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vented it merely to have the opportunity of applying an ancient prophecy, which was his predominant taste. But in this instance he has obviously deceived himself. The prophecy which he applies to the massacre of the innocents, is taken from Jeremiah. All the Jews understood it as relating to the Babylonish capo tivity. It is conceived as follows : “ The Lord hatli said, the voice of lar.. sitations, groanings, and bitter tears, has been heard from on high of Rachael, who weeped for her children, and refused to be comforted for thein, because they were not."-- The following verse is so plain, that it is inconceivable why Matthew has ventured to apply it to the pretended massacre at Bethlehem :-“Thus saith the Lord (continues Jeremiab), refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, and thy children shall come again from the land of the enemy.” Their return from the captivity is here clearly pointed out, when the Israelites should again plant vines after obtaining possession of their own country.
It is also to accomplish a prophecy, that the same St. Matthew makes Jesus travel into Egypt. This journey, or rather Christ's return, had, according to him, been predicted by Hosea in these words : “ Out of Egypt have I called my son."
But it is evint, that this passage is to be considered only as lating to the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage, through the ministry of Moses. Besides, the journey and abode of Jesus in Egypt, do not agree in any manner with some circumstances which happened in the infancy of Christ, as related by St. Luke, who informs us, that at the end of eight days Jesus was circumcised. The time of Mary's purification being ac complished, according to the law of Moses, Joseph and
his mother carried Christ to Jerusalem, in order to present him to the Lord, agreeably to the law which ordained the consecrating to him the first born (tirst fruits), and offering a sacrifice for them. On this occasion, Luke tells us, that old Simeon took the infant in his arms, and declared in the presence of all the people assisting at the ceremony, that the child was the Saviour of Israel. An old prophetess, called Anna, bore aloud the same testimony in his favour, and spoke of him to all those who looked for the redemption of the Jews. But why were speeches thus publicly made in the temple of Jerusalem, in which city Herod resided, unknown to a prince so suspicious! They were much better calculated to excite bis uneasiness, and awake his jealousy, than the arrival of astrologers from the East.
Did Joseph and Mary, who came to Jerusalem for the présentation of Jesus, and purification of his mother, return to Bethlehem ? and went they from thence into Egypt in place of going to Nazareth ? St. Luke says indeed, most expressly, that when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. But in what time did the parents of Jesus accomplish all that the law ordained? Was it before going into Egypt, or after their return from that country, where, according to St. Matthew, they had taken refuge to shelter themselves from the cruelty of Herod ? In a word, did the purification of the virgin, and the presentation of her son in the temple, take place before or after the death of that wicked prince? According to Leviticus, the purification of a mother who had brought a son into the world, was to be made at the end of thirty days. Hence we see how very difficult it is to
We have seen, in the course of this chapter, hove little harmony exists between the two evangelists, respecting the circumstances attending the birth of Jesus. Let us now examine what could have been the views of these two writers in' relating these facts so very differently.
It is at least impossible that Jesus, as St. Luke relates, could constantly reside at Nazareth till he was twelve years of age, if it be true that he was carried soon after his birth into Egypt, where St. Matthew makes him renain until the death of Herod. Even in the time that Jesus lived, he was upbraided with his stay in Egypt.* His enemies averred that he there learned magic, to which they attributed the wonders, or cunning tricks, they saw him perform. St. Luke, to do away these accusations, has thought proper to be silent as to the journey to Egypt, which made his hero sus-, pected. He fixes him, therefore, at Nazareth, and makes him go every year with his parents to Jerusalem. But the precaution of that evangelist seems to have been useless. St. Matthew, who wrote before him, had established the journey and, abode of Jesus in Egypt. Origen, in his dispute with Celsus, does not deny it. „Hence we see, that the Christian doctors did not doubt that Jesus had been in that country, not withstanding the silence of
cessary to respect and observe the law. Yet in process of time the Nazarenes, or Ebionites, were anathematised by the other Christians, for having united the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ. St. Jerome, speaking of them and the disciples of Corinthus, says, “Qui (Ebioni et Cerinthieni) credentes in Christo, propter hoc solum a patribus anathematizati sunt, quod legis ceremonias Christi evangelio miscuerunt. Sic nova confessi sunt, ut vetera non amitterent. St. Hieron. in Epistol ad Augustin.” It seems, that in acting thus, the Ebionites, or Nazarenes, conformed themselves to the intentions of Jesus and his apostles. It is, therefore, surprising to see them treated afterwards as heretics. But we will see (in chap. 17.) the true cause of this change ; it was evidently owing to St. Paul, whose party prevailed over that of St. Peter, the other apostles, and the Nazarenes or Judaising Christians. Thus St. Paul corrected and reformed the system of Jesus Christ, who had preached only a Judaism' reformed. The apostle of the Gentiles succeeded in making his inaster, and his old comrades, be regarded as herctics, or bad Christians. Thus it is, that theologists frequently take the liberty of rectifying the religion of the Saviour they'adore! Moreover, the Nazarenes had a gospel in Hebrew very' different from the one we possess, and which was attributed to St. Barnabas. 'See Toland; in a work published under the title of NAZARENES, in octávo, London, 1718. According to that gospel, the Nazarenes did not believe in the di rinity of Jesus Christ.
St. Luke. Let us endeavour then to develope the motives of these two writers,
The Jews in general agreed in the expectation of a Messiah or Deliverer ; but as the different orders of the state had their prophets, they also possessed different sigas by which they were to know the Mes. siah. The great, the rich, and persons well informed, Flid not surely expect that the deliverer of Israel should be born in a stable, and sprung from the dregs of the people. They undoubtedly expected their deliverance by a prince, a warrior, a man of power, able to make himself respected by the nations inimical to Judea, and
* The gospel of the infancy of Jesus Christ, ascribed to the apostle St. Thomas, makes the holy family travel into Egypt, and makes Jesus go from city tú city, working miracles sufficient to procure them a comfortable subsistence. The water Mary used in washing her child, cured lepers, and persons possessed with devils; the presence of Christ made the idols fall down, &c.Codex Apoc. tome 1. p. 182.
to break in pieces their chains. The poor, on the cott: trary, who, as well as the great and the rich, have their portion of self love, thought they might flatter thema selves that the Messiah would be born in their class: Their nation and their neighbours furnished many examples of great men sprung from the bosom of poverty ; and the oracles with which this nation was fed were of such a nature, that every family believed itself enti: tled to aspire to the honour of giving birth to a Messiah ; though the most general opinion was, that this deliverer was to come of the race of David.
Admitting this, shepherds and people of the lowest order might readily believe, that a woman, delivered in a stable at Bethlehem, had brought the Christ into the world. It may likwise be presumed, that Mary, with a view to render herself interesting, said to those
ho visited her, that she was descended from the blood of kings~a pretension well adapted to etcite the com: miseration and wonderment of the people. This secret, and the confused remembrance of some prophecies about Bethlehem, the native country of David, were sufficient to operate on the imaginations of these credulous people, little 'scrupulous about proofs of what was told them.
St. Matthew, who reckoned on the credulity of his readers,* had his head full of prophecies and popular
* Men are always as credulous as children upon religious subjects. As they comprehend nothing about it, and are never: theless told that they must believe it, they imagine they run no risk in joining sentiments with the priests, whom they suppose to have succeeded in discovering that which they do not understand. The most rational people ask themselves, 66 What shall we do ?-what interest can so many people have to deceive?" To these we say, they do deceive you, either because they are