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made considerable progress before the execution of the Rabbis they engaged in their enterprise of removing the golden eagle, on the understanding that Herod's disease was then incurableπυνθανόμενοι του Βασιλέως την νοσον θεραπευειν απoρoν ουσαν; and Mr. Benson would seem to affirm more than is supported by the ex pressions of Josephus in describing the disease of Herod in its last stage, when he represents that Historian as positively stating that the complaints of the king did not assume a serious aspect until after the execution of the Rabbis. In his remarks on the time probably consumed in the prosecution of the affair relative to Antipater by Herod's ambassadors at Rome, and on the mourning for the Rabbis at the Passover, Mr. Benson is more successful. And if the careful study of Josephus should be found to present circumstances in number and of consequence that would require more time than the twenty-eight days which occurred between the 13th of March and the IIth of April J. P. 4710, then, the death of Herod could not have happened sooner than a short time previous to the Passover of the following year. The circumstances are stated by Mr. Benson, and the time
which they may be supposed to require, is carefully computed. Twenty-eight days, he concludes to be quite too narrow a space esto comprise them all, and therefore, assuming the correctness of
the examination, be considers the opinion of Lardner, that 3 Herod died on the 11th of April 4710, to be positively related,
and fixes the death of Herod in the Spring of 'J. P. 4711. As there are several other notices of time relative to the reign of 3 Herod in Josephus, we should have been glad if Mr. Benson s had included them in his computations, and stated the result. 9. They would, we believe, be found rather in favour of the date di which Lardner seems to prefer. But the dates wbich Josephus e supplies in this case are, it must be acknowledged, not readily
to be adjusted. wise sen In Chapter the third, the Author inquires into the probable zi date of Christ's birth. Proceeding on the correctness of the be arguments by which he has fixed the decease of Herod at some en part of the interval between the 13th of March J. P. 4710, and
the Passover J.P. 4711, and not finding any direct information e 19 in the Gospels as to the year or period of the year in which Jesus - was born, he considers, 1. How long the birth of Christ must bo necessarily have preceded the death of Herod ; 2. How long it
ub may probably bave preceded it; and 3. Whether this probable vladate corresponds with the other chronological marks in the ** New Testament. With regard
to the first of these subjects of berexamination, the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem is the most
important circumstance which occurs in the narrative. Jesus was then born, and Herod was yet alive. The time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi, and the time of this
latter event compared with the time of Herod's death, are, therafore, the leading particulars in this part of the discussion.lu his arrangement and arguments relative to these several topics, Mr. Benson is ingenious and lucid; but his reasonings are not quite satisfactory, and the basis on which he has constructed some of them, is insufficient for their support. 1o exauniniog the point, How long the visit of the Magi preceded the death of Herod, the actions of Herod at the time, as they are stated in the Gospel, are the only data of which an inquirer can avail him.
self; and on these Mr. Benson assumes, that when the Magi arrived, Herod was in a perfect state of health both as to body and mind. This may be an allowable presumption ; it is scarcely better, however, than pure bypothesis, since it would be difficult to shew why all the actions recorded of Herod in the narrative of Matthew, inight not bave taken place in other oircumstances than those of perfect health. Such an argument as the following, is clearly unsound,
Wlien Josephus relates the execution of the Rabbis, he makes several allusions to the feebleness of the king, and carefully states the exertion and difficulty it required for him to attend the counci), examine into the sedition, and pronounce the condemnation of the guilty. The narrative of St. Matthew on the contrary proceeds with uninterrupted continuity, and contains no intimation which could impress the mind of the reader with the idea that Herod was other, wise than he had ever been; no symptom of weakness, no phrase to mark the writer's astonishment and horror, when relating the massacre of Bethlehem, that though its perpretator was (to use the language of Josephus upon a similar occasion) μελαγχολων ηδη και μονονουχι αυτο τι τω θανάτων απειλών, προέκοψεν εις επιβουλήν αθεμίτου πραξέως. Such a remark would have been natural in the mouth of the Evangelist, had Herod at that time been in a declining state. But he has not said any thing at all like it, and hence it would appear highly probable that Herod's last illness had not made that progress when the Magi arrived, which we learn from Josephus that it had made at the time of the execution of the Rabbis, on the 13th of March, J. P. 4710. The agi, therefore, had arrived before that period.' pp. 57, 58.
Now,' no reasoning can be more erroneous than that which is here employed to shew, that the illness of Herod had not made the progress noticed, because the Evangelist has not reprobated the cruelty of the Jewish king. Nothing is wore admirable in the Evangelists, than their entire abstinence from invective. Such a remark as that which Mr. Benson has quoted from Josephus, would bave been most unnatural ia the mouth of the Evangelist. Had Matthew remarked in respect to the massacre of Bethlehem, as Josephus does in reference to the mede
• De Bell. Jud. lib. i. cap. 21. p. 773.
tated 'sacrifice of the Jewy in the Hippodrome, that Herod, ' now s'in a dying condition and sinking under a most foathsome "disease, formed a design of great atrocity,' it would have been
not only contrary to a manner of writing from which be never deviates, and therefore unnatural; but it would have been in violation of that spirit of forbearance which is one of the appropriate excellencies of the Gospels, and not the least of the inany iodirect evidences of their authenticity. The murder of John the Baptist was a most atrocious deed; yet the Evangelists who have noticed it, put it on record without a single exclamation of reproach.
We agree with Mr. Benson, that the time into which Herod so diligently inquired, was not the time of Christ's birth, which he could not have learned from the Magi, who were then prosecuting their journey to Bethlehem, but, the time of the first appearance of the star to those sages, which they might have seen for a considerable time before the birth of Cbrist and their own departure for Judea ; and that, therefore, Herod's order for the destruction of the infants might include children of two years and under, though Jesus were born but a short time before the arrival of the Magi at Jerusalem. And we think with him, that the known character of Herod warrants our belief of the fact of the massacre related by Matthew: the cruelty at Bethlehem, 'how useless or how wanton soever, is not incredible. Mr. Benson, too, has made it probable, that the presentation in the Temple took place between the arrival of the Magi at Jerysalein and their arrival at Bethlebem ; but we cannot perceive any absurdity in the belief, that the predictions and benedictions pronounced in the Temple at the presentation of Jesus were unknown to Herod. The principal circumstances included in the discussions of this chapter, are thus arranged by Mr. Benson.
• A little before the presentation of Jesus, the Magi arrived at Jerusalem in special search for the new-born King of the Jews. Herod, struck with the motive of their mission, and its coincidence with the general expectation then entertained of the coming of the Messiah, enquires of the learned and religious in what place the Messiah should be born. Having ascertained this point, he next enquires of the Magi the probable time of his birth as deducible from the appearance of the star, (an enquiry quite needless if he was already acquainted with the presentation,) and for this purpose he privately and particularly examines them, and commands them, when they bad found the object of their search, to return and give him in 'formation. In the mean time, perhaps during the very period of this -interview, Joseph brings his wife for purification, and his son for presentation to the temple, and then returns to Bethlehem, a distance of but six miles. Having received in the evening the offerings of the Magi, he is warned to fly from Herod, and sets off with his family for Egypt by night. In the morning, Herod, not finding the Magi return, in order completely to relieve his suspicions, sends forth his emissaries to slay every child within the sphere of his suspicions, both as to place and time. But learning afterwards, from the report made to him relative to the transactions which on the preceding day had attended the presentation of Jesus, that he was the object of whom he was afraid, and from the names of the children destroyed, that he had not been cut off in the general massacre, he continued seeking the cbild's life to the very day of his death. (Match: ii. 20.) pp. 79, $0.
Mr. Benson supposes that the massacre of Bethlehem preceded, not only the execution of the Rabbis, but the very commencement of Herod's illness; because the last disease of Herod was attributed, as Josephus states, to the visitation of his crimes by the justice of God, and because he imagives, that it is difficult for any one who believes the Gospel, to suppose that so signala cruelty bad not a considerable sbare in the formation of that opinion. · He therefore assigns the arrival of the Magi to a date preceding the commencement of Herod's illness, which may be referred to the 13th of February J. P. 4710. The presentation in the Temple took place on the forty-first day after the birth of Jesus : reckoning, therefore, forty days back from the time when the Magi are supposed to have arrived at Jerusalem, on or before the 13th of February, the birth of Jesus is to be fixed either on or before the 3d of January, J. P. 4710; that is, be must have been born at least one year before the death of Herod, supposing him to have died about the beginning of J. P. 4711. Such are the Author's conclusions ; but it is obvious to remark, that the premises from which they are deduced, are founded on reasonings wlrich must be considered as somewhat precarious in their nature. From other calculations, Mr. Benson endeavours to shew, that the month of April or May, J. P. 4709, may with probability be assigned as the time of Christ's birth. In this conputation, he rejects the hypotheses of Mand and others, and is guided by the traditions of antiquity.
The Fourth Chapter of his work contains a review of the difficulties attending the probable date of the birth of Christ as fixed to the Spring of J. P. 4709; that is, about two years before the death of Herod; and the four sections into which it is divided, comprise considerations on the Taxing mentioned by Luke, Chap. ii. verses 1 and 2, negative and affirmative. This is a most difficult and perplexing subject of discussion. The resources of criticisin have been tried, we might say almost to exhaustion, and yet, the passage Luke, Chap. ii. verses 1 and 2, presents to a Biblical critic a trial of his strength. In the construction and interpretation of the sentence-Aürn' namoypapa. πρώτη εγίνετο ηγεμονεύοντος της Συρίας Κυρηνίου, there is, says Valckenar, • nodus, qui flumines literatos a rénatis literis valde habuit : * exercitatos, quique diffculter solvi, secari facile poterit ;'
and those persons who have perused the accumulated opinions of expositors on the text, will perhaps judge with that distingaished Scholar, Si quis pleraque legerit ad h. I. collatu, ab Suala lectione incertior redibit quam accesserat. The read ing of the Common Version-“This taxing was first made when * Cyrenius was governor of Syria," does seem the obvious and direct sense of the words; but Cyrenius did not enter upon the government of Syria before J. P. 4720; and a taxing made in the year of Christ's birth must, therefore, have been made several years before Cyrenius was governor of Syria. To remove the historical difficulty, such renderings of the passage have been proposed as, “in strict consistency with the rules of * grammar and the genius of the Greek language, are altogether
inadmissible. After passing this sentence upon all the attempts of his predecessors, Mr. Beņson endeavours to make out a construction and meaning which, we fear, will only addo one more to the numerous instances of the ingenious, but una successful application of criticism to this vexatious passage. 3197
Amongst the various instances brought forward to prove that PWTOs is sometimes taken in a sense of priority, is the following from 2 Sam. xix. 43. TPWTOTOXOS syw "Hov. Now if there is any part of the is verse in question in which ń might naturally be conceived to have it been omitted, and to which if it be restored, the construction will 10 be easy, and the meaning unexceptionable, it will at least be a proba-ad ble argument for supplying it in that place, and supposing it to have id been inadvertently left out by some careless transcriber. But it is dis evident that nothing could be more easy than the omission of the parsia ticle between eyeveto and nyeuovevortos, because the latter word beginniw ning with the same letter, the eye of the copyist might inadvertently.ca glide from the one to the other, without his ever stopping to consider the meaning of what he wrote: nay, had he even paid the deepest
Code attention to the sense of his author, he might nevertheless, with the sd very best intentions, have purposely made the alteration; for there is ua no necessity for supposing a transcriber to be perfectly acquainted ? with the history of the period to which the work he was copying
related Perceiving, therefore, that the expression was peculiar and uncommon, itib and perhaps considering from this peculiarity that it was erroneous,-toxå perceiving also that by the omission of the single letter n a sense per oted fectly plain and obvious would be obtained, and considering that, b ai as the following word began with the same letter n, it might probably... I have been added by the former transcriber,--perceiving and
considers al ing, 1 say, all these things, it is by no means unnatural to suppose, ay that some early copyist intentionally omitted the particle to avoid the peculiarity. These arguments will acquire additional force if we dze adopt the reading of the Cambridge manuscript. In that M.S. the su arrangement of the words is this :autn n amoy pec ou byeneto topórn niyede Ovivorfos, x. 7. 1.-where every one must perceive that putn ending, and more wyspowevonos beginning with an n, had a third, been inserted between os these two, nothing could have been more
tieto otpeen more easy than for a careless 2