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student will not fail to observe the operation of a principle to which we have often adverted—a disposition on the part, not of infidel only, but of christian writers also, to defer greatly more to the testimony of the exscriptural than to that of the scriptural authors_insomuch, that, on every semblance of a disagreement betwixt them, the blemish or suspicion is always associated with the latter and not with the former. Matthew and Mark and Luke and John and Paul are sisted as parties or pannels at the bar—while Josephus and Philo and Tacitus and Pliny are made the judges, at whose tribunal they must wait their sentence, whether of acquittal or condemnation. Nay, the silence of the profane, has often been construed into an impeachment against the testimony of the sacred authors—whereas the converse treatment has never been attempted in the way of retaliation by the defenders of Christianity. If it had, the attempt would have been resented, and most warrantably, by every sound eruditionist or critic—for how are the informations of history to grow upon our hands, unless each individual writer be permitted to offer some contributions of his own? There might be enough of common truth among the esteemed authors of antiquity, to authenticate their respective narrations—so that, while Tacitus obtains full credit for all that is peculiar in his history, why might not evangelists and Apostles be indulged also in their peculiar statements, even when no foreign corroboration is to be found ? But it is when the evangelists are not only unsupported, but to appearance contradicted by profane or Jewish writers, that
this disparity in their treatment becomes most obvious. For example, Josephus tells that Cyrenius was not governor of Syria till ten or twelve years after the time at which Lake, in the first and second verses of his third chapter, seems to tell us that he was the governor of that province. It seems a settled point among the controvertists on both sides of this question that Josephus must be right, and the mis take, if any, must be Luke's.* The defenders of Christianity scarcely ever think of boldly retorting the possibility that Josephus or Tacitus or Pliny might be mistaken. The infallibility is all conceded to the exscriptural authors; and the great effort is to clear up the apparent misstatements or mistakes, into which it is assumed, on every case of an aspect of contrariety, that the evangelical writers must have fallen. In the particular instance now referred to, this has been effectively done by the indefatigable Lardner, who conceives that Cyrenius had made an sissessment at the time of our Saviour's birth, and before he was governor of Syria; but that Luke, in telling the transaction, mentions Cyrenius, not as
* " When St. Luke, then, and Josephus differ in their accounts of the sanie fact, the question is, which of the two writers has viven the true one? And here it is not a little extraordinary,
but without further inquiry it is universally determined in favour of the latter, sum if Josephus were inspired, and whoever contradicted him must of course be mistaken. This is a method of proceeding which is applied on no other occasion,” &c.
The ne lenat is certain, that if we found the same contradiction in the relation of a fuct between either Greek, or Roman, or modern historians, wo should not hesitate to prefer the author who was contemporary to the event related, and who to a knowledge of the person doscribed joins minuteness and impartiality, to him who lived in a later period, and wrote a general history, of which the subject'in question wns only an inconsiderable part." Michnelis' Introduction, Vol. I. Part II, chap. ii. sect. xii.is
being actually governor at the time, but as one who now, or at the moment of his writing, in virtue of having received the preferment some time afterwards, had the title affixed to his name; and which is often given to individuals even when relating those parts of their history, that take place either previous or subsequent to the period of their official dignity.'
14. But not only, in the progress of criticism, are these contradictions rapidly clearing away, so as to present a number that is gradually and perpetually lessening; but their force is well nigh disarmed, in that they seem now as if lost and overborne, in the affirmative evidence of those opposite harmonies, which every new labourer in this field of inquiry is adding to the list—and such harmonies too, as nothing but truth can explain. The richest collection of these is to be met with in Lardner, who—if we read of the trials, or the travels, or the customs, or the controversies, or the local and national peculiarities, or 'the varieties of incident and discourse which are recorded in the New Testament-finds in every contemporaneous author who borders on the same ground, and may even have entered upon it, or in the subjects of which he treats, whether they be Chronology, or Geography, or Jurisprudence, or History, or facts and statistics of any sort_finds in every such author, and in every such subject, a test or a touchstone which he might apply to the writings of the evangelists and apostles, and by which he might determine the accuracy of their statements or allusions both to the circumstances and the events of the period which is described by them. The restless politics of that age—the perpetual changes then taking place in the government of provinces, and the territorial distribution of the lesser states, more especially of Judea—the limits and respective functions of the civil and military power in these subjugated countries, adverted to so frequently in Scripture, and open either to disproof or confirmation from the well-known practice and polity of the Romans—these, and such as these, make up altogether a most delicate and severe ordeal, by which to detect the mistakes of ignorance, or the misstatements of forgery and fiction. It is strikingly demonstrated by Lardner in the first part of his Credibility, how well the writers of the New Testament have stood this ordeal. We can scarcely afford to offer any of the particulars of that very minute and statistical examination into which he has gone. In his chapter on the Princes and Governors mentioned in the New Testament, the evangelical writers stand confronted chiefly with Josephus—both as to the name and title and history and period of these ever-shifting functionaries, and as to the limits of their respective jurisdictions. For one example out of the very many–when Herod who had possession of the whole country died, and Joseph the reputed father of our Lord returned from Egypthe was afraid of Archelaus, who, in the division that took place after his father's death, was made king of Judea
rned aside to the parts of Galilee, not now e same government; for Herod Antipas, 18 tells us, was then governor of Galilee and Peræa, and Philip of Trachonitis and the neighbouring countries. Among the manifold points of agreement that are elicited by this comparison between the incidental allusions of the New Testament and the direct informations of the Jewish historian, we would instance the passage which relates to this Herod and which respects both his wife Herodias and his daughter Salomeas also the story of another Herod mentioned in the Acts, who was grandson of Herod the Great, who killed James, and apprehended Peter, and suffered a remarkable death, and which, as respects all that is ostensible in the testimony of Luke, is fully borne out by the testimony of Josephus.Regarding this last Herod, there occurs what may truly be termed a very critical coincidenceinasmuch as Luke ascribes to him, towards the end of his government, the sovereign power in Judea; and it appears from other sources, that this power he actually did exercise, but only during the three last years of his life.—We have a nicety of a still more trying description in the title of Proconsul given with propriety by the Evangelist, but a propriety dependent on the fluctuations that were constantly taking place in the arrangement and constitution of the Roman provinces.-In another chapter respecting the state of the Jews and Judea during the ministry of Christ and his apostles, the history in the Gospel is brought into contact at many points with that of Josephus and others. We advert but to one of these instances—the power of life and death reserved to themselves by the Romans, while the