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REVISED, AND ILLUSTRATED WITH NOTES,
OF CLARE HALL, CAMBRIDGE; AND AUTHOR OF ORIENTAL CUSTOMS, etc, etc.
THE credibility of Scripture History has been established by a combination of evidence, altogether incontrovertible. This is the more remarkable and satisfactory, as the Bible contains not only the most ancient records, but exclusively makes known to us the origin of all things, and the transactions of those ages, which will in vain be sought for elsewhere, or found involved only in fable.
That, however, some difficulties should occur in perusing such venerable documents, may easily and reasonably be conceived; but they are not such as affect their authenticity, or even weaken their evidence. It is not impracticable to solve or remove most of them; and the obscurity which remains after the fruitless efforts of sober criticism, may fairly be imputed to the want of information, of which the distance of place and time has deprived us. A remarkable consistency and harmony characterize the historical parts of the Bible;—delivered down to us as they have been in separate books, and written by various inspired penmen, the slightest comparison will serve to force upon our minds the conviction that they are genuine, as far, at least, as veracity may be inferred from an agreement of the various branches of a subject.
There are different modes of ascertaining the integrity of the canon of Scripture : learned men have with great success performed this task-evidence to confirm the claim of the inspired writers to the characters they assume, has been adduced and admitted. Testimony of an external nature has, likewise, been brought forward, to corroborate the general contents of the Bible, or its particular parts and facts. Tradition furnishes us with some proof, though prudence requires a careful investigation of its documents, and a cautious admission of them ; but, however they may be
exaggerated or obscured, they must have had some foundation, which, if it can be traced, will deserve attention, from its correspondence to the great original. In some instances it is so very remarkable and striking, that the boldest scepticism cannot well refuse and discard its aid.
But a still more important and useful guide in exploring the path of Scripture Histor is the light shed upon it by the study of Jewish and Oriental Antiquities. The 'subject is copious, but amply repays the attention it demands. Of course, in the former branch of it, Jewish writers deserve our primary notice, because it may reasonably be presumed that they are better acquainted with the affairs of their own nation than other persons. They are accustomed, indeed, to blend in their accounts the mention of circumstances which judicious readers will not receive; but this does not
detract from the value of the sound information which they communicate. Our business in this case is to separate the dross from the pure metal; and while we reject the one, to value the other. Among the most ancient, authentic, and interesting authors of this denomination, Josephus may certainly be placed. His works have always been highly esteemed, and were considered by the early Christian writers as peculiarly valuable: what he has recorded is in general harmonious with the Scripture history, though, in some instances, he either enlarges upon or deviates from it. I shall endeavour, therefore, to ascertain the weight of his testimony, and to show in what degree of esteem he ought to be held. This cannot be done with more accuracy and certainty than in the words of the learned Dr. Lardner, Jewish Testimonies, chap. iii. and iv.
“ When Jotapata, in which Josephus was shut up, was besieged and taken by Vespasian, strict search was made for him, for if that general was once taken, Vespasian reckoned that the greatest part of the war would be over. However, he had hid himself in a deep cavern, the opening of which was not easily discerned above ground. Here he met with forty persons of eminence, who had concealed themselves, and had with them provisions enough for several days. On the third day the Roman soldiers seized a woman that had been with them. She made a discovery of the place where they were: whereupon Vespasian sent two tribunes, inviting him to come up, with assurances that his life should be preserved. Josephus, however, refused. Vespasian therefore sent a third tribune, named Nicanor, well known to Josephus, with the like assurance. Josephus, after some hesitation, was then willing to surrender himself. But the men who were with him exclaimed against it, and were for killing him and themselves, rather than come alive into the hands of the Romans. Hereupon he made a long speech to them, showing that it was not lawful for them to kill themselves, and that it was rather a proof of pusillanimity than courage: but all without effect. He then proposed an expedient; which was, that they should cast lots, two by two, who should die first. He who had the second lot should kill the first, and the next him, and so on, and the last should kill himself. It happened that Josephus and another were preserved to the last lot. When all the rest were killed, he without much difficulty persuaded that other person to yield up himself to the Romans. So they two escaped with their lives. This has been judged to be a remarkable providence, by which Josephus was preserved to write the history, of which we are now able to make so good a
Though the Jewish people never had any great respect for the writings of Josephus, yet they have been much esteemed, and often quoted, by Christian, and other writers, in early and latter times.
“ The works of Josephus, notwithstanding many things in them liable to exception, which may be observed by careful and impartial readers, are very valuable. In his larger work, the Jewish Antiquities, he confirms the truth of the history of the Old Testament; and, as in several of the last books of that work, he has brought down the Jewish history from the ceasing of prophecy among them to the Twelfth of Nero, he has let us know the state of affairs in Judea during the time of the Evangelical history; and he had before done the like in the first two books of the Jewish War. What he has therein said of Herod and his sons, of the Roman governors in Judea, the Jewish sects