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Dias’ Letters.

(Continued from issue #1.)

Letter 14.

V. The next citation made by St. Matthew, and said by him to be fulfilled, is the following: “And he came and dwelt in a city, called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”* But as none of the prophets declare any such thing, or have any such passage, nothing could thereby be literally fulfilled; for his dwelling in the city of Nazareth could not denominate him a Nazarene or Nazarite; because this term denotes a person’s being under a particular vow;† and none could be called by that name unless they were actually under the vow. Commentators puzzle themselves, and are at a loss to find out the place referred to, to make out the fulfilling mentioned by the evangelist; to this end they have recourse to, and make such shifts; as shows their perplexities, the reading of which has often made me smile. As I am only showing that the passages, or prophecies, said to he fulfilled in Jesus, are not literally applied, and none pretending that this is literally fulfilled, it is not my place to take notice, or make any remarks on what they say concerning this passage. But the solution of Doctor Echard is certainly very curious, who after relating Jesus’ return to his former habitation; adds, “which being a mean and despicable place, it afterwards gained Jesus the reproachful title of a Nazarene, according to the aim, and turn of several prophecies, as St. Matthew observes.”‡ But here the Doctor is mistaken, for the title of Nazarene was honourable, being the term by which those under a special and religious vow were called, and which none despised, nor was it given by way of reproach. This he very well knew, as also, that his dwelling in Nazareth could not denominate him to be what he was not, a Nazarene, or Nazarite; for we never heard that he was under that vow. Had the evangelist cited, as fulfilled, any particular passage, declarative that Jesus should dwell in the city of Nazareth, he might then have called him Jesus of Nazareth, but to call him a Nazarene,§ because he dwelt in Nazareth, and for such circumstances to say the prophecies are fulfilled, seems very extraordinary.

* Matt. 2:23. †Consult Num. vi. ‡ Ecclestiac. Hist. vol. i, p. 7.

§ Mr. Dias seems to take the terms Nazarene and Nazarite as synonymous. This they certainly are not, as the one would signify a person who belongs to Nazar, therefore an inhabitant of that place; but the term Nazarite is a corruption of the word Nahzeer, or one who has taken a vow of separation for the time being from wine and all manner of uncleanness. The error, however, is referable to the author of the gospel more than to Dias, as he evidently meant to call Jesus one separated from the world at large. But as is observed in the text, no such passage as to make him a Nazarene or Nazarite does any where exist in our Bible.­—Ed. Oc.

VI. The next citation made by St. Matthew, concerns the preaching of John. “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.”|| But the contest of the text whence this citation is taken, very evidently shows, that John was not the person spoken of. For it says, “Comfort, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord’s hands double for all her sins,”¶ which verses precede that cited by St. Matthew. Now what comfort it was that John brought to the Jews and Jerusalem, has not yet been made out. How could their warfare be accomplished, when the greatest vengeance was at that time to be poured out? how could their iniquities have been pardoned, when it is said, that at that very time they contracted the highest guilt? or how could the prophet declare that they had received double for all their sins, when the greatest punishment was still to be inflicted on them? From which circumstances in the prophecy, it is plain that this passage is not literally cited, at least not literally fulfilled. For the prophecy is, according to its plain obvious meaning, declarative of times and circumstances entirely different from those which came to pass at that time, therefore it could not relate to John.

|| Matt. 3:3. ¶ Isaiah 40:1-2.

VII. The next citation made by St. Matthew, is to prove that Jesus’ removal from Nazareth, and settling at Capernaum, was foretold. “This Jesus did, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying:

Matthew 4:15,16.

“The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up.”

Isaiah 9:1,2.

“Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”  

I have put the citation and text in different columns, that you may see the difference. The prophet’s plain meeting is, to declare the joy which the inhabitants of those regions should have, in the midst of their sorrow and affliction, occasioned by the army of the king of Syria, which was to be totally vanquished, whilst they were to be delivered from their dreadful enemy; which event relates no more to the removal of Jesus from one place to another, than it does to your removal from London and dwelling in Naples.

VIII. The neat prophecy cited by St. Matthew, and said to be fulfilled by Jesus, is his casting out devils, and healing all the sick. His words are: “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils; and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick; that it might be fulfilled, what was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses,”* which citation, thus said to be fulfilled, is this: “Surely he hath borne our grief, and carried our sorrows.”† Now, whoever can, from this passage of the prophet, draw a sense, importing, the casting out devils out of men’s bodies, and the healing of sicknesses, must do it by the help of some uncommon rule, or art, to us unknown; for, literally, it can mean no such thing. But supposing it did mean, that a person should cure the sick, and cast out devils, and that it was really fulfilled by Jesus’ performing those cures literally, must it not overset some people’s reasoning, who extend the same passage to the cure of sin, and spiritual infirmities, by his death? for if it be fulfilled (literally I mean) in the one case, then it cannot be literally fulfilled in the other; and the pretending it to mean spiritual cures, must of course, be contrary to St. Matthew, who says the passage was fulfilled by those bodily cures. I think Doctor Echard seems to have been sensible of this, and therefore says, (by what authority I know not,) that it was, “In some measure accomplishing the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, He took our infirmities upon himself, and bore our diseases.”‡ Now I wish the learned Doctor had told us try what rule or means he found this out in the prophet’s saying, not infirmities and diseases, as he does, but grief and sorrows.§ He ought also to have told us the reason why it was only “in some measure accomplished,” and not actually fulfilled, as the evangelist, (who I suppose knew as much of the matter as he) says it was. For if it was not actually fulfilled, it must he absurd in St. Matthew to say it was, and proving it by referring to the passage, which he could only do with that intention. For otherwise how shall we know from the use of that term, and from the citing or referring to a passage said to be fulfilled, whether it be so or not?

* Matt. 8: 16, 17. † Isaiah 53:4. ‡ Eccle. Hist. Vol. i. p. 89.

§ There is a note appended to the above in the MS. of the letters, probably by the transcriber, in these words: “Notwithstanding the remark made on Dr. Echard’s version on the text, the Hebrew will very well bear that sense, i.e. infirmities or diseases. The other remark has more weight.” Thus far the note; only there should have been suggested that the Hebrew words ought to be rendered “diseases and pains.” At all event, let the translation be as it may, the fulfilment was not according to the prophecy, for it says there “he bore,” not “removed them.”—Ed. Oc.

Is not this striking at the authority of the evangelist? Thus much for this passage, which let them settle it in what manner they will, it is not certain, that, “he path borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” can ever be fulfilled by casting out devils, and curing diseases. I mean literally; for as to fulfilling in a different sense, I have nothing to do with.

IX. The next citation made by St. Matthew is, when Jesus, in order to persuade the people to believe that John was Elias, says, “And if ye will receive it, this was Elias which was for to come.”‡ The promise and purpose of Elias’ coming, you will find in Malachi: “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”§ This was a great and glorious work, which that great prophet was to be sent to do, and be employed in; and it should not be wondered that the Jews, on a promise so express, should found the hope of Elias’, or Elijah’s coming for this so desirable and beneficent a purpose; at least those, who on another occasion, do firmly believe, that not only Elias, but Moses too, did really come down from heaven in a bodily shape (for how otherwise could the disciples know it was they, or to what end should they desire to build a tabernacle for their abode?*) to answer no purpose at all that we know of, ought not to be surprised at their having such hopes. But be that as it will, thus much is certain, Elias or Elijah was promised to be sent, that is, a person who bore that name, and was so called; consequently, neither John’s nor any other person’s coming can be deemed a literal fulfilling of the promise.

‡ Matt. xi. 14.  § Malachi iv. 5, 6.  * Matt 17:1-4; Mark 9:4-5; Luke 9:30-33.

X. The next citation made by St. Matthew, and said by him to be fulfilled by Jesus, is the cures that he wrought on the multitude of his followers, and his charging them not to make it known: “All this happened,” says St. Matthew, “that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul was well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the gentiles. He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the gentiles trust.”† This citation is made from Isaiah,‡ with some difference, particularly the last sentence, “And in in his name shall the gentiles trust,” which is an addition of the evangelist’s. I confess, that considering the citation, and what is said thereby to be fulfilled, I cannot comprehend the least resemblance, nor find the least connexion to the matter intended; for how can the passage cited be said to be fulfilled, either by the multitude’s following Jesus, or by his healing them, or by his charging them not to snake him known? Can the passage cited be fulfilled by his doing those things, when it mentions nothing like it? I know that it is pretended, “that by the secrecy which Jesus imposed on those he cured, the passage is fulfilled, because it represents his quiet, humble, and meek temper.”§ To this I answer, that his imposing silence on those he cured, did not proceed from his quiet, humble, and meek disposition, but from other motives; and for the truth of this I appeal to Dr. Echard himself,|| to Mr. Lock,¶ and to the authors of the Universal History,** who assign very different motives for his imposing secrecy; therefore this citation neither proves one thing nor the other to be thereby fulfilled.

† Matt. 12:15-21. ‡ Isa. 42:1-4.  
§ Echard’s Eccles. Hist. Vol. i. p. 96, 97. || Ibid 89-90.  
¶ Reas. of Chris. ed. 4. Vol. ii. p. 522-523.  ** Uni. Hist. vol. x. 558.

(To be continued.)