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IV. Seeming chronological contradictions arise from the sacred historians adopting different methods of computation, and assigning different dates to the same period.

Thus in Gen. xv. 13. it is announced to Abraham that his "seed should be a stranger in a land that was not theirs, and should serve them, and that they should afflict them four hundred years." But in Exod. xii. 40, 41. the sacred historian relates that "the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." Between these two passages there is an apparent contradiction: the truth is, that both are perfectly consistent, the computation being made from two different dates. In Gen. xv. 13. the time is calculated from the promise made to Abraham of a son, or from the birth of Isaac: and in Exod. xii. 40, 41. it is reckoned from his departure from "Ur of the Chaldees," his native country, in obedience to the command of Jehovah.1

By the application of this rule many commentators reconcile the difference between Mark xv. 25. who says the hour of Christ's crucifixion was the third, and John xix. 14. who says it was about the sixth hour, that he was brought forth. Notwithstanding the authorities above adduced,2 they observe that none of the antient translators read the third hour in John: they therefore solve the difficulty (imperfectly it must be confessed), by considering the day as divided into four parts answering to the four watches of the night. These coincided with the hours of three, six, nine, and twelve, or, in our way of reckoning, nine, twelve, three, and six, which also suited the solemn times of sacrifice and prayer in the temple: in cases, they argue, in which the Jews did not think it of consequence to ascertain the time with great accuracy, they did not regard the intermediate hours, but only those more noted divisions which happened to come nearest the time of the event spoken of. Adopting this method of reconciliation, Dr. Campbell remarks, that Mark says it was the third hour, from which we have reason to conclude that the third hour was past. John says it was about the sixth hour, from which he thinks it probable that the sixth hour was not yet come. "On this supposition, though the evangelists may by a fastidious reader be accused of want of precision in regard to dates, they will not by any judicious and candid critic be charged with falsehood or misrepresentation. Who would accuse two modern historians with contradicting each other, because in relating an event which had happened between ten and eleven in the forenoon, one had said it was past nine o'clock; the other that it was drawing towards noon.3 From the evidence before him, we leave the reader to draw his own conclusions as to the reading which is preferably to be adopted. We apprehend that the weight of evidence will be found to preponderate in favour of the solution given in p. 542. supra.

V. The terms of time in computation are sometimes taken inclusively, and at other times exclusively.

Thus in Matt. xvii. 1. and Mark ix. 2. we read that, after six days, Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart. But in Luke ix. 28. this is said to come to pass about an eight days after : which is perfectly consistent with what the other evangelists write. For Matthew and Mark speak exclusively, reckoning the six days between the time of our Saviour's discourse (which they are relating) and his transfiguration: but Luke includes the day on which he had that discourse, and the day of his transfiguration, and reckons them with the six intermediate days. So, in John xx. 26. eight days after are probably to be understood in

1 See p. 541. supra, where it is shown that the proper reading of Exod. xii. 40. is, Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. The reader who is desirous of seeing this subject fully discussed, is referred to Koppe's Dissertation, in Pott's and Ruperti's Sylloge Commentationum Theologicarum, vol. ii. pp. 255–274.

2 See p. 542. supra.

3 Campbell on John xix. 14. vol. ii. pp. 572, 573. 3d. edit. 1807.

clusively; it being most likely on that day se'nnight on which Jesus Christ had before appeared to his disciples. It were unnecessary to subjoin additional examples of a mode of reckoning which obtains to this day in common speech, and in almost every writer, except those who professedly tread on chronology. This mode of computation is not confined to the evangelical historians. The rabbins also observe, that the very first day of a year may stand in computation for that year; 1 and by this way of reckoning mistakes of years current for years complete, or vice versa, in the succession of so many kings, and in the transactions of affairs for so long a time, as is narrated in the Scriptures, may amount to a considerable number of years. For this reason Thucydides says, that he computes the years of the Peloponnesian war, not by the magistrates who were annually chosen during that time, but by so many summers and winters: whereas Polybius, Josephus, and Plutarch, have been supposed to contradict themselves because they reckon, sometimes by current and sometimes by complete years.

The preceding, and various other ways by which disputes in chronology may be occasioned, are a sufficient argument to us, that they do not imply that there were, originally, chronological mistakes in the books themselves. And if mistakes might arise in so many and such various ways, without any error in the original writings ;-if the same difficulties occur upon so very nice and intricate a subject in any or all the books which are extant in the world;-and if it could by no means be necessary, that books of divine authority should be either at first se penned as to be liable to no wrong interpretations, or be ever after preserved by miracle from all corruption, it is great rashness to deny the divine authority of the Scriptures, on account of any difficulties that may occur in chronology.





I. "WHEN both a prediction and the event foretold in it are recorded in Scripture, there is sometimes an appearance of disagreement and inconsistency between them.

"This appearance generally arises from some difficulty in understanding the true meaning of the prediction; it may be occasioned by any of those causes which produce the peculiar difficulties of the prophetic writings; and it is to be removed by the same means which serve for clearing these difficulties. It may proceed from any sort of obscurity or ambiguity in the expression, or from any uncertainty in the structure of a sentence."3

Thus, there is a seeming difference in Matt. xii. 40.4 between our Lord's prediction of the time he was to be in the grave, and the time during which his body was actually interred. Now this difference is naturally and easily obviated by considering, that it was the custom of the Orientals to reckon any part of a day of twenty-four hours for a whole day, and to say it was done after three or seven days, &c. if it were done on the third or seventh day from that last mentioned. Compare 1 Kings xx. 29. and Luke ii. 21. And, as the Hebrews had no word exactly answering to the Greek vuxnμepov, to signify a natural day of twenty-four hours, they used night and day, or day and night, for it: so that to say a thing happened after three days and three nights, was the same as to say that it happened after three days, or on the third day. Compare Esther iv. 16. with v. 1. Gen. vii. 4. 12. 17. Exod. xxiv. 18. and xxxiv. 28. and Dan. viii. 14.

1 Lightfoot's Harmony of the New Testament, § ix.

2 Thucydidis Historia Belli Peloponnesiaci, lib. vi. c. 20. tom. iii. p. 237, 238. edit. Bipont.

3 Gerard's Institutes of Biblical Criticism, p. 434. 4 Doddridge, Macknight, &c. on Matt. xii. 40.

II. Apparent contradictions between prophecies and their accomplishment sometimes proceed from the figurative language of the prophets; which is taken, partly from the analogy between the world natural and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic, and partly from sacred topics.1 Hence it is that the prophets so frequently express what relates to the Christian dispensation and worship in terms borrowed from the Mosaic religion; of which instances may be seen in Isa. ii. 2, 3. xix. 19. and lvi. 7. Jer. iii. 17. Zech. viii. 22. and Mal. i. 11. For, the religion of Moses being introductory to that of Jesus, and there being consequently a mutual dependency between the two religions, "it is reasonabe to suppose that, previous to such an important change of the economy, some intimations would be given of its approach.. And yet, to have done this in a way, that would have led the Jews to look with irreverence on a system under which not only themselves but their posterity were to live, would not have harmonised with our notions of the divine wisdom. A method was therefore to be invented; which, while it kept the people sincerely attached to the law, would dispose them, when the time was come, for the reception of a better covenant that was to be established on better promises. Now the spirit of prophecy, together with the language in which that prophecy was conveyed, fully accomplished both these purposes. By a contrivance only to be suggested by divine prescience, the same expressions, which in their primary and literal meaning were used to denote the fortunes and deliverances of the Jews, for the present consolation of that people, were so ordered, as in a secondary and figurative sense to adumbrate the sufferings and victories of the Messiah, for the future instruction of the church of Christ. Had no expedient of this sort been employed, we should have wanted one proof of the connection between the Mosaic and Christian religions: and, on the other hand, had the nature of the Messiah's kingdom been plainly described, the design of the national separation would have been defeated. But, when spiritual blessings were promised under the veil of temporal blessings, and in terms familiar to the carnal expectations of the Jews, a proper degree of respect for the old system was preserved, at the same time that matters were gradually ripening for the introduction of the new: and the shadow of good things held forth obscurely in the law, prepared them to look forward to that happier day, when the very image itself should be presented in full splendour, and distinctly defined by the Gospel."2


III. Apparent contradictions between prophecies and their accomplishment may be occasioned by a prediction relating only to one part of a complex character or event, and on that account seeming to be inconsistent with other parts of it; and the appearance will be removed by taking in such predictions as relate to these other parts, and considering them all in connection."3

Such seeming differences occur in the predictions relative to the exaltation and glory of the Messiah, compared with the prophecies concerning his previous sufferings. On this subject the reader may compare Vol. II. Chap. IX. Sect. I. II. III. In No. IV. of the Appendix to the present volume, we have given a table of the chief predictions relative to the Messiah.

IV. Seeming differences in the interpretation of prophecies also proceed partly from the difficulty of fixing the precise time of their fulfilment, and partly from the variety of opinions adopted by expositors; who, being dissatisfied with the views taken by their predecessors, are each solicitous to bring forward some new interpretation of his own.

These differences however are no more an objection against prophecy, than they are against the truth of all history: and we may with equal propriety conclude that things never came to pass, because historians differ about the time when they were done, as that they were never predicted, because learned men vary in their modes of explaining the accomplishment of such predictions. Expositors may differ in the niceties of the chronological part, but in general

1 Newton on Daniel, p. 16. edit. 1733.

2 Bishop Hallifax's Sermons on the Prophecies, Serm. i.
3 Gerard's Institutes, p. 435.

circumstances they are agreed; hence, whoever will consult them may be greatly confirmed in the truth of the prophecies, upon this very consideration that there is less difference in the explanation of the principal prophecies than there is in the comments upon most antient profane histories; and that those who differ in other matters, must have the greater evidence for that in which they agree. Although there may be a difficulty in calculating the precise time when some predictions were fulfilled, because it is disputed when the computation is to begin, or how some other circumstance is to be understood, yet all interpreters and expositors are agreed, concerning these very prophecies, that they are fulfilled. For instance, in Gen. xlix. 10. it is certain that the sceptre is departed from Judah, whether that prophesy is to be un⚫derstood of the tribe of Judah, or of the Jewish nation who were denominated from that tribe. Although the later Jewish writers deny its applicaton to the times of the Messiah, yet the elder writers invariably refer it to him; and it is certain that the city and sanctuary are destroyed, and that the sacrifice and oblation are entirely done away, though interpreters do not agree about the precise time and manner of the accomplishment of every particular. In a similar manner, the prophecy of Daniel respecting the seventy weeks is equally plain, and its accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem is certain; notwithstanding the differences of opinion in assigning the precise epocha of time. Plain matter of fact shows that these memorable predictions are fulfilled; and the only difference is concerning a single circumstance. To doubt, therefore, (as some of our modern self-styled philosophers do) of the fulfilment of prophecies, merely because we do not certainly know the exact time when each particular was accomplished, though we certainly know that they must have long since been fulfilled, is as unreasonable, as if a man should question the truth of history on account of the uncertainties which are to be found in chronology. The existence of Homer is not denied, because it is uncertain when he lived; nor is the reality of the Trojan war the less certain because the time of the capture of Troy has been variously determined. History, it has been well remarked, relates what has happened, and prophecy foretells what shall come to pass; and an uncertainty in point of time no more affects the one than the other, We may be uncertain of the time foretold by the prophet, and as uncertain of the time mentioned by the historian ; but, when all other circumstances agree, there is no reason why our uncertainty, as to the single circumstance of time, should be alleged against the credibility of either of them.1

V. Some of the prophetic declarations are not predictions concerning things future, but simply commands relative to things which were to be performed, or they are conditional promises, and threatenings, not absolute predictions; so that, if it subsequently appear that these were not executed, such nonperformance cannot create any difficulty or repugnancy between the supposed prophecy and its fulfilment.

We may illustrate this remark by reference to the fast observed by the Jews on the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar: these fasts the prophet Zechariah (viii. 19.) in the name of Jehovah declares, are to be abolished, and converted into a joyous festival; but, notwithstanding this declaration, we know that they continued afterwards to be observed. Another instance may be seen in 2 Kings viii. 10. Elisha's answer to Hazael; to which we may add the seeming assertion, that the last day was near, in Rom. xiii. 11, 12. 1 Cor. x. 11. 1 Thess. iv. 15. Heb. ix. 26. James v. 7, 8. 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13. and 1 John ii. 18. VI. Some of the prophetic promises appear to have been made to individuals, which however were not fulfilled in them.

But between such prophecies and their fulfilment there is no real discordance: becanse they were accomplished in the posterity of the person to whom the promise was made. Thus, in Isaac's prophetic blessing of Jacob, it was announced (Gen. xxvii. 29.) that he should be Lord over his brethren. Now we know from the sacred writings that this never took effect in the person of Jacob; but it was fully verified in his posterity.

Jenkin on the Reasonableness of the Christian Religion, vol. ii. pp. 178, 179.



THESE arise from various causes; as contradictions from a mode of speaking which, to our apprehensions, is not sufficiently clear,-from the same term being used in different senses in different texts,-from the same word being used in apparently contradictory senses,-from the different designs of the sacred writers,—from the different ages in which the various sacred writers lived, and from the different degrees of their knowledge respecting the coming of the Messiah, and the religion to be instituted by him.

1. Seeming contradictions from a mode of speaking which, to OUR APPREHENSIONS, is not sufficiently clear.

It has been the practice of some writers to assert that the apostles, Saint Paul in particular, have argued both illogically and inconclusively: this assertion, however falls to the ground of itself, when we consider the violent dislocations, to which writers of the school alluded to have resorted, in order to disprove what is self-evident from the Bible-the divinity and atonement of the Messiah. At the same time it is not to be concealed, that apparent contradictions do sometimes arise from a mode of speaking which, to our apprehensions, does not seem sufficiently clear. For instance, salvation is in one passage ascribed to grace through faith, which we are assured is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God;-not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. ii. 8—10.); and in another Abraham is said to be justified by faith without works (Rom. iv. 2-6.); while in a third passage he is said to have been justified by works. (James ii. 21.) The apparent difference in these points of doctrine is occasioned by the fruits and effects being put for the cause. A little attention to the argument of the apostle removes all difficulty. Saint Paul's object in the epistle to the Romans was, to shew, in opposition to the objections of the Jews, that how much soever Abraham excelled other men in righteousness during the course of his life, he had no cause for glorying before God; who justified, accepted, and covenanted with him, not for obedience, but for faith in the divine promise. Abraham believed God's word, and God accepted his faith, dealt with him as righteous, and became his God: in like manner as he now conducts himself towards all who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his Gospel. Saint James, on the contrary, having encouraged the christian converts to bear with patience the trials they should meet with, and improve them to the purposes of religion, presses upon them meekness and gentleness towards cach other, as the test of their sincerity; and shews that faith without love is of no avail. Thus the doctrine asserted by each apostle is proved to be consistent, and the seeming repugnancy disappears. For the removal of difficulties arising from expressions' not appearing sufficiently clear, the following observations will be found useful.

I. A passage which is ambiguous, or which contains any unusual expression, must be interpreted agreeably to what is revealed more clearly and accurately in other parts of the Scriptures.

Numerous instances might be adduced in illustration of this remark, in which bodily parts and passions are ascribed to God; which unusual modes

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