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But it is immaterial to us, at this distance of time, to know who the person was: it is sufficient to the purpose I am upon, that of detecting fraud and falsehood, to know who it was not, and to shew it was not the person called Jesus Christ.
I pass on to the ninth passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, chap. xxi. ver. 1. "And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying unto them, go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her, loose them and bring them unto me-and if any man say aught to you, ye shall say the Lord hath need of them, and straightway he will send them.
"All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughters of Sion, behold thy king cometh unto thee, meek, and setting on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."
Poor ass! let it be some consolation amidst all thy suf ferings, that if the heathen world erected a bear into a constellation, the Christian world has elevated thee into a prophecy.
This passage is in Zechariah, chap. ix. ver. 9, and is one of the whims of friend Zechariah to congratulate his countrymen, who were then returning from captivity in Babylon, and himself with them, to Jerusalem. It has no concern with any other subject. It is strange that apostles, priests, and commentators, never permit, or never suppose, the Jews to be speaking of their own affairs. Every thing in the Jewish books is perverted and distorted into meanings never intended by the writers. Even the poor ass must not be a Jew-ass but a Christian-ass. I wonder they did not make an apostle of him, or a bishop, or at least make him speak and prophecy. He could have lifted up his voice as loud as any of them.
Zechariah, in the first chapter of his book, indulges himself in several whims on the joy of getting back to Jerusalem. He says, at the 8th verse," I saw by night (Zechariah was a sharp-sighted seer) and behold a man sitting on tion. The Proverbs called Solomon's, and the Psalms called David's, are of the same kind. The two last verses of the second book of Chronicles, and the three first verses of the first chapter of Ezra, are word for word the same; which shew that the compilers of the Bible mixed the writings of different authors together, and put them under some common head.
As we have here an instance in the 44th and 45th chapters of the introduction of the name of Cyrus into a book to which it cannot belong, it affords good ground to conclude, that the passage in the 42d chapter, in which the character of Cyrus is given without his name, has been introduced in like manner, and that the person there spoken of is Cyrus.
a red borse res, reader, a red borse and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom, and behind him were red borses speckled and white. He says nothing about green borses, nor blue borses, perhaps because it is diet to distinguish green from bice by night, bet a Christian can have no doubt they were there, because
faith is the evidence of things not seen."
Zechariah then introduces an angel among his horses. but he does not tell us what colour the angel was of, whether black or white, nor whether he came to buy borses, or caly to look at them as curiosities, fer certainly they were of that kind. Be this, however, as it may, be enters into conversation with this angel. on the joyful affair of getting back to Jerusalem, and he saith at the 16th verse. Therefore, thus saith the Lord. I AM RETURNED to Jerusalem with mercies; my house shall be built in it saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem." An expression signifying the rebuilding of the city.
All this, whimsical and imaginary as it is, sufficiently proves that it was the entry of the Jews into Jerusalem from captivity, and not the entry of Jesus Christ seven hundred years afterwards, that is the subject upon which Zechariah is always speaking.
As to the expression of riding upon an ass, which commentators represent as a sign of humility in Jesus Christ. the case is, he never was so well mounted before. The asses of those countries are large and well-proportioned, and were anciently the chief of riding animals. Their beasts of burden, and which served also for the conveyance of the poor, were camels and dromedaries. We read in Judges, chap. x. ver. 4, that "Jair (one of the Judges of Israel) had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass-colts, and they had thirty cities." But commentators distort every
There is besides very reasonable grounds to conclude that this story of Jesus riding publicly into Jerusalem, accompanied as it is said at the 8th and 9th verses, by a great multitude, shouting and rejoicing and spreading their garments by the way, is altogether a story destitute of truth.
In the last passage called a prophecy that I examined, Jesus is represented as withdrawing, that is, running away, and concealing himself for fear of being apprehended, and charging the people that were with him not to make him known. No new circumstances had arisen in the interim to change his condition for the better; yet here he is represented as making his public entry into the same. city from which he had fled for safety. The two cases contradict each other so much, that if both are not false,
one of them at least can scarcely. be true. For my own part, I do not believe there is one word of historical truth in the whole book. I look upon it at best to be a romance; the principal personage of which is an imaginary or allegorical character founded upon some tale, and in which the moral is in many parts good, and the narrative part very badly and blunderingly written.
I pass on to the tenth passage, called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, chap. xxvi. ver. 51. "And behold one of them which was with Jesus (meaning Peter) stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels. But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be. In that same hour Jesus said to the multitudes, are ye come out as against a thief with swords and with staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."
This loose and general manner of speaking, admits neither of detection nor of proof. Here is no quotation given, nor the name of any Bible author mentioned, to which reference can be had.
There are, however, some high improbabilities against the truth of the account.
First-It is not probable that the Jews, who were then a conquered people, and under subjection to the Romans, should be permitted to wear swords.
Secondly-If Peter had attacked the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear, he would have been immediately taken up by the guard that took up his master, and sent to prison with him.
Thirdly-What sort of disciples and preaching apostles must those of Christ have been that wore swords?
Fourthly-This scene is represented to have taken place the same evening of what is called the Lord's Supper, which makes, according to the ceremony of it, the inconsistency of wearing swords the greater.
I pass on to the eleventh passage called a prophecy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew, chap. xxvii. ver. 3. "Then Judas which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of sil ver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us, see thou to that. And he cast down
the pieces of silver, and departed, and went and hanged himself-And the chief priest took the silver pieces and said, it is not lawful to put them in the treasury, because it is the price of blood-And they took counsel and bought with them the potters' feld to bury strangers in it. Wherefore that field is called the field of blood unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the propbet, saying. And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the chil dren of Israel did value, and gave them for the potters' field, as the Lord appointed ine."
This is a most bare-faced piece of imposition. The pas sage in Jeremiah which speaks of the purchase of a field, has no more to do with the case to which Matthew applies it, than it has to do with the purchase of lands in America. I will recite the whole passage:
Jeremiah, chap. xxxiì. ver. 6. "And Jeremiah said, the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Behold Hanamiel, the son of Shallum thine uncle, shall come unto thee say. ing, buy thee my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is thine to buy it So Hanamiel mine uncle's son caine to me in the court of the prison, according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, buy my field I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin, for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew this was the word of the Lord And I bought the field of Hanamiel mine uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silverand I subscribed the evidence and sealed it, and took wit nesses and weighed him the money in balances. So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open-and I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch, the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiath, in the sight of Hanamiel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison-and I charged Baruch before them, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel. that they may continue many days for thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, houses, and fields, and vineyards, shall be possessed again in this land."
I forbear making any remark on this abominable imposition of Matthew. The thing glaringly speaks for itself. It is priests and commentators that I rather ought to censure, for having preached falsehood so long, and kept peo ple in darkness with respect to those impositions. I am
not contending with these men upon points of doctrine, for I know that sophistry has always a city of refuge. I am speaking of facts; for wherever the thing called a fact is a falsehood, the faith founded upon it is delusion, and the doctrine raised upon it not true. Ah, reader, put thy trust in thy Creator, and thou wilt be safe! but if thou trustest to the book called the Scriptures, thou trustest to the rotten staff of fable and falsehood. But I return to iny subject.
There is among the whims and reveries of Zechariah, mention made of thirty pieces of silver given to a potter. They can hardly have been so stupid as to mistake a pot. ter for a field: and if they had, the passage in Zechariah has no more to do with Jesus, Judas, and the field to bury strangers in, than that already quoted. I will recite the passage.
Zechariah, chap. xi. ver. 7.
"And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock; and I took unto me two staves: the one I called Beauty and the other I called Bands, and I fed the flock. Three shepherds also, I cut off in one month; and my soul loathed them, and their souls also abhorred me. Then said I, I will not feed you; that which dieth, let it die; and that which is to be cut off let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all people. And it was broken in that day; and so the poor of the flock who waited upon me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
"And I said unto them, if ye think good give me my price, and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, cast it unto the potter, a goodly price that I was prised at of them; and I took the thirty pieces of silver and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.
"When I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel (4).'
(4) Whiston, in his Essay on the Old Testament, says, that the passage of Zechariah of which I have spoken, was in the copies of the Bible of the first century, in the book of Jeremiah, from whence, says he, it was taken and inserted without coherence, in that of Zechariah-well, let it be so, it does not make the case a whit the better for the New Testament; but it makes the case a great deal the worse for the Old. Because it shews, as I have mentioned respecting some passages in a book ascribed to Isaiah, that the works of different authors have been so mixed and confounded together they cannot now be discriminated, except where they are historical, chronological, or biographical, as is the interpolation in Isaiah. It is the name of Cyrus inserted where it could not be inserted, as he was not in existence till one hundred and fifty years after the