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try, 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 endeavoring 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.* 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 bre. vity, 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 6 first made," as we read, according to our translation, in St. Luke, " whilst Cyrenius was governor of Syria.”ł 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 of the accusation is found in his using the word - first”- 2 And his taxing was first made;" for, according to the mistake imputed to the evangelist, this word could have no signification whatever. It could have had po 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 these 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,
* Lard. part 1. vol. II. p. 960. + C. ii. v. 2.
ut am aber taking beside that, it is too much for the skie i Lung him of a mistake, to lay it down as ceruna be intended to refer to tat.
The stredoe in St. Loke may be construed thus : - TIS was the first assessment (or enrolment) of Cyrenius, BOTENOT of Syria* the words - governor of Syria” being ed after the name of Cyrenius as his addition or title. And this tide belonging to him at the time of writing the 2000ni. was naturally enough subjoined to his name, thoogh 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 wbich he received the name of governor. And this, as we contend, is precisely the inaccuracy which has produced the difficulty in St. Luke.
At any rate, it appears from the form of the expression, that he had two taxings or enrolment 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 other t) 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 occa. sion the other to be called the first.
II. Another chronological objection arises upon a date assigned in the beginning of the third chapter of St. Luke;f "Now in the tifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar, Jesus began to be about thirty years of age;" for supposing Jesus to have been born, as St. Matthew, and St. Luke also himsell, relates, in the time of Herod, he must, according to the dates given in Josephus, and by the Roman histori. ans, have been at least thirty-one years of age in the fif
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3. mare I Vol. 1 | 168,
teenth year of Tiberus. If he was born, as St. Matthew's narrative intimates, one or two years before Herod's death, he would have been thirty-two or three years old, at that time.
This is the dificulty; the solution turns upon an alteration in the construction of the Greek. St. 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 » but “ that he was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry.” This construction being admitted, the adverb 6 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."*
III. Acts v. 36. 6 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody ; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was 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 mistakent) it must have been, at the least, seven years after Gamaliel's speech, of which ihis text is a part, was delivered. It has been replied to the objection, that there might be two impostors of this name; an 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 record. ed 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 those days”) there were innumer
Livy, 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 en jm profeetis viribus datis tantum valuit, ut, in quadraginta deinde anncs, futam pacem haberet,” yet, afterwards, in ihe same chapter, "Romulus (he say3) septem ei triginta regnavit annos, Numa tres et quadraginta."
# Liv. Hist.c. 1. sec. 16. † Michaelis's Introduction to the New Test. ( Marsli’s Translation) rol I. p. 81,
Lardner, part I. vol. II. p. 922.
able disturbances in Judea.* Archbishop Usher was of opinion, that one of the three Judas's above mentioned was Gameliel's Theudas;'ť and that, with a less variation of the name than we actually find in the gospels, where one of the twelve apostles is called by Luke, Judas, and by Mark, Thaddeus. f 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. S
IV. Matt. xxiii. 34. 6 Wherefore, bebold, 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, 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,
* Ant. I. 17. c. 12. sec. 4.
+ Annals, p. 797. Luke vi. 16. Mark iii. 18.
$ Or. Con. Cels. p. 44. 1" And the Spirit of God came upon Zachariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus said God, why transgress yé the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? Because ye bave forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against bim and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord.”
9 Chron xxiv, 20.
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 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.
Undesigned Coincidences. BETWEEN the letters which bear the name of St. Paul in our collection, and his history in the Acts of the apostles, there exist many notes of correspondency. The simple perusal of the writings is sufficient to prove, that neither the history was taken from the letters, nor the letters from the history: And the undesignedness of the agreements, which undesignedness is gathered from their latency, their minuteness, their obliquity, the suitableness of the circumstances in which they consist, to the places in which those circumstances occur, and the circuitous references by wbich they are traced out, demonstrates that they have not been produced by meditation, or by any fraudulent contrivance. But coincidences, from which these causes are excluded, and which are too close and numerous to be accounted for by accidental concurrences of fiction, must necessarily have truth for their foundation.