that the discovery has been reserved for Mr. Taylor. Not a vestige of suspicion does there exist of the spuriousness of the passage, from any critic of acknowledged talent. Unbelievers and Christians, with all their perspicuity and ingenuousness, have never descried or hinted the least probability of an interpolation, although thousands of critical eyes, and some with an express view to detect errors, have pored over the passage almost to blindness. Let it be observed, however, that our author does not attempt to deprive us of all the celebrated passage of Tacitus. He allows the former and latter part to be genuine, and restricts the interpolation within moderate limits. It begins, we are informed, with the words, Auctor nominis ejus Christus, “The author of this name, Christ," and terminates at celebramtur que, “and became
famous." Mr. Taylor still permits us to remain in undisturbed possession of the existence of Christians, Mr. Carlile, in the reign of Nero (A. D. 68). Returning our best thanks to Mr. Taylor, for that he did not conjecture away the whole, I shall endeavour to show the abortiveness of the attempt that has been made. First, then, I deny that the passage evidently bears the character of a marginal note; I deny that it might, with advantage to the construction, be thrown out again. And why have we not one line explaining how the passage mars the construction? Here, then, I might rest; my negative is as good as Mr. Taylor's affirmative. Secondly, Tacitus, in the preceding sentence, has mentioned the Christians (Christianos). How natural to describe the persons he had just mentioned, persons comparatively unknown to the readers of history-how natural to state, from whom and where they had derived their origin. Thirdly, one reason given by Mr. Taylor for rejecting the passage in Josephus, is, "the language is quite Christian." If, then, the language in Tacitus is quite anti-Christian, an opposite inference is to be drawn. And the language is quite anti-Christian, for it speaks of Christianity as an evil-a destructive superstition, and associates it with every thing atrocious and shameful. Fourthly, there is no propriety in the word, igitur, therefore, which commences the sentence immediately after the important passage, if that passage be rejected from the text. Therefore, to suppress the rumour, Nero procured others to be accused, and inflicted exquisite punishment upon those people who were held in abhorrence for their crimes, and were commonly known by the name of Christians. Therefore, they were at first apprehended who confessed, &c." No good and elegant writer would use two therefores at the beginning of two consecutive sentences. It is true, the two therefores in Tacitus are not, as in English, identical words. The one is ergo, the other igitur, both meaning therefore. But I do not think that two consecutive sentences can be adduced from the writings of Tacitus, the first commencing with ergo, therefore, and the second commencing with igitur, therefore. And I may undertake to affirm, that no two such sentences can be shown, which bear the same relation to each other as those in question: and this is the point which it is essential for Mr. Taylor to establish. The passage would suffer by the rejection of the inter
vening words. Fifthly, the style of the passage is the style of Tacitus, and therefore it is genuine. It possesses all his characteristic brevity and comprehension.-(L. iii. p. 69–72.)
Mr. T.-But the Christian Fathers have not stumbled upon this passage.
Mr. B. How know you that, Mr. Taylor?
Mr. T.-They have not mentioned it.
Mr. B.-Oh! that is quite another matter. may stumble upon a passage without quoting it, I presume. And if they have not quoted, how many myriads of passages beside have they not quoted, yet who doubts their genuineness?
Mr. T.-But this was to their purpose.
Mr. B.—That I deny. There was no dispute in ancient times respecting the origin of Christianity. The Jews, Celsus and Prophyry, Hierocles and Julian, all concurred to overthrow Christianity, never denied its origination in Judea, and, according to Tacitus, under the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. Nay, Celsus refers its rise to Judea, and speaks of Jesus as the man of Nazareth, who had existed not long before his time (A. D. 138).—(L. iii. p. 72.)
Mr. T.-The world had never heard of this famous till the 16th century, all the Codices Manuscripti passage of the annals and histories of Tacitus, being derived from the single copy which was written in the seventh or eighth century, according to Oberlid, and in the tenth or eleventh according to Ernesti, and which was brought out of a Westphalian monastery, and presented to Pope Leo the Tenth, whose learning enabled him well to imitate the style of Tacitus, as his station and opportunities enabled him to have been himself the author of the passage. Religious or conscientious scruples would never have stood in the way of this Father in God, who told his clergy, that "the fable of Jesus Christ brought grist to their mill, and it was but fair play to keep up that that kept up them."
Mr. B.-I shall begin with the latter part of the sentence, by exculpating the character of Leo the Tenth. Mr. Roscoe, in his life of Leo, has shown that his character was exemplary; and that the story respecting him has no authority but the uncorroborated assertion of a satirist, an enemy, and one who was at open war against the Pope, and who professed it to be his intention to give the Church
of Rome double according to her works. What wretches the world would take Christians to be, if they judged of them solely by the misrepresentations of Mr. Taylor's Oration!
But whether the Pope was so depraved or not, as to wish to falsify history, he had neither the talent nor oppor tunity, in this case, to secure success; and you are sadly misinformed, when you tell us, that the world never heard of this passage till the sixteenth century. It was not the last six, but the first five books of the Annals of Tacitus, that were discovered in Westphalia in the sixteenth century. And it is in the last six, that the important passage occurs; and these had been several times reprinted before the sixteenth century, long before Leo was born. For your confutation, I refer you to Roscoe, and to Brotier's edition of Tacitus. Ernesti's Tacitus, also, which you appear to use, tells us the same tale. And Gibbon remarks, that the consent of all the ancient MSS. proves the genuineness of the disputed passage. The following is the passage of Gibbon entire:-"The most sceptical criticism is obliged to respect the truth of this extraordinary fact," (the persecution of Christians under Nero, 68, A. D.) "and the integrity of this celebrated passage of Tacitus. former" (its truth) "is confirmed by the diligent and accurate Suetonius, who mentions the punishment inflicted upon the Christians. The latter" (its integrity and genuineness) may be proved by the consent of the most ancient MSS.; by the inimitable style of Tacitus; by his reputation, which guarded his text from the interpolations of pious fraud; and by the purport of his narration."Decline and Fall, vol. ii. p. 407.-L. iii. p. 73-76.)
Mr. T.-This is an ironical concession, from the palpable weakness of the argument.
Mr. B.-No, Mr. Taylor, Gibbon had too much skill to allow his irony to remain undiscovered for years, as this has done, if it be irony. The witticism is worthless that requires a commentary, and the irony that is not obvious, had better never have been penned. The irony of Gibbon is fine, but it is perceptible on all occasions; otherwise it would fail of its designed effect. If, however, he had questioned the integrity of the passage, what should prevent him from speaking out? Would he have rendered himself obnoxious to the charge of drivelling, if he could have dispatched this difficulty at once, by exposing the
spuriousness of the passage? But we have still better evidence yet, of his real opinion. He has a note on the very passage you choose to suspect, and, assuming the truth of this passage, he corrects an error of the Jews. "This testimony, alone," he remarks, "is sufficient to expose the anachronism of the Jews, who place the birth of Christ near a century sooner. He here argues on the genuineness of the passage, and, of course, believed that it was genuine. Of irony, therefore, he thought not. In reference, moreover, to the matter in debate, we have a confliction of authorities. Mr. Taylor informs us, that the difficulty" is an interpolation. "No," says Mr. Carlile, "Tacitus wrote the passage in question, and wrote from the accounts of Christians." We cannot receive both, and in our vacillation between adverse authorities, no one can be surprised if we abide by the old fashioned interpolation, and receive neither.
Whilst Mr. Taylor was occupied in conjecturing, he might as well have conjectured away the testimony of Pliny also. How easy were it to insert this letter in his collection. Conscientious scruples could have afforded no impediment. (L. iii. p. 76-79.)
(To be Continued.)
Matthew the Evangelist, a Unitarian.
I QUOTE but one more text of this class: Chap. xxiv. 36. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven [in Mark, it is added, 'neither the Son'], but my Father only." In these words, our Saviour plainly and distinctly replies to an earnest and anxious question of his disciples, (verse 3, asking, "when these things shall be,") that "he does not know." The reference of our Lord is to the destruction of Jerusalem. When that was to happen, he says in so many words, he does not know, nor any other being beside the Father Omniscient. By this declaration, he disclaims all participation of the Divine nature and mind. He declares, that his knowledge is partial and limited. It is a denial, from his own mouth, of his Supreme Deity, or his equality with God.
I will waste but few words on the mode of reasoning, or trick, I should rather say, by which the true sense of