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Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books, that have been
imposed upon the world as being given by divine inspiration, and as the
unchangeable word of God.

The writer of the book of Matthew, after giving this account, relates
a story that is not to be found in any of the other books, and which is
the same I have just before alluded to. "Now," says he, [that is, after
the conversation the women had had with the angel sitting upon the
stone,] "behold some of the watch [meaning the watch that he had said
had been placed over the sepulchre] came into the city, and shawed unto
the chief priests all the things that were done; and when they were
assembled with the elders and had taken counsel, they gave large money
unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, that his disciples came by night, and
stole him away while we slept; and if this come to the governor's ears,
we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as
they were taught; and this saying [that his disciples stole him away] is
commonly reported among the Jews until this day."

The expression, until this day, is an evidence that the book ascribed
to Matthew was not written by Matthew, and that it has been manufactured
long after the times and things of which it pretends to treat; for
the expression implies a great length of intervening time. It would be
inconsistent in us to speak in this manner of any thing happening in our
own time. To give, therefore, intelligible meaning to the expression,
we must suppose a lapse of some generations at least, for this manner of
speaking carries the mind back to ancient time.

The absurdity also of the story is worth noticing; for it shows the
writer of the book of Matthew to have been an exceeding weak and foolish
man. He tells a story that contradicts itself in point of possibility;
for though the guard, if there were any, might be made to say that the
body was taken away while they were asleep, and to give that as a
reason for their not having prevented it, that same sleep must also have
prevented their knowing how, and by whom, it was done; and yet they are
made to say that it was the disciples who did it. Were a man to tender
his evidence of something that he should say was done, and of the manner
of doing it, and of the person who did it, while he was asleep, and
could know nothing of the matter, such evidence could not be received:
it will do well enough for Testament evidence, but not for any thing
where truth is concerned.

I come now to that part of the evidence in those books, that respects
the pretended appearance of Christ after this pretended resurrection.

The writer of the book of Matthew relates, that the angel that was
sitting on the stone at the mouth of the sepulchre, said to the two
Marys (xxviii. 7), "Behold Christ is gone before you into Galilee, there
ye shall see him; lo, I have told you." And the same writer at the next
two verses (8, 9,) makes Christ himself to speak to the same purpose to
these women immediately after the angel had told it to them, and that
they ran quickly to tell it to the disciples; and it is said (ver. 16),
"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where
Jesus had appointed them; and, when they saw him, they worshipped him."

But the writer of the book of John tells us a story very different to
this; for he says (xx. 19) "Then the same day at evening, being the
first day of the week, [that is, the same day that Christ is said
to have risen,] when the doors were shut, where the disciples were
assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of
them."

According to Matthew the eleven were marching to Galilee, to meet Jesus
in a mountain, by his own appointment, at the very time when, according
to John, they were assembled in another place, and that not by
appointment, but in secret, for fear of the Jews.

The writer of the book of Luke xxiv. 13, 33-36, contradicts that of
Matthew more pointedly than John does; for he says expressly, that the
meeting was in Jerusalem the evening of the same day that he (Christ)
rose, and that the eleven were there.

Now, it is not possible, unless we admit these supposed disciples the
right of wilful lying, that the writers of these books could be any of
the eleven persons called disciples; for if, according to Matthew,
the eleven went into Galilee to meet Jesus in a mountain by his own
appointment, on the same day that he is said to have risen, Luke and
John must have been two of that eleven; yet the writer of Luke says
expressly, and John implies as much, that the meeting was that same day,
in a house in Jerusalem; and, on the other hand, if, according to Luke
and John, the eleven were assembled in a house in Jerusalem, Matthew
must have been one of that eleven; yet Matthew says the meeting was in a
mountain in Galilee, and consequently the evidence given in those books
destroy each other.

The writer of the book of Mark says nothing about any meeting in
Galilee; but he says (xvi. 12) that Christ, after his resurrection,
appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked into the
country, and that these two told it to the residue, who would not
believe them. [This belongs to the late addition to Mark, which
originally ended with xvi. 8.--Editor.] Luke also tells a story, in
which he keeps Christ employed the whole of the day of this pretended
resurrection, until the evening, and which totally invalidates the
account of going to the mountain in Galilee. He says, that two of them,
without saying which two, went that same day to a village called Emmaus,
three score furlongs (seven miles and a half) from Jerusalem, and
that Christ in disguise went with them, and stayed with them unto the
evening, and supped with them, and then vanished out of their sight, and
reappeared that same evening, at the meeting of the eleven in Jerusalem.

This is the contradictory manner in which the evidence of this pretended
reappearance of Christ is stated: the only point in which the writers
agree, is the skulking privacy of that reappearance; for whether it
was in the recess of a mountain in Galilee, or in a shut-up house in
Jerusalem, it was still skulking. To what cause then are we to assign
this skulking? On the one hand, it is directly repugnant to the supposed
or pretended end, that of convincing the world that Christ was risen;
and, on the other hand, to have asserted the publicity of it would have
exposed the writers of those books to public detection; and, therefore,
they have been under the necessity of making it a private affair.

As to the account of Christ being seen by more than five hundred at
once, it is Paul only who says it, and not the five hundred who say it
for themselves. It is, therefore, the testimony of but one man, and that
too of a man, who did not, according to the same account, believe a
word of the matter himself at the time it is said to have happened.
His evidence, supposing him to have been the writer of Corinthians xv.,
where this account is given, is like that of a man who comes into a
court of justice to swear that what he had sworn before was false. A man
may often see reason, and he has too always the right of changing his
opinion; but this liberty does not extend to matters of fact.

I now come to the last scene, that of the ascension into heaven.--Here
all fear of the Jews, and of every thing else, must necessarily have
been out of the question: it was that which, if true, was to seal the
whole; and upon which the reality of the future mission of the disciples
was to rest for proof. Words, whether declarations or promises, that
passed in private, either in the recess of a mountain in Galilee, or in
a shut-up house in Jerusalem, even supposing them to have been spoken,
could not be evidence in public; it was therefore necessary that this
last scene should preclude the possibility of denial and dispute; and
that it should be, as I have stated in the former part of 'The Age of
Reason,' as public and as visible as the sun at noon-day; at least it
ought to have been as public as the crucifixion is reported to have
been.--But to come to the point.

In the first place, the writer of the book of Matthew does not say a
syllable about it; neither does the writer of the book of John. This
being the case, is it possible to suppose that those writers, who affect
to be even minute in other matters, would have been silent upon this,
had it been true? The writer of the book of Mark passes it off in a
careless, slovenly manner, with a single dash of the pen, as if he was
tired of romancing, or ashamed of the story. So also does the writer of
Luke. And even between these two, there is not an apparent agreement,
as to the place where this final parting is said to have been. [The last
nine verses of Mark being ungenuine, the story of the ascension
rests exclusively on the words in Luke xxiv. 51, "was carried up into
heaven,"--words omitted by several ancient authorities.--Editor.]

The book of Mark says that Christ appeared to the eleven as they sat at
meat, alluding to the meeting of the eleven at Jerusalem: he then states
the conversation that he says passed at that meeting; and immediately
after says (as a school-boy would finish a dull story,) "So then, after
the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and
sat on the right hand of God." But the writer of Luke says, that the
ascension was from Bethany; that he (Christ) led them out as far as
Bethany, and was parted from them there, and was carried up into heaven.
So also was Mahomet: and, as to Moses, the apostle Jude says, ver. 9.
That 'Michael and the devil disputed about his body.' While we believe
such fables as these, or either of them, we believe unworthily of the
Almighty.

I have now gone through the examination of the four books ascribed to
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and when it is considered that the whole
space of time, from the crucifixion to what is called the ascension, is
but a few days, apparently not more than three or four, and that all the
circumstances are reported to have happened nearly about the same spot,
Jerusalem, it is, I believe, impossible to find in any story upon record
so many and such glaring absurdities, contradictions, and falsehoods, as
are in those books.



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