Strange New Gospels
By Edgar Goodspeed
THE TWENTY-NINTH CHAPTER OF ACTS
FOR many years there has prevailed in certain quarters in England the idea that the Anglo-Saxon peoples are the lost ten tribes of Israel who were carried into captivity by Assyria in 722 B.C., and have never been heard of since. The holders of this "British-Israel" position declare that the national seal of the United States bears witness to our identity with the tribe of Manasseh, the thirteenth tribe (Gen. 49:24, Hos. 14:6, etc.), while the royal arms of Britain recall those of Ephraim and Judah (Gen. 49:9, Deut. 33:17, etc.). George Washington and King George V are both in fact lineal descendants of King David.
The starting-point of these identifications is the Old Testament prophecy of a great future for the chosen people and an enduring dynasty for David's line; David should never want a |86 man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel (Jer. 33:17, 20, 21). When Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonians Jeremiah escaped with the daughters of Zedekiah the king to Egypt (Jer. 43:6, 7). This must have been about 586 B.C. What became of these princesses? Irish legend declares that about 580 B.C. an eastern princess of great beauty accompanied by a prophet or seer was shipwrecked on the northeast coast of Ireland. The king of Ulster married her, and they were crowned together on a "Stone of Destiny" which the prophet had brought with him. This coronation stone, the Lia-Fail, the British-Israel school maintains was afterward taken to Scotland, and thence as the Stone of Scone to England, where to this day the kings are crowned seated upon it. And these kings are the descendants of the shipwrecked princess who escaped from Jerusalem with Jeremiah after the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed the British-Israelites declare that the Princess Tea Tephi lies buried under the sacred hill of Tara and that some day when her tomb is opened the Ark of the Covenant may be found buried with her.
One of their most interesting claims is the |87 discovery of the twenty-ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
This "long-lost chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, containing the account of Paul's journey in Spain and Britain" is said by a recent publisher of it, Mr. T. G. Cole, to have been translated by the oriental traveler, C. S. Sonnini, from a "Greek manuscript found in the Archives at Constantinople, and presented to him by the Sultan Abdoul Achmet." Sonnini's translation, we are further informed, "was found interleaved in a copy of Sonnini's "Travels in Turkey and Greece," and purchased at the sale of the library and effects of the late Right Hon. Sir John Newport, Bart., in Ireland, . . . . in whose possession it had been for more than thirty years, with a copy of the firman of the Sultan of Turkey, granting to C. S. Sonnini permission to travel in all parts of the Ottoman dominions."
The copy of Sonnini's "Travels" in which it was found was an English translation, printed in London in 1801, under the title, "Travels in Turkey and Greece Undertaken by Order of Louis XVI, and with the Authority of the Ottoman Court." The original French edition appeared in Paris in the same year, but |88 contains no allusion to any such gift from the Sultan. The English text of the new chapter of Acts is said to have been published by Stevenson in London in 1871. I have found no earlier date given for it.
The disposition of the British-Israel group to find theology, chronology, and prophecy in the dimensions and passages of the Great Pyramid recalls the efforts in that direction made by the British astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth, who published "Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid" in 1864, and "Life and Work at the Great Pyramid" in 1867. The association of his views with the British-Israel movement makes it natural to connect the composition of this additional chapter of Acts with that time.
The chapter continues the narrative of the Acts with an account of how Paul departed from Rome (his imprisonment seems to create no difficulty) for Spain and Britain, "for he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to the isles afar off, as spoken by the prophet, and called by the Romans Britain." Paul accordingly visits Spain, and preaches there with much |89 success. He then proceeds to Britain, landing at Raphinus (believed to be Sandwich in Kent). He preaches on Mount Lud (the future site of St. Paul's Cathedral) and confers with the Druids, who reveal their descent from the Jews "who escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt." He then travels through Gaul and preaches to the Belgians. In Switzerland he visits Mount Pontius Pilate, where Pilate "dashed himself down headlong and so miserably perished." He goes on, by way of "Mount Julius" (the Julian Alps between Italy and Austria), to Illyricum, on his way to Macedonia and Asia--with the evident intention of writing the Pastoral letters, Timothy and Titus.
The text as recently published in London (by the Covenant Publishing Company), and also in Toronto, has a curious interest:
1. And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for he had a long time purposed to journey thitherward, and was minded also to go from thence into Britain.
2. For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to the "isles afar off," as |90 spoken by the prophet, and called by the Romans Britain.
3. And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to the Gentiles, and to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
4. And no man hindered Paul; for he testified boldly of Jesus before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him certain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took shipping at Ostium, and having the winds fair were brought safely into an haven of Spain.
5. And much people were gathered together from the towns and villages, and the hill country, for they had heard of the conversion of the apostle, and the many miracles which he had wrought.
6. And Paul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle sent from God.
7. And they departed out of Spain, and Paul and his company finding a ship in Armorica sailing unto Britain, they went therein, and passing along the South coast they reached a port called Raphinus.
8. Now when it was noised abroad that the apostle had landed on their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they treated Paul courteously, and he entered in at the east gate of their city, and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own nation.
9. And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud; and the people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he preached Christ |91 unto them, and many believed the word and the testimony of Jesus.
10. And at even the Holy Ghost fell upon Paul, and he prophesied, saying Behold, in the last days the God of peace shall dwell in the cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered; and in the seventh numbering of the people, their eyes shall be opened, and the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. And nations shall come up to worship on the mount that testifieth of the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.
11. And in the latter days new tidings of the gospel shall issue forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice, and behold fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more plague.
12. In those days there shall be wars and rumors of wars; and a king shall rise up, and his sword shall be for the healing of the nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his kingdom a wonder among princes.
13. And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were descended from the Jews which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace.
14. And Paul abode in his lodgings three months, confirming in the faith and preaching Christ continually.
15. And after these things Paul and his brethren departed from Raphinus and sailed unto Atium in Gaul. |92
16. And Paul preached in the Roman garrisons and among the people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins.
17. And there came to him certain of the Belgae to inquire of him of the new doctrine and of the man Jesus; and Paul opened his heart unto them, and told them all things that had befallen him, how be it that Christ came into the world to save sinners; and they departed, pondering among themselves upon the things which they had heard.
18. And after much preaching and toil, Paul and his fellow labourers passed into Helvetia, and came unto Mount Pontius Pilate, where he who condemned the Lord Jesus dashed himself down headlong, and so miserably perished.
19. And immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain, and washed his body broken in pieces into a lake.
20. And Paul stretched forth his hands upon the water, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations that here Pontius Pilate, which condemned thine only-begotten Son, plunged down headlong into the pit.
21. And while Paul was yet speaking, behold there came a great earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of the lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the cross.
22. And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come, for he washed his hands before the multitude at the bloodshedding of the Lord Jesus.
23. When therefore Paul and those that were with him saw the earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God, and were mightily strengthened in the spirit.
24. And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius, where stood two pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by Caesar Augustus.
25. And Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up between the two pillars, saying, Men and brethren, these stones which ye see this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations, neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations.
26. And they went forth and came unto Illyricum, intending to go by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches; and they prospered and had peace. Amen.
We have already seen, in discussing the "Confession of Pontius Pilate," that the story of his suicide on Mount Pilatus is a late legend. The researches of General Wallace and President Angell at Constantinople have shown that no such manuscripts as are here implied are known in the libraries there. On the other hand no manuscript of the Acts in Greek or any other tongue contains the chapter, and the conclusion is unavoidable that it was composed to support the British-Israel movement which circulates it. The testimony of the |94 Druids in verse 13, and Paul's prophecy of St. Paul's Cathedral and of the seventh British census of 1861, and the rise of the British-Israel movement soon after, verse 10, show this interest unmistakably.
That the original Greek of this chapter was given to Sonnini by the Sultan has no support from Sonnini's book of travels, according to which he did not even see the Sultan, but secured his permission to travel, through others.
The fantastic legend that the Lake of Lucerne assumed its present shape, faintly suggesting a crucifix, on the occasion of Paul's visit there (p. 21) is altogether unlike the writer of Acts, especially the part of his work that deals with Paul.
The reference to Pilate's washing his hands at the time of Jesus' trial (vs. 22) would be strangely out of place in Acts, the author of which does not mention it in his account of the trial (Luke 23). The words "men and brethren" (vs. 25) reflect an old mistranslation of a Greek phrase in Acts, now generally corrected; and the expression "Verily I say," here put (vs. 25) into the mouth of Paul, is one never used by Luke, and rigidly reserved by Matthew and John ("Verily, verily I say") for |95 Jesus alone. To use it of Paul is most unlike the New Testament.
In view of its interest in the British census of 1861 (vs. 10), and the popularity given to ideas of this kind by the work of Piazzi Smyth in the sixties of the last century, it is probable that this curious chapter was written not long before its publication in 1871. |96