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never occur to them, to reject the doctrine which they had received, as being, in the absence of all evidence to prove, those eras, unworthy of their regard. In what year Plato or Aristotle was born, would but little concern a disciple of the Academy or of the Lyceum. The value of the instruction is wholly independent of the age of the master; and a candidate for admission would never think of including in his previous inquiries, circumstances which had no relation to the qualifications of his instructor. If we had no means of obtaining a correct arrange-, ment of the events in the life of Plato; or if the chronology of any memoirs of Socrates was so perplexed as to present, only some incidents in connected order and agreement of time, while others might seem to exclude all arrangement and accurate date; the truth or importance of their doctrines would: not be in the least involved in the chronological discussions. They would still be the doctrines of Plato, or the doctrines of Socrates, and would claim our attention on grounds irrespective of any nicety of date in the biography of their founders. And so, we presume, is the chronology of the Gospels immaterial to the consideration of the Christian doctrine. The precise time of the birth and death of the Jewish Legislator, it might be difficult to determine; but the credibility of the Mosaic records is not therefore invalidated. And in like manner is the evangelical doctrine worthy of confidence, though we may not be able successfully to harmonise the facts which the written Gospels comprise, or to affix to every circumstance which they detail, its exact date. The resurrection of Christ is established by proof the most ample and complete, though there may be some incidents in the several narratives of that great fact of the Christian religion, which may not satisfactorily be adjusted to other particulars which they contain.
But, though the true time of the birth of Christ, the term of the duration of his ministry, and the date of his death may not be essential to the determination of the question, Is Christianity a Divine religion? yet, these several eras are not unimportant: they have their place among the subordinate particulars which a careful investigator of the Gospels will not overlook. They are circumstances of which a Christian advocate will be ready to avail himself of every means of elucidation, in order that he may be prepared to obviate difficulties which may occur to the humble and sincere inquirer, and the removal of which may be an essential service rendered to persons whose habits or whose prejudices allow them to be satisfied with nothing short of the most rigid scrutiny into all the subjects which they undertake to examine. And though the result of the most minute and careful examination of these and similar questions, may not be perfectly satisfactory, though the means of a complete adjustment VOL. XVI. N.S. 2 F
of apparent disagreements may not be obtained, it will be a consequence not lightly to be estimated, if the investigation should make it evident, that the difficulties are perplexing, only because our information on the subjects to which they relate is imperfect; that they form part of a case, the reception of which, in its entire character, is in strict accordance with the obligations of reason, and in exact harmony with the best established and most approveable maxims of human practice. Such a result will never fail to attend a sober and impartial examination of the New Testament records. Let the investigation of their contents be of this character, and then, let it be full and scrupulous, and have its course.
The chronology of the life of Christ is a question of some importance in regard to the integrity of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the statements of the former Evangelist being represented by some writers as not reconcileable to those of the latter. The conclusion which they would establish on a comparison of these sacred Biographers, would require us to discard the preliminary chapters of at least Matthew's Gospel; and, in the full spirit and letter of their demand, this would be but one half of the sacrifice: the initial chapters of Luke must likewise be surrendered. It is quite clear, that, according to the narrative of the Evangelist Matthew, the birth of Christ preceded the death of Herod the Great; and if it were indubitable fact, that Herod was not then living, that his death was antecedent to the birth of Jesus, it would be impossible to admit the authenticity of the narrative. An examination, therefore, of the chronology of the Gospels, is necessary to the determination of the question of authenticity as applied to at least the initial chapters of the first Gospel.
Now, the genuineness of these portions of the New Testament is supported by the customary proofs on which depends the genuineness of its incontrovertible books: the evidence of manuscripts and versions in their favour is ample and complete; and the testimony of early writers is equally decisive. Unless, therefore, we abandon the acknowledged tests of genuine Scripture, we must receive as integral parts of Matthew's Gospel, the first and second chapters of the book which bears his name. And with this evidence in support of their claims, we cannot, we apprehend, be at liberty to expunge them from the place which they hold in the Christian records, unless we can challenge to ourselves the most perfect acquaintance with the whole of the circumstances which they comprise, and are fully prepared to shew, that they want the characters of truth, and are at variance with facts the reality of which is indisputable. It will not be reckoned sufficient to warrant their rejection, that difficulties of the strongest kind exist in those chapters, and that every at
tempt to remove them by explanation has hitherto failed. We must be fully assured that we possess the whole of the means necessary for satisfactory solution, and that to these means, correctly employed, the difficulties will not yield, before we permit ourselves to allege the charge of spuriousness against these or any other passages of Scripture.
The History of Josephus is the principal authority with which the details of the Evangelists are compared, and the standard by which their accuracy in the notes of time inserted in their 1 Gospels, is determined. The chronology of Josephus, however, is not easily to be settled. Whoever will take the pains of proceeding through his Antiquities and the Books of the Jewish Wars, will find it not a little perplexing to obtain a series of dates regular and satisfactory for the events which he relates. The time of Herod's death is, in more than one instance, given in reference to other memorable eras in his history and reign; but the exact period of his decease, is not definitely stated: it is a question of difficult solution, and different writers have come to widely varying conclusions. Had Josephus given us the exact date of Herod's birth, the time of his decease might be ascertained with considerable pretensions to accuracy. But not only are we unable to obtain this assistance directly, but we are strangely perplexed in our perusal of the passages on which our calculations are founded. The difficulty in attempting to ascertain the date of Herod's birth, Mr. Benson remarks, iis rendered insurmountable by a false reading in the passage of Josephus upon which our conclusions depend. In one place, Josephus informs us that Herod was constituted Governor of Galilee when very young, and in another, he limits his expression by stating that he was then about 15 years of age. Now it is universally allowed, that Herod was appointed Governor of Galilee in the Consulship of Calvinus and Vatinius U. C. 707. U. C. 707-15-692 and 692+69 (age of Herod at his death)=761. He was of course, therefore, according to this computation, born about the 692nd, and died about the 761st year of Rome, 10 years later than we should be led to suppose by every other mode of calculation. To remove this discrepancy, it has been conjectured that we ought to read 25 instead of 15 years in the preceding passage of Josephus, and thus fix the birth and death of Herod 10 years earlier than before; his birth about U. C. 682, his death UC. 751. This new reading may be defended by many irresistible computations.' p. 17.
But, whatever support may be obtained for the new reading from such computations, it is, we appreliend, quite obvious, that the proposed emendation can be admitted only as extreme violence is offered to the text of Josephus. The new reading is decidedly at variance with manuscript authority; and the passages which directly refer to the case, are clearly in favour of
the inferior number of years. ́ ́ ́Antipater,' says the Jewish Historian, appointed his son Herod to be Governor of Galilee+ και νεῷ πανταπασιν οντι, ιέ γαρ αυτῷ εγεγονεί μονα έτη. Βλαπτει δε ουδεν ή νέοτης, 4 αλλ ̓ ὧν το φρονηματι γενναίος ὁ νεανίας αφορμήν ευρίσκει παραχρήμα τις απ · *· Sağır Tns ageīns—he being at that time a very young man, for be had not yet passed his sixteenth year. His youth, however, ❝ was no disadvantage to him, for, being of an enterprising ger nius, he soon found an occasion of signalizing his valour. Now, this description is evidently more appropriate as applying to a spirited and daring youth of fifteen, than to a person of twenty-five years of age: the latter number can by no means be considered as requiring an apologetical representation like that which Josephus has given. Let x be substituted for in the foregoing quotation, namely 25 for 15, and the force and propri ety of the expressions are no longer to be perceived.
Again, as to the difficulty of settling the chronology of Josephus. Three instances occur of his mentioning the duration of Archelaus's reign; two of these are in agreement with each other, but the third of them is at variance with the others.la the Antiq. Jud. it is stated, that Archelaus was accused before i Augustus in the tenth year of his government-δεκατῳ δε έτει της agxns. (Lib. xvii. 15.) In the Books of the Jewish War, the exe ile of Archelaus is said to have happened in the ninth year of his reign-Ere τns agxns ivvatw. (Lib. ii. 6.) But, in the memoirs of his own life, Josephus informs us, that his father was born in the tenth year of the reign of Archelaus-Βασιλευοντος Αρχελάου πολ SixaTov. (Vita in initio.) Mr. Benson has taken some pains to reconcile these statements, but, we fear, without building bis conclusions on solid premises. He is not correct in stating, that 'it will generally be found, that when Josephus in one of his 'histories speaks of an event having taken place, say thirty-five years after a former one, in his other he either speaks of it as having taken place in the thirty-fifth or thirty-sixth year after: that former one.' No such general custom is observed by him. Nor, admitting the difference of usage in the Roman and Jew ishi regal dates, is the difficulty obviated which attends the pres ceding computations. It is not plain, that these calculations may be clearly reconciled to each other on the supposition that Jo-w 'sephus uses the Jewish mode of reckoning when he says that 'Archelaus was banished in the tenth, and the Roman when he says that he was banished in the ninth year of his reigned providing this solution, Mr. Benson has overlooked a circumstance-of which is material in the discussion of the difficulty. Both in the Antiq. Jud. and in the Bello. Jud. it is stated by Josephus, that Archelaus, a short time before he was cited to Rome
* Antiq. Jud, xiv. 17.
dreamed that he beheld a number of ears of corn, ripe and full, and a number of oxen which devoured them. In the Antiquities, the number of the ears of corn is ten; in the Books of the Jewish War, the number is nine. And in the interpretation of the dream by Simon, the ten ears are, in the one place, explained as meaning ten years which Archelaus should reign, and the nine ears are, in the other place, said to signify nine years which he should reign. Now, the dream was one and the same, and therefore, either nine or ten might be the number of ears seen by Archelaus; but not both numbers: which soever of the two ac counts we assume as the correct one, the other, therefore, is not entitled to confidence, as the accounts are evidently inconsistent. For if the king saw nine ears of corn, Simon never could interpret them as denoting ten years or eight years; and in the explanation of the dream, the Roman mode of computation had no place. We notice these passages of Josephus for the purpose of shewing,—and this, we think, they do shew,-that the accounts of Josephus are themselves not always the most lucid, and that his chronological notes are uncertain and perplexing. Josephus, however, is the only author from whom much assistance is to be obtained in our attempts to harmonise the events of the Jewish history with the facts recorded by the Evangelists which belong to the political relations of Judea. In the agreements of the Historian with the sacred writers, we shall receive confirmations of their integrity. But in those cases in which the accounts of Josephus themselves are intricate and doubtful, the credibility of the Evangelists is not to be considered as being in the smallest degree in peril, because the results of comparison may perplex us; any more than it would be proper to impeach the veracity of the former, on the ground that the representations of the latter, differing apparently from his details, are intelligible and substantial. The result, we are fully persuaded, of the most rigorous comparison of the evangelical documents with Josephus, and with other profane annalists and memorialists, would be such as would establish their credibility. But it is not to be expected, that the Evangelists, writing for purposes very different from those which furnished to secular historians the motives of their writing, should have directed their minds even to the same circumstances precisely in the same way. It is not in Josephus, as we have already said, that a nice and invariable standard of chronology is to be found, adapted to the Gospel History.
In attempting to settle the chronology of the Gospels, the time of Herod's death is the first and principal date which the several writers who have engaged in the discussion, have undertaken to examine and fix. The only method which seems to be available
See Antiq. Jud. xviii. 15. Bello. Jud. ii. 6.