Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 24a

Christ in the Sepulchre

page break

Christ in the Sepulchre.

Our subject to-night (5th May, 1867), is "Christ in the Sepulchre," and particularly the credibility of the stories in the various gospels of the circumstances connected with his being there.

Now from the distance of time—the absolute silence of all contemporary history—and the fact that Christians claim that all things extraordinary or improbable are easily accounted for by the theory of almighty power exerted in miracles, many things which a reasonable impartial man must consider impossible and absurd, cannot be disproved, simply for want of any evidence. The common-sense view that improbable tales which contradict all our experience, ought not to be accepted on mere assertion—although it may be conclusive to the unbiassed critic—cannot be expected to have its proper weight with persons who postulate the possibility of miracles, and for whose insatiable credulity no absurdity is too gigantic—who are determined that if their faith cannot really remove mountains, as promised them by Jesus Christ, no mountain, however huge, of logical inconsistency shall for a moment stand in their way. But there is one way of conclusively testing improbable stories, and in most cases of convicting them, if false, accordingly. If they are obnoxious to my criterion, their condemnation cannot be evaded. Both the terms of a simple positive contradiction cannot possibly be true; one must be absolutely false. Even if the pious Christian fathers,—when they burned all the books against their religion, that they found and that they could not answer, had had the sense to burn those attributed to Mark, Luke, and John, still Matthew's gospel itself without them contains ample materials to prove itself utterly unworthy of credit or respect—that many of the statements it contains are absolutely false.

For above reasons I shall do no more than allude to the absurdity of introducing a cock to crow to Peter at a time when the Jewish law forbad that any cocks should remain in Jerusalem—similar in kind to that of two devils entering into 2000 swine in a country where pork was not eaten, and consequently it was absurd to suppose that anyone could or would keep them. The more relevant fact that though the penalty was no less than death for violating the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus's body and put it in the sepulchre after the even which formed the commencement of the Sabbath was come:—and the chief priests, though such ultra-ritualists, made the sepulchre sure, sealed the stone and set the watch, upon the Sabbath—for such a violation of which the penalty was death—though these things are utterly incredible and preposterous, still I admit that neither is absolutely impossible, and the contrary cannot be proved. I must however call attention to the manner in which Mat. xxvii. 62, transparently evades saying that it was the Sabbath. "Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation," the chief priests went to Pilate to ask for the watch.—Why not say distinctly "the Sabbath," as it was? The writer or interpolater of these verses assuredly was no Jew; nor was he honest.

page 30

I however intend to rely solely upon absolute flat contradictions, simply because Mr. S——himself clearly acknowledged the principle that both terms of a contradiction cannot be true—in admitting that there must be an error in 2 Chron. xxi., xxii., where Ahaziah is twice stated to have been two years older than his father. I reminded him of his inconsistency—I pointed out that he was playing fast and loose with the infallible word of his God and also with his own principles—that there is no greater miracle in a man being two years older than his father than in three and one being the same—feeding 5000 men with five loaves and two fishes—or rising from the dead. Mr. S——then proved that he had really no faith whatever—not even as a grain of mustard seed—to move his mountain; and the consequence is, he is now bound in common consistency, to acknowledge the equal impossibility of reconciling the following directly opposed statements:—

Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the last supper and the passover on Thursday.—John says the last supper was on Friday—the passover on the Sabbath, Saturday.

It is repeatedly stated that Jesus said he would rise again after three days.—But Matthew [xii. 40,] makes Christ himself say clearly, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Yet this same Matthew [xxvii. 57], says that the even was come before Joseph came to beg the body. It was already the Sabbath—which began at sunset on Friday; and ended—when? Observe—this supposed Jew—Matthew—here shows his complete ignorance of the most popular of Jewish customs. He was actually ignorant that the Sabbath terminated at sunset on Saturday, for he says, "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to damn toward the first day of the week," (thus clearly reckoning the Sabbath as ending at sunrise on Sunday!) the resurrection was complete, and still more so therefore was the clear contradiction. For thus the Sabbath was not yet over; and by Matthew's reckoning he had therefore not been One Clear Day in the sepulchre! by the Jewish computation he was there only One Day and part of another! and by ours he was there no more than One Day and Two Nights! The solemn assertion therefore of Jesus per Matthew that he would be there Three Days and Three Nights is proved absolutely false by Matthew himself!!!

In Mat. xxviii. 10, and Mark xiv. 28, xvi. 7, the disciples are told to go to Galilee where they shall see Jesus.—But according to Luke xxiv. 49, and Acts i. 4, they were told to tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high—Jesus then leads them to Bethany and ascends.

Mat. xxvii. 32, Mark xv. 21, and Luke xxiii. 20, make Simon a Cyrenian carry the cross. John xix. 17, specially says that Jesus carried it himself.

Luke xxiii. 43, states that Jesus said to the thief—" To-Day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."

John xx. 17, has "Jesus saith" (the second day after) "touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father!" But. entirely inconsistent with this injunction not to touch him, Matthew xxviii. 9, says-—"And they came and held him by the feet and worshipped him!" The second passage being utterly stultified by the first and third. Mat. xxvii. 44, and Mark xv. 82, state that both thieves reviled Jesus. Luke says one did and that page 31 the other did not. [John xviii. 81]. The Jews therefore said unto Pilate, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death. Yet in Acts vii. 58, 9, there is no difficulty whatever made about putting Stephen to death.

Mat. xxviii. 8, 5, states that Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and went and hanged himself, and (v. 7) that the priests purchased the potters' field with them. But Acts i. 18, says that Judas himself bought the field with the reward of iniquity—and falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out!

In suggesting that Judas may have managed to hang himself after such a singular catastrophe I come to the assistance of Mr. S——; because for the sake of his own consistency, I do not desire to hear him admit an error in the book which cannot err. For that would prove that his faith is nil—no greater than mine! it wholly fails him as soon as put to the test.—He says he goes by the book. Let him do so—I hope to hear him flatly deny that there is any inconsistency or impossibility whatever either in these texts, or in those that state that Ahaziah was two years older than his father. There is only the same objection to that, that there is to the others, or to any miracles;—that they are simply impossible. But yet, if all things are possible with God—if he be really omnipotent—that of course goes for nothing. It would give him no more trouble to make a man two years older than his father, than to keep a man three days alive in a fish's belly, to turn water into wine, or to rise from the dead. But if Mr. S——admits that the Holy Spirit made a mistake respecting Ahaziah's age, Judas's death, or Jesus's solemn assertion, neither his book nor his faith are entitled to any credit whatever—both are utterly worthless and absurd. Still I confess after helping Mr. S——to the explanation that Judas might have hung himself after all his bowels gushed out, I see no way of getting over the statements that both he and the chief priests bought the field with the same money, the reward of iniquity, which is specially asserted. That could scarcely be even if it were supposable that he bought it, or afterwards stole the money from them, for the reward of iniquity would then have been in the potter's hands, not in his.

Luke xxiv. makes the ascension take place apparently on the day of resurrection, after appearances at the sepulchre, going to Emmaus—in Jerusalem—and leading the' disciples to Bethany.

Acts i. 8, makes him seen for forty days by the disciples—1 Corinthians xv. G, by 500 brethren at once. John relates appearances at Jerusalem—one after eight days—and at the Sea of Tiberias—but he specially states the last appearance he mentions to be the third, (xxi. 14.)

Mark xvi. details the reappearances as three,—Mat. xxviii. 1-17, says that an angel (not Jesus) appeared at the sepulchre to the women only; who were directed to tell his disciples to go to Galilee to meet him, which he says they did.

Now I have limited myself to a few contradictions in matters of fact, because they admit of no differences of opinion, as must be the case with matters of doctrine, or a relation of circumstances which are merely inexplicable, improbable, or apparently impossible.—It may be said that any schoolboy might furnish an explanation of them.*—That reminds me of a page 32 retort I once received thirty years since from an aboriginal Australian lad to whom I said, when he shewed me something he had done, that a child could do that. "Yes," he said to me, "a child can do that, but you can't," which I found to be true. And it has been found that neither schoolboys nor scholars have ever been able to give any truthful color to these things, or any explanation of them, except one.—That the whole story is a fabrication, whether from good or bad motives. Experience has proved that the human mind, when credulity is regarded as a theological virtue instead of an intellectual vice, when degraded by superstition, or when only too prone to dwell upon its own imaginations and visions, generally religious, though sometimes not; the human mind I say, knows no limit to its own extravagancies, though still ready enough to distinguish those of others.

If it was the fact that the world was at first in a perfectly civilised condition and that its progress was continually towards savagery—there would be some reason in feeling and exhibiting the greatest respect for the opinions of our remote predecessors, and in endeavoring to stay the rapid descent into the gulph of barbarism, by mutual appeals to emulate the wisdom and virtues of our primitive ancestors.—But we know to the contrary! we know that improvement has been inversely as the square of the distance in past time. We know that if our physical progress has been great, that our moral advancement has been infinitely more marvellous. We know from the writings of the holy fathers of the church and early Christian writers, that they thought it virtuous to encourage pious frauds,—that they thought there was no harm in lying. Falsehood for the good of their superstition was as a sweet smelling savour in the nostrils of their anthropomorphical Deity, and thus they came to erect into a virtue the credulous faith necessary to believe their grotesque fables. In short they were wofully ignorant, and therefore extravagantly superstitious.—If the first germs of a purer morality occasionally shewed themselves, they were not and could not be comprehended in an age so ignorant and barbarous. But that the Anglo-Saxon race, with some pretensions to scientific knowledge, should still in this nineteenth century, respect and adopt the besotted and self-contradictory dreams and absurdities of one of the most degraded tribes that earth ever produced, does seem the very depth of debasement. What blind infatuation! to base our moral and religious system on that of a people whose savage ancestors were, according to their own records, peculiarly tainted with the vilest of all crimes.—Their very patriarchs, princes and patterns were principally noted for lying, cheating, adultery, robbery, murder, and above all human sacrifice.—Even to this day the memory of Abraham is actually peculiarly reverenced for his villainous readiness to sacrifice his own son to his diabolical superstition! It has been suggested that the story may be interpreted differently—that Abraham revolted against, and tried to abolish the abominable practice of child sacrifice among his Syrian neighbours. But if so, the Jews were too stupid to understand it thus; and Christians have only made the matter infinitely worse, by impiously asserting that their god is actually guilty of the same crime!

* This had been said by one of the speakers.