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Chapter XV.—Of the Jews; of their attempt at building, and of the heaven-sent plagues that befel them.

Julian, who had made his soul a home of destroying demons, went his corybantic way, ever raging against true religion. He accordingly now armed the Jews too against the believers in Christ. He began by enquiring of some whom he got together why, though their law imposed on them the duty of sacrifices, they offered none. On their reply that their worship was limited to one particular spot, this enemy of God immediately gave directions for the re-erection of the destroyed temple,645645    Bp. Wordsworth (Dict. Chris. Biog. iii, 500) is in favour of the letter (Ep. 24, Ed. Didot 350) in which Julian desires the prayers of the Creator and professes a wish to rebuild and inhabit Jerusalem with them after his return from the Persian war and there give glory to the Supreme Being. It is addressed to his “brother Julus, the very venerable patriarch.” supposing in his vanity that he could falsify the prediction of the Lord, of which, in reality, he exhibited the truth.646646    This is the motive ascribed by the Arian Philostorgius (vii. 9). The Jews heard his words with delight and made known his orders to their countrymen throughout the world. They came with haste from all directions, contributing alike money and enthusiasm for the work; and the emperor made all the provisions he could, less from the pride of munificence than from hostility to the truth. He despatched also as governor a fit man to carry out his impious orders. It is said that they made mattocks, shovels, and baskets of silver. When they had begun to dig and to carry out the earth a vast multitude of them went on with the work all day, but by night the earth which had been carried away shifted back from the ravine of its own accord. They destroyed moreover the remains of the former construction, with the intention of building everything up afresh; but when they had got together thousands of bushels of chalk and lime, of a sudden a violent gale blew, and storms, tempests and whirlwinds scattered everything far and wide. They still went on in their madness, nor were they brought to their senses by the divine longsuffering. Then first came a great earthquake, fit to strike terror into the hearts of men quite ignorant of God’s dealings; and, when still they were not awed, fire running from the excavated foundations burnt up most of the diggers, and put the rest to flight. Moreover when a large number of men were sleeping at night in an adjacent building it suddenly fell down, roof and all, and crushed the whole of them. On that night and also on the following night the sign of the cross of salvation was seen brightly shining in the sky, and the very garments of the Jews were filled with crosses, not bright but black.647647    “The curious statement that crosses were imprinted on the bodies and clothes of persons present, is illustrated in the original edition of Newman’s Essay (clxxxii.)” (i.e. on ecclesiastical miracles) “by some parallel instances quoted by Warburton from Casaubon and from Boyle. Such crosses, or cross-like impressions, are said to have followed not only a thunderstorm, but also an eruption of Vesuvius; these crosses were seen on linen garments, as shirt sleeves, women’s aprons, that had lain open to the air, and upon the exposed parts of sheets.” “Chrysostom (Ed. Montfaucon, vol. v. 271, etc.) mentions ‘crosses imprinted upon garments,’ as a sign that had occurred in his generation, close to the mention of the Temple of Apollo that was overthrown by a thunderbolt, and separated from the wonders in Palestine that he mentions subsequently.” Dr. E. A. Abbott. Philomythus, 189. When God’s enemies saw these things, in terror at the heaven-sent plagues they fled, and made their way home, confessing the Godhead of Him who had been crucified by their fathers. Julian heard of these events, for they were repeated by every one. But like Pharaoh he hardened his heart.648648    This event “came like the vision of Constantine, at a critical epoch in the world’s history. It was as the heathen poet has it, a ‘dignus vindice nodus.’ All who were present or heard of the event at the time, thought, we may be sure, that it was a sign from God. As a miracle then it ranges beside those biblical miracles in which, at some critical moment, the forces of nature are seen to work strikingly for God’s people or against their enemies. In the O.T. we have for example, the instances of the plagues of Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s host, the crossing of the Jordan, the prolongation of sunlight” (?darkness. Vide “A misunderstood miracle” by the Rev. A. Smythe Palmer) “the destruction of Sennacherib’s army; in the N.T. the stilling of the storm, and the earthquake and the darkness at the crucifixion.” Bp. Wordsworth. Dict. Ch. Biog. ii. 513. To biblical instances may be added the defeat of Sisera and the fall of Aphek. But, too, for “the forces of nature,” when the Armada was scattered, or when the siege of Leyden was raised the course of modern history would have been changed. Cressy may also be cited.
   On the evidence for this event as contrasted with the so-called ecclesiastical miracles, accepted and defended by the late Cardinal Newman, vide Dr. E. A. Abbott’s Philomythus pp. 1 and 5 et seq. “There is better evidence for this than for any of the preceding miracles.” “The real solid testimony is that of Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiii. 1). An impartial historian, who served under Julian in the Persian campaign, and who, twenty years afterwards, recorded the interruption of the building of the Temple by terrible balls of fire.” “If Ammianus had lived nearer the time of the alleged incident, or had added a statement of the evidence on which he based his stories, the details might have been defended. As it is, the circumstances, while favouring belief in his veracity do not justify us in accepting anything more than the fact that the rebuilding of the Temple was generally believed to have been stopped by some supernatural fiery manifestation.” “The rebuilding was probably stopped by a violent thunderstorm or thunderstorms.”


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