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Concerning the ancient Epistle under this title, Philastrius says, “ That some were of opinion that it was written by Luke; but because the heretics have inserted some (false) things, it is for that reason not read in the churches. Though it be read by some, yet there are no more than thirteen Epistles of Paul read to the people in the church, and sometimes that to the Hebrews."
“ There are some,” says Jerome, “who read an Epistle, under the name of Paul, to the Laodiceans, but it is rejected
And Epiphanius calls it, “ An Epistle not written by the Apostles.
The Epistle now extant never having been received into the ancient catalogues read in the churches, or cited as Scripture, is of course Apocryphal. ,
It is also proved not to be genuine, because it is almost entirely an extract from the other Epistles of Paul.
III. Another writing which has been ascribed to Paul is, Six Letters to Seneca; with which are connected, Eight Letters from Seneca to Paul. These Letters are of undoubted antiquity, and several learned men of the Jesuits have defended them as genuine, and allege that they are similar to other Epistles received into the Canon, which were addressed to individuals. That such letters were in existence as early as the fourth century, appears from a passage in Jerome's Catalogue of Illustrious Men, where he gives the following account of Seneca:—“ Lucius Annæus Seneca, born at Corduba, a disciple of Sotio, a stoic, uncle of Lucan the poet, was a person of very extraordinary temperance, whom I should not have ranked in my Catalogue of Saints, but that I was determined to it, by the Epistles of Paul to Seneca, and Seneca to Paul, which are read by many. In which, though he was at that time tutor to Nero, and made a very considerable figure, he saith, he wishes to be of the same repute among his countrymen, as Paul was among the Christians. He was slain by Nero, two years before Peter and Paul were honoured with martyrdom.”
There is also a passage in Augustine's 54th Epistle to Macedonius, which shows that he was not unacquainted with these Letters. His words are, “ It is true which Seneca, who lived in the times of the Apostles, and who wrote certain Epistles to Paul, which are now read, said, he who will hate those who are wicked, must hate all men.'
There is no authentic evidence, that these Letters have
been noticed by any of the rest of the Fathers. Indeed, it has been too hastily asserted by several eminent critics, that Augustine believed that the Letters of Paul to Seneca were genuine; but the fact is, that he makes no mention whatever of Paul's Letters; he only mentions those of Seneca to Paul. The probability is, that he never saw them, for had he been acquainted with them, it is scarcely credible that he would have said nothing respecting them in that place.
Neither does Jerome say any thing from which it can, with any certainty, be inferred that he received these Letters as genuine. He gives them the title by which they were known, and says, they were read by many; but if he had believed them to be genuine Letters of Paul, would he not have said much more? Would he not have claimed for them a place among Paul's Canonical Epistles? And what proves that this Father did not believe them to be genuine, is, that in this same book he gives a full account of Paul and his writings, and yet does not make the least mention of these Letters to Seneca.
But the style of these Letters sufficiently demonstrates that they are not genuine. Nothing can be more dissimilar to the style of Paul, and of Seneca, than that of these Epistles. “'The style of those attributed to Seneca,” says Du Pin, "is barbarous, and full of idioms that do not belong to the Latin tongue.” “ And those attributed to Paul,” says Mr Jeremiah Jones, “have not the least tincture of the gravity of the Apostle, but are rather compliments than instructions.”
The subscriptions to these Letters are very different from those used by these writers in their genuine Epistles. Seneca is made to salute Paul by the name of brother; an appellation not in use among the Heathen, but peculiar to Christians.
By several of these Letters, it would appear that Paul was at Rome when they were written, but from others the contrary may be inferred.
It seems strange, if they were both in the city, that they should date their Letters by consulships; and, indeed, this method of dating letters was wholly unknown among the Romans; and there are several mistakes in them, in regard to the consuls in authority at the time. Their trifling contents is also a strong argument of spuri
“ They contain nothing,” says Du Pin, “worthy either of Seneca or of Paul; scarcely one moral sentiment in the Letters of Seneca, nor any thing of Christianity in those of Paul.”
What can be more unlike Paul than the Fifth Letter, which is occupied with a servile apology for putting his own name before Seneca's, in the inscription of his Letters, and declaring this to be contrary to Christianity?
These Letters, moreover, contain some things which are not true, as, " That the emperor Nero was delighted and surprised at the thoughts in Paul's Epistles to the Churches :"
6 And that Nero was both an admirer and favourer of Christianity.” But very incongruous with this, and also with Paul's character, is that which he is made to say in his Fourth Epistle, where he entreats Seneca to say no more to the emperor respecting him or Christianity, lest he should offend him. Yet, in the Sixth Letter, he advises Seneca to take convenient opportunities of insinuating the Christian religion, and things favourable to it, to Nero and his family. But for further particulars, the reader is referred to the Epistles themselves, a translation of which, extracted from Jones, is inserted in the Notes. **
IV. There is extant, a spurious Gospel, entitled, The Protevangelion of James, in the Greek language, which was brought from the East by Postell, who asserts, that it is held to be genuine by the Oriental churches, and is publicly read in their assemblies with the other Scriptures. This learned man, moreover, undertakes the defence of this Gospel, as the genuine production of the Apostle James; and insists, that it ought, at least, to have a place in the Hagiographa. But his arguments are weak, and have been fully refuted by Fabricius, and Jones.
This Apocryphal book, however, appears to be ancient, or, at least, there was formerly a book under the same name; but that it is not Canonical, is easily proved. It is quoted by none of the ancient Fathers, except Epiphanius, who explicitly rejects it as Apocryphal. It is found in none of the catalogues, and was never read in the primitive church. It contains many false and trifling stories; and, in its style and composition, is a perfect contrast to the genuine Gospels of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
From the Hebraisms with which it abounds, it has been supposed to be the work of some person, who was originally a - Jew; but as it was anciently used by the Gnostics, there can be little doubt, that the author, when he wrote, belonged to some one of the heretical sects, which so abounded in primitive times.
See Note H, in Appendix.
There is also another work, which has a near affinity with this, called, the Nativity of Mary. And although these books possess a similar character, and contain many things in common; yet in other points they are contradictory to each other, as they both are, to the Evangelical history.
The internal evidence is itself sufficient to satisfy any candid reader of their Apocryphal character."
V. The largest Apocryphal Gospel extant, is entitled, The Gospel of our Saviour's Infancy. There is also remaining a fragment of a Gospel ascribed to Thomas, which probably was, originally, no other than the one just mentioned.
These Gospels were never supposed to be Canonical by any Christian writer. They were forged and circulated by the Gnostics, and altered from time to time, according to their caprice.
The Gospel of our Saviour's Infancy seems to have been known to Mohammed, or rather to his assistants; for according to his own account, in the Koran, he was unable to read. Many of the things related in the Koran, respecting Christianity, are from this Apocryphal work.
This Gospel is condemned by almost every rule laid down for the detection of spurious writings; and if all other evidence were wanting, the silly, trifling, and ludicrous stories, with which it is stuffed, would be enough to demonstrate, that it was spurious and Apocryphal. To give the curious reader an opportunity of contrasting these Apocryphal legends with the gravity and simplicity of the genuine Gospels, I have inserted some of the miracles recorded in this book, at the end of the volume.f
It seems highly probable that this Gospel of the Saviour's Infancy, and the book of the Nativity of Mary, were originally parts of the same work; an evidence of which is, that in the Koran, there is a continued and connected story, which is taken partly from the one, and partly from the other. The same thing is proved by the fact, that Jerome, in one place, speaks of a Preface which he had written to the Gospel of our Saviour's Infancy, in which he condemns it, because it contradicts the Gospel of John; and in another place, he uses the same words, and says they are in the Preface to the Nativity of Mary.
Both these Apocryphal books have been formerly ascribed * Both of these Apocryphal works may be seen in the second volume of Jones' learned work on the Canon. + See Note I, in Appendix.
See Koran, chap. iii.
to Lucius CHARINUS, who lived in the latter part of the third century, and who rendered himself famous, by forging spurious works under the name of the Apostles.
VI. There is another Apocryphal Gospel, entitled, The Gospel of Nicodemus, or the Acts of Pilate, which was probably forged about the same time as the one last treated of, and, it is very likely, by the same person.
That it was the custom for the governors of provinces in the Roman Empire, to transmit to the emperors an account of all remarkable occurrences under their government, is capable of proof from the Roman history; and Eusebius expressly informs us, that this was customary; and Philo-Judæus speaks, the daily memoirs which were transmitted to Caligula, from Alexandria.”
That Pontius Pilate transmitted some account of the crucifixion of Christ, and of his wonderful works, is, therefore, in itself, highly probable; but it is rendered certain, by the public appeal made to these Acts of Pilate, both by JUSTIN MARTYR, and Tertullian, in their Apologies; the one addressed to the Roman Emperor, ANTONINUS Pius; and the other, probably, to the Roman Senate. The words of Justin Martyr, are, * And of the truth of these facts you may be informed, out of the Acts which were written by PONTIUS PILATE.” And in the same Apology, he refers to these Acts for proof, 6. That our Saviour cured all sorts of diseases, and raised the dead.”
TERTULLIAN, in two places of his Apology, appeals to Records which were transmitted to Tiberius, from Jerusalem. His testimony is remarkable in both places, and deserves to be transcribed: “ Tiberius,” says he, “ in whose time the Christian name became first known in the world, having received information from Palestine, in Syria, that Jesus Christ had there given manifest proof of the truth of his divinity, communicated it to the Senate, insisting upon it as his prerogative, that they should assent to his opinion in that matter; but the Senate not approving it, refused. Cæsar continued in the same opinion, threatening those who were accusers of the Christians.”
In the other passage, after enumerating many of the miracles of Christ, he adds, “ All these things, Pilate himself, who was in his conscience for following Christ, transmitted to Tiberius Cæsar; and even the Cæsars themselves had been Christians, if it had been consistent with their secular interest.” Both Eusebius and Jerome cite this testimony of Tertullian, as au