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with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and, as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and the seventh year of his reign."
Notwithstanding the owl, it is plain from this that there was nothing miraculous in the matter; but it was very easy to relate the story in such a way as to make it appear so. Luke has done this more completely than Josephus, by presenting us with an angel instead of an owl, and by leaving us to suppose that Herod gave up the ghost immediately,* whilst it appears from Josephus that he was ill five days before he died.
From an author thus evidently disposed to see ordinary occurrences in a miraculous light, capable of exaggerating, or of receiving the exaggerations of others, and also of calling in his own imagination to round off the discourses of his personages, marvellous stories must be received with much suspicion. It is not such testimony that can make us believe in contradiction to our own experience of nature: and the greater part of the miracles in the Acts rest exclusively on such testimony; for not one of the miraculous incidents there recorded is confirmed (it is doubtful if even alluded to) in the Epistles or other writings of the Apostles.
The first miracle, after the ascension, is the The gift descent of the Spirit in the shape of cloven of tongues. tongues, like as of fire, on the day of Pentecost. The Jews believed that their prophets spoke and acted under the influence of a divine inspiration coming upon them on certain occasions, called the Spirit of the Lord, or the Holy Ghost. In the prophet Joel, it is promised that, in
* Acts xii. 23, “ And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.”
the future greatness of Israel, in addition to peace and fertility of soil, the Spirit should be given abundantly. Joel ii. 28, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour
out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters' shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” See also Isaiah xliv. 3.
The disciples believing that their own times were those of the accomplishment of the prophecies, applied to their own society these promises of the spirit. In circumstances favourable to excitement, at public meetings, on solemn occasions, at the baptism of new converts, and the like, the belief in and expectation of the influence was sufficient to bring the minds of some to a state of ecstacy, which was considered to be its actual manifestation; in this state the agitation of the mind found a vent in certain incoherent expressions, which being supposed to be the outpouring of the Spirit, and yet, in fact, being unintelligible, were called an unknown language. These fits, natural in some, were soon imitated and improved upon by others, for the sake of attracting attention. Some words of real foreign, or kindred languages, having found their
way into these rhapsodies, a report might easily be spread, that the Holy Spirit gave the power of speaking in other languages. It is very probable that some excitement of this sort did take place at the assembly of the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and Luke has given the improved account which came to him some years afterwards. The rushing mighty wind might be a real circumstance exaggerated; the visible tongues of fire a later addition; the speech of the multitude, v. 7-12, the in
vention of Luke himself; and that of Peter what he considered Peter would have said on such an occasion, and which probably does in its main features represent Peter's sentiments correctly, since Luke (or Silas) must have often heard him.
There is no evidence elsewhere that the Apostles had acquired supernaturally the use of other languages. That generally spoken throughout the eastern provinces of the Roman empire was the Greek ;* and owing to the continual intercourse with Roman tax-gatherers and soldiers, even the lower classes of Jews dwelling in towns could not but acquire some rude knowledge of it. Campbell acknowledges that the Greek of the New Testament is a
barbarous idiom." “The writings of the New Testament are such as, in respect of style, could not have been written but by Jews, and hardly even by Jews superior in rank and education to those whose names they bear.”
“The homeliness of their diction, when criticised by the rules of grammarians and rhetoricians, is what all the most learned and judicious of the Greek fathers frankly owned.” “ If any one contends," says Erasmus, I "that the Apostles were inspired by God with the knowledge of all tongues, and that this gift was perpetual in them, since every thing which is performed by a divine power is more perfect, according to Saint Chrysostom, than what is performed either in the ordinary course of nature or by the pains of man, how comes it to pass that the language of the Apostles is not only rough and unpolished, but imperfect; also confused, and sometimes even plainly solecising and absurd ? for we cannot possibly deny what the fact itself declares to be true.-When the Apostles write in Greek, they borrow much from their own Hebrew; as at this day, men of little learning, when
* Græca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus : Cicero pro Archia. + Dissertations, vol. i. p. 20. † Annot. in Act. x. 38.
they talk Latin, always mix somewhat with it of their native tongue."
Origen* says,“ The Jewish prophets and the disciples of Jesus renounced all artful composition of words, and what the Scripture calls man's wisdom, and fleshly wisdom.”+ But the Apostles being sensible of their imperfection in this respect, and that they had not been educated in human learning, own themselves rude in speech, though not in knowledge.” Jerome says, “there appear in Paul's Epistles several words peculiar to the dialect of his own city and country. We repeat, that Paul spoke truly, and not by way of humility, when he called himself ' rude in speech, but not in knowledge.' For his tongue is unable to express his deep and abstruse meanings. And feeling himself what he speaks about, he cannot transfer it to others' ears in clear language. Being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and learned enough in his vernacular language, he was unable to express his deep meanings in another tongue, nor did he take much pains concerning words when he had made his meaning safe."S “In this place, (Col. ii. 23,) there is a superfluous conjunction; which error we find the Apostle to have committed in many places, owing to his unskilfulness in the rules of grammar." || “We do not attack the Apostle when we notice his solecisms, but rather defend him, since we shew that it must have been by the power of God, and not by grace of speech, that he evangelized the world. ... He therefore who commits solecisms in his words, who cannot translate an inverted construction of words, and finish a sentence, boldly claims to himself wisdom,” &c. I
In the Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul says that he speaks with tongues more than they all; so that it
* Cont. Cels. t. vii. | Ad algas.
+ Philoc. cap. iv.
is probable that he possessed the gift in at least an equal degree with any of the other Apostles or converts; yet if the above testimony of Origen and Jerome can be trusted, his knowledge of Greek, the most necessary tongue, was no more than what might be acquired by natural means by one in his station, certainly less perfect than what might have been expected to be given by divine inspiration. Moreover, though he does not absolutely condemn the exercise of this or any other supposed gift of the Spirit, he speaks of it on the whole in a depreciating manner. “I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue,” 1 Cor. xii. 10; and intimates pretty clearly that the gift was becoming an annoyance : “ If, therefore, the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned and unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad ?” v. 23. He says, that“ tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not;" but he does not attribute to them the use for which Luke supposes them to have been given, viz. to preach to foreign nations. This silence of Paul, when treating expressly on the subject, leads us to think that no such use had been found to result from the supposed gift; consequently that the power was never given. The cure of the lame man by Peter and
The lame John can be considered miraculous only on
man. the strength of the statement that he had been lame from his birth, which was not easy for Luke to know in the case of a man forty years old. Many a beggar receiving alms on the score of lameness is yet able, in some degree, to use his legs when helped up, and on a sudden impulse. A similar story is told of Paul, ch. xiv. ; but here it is added that Paul looked at him, and perceived that he had faith to be healed ; which was probably the case also