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Letters on Christianity


To the Rev. Mr. Miller

Dear Sir:

I promised you in my last letter (Occident, Tebeth 5611, pp. 509-514) that I would continue to write on the contradictions found in the New Testament, which promise I now fulfil, with the ardent wish to convince you and all intelligent men, that the canonical Gospels of the Christians are neither of divine revelation nor can they be viewed as authentic historical records.

You will admit, that the miracles, which Jesus is supposed to have wrought, are related by the evangelists in a contradictory manner; each of them speaks of a different set of miracles, which were wrought at different times, in other places, and other occasions that those related by his colleagues; and you have therefore a right to expect, that I shall make some observations on <<595>>them; but the miracles recorded in the New Testament are so numerous, of so extravagant and hyperbolical a nature, and lack so greatly every historical evidence, that I consider the matter not only beyond every rule of rational criticism, but also unworthy to waste my time and the space of the Occident therewith.

The parables of Jesus are by no means the same in every canonical gospel; every evangelist has his own species, written in his own style, and represented as given on those occasions which suited him best. We will take for example Matthew xiii., where we read, that Jesus recited seven parables, when he sat in a ship, and a numerous audience was on the shore. Mark iv. describes the same scene, but there we find only three parables, two of which are similar to those of Matthew, whilst the second is a new invention. Luke and John have not described this scene, nor do they relate the same parables; and this is the case with nearly all the others. The sermons of Jesus labour under the same misfortune as his parables; every evangelist records other sermons, written in different style and spirit, so that they can by no means be ascribed to one author. A fair specimen of contradiction are the two sermons given in Matthew v. and Luke vi. (commonly called the Sermon on the Mount). The one re presents Jesus standing on a mountain, when delivering it, and the other as sitting on a plain; the one makes him recite a long address, the other but a short one; the one fixes as the time when Jesus was known already in all Palestine and Syria, the other at some few weeks after his baptism; and still every impartial reader must see that they intend to record the very same address.

Another, a complete specimen of contradiction, is the speech about the little child; according to Matthew xv ii. 1, it was delivered because “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” According to Mark ix. 33, 34, because they had a dispute on the way, who should be the greatest? According to Luke ix. 46, because “then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest, and Jesus perceiving the <<596>>thought of their heart,” &c.; but John knows nothing about all this. According to Matthew, they had neither a dispute nor a reasoning; according to Mark, they had a dispute; and according to Luke, it was a fair reasoning, which troubled them; according to Matthew and Mark, they asked Jesus; but according to Luke, Jesus perceived it without being asked; according to Matthew, the question was about the greatness in the kingdom of heaven; but the other two let them reason and dispute about worldly greatness, as the answer plainly indicates, “If any man desire to be the first, he shall be the last of all.” The same amount of contradictions will be found in the answer of Jesus to this query, which the reader will easily detect in the respective passages.

We read (Matthew v. 17), “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;” but in Matthew xix. 3, and Mark x. 2, Jesus speaks severely against the Mosaic law of divorcement, which we deem to be a plain contradiction.

Judas the traitor is represented in the Gospels as having repented, and returned the money to the chief priests and elders, which he cast down in the temple and departed, after which he committed suicide; hut the Judas of the Acts not only kept the money and bought a field for it, but he did not repent and died accidentally.

The grossest contradictions in the Gospels are about Jesus’ last days, his death, resurrection, and his ascent to heaven. If we compare Matthew xxi., Mark xi., Luke xix., and John xii., we meet with the following contradictions : Matthew and Mark assert that Jesus came to Jerusalem from Peraea, which is east of Jerusalem; but Luke states that he came from Samaria, which is north of Jerusalem; and according to John he came from a city called Ephraim, which, as he states (xi. 54), was near the wilderness, and consequently south of Jerusalem. We think it impossible for a man to come at the same time from the north, south, and east. Matthew tells us, that he sent two of his disciples for an ass and a colt; Luke and Mark assert that he sent them for an ass only; but according to John, he sent for <<597>>neither of them. According to Matthew, they were not questtioned by anybody, when they took the ass and the colt; but according to Luke and Mark, they were questioned and made an answer. According to Matthew, he rode on the ass and on the colt; according to the two others, on the colt; and according to John, on the ass. When arriving at Jerusalem, John and Matthew represent the people as rejoicing and shouting hosannah; but the other two speak only of the disciples as those who made the exclamations; so that according to Luke, some of the Pharisees told him to stop them.

If we compare Matthew xxvi., Mark xiv., Luke xxii., and John xviii., we find other contradictions. He went from Jerusalem to Gethsemane, say the first three; whilst John asserts, over the river Kidron; the first three state that he was sorely afraid of death, and that he wept bitterly, and prayed that God might save him; but John knows nothing of the story, notwithstanding he is represented as an eye-witness of it. While Matthew and Mark represent him as taking three disciples with him, and return three times to the others, and finding them asleep: Luke says nothing of any disciples who went with him, nor of his returning three times; but he relates as a fact what the others are ignorant of, that an angel appeared to Jesus to strengthen him, and that he was in such an agony that his sweat was, as it were, drops of blood. . While the first three evangelists let Judas kiss him to indicate him to the soldiers, John states that he came forth from a garden in quite another place, and delivered himself to the soldiers, who fell on the ground, and suffered Peter to draw his sword and cut off the ear of one of them. According to the first, he was brought to Caiphas, and according to John, to Annas. If we believe the first two, he was examined the same night (which is against the Jewish law); whilst the other two say it took place the next morning. According to Matthew, they sought for false witnesses against him; according to Mark, they discharged false witnesses, because they contradicted each other; but according to Luke, there were no witnesses whatever.

The farther you proceed in the evangelical books the more confusion and contradiction you meet with; we only describe the <<598>>principal ones, wherefore we will now compare Matthew xxviii., Mark xvi., Luke xxiv., and John xx., which speak of the resurrection of Jesus. Matthew asserts that the two Marys came on the Sabbath evening to see the sepulchre; the others state that it was early in the morning; according to Mark, Salome was with the two Marys; Luke says “they came;” John asserts that only Mary Magdalene came, and afterwards came Peter and others. They saw an angel coming from heaven, causing an earthquake, and, rolling the stone from the grave, he sat upon it but Mark states that it was a young man in a white garment, who sat in the grave, and not on the stone, which was rolled off before they came. Luke asserts that two men came to them at the grave; but according to John, two angels sat in the grave. According to Matthew, Jesus appeared first to the two Marys, when they were on their way home; according to John and Mark, he appeared only to Mary Magdalene, and at the grave; but Luke states that he appeared first to the two Marys, and to Johanna, who told it to the eleven apostles. The long conversation between Jesus and Mary, after his death, is only told by John; the others are ignorant of this important fact. According to Matthew, the eleven disciples went out to Galilee, where Jesus appeared unto them; but according to Mark, he appeared to the eleven at a place which is not mentioned; according to Luke, he appeared to them at Jerusalem. According to John he appeared three times unto his disciples; but according to Paul, several hundred people saw him after his resurrection. The same curious variety we find recorded in the Gospels about the last words of Jesus before “he was received up into heaven,” as Mark gives it; or before he was “carried up into heaven,” according to Luke; whereas Matthew and John do not tell us whither he went.

It is evident, that all the evangelists meant to tell the same story; but as they contradict each other so greatly, we are naturally led to believe that these books were written long after the death of Jesus, and that the materials for them were taken from the fabulous traditions current among the people which necessarily are neither a divine revelation nor furnish an authentical record for the historian to draw from. We Jews can‑<<599>>not, dare not, and will not, sacrifice our ancient faith in deference to the fabulous reports of the unhistorical evangelists; and so you and your friends will perceive, that their endeavour to convert us is in vain, and ridiculous likewise. In my next I shall have to say a few words about the origin of Christianity and its dogmas, which deserve the attention of all who reason on the subject.

Respectfully yours,
Albany, January 5, 5611, A. M.