« PreviousContinue »
Why therefore Jesus, if he was, like them, either an enthusiast or impostor, did not pursue the same conduct as they did, in framing his character and pretensions, it will be found difficult to explain. A mission, the operation and benefit of which was to take place in another life, was a thing unthought of as the subject of these prophecies. That Jesus, coming to them as their Messiah, should come under a character totally different from that in which they expected him; should deviate from the general persuasion, and deviate into pretensions absolutely singular and original, appears to be inconsistent with the imputation of enthusiasm or imposture, both which, by their nature, I should expect, would, and both which, throughout the experience which this very subject furnishes, in fact have, followed the opinions that obtained at the time.
If it be said that Jesus, having tried the other plan, turned at length to this; I answer, that the thing is said without evidence; against evidence; that it was competent to the rest to have done the same, yet that nothing of this sort was thought of by any.
ONE argument, which has been much relied upon (but not more than its just weight deserves), is the conformity of the facts occasionally mentioned or referred to in Scripture, with the state of things in those times, as represented by foreign and independent accounts; which conformity proves that the writers of the New Testament possessed a species of local knowledge which could only belong to an inhabitant of that country, and to one living in that age. This
argument, if well made out by examples, is very little short of proving the absolute genuineness of the writings. It carries them up to the age of the reputed authors, to an age in which it must have been difficult to impose upon the Christian public forgeries in the names of those authors, and in which there is no evidence that any forgeries were attempted. It proves, at least, that the books, whoever were the authors of them, were composed by persons living in the time and country in which these things were transacted; and consequently capable, by their situation, of being well informed of the facts which they relate. And the argument is stronger when applied to the New Testament, than it is in the case of almost any other writings, by reason of the mixed nature of the allusions which this book contains. The scene of action is not confined to a single country, but displayed in the greatest cities of the Roman empire. Allusions are made to the manners and principles of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Jews. This variety renders a forgery proportionably more difficult, especially to writers of a posterior age. A Greek or Roman Christian, who lived in the second or third century, would have been wanting in Jewish literature; a Jewish convert in those ages would have been equally deficient in the knowledge of Greece and Rome1.
This, however, is an argument which depends entirely upon an induction of particulars; and as, consequently, it carries with it little force, without a view of the instances upon which it is built, I have to request the reader's attention to a detail of examples, distinctly and articulately proposed. In collecting these exam
Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament (Marsh's translation), c. ii. sect. 11.
ples, I have done no more than epitomize the first volume of the first part of Dr. Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History. And I have brought the argument within its present compass, first, by passing over some of his sections in which the accordancy appeared to me less certain, or upon subjects not sufficiently appropriate or circumstantial; secondly, by contracting every section into the fewest words possible, contenting myself for the most part with a mere apposition of passages; and, thirdly, by omitting many disquisitions, which, though learned and accurate, are not absolutely necessary to the understanding or verification of the argument.
The writer principally made use of in the inquiry is Josephus. Josephus was born at Jerusalem, four years after Christ's ascension. He wrote his History of the Jewish War some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the year of our Lord LXX, that is, thirty-seven years after the ascension; and his History of the Jews he finished in the year XCIII, that is, sixty years after the ascension.
At the head of each article I have referred, by figures included in brackets, to the page of Dr. Lardner's volume, where the section, from which the abridgment is made, begins. The edition used is that of 1741.
I. [p. 14.] Matt. ii. 22. "When he (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned. of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.”
In this passage it is asserted that Archelaus succeeded Herod in Judea; and it is implied that his power did not extend to Galilee. Now we learn from Josephus, that Herod the Great, whose dominion
included all the land of Israel, appointed Archelaus his successor in Judea, and assigned the rest of his dominions to other sons; and that this disposition was ratified, as to the main parts of it, by the Roman emperor2.
St. Matthew says, that Archelaus reigned, was king in Judea. Agreeably to this we are informed by Josephus, not only that Herod appointed Archelaus his successor in Judea, but that he also appointed him with the title of King: and the Greek verb Bacideve, which the evangelist uses to denote the government and rank of Archelaus, is used likewise by Josephus3.
The cruelty of Archelaus's character, which is not obscurely intimated by the evangelist, agrees with divers particulars in his history, preserved by Josephus" In the tenth year of his government, the chief of the Jews and Samaritans, not being able to endure his cruelty and tyranny, presented complaints against him to Cæsar.
II. [p. 19.] Luke, iii. 1. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar,-Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis,-the word of God came unto John."
By the will of Herod the Great, and the decree of Augustus thereupon, his two sons were appointed, one (Herod Antipas) tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa, and the other (Philip) tetrarch of Trachonitis and the neighbouring countries. We have therefore these two persons in the situations in which Saint Luke places them; and also, that they were in these situations in the fifteenth year of Tiberius; in other words,
2 Ant. lib. xvii. c. 8, sect. 1. + Ant. lib. xvii. c. 12, sect. 1.
3 De Bell. lib. i. c. 33. sect. 7. 5 Ant. lib. xvii. c. 8, sect. 1.
that they continued in possession of their territories and titles until that time, and afterwards, appears from a passage of Josephus, which relates of Herod, "that he was removed by Caligula, the successor of Tiberius; and of Philip, that he died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, when he had governed Trachonitis and Batanea and Gaulanitis thirty-seven years"."
III. [p. 20.] Mark, vi. 178. "Herod had sent forth, and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison, for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her.'
With this compare Joseph. Antiq. 1. xviii. c. 6, sect. 1:—" He (Herod the tetrarch) made a visit to Herod his brother.-Here, falling in love with Herodias the wife of the said Herod, he ventured to make her proposals of marriage"."
Again, Mark, vi. 22. "And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in and danced
With this also compare Joseph. Antiq. 1. xviii. c. 6, sect. 4. "Herodias was married to Herod, son of Herod the Great. They had a daughter, whose name was Salome; after whose birth Herodias, in utter violation of the laws of her country, left her husband,
7 Ant. lib. xviii. c. 5, sect. 6. Luke, iii. 19.
6 Ant. lib. xviii. c. 8. sect. 2. See also Matt. xiv. 1-13. The affinity of the two accounts is unquestionable; but there is a difference in the name of Herodias's first husband, which, in the evangelist, is Philip; in Josephus, Herod. The difficulty, however, will not appear considerable, when we recollect how common it was, in those times, for the same person to bear two names. "Simon which is called Peter; Lebbeus, whose surname is Thaddeus; Thomas, which is called Didymus; Simon, who was called Niger; Saul, who was also called Paul." This solution is rendered likewise easier in the present case, by the consideration that Herod the Great had children by seven or eight wives; that Josephus mentions three of his sons under the name of Herod; that it is nevertheless highly probable that the brothers bore some additional name, by which they were distinguished from one another. Lardner, vol. ii. p. 897.