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Julian Pe- 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and Temple of riod, 4709. when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him Jerusalem.
the Volgar Æra,
after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel
38 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel *; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four
from this unkindly soil it became the tree of life, yielding its
fruits for “the healing of the nations."
(a) I apprehend (says Archdeacon Blomfield,) that the true state of
the case may be this, The Jews knew from their Scriptures that the
promised Messiah was to be of the race of David ; they knew also that
he was the Son of God, the same Being who had guarded them in the
wilderness, and who had descended in the Shechinah. That these two
qualifications should be at one and the same time united in the same
person, was perhaps a doctrine of which they found it difficult to give
à satisfactory account. They probably expected that the Messiah
would not manifest his divine character, till he
should have fulfilled all the particulars predicted of him, as the Son of David, and his kingdom should be fully established. This notion will perhaps solve some difficulties, which present themselves after considering the treatises of Allix and Wilson. Blomfield. Traditional Knowledge of Jewish Tradition, &c. p. 35, note.
* One consolation the house of Israel may derive from the tes. timony of the prophet Simeon. The Child of whom he spake was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. It is not necessary to confine the meaning of the words to the primary reception or rejection of our Saviour by the Jews of that age. Christ is set both for the fall and rising again of the whole house of Israel. The time may not perhaps be far distant when the veil shall be taken from their eyes, and in acknowledging a spiritual Messiah, they will no longer either expect, or desire a mere temporal deliverer. Then will they restore the temple on Mount Sion, and all the nations of the world will again resort to Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth. Glorious things shall be spoken of thee thou city of God.
years, which departed not from the temple, but served Temple of riod, 4709.
God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Vulgar Æra, 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise
unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked
for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according
to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their
own city Nazareth.
The Offering of the Magi”.
MATT. ii. 1-12.
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa, Bethlebees
in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise
men from the east to Jerusalem 30,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
29 The Holy Family(says Archbishop Newcome (a),)return from
Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and not to Nazareth; to which they
did not retire till after their retreat from Egypt. Mary, who
attentively considered every circumstance relating to her son,
might prefer Bethlehem, from Micah v. 2. and from the remem-
brance of the angelic vision. But on this point there is
much difference of opinion. Pilkington supposes (b), that they
returned from Jerusalem into Galilee, to their own city, and
not to Bethlehem. Pilkington's dissertation is curious, but
the subject is not of sufficient importance to occupy further
attention. The curious reader may peruse it at leisure. It
undoubtedly seems natural to suppose, that if Joseph and
Mary went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, solely to perform the
religious ceremony prescribed by the law, of presenting the
child Jesus at the Temple, they would as certainly return again
to Bethlebem, as a man would return to his own house, if he left
it merely to go to a place of worship. The concurrent testi-
mony of antiquity also, which is never to be despised, as well as
the letter of Scripture, Matt. ii. 9, ro, 11. are unfavourable to
(a) Notes to Harmony, fol. edit. p. 4. (b) See Pilkington's second
30 Mr. Benson appears to me to have proved that the Magi
came to Jerusalem before the presentation in the Temple, but
they did not meet the young child there; but followed Mary
and Joseph six miles from Jerusalem, to Bethlehem. The in-
quiry of the Magi, therefore, “Where is He that is born," &c.
&c. ought to have been inserted before the presentation. The
transactions, however, took place so near to each otber, and
the account of the Magi is so brief, that it did not seem advis-
able to transpose the passage in question, Matt. ii. 1, 2.-
Benson's Chronology of the Life of Christ, p. 74, &c.
Julian Pe- 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was Jerusalem.
riod, 4709. troubled, and all Jerusalem with him ".
Æra, 4 And when he had gathered all the Chief Priests and 5.
Scribes of the people together, he demanded of them
where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa :
for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel 92.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed ; and,
31 The Jews believed that the glorious reign of the Messiah
should commence with a long series of calamitous events, which
accounts for the agitation that the intelligence of bis birth occa-
sioned in Herod, and all Jerusalem with him.” These expected
visitations are enumerated, from the ancient traditions of the
Jews, at great length by Schoetgenius (Horæ Hebraicæ, vol. ii.
p. 512, &c. &c.); who, after relating many afflictions of a moral
and religious nature, wbich would not have affected the mind of
a man of Herod's character, mentions that the Jews in addition
to these evils, anticipated" Many wars"-(Breschith Rabba,
sect. 42, fol. 41. L. Dixit R. Eleasar filins Abina: si videris regna
contra se invicem insurgentia, nwna bwabans ,,703, tunc attende, et
aspice ad pedem Messiæ)—“Earthquakes” —(Sohar.Exod. fol.3.
col. u. ex versione Sommeri, p. 81 )“ Revolts and insurrections
ofthe bettercitizens"--(Sobar. Numen.fol.102.col. 407.) -"Scar-
city of corn and provisions”—(Sota, fol. 49. 2. ; and Pesikta So-
tarta, fol 58. 1.)-"Poverty!-Sanhedrin, fol. 97. 2.)-“Plague”
-(Pesikta rabbathi, fol. 2. 1. and 28.3.) with many others. It is
curious to notice these traditions, as they all unite to prove that
many causes might have combined to render both Herod and all
Jerusalem agitated at the announcement of the Magi. These
coincidences also tend to demonstrate the utter impossibility,
that the histories given us by the Evangelists, can be otherwise
than the authentic and genuine documents, which they are
believed to be, by the Church of Christ.
32 Pirko Eliczer, c. 3 applies this passage to the Messiah--
? , ,
that is, obyn 6723 x bw my, when the world was not yet founded ;
and the Targum on Micah v. 1. the passage referred to by St.
Matthew--*nwn pro otp 737, from thee, before me, shall go
forth the Messiah.-Schoetgen. vol. i. p. 3. I quote this pas-
.sage to shew that the Jewisli teachers interpreted this passage
of Micah in the sanie manner as the Evangelist St. Matthew: it
is probable, therefore, that the Evangelist in this, as in other
instances, referred to the Prophet in the manner usually adopted
by his cotemporaries. He appealed to them on their own
Julian Pe- lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, Bethlebem.
riod, 4709. till it came and stood over where the young child
ON THE VISIT OF THE MAGI.
33 Yot one additional evidence that the Messiah had come,
seemed to have been equally necessary with the others, and
that also was granted. He was promised to the Gentiles; and
the Great Prophet had long since predicted, “ The Gentiles
shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy ris-
ing.” Isa. ix. 3. The brightness of the rising of the morning
star of the Gospel we have already seen. The rays of reviving
prophecy, miracle, and angelic appearance began to penetrate
the dark night that had now overspread the Jewish Church.
Yet the Heathen world was in a state of still grosser darkness.
The light was to beam upon it also in its meridian splendour;
we might anticipate, therefore, that one ray of his earlier glory
would descend on the Gentile world. This was accomplished
in the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem.
That large tract of country extending from Mesopotamia to
the north, Arabia to the south, and Persia to the east, was
occupied in the earlier ages of the world by populous and pow.
erful tribes, all of which, according to their authentic and tra-
ditional history, professed the same religion, and were distin-
guished for their reverence of fire, which they considered as the
most perfect representation of the Deity, and the worship of
which was the most ancient form of idolatry. The philoso-
phers and learned men of this region were called Magi, and it
is not improbable that as the whole territory originally pro-
fessed the religion of the one true God, that their adoration of
the sun proceeded from their considering that body as a perma-
nent Shecbinah, or emblem of the Shecbinab. The incipient
error, from whatever source it originated, gradually sunk into
a grosser idolatry, and mingled much superstition with the tra-
ditional knowledge of a purer religion. Abraham himself,
according to Maimonides, was educated in the Sabian faith (see
Josh. xxiv. 2.) which he was afterwards considered to have
purified and reformed. Its doctrines were generally received
and propagated, and were supposed to have originated in Chal-
dea : they were afterwards adopted in Persia and Egypt, where
they became extremely polluted and debased.
The Egyptians in a subsequent age abused their knowledge, and professed to dive into futurity by astrology, and the other arts of divination; and from this illicit application of the Sabian doctripes arose the term Magi, or Magician, when used in its opprobrious sense. The evidence of history (Mr. Franks (a) remarks,) traces the Goetic arts to Egypt, as their birth-place, of which country were the first magicians mentioned in history.
But it can be equally made evident by the testimony of a variety of profane authors that the most ancient signification of tbis word was applied as a term of distinction to the philo. sophers and wise men of a much earlier age. By the word Magus, says Hesychius (6), the Persians understand a sacred person, a professor of theology, and a priest ; and Suidas (c) tells us, among the Persians, the Magi are those who devote themselves to philosophy, and to the worship of the Deity. Dior, Chrysostom, and Porphyry, says Mr. Bryant, assert the same: and many more authorities might be enumerated in confirmation of this opinion.
The principal object to which the Magi, or the Chaldæan, or eastern philosophers in general, devoted their attention, was the study of astronomy. When the Israelites came out of
Solian Pe- 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceed- Bethlehem.
riod, 4709. ing great joy.
Egypt, Balaam, the last prophet under the patriarchal dispen-
sation, was summoned by thê king of Moab, from Petorah, to
curse them. Many suppose that Balaam, from his knowledge
of astronomy, was himself a Magus : it is certain that he was
much esteemed in that part of the country, where the Magians
were so much celebrated. This prophet, it is well known, pre-
dicted, “ there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre
shall arise out of Israel.” As astronomy was the favourite pur-
suit of the day, this promised star from generation to generation
would be anxiously looked for and expected. The prophecy
itself was, without any exception, the most peculiar, and most
important which had been given to the world. It was uttered
at the most eventful period in the annals of the postdiluvian
ages, on the establishment of the Levitical dispensation, and
the overthrow of the Patriarchal ; and it might therefore have
been received by the Gentiles as a prediction of their restora-
tion to the favour of their common Father: Christ being uni-
formly spoken of as the light of the Gentiles, who should bring
all nations under bis splendid dominion. Elated with these
hopes, at the appearance of the long desired star, we may sup-
pose the wise men hastened to Jerusalem to make their eager
inquiries respecting the newly-born Deliverer, to whom their
traditions or purer knowledge had ascribed the name of King of
By this confident inquiry, these strangers became witnesses
to the Jews of the coming of Christ, and drawing from the
Scribes a testimony respecting his birth-place, might themselves
receive an additional coufirmation of his Messiahship. That
they considered the infant az a royal child, was evident from
the gifts which they presented to him. It was the custom of
the East uniformly to make presents according to the condition
in life of the person to whom they were offered. If they had
judged from appearance only, a citron, a rose, or any the least
gift would have been sufficient for the infant of the poor Mary.
But, mean as his appearance was, they treated him as a royal
child; and even after they discovered the poverty of his parents,
they presented him with presents of the richest kind, gold, frank-
incense, and myrrh, such as the Queen of Sheba presented to So-
lomon in his glory (d). At Bethlehem, the place of his nativity,
he was acknowledged king both by Jew and Gentile, and in
both instances by the means of a miraculous revelation. The
wall of partition was now about to be destroyed.
Bishop Warburton (e) has shewn that prophetic writing, may be defined, a speaking hieroglyphic. Emblems and hieroglyphics had long been used before alphabetic writing; and the pbrases wbich originated from those enablems, are the foundation of all that beautiful and metaphorical style which we still admire, as the ornament and strength of a language. The word star, he proceeds to demonstrate, does not merely signify a sovereign or ruler, but a God.
The metaphor of a sceptre, he observes, was common and popular to denote a ruler; but the star, though it also signified in the prophetic writings (f) a temporal prince or ruler, yet had in it a secret and hidden meaning likewise: a star in the Egyptian hieroglyphics denoted God. Thus, in Amos v. 25, 26. we read, Ye have borne the star of your God; that is, the image of your God. Hence we conclude that the metaphor of a star, used by Balaam, was of that abstruse and mysterious