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בס"ד

Letters on Christianity.

No. VI.

To the Rev. Mr. Miller.

Dear Sir:

Your last letter to me (Occident, Elul, 5610) was not written with the same kindness and calmness which you generally display in your writings and in your conversation. You were evidently out of all patience, and treated me as an infidel, who believes not in a future reward or punishment. My good friend, I advise you to read the third section of my sermon, which the Editor of the Occident was kind enough to publish in his Ab number of 5610, and then I wish to call your attention to an article of mine which is named “Future Reward and Punishment,” and signed W. (Occident, Iyar 5609, p. 86), which will be a sufficient answer to you, and I hope to everybody on that very subject. I believe, because I am convinced by integral <<510>>evidence, in the immortality of the soul, and in a future punishment and reward; and this is all sufficient for me.

As regards your answer to my objections against the canonical books of the New Testament, I must confess that I am not satisfied, and I could advance a great deal on the subject; but I prefer to make you acquainted with all the objections I have against Christianity, and if you have the kindness to defend your faith against all my objections, I will at last reflect on the whole and give you my replies as well as I can.

The Editor of the Occident will doubtlessly be kind enough to insert my letters on this subject, and if it should happen that your replies should be excluded from the Jewish press, which I have no reason to fear, and you publish them in any other paper and send them to me, due attention shall be paid to them.

I will to-day continue my objections with noticing some of the many contradictions which overfill the books of the New Testament.

Matthew i. and Luke iii. know of the genealogy of their hero Matthew i. 1, states, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” finishing with “And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born. Luke iii. 23, states, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” The intention of the biographers, as it seems, was to prove that Jesus was the rightful Messiah, since be was a descendant of David through Joseph his father.*

* An adopted son was never regarded as a son, nor was it of any consequence of what tribe or family the mother was.

But who can believe that even those who professed to know that Jesus was a son of David, knew also that he was no son of David, but of some person whom Mary asserted to be the so-called Holy Ghost; as in Matthew i. 18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When, as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child by the Holy Ghost.” Luke i. tells nearly the same story; but the other evangelists, apostles, and fathers, say nothing of this romantic affair, nor does Mary, Jesus, or his friends ever mention this great wonder, of which I think they had more reason to be ashamed than proud.

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Matthew enumerates between Abraham and Jesus forty-one names, including the former and the latter, in contradiction to his own statement, ch. i. 11, where he counts three times fourteen generations from Abraham to Jesus; it is a pity that he did not consider that 3x14=42, but not 41. Luke mentions fifty-six names between Abraham and Jesus, and mostly other names. According to Matthew, Joseph’s father was Jacob, and Matthan his grandfather; but Luke asserts that Heli was Joseph’s father, and Matthat his grandfather. It is really a pity, that Matthew and Luke, who lived a few years after Christ, were so misinformed about the family of their hero. It must induce any one, who has less faith than my friend Miller, to suppose that these things were written many centuries after Christ by uninformed authors. We will say here nothing about the obscure names which Luke chose to cover his ignorance on the subject, nor shall we say anything about such names, as Melchi, Esli, Nagge, Maath, &c., which were never customary among the Jews, because we have to say a great deal besides this.

If we farther compare Luke i. with Matthew i., respecting the conception of Mary, we have another fair specimen of direct contradiction. Luke says, then an angel came to Mary to foretell to her the will and the intention of the Holy Ghost; but, according to Matthew i. 18, this was not the case. According to Luke, the angel appeared to Mary; and, according to Matthew, he appeared to Joseph. Matthew makes the angel appear to Joseph in a dream, but Luke does so to Mary in her waking condition. Luke lets the angel appear before the conception in order to convey to Mary the heavenly tidings; but Matthew lets him come to Joseph after the conception, in order to allay the misgivings of a suspicious husband; but the other evangelists, apostles, and fathers, know nothing of the whole story.

If we compare Matthew ii. with Luke ii. respecting the birth of Jesus, we meet with the most ridiculous contradictions. According to Matthew, Mary resided in Beth-Lechem; but, according to Luke, she came there accidentally. According to Matthew, it is a star which told the magicians of the East that the King of the Jews had been born; and this star guided them to Jeru<<512>>salem, whither they brought the tidings of his birth, and whence they were further guided to the very house over which the star stood still, and in which they found the glorious child, which they worshipped and enriched with precious gifts;* but, according to Luke, angels appeared to some shepherds, and brought them the good news, upon which they came and worshipped the child, praised God, and went off; but in Jerusalem they were so ignorant of his birth, that a prophetess was necessary to distinguish him when brought to Jerusalem.

* But what an absurdity is it, to believe for a moment that God had taken out a star from the great system of the universe, in order to bring some superstitious magicians to Jerusalem; or to think that they could discriminate a house by a star standing above it. It is very peculiar, indeed, that all celestial bodies move from west to east, but this one star moved in an opposite direction.

According to Matthew, Herod, fearing the new-born Messiah, gave orders to kill all the new-born babes, wherefore Joseph fled with his family to Egypt, whence he only then returned to Galilee, after he had been visited by several angels; but, according to Luke, the boy was circumcised, and went with his mother, after forty days, to Jerusalem, where only an old man and an old woman knew something about him, but nobody else had any knowledge of, or wished to injure him in the least. “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned unto Galilee, to their own city Nazareth” (Luke ii. 39); but the other evangelists say nothing of his miraculous birth.

John the Baptist is everywhere represented as the herald of the Messiah; and, according to John i., the Baptist knew Jesus so soon as he saw him among the people, acknowledging him to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, &c. According to Matthew, iii. 14, John knew Jesus to be the very Messiah, whom he had heralded to the world; but, according to Matthew xi. 2, 3, and Luke vii. 18, 19, John knew nothing of Jesus until the former was in prison. “And John, calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?” This contradiction shows plainly enough that, not as some suppose, John <<513>>to have been a hired impostor, but that the evangelists took hold of a half-historical character to support their unhistorical Jesus; but they could have done it much better, to avoid the suspicion of the unbeliever.

According to John i. 2, Jesus remained three days with John, then he went to Galilee to the marriage at Cana, where he turned water into wine; Matthew, Mark , and Luke, do not allude to this marriage, nor to the marvellous creation of wine; but they represent him as being, during forty days, tempted by the devil, after which Luke and Matthew send him to Nazareth, an Mark represents him as going to Capernaum. But it is certain, that he could not be at the same time in Cana while he was in the wilderness with the prince of darkness, nor could he go at the same time to Cana, Nazareth, and Capernaum. These contradictions lead me to think, that the evangelists knew nothing about the childhood and baptism of John and Jesus, and of the acquaintance subsisting between them, and whatever they wrote about these points is the fabulous tradition gathered from the people; and we can easily estimate how much this is worth.

There is no chronology whatever in the canonical gospels, wherefore they are, in this point, beneath criticism; but, in a geographical respect, they contradict each other most strangely. Matthew, Mark, and Luke repeatedly contradict each other in the geographical line on which Jesus traveled; but orthodox Christians have, after a good deal of trouble, and with the help of a great deal of guess-work, settled the difficulties, and state that Jesus, after his returning from John on his last journey to Jerusalem, never came far over the boundaries of North Palestine, but always travelled on the eastern and western shores of the sea of Galilee, and on the upper Jordan, in the tetrarchies of Herodus Antipas and Philip, without ever penetrating into the interior of Samaria, not to mention into Judea, which was under Roman administration, in which assertion they say the first three evangelists agree. But according to John ii. 1, 12, 13; iii. 22; iv. 1 43; v. 1; vi. 1, 17, 59; vii. 1, 2, 10, 21; x. 22,13; 22; iv. 1, 43; 40; xi. 1, 54, Jesus was, before his last visit, four times at Jerusalem, where he always preached and taught; and he tra<<514>>veled a long time in Judea and Samaria, where he performed great miracles. It seems to be evident enough, that the evangelists knew no more about the journeys of Jesus than what they could learn from popular tales, in which there is generally very little truth and much of contradiction.

I must conclude for the present; in the next number of the Occident I shall continue to write on the contradictions in the New Testament. I beg you, my dear friend, to keep calm in your answers; I dislike excitement. Defend your faith, but do not offend others.

Your friend,
ISAAC M. WISE, D.D.