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notions. To fill up a blank of thirty years in his history of Jesus, he contrived to make him travel into Egypt, without foreseeing the objections that might be made on account of the neglect of the holy family to fulfil, the ordinances of the law; such as the circumcision of the child, his presentation in the temple, the purification of his mother, and the celebration of the passover-ceremonies which could only be performed at Jerusalem. Perhaps it is to justify the journey to Egypt, and those negligences, that St. Matthew introduces the prophecy of Hosea relative to the return from that place. It seems also to justify the duration of Jesus's abode there, that he relates the wrath of Herod, and the fable of the massacre of the innocents, which he makes that prince order, though his crimes had, in other respects, rendered him sufficiently odious to the Jews as well as to strangers. Mankind in general are disposed to believe every thing of a man become famous for his wickedness.
St. Luke, to elude the reproaches which in his time might be thrown on Jesus, on account of his residence and journey in Egypt, has not mentioned it at all; but his silence does not destroy its reality. It was necessary, to free Christ from the suspicion of magic,
themselves deceived, or because they have a great interest in deceiving you.--MIRABAUD.
Credulity, says Helvetius, is partly the effect of indolence. We have been habituated to believe a thing that is absurd ; the falsity of such a belief is suspected ; but to be fully satisfied re. quires the fatigue of examination. This we are not for undergoing; and thus choose rather to believe than examine. In such disposition, the most convincing proof of the falsity of an opinion will always appear insufficient. Every weak reasoning persuades; every ridiculous story is believed,
but he has not cleared him of accusations brought against his birth, which are quite as weighty.
Celsus, a celebrated physician, who lived in the second century of Christianity, and who had carefully collected all which had been published against Christ, asserts that he was the fruit of adultery. Origen, in his work against Celsus, bas preserved this accusation, but he has not transmitted the proofs on which it was founded. Unbelievers, however, have endeavoured to supply them, and found the opinion of Celsus on: what follows :
First. From the testimony of St. Matthew himself, it is most certain that Joseph was very much dissatisfied with the pregnancy of his wife, in which he had no part. He formed the design of quitting her secretly, and without noise; a resolution from which he was die verted by an angel, or dream, or perhaps reflection, which always passes among Jews for the effect of an inspiration from on high. It appears, however, that this design of Joseph had transpired, and was afterwards turned into a matter of reproach against Jesus. But St. Luke, more prudent than St. Matthew, has not ventured to mention either the ill humour of Joseph, or the good-natured conduct he followed. Neither do we find, though he formed this resolution as to his wife's amour, that this easy man again appeared on the stage from the time Jesus entered on it. We are no where informed of his death, and it is obvious that he never afterwards beheld his putative son with an eye of kindness.* When, at thirty year's of age, Jesus and his mother went to the wedding at Cana, there is no mention of Joseph. If we admit, with St. Luke, the bistory of Jesus's dispute with the doctors in the temple of Jerusalem, we will find a new proof of the indifference which reigned between the pretended father and supposed son: they met at the end of three days, and deigned not to interchange a word.
* St. Epiphanius, lib. i. 10. of Heresie, assures us, that Joseph was very old at the time of his marriage with the virgin ; and adds, that he was a widower, and father of six cbildren by
Secondly. If to these presumptions are joined testimonies more positive, and a high antiquity, which confirm the suspicions entertained concerning the birth of Jesus, we will obtain proofs that must convince every unprejudiced person. The Emperor Julian, as well as Celsus, who both had carefully examined all the writings existing in their time, for and against the Christian religion and its author, represent the mother of Jesus as a prostitute, living by her debaucheries, and turned off by her betrothed. From the beginning of Chris tianity, the sect of Antidicomarites regarded Jesus as a bastard. In the works of the Jews, he is treated as an adulterous child; and, almost in our days, Helvidius, a learned Protestant critic, as well as several others, have maintained, not only that Jesus was the fruit of a criminal intercourse, but also that Mary, repudiated by Joseph, had other children by different hus. bands. Besides, this supposed virgin did not want a reason for forsaking Joseph, and flying into Egypt with her son. A prevailing tradition among the Jews states, that she made this journey to shelter herself from the pursuit of her spouse, who, in spite of the nocturnal visions which had been employed to pacify him, might have delivered her up to the rigour of the laws. We know that the Hebrews did not understand jesting on this subject,
his first wife. According to the proto-gospel ascribed to St. James the Young, the good man had much difficulty in prevailing on himself to espouse Mary, whose age intimidated him; but the high priest convinced him, finding perhaps that Joseph was the man most conformable to his views. Codex. Apocryph. N. T. tome i. p. 88, &c. This seems to insinuate a sacerdotal intrigue. * In a work, published during the present year, by. Soloman Bennet, a Polish Jew, entitled “ The Constancy of Israel,' we find the following account of the Talmud :--This extensive work is a commentary on the Bible and the Mishnah ; the conteniş thereof include all the juridical, criminal, ritual, conjugal, and agricultural laws at large. It was produced by means of correspondence among the different colleges, established in places where the Jews were dispersed, by way of polemical questions; controversies, and debates. It contains also moral philosophy, ethics, and various allegorical phrases. All these doctrines were collected into one work, which bears the title of the Talmud ;' which was concluded by Rabinan Saboroy, who succeeded Ra bina, and Rabbi Ashah, the chief doctors in Assyria, and the first promoters of the Talmud. They produced also soine branches of the sciences, as mathematics, astronomy, and chronology; all of which were concluded in the year of the Creation 4260, and according to the Christian era 500 years,
We also find in the Talmud* the name of Panther, surnamed Bar-Panther, whom they reckon in the num: ber of the gallants, or husbands of the Virgin. From thence it would appear, that Mary, repudiated by Joseph, or after her flight, espoused Panther, an Egyptiąn soldier, her favourite lover, and the real fa ther of Jesus. St. John Damascene thought to repair the injury which this anecdote might do to Mary's repu, tation, by saying that the name of Bar-Panther was hereditary in the family of Mary; and consequently, in that of Joseph. But, Ist, either Mary was not the kinswoman of Joseph, or she was not the cousin of Elizabeth, who was married to a priest, and therefore of the tribe of Levi.—2dly, We no where find in the Bible the name of Panther among the descendants of David. If this had been an hereditary surname in that family, it would be found somewhere, unless we suppose that John Damascene has learned it by a particular revelation. 3dly, The name of Panther is by no means Hebrew.
It will perhaps be said, that these rumours, so injurious to Jesus and his mother, are calumnies invented by the enemies of the Christian religion. But why decide, if the pleas of both parties are not investigated ? The imputations are very ancient; they have been advanced against Christians ever since the origin of their religion ; and they have never satisfactorily refuted them. In the time of Jesus, we find that his contemporaries regarded his wonders as the effects of magic, the delusions of the devil, the consequences of the power of Beelzebub, or slight of hand tricks.* In particular, the relations of Jesus were of that opinion, and regarded him as an impostora circumstance stated in the Gospel itself, where we shall afterwards find that they wanted to arrest him. On the other
* We can oppose to the miracles of Moses and Christ, those performed by Mahomet, in presence of all Mecca and Arabia assembled !: The effect of the prophet's miracles was at least to
çonyince, the Arabians, that he was a divine person. The miracles of Jesus convinced nobody of his mission. St. Paul himself, who afterwards became the most ardent of his disciples, was not convinced by the miracles, of which, in his time, there existed so many witnesses ; a new one was necessary for his conversion. By what right then do they, at this day, demand beJief of miracles, which could not convince even in the time of the apostles, only a short time after they were wrought?