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Concluding Observations

CHAP. XXVIII.

on the Evangelical Histoty.

I hare often with pleasure, and with great advantage to my subject, quoted Dr. Lardner, whose elaborate works in defence of Divine Revelation are really beyond all praise. The conclusion of his Credibility of the Gospel History is peculiarly appropriate; and the introduction of it here can need no apology. I hope, with him, I may also say,

li / have nozc performed vchat I undertook, and have shewn, that the account given by the sacred writers of persons and things, is confirmed by other ancient authors of the best note. There is nothing in the books of the New Testament unsuitable to the age in which they are supposed to have been written. There appears in these writers a knowledge of the affairs of those times, not to be found in authors of later ages. We are hereby assured that the books of the New Testament are genuine, and that they were written by persons, who lived at or near the time of those events, of which they have given the history.

"Any one may be sensible, how hard it is for the most learned, acute, and cautious man, to write a book in the character of some person of an earlier age; and not betray his own time by some mistake about the affairs of the age in which he pretends to place himself; or by allusions to customs or principles since sprung up; or by some phrase or expression not then in use. It is no easy thing to escape all these dangers in the smallest performance, though it be a treatise of theory or speculation: these hazards are greatly increased when the work is of any length; and especially if it be historical, and be concerned with characters and customs. It is yet more difficult to carry on such a design in a work consisting of several pieces, written, to all appearance, by several persons. Many indeed are desirous to deceive, bnt all hate to be deceived; and therefore, though attempts have been made to impose upon the world in this way, they have never, or very rarely succeeded ; but have been detected and exposed by the skill and vigilance of those who have been concerned for the truth.

"The -volume of the New Testament consists of several pieces: these are ascribed to eight several persons; and there are the strongest appearances, that they were not all written by any one hand, but by as many persons as they are ascribed to. There are lesser differences in the relations of some facts, and such seeming contradictions, as would never have happened, if these books had been all the work of one person, or of several who wrote in concert. There are as many peculiarities of temper and style, as there are names of writers; divers of which shew no depth of genius nor compass of knowledge. Here are representations of titles, posts, behaviour of persons of higher and lower rank, in many parts of the world; persons are introduced, and their characters are set in a full light; here is a history of things done in several cities and countries; and there are allusions to a vast variety of customs and tenets of persons of several nations, sects, and religions. The whole is written without

affectation, with the greatest simplicity and plainness; and is confirmed by other ancient writers of unquestionable authority. If it be difficult for a person of learning and experience, to compose a small treatise concerning matters of speculation, with the characters of a more early age than that in which he writes; it is next to impossible, that such a work of considerable length, consisting of several pieces, with a great variety of historical facts, representations of characters, principles, and customs of several nations, and distant countries, of persons of ranks and degrees, of many interests and parties, should be performed by eight several persons, the most of them unlearned, without any appearance of concert.

"I might perhaps call this argument a demonstration, if that term had not been often misapplied by men of warm imaginations; and been bestowed upon reasonings that have but a small degree of probability. But though it should not be a strict demonstration that these writings are genuine; or though it be not absolutely impossible, in the nature of the thing, that the books of the New Testament should have been composed in a later age, than that to which they are assigned, and of which they have innumerable characters; yet, I think, it is in the highest degree improbable, and altogether incredible.

"If the books of the New Testament were written by

persons who lived before the destruction of Jerusalem, that

I is, if they were written at the time in which they are said to

i have been written, the things related in them are true. If

they have not been matter of fact, they would not have

been credited by any persons near that time, and in those

! parts of the world in which they are said to have been done,

I but would have been treated as the most notorious lies and

I falsehoods. Suppose three or four books should now appear

I amongst us, in the language most generally understood, giv

j ingan account of many remarkable and extraordinary events,

J which had happened in some kingdom of Europe, and in the

1( most noted cities of the countries next adjoining to it; some

! of them said to have happened between sivty and seventy years

; ago, others between twenty and thirty, others nearer our own

'time: would they not be looked upon as the most manifest

|| and ridiculous forgeries and impostures that ever were con

itrived? Would great numbers of persons, in those very

places, change their religious principles and practices upon

|| the credit of things reported to be publicly done, which no

I man had ever heaid of before? Or, rather, is it possible

that such a design as this would be conceived by any sober

I and serious persons, or even the most wild and extravagant?

If the history of the New Testament be credible, the Christian

religion is true. If the things that were related to have been

done by Jesus, and by his followers, by virtue of powers

derived from him, do not prove a person to come from God,

and that his doctrine is true and divine, nothing can. And

as Jesus does here, in the circumstances of his birth, life,

Concluding Observations

THE ACTS.

on the Evangelical History.

sufferings, and after exaltation, and in the success of his doctrine answer the description of the great Person promised and foretold in the Old Testament, he is at the same time shewed to be the Messiah.

"From the agreement of the writers of the New Testament with other ancient writers, we are not only assured that these books are gennine, but also that they are come down to us pure and uncorrupted, without any considerable interpolations or alterations. If such had been made in them, there would hare appeared some smaller differences at least between them and other ancient writings.

"There has been in all ages a wicked propensity in mankind, to advance their own notions and fancies by deceits and forgeries: they have been practised by heathens, Jews, and Christians, in support of imaginary historical facts, religious schemes and practices, and political interests. With these views seme whole books have been forged; and passages inserted into others of undoubted authority. Many of the Christian writers of the second and third centuries, and of Che following ages, appear to have had false notions con

cerning the state of Judea between the nativity of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem; and concerning many other things occasionally mentioned in the New Testament. The consent of the best ancient writers with those of the New Testament, is a proof that these books are still untouched; and that they have not been new modelled and altered by Christians of later times, in conformity to their own peculiar sentiments.

"This may be reckoned an agreement, that the generality of Christians have had a very high veneration for these books; or else, that the several sects among them have had an eye upon each other, that no alterations might he made iu those writings to which they have all appealed. It is also an argument, that the Divine Providence has all along watched over and guarded these best of books (a very fit object and especial care), which contain the best of principles, were apparently written with the best views, and have ia them inimitable characters of truth and simplicity."

See Dr. Lardner's Works, Vol. I. p. 41S»

Let him answer these arguments, who can.

ADVERTISEMENT

TO THE FOLLOWING

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLES,

TO THE

BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT;

With some Additional Observations on Luke iii. L.

X FIE Chronology of the New Testament being, in some sort, completed in the Book of the Acts, I have judged it necessary to lay before the Reader a series of Tables, which might enable him to judge more readily of the facts laid down in the Evangelical and Apostolic Histories; and of such transactions of the differ-: entHeathen Governments, as took place during the period through which these Tables extend; and which had less or more influence on the infant cause of Christianity.

Table I.—Contains all the important epochs which have been used by the different civilized nations of the earth; extending from the sixth year before the nativity of our Lord, according to the Vulgar ./Era, to A. D. 100; in which, 1st. the reigns of the Roman Emperors are included, together with—2. the Governors of the Jews under the Romans—3. the Kings of the Parthians-^—4. the Governors of Syria—5. and the Jewish Highpriests: and, to make this complete, I have added—1. the Epact—2. Easier term—3. Jewish Pass-over— 4. Dominical Letters—5. years of the Solar Cycle—6. ditto of the Jewish Cycle—7. Golden Number—and 8. the years of the Dioni/sian period.

Table II.—Contains the Fasti Consulares, or years and names of the Roman Consuls, which are indispensably necessary to ascertain the dates of several transactions in the Roman, Jewish, and Christian history. Tabie III.—Contains a chronological arrangement of important events, during the period of the above JOG years; in which every occurrence of moment, whether among the Jews, Christians, or Romans, is faithfully noted: the whole calculated to throw light on the connected history of those times and nations. For a particular description of the /Eras above-mentioned, the Reader is requested to refer to page vi. of the Preface to St. Matthew's Gospel. As these Tables are so plain in themselves, as to require very little illustration; and the epochs are so fully explained in the Preface already referred to; I need say nothing farther of them in this place: but, as some doubts have been entertained concerning the correctness of a chronological statement in the gospel of Luke, chap. iii. ver. 1. I think it necessary to enter into a more particular consideration of that subject than is contained in my notes on that place.

Additional Observations on Luke, chap. Hi. ver. 1.

L»hronoi,oger8 are generally agreed that our Lord was born four years before the commencement of what is termed the Vulgar Jera of his Nativity; that is, in the 749th year from the building of Rome, according to Varro. Herod the Great died about the 751st year of Rome, two years before the present vulgar sera, according to the most accurate chronologers; therefore, our common computation must be four years too late. It is universally agreed that Augustus reigned till A. D. 14, according to the common reckoning; therefore, the 30th year of Christ's age must correspond to the 12th year after the death of Augustus; or, which is the same, to the 12th year of the sole reign of Tiberius Caisar: and as, according to the general custom of the Jews, a person was not deemed qualified to enter on the public work of the ministry before he was 30 years of age, (though some did it at 25,) it may be safely stated, that the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius, coincided with the 30th year of the Baptist's age; and therefore it must have coincided also with the 30th year of our Lord's age, as the latter was born only six months after the former.

But here a question of great importance, and apparent difficulty, arises: if, as the greatest chronologers agree, Christ's 30th year was the same with the 12th year after the death of Augustus, how then can A. D. 26. which appears in these Notes in the margin of Luke, chap. iii. 1. be called both the 12th and 15th year of the reign of Tiberius? There are several ways of solving this difficulty; but I need refer only to the following, which is sufficiently obvious: on August 28, A.D. 11. Augustus associated Tiberius with himself, in the full government of the empire; or, as Velleius Paterculus expresses it, ul cequum eijus in omnibus provineiis exercitibusque esset, quam erat ipsi; "that he might have equal power with himself in all the provinces, and in all the armies of the empire." Now, this accounts exactly for the three years of difference which appear to exist between the statement of St. Luke, and the computation of modern chronologists; the former, reckoning from the time in which Tiberius was associated in the empire with Augustus; the latter, from the death of Augustus, when Tiberius became sole emperor. For, as Tiberius was associated with Augustus on August 28, A. D. 11. and Augustus died August 19, A. D. 14, it appears that the time in which the two emperors reigned conjointly, was exactly two years and 356 days, or three years all but nine days.

That St. Luke reckoned the years of Tiberius from the above period, as many others certainly did, and not from the death of Augustus, is exceedingly probable; because, taken thus, all his dates agree: and a person who has been so careful as St. Luke evidently was, to fix the dates of the most important transactions he relates, by several chronological data, (as I have had occasion, more than once, to remark in the Notes on his gospel and the Acts,) could not be guilty of such an oversight as this would be, had he dated from the death of Augustus, every candid reader must allow. Besides, he uses a term which may be fairly thus explained, Luke iii. 1. Ey E-tsi $e Trivrev.xiiExarsx) rrjs ljys/ioviaj Ttfitp Iou; In the fifteenth year of the Government Oj Tiberius; a term which is applied not only by the sacred writers, but also by the best Greek authors, to signify government, in general, whether administered by king, emperor, deputy, toparch, prstor, or any other; and that the word should be understood of government in this general way, and not of that which is restricted to a basiltus, imperalor, or monarch, who reigns alone, not dividing the empire with any, and consequently being accountable to none, is rendered extremely probable by this use of the term in the very next word in this sentence; Pontius Pilate being Governor, r/yejj.ovBvovros, (executing the office of governor,) of Judca; who certainly was not monarch of Judea, but a deputy of the Roman emperor. As Pilate, therefore, governed by the authority of Augustus, so Tiberius reigned in conjoint power with Augustus himself; and therefore the term ijyiju.os'ia, government; and rtyipovtvcu, to exercise, or execute the ojjice of n governor, is with equal propriety attributed both to Tiberius, in his conjoint authority with Augustus; and to Pontius Pilate, or any other governor, acting under the imperial authority. It would be easy to multiply examples here to shew that the word may be as well understood of a conjoint or deputy governor, as of an emperor or monarch. To

ADVERTISEMENT. "i

all this might be added, the consideration that Tiberius must be reputed and called emperor by all the Roman people, as well during the time he was associated with Augustus, as after he became sole monarch. And, would it not be natural for them, in speaking on the subject, to say, Tiberius is now in the first, second, or third year of bis reign; even while Augustus was yet living? nor could they speak any other language with propriety. It is true that, after the death of Augustus, the Roman historians generally attribute the whole forty-four years of the reign of Augustus, (the latter three of which he had reigned conjointly with Tiberius,) to Augustus himself; and date the reign of Tiberius from the death of his predecessor; and this they do merely for distinction's sake: but we may safely state, that no man, who lived in the time of the conjoint reign of these emperors, as Luke did, would write in any other way concerning the reign of the surviving emperor, than Luke has done.

The chronology of very few facts in the whole compass of ancient history can be ascertained with greater accuracy than that of Herod's death. Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities, lib. xiv. cap. 14. s. 5. has fixed the time when Herod was named king by the Romans with so great precision, as to inform us who were the Roman consuls that were in office at the period of this monarch's accession to the throne. His words are: 'O u.sv eruit rrp fixtritemy raraXaaoavsi, nyu>v avrr^ sm rr}{ Jxarorijf xa* eyJoi;xor>i« xa» rera.prr,s OXuju.ina$o;, vir&rcvovrof Tarn As.ttsria KaXsivs To Sevrtpov, xai Vauit Ao-ms TlioXtwyoi. "And thus he (Herod) received the kingdom, having obtained it in the one hundred and eighty-fourth Olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio the first time." Now it is certain, that these Consuls were in office A. U. C. 714, according to the computation of Varro, which was that used by the Romans in the celebration of their secular games; and, consequently, this year must have been the same with the thirty-ninth before the commencement of the vulgar asra of Christ's nativity, according to the chronological table of Archbishop Ussher, unquestionably one of the most accurate chronologers of modern times. Therefore as Josephus, Antiq. lib. xvii. cap. 8. s. 1. and Bell. lib. i. cap. 33. s. 8. as well as other historians, has assigned the length of the reign of Herod the Great to be 37 years, it is certain that the death of this king must have happened about the 751st year of Rome, that is to say, about two years after Christ's birth, and in the 28th year of the reign of Augustus Cassar, if we reckon the years of his reign from the battle of Actium, at which time the government of the Triumviri was abolished, and that of Emperors properly commenced. It is also certain, from most indisputable evidence collected from the whole body of the Roman and Greek historians, that Augustus Casar died 44 years after the battle of Actium, and, consequently, the 12th year of Tiberius's sole reign, must have been 28 years after the death of Herod; for 16, the years that Augustus reigned after Herod's death + 12 = 2S. It therefore follows, from the tables of Roman consuls, which have been carefully preserved in the Chronicon of Eusebius, that there was an interval of 65 years between the commencement of Herod's reign and that of Christ's public ministry; consequently, there is every evidence necessary to prove, that St. Luke did reckon the years of Tiberius's reign from the time that this monarch was associated with Augustus in the empire.

By all this it appears, that the time of which Luke speaks, was properly the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, though only the twelfth after the death of Augustus. And that as Herod did not die, as chronologers generally agree, till the 751st year of Rome, which was the second year of our Lord; therefore, the whole account of the murder of the Innocents, as given by St. Matthew, chap. ii. is perfectly consistent. This being the real state of the case, it seems exceedingly strange, that learned men should have made objections to the verity of St. Luke's history on this account; and that some, to the disgrace of criticism, should have bad the weakness or bigotry to pronounce, on such untenable ground, the evangelical history of the genenlogy of our Lord, to be spurious! But wisdom is justified of her children.

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