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also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered." Observe the point which it is the object of the impostors to inculcate. When Cæsar arrogated to himself that unbounded empire, which the Almighty intended for the King of the Jews; when he had, moreover, the insolence to subjugate the favourite people of God, at that very time the Messiah came into the world. Providence had so arranged the period of his appearance, and so controuled the counsels of his enemies, that he was born the very day in which his parents and the other Jews were sealing their slavery. Lest the import of this divine interposition should not be understood by the Jews, an angel is brought down from Heaven to remind them of it. "The angel said unto the shepherds, Fear not, for, behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people. For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." As if he had said, "Abstain from grief: the prospect of slavery is removed from the people of God; I am commissioned to bring you the joyful news, that your deliverer from the Roman government is born this day-this very day, when your necks are first bending to its yoke." By comparing Luke and Josephus, we have other data which demonstrate, that our Lord was not born till at least two years after the death of Herod. This king, it is said, killed all the children from two years old and under. From
this, we may infer, that Jesus was two years old when he was supposed to be conveyed into Egypt. There he was commanded to stay till the death of Herod. Nor can we suppose, that this event took place immediately; else why was he sent to a country so distant, to avoid the anger of Herod, if he were so soon to die? Jesus, therefore, must have been some time in Egypt before the death of that king. The author of the Gospel of our Saviour's infancy makes his continuance there to be three years. Our Lord then, when Herod died, was, to say the least, four the least, four years old. When that event took place, Philip, the son of Herod, became Tetrarch of Trachonitis, which he governed thirty-seven years. This, his last years, was (Antiq. Jud. lib. xviii. 5, 6) the twentieth of the reign of Tiberius. The thirty-second of Philip, therefore, was the fifteenth of Tiberius, But Jesus was born, as we have seen, two years before the death of Herod, and, of course, before Philip, who succeeded him, was made governor. Our Lord then, according to this calculation, was thirty-six years old, in the fifteenth of Tiberius. But the evangelist, Luke, is express in saying, that he began to be about thirty. Therefore, instead of being born four years before Herod died, he was not born till two years after his death.
This conclusion, which is founded on simple unequivocal dates, furnished by Luke and Josephus, and which of itself proves the story of the miraculous conception to be altogether a forgery, has been evaded by an assumption that has no foundation whatever in truth. Doctor Lardner was one of the most candid and learned enquirers
that ever adorned the Christian name. Being educated in the belief of the miraculous birth of Christ, he never suspected the genuineness of the chapters which teach it; and he was insensibly disposed to adopt any hypothesis, however improbable, which might remove the objections to it. He supposes, then, that the reign of Tiberius had two dates, one from the death of Augustus, the other from the period in which he was made a colleague in the empire; and that Luke refers to the last when he mentions the fifteenth year of Tiberius.
Tacitus has, with minuteness, detailed the measures by which Tiberius obtained the supreme power; and his narrative demonstrates, that there is no ground for supposing, that his reign commenced, or was ever said to commence before the death of Augustus. This prince had a grandson who survived him; but to gratify Livia, and to perpetuate the succession the more securely, he consented to adopt Tiberius as his son, having adorned him, as the historian says, with the title of Imperator. This was a mere military honour; for after the death of Augustus, we are told, that in his character of Imperator, he immediately claimed the whole military command. Tac. Annals, i. 7. And had he possessed any civil authority, he would have assumed it in the same manner. But he says expressly, in his letter to the senate, that he arrogated no power, no prerogative but that of directing the funeral of his father. Tiberius certainly was left by Augustus as one of his heirs, if not the only heir, to the empire; and a law of the senate passed, that the former should be joined with the emperor in the
administration of the provinces. But this honour was conferred upon him just before the death of Augustus, and he was recalled in consequence of that event. The words of Suetonius are too important to be omitted. "Not long after a law being passed by the consuls for his being joined with Augustus in the administration of the provinces, and likewise to take the census with him. Upon this appointment, he went into Illyricum. But being hastily recalled, whilst he was yet upon his journey, he found Augustus alive indeed, but past all hopes of recovery." By this, it appears, that the consular dignity of Tiberius just preceded the death of Augustus, and the hypothesis, that his reign has two different dates, is as useless as it is without foundation. Neither Tacitus, nor Suetonius, nor Dion, nor any other historian, has given any such intimation, all of whom, when speaking of the commencement of his reign, suppose it to commence with the death of his predecessor. The first of these historians has given a striking picture of his perfidy and dissimulation; and almost every paragraph shews, that he did not in any respect hold the reins of empire, or that he could with any colour of truth be said to reign till he succeeded his father. It follows, therefore, that the evangelist, on referring the appearance of our Lord to the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, meant the fifteenth from the death of Augustus, and that consequently Jesus was not born till after the death of Herod the Great.
CHAPTERS IN MAT
THEW HAVE BEEN COPIED FROM AN ANCIENT SPURIOUS GOSPEL, CALLED THE GOSPEL OF THE INFANCY OF JESUS.
FOR two or three centuries, this spurious Gospel was kept secret, till Jerome ventured to give the public a Latin translation of it, at the advice of two bishops, Chromatius and Heliodorus. His reply to their request to have this book translated, is most worthy of notice, and in part is to this effect: "An arduous task is imposed upon me, since your Holiness commands me to translate a book which the holy Matthew himself, an Apostle and an Evangelist, was unwilling to make public. For if this were not to be kept secret, he would have prefixed it to the Gospel which he has published. But this little book he has composed in Hebrew characters, and delivered it thus sealed up to the public, in order that a work written in Hebrew letters might be possessed by such as are the most religious, who, from their own times, should hand it down to posterity through successive ages. But the contents of this book, which was never intended to be trusted to any other (than the most faithful), they related in very different ways.