« PreviousContinue »
Of Events subsequent to the Birth of Christ,
and the Promulgation of the Gospel, which substantiate the Truth of the Sacred Records.
Ulpian states that the governors of the Roman provinces had the right of the sword, which implied the authority of punishing malefactors; an authority which was personal and not to be transferred *.
Coponius, who was sent to govern Judæa as a province, after the banishment of Archelaus, was invested by Augustus with the power of life and death t.
It was under these circumstances that Christ, after being betrayed unto the chief priests, and condemned to death, was delivered to the Gentiles, as he had most dis
* Lib. vi. c. 8. de Officiis Proconsulis.
+ Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 8.9 1. VOL. I.
tinctly foretold in the exact order of events, to be crucified by the Roman governor.
Pilate's wife, (who is by some called Claudia Procula), is spoken of by St. Matthew, as being then with her husband, in Judæa, and is stated to have suffered many things in a dream on account of Christ, and to have admonished the governor to have no-. thing to do with the persecution against hịm. The governors of provinces under the republic had not often been allowed to take their wives with them to their præfectures. Augustus did not approve that the custom should be established * ; Tiberius however allowed it in some instances. Agrippina accompanied Germanicus into Germany and Asia t; and Plancina was with Piso, and contributed to inflame the insolence of her husband towards Germanicus I. A motion was afterwards made in the senate by Severus Cæcina, to prohibit the indulgence, as attended with inconveniences, but it was rejected f. These statements tend to demon
* Suet. August. I. ii. c. 24. + Tacitus Ann. lib. ii. c. 55. lib. i. c. 40, 41. lib. ii, c. 54. # Ibid. 1. i. c. 40. $ Ibid. I, iii. c. 33, 34.
strate the accuracy of the Evangelists, whose books even Julian allowed to be authentic *.
The Heathen accounts are often valuable, as tending to illustrate characters spoken of in Sacred History, whether those employed in the promulgation of the Gospel, or others incidentally mentioned : thus the reports concerning the primitive Christians made by Pliny, Julian, and other writers, reflect a lustre on the cause of religion ; while the descriptions given by prophane authors, with respect to the conduct of the governors of Judæa, and of other persons mentioned in the Evangelical History, confirm the fidelity of its statements. Instances of these will be adduced particularly in the chapters concerning Josephus and Tacitus.
Circumstances of chronology and of local detail, casually adverted to, by the Sacred Writers, and which implicate the credibility of their relations, are remarkably corroborated by prophane authors.
Traditionary notions of a star which should indicate the appearance of the Messiah, founded possibly on the prophecies of Balaam, seem to have extended to the Hea
* Cyril, l. x.
thens, and probably disposed the Romans to attach great importance to the comet which appeared soon after the death of Julius Cæsar, and which was understood to intimate the reception of Cæsar among the gods *. Angustus, who seemed to accede to the popular persuasion, secretly indulged the assurance that the comet was displayed for his sake, rejoicing that he was born under its influence, " and truly,” says Pliny, “ that comet was salutary † ;" referring it should seem to the happiness of the age of Augustus.
Jewish and Pagan writers equally attest that Jesus lived in the time of Tiberius, and that he was crucified; and indeed there is not any question of the reality of these events.
The Jews also confess in their talmudical books, that Jesus performed miracles; and neither Celsus or Porphyry appear to have denied that he did so g.
The Heathens also, while they bear testimony to the ascendancy of the powers of darkness, before, the promulgation of the Gospel, and to the cessation of oracles and magical arts when Christianity was established, demonstrate the opposition which subsisted between the kingdom of Christ, and that of Satan. The miracles which Vespasian pretended to perform have been before referred to, and will hereafter be considered: these and others were concerted probably in imitation of those of Christ and his disciples.
* Sueton. Jul. Cæsar, sect. 88. Dio Cass. lib. xlv. Edit. Han. 1606.
+ Plin. Hist. Nat. lib.ii. c. 23. # In tit. Aben. Zara.
Origen, Cont. Cels. lib. ii.
There is a strange and extravagant story, related by Philostratus, of Apollonius Tyaneus having raised a young woman from the dead, and of his having vanished from the presence of the emperor, which is so devoid of all probability and authority as not to have any
claim to regard. The miraculous darkness which took place at the crucifixion was not confined to Judæa * Phlegon, the freedman of the emperor Adrian, speaks of an unprecedented eclipse of the sun, which took place in the reign of Tiberius ; the day, at the sixth hour, being turned into dark night, so that the stars were seen; and he states that an earthquake at Nicæa, in
* Luke xxiii. 44.