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The impostors were Mary was not really would be a falsehood

Mary his espoused wife." afraid to say openly, that married to Joseph, as this notorious to all the world. They insinuate, however, that she was only so far his wife as to have been espoused to him; but that she was still a virgin, having never resided with her reputed husband.

The angel, according to the narrative in Luke, thus accosted Mary. "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob, and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

If we attentively consider this passage, we shall find in it, nothing that could lead Mary to suppose, that her son, thus promised to be thu Messiah, whom the Jews expected, was to be conceived in a supernatural manner: and yet she is represented as making this absurd reply to the Angel, How can this be, seeing that I know not a man? The circumstance of her conceiving without a man, must have been so remote from her comprehension, that she could scarcely have understood it, though the Angel had asserted it in the plainest and most direct terms. How then could she infer such an event from a language which gave no idea of it? The conclusion natural for her to have made was, that when it pleased God she should be married, a son would be born to her, whom the Almighty was to raise to the throne of David. But at

tend to the tale, as it is more coherently stated in the gospel of Mary, "Fear not Mary, for you have found favour with the Lord, because you have made virginity your choice therefore, while you are a virgin, you shall conceive without sin, and bring forth a son.

He shall be

great, because he shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth, and he shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord shall give him the throne of his father, David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." To this discourse of the Angel, she replied, "How can that be: for seeing that, according to my vow, I never knew any man, how can I bear a child without the addition of a man's seed," Gospel of Mary, chap. ix.

The Angel, we see, tells Mary in this address, that she should conceive while a virgin, who had vowed to continue so. The answer she makes is, therefore, very natural and consistent; while as it stands at present in our Evangelist, it is as destitute of reason and consistence, as it is of truth. What then are we to conclude? What but this; that the story in Luke has been copied from that in the spurious Gospel; and that the copyists, fearing to say too much, least they should be detected, have so curtailed the account as to fall into that absurdity and incoherence, which sometimes escape the most sagacious forgers.

"After these things," says Tacitus, "Cæsar moved, that a virgin should be chosen in the room of Occia, who, for seven and fifty years,

had with the utmost chastity presided over the sacred vestals.'

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that One might, conclude from this passage, OCCIA was among those distinguished women who embraced the new religion; and that she departed with the Jews and Egyptians when expelled by the emperor. This inference may be drawn: because the historian connects her with their departure: because he does not say what became of her, when another was chosen to fill her place. And lastly, because his words may be considered, as expressing a mixture of sur prise and indignation, as if he had said, "It is wonderful that Occia, after having conducted herself with the utmost chastity, for the long period of fifty-seven years, should have left her for mer honourable station, and gone off with a people, infected with a new superstition and infamous for their vices."

If then Occia united with the impostors, it is natural to suppose, that from a woman so distinguished, the forgers should borrow some features, in fabricating the story of our Lord's supernatural birth. Jerome thus writes on Matthew xii. 49, "Those who say that the brethren of our Lord were children by a former wife, follow the extravagant fictions of some apocryphal books,

Actum et de sacris Ægyptiis Judaicisque pellendis-post quæ retulit Cæsar, capiendam virginem in locum Occiæ, quæ septem et quinquaginta per annos summa sanctimonia præsederat Annal. lib. ii. 85, 86. The vestal virgin was eligible for that office, when six years old. Consult Adam's or Kenuct's Roman Antiquities, under the article Vestal Vir

and who feign that her name was Escha." The first inventors of the story, represented Mary, though espoused to Joseph, a perpetual virgin, and therefore were driven on the supposition, that Joseph had a former wife: and as this wife had probably no existence, but in the imagination of the forgers, they gave her, from Occia, the vestal virgin at Rome, the name of Escha.

Occia, which is a corruption of the Greek aya holy, appears in the Gospel of Mary to be the same with Anna, who is there represented as the mother of Mary. Now, this Anna, is thus spoken of in the introduction to Luke, "And Anna, a Prophetess, was of a great age, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and she was a widow of fourscore and four years: which departed not from the temple, but serving God with fastings and prayers night and day; and she coming in at that instant, gave thanks unto the Lord and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem," chap. ii. 36.

This fiction is taken from the gospel of Mary, there Anna is represented as the mother of Mary: and this will account for her supposed conduct on this occasion. It was natural for her to give thanks unto the Lord, and to speak of him to all in Jerusalem, Jesus being her own grand child. Again, in the Gospel of Mary, Anna is said to have lived some years before her daughter was born; and this appears to be the meaning of

According to the author of the spurious Gospel, Joachim and Anna lived twenty years before they had any children. See chap. 1. In chapter seven Mary is said to have been betrothed to Joseph in her fourteenth year.

what is hardly intelligible in the reputed Luke. "Anna, a prophetess far gone in years, who had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity," that is to say, she lived seven years after she laid aside her virgin state, and brought forth Mary.

Occia, as Tacitus represents, was a virgin, who had spent the greatest part of her life in the temple; she was also, as presiding over sacred things, a prophetess, which is the character imputed to Anna. Occia lived a virgin fifty-seven years; and being not eligible to that office, till she was six, she must have been sixty-three, when she left the temple, and married Joachim, under the new name of Anna, and seventy at the birth of Mary. But we are told in the same book, that Mary was betrothed to Joseph in her fourteenth year. Consequently, she was about eighty-four when Jesus was born, and presented in Jerusalem. And this calculation agrees with the assertion of the reputed Luke, "She was a widow of about four score and four years."

I conclude this part of the subject with a few remarks on the above letter of Jerome, prefixed to his translation of the spurious Gospels. This author, we have seen, says positively, that these Gospels were the compositions of the Evangelist Matthew, and that it was delivered down to posterity as his. Of this tradition the reason is now obvious. The men who copied the story of our Lord's miraculous birth from the Gospel of his infancy, and inserted it in Matthew, would naturally say that the original, as well as the copy was his production. By that means they were most likely to procure credit to

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