The documents containing the story of Jesus are so unlike those about Lincoln or any other historical character, that we must be doubly vigilant in our investigation. The Christians rely mainly on the four Gospels for the historicity of Jesus. But the original documents of which the books in the New Testament are claimed to be faithful copies are not in existence. _There is absolutely no evidence that they ever were in existence_. This is a statement which can not be controverted. Is it conceivable that the early believers lost through carelessness or purposely _every_ document written by an apostle, while guarding with all protecting jealousy and zeal the writings of anonymous persons? Is there any valid reason why the contributions to Christian literature of an inspired apostle should perish while those of a nameless scribe are preserved, why the original Gospel of Matthew should drop quietly out of sight, no one knows how, while a supposed copy of it in an alien language is preserved for many centuries? Jesus himself, it is admitted, did not write a single line. He had come, according to popular belief, to reveal the will of God--a most important mission indeed, and yet he not only did not put this revelation in writing during his lifetime, and with his own hand, which it is natural to suppose that a divine teacher, expressly come from heaven, would have done, but he left this all-important duty to anonymous chroniclers, who, naturally, made enough mistakes to split up Christendom into innumerable factions. It is worth a moment's pause to think of the persecutions, the cruel wars, and the centuries of hatred and bitterness which would have been spared our unfortunate humanity, if Jesus himself had written down his message in the clearest and plainest manner, instead of leaving it to his supposed disciples to publish it to the world, when he could no longer correct their mistakes. Moreover, not only did Jesus not write himself, but he has not even taken any pains to preserve the writings of his "apostles," It is well known that the original manuscripts, if there were any, are nowhere to be found. This is a grave matter. We have only supposed copies of supposed original manuscripts. Who copied them? When were they copied? How can we be sure that these copies are reliable? And why are there thousands upon thousands of various readings in these, numerous supposed copies? What means have we of deciding which version or reading to accept? Is it possible that as the result of Jesus' advent into our world, we have only a basketful of nameless and dateless copies and documents? Is it conceivable, I ask, that a God would send his Son to us, and then leave us to wander through a pile of dusty manuscripts to find out why He sent His Son, and what He taught when on earth? The only answer the Christian church can give to this question is that the original writings were purposely allowed to perish. When a precious document containing the testament of Almighty God, and inscribed for an eternal purpose by the Holy Ghost, disappears altogether there is absolutely no other way of accounting for its disappearance than by saying, as we have suggested, that its divine author must have intentionally withdrawn it from circulation. "God moves in a mysterious way" is the last resort of the believer. This is the one argument which is left to theology to fight science with. Unfortunately it is an argument which would prove every cult and "ism" under the heavens true. The Mohammedan, the Mazdaian, and the Pagan may also fall back upon faith. There is nothing which faith can not cover up from the light. But if a faith which ignores evidence be not a superstition, what then is superstition? I wonder if the Catholic Church, which pretends to believe--and which derives quite an income from the belief--that God has miraculously preserved the wood of the cross, the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, the coat of Jesus, and quite a number of other mementos, can explain why the original manuscripts were lost. I have a suspicion that there were no "original" manuscripts. I am not sure of this, of course, but if nails, bones and holy places could be miraculously preserved, why not also manuscripts? It is reasonable to suppose that the Deity would not have permitted the most important documents containing His Revelation to drop into some hole and disappear, or to be gnawed into dust by the insects, after having had them written by special inspiration. Again, when these documents, such as we find them, are examined, it will be observed that, even in the most elementary intelligence which they pretend to furnish, they are hopelessly at variance with one another. It is, for example, utterly impossible to reconcile Matthew's genealogy of Jesus with the one given by Luke. In copying the names of the supposed ancestors of Jesus, they tamper with the list as given in the book of Chronicles, in the Old Testament, and thereby justly expose themselves to the charge of bad faith. One evangelist says Jesus was descended from Solomon, born of "her that had been the wife of Urias." It will be remembered that David ordered Urias killed in a cowardly manner, that he may marry his widow, whom he coveted. According to Matthew, Jesus is one of the offspring of this adulterous relation. According to Luke, it is not through Solomon, but through Nathan, that Jesus is connected with the house of David. Again, Luke tells us that the name of the father of Joseph was _Heli;_ Matthew says it was _Jacob_. If the writers of the gospels were contemporaries of Joseph they could have easily learned the exact name of his father. Again, why do these biographers of Jesus give us the genealogy of Joseph if he was not the father of Jesus? It is the genealogy of Mary which they should have given to prove the descent of Jesus from the house of David, and not that of Joseph. These irreconcilable differences between Luke, Matthew and the other evangelists, go to prove that these authors possessed no reliable information concerning the subjects they were writing about. For if Jesus is a historical character, and these biographers were really his immediate associates, and were inspired besides, how are we to explain their blunders and contradictions about his genealogy? A good illustration of the mythical or unhistorical character of the New Testament is furnished by the story of John the Baptist. He is first represented as confessing publicly that Jesus is the Christ; that he himself is not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes; and that Jesus is the Lamb of God, "who taketh away the sins of the world." John was also present, the gospels say, when the heavens opened and a dove descended on Jesus' head, and he heard the voice from the skies, crying: "He is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Is it possible that, a few chapters later, this same John forgets his public confession,--the dove and the voice from heaven,--and actually sends two of his disciples to find out who this Jesus is, [Footnote: Matthew xi.] The only way we can account for such strange conduct is that the compiler or editor in question had two different myths or stories before him, and he wished to use them both. A further proof of the loose and extravagant style of the Gospel writers is furnished by the concluding verse of the Fourth Gospel: "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written, every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." This is more like the language of a myth-maker than of a historian. How much reliance can we put in a reporter who is given to such exaggeration? To say that the world itself would be too small to contain the unreported sayings and doings of a teacher whose public life possibly did not last longer than a year, and whose reported words and deeds fill only a few pages, is to prove one's statements unworthy of serious consideration. And it is worth our while to note also that the documents which have come down to our time and which purport to be the biographies of Jesus, are not only written in an alien language, that is to say, in a language which was not that of Jesus and his disciples, but neither are they dated or signed. Jesus and his twelve apostles were Jews; why are all the four Gospels written in Greek? If they were originally written in Hebrew, how can we tell that the Greek translation is accurate, since we can not compare it with the originals? And why are these Gospels anonymous? Why are they not dated? But as we shall say something more on this subject in the present volume, we confine ourselves at this point to reproducing a fragment of the manuscript pages from which our Greek Translations have been made.[Footnote: See page 57.] It is admitted by scholars that owing to the difficulty of reading these ancient and imperfect and also conflicting texts, an accurate translation is impossible. But this is another way of saying that what the churches call the Word of God is not only the word of man, but a very imperfect word, at that. The belief in Jesus, then, is founded on secondary documents, altered and edited by various hands; on lost originals, and on anonymous manuscripts of an age considerably later than the events therein related--manuscripts which contradict each other as well as themselves. Such is clearly and undeniably the basis for the belief in a historical Jesus. It was this sense of the insufficiency of the evidence which drove the missionaries of Christianity to commit forgeries. If there was ample evidence for the historicity of Jesus, why did his biographers resort to forgery? The following admissions by Christian writers themselves show the helplessness of the early preachers in the presence of inquirers who asked for proofs. The church historian, Mosheim, writes that, "The Christian Fathers deemed it a pious act to employ deception and fraud." [Footnote: Ecclesiastical Hist., Vol. I, P. 247.] Again, he says: "The greatest and most pious teachers were nearly all of them infected with this leprosy." Will not some believer tell us why forgery and fraud were necessary to prove the historicity of Jesus. Another historian, Milman, writes that, "Pious fraud was admitted and avowed" by the early missionaries of Jesus. "It was an age of literary frauds," writes Bishop Ellicott, speaking of the times immediately following the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. Dr. Giles declares that, "There can be no doubt that great numbers of books were written with no other purpose than to deceive." And it is the opinion of Dr. Robertson Smith that, "There was an enormous floating mass of spurious literature created to suit party views." Books which are now rejected as apochryphal were at one time received as inspired, and books which are now believed to be infallible were at one time regarded as of no authority in the Christian world. It certainly is puzzling that there should be a whole literature of fraud and forgery in the name of a historical person. But if Jesus was a myth, we can easily explain the legends and traditions springing up in his name. The early followers of Jesus, then, realizing the force of this objection, did actually resort to interpolation and forgery in order to prove that Jesus was a historical character. One of the oldest critics of the Christian religion was a Pagan, known to history under the name of Porphyry; yet, the early Fathers did not hesitate to tamper even with the writings of an avowed opponent of their religion. After issuing an edict to destroy, among others, the writings of this philosopher, a work, called _Philosophy of Oracles,_ was produced, in which the author is made to write almost as a Christian; and the name of Porphyry was signed to it as its author. St. Augustine was one of the first to reject it as a forgery. [Footnote: Geo. W. Foote. Crimes of Christianity.] A more astounding invention than this alleged work of a heathen bearing witness to Christ is difficult to produce. Do these forgeries, these apocryphal writings, these interpolations, freely admitted to have been the prevailing practice of the early Christians, help to prove the existence of Jesus? And when to this wholesale manufacture of doubtful evidence is added the terrible vandalism which nearly destroyed every great Pagan classic, we can form an idea of the desperate means to which the early Christians resorted to prove that Jesus was not a myth. It all goes to show how difficult it is to make a man out of a myth.
[Illustration: The Goddess Mother in the Grecian Pantheon.]