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A. M. 4034, &c. or 5439.
Vulg. Er. 28.
For what a lamentable thing is it, that the two evangelists, Matthew (a) and Luke, Aun. Dom. (b), in deducing our Saviour's lineage, should almost in every article disagree and thwart one another; or, (were it possible to reconcile them) that they should both make their pedigrees terminate in Joseph, who was no more than the reputed father of Jesus,. and not in Jesus himself, as born of the Virgin Mary, from whom alone he had his hu man nature, and whose genealogy in this case was only to be regarded? What a plain contradiction is it that St Matthew (c) should introduce our Lord as affirming to his disciples that Elias was already come in the person of John the Baptist; and St John (d) put it in the mouth of the Baptist to assert the very contrary, which he certainly would not have done had he been the person predicted by the (e) prophet? And what a sad mistake in point of chronology, that St Luke should make the taxation, appointed by Augustus, which happened before our Saviour's birth, fall out when Cyreneus was governor of Syria, though (according to the account of all other historians) he did not succeed Quintilius Varus in that government, (ƒ) till about twelve years after.
Isaiah makes mention indeed of a virgin's (g) conceiving and bearing a son, which St Matthew (h) has applied to the conception and birth of our Blessed Saviour; but as the word Alma, used by the prophet, does not necessarily denote a virgin, but sometimes a young woman, that has had knowledge of man; there is reason to believe, that it should bear this signification when referred to the mother of Jesus, because it is difficult to imagine how a woman should conceive and bear a son, and still preserve her virginity. And indeed, if this be not the proper acceptation of the word, we can hardly assign any reason why our Saviour should make choice of a woman to be his mother, who was betrothed and married to a man, rather than a pure virgin who had no such engagements upon her
Whoever looks into the writings of the prophets, must observe, that all along down from the time of David, the Messiah is foretold under the character of a very powerful prince, who was to reign over the house of Jacob for ever;' and therefore it is absurd to put the Son of Mary (who was born meanly, lived poorly, and died ignominiously) upon the world for that person who is represented as one of the most glorious Kings that ever was, or ever shall be, in the universe. It is absurd to tell us, that the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily,' and yet to relate the story (i) of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him; unless we can suppose that this accession of the third person in the Trinity could enable him to do more than the Divinity which always resided in him but much more absurd is it, upon the like supposition, to talk of (k) his being tempted by the devil, when the devil, if he knew him, would not have dared to do it; and if he did not, the Divinity wherewith he was armed must have made him impregnable to all his assaults; so that the only end of this transaction must have been to shew, that God was able to sustain and overcome the temptations of the devil.
Miracles are generally supposed to be the manifestation of this Divinity residing in our Saviour, and the curing of demoniacs is always accounted one of the greatest of this kind; but as it is difficult to assign any reason why demons at this time were more numerous in Jude a than in any country we ever read of, we have reason to think, that the persons represented in the New Testament as demoniacs, were only such as were afflicted with strange diseases, fits of the mother, convulsions, falling-sickness, and the like; which the sacred penmen (according to the idiom of the Hebrew language) express in this awful manner.
The first miracle that our Saviour did, was his turning water into wine at a marriage. feast. But how he who is all along represented as a very grave and sedate person, should
(i) Matth. ii. 16.
(d) Chup. i. 21.
(ky Chap. iv. 1.
(f) Jephus's Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 1. and Prideaux's Connection, part ii. lib. ix. (h) Chap. i. 22, 23.
ginning of the
vouchsafe his presence at a wedding, which is usually a scene of levities and excess; From the be how he came to give his mother so rough and undutiful an answer, that interpreters Gospels to have been at some trouble to put a tolerable construction upon it; and, above all, how Matth ix. 8. he came to supply the company, which had already drunk enough, with such a large Luke vi. 1. quantity of wine as almost denotes him an encourager of intemperance,-are points that the evangelists have left to the perverse conjectures of unbelievers.
The completion of prophecies, in the person and actions of our Blessed Lord, is cer tainly (a) a strong evidence of his being the Messiah; but in the application which the evangelists make of several of these, their scope is commonly so perverted, their words so corrupted, and their sense so wrested from its plain and obvious meaning; such shreds and loose sentences are culled out for this purpose, as have no manner of relation to the Messiah, but such as had received their completion in some other person many ages before; and upon every pinch, such figurative and mystical interpretations, as quite expound away the true importance of the prophecies, are fled to for shelter, that all that the Gospel writers seem to have done upon this head, is only to impose upon the world by a parcel of citations, and applications of prophecies, which, upon examination, will be found nothing to the purpose.
(b) St Matthew, for instance (to name one evangelist for all), having given an account of the conception of the Virgin Mary, and the birth of Jesus, informs us, (c) That all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Immanuel! But the words, as they stand in Isaiah, (d) relate to a young woman in the days of Ahaz, as appears by their context, and cannot, in any tolerable construction, have relation to the birth of our Saviour, whose name was not Immanuel, but Jesus.
The same evangelist informs us, that Jesus was carried into Egypt, from whence he returned after the death of Herod, (e) that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, ouT OF EGYPT HAVE I CALLED MY SON," which words are no where to be found but in the prophet (ƒ) Hosea; and yet, (g) according to their plain and obvious sense, they are no prophecy, but relate to a past action, viz. the conducting the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Again, the same evangelist, (h) having given us the account of the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, and in the coasts thereof, immediately subjoins, that then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah (i) the prophet, saying, in Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not; whereas it is plain from the context, that this lamentation, in its primary sense, does not relate to the massacre of the children in Bethlehem, but to the ten tribes being carried away into captivity, and cannot, without manifest violence, be applied to the other.
Once more, the same evangelist, having given us a short account of the return and settlement of our Lord's parents in the city of Nazareth, acquaints us farther, that the reason of their doing so was, (k) that it might be fulfilled which is spoken by the prophet, HE SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE,' which is directly forging a quotation upon us, because there is no one of the prophets that ever said or wrote any such thing. They no where tell us, that the Messiah was to dwell at Nazareth, nor can his dwelling at Nazareth, supposing they did, be any ground for his being called a Nazarene.
The place foretold by the prophet for his birth and habitation was Bethlehem, and thither the wise men were directed to repair; but now, what sort of persons these wise
Mark ii. 23.
A. M. 4034, &c. or 5439.
Ann. Dom. 30, &c. Vulg. Er. 28.
men were, and from what part of the world they came, what kind of star that was which conducted them, and how they could know that it portended the birth of the King of the Jews;' how the justice and mercy of God can be assoiled in suffering so many harmless babes to be massacred at Bethlehem upon the account of Christ; or how Christ's conduct may be accounted for, in discovering himself so freely to the Samaritan woman, when he had all along given such strict charge to his apostles to conceal what they knew of his being the Messiah and Son of God;-these, and some other points in this period, the evangelists have given us no manuer of satisfaction in, and have therefore left us at large, either to form conjectures of our own, or to call in question the truth of their narrations."
ANSWER. THAT the evangelists were persons of too much probity to deal in lies, and "cunningly devised fables," is evident from their writings, wherein we find, not only the strictest prohibitions against guile and dissimulation, both in words and deeds, but such evident tokens of their " simplicity and godly sincerity," as shew that they would not be prevailed upon to conceal truth, even though it might tend to their lasting dishonour. For, let any one tell me, how they can be supposed capable of forging any thing for the advancement of their cause, (a) who have not been wanting to record the obscurity of their master's birth and life, the poverty and reproaches he endured in his ministry, the ignominy of his passion and death, and the terrors and agonies of his mind upon the approach of them; nay, who have not dissembled their own faults and failings, their mean extraction and employments, their ignorance and mistakes, their cowardly desertion of their Lord, and many unsuccessful attempts to convert others by their preaching. Men, that were thus frank and open in their proceedings, could never designedly palm any falsehoods upon the world; and if they were mistaken in some passages, it must be esteemed their misfortune, not their crime.
They were indeed illiterate men all, except St Luke, and brought up in mean employments; so very mean, that we cannot suppose them capable of writing a regular history of any kind, had they not been directed in it by the Spirit of truth;* but then to frame such an excellent system of morality as is contained in the Gospels; to give such an extraordinary account of the satisfaction for sin, and of the nature and office of a Mediator; to feign the life and actions of a Messiah, which should agree so exactly with the predictions of the prophets, and the types and prefigurations of the Mosaic law; this they were no more able to do, without the assistance of the same Divine spirit, than they were to create a world: And yet, notwithstanding the great variety and difficulty of this Providence, it is wonderful to observe how all the four evangelists, who wrote at different times and in distant places, agree, not only in the main topics, but sometimes in the most minute circumstances, (b) insomuch, that whenever they seem to disagree, (which chiefly arises from their not confining themselves to the same words or the same order of time) it looks as if the Spirit of God designed on purpose that it should be so, not only that they might be distinct witnesses of the same things, but that all succeeding ages of the Christian world might see with their eyes, that they had neither transcribed from one another, nor combined together like crafty knaves.
(c) The truth is, though the evangelists no where contradict themselves or one another, yet they were not so solicitous to prevent their being suspected of doing so by injudicious and rash men, as they would have been, had they recorded any thing but truth; because it is suitable to the simplicity of truth, not to be over nice and curious about every punc
(a) Stanhope's Sermons at Boyle's Lectures.
[This is probably true. To write a regular history is no easy task; but St Matthew cannot have been utterly illiterate, as we find him at the receipt of custom.] (b) Grew's Cosmolog. sac. pag. 304. (c) Jenkins's Reasonabless of the Christian Religion, vol. ii. c. 8.
tilio, and smaller circumstance, (as the manner of falsehood is) but to speak fully and in- From the betelligibly, and then leave it to men whether they will believe or not. Instead of criti- ginning of the cising therefore upon some difficult parts of the evangelical writers, we ought to con- Matth. ix. 8. sider their whole design, method, and contrivance; and if in these we find them rational Mark ii. 23. and uniform, the common candour of mankind will hinder us from thinking them capable of any gross mistakes or inconsistences, and where we perceive the appearance of any such, put us upon the charitable office of adjusting and reconciling them.
There is indeed a great and uncommon difference between St Matthew and St Luke in their genealogies of our Saviour; but to accommodate this, we may observe, 1st, That these two evangelists were men of different nations, and in that respect had dif ferent designs. For (a) St Matthew was by birth a Jew, wrote his Gospel for the benefit of the Jewish converts, and wrote it very probably in their language: And, as he adhered to the received custom of the Jews in this matter of genealogy, he began his deduction no higher than Abraham, the father of the Hebrews: But St Luke was a Gentile, and may truly be called the evangelist as St Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles; and therefore when he comes to relate the pedigree of Jesus, he takes a different method, and carries it up as far as Adam, the father of all mankind.
2d, We may observe likewise, that St Matthew (b) intends only to set down our Lord's political or royal pedigree, by which he had a right to the crown of the Jews; but St Luke shows his natural descent through the several successions of those from whom he took flesh and blood: And to this purpose we find St Matthew (as we said just now) beginning his reckoning only from Abraham, (c) to whom the first promise of the kingdom was made; whereas St Luke runs his line up to Adam, the first head and fountain of human nature; which plainly shows, that the one deduced only his title to the crown, and the other the natural descent of his humanity.
3d, We may observe farther, that as David had several sons by former wives, so by Bathsheba likewise he had three besides Solomon, whereof the eldest, next to him, was Nathan, and that Christ descended naturally from David, not by Solomon, but by Nathan For though it be frequently said in Scripture that the Messiah should spring from David, it is never said that he should descend from Solomon; for which reason St Luke only deduces Nathan's line, which came into the possession of the throne (upon Jeconiah's captivity and want of issue) in the person of Salathiel.
4th, We may observe again, that the crown of Judah being now come into the line of Nathan in the person of Salathiel, and after him in the great and renowned Zorobabel; forasmuch as the two evangelists agree from Jeconiah to Zorobabel, and after him, divide (each ascribing to him a different successor, viz. the former Abiud, and the latter Rhesa) we may rationally suppose that these two were the sons of Zorobabel, and that from Abiud, the elder bother, lineally descended Joseph, according to the computation of St Matthew, and from Rhesa, the younger brother, descended Mary, of whom Jesus was born, according to the description of St Luke.
5th, Once more we may observe, that it was a custom of the Jews not to reckon the woman by name in her pedigree, but to reckon the husband in right of his wife; for which reason we are not to think it strange that we find Joseph twice reckoned, first in his own right by St Matthew, and then in his wife Mary's right by St Luke; for it
(a) Bishop Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. c. 14. (b) South's Sermons, vol. iii. That St Matthew uses the word begat only in a political sense, is clear from hence :-That he applies it to him who had no child, even to Jeconiah, of whom it is expressly said, Jer. xxii. 30. that God "wrote him childless;" whereupon, being deposed by the king of Babylon, Zedekiah his uncle was made king, and afterwards, upon the removal of him like
Luke vi. 1.
&c. or 5439.
A. M. 4034, is certain, that Mary was properly the daughter of Eli, and that Joseph, who in the account succeeds him, is so reckoned, not as his natural son, but as his son-in-law, instead of his wife Mary, as the manner of the Jews was: And accordingly it is remarked by Vulg. Ær. 28. some learned men, that St Luke (a) does not say of Joseph that he was the son of Eli,
but only To 'Haì, he was of Eli, i. e. related to him, and belonging to his family as his son-in-law. Fit however it was that the genealogy of Jesus should be deduced from Joseph, because it was so generally received by the Jews, that Jesus (b) was the son of the carpenter, (c) the son of Joseph; so that if Joseph had not been acknowledged to have been of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David, (d) since, according to the received rule of the Jews, that "the family of the mother is not called a family," they would not have failed to have objected this as a just prejudice against all our Lord's pretences of being the Messiah.
The sum of these observations, in short, is this,-(e) That the royal line of David by Solomon being extinct in Jeconiah, the crown and kingdom passed into the next younger line of Nathan (another son of David), in Salathiel and Zorobabel; which Zorobabel having two sons, Abiud and Rhesa, the royal dignity descended, of right, upon the line of Abiud, of which Joseph was the last; and he marrying the Virgin Mary, who sprung from the line of Rhesa, the younger son of Zorobabel, and (as some imagine) having no issue himself, his right passed into the line of Mary, being next of kin, and by that means upon Jesus her Son; so that he was both naturally the Son of David, and also legally the king of the Jews, the latter of which is accounted to us by St Matthew, as the former is by St Luke.
This seems to be a pretty clear deduction of our Saviour's pedigree, and is capable of giving a fair solution to a great many of those objections which arise from the different names, or the unequal numbers in the names, or the unequal distances from each other, which are discernible in the two genealogies. But perhaps interpreters might save themselves the trouble of giving a reason for several difficulties occurring therein, by saying, that St Matthew (ƒ) (concerning whom the main dispute is) recites his account as he found it in the authentic copies of the Jews, who doubtless in every family had preserved some known and approved genealogy of their descent from Abraham, the father of their nation, in whom they so much gloried, and from whose loins they expected the promised Messiah *.
(a) Chap. iii. 24.
That Luke gives the pedigree of Mary, the real mother of Christ, may be collected from the following reasons:-1. The angel Gabriel, at the annunciation, told the virgin, that God would give her Divine Son the throne of his father David, (St Luke i. 32.); and this was necessary to be proved by her genealogy afterwards. 2. Mary is called by the Jews byna, the daughter of Eli (Lightfoot on Luke iii. 23.); and by the early Christian writers, the daughter of Joakim and Anna. But Joakim and Eliakim (as being derived from the "There are, says Dr Hales, two distinct geneolo. names of God and Jahoh and El) are somegies given in the introductions of St Matthew's and times interchanged, as in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 4. Eli St Luke's gospels: the former principally designed therefore, or Heli, is the abridgment of Eliakim; nor for the Jews, traces Christ's pedigree as the promi- is it of any consequence that the Rabbins call him sed seed, down from Abraham to David, and from, instead of x, the aspirates aleph and ain being him through Solomon's line, to Jacob the father of frequently interchanged. 3. A similar case in point Joseph, who was the reputed or legal father of Christ, occurs elsewhere in the genealogy. After the Baby(St Matt. i. 1-16.) The latter designed for the lonish captivity, the two lines of Solomon and NaGentiles also, traces it upwards from Heli the father than the sons of David-unite in the generations of of Mary, to David, through his son Nathan's line, Salathiel and Zorobabel, and thence diverge again in and from David to Abraham, concurring with the the sons of the latter, Abiud and Resa. Hence, as former, and from Abraham up to Adam, who was the Salathiel in St Matthew was the son of Jechoniah or immediate son of God.' (St Luke iii. 23-38.) Jehoiachin, who was carried away into captivity by