Page images

temple consisted in this, that it was honoured with the Mefiah's presence. Josephus tells us (x), that Herod set about this work in the cighteenth year of his reign ; and finished it in the space of nine years and a half. Which must necellarily be understood of the walls and main body of the building, and not of all its parts and ornaments, since the same historian relates in another place, that it was not quite finished till the time of Agrippa.the Younger, the grandson of Herod, that is about fixty years after the birth of Jus Chriji, We have no reason therefore to be surprised at what the Fraus told Jesus CHRIST (y), that this temple was ferty and six years' in duilding, since if we reckon from the eighteenth year of the reign of Herod, (when he undertook to rebuild the temple,) to the thirtieth year of Jesus Christ, [in which this dispute happened between him and the Jews] we hall find just forty-six years, It is more natural to put this. feje upon the words of the Jews, than, as others have done, to compute those forty-six years from the order given by Cyrus for rebuilding the temple, to the finishing of it; because by this last calculation those years cannot well be made out.

Josephus relates that the people were overjoyed to see the work compleated, and that they offered numberless facrifices upon that occasion, How great a shew soever there might be of religion in this undertaking, yet it could by no means make amends for the miseries which that unhappy people suffered from the impieties, and above all from the cruelties of Herod. If he built a temple in honour of the true God, he crected several, on the other hand, to falfe deities, in order to ingratiate himself with Augustus and the Romans (z). But his prevailing character was an extreme inhumanity, and the most enormous cruelty.

Though Josephus hath extolled, as much as possible, the good qualities of Herod, yet he could not conceal his crimes and vices, and above all his horrid cruelty. He imbrued his hands in the blood of his wife, of his children, and of the greatest part of his family: Of fo restless and jealous a temper was he, that he fpared neither his people, nor the richest and most powerful of his subjects, nor even his very friends (a). He was naturally so suspicious, that he put the innocent to the torture for fear the guilty should escape (b). It is justly wondered at that Joephus should make no mention of the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem (c), which was done by Herod's order, not long after our Saviour's, birth. To account for this omission, some learned men have imagined, that this masacre having been done privately from house to house by a few foldiers, it made no great noise, or else was not let to Herod's account (d). But it is most probable that Josephus knew nothing of it, since he found it not in the memoirs of Nicolaus Damafcenis, an historian of those times; whom he himself charges with having palliated and dis

guised () Jof. Antiq. I. xv. c. 14.

(y) John ï. 20. (z) Joseph. Ant. l. xv. c. 12, 13. (a) Jof. Ant. l. xi. cap. 11. & de Bell. Jud. 1. i. p. 17. (6) Id. ibid. p. 19:

(c) Matth, ii, 16, (d) Lami Harm, Evang. p. 54•

[ocr errors]

guised the most notorious and extravagant cruelties of Herod (b). It teens however not to have been unknown to a heathen author (f), who fpeaks of it (though confusedly,) in the following manner : “ Auguftus having been informed, that among feine children, which Herod had ordered to be killed in Syria, (he should have faid Judea) he did not spare one of his own firs, jäid, That it was much better to be Herod's swine, than kis for,” alluding to the Jewith cuilom of not eating swine's flesh. Hor. ever this be, as Herod was a Jew, he could not be the author of so barbarous a cruelty without making himself guilty of the utmost impiety, since he did it with a design to cut off the Meftah, being fully satisfied by the answer which he received from the chiej priests and elders (8), that the new-born infant was the promiled Chrift.

His end, and a very dismal one, being a visible punishment of his wickedness, clotely followed this horrid butchery. He died as he had lived, contriving nothing but mischief, and framing the most bloody and inhuman designs (). His death was looked upon as a very happy deliverance, and the tidings of it received with the utmost joy and satisfaction; which that vile moniter well forefeeing, he had ordered all the chief men of the city to be barbarously murdered before he died, that there might be a general mourning at his death (i). A fewith doctor, supposed to be pretty ancient, affirms that the day of his death was kept by the Jews, as a festival (k). The learned are not agreed about the year of his death ; but thus much is certain, that he died 34 years after the expulsion of Antigonus, and in the 37th year from his being declared king of the Jews by the Romans (1). We ihall have occasion to examine this more particularly hereafter, when we come to treat of the chronology of the New Testament.

After having spoken of Herod the Great, it is proper Of the posterity

that we should next give an account of his fons and of Herod.

grondsons, as far as is requisite for the understanding the New Testament. We find three of his fons mentioned there, between whom, by his last will and testament, he divided his dominions ; viz. ARCHELAUS, to whom he gave the kingdom of Jordea, together with Idumea, and Samaria ; Herod Antipas, or Antipater, whom he appointed Tetrarch or governor of Galilee and Peræa ; and Philip, whom he made likewise Tetrarch of Ituræa, Batanæa, Trachonitis, Auranitis, and some other countries. It was necessary that Herod's will should be ratified by Auguftus Cafar, and it was accordingly done, excepting this, that he


(e) Jof. Ant. 1. xvi. p. 11.

(f) Macrob. Saturn. ii. 4. (s) Matt. ii. 4, 5, 6.

Jof. Ant. L. xvii. cap. 8. He was parched up with a faint, inward fever, that almost burnt his heart out, and yet scarce sensible to the touch. He was tormented with an insatiable appetite, ulcers and cholicks in his bowels ; pblege matick tumors in his feet and groin ; afthmas, cramps ; &c.

(i) Id. ibid.

ik) Megillath Taanith ap. Uffer. Ann. p. 535. Lami Appar. Chron. P. 73 (7) Jofephus ubi supr.

would not bestow upon Archelaus the title of king, but only that of Ethnarch, that is, prince or chief of the nation (m). This name, which had been given before to some of the high-priests, (as to Hyrcanus for (n) instance,) seems to denote a dignity superior to that of a Tetrarch, but inferior to that of a king, since Augusus, refusing to confer this latter title upon Archelaus, was however willing to distinguish him from his brothers by that of Ethnarch. The learned are not agreed about the meaning of the word Tetrarch. But it may be inferred from what hath been just now said, that it was reckoned less honourable than the name of king or prince. In its primary and original fignification it implies a governor of a fourth part of the country, and this seems to have been the first meaning that was affixed to it (o). But it was afterwards given to the governors of a province, whether their government was the fourth part of a country, or not; as it happened in the case now before us, for: Herod divided his kingdom only into three parts. However, the Tetrarchs were looked upon as princes, and sometimes complimented even with the name of kings (p), but this was a misapplying of the word. Archelaus was acknowledged king by the people with vast expressions of joy; but though he had declared that he would not usurp that title, without the emperor's consent, yet he soon acted like a king, or rather a tyrant, that is, in a very abfolute and arbitrary manner. Auguftus had promised him the kingly power, whenever he should make himself worthy of that honour (9); but he, instead of endeavouring to gain the favour of his sovereign, and the good-will of his subjects, exercised in the very begining of his reign such cruelties towards them, that, not being able to bear his unjust and barbarous dealings, they complained of him to Auguftus. It was undoubtedly upon the account of the tyrannical temper of this prince, that Joseph and Mary, when they came back from Egypt, and heard that he reigned in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, were afraid to go thither: and therefore came and dwelt in a city of Galilee called Nazareth (r), which was under the jurisdiction of Antipas, a good and mild governour." We cannot exactly tell whether this return of Joseph and Mary happened before, or after, Archelaus's journey to Rome to have his father's will confirmed. However, when he came back to Jerusalem, he acted in as tyrannical a manner as ever, so that the chief men of the Jews and Samaritans joined in such grievous complaints against him, that Cæfar banished him to Vienne, a city in Gaul, where he died (s). From that time Judea was made a province of the Roman empire, and as well as Samaria and Idumea, governed by Roman magiftrates, which had the name of Procurators, the first of whom was Caponius of the equestrian order (t). These Procurators depended upon the president of Syria, to which Judea and Samaria also were annexed, after Auguftus had reduced them into provinces. Quirinus, a Roman fenator, was then governor of Syria, and he it was who with the allistance of

Caponius (m) Jofeph. Antiq. I. xvii. p. 13. (*) Id. Antiq. 1. xiv. p. 22. (c) Harpocrat. Lexic. p. 330.

(p) Matt. xiv. (1) Joseph. Antiq. l. xvii. p. 13. () Matt. ii. 22. :) Jofeph. Antiq. I. xvii. p.15.

(1) Id. de Bello Jud. 1. Ži. Po 70

Caponins put the emperor's commands in execution, by thus reducing Judea and Samaria into provinces. This is the same Quirinus whoin St. Luke and Josephus (u) call Cyrenius, who by Cæsar's order, made a taxing in Judec and Syria.

JOSEPHus mentions only this last taxing. But it is unquestionably manifest from St. Luke, that there was another ten years before, that is, at the time of our Saviour's birth (*). It is therefore to distinguish this first taxing from the second, that the Evangelist says, that this, which happened at the birth of our Saviour, was made before that of Quirinus, which the fame divine author makes also mention of in the Acts of the apostles (j). It is true that St. Luke's words are obscure and ambiguous, for one would think at firit siglit that they shouid be rendered, This firf taxing was made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria (z). But this translation of them cannot be reconciled with the history of those times; for it appears that, at the time of our Saviour's ziativity, it was either Sentius Saturninus or Quintilius Varus, that was president of Syria, and not Quirinus (a). It may however be fupposed, that, as it happened sometimes, Quirinus was sent by the emperor into Syria with an extraordinary commission to make his first taxing, and was perhaps invested with the title of governor or procurator, these two names being often promiscuously used by sacred and profane writers (b).

But, in short, there is no occasion of having recourse to this suppofition, if we do but render the words of S. Luke thus, This taxing was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria. The original will admit of this sense, as well as the other, and therefore we have followed it in our translation after several learned criticks (c). Quirinus's taxing had made so much noise, and the memory of it was so fresh in men's minds, when St. Luke wrote his gospel, that he had reason to suppose it had caused the other to be forgotten, since it had been, in all likelihood, less take:: notice of, as being no more than a bare enrolling of the citizens names, without taking an estimate of their estates, as was done by Quirinus ; therefore the Evangelist thought fit to distinguish them one from another. For it is to be observed, that when JESUS CHRIST was born, Judea was not the tributary to the Romans, as it had been before in the time of Pompey, because Auguftus had given it to Herod; but, when after the banishment of Archelaus, it was again reduced into a province, it became of course tributary to the Roman empire, and accordingly an estimation of it was made in order to settle and regulate the taxes and tribute. The reason why Josephus doth not speak of the first taxing,


(u) Luke ii. 2. Jofeph. Antiq. 1. xviii. p. 1. For an account of the nature of the Procurator's office, see Bishop Pearson on the Creed, upon these words, Under Pontius Pilate. (*) Luke ii. 2.

(y) Acts v. 37; (α) Λύτη η απογραφή πρώτη έγνολο ηγεμονευουλος της Συρίας Κυρηνία. (a) Tertull. adv. Marc. 1. iv. p. 19. (6) Lami Appar. cap. 10. fe&t. iii.

(c) See Perizonius, Differtat. de Aug. Descript. And Dr. Wbitby, in luis Comment on this place,

mentioned by St. Luke, is, in all likelihood, because it being only an enrolling of the people's names, he did not meet with it in the acts of Nicolaus Damafcenus, as having no relation to the life of Herod, which that author wrote. It is probable that this taxing was made according to Auguftus's survey of the Roman empire, which he had (d), that he might readily know, how many forces, and what sums of money he could raise in his provinces.

Before we conclude this digression, it will be proper to add a word or two with reference to the verfior and notes on Luke ii. 1. where the terms in the original, which according to the letter signify, All the habitable earth, are rendered by, the whole country, that is, fudea. i We are not ignorant, some famous authors understand by this expression, that great part of the world then in subjection to the Romans (e), and that they actually stiled themselves The inafters of the world (F). But it is extremely improbable that ever Auguftus, or any other emperor, did enrol, or tax the whole Roman empire at once. For, 1. No historian makes mention of any such thing, excepting Suidas, and he is too modern an author to be credito; besides, he has it from an ANOYMOUS weiter. Now can it be invagined that among so many Roman historians, as have been handed down to us, not one should mention this fupposed general taxing of the whole empire, especially since they have taken notice of several particular ones (g)? 2. Taxing of particular countries, always occafioned abundance of murmurings and discontent, and therefore what noise must a general one have caused? Dio Caffius relates, that Auguftus having once attempted to take an account of the value and incomes of some provinces, in order to lay a tax upon then for the maintaining his armies, they declared, that they were resolved rather to undergo the greatest hardihips and miseries, than suffer any

such thing ; so that Augustus was forced to get it done privately and by - Itealth (b). Which certainly was very far from being like a publick

decree for a general tax. It is well known, that when Quirinus undertook, by Cafur's order, to raise a tax in Judea, the Jews could hardly be prevailed upon to submit, and that it caused a very great fedition (i). Tacitus informs us, that when Cappadocia was reduced to a province, part of the country rebelled upon their being enrolled, in qrder to be taxed (k). The emperor Claudius, in a speech to the fenate, speaks of enrollings as a very ticklish point, though designed only to know the riches of the empire (I). 3. As St. Luke takes occasion of mentioning this first taxing, when he is speaking of that of Quirinus, which was confined to judea, it is natural to judge of the one by the other; and by all the world, to understand only the whole country of Judea, including the Tetrarchies. This way of speaking seems to


[ocr errors]

(d) Tacit. Annal. 1. i. p. it. Sueton. Vit. Augusti, cap. ult.
(e) Petron. Satyr. Florus, l. iv. p. 2. S. 1. Dionyf. Halicaro.
(1) Athen. Deipnosoph. I. 1,
(8) Dio Caffius, p. 56. Monum. Ancyr. Suet. Aug. p. 27.
(1) Dio Cassius, ubi fupr.
(1) Jofeph. Antiq. 1. xviii. p. 1. & de Bello Jud. I. ï. p. 8. Acts r.
(*) Tacit. Annal... vi. p.41. (1) Gruter. Infcript. p. 502.


« PreviousContinue »