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place where he arrived. In stating the former, Scripture uses some diversity of expression. In Acts i. 12. it is said that the Apostles, immediately after Christ's ascension, "returned unto Jerusalem from the Mount "called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath 'day's journey." Now, men acquainted with the customs of the Hebrews always define a Sabbath-day's journey by two thousand cubits, or, as others express it, two thousand moderate paces. According to the calculation of Beza, and of Ludovicus de Dieu, these make five furlongs; and according to Josephus,‡ Jerusalem is distant that number of furlongs from Mount Olivet. But in Luke xxiv. 50. it is related, that the disciples were led out " as far as to Bethany;" whence Christ was to ascend to heaven. Bethany, too, is “fif"teen furlongs" distant from Jerusalem; that is, if Beza's computation be correct, three times the distance of a Sabbath-day's journey. To solve this seeming contradiction, is truly difficult. I intend not now to examine the various opinions respecting it, which may be seen in the writings of those who have proposed them. I shall only bring forward what appears most probable, and best calculated to remove the difficulty. Let it then be observed, 1. That Josephus speaks the truth, when he affirms that mount Olivet is at the distance of five furlongs from Jerusalem; that is, where the mountain begins to rise to any considerable height: for it is attested by them who in our own times have travelled in those regions, that the lowest parts of the mountain are still nearer the city, and are scarcely five hundred
paces distant, whilst the brook Kidron flows between the Mount and the city. 2. That a Sabbath-day's journey is most accurately defined, not five furlongs, but seven and a half; as the Syriac Translator renders it about seven furlongs.* On this subject Drusius and Lightfoot, men of uncommon skill in these matters, may be consulted. A Sabbath-day's journey, therefore, extends to a considerable height in mount Olivet, perhaps not much less distant from the bottom of the mount, than its bottom is from Jerusalem. 3. That there are two Bethanies, the one, a town, or village, or fort, situated beyond mount Olivet, fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem, of which we read in John xi. 18.—the other, a tract, or part of mount Olivet, contiguous to Bethphage. As Bethphage was the tract of Olivet most adjacent to Jerusalem, being so called on account of the figs which it produced; so Bethany‡ is a tract of the same mountain, that derives its name from the dates with which it abounds. Bethany began where Bethphage ended. § 4. That Christ ascended to heaven, not from the village of Bethany, but from the tract of Olivet which bore the same name: For he did not select a place where a multitude of inhabitants, or others, might see him ascend; but called the disciples, who alone were to be the witnesses of his ascension, to a solitary part of the mount. When these remarks are attended to, every appearance of contradiction vanishes.37
XIII. It is related by the ancients, that when the Empress HELENA erected a splendid chapel on the place
§ See Lightfoot in Cent. præmiss. Matth. cap. xxxvii. et Decade Chorogr. præmiss. Marc. cap. iv.
37 See NOTE XXXVII.
whence Christ ascended to heaven in a cloud, it was found impossible to pave, along with the rest of the floor, the spot which last received the print of our Lord's sacred feet. Whatever was applied for that purpose, the earth indignantly refused to accept of human embellishments, shaking off the marble stones, and dashing them in the faces of those who laid them. It is mentioned, besides, as a permanent evidence of the dust of that place having been trodden by the Son of God, that the impressions of the footsteps may yet be discerned; and although religionists that are daily resorting thither in multitudes, eagerly snatch away portions of the earth trodden by our Lord, the ground sustains no perceptible loss, and the earth preserves the same appearance, being still marked with the traces of the footsteps. Such is the account given by Sulpitius Severus. Jerome adds:* " In fine, whereas "the Church, in the middle of which the marks of the footsteps are, was built in a circular form, and in a style of workmanship exquisitely beautiful, it was not "possible, as is reported, by any means, to cover and "arch over the summit of the edifice, where the Lord's 'body had passed; but that passage from earth to hea"ven still continues open." The same thing has been noticed by Optatus of Milevi, Paulinus, and Bede; whose words are cited by Baronius. Not satisfied with even these accounts, geographers, and travellers in the holy land, affirm that to this very day, the traces of the footsteps are visible even amidst the infidel Turks; nay, further, that they are directed towards the West, lest, forsooth, the Roman catholic Church should derive no honour from this affair to herself;
* De Locis Hebraicis.
+ Ad An. 34. sect. 337, et seq.
since to her, as to a spouse peculiarly dear, Christ, when leaving the earth, last turned his attention.*
XIV. Casaubon is of opinion that this miracle of the impression of Christ's footsteps is highly deserving of credit, because so many writers, and amongst them the celebrated Jerome, concur in relating it. To me, however, to confess the truth, it appears in a different light; nor do I doubt that this is one of those fables, which a later age has either devised or eagerly embraced, contrary to the belief of earlier times. Eusebius, as Hornius has judiciously observed, when giving a very particular description of the Church on mount Olivet, makes no mention of this miracle; and surely, he would not have omitted a circumstance so notable, and so likely, had it been founded in truth, to be of great utility for the confutation of the heathen. It is also passed over in silence by Socrates, Theodoret, Sazomenus, and by Nicephorus, the father of fables; who yet indulge in splendid trifling about the discovery of the cross. Compare what we have said in the tenth and several subsequent Sections of the sixteenth Dissertation. As to the marks of footsteps that are still pointed out to travellers, the thing itself shows, that these are merely the tricks of idle people. Nor doth the modern story agree with the ancient. According to the ancient account, the marks are impressed on the earth; according to the modern, on the rock. The prints of footsteps, besides, are not now to be seen, but only the print of one foot, in a certain part of the rock; the other print, with the stone on which it is said to have appeared, having been
A Lapide ad Act. i. 12.
removed by the Turks to a mosque of their own.* And doth our Lord, in reality, now take so little interest in the traces of his feet, that, although anciently, when a pious Empress erected a most splendid Church to his honour, he would not suffer it to be covered with an arch, yet he now permits one part of that sacred memorial to be transferred to a temple dedicated to the false Prophet?
XV. Hornius supposes that he has discovered the source of the mistake, in the words of Eusebius in his Life of Constantine;† where, when narrating the visit of HELENA to Judea, he says; "But, as she regarded " with due veneration the footsteps of the Saviour, &c."‡ What is spoken in general of Judea, where Christ lived, was perhaps ignorantly applied to mount Olivet, whence Christ ascended. And, without doubt, a very small matter is sufficient to give rise to a fable, which, how improbable soever, increases in course of time to a prodigious size. But the occasion of the story, I am rather inclined to think, was taken from a prophecy of Zechariah. In the writings of that Prophet we have the following words: "His feet shall stand in that
day upon the mount of Olives ;"—which expression, Baronius, taking it in an extremely literal sense, has applied to this affair. Or it may have been taken from these words of the Psalmist: "We will worship "at his footstool;"-which Paulinus renders thus, "We have worshipped where his feet have stood;"
* Dalla Valle Itin. lib. i. cap. 37.
+ De Vit. Constant. сар. xlii.
† Ως δε τοις βήμασι τοις σωτηρίοις την πρέπεσαν ἀπεδιδῶ b Zech. xiv. 4.
e Ps. exxxii. 7.