Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the year of our Lord 39 or 40, Philo with others was sent to Caligula, the emperor, in the name of the whole Jewish people living in Alexandria. The embassy consisted of five, and hed has assured us himself, that he was the eldest and most experienced person among them. It is reasonable to conclude therefore, that he was born at, or before the commencement of the christian æra. He was eminent for his wit and learning, as well as for his family. Many of his writings are still remaining, though some have been lost. The two books which I have chiefly quoted, are his discourse against the forementioned Flaccus, president of Egypt, and his account of the embassy to Caligula.

JOSEPHUS, the Son of Matthias, of the race of the priests, by his mother descended from the Asmonean family, which for a considerable time had the supreme government of the Jewish nation, was born at Jerusalem in the first year of the reign of Caligula, A. D. 37. In the beginning of the Jewish war he commanded in Galilee. Vespasian, then general under Nero, having conquered that country, Josephus became his prisoner, and continued with him as long as Vespasian staid in those parts. When Vespasian, upon his being declared emperor, went to Rome to take possession of the empire, Josephus staid with Titus, was present at the siege of Jerusalem, and saw the ruin of his city and country. Josephus afterwards settled at Rome, and obtained the freedom of the city from Vespasian. Some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote his history of the Jewish war in seven books. After that he wrote in twenty books the Jewish antiquities, or, history of the Jews from the creation of the world to the twelfth of Nero, in which year the war began. This work he finished in the 56th year of his own age, in the 13th year of the reign of Domitian, A. D. 93. Besides these, we have his life, written by himself, and two books against Apion, an Egyptian author, who had calumniated the Jewish people. The works of Philo and Josephus were written in the Greek language.

· Philo de legat. p. 1043. C. d Ibid. 1018. C. e In vit. sect. l.

i Vid. Antig. 20. c. 10. Vit. sect. 75, 76. De Bell. in Proæm.

7

AN EXPLICATION OF SOME TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS.

A, U. or, Anno Urbis, is the year of the foundation of the city of Rome, according to Varro's account.

The Julian year is an epoch, so called from Julius Cæsar. The first year of this epoch, when Cæsar's reformation of the Roman year took place, commences the first of January, A. U. 709.

A. D. Anno Domini, or the year of our Lord, or the vulgar christian æra. According to this account our Saviour was born Dec. 25. Julian year 45. A. U. 753. But the computation does not begin till the year following, viz. January 1. Julian year 46. A. U. 754. This computation all writers, as well as others, follow. But learned men are sensible it is defective. Our Saviour was born in the reign of Herod the Great. But it is certain, that Herod died before the passover, A. U. 752; very probable in A. U. 750, or 751.

The Reigns of the Roman Emperors, during the Period

of the Evangelical History.

A. U. A. D. Augustus having reigned from the death of Julius

Caesar 57 years and some months, and from the August 19. 767. 14. defeat of Mark Antony at Actium 44 years, died Tiberius began his reign

August 19. 767. 14. Caius Caligula

March 16. 790. 37. Claudius

January 24. 794. 41. Nero

October 13. 807. 54. Nero died

June 9. 821. 68.
Galba
June 9. A. D. 68.

Jan. 15.
reigned
Otho
Jan. 17. 69.

822. 69. from Vitellius Jan. 2. 69.

Dec. 21. Vespasian reigned from July 1. A. D. 69. tó June 24.

832. 79.

foo {

Apr. 16.

INTRODUCTION.

The History of the New Testament hath, in an eminent degree, all the internal marks and characters of credibility. The writers appear honest and impartial. They seem to have set down very fairly the exceptions and reflections of enemies, and to have recorded without reserve the weaknesses, mistakes, or even greater faults, which they themselves, or any of their own number, engaged in the same design with them, were guilty of. There is between the four evangelists an harmony, hitherto unparalleled between so many persons, who have all written of the same times or events. The lesser differences, or seeming contradictions, which are to be found in them, only demonstrate they did not write with concert. The other parts of the New Testament concur with them in the same facts, and principles. These are things obvious to all who read the books of the New Testament with attention. And the more they are read, the more conspicuous will the tokens of credibility appear.

But it must be an additional satisfaction, to find that these writers are supported in their narration, by other approved authors of different characters, who lived at or near the time, in which the facts, related by the evangelists, are supposed to have happened.

It is plainly the design of the historians of the New Testament to write of the actions of Jesus Christ, chiefly those of his public ministry; and to give an account of his death and resurrection, and of some of the first steps, by which the doctrine he had taught, made its way in the world. But though this was their main design, and they have not undertaken to give us the political state or history of the countries in which these things were done; yet in the course of their narration, they have been led unavoidably to mention many persons of note; and to make allusions and references to the customs and tenets of the people, whom Jesus Christ and his apostles were concerned with.

Here are therefore two kinds of facts, principal, and oc

tian æra.

casional. The principal facts are, the birth and preaching of John the Baptist; the miraculous conception and birth, the discourses, miracles, predictions, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ; the mission of the apostles, the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them, and the other attestations which were given to the divine authority of Jesus Christ, and the truth of his doctrine. The thing's occasionally mentioned are the estate and character of the princes and governors, in whose time these events are placed ; the state of the Jews, their opinions, and practices, and also those of other people, to whom the apostles came.

The facts related in the New Testament are all (except some few mentioned in the book of the Revelation) supposed to have come to pass before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the seventieth year of the chris

And these historians do throughout maintain the character of persons perfectly well acquainted with the matters of which they write.

Two of these books, the gospels of Matthew and John, bear the names of persons, who are said to have been present at a good part of those transactions, which they give an account of. Mark writes as one fully master of his subject, and Luke affirms, expressly, that he “ had per“ fect understanding of all things from the very tirst,” Luke i. 3. and that he was able to write in order of those things he undertook to relate. In these four pieces we have the history of between thirty and forty years, from the vision of Zacharias in the temple at Jerusalem, to the ascension of Jesus Christ.

Besides these, we have also a book called the Acts of the Apostles, ascribed to the last mentioned writer; in which is contained the history of many wonderful events, which followed the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. If he had perfect understanding of all things from the very beginning of the gospel of Christ, he may be well supposed thoroughly acquainted with these late events, as nearer his own time. And indeed in a great part of this work he sustains the character of an eye-witness.

Omitting, for the present, the particular consideration of the principal facts of this history, and the direct and positive attestations given to the truth of them (as well as to the genuineness of these writings) by a great number of persons, who lived near the time in which they are supposed to have happened ; and who, after a serious and diligent inquiry, were convinced of the truth of them, and upon the ground of that persuasion renounced the principles of their

education, and ever after constantly maintained and confessed the truth of the facts and principles contained in these books, with great bazard of their ease, reputation, estates and lives : I shall now take a view of those facts only, which are occasionally mentioned in the New Testament; and inquire into the external evidences of the truth of them.

If it appear from other writers, that our sacred historians have mistaken the people and affairs of the time, in which, according to their own account, the things they relate happened ; it will be an argument that they did not write, till some considerable time afterwards. But if upon inquiry there be found an agreement between them and other writers, of undoubted authority, not in some few, but in many, in all the particulars of this kind which they have mentioned; it will be a very strong presumption that they wrote at, or very near the time, in which the things they relate are said to have happened.

This will give credit to the other, the main parts of their narration. An history written and published near the time of any events is credible, unless there appear some particular views of interest; of which there is no evidence in the present case, but quite the contrary.

The history now before us, is the history of many great and wonderful works done in some of the best peopled and most frequented parts of the earth. They are related with very particular circumstances of time and place, and some of them are said to have been done in the presence of great numbers of people. Here is withal an account of proceedings and sentences of courts of judicature, in cities of the first rank, at times of the greatest and most general resort; and of some discourses made before persons (next under the Roman emperor) of the highest rank and distinction. One manifest design of the whole is to overthrow the religious tenets, then generally received in the world. It is written in the language, not of some obscure kingdom, but of a learned and numerous people, understood at that time by all the polite, and by many others in every part of the known world. For any men to publish such an history of such things as lately done, if not punctually true, could have been only to expose themselves to an easy confutation, and certain infamy.

I propose therefore to give a long enumeration of particulars, occasionally mentioned by the writers of the New Testament, in which they are supported by authors of the best note; and then in answer to divers objections, I shall

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »