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. attain the still greater glory of maintaining their freedom; adding, that the deity would not prosper their efforts, unless, being resolved upon success, they pursued it with unabated ardor. The people heard these things with pleasure, and in executing them advanced from one degree of violence to another, till every calamity that can be named filled the nation, from those wicked advisers; wars, with all their attendant evils, in quick and rapid succession; the loss of friends, who might have alleviated or averted the public misery; the incursions of robbers, and the destruction of the principal men, and all this under pretence of serving the public; while they really hoped only to enrich themselves.
same men, moreover, were the instigators of seditious commotions, by which whole cities were desolated; the citizens having opposed and massacred each other, when spared by the common enemy. To this succeeded the most terrible famine, which introduced despair and extinguished the feelings of nature; the capture and demolition of our cities, till the temple of God was invaded and burnt by our enemies. Thus the destruction of our civil and religious constitution served in its turn to destroy those who combined against it. For Judas and Sadducus, the founders of a fourth sect among us, with which multitudes were enamoured, filled the
republic with immediate tumults, and by a philosophical system, till then unknown, laid the foundation of still greater evils." A. J. Lib. 18. c. i. 1.
A few observations will unfold the intention of Josephus in this important, but intricate passage. The Jewish believers were constantly accused in Judea, and in other places, of being the real authors of the revolt from the Romans, and consequently of being the real authors of all the calamities which thence befel the Jews, and which at length ended in the destruction of their country. The foundation of this charge is obvious they followed a leader, who, they fondly hoped, would deliver Israel, trample under foot the Roman eagle, and ascend the throne of universal empire. The expectation of a conquering prince, in the line of David, awakened by the Jewish prophets, undoubtedly animated every bosom, when it occasionally burst into a flame, by the advent and miracles of Jesus: nor did his friends relinquish the soothing hope of temporal emancipation, until they had been taught more rational and enlarged views respecting the nature and object of his kingdom. The Jewish historian endeavours to shelter the believers from this heavy accusation, by ascribing all the evils usually imputed to them, to Judas and his followers. And as this Judas and his fol
lowers were ignorantly or intentionally represented as the same sect with the Christians, Josephus is very particular in observing, that they were a distinct people. This is not an unmeaning observation casually made by him: for when in his Jewish Antiquities, and in his Jewish War, he describes the Esseans, he premises that description by a remark, that they were a philosophical sect, different from the followers of Judas.
There is another delicate circumstance, which. shews the great anxiety and care with which Josephus endeavours to defend the followers of Jesus. Judas was a Galilean, and Josephus himself calls him a Galilean in other places; but on this occasion he calls him a Gaulonite; and why should he thus designate him in this place, and in this place alone? The reason is, that the christians were also known under the name: of Galileans (a circumstance which favored the confusion of the two sects), Christ having come from Nazareth, in Galilee. Josephus wished to preclude this confusion; and he therefore describes Judas as a Gaulonite, having been born in Gamala, a city of Gaulonitis, though a resident of Galilee, whence he derived that name.
The enemies of the faith, I have observed, were studious to identify its professors with the disciples of Judas. The Christians, on their part,
must have been anxious to defeat this artifice, representing themselves on every proper occasion a very distinct people; and to this natural anxiety we are indebted for a very important incident, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke delicately notices the charge, and with great propriety avails himself of the language and advice of Gamaliel to shew, that it had no foundation in truth. See Acts v. 36.
The crimes vulgarly imputed to the disciples of Jesus are repelled by the fathers, with great vigour and animation. They boldly appeal to facts, and demand of the magistrate an enquiry into their conduct, instead of resting on popular report; and that if any of them, after a fair investigation, should be found guilty of such crimes, they should be punished as criminals, and not for being christians. And it may be observed, that the exemplary conduct and extraordinary virtue of those who were christians indeed, extorted a confession of their innocence from a person who was distinguished, as much by his persecution of the christians, as by learning and refinement.
In his well known letter to the Emperor Trajan, Pliny speaks to this effect" They affirm, that the whole of their fault or error lay in this, that they were wont to meet together on a stated day, before it was light, and bind themselves by
an oath, not to the commission of any wickedness, but not to be guilty of theft, or robbery, or adultery; never to falsify their word, nor to deny a pledge committed to them when called upon to return it."* It is of importance to observe, that this testimony of Pliny not only asserts the innocence of the christians, but that it asserts their innocence in opposition to the calumnies with which they were assailed: as though he had said, “These men meet on an appointed day to bind themselves, not to commit murder, theft, robbery, or adultery, as is reported to be the case in Rome, and other places; but, on the contrary, the object of their oath is to keep their faith, and to deliver up the trust reposed in them, and in general to keep themselves free from the crimes imputed to them."
It was the duty of Josephus, as an historian, and as a believer in Christ, when delineating the character of the Jewish christians, to notice these
Affirmabant hanc fuisse summam vel culpæ suæ vel erroris, quod essent soliti stato die ante lucem convenire. Carmenqué Christo, quasi Deo, dicere secum invicem; seque sacramento non in scelus aliquod obstringere, sed ne furta,' ne latrocinia, ne adulteria committerent, ne fidem fallerent; ne depositum appellati abnegarent. Epis. lib. x. ep. 97. The animadversions of Lardner and other learned men on this epistle, may be seen in Lardner's Works, vol. vii. p. 287.