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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 belong only 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 Rome. (Michaelis’s Introduction to the New Testament [Marsh’s translation], c. ii. sect. xi.)
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 examples I have done no more than epitomise 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 xc-xx, 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 Archclaus 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.”
II. In this passage it is asserted that Archclaus 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 emperor (Ant. lib. xvi. c. 8, sect. 1.).
Saint Matthew says that Archclaus reigned, was king, in Judea. Agreeably to this, we are informed by Josephus, not only that Herod appointed Archclaus his successor in Judea, but that he also appointed him with the title of King; and the Greek verb basileuei, which the evangelist uses to denote the government and rank of Archclaus, is used likewise by Josephus (De Bell. lib. i. c. 3, 3, sect. 7.).
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 Caesar.” (Ant, lib. xii. 13, sect. 1.)
II. [p. 19.] Luke iii. 1. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar — 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 Antipus) tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and the other (Philip) tetrarch of Trachonitis and the neighbouring countries. (Ant. lib. xvii. c. 8, sect. 1.) 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, 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;” (Ant. lib. xviii. c. 8, sect. 2.) and of Philip, that he died in the twentieth year of Tiberius, when he had governed Trachonitis and Batanea and Gaulanitis thirty-seven years. (Ant. lib. xviii. c. 5, sect. 6.)
III. [p. 20.] Mark vi. 17. “Herod had sent forth, and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison, for Heredias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.” (See also Matt. xiv. 1-13; Luke iii. 19.)
With this compare Joseph. Antiq. 1. xviii. c. 6, sect. 1: — “He (Herod the tetrareh) made a visit to Herod his brother. — Here, failing in love with Herodias, the wife of the said Herod, he ventured to make her proposals of marriage.”5353The 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 fer the same persons to bear two names. “Simon, which is called Peter; Lebbeus, whose sum me is Thaddeus; Thomas, which is called Didymus; Simeon, who was called Niger; Saul, who was also called Paul.” The 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.
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, then living, and married Herod the tetrarch of Galilee, her husband’s brother by the father’s side.”
IV. [p. 29.] Acts xii. 1. “Now, about that time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to vex certain of the church.”
In the conclusion of the same chapter, Herod’s death is represented to have taken place soon after this persecution. The accuracy of our historian, or, rather, the unmeditated coincidence which truth of its own accord produces, is in this instance remarkable. There was no portion of time for thirty years before, nor ever afterwards, in which there was a king at Jerusalem, a person exercising that authority in Judea, or to whom that title could be applied, except the last three years of this Herod’s life, within which period the transaction recorded in the Acts is stated to have taken place. This prince was the grandson of Herod the Great. In the Acts he appears under his family-name of Herod; by Josephus he was called Agrippa. For proof that he was a king, properly so called, we have the testimony of Josephus, in full and direct terms: — “Sending for him to his palace, Caligula put a crown upon his head, and appointed him king of the tetrarchie of Philip, intending also to give him the tetrarchie of Lysanias.” (Antiq. xviii. c. 7, sect. 10.) And that Judea was at last, but not until the last, included in his dominions, appears by a subsequent passage of the same Josephus, wherein he tells us that Claudius, by a decree, confirmed to Agrippa the dominion which Caligula had given him; adding also Judea and Samaria, in the utmost extent, as possessed by his grandfather Herod (Antiq. xix. c. 5, sect. 1.).
V. [p. 32.] Acts xii. 19-23. “And he (Herod) went down from Judea to Cesarea, and there abode. And on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them: and the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man; 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.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xix. c. 8, sect. 2. “He went to the city of Cesarea. Here he celebrated shows in honour of Caesar. On the second day of the shows, early in the morning, he came into the theatre, dressed in a robe of silver, of most curious workmanship. The rays of the rising sun, reflected from such a splendid garb, gave him a majestic and awful appearance. They called him a god; and intreated him to be propitious to them, saying, Hitherto we have respected you as a man; but now we acknowledge you to be more than mortal. The king neither reproved these persons, nor rejected the impious flattery. Immediately after this he was seized with pains in his bowels, extremely violent at the very first. He was carried therefore with all haste to his palace. These pains continually tormenting him, he expired in five days’ time.”
The reader will perceive the accordancy of these accounts in various particulars. The place (Cesarea), the set day, the gorgeous dress, the acclamations of the assembly, the peculiar turn of the flattery, the reception of it, the sudden and critical incursion of the disease, are circumstances noticed in both narratives. The worms mentioned by Saint Luke are not remarked by Josephus; but the appearance of these is a symptom not unusually, I believe, attending the disease which Josephus describes, viz., violent affections of the bowels.
VI. [p. 41.] Acts xxiv. 24. “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. c. 6, sect. 1, 2. “Agrippa gave his sister Drusilla in marriage to Azizus, king of the Emesenes, when he had consented to be circumcised. — But this marriage of Drusilla with Azizus was dissolved in a short time after, in this manner: — When Felix was procurator of Judea, having had a sight of her, he was mightily taken with her. — She was induced to transgress the laws of her country, and marry Felix.”
Here the public station of Felix, the name of his wife, and the singular circumstance of her religion, all appear in perfect conformity with the evangelist.
VII. [p. 46.] Acts xxv. 13. “And after certain days king Agrippa and Berenice came to Cesarea to salute Festus.” By this passage we are in effect told that Agrippa was a king, but not of Judea; for he came to salute Festus, who at this time administered the government of that country at Cesarea.
Now, how does the history of the age correspond with this account? The Agrippa here spoken of was the son of Herod Agrippa, mentioned in the last article; but that he did not succeed to his father’s kingdom, nor ever recovered Judea, which had been a part of it, we learn by the information of Josephus, who relates of him that when his father was dead Claudius intended at first to have put him immediately in possession of his father’s dominions; but that, Agrippa being then but seventeen years of age, the emperor was persuaded to alter his mind, and appointed Cuspius Fadus prefect of Judea and the whole kingdom; (Antiq. xi. c. 9 ad fin.) which Fadus was succeeded by Tiberius Alexander, Cumanus, Felix, Festus. (Antiq. xx. de Bell. lib. ii.) But that, though disappointed of his father’s kingdom, in which was included Judea, he was, nevertheless, rightly styled King Agrippa, and that he was in possession of considerable territories, bordering upon Judea, we gather from the same authority: for, after several successive donations of country, “Claudius, at the same time that he sent Felix to be procurator of Judea, promoted Agrippa from Chalcis to a greater kingdom, giving to him the tetrarchie which had been Philip’s; and he added, moreover, the kingdom of Lysanias, and the province that had belonged to Varus.” (De Bell. lib. li. c. 12 ad fin.)
Saint Paul addresses this person as a Jew: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” As the son of Herod Agrippa, who is described by Josephus to have been a zealous Jew, it is reasonable to suppose that he maintained the same profession. But what is more material to remark, because it is more close and circumstantial, is, that Saint Luke, speaking of the father (Acts xii. 1-3), calls him Herod the, king, and gives an example of the exercise of his authority at Jerusalem: speaking of the son (xxv. 13), he calls him king, but not of Judea; which distinction agrees correctly with the history.
VIII. [p. 51.] Acts xiii. 6. “And when they had gone through the isle (Cyprus) to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus, which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, prudent man.”
The word which is here translated deputy, signifies and upon this word our observation is founded. The of the Roman empire were of two kinds; those belonging the emperor, in which the governor was called proprietor; those belonging to the senate, in which the governor was proconsul. And this was a regular distinction. Now it from Dio Cassius, (Lib. liv. ad A. U. 732.) that the province of Cyprus, which, in original distribution, was assigned to the emperor, had transferred to the senate, in exchange for some others; and after this exchange, the appropriate title of the Roman was proconsul.
Ib. xviii. 12. [p. 55.] “And when Gallio was deputy (proconsul) of Achaia.”
The propriety of the title “proconsul” is in this still more critical. For the province of Achaia, after passing from the senate to the emperor, had been restored again by the emperor Claudius to the senate (and consequently its government had become proconsular) only six or seven years before the time in which this transaction is said to have taken place. (Suet. in Claud. c. xxv. Dio, lib. lxi.) And what confines with strictness the appellation to the time is, that Achaia under the following reign ceased to be a Roman province at all.
IX. [p. 152.] It appears, as well from the general constitution of a Roman province, as from what Josephus delivers concerning the state of Judea in particular, (Antiq. lib. xx. c. 8, sect. 5; c. 1, sect. 2.) that the power of life and death resided exclusively in the Roman governor; but that the Jews, nevertheless, had magistrates and a council, invested with a subordinate and municipal authority. This economy is discerned in every part of the Gospel narrative of our Saviour’s crucifixion.
X. [p. 203.] Acts ix. 31. “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria.”
This rest synchronises with the attempt of Caligula to place his statue in the temple of Jerusalem; the threat of which outrage produced amongst the Jews a consternation that, for a season, diverted their attention from every other object. (Joseph. de Bell lib. Xi. c. 13, sect. 1, 3, 4.)
XI. [p. 218.] Acts xxi. 30. “And they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple; and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came to the chief captain of the band that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Then the chief captain came near, and took him and commanded him to be bound with two chains, and demanded who he was, and what he had done; and some cried one thing, and some another, among the multitude: and, when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.”
In this quotation we have the band of Roman soldiers at Jerusalem, their office (to suppress tumults), the castle, the stairs, both, as it should seem, adjoining to the temple. Let us inquire whether we can find these particulars in any other record of that age and place.
Joseph. de. Bell. lib. v. c. 5, sect. 8. “Antonia was situated at the angle of the western and northern porticoes of the outer temple. It was built upon a rock fifty cubits high, steep on all sides. — On that side where it joined to the porticoes of the temple, there were stairs reaching to each portico, by which the guard descended; for there was always lodged here a Roman legion; and posting themselves in their armour in several places in the porticoes, they kept a watch on the people on the feast-days to prevent all disorders; for as the temple was a guard to the city, so was Antonia to the temple.”
XII. [p. 224.] Acts iv. 1. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.” Here we have a public officer, under the title of captain of the temple, and he probably a Jew, as he accompanied the priests and Sadducees in apprehending the apostles.
Joseph. de Bell. lib. ii. c. 17, sect. 2. “And at the temple, Eleazer, the son of Ananias the high priest, a young man of a bold and resolute disposition, then captain, persuaded those who performed the sacred ministrations not to receive the gift or sacrifice of any stranger.”
XIII. [p. 225.] Acts xxv. 12. “Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.” That it was usual for the Roman presidents to have a council consisting of their friends, and other chief Romans in the province, appears expressly in the following passage of Cicero’s oration against Verres: — “Illud negare posses, aut nunc negabis, te, concilio tuo dimisso, viris primariis, qui in consilio C. Sacerdotis fuerant, tibique esse volebant, remotis, de re judicata judicasse?”
XIV. [p. 235.] Acts xvi. 13. “And (at Philippi) on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river-side, where prayer was wont to be made,” or where a proseuche, oratory, or place of prayer was allowed. The particularity to be remarked is, the situation of the place where prayer was wont to be made, viz. by a river-side.
Philo, describing the conduct of the Jews of Alexandria, on a certain public occasion, relates of them, that, “early in the morning, flocking out of the gates of the city, they go to the neighbouring shores, (for the proseuchai were destroyed,) and, standing in a most pure place, they lift up their voices with one accord.” (Philo in Flacc. p. 382.)
Josephus gives us a decree of the city of Halicarnassus, permitting the Jews to build oratories; a part of which decree runs thus: — “We ordain that the Jews, who are willing, men and women, do observe the Sabbaths, and perform sacred rites, according to the Jewish laws, and build oratories by the sea-side.” (Joseph. Antiq. lib. xiv. c. 10, sect, 24.)
Tertullian, among other Jewish rites and customs, such as feasts, sabbaths, fasts, and unleavened bread, mentions “orationes literales,” that is, prayers by the river-side. (Tertull. ad Nat, lib. i. c. 13.)
XV. [p. 255.] Acts xxvi. 5. “After the most straitest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.”
Joseph. de Bell. lib. i. c. 5, sect. 2. “The Pharisees were reckoned the most religious of any of the Jews, and to be the most exact and skilful in explaining the laws.”
In the original, there is an agreement not only in the sense but in the expression, it being the same Greek adjective which is rendered “strait” in the Acts, and “exact” in Josephus.
XVI. [p. 255.] Mark vii. 3, 4. “The Pharisees and all the Jews, except they wash, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders; and many other things there be which they have received to hold.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xiii. c. 10, sect. 6. “The Pharisees have delivered up to the people many institutions, as received from the fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses.”
XVII. [p. 259.] Acts xxiii. 8. “For the Sadducees say, that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.”
Joseph. de Bell. lib. ii. c. 8, sect. 14. “They (the Pharisees) believe every soul to be immortal, but that the soul of the good only passes into another body, and that the soul of the wicked is punished with eternal punishment.” On the other hand (Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 1, sect. 4), “It is the opinion of the Sadducees that souls perish with the bodies.”
XVIII. [p. 268.] Acts v. 17. “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and were filled with indignation.” Saint Luke here intimates that the high priest was a Sadducee; which is a character one would not have expected to meet with in that station. This circumstance, remarkable as it is, was not however without examples.
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xiii. c. 10, sect. 6, 7. “John Hyreanus, high priest of the Jews, forsook the Pharisees upon a disgust, and joined himself to the party of the Sadducees.” This high priest died one hundred and seven years before the Christian era.
Again (Antiq. lib. xx. c. 8, sect. 1), “This Ananus the younger, who, as we have said just now, had received the high priesthood, was fierce and haughty in his behaviour, and, above all men, hold and daring, and, moreover, was of the sect of the Sadducees.” This high priest lived little more than twenty years after the transaction in the Acts.
XIX. [p. 282.] Luke ix. 51. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face. And they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. c. 5, sect. 1. “It was the custom of the Galileans, who went up to the holy city at the feasts, to travel through the country of Samaria. As they were in their journey, some inhabitants of the village called Ginaea, which lies on the borders of Samaria and the great plain, falling upon them, killed a great many of them.”
XX. [p. 278.] John iv. 20. “Our fathers,” said the Samaritan woman, “worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 5, sect. 1. “Commanding them to meet him at mount Gerizzim, which is by them (the Samaritans) esteemed the most sacred of all mountains.”
XXI. [p. 312.] Matt. xxvi. 3. “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.” That Caiaphas was high priest, and high priest throughout the presidentship of Pontius Pilate, and consequently at this time, appears from the following account: — He was made high priest by Valerius Gratus, predecessor of Pontius Pilate, and was removed from his office by Vitellius, president of Syria, after Pilate was sent away out of the province of Judea. Josephus relates the advancement of Caiaphas to the high priesthood in this manner: “Gratus gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus. He, having enjoyed this honour not above a year, was succeeded by Joseph, who is also called Caiaphas.” (Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 2, sect. 2.) After this, Gratus went away for Rome, having been eleven years in Judea; and Pontius Pilots came thither as his successor. Of the removal of Caiaphas from his office, Josephus likewise afterwards informs us: and connects it with a circumstance which fixes the time to a date subsequent to the determination of Pilate’s government — “Vitellius,” he tells us; “ordered Pilots to repair to Rome: and after that, went up himself to Jerusalem, and then gave directions concerning several matters. And having done these things he took away the priesthood from the high priest Joseph, who is called Caiaphas.” (Antiq. lib. xvii. c. 5, sect 3.)
XXII. (Michaelis, c. xi. sect. 11.) Acts xxiii. 4. “And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest?” Now, upon inquiry into the history of the age, it turns out that Ananias, of whom this is spoken, was, in truth, not the high priest, though he was sitting in judgment in that assumed capacity. The case was, that he had formerly holden the office, and had been deposed; that the person who succeeded him had been murdered; that another was not yet appointed to the station; and that during the vacancy, he had, of his own authority, taken upon himself the discharge of the office. (Joseph. Antiq. 1. xx. c. 5, sect. 2; c. 6, sect. 2; c. 9, sect. 2.) This singular situation of the high priesthood took place during the interval between the death of Jonathan, who was murdered by order of Felix, and the accession of Ismael, who was invested with the high priesthood by Agrippa; and precisely in this interval it happened that Saint Paul was apprehended, and brought before the Jewish council.
XXIII. [p. 323.] Matt. xxvi. 59. “Now the chief priests and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against him.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 15, sect. 3, 4. “Then might be seen the high priests themselves with ashes on their heads and their breasts naked.”
The agreement here consists in speaking of the high priests or chief priests (for the name in the original is the same) in the plural number, when in strictness there was only one high priest: which may be considered as a proof that the evangelists were habituated to the manner of speaking then in use, because they retain it when it is neither accurate nor just. For the sake of brevity, I have put down from Josephus only a single example of the application of this title in the plural number; but it is his usual style.
Ib. [p. 871.] Luke iii. 1. “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Juries, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John.” There is a passage in Josephus very nearly parallel to this, and which may at least serve to vindicate the evangelist from objection, with respect to his giving the title of high priest specifically to two persons at the same time: “Quadratus sent two others of the most powerful men of the Jews, as also the high priests Jonathan and Ananias.” (De Bell. lib. ix. c. 12, sect. 6.) That Annas was a person in an eminent station, and possessed an authority coordinate with, or next to, that of the high print properly so called, may he inferred from Saint John’s Gospel, which in the history of Christ’s crucifixion relates that “the soldiers led him away to Annas first.” (xviii. 13.) And this might be noticed as an example of undesigned coincidence in the two evangelists.
Again, [p. 870.] Acts iv. 6. Annas is called the high priest, though Caiaphas was in the office of the high priesthood. In like manner in Josephus, (Lib. ii. c. 20, sect. 3.) “Joseph the son of Gorion, and the high priest Ananus, were chosen to be supreme governors of all things in the city.” Yet Ananus, though here called the high priest Ananus, was not then in the office of the high priesthood. The truth is, there is an indeterminateness in the use of this title in the Gospel: (Mark xiv. 53.) sometimes it is applied exclusively to the person who held the office at the time; sometimes to one or two more, who probably shared with him some of the powers or functions of the office; and sometimes to such of the priests as were eminent by their station or character; and there is the very same indeterminateness in Josephus.
XXIV. [p. 347.] John xix. 19, 20. “And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross.” That such was the custom of the Romans on these occasions appears from passages of Suetonius and Dio Cassius: “Patrem familias — canibus objecit, cure hoc titulo, Impie locutus parmularius.” Suet. Domit. cap. x. And in Dio Cassius we have the following: “Having led him through the midst of the court or assembly, with a writing signifying the cause of his death, and afterwards crucifying him.” Book liv.
Ib. “And it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.” That it was also usual about this time in Jerusalem to set up advertisements in different languages, is gathered from the account which Josephus gives of an expostulatory message from Titus to the Jews when the city was almost in his hands; in which he says, Did ye not erect pillars with inscriptions on them, in the Greek and in our language, “Let no one pass beyond these bounds”?
XXV. [p. 352.] Matt. xxvii. 26. “When he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”
The following passages occur in Josephus:
“Being beaten, they were crucified opposite to the citadel.” (P. 1247, edit. 24 Huds.)
“Whom, having first scourged with whips, he crucified.” (P. 1080, edit. 45.)
“He was burnt alive, having been first beaten.” (P. 1327, edit. 43.)
To which may he added one from Livy, lib. xi. c. 5. “Pro ductique omnes, virgisqus caesi, ac securi percussi.”
A modern example may illustrate the use we make of this instance. The preceding of a capital execution by the corporal punishment of the Sufferer is a practice unknown in England, but retained, in some instances at least, as appears by the late execution of a regicide in Sweden. This circumstance, therefore, in the account of an English execution, purporting to come from an English writer, would not only bring a suspicion upon the truth of the account, but would in a considerable degree impeach its pretensions of having been written by the author whose name it bore. Whereas, the same circumstance in the account of a Swedish execution would verify the account, and support the authenticity of the book in which it was found, or, at least, would prove that the author, whoever he was, possessed the information and the knowledge which he ought to possess.
XXVI. [p. 353.] John xix. 16. “And they took Jesus, and led him away; and he bearing his cross went forth.”
Plutarch, De iis qui sero puniuntur, p. 554; a Paris, 1624. “Every kind of wickedness produces its own particular torment; just as every malefactor, when he is brought forth to execution, carries his own cross.”
XXVII. John xix. 32. “Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.”
Constantine abolished the punishment of the cross: in commending which edict, a heathen writer notices this very circumstance of breaking the legs: “Eo pius, ut etiam vetus veterrimumque supplicium, patibulum, et cruribus suffringendis, primus removerit.” Aur. Vict Ces. cap. xli.
XXVIII. [p. 457.] Acts iii. 1. “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple, at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”
Joseph. Antiq. lib xv. c. 7, sect. 8. “Twice every day, in the morning and at the ninth hour, the priests perform their, duty at the altar.”
XXIX. [p. 462.] Acts xv. 21. “For Moses of old time hath, in every city, them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath-day.”
Joseph. contra Ap. 1. ii. “He (Moses) gave us the law, the most excellent of all institutions; nor did he appoint that it should be heard once only, or twice, or often, but that, laying aside all other works, we should meet together every week to hear it read, and gain a perfect understanding of it.”
XXX. [p. 465.] Acts xxi. 23. “We have four men which have a vow on them; them take, and purify thyself with them that they may shave their heads.”
Joseph. de Bell. 1. xi. c. 15. “It is customary for those who have been afflicted with some distemper, or have laboured under any other difficulties, to make a vow thirty days before they offer sacrifices, to abstain from wine, and shave the hair of their heads.”
Ib. v. 24. “Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads.”
Joseph. Antiq. 1. xix. c. 6. “He (Herod Agrippa) coming to Jerusalem, offered up sacrifices of thanksgiving, and omitted nothing that was prescribed by the law. For which reason he also ordered a good number of Nazarites to be shaved.” We here find that it was an act of piety amongst the Jews to defray for those who were under the Nazaritic vow the expenses which attended its completion; and that the phrase was, “that they might be saved.” The custom and the expression are both remarkable, and both in close conformity with the Scripture account.
XXXI. [p. 474.] 2 Cor. xi. 24. “Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one.”
Joseph. Antiq. iv. c. 8, sect. 21. “He that acts contrary hereto let him receive forty stripes, wanting one, from the officer.”
The coincidence here is singular, because the law allowed forty stripes: — “Forty stripes he may give him and not exceed.” Deut. xxv. 3. It proves that the author of the Epistle to the Corinthians was guided not by books, but by facts; because his statement agrees with the actual custom, even when that custom deviated from the written law, and from what he must have learnt by consulting the Jewish code, as set forth in the Old Testament.
XXXII. [p. 490.] Luke iii. 12. “Then came also publicans to be baptized.” From this quotation, as well as from the history of Levi or Matthew (Luke v. 29), and of Zaccheus (Luke xix. 2), it appears that the publicans or tax-gatherers were, frequently at least, if not always, Jews: which, as the country was then under a Roman government, and the taxes were paid to the Romans, was a circumstance not to be expected. That it was the truth, however, of the case appears from a short passage of Josephus.
De Bell. lib. ii. c. 14, sect. 45. “But Florus not restraining these practices by his authority, the chief men of the Jews, among whom was John the publican, not knowing well what course to take, wait upon Florus and give him eight talents of silver to stop the building.”
XXXIII. [p. 496.] Acts xxii. 25. “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?”
“Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum; scelus verberari.” Cic. in Verr.
“Caedebatur virgis, in medio foro Messanae, civis Romanus, Judices: cum interea nullus gemitus, nulla vox alia, istius miseri inter dolorem crepitumque plagarum audiebatur, nisi haec, Civis Romanus sum.”
XXXIV. [p. 513] Acts xxii. 27. “Then the chief captain came, and said unto him (Paul), Tell me, Art thou a Roman? He said Yea.” The circumstance to be here noticed is, that a Jew was a Roman citizen.
Joseph. Antiq. lib. xiv. c. 10, sect. 13. “Lucius Lentulna, the consul, declared, I have dismissed from the service the Jewish Roman citizens, who observe the rites of the Jewish religion at Ephesus.”
Ib. ver. 28. “And the chief captain answered, with a great sum obtained I this freedom.”
Dio Cassius, lib. lx. “This privilege, which had been bought formerly at a great price, became so cheap, that it was commonly said a man might be made a Roman citizen for a few pieces of broken glass.”
XXXV. [p. 521.] Acts xxviii. 16. “And when we came to Rome the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself, with a soldier that kept him.”
With which join ver. 20. “For the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain.”
“Quemadmedum cadem catean et custodiam et militem copulat; sic ista, quae tam dissimilia sunt, pariter incedunt.” Seneca, Ep. v.
“Proconsul estimare solet, utrum in carcerera recipienda sit persona, an militi tradenda.” Ulpian. l. i. sect. De Custod. et Exhib. Reor.
In the confinement of Agrippa by the order of Tiberius, Antonia managed that the centurion who presided over the guards, and the soldier to whom Agrippa was to be bound, might be men of mild character. (Joseph. Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 7, sect. 5.) After the accession of Caligula, Agrippa also, like Paul, was suffered to dwell, yet as a prisoner, in his own house.
XXXVI. [p. 531.] Acts xxvii. 1. “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul, and certain other prisoners, unto one named Julius.” Since not only Paul, but certain other prisoners were sent by the same ship into Italy, the text must be considered as carrying with it an intimation that the sending of persons from Judea to be tried at Rome was an ordinary practice. That in truth it was so, is made out by a variety of examples which the writings of Josephus furnish: and, amongst others, by the following, which comes near both to the time and the subject of the instance in the Acts. “Felix, for some slight offence, bound and sent to Rome several priests of his acquaintance, and very good and honest men, to answer for themselves to Caesar.” Joseph. in Vit. sect. 3.
XXXVII. [p. 539.] Acts xi. 27. “And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch; and there stood up one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be a great dearth throughout all the world (or all the country); which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.”
Joseph. Antiq. 1. xx. c. 4, sect. 2. “In their time (i. e. about the fifth or sixth year of Claudius) a great dearth happened in Judea.”
XXXVIII. [p. 555.] Acts xviii. 1, 2. “Because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome.”
Suet. Gland. c. xxv. “Judeos, impulsero Chresto assidue tumultuantes, Roma expulit.”
XXXIX. [p. 664.] Acts v. 37. “After this man, rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him.”
Joseph. de Bell. 1. vii. “He (viz. the person who in another place is called, by Josephus, Judas the Galilean, or Judas of Galilee) persuaded not a few to enrol themselves when Cyrenius the censor was sent into Judea.”
XL. [p. 942.] Acts xxi. 38. “Art not thou that Egyptian which, before these days, madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?”
Joseph. de Bell. 1. ii. c. 13, sect. 5. “But the Egyptian false prophet brought a yet heavier disaster upon the Jews; for this impostor, coming into the country, and gaining the reputation of a prophet, gathered together thirty thousand men, who were deceived by him. Having brought them round out of the wilderness, up to the mount of Olives, he intended from thence to make his attack upon Jerusalem; but Felix, coming suddenly upon him with the Roman soldiers, prevented the attack. — A great number, or (as it should rather be rendered) the greatest part, of those that were with him were either slain or taken prisoners.”
In these two passages, the designation of this impostor, an “Egyptian,” without the proper name, “the wilderness ;” his escape, though his followers were destroyed; the time of the transaction, in the presidentship of Felix, which could not be any long time before the words in Luke are supposed to have been spoken; are circumstances of close correspondency. There is one, and only one, point of disagreement, and that is, in the number of his followers, which in the Acts are called four thousand, and by Josephus thirty thousand: but, beside that the names of numbers, more than any other words, are liable to the errors of transcribers, we are in the present instance under the less concern to reconcile the evangelist with Josephus, as Josephus is not, in this point, consistent with himself. For whereas, in the passage here quoted, he calls the number thirty thousand, and tells us that the greatest part, or a great number (according as his words are rendered) of those that were with him were destroyed; in his Antiquities he represents four hundred to have been killed upon this occasion, and two hundred taken prisoners: (Lib. xx. c. 7, sect. 6.) which certainly was not the “greatest part,” nor “a great part,” nor “a great number,” out of thirty thousand. It is probable, also, that Lysias and Josephus spoke of the expedition in its different stages: Lysias, of those who followed the Egyptian out of Jerusalem; Josephus, of all who were collected about him afterwards, from different quarters.
XLI. (Lardner’s Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, vol. iii p. 21.) Acts xvii. 22. “Then Paul stood in the midst of Marshill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious; for, as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”
Diogenes Laertius, who wrote about the year 210, in his history of Epimenides, who is supposed to have flourished nearly six hundred years before Christ, relates of him the following story: that, being invited to Athens for the purpose, he delivered the city from a pestilence in this manner; — “Taking several sheep, some black, others white, he had them up to the Areopagus, and then let them go where they would, and gave orders to those who followed them, wherever any of them should lie down, to sacrifice it to the god to whom it belonged; and so the plague ceased. — Hence,” says the historian, “it has come to pass, that to this present time may be found in the boroughs of the Athenians ANONYMOUS altars: a memorial of the expiation then made.” (In Epimenide, l. i. segm. 110.) These altars, it may be presumed, were called anonymous because there was not the name of any particular deity inscribed upon them.
Pausanias, who wrote before the end of the second century, in his description of Athens, having mentioned an altar of Jupiter Olympius, adds, “And nigh unto it is an altar of unknown gods.” (Paus. l. v. p. 412.) And in another place, he speaks “of altars of gods called unknown.” (Paus. l. i. p. 4.)
Philostratus, who wrote in the beginning of the third century; records it as an observation of Apollonius Tyanseus, “That it was wise to speak well of all the gods, especially at Athens, where altars of unknown demons were erected.” (Philos. Apoll. Tyan. l. vi. c. 3.)
The author of the dialogue Philoparis by many supposed to have been Lucian, who wrote about the year 170, by others some anonymous Heathen writer of the fourth century, makes Critias swear by the unknown god of Athens; and, near time end of the dialogue, has these words, “But let us find out the unknown god at Athens, and, stretching our hands to heaven, offer to him our praises and thanksgivings.” (Lucian. in Philop. tom. ii. Graev. pp. 767, 780.)
This is a very curious and a very important coincidence. It appears beyond controversy, that altars with this inscription were existing at Athens at the time when Saint Paul is alleged to have been there. It seems also (which is very worthy of observation) that this inscription was peculiar to the Athenians. There is no evidence that there were altars inscribed “to the unknown god” in any other country. Supposing the history of Saint Paul to have been a fable, how is it possible that such a writer as the author of the Acts of the Apostles was should hit upon a circumstance so extraordinary, and introduce it by an allusion so suitable to Saint Paul’s office and character?
The examples here collected will be sufficient, I hope, to satisfy us that the writers of the Christian history knew something of what they were writing about. The argument is also strengthened by the following considerations:
I. That these agreements appear not only in articles of public history, but sometimes in minute, recondite, and very peculiar circumstances, in which, of all others, a forger is most likely to have been found tripping.
II. That the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place forty years after the commencement of the Christian institution, produced such a change in the state of the country, and the condition of the Jews, that a writer who was unacquainted with the circumstances of the nation before that event would find it difficult to avoid mistakes, in endeavouring to give detailed accounts of transactions connected with those circumstances, forasmuch as he could no longer have a living exemplar to copy from.
III. That there appears, in the writers of the New Testament, a knowledge of the affairs of those times which we do not find in authors of later ages. In particular, “many of the Christian writers of the second and third centuries, and of the following ages, had false notions concerning the state of Judea between the nativity of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem.” (Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 960.) Therefore they could not have composed our histories.
Amidst so many conformities we are not to wonder that we meet with some difficulties. The principal of these I will put down, together with the solutions which they have received. But in doing this I must be contented with a brevity better suited to the limits of my volume than to the nature of a controversial argument. For the historical proofs of my assertions, and for the Greek criticisms upon which some of them are founded, I refer the reader to the second volume of the first part of Dr. Lardner’s large work.
I. The taxing during which Jesus was born was “first made,” as we read, according to our translation, in Saint Luke, “whilst Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” (Chap. ii. ver. 2.) Now it turns out that Cyrenius was not governor of Syria until twelve, or at the soonest, ten years after the birth of Christ; and that a taxing census, or assessment, was made in Judea, in the beginning of his government, The charge, therefore, brought against the evangelist is, that, intending to refer to this taxing, he has misplaced the date of it by an error of ten or twelve years.
The answer to the accusation is founded in his using the word “first:” — “And this taxing was first made:” for, according to the mistake imputed to the evangelist, this word could have no signification whatever; it could have had no place in his narrative; because, let it relate to what it will, taxing, census, enrolment, or assessment, it imports that the writer had more than one of those in contemplation. It acquits him therefore of the charge: it is inconsistent with the supposition of his knowing only of the taxing in the beginning of Cyrenius’s government. And if the evangelist knew (which this word proves that he did) of some other taxing beside that, it is too much, for the sake of convicting him of a mistake, to lay it down as certain that he intended to refer to that.
The sentence in Saint Luke may be construed thus: “This was the first assessment (or enrolment) of Cyrenius, governor of Syria;”5454If the word which we render “first” be rendered “before,” which it has been strongly contended that the Greek idiom shows of, the whole difficulty vanishes: for then the passage would be, — “Now this taxing was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria;” which corresponds with the chronology. But I rather choose to argue, that however the word “first” be rendered, to give it a meaning at all, it militates with the objection. In this I think there can be no mistake. the words “governor of Syria” being used after the name of Cyrenius as his addition or title. And this title, belonging to him at the time of writing the account, was naturally enough subjoined to his name, though acquired after the transaction which the account describes. A modern writer who was not very exact in the choice of his expressions, in relating the affairs of the East Indies, might easily say that such a thing was done by Governor Hastings; though, in truth, the thing had been done by him before his advancement to the station from which he received the name of governor. And this, as we contend, is precisely the inaccuracy which has produced the difficulty in Saint Luke.
At any rate it appears from the form of the expression that he had two taxings or enrolments in contemplation. And if Cyrenius had been sent upon this business into Judea before he became governor of Syria (against which supposition there is no proof, but rather external evidence of an enrolment going on about this time under some person or other5555Josephus (Antiq. xvii. c. 2, sect. 6.) has this remarkable message: “When therefore the whole Jewish nation took an oath to be faithful to Caesar, and the interests of the king.” This transaction corresponds in the course of the history with the time of Christ’s birth. What is called a census, and which we render taxing, was delivering upon oath an account of their property. This might be accompanied with an oath of fidelity, or might be mistaken by Josephus for it.), then the census on all hands acknowledged to have been made by him in the beginning of his government would form a second, so as to occasion the other to be called the first.
II. Another chronological objection arises upon a date assigned in the beginning of the third chapter of Saint Luke. (Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 768.) “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, — Jesus began to be about thirty years of age:” for, supposing Jesus to have been born as Saint Matthew and Saint Luke also himself relate, in the time of Herod, he must, according to the dates given in Josephus and by the Roman historians, have been at least thirty-one years of age in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. If he was born, as Saint Matthew’s narrative intimates, one or two years before Herod’s death, he would have been thirty-two or thirty-three years old at that time.
This is the difficulty: the solution turns upon an alteration in the construction of the Greek. Saint Luke’s words in the original are allowed, by the general opinion of learned men, to signify, not “that Jesus began to be about thirty years of age,” but “that he was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry.” This construction being admitted, the adverb “about” gives us all the latitude we want, and more especially when applied, as it is in the present instance, to a decimal number; for such numbers, even without this qualifying addition, are often used in a laxer sense than is here contended for.5656Livy, speaking of the peace which the conduct of Romulus had procured to the state, during the whole reign of his successor (Numa), has these words: “Ab illo enim profectis viribus datis tautum valuit, ut, in quaaraginta deiade annos, tutam proem haberet:” yet afterwards in the same chapter, “Romulus,” he says, “septera et triginta regnavit annos. Numa tres et quadraginta.” (Liv. Hist. c. i. sect. 16.)
III. Acts v. 36. “For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who were slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to nought.”
Josephus has preserved the account of an impostor of the name of Theudas, who created some disturbances, and was slain; but according to the date assigned to this man’s appearance (in which, however, it is very possible that Josephus may have been mistaken), (Michaelis’s Introduction to the New Testament [Marsh’s translation], vol. i. p. 61.) it must have been, at the least, seven years after Gamaliel’s speech, of which this text is a part, was delivered. It has been replied to the objection, (Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 92.) that there might be two impostors of this name: and it has been observed, in order to give a general probability to the solution, that the same thing appears to have happened in other instances of the same kind. It is proved from Josephus, that there were not fewer than four persons of the name of Simon within forty years, and not fewer than three of the name of Judas within ten years, who were all leaders of insurrections: and it is likewise recorded by this historian, that upon the death of Herod the Great (which agrees very well with the time of the commotion referred to by Gamaliel, and with his manner of stating that time, “before these days”) there were innumerable disturbances in Judea. (Antiq. 1. 17, c. 12. sect. 4.) Archbishop Usher was of opinion, that one of the three Judases above mentioned was Gamaliel’s Theudas; (Annals, p. 797.) and that with a less variation of the name than we actually find in the Gospel, where one of the twelve apostles is called, by Luke, Judas; and by Mark, Thaddeus. (Luke vi. 16. Mark iii. 18.) Origen, however he came at his information, appears to have believed that there was an impostor of the name of Theudas before the nativity of Christ. (Orig. cont Cels. p. 44.)
IV. Matt. xxiii. 34. “Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”
There is a Zacharias whose death is related in the second book of Chronicles,5757“And the Spirit of God came upon Zacharias, the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and mid unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord that ye cannot prosper? Because ye hive forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord.” 2 Chron. xxiv. 20, 21. in a manner which perfectly supports our Saviour’s allusion. But this Zacharias was the son of Jehoiada.
There is also Zacharias the prophet; who was the son of Barachiah, and is so described in the superscription of his prophecy, but of whose death we have no account.
I have little doubt but that the first Zacharias was the person spoken of by our Saviour; and that the name of the father has been since added or changed, by some one who took it from the title of the prophecy, which happened to be better known to him than the history in the Chronicles.
There is likewise a Zacharias, the son of Baruch, related by Josephus to have been slain in the temple a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem. It has been insinuated that the words put into our Saviour’s mouth contain a reference to this transaction, and were composed by some writer who either confounded the time of the transaction with our Saviour’s age, or inadvertently overlooked the anachronism.
Now, suppose it to have been so; suppose these words to have been suggested by the transaction related in Josephus, and to have been falsely ascribed to Christ; and observe what extraordinary coincidences (accidentally as it must in that case have been) attend the forger’s mistake.
First, that we have a Zacharias in the book of Chronicles, whose death, and the manner of it, corresponds with the allusion.
Secondly, that although the name of this person’s father be erroneously put down in the Gospel, yet we have a way of accounting for the error by showing another Zacharias in the Jewish Scriptures much better known than the former, whose patronymic was actually that which appears in the text.
Every one who thinks upon the subject will find these to be circumstances which could not have met together in a mistake which did not proceed from the circumstances themselves.
I have noticed, I think, all the difficulties of this kind. They are few: some of them admit of a clear, others of a probable solution. The reader will compare them with the number, the variety, the closeness, and the satisfactoriness, of the instances which are to be set against them; and he will remember the scantiness, in many cases, of our intelligence, and that difficulties always attend imperfect information.
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