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incidents mentioned by the Evangelists justify this conclusion*..
Farther, Josephus does not mention the reproof given to Herod by the Baptist; but he mentions a fact which proves the truth of it. "And it. was the opinion of the Jews, that, to avenge his death, there came upon the army of Herod the destroyer from God incensed at his baseness." The army, of which Josephus here speaks, had marched against Aretas, father of the divorced wife, who made war on Herod, for the insult offered his family in the person of his daughter. In the beginning of the first battle, Herod and his army were completely routed; and the victory terminated in favour of the injured father. Now, as it was a fact, notorious to the Jewish people, that the Baptist had the firmness to advise Herod not to repudiate his wife, and thus endeavoured to prevent the war between him and Aretas, the language natural for the Jews to use on such an event, was, "The destruction of his army is a judgment upon him from God for violating his laws, and killing his prophet, who had the magnanimity to admonish him of his crime.". This language, therefore, points to the reproof which the Baptist gave to Herod as its cause, and proceeds from it alone as its consequence.
* See Jones's Illustrations of the Four Gospels, p. 51.
And it is remarkable that, while Josephus appears to differ from the Evangelists, he confirms their narratives.
The Evangelists represent Jesus and his disciples, as having one solemn communication with the Baptist; and the attestation then given to our Lord was calculated in a remarkable manner to alarm the men in power, as leading them to suspect Christ and his forerunner guilty of a conspiracy against the state. The sacred historians evidently labour to preclude this suspicion, by representing John as having no intercourse with Jesus, either before or after his baptism. The last of these historians hold up the Baptist as declaring, and again as repeating his declaration, that he had no knowledge of Jesus till he was pointed out to him by the descent of the Holy Spirit: and the second of them uses the word immediately twice*, to shew that John had no time to conspire with Jesus after his baptism; the latter having instantly departed, at the press
"And immediately ascending from the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him. And a voice came from heaven, Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness." Mark i. 10. The first immediately is intended to convey, that no time elapsed between the introduction of Jesus to John, except what was necessary to baptize him, and the descent of the Spirit: the
ing instigation of the Holy Spirit. Luke, moreover, represents the people of every class as coming to ask the Baptist's advice, thus acknowledging his authority to command them. The communication with Jesus, and his admonitions to the people, are thus alluded to by Josephus, "Herod seeing his communication with others, and all his hearers elated with his discourses, feared lest his powers of persuasion should induce them to rebel; for they seemed eager to act in conformity with his advice."
Among those who came for advice were the soldiers, some of whom might have been the agents of Herod, and of those partisans called by Mark Herodians. Their object was to entrap the Baptist, hoping to find him guilty of treason, by interfering with the power of government in directing the army. But John was aware of their sinister views; and he returns this pointed. answer, "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.' As though he had said, " Preserve "Preserve proper disci
second to intimate that the very hour, in which he was baptized, he departed, so as to have no opportunity in either case to enter into any confederacy with each other. The verb Exßæλλ is very emphatic, as it implies that the Spirit, which now descended on our Lord, impressed in the most forcible manner the necessity of an immediate departure.
pline, and do not excite tumult in the country. I know your intention to accuse me. The advice, therefore, which you mostly need, is not to bear false testimony against me, nor any other person. I have no wish to withdraw your allegiance from Cæsar; and so far from offering you any prospect of plunder or preferment, I advise you to be satisfied with the wages you receive from your present commanders. *"
Lastly, Josephus represents the Baptist as a prophet; because his language implies that John was the forerunner of the Messiah; a circumstance which constituted him a prophet in the estimation of the people, and of our Lord himself; and because, moreover, he represents the same Baptist as warning the people not only to
* The advice here given to the soldiers not falsely to accuse any man, would have been very unseasonable if the Baptist had not been aware, that their intention was to give false testimony against him. On this supposition it was very pointed, and accords with John's usual manner. When the Pharisees pressed him to say, Who he was, he replies, “I am the voice of one, crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord." To shew the pertinence of this answer, the Evangelist parenthetically inserts, "And they were Pharisees," intimating that John meant thus, " I am one sent to call on you, who pervert the way of the Lord, to make it straight." John i. 23. These insidious men attempted to ensnare our Lord by similar wiles. See Luke xx. 21.
come to his baptism, but to practise piety to God, and righteousness towards man, or, in the language of Matthew, to repent and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance, as the means of averting sins. Now, in the language of a Jew, to avert sin means the same as to avert some natural evil, which is the supposed consequence of that sin. The Baptist then, according to Josephus, warned the Jewish people of some calamity that awaited them on account of their guilt, and inculcated repentance and reformation as the way to avoid it. This is precisely the representation we have in the gospels. John declared, that the impenitent would be cut off from the stem of Abraham, be dispersed like chaff, and consumed as with fire. This was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the sufferings which the inhabitants underwent during the siege, and their subsequent captivity.
The ancient fathers understood this passage of Josephus in the light I have here explained it. Josephus," says Jerome in his book of illus"confesses that John the Baptist was This Lardner calls an inaccu
• Hic confitetur Joannem Baptistam vere prophetam fuisse. Jerom. D. V. J. c. 13. See Lard. Vol. VII. 116. Origen also very properly understood Josephus as saying, that John baptized for the remission of sins, which was his