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J. P. 4709. worshipped him: and when they had opened their treaB. V. Æ. 5. sures, they * presented unto him gifts ; gold, and frankin
cense, and myrrh.
Bethlehem. * Or, offered.
meteor, a comet, or a star, the wisdom and harmony of the dispensation of God is equally manifest : Christ was promised as the Saviour and Deliverer of all nations, and proofs of his descent into this world, to fulfil his high mission, were given to the pious Jew, and also to the Gentile. To both were declarations made, while he was yet an infant, of his high official character. The Magi (k), as well as the shepherds, were brought by divine direction to pay their homage to him, not as to one who had yet to earn the dignity ascribed to him, but who was already invested with it. In the poverty and seclusion of his humble condition, he received unequivocal proofs of their belief in his exalted, and, probably, in his divine nature. Such testimonies as these we can only attribute to the Deity; imposture or collusion on his part, during a state of infancy, was a physical impossibility: and it certainly appears impossible to reconcile such evidences with the supposed mere humanity of Christ.
It has been supposed by some, that the Magi were proselytes to the Jewish religion--and by others, that they were of the descendants of the ten tribes. Dr. Doddridge justly calls this latter opinion a wild hypothesis."
The various opinions which have been, at different times, proposed to the world, respecting the place from whence the Magi came, may be found in Calmet, Art. Magi, and in Franks' prize Essay on the Magi. The more generally received opinion is that of Sir Norton Knatchbull (1), that they came from that part of Arabia which was conterminous to Judæa. Bryant's conclusions respecting the situation of Pethor agree very well with the result of Sir N. Knatchbull's arguments (m).
I have not here discussed the question respecting the time when the eastern sages came to Jerusalem : Lightfoot supposes it was one or two years after the nativity of our Lord: Archbishop Newcome thinks that it was near the end of our Lord's first year. Mr. Benson, in his “ System of the Chronology of the Life of Christ," (whose hypothesis is here adopted) has examined the subject with much care, and appears to have decided the controversy, that the Magi came from the thirty-ninth to the forty-second day after the birth of Jesus (n).
The Jewish tradition informs us, that it was always expected that a star should appear at the time of the coming of the Messiah. Thus we read in one place of the much esteemed Zohar (o).-" The King Messiah shall be revealed in the land of Galilee, and to a star in the east," &c. &c. and again (0)" When the Messiah shall be revealed, there shall rise up in the east a certain star flaming with various colours." Other traditions might be quoted.
(k) Franks' Essay, p. 95, 96. (1) Sir Norton Knatchbull's Annotations on Difficult Texts, p. 6, on Matt. ii. 16. (m) There are three renderings of the original phrase-“We of the east have seen his star."-"We have seen his star in the east."-“We have seen its star at its rising." (n) Vide Lightfoot's Harm. Newcome, note, p. 4. Benson's Chronology, and the references in Elsley.
(0) Zohar in Gen, fol. 74. 3. Apud Gill in loc. (p) Zohar in Exod. fol. 3. 3. 4.
12 And being warned 34 of God in a dream that they J. P. 4709.
B. V. Æ. 5. should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
The Flight into Egypt.
MATT. ii, 13–16. 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of Egypt. the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt 35, and be thou there until I bring thee word : for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod : that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt have I called my son 38. I Hos. xi. 1.
34 Xpnuariolévres. This expression seems to imply that the Magi were honoured with a renewal of divine visions, such as had been, in earlier ages, imparted to Laban, Abimelech, Balaam, and Nebuchadnezzar. Vide Schleusner in voc. xpnuariban xonparisopal, “ oraculum, vel responsum divinum accipio." See Luke ii. 26. Acts x. 22. Heb. viii. 5. with other instances there cited.
35 The expenses of the journey of Joseph and Mary, who were too poor to pay even for the lamb required by the law of Moses, we may justly suppose were defrayed from the offerings of the wise men: their future exigencies, by the over-ruling providence of God, would be equally supplied. Lightfoot quotes, on this point, the Babylonian Gemara, which states that the Jewish families, assembled at this time in Egypt, were so numerous, that the artificers sate by themselves in their companies—the silversmiths—the braziersthe weavers, &c. &c. so that if a poor stranger came into the city, he might know his own fellowworkmen, and betake himself to them, and thence receive sustenance for himself and family. Lightfoot, vol. ii. Works, folio, p. 111.
36 The Evangelist here seems to apply the passage in Hosea ii. 1. in a very peculiar manner to our Lord. This text is generally included among those prophecies which have a double signification. It was referred in its primary sense to God's deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt: but in its secondary and figurative sense it is applied to Christ. "A type is fulfilled," says Dr. Whitby in loc. “ when that is done in the antitype, which is done in the type." Israel, as a type of Christ, is called in the Old Testament, "My son, my first-born,' Exod. iv. 22.-to fulfil the types, therefore, as well as the prophecies, it seems that our Lord should have gone down into Egypt. This country may be considered as a type of the world, that great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt,' Rev. xi. 8. All the Patriarchs succes
J. P. 4709.
SECTION XV. B. V. Æ. 5.
Slaughter of the Children at Bethlehem.
MATT. ii. 16-19. 16 | Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem 37, and in all the
sively went down into Egypt for protection and support, till at length the Israelites, the spiritual people of God, 'were called from Egypt,' by the power of their divinely appointed Lawgiver and Deliverer. Egypt and Israel may also be considered as types of the twofold character of man, the natural, and the spiritual. The natural man is fed on the bread of Egypt alone: he has no hope, nor fear, nor thought beyond this life, its advantages, wealth, and honours. The spiritual man, by the grace and power of God, is so delivered and called out of Egypt, or from the bondage and vanities of this life, that he keeps himself unspotted from the world ; and lives not by the bread of Egypt alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Under the Levitical dispensation, all connection and intimacy was prohibited between the Israelites and the Egyptians; and every transgression of this prohibition, which seemed to imply a desire to trust to human wisdom and power, in preference to that which was spiritual and from above, was uniformly attended with failure, or calamity. (See also Warburton's Divine Legation, on the Connection between Israel and Egypt.) St. Matthew, under the influence of the spirit of God, appears to apply the passage of Hosea to the Messiah according to this sense. Christ in his human nature, as our representative, went down into Egypt, to be nourished there ; and, like Israel of old, was called out of it by a divine interposition.
He was baptized in the river Jordan ;-tried in the wilderness forty days ;and, after the crucifixion of the flesh, attained the promised land, the Heavenly Canaan.
The Israelites were baptized in the Red Sea, tried in the wilderness forty years, and because they did not crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, forfeited the promised land, the typical Canaan. Numb. xi. 4, 5, 6. 33, 34. and Numb. xiv. 27. 29, &c.
Midrash Tehillim, Ps. ii. 7. has these remarkable words, “ I will publish a decree:"--this decree has been published in the law, in the Prophets, and in the Hagiographa. In the law, “ Israel is my first-born," Exod. iv. 22. In the Prophets, “ Behold my servant shall deal prudently,” Isa. liii. 13. In the Hagiographa, “ The Lord said unto my Lord.” All which passages the Jews refer to the Messiah ; and St. Matthew, even if he had not spoken by inspiration, would have been justified, according to the custom of his countrymen, in applying the passage in question to the Messiah.
37 Because Josephus has omitted to notice the massacre of the infants in Bethlehem, which is related in Matt. ii. 16. the evangelical narrative has been pronounced a 'fabrication! and a tale that carries its own refutation with it.' This assertion was first made, we believe, by Voltaire, whose disregard for truth, especially in matters connected with the sacred history, is sufficiently notorious.
coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to J. P. 4709,
B. V. Æ. 5.
But the evidence for the reality of the fact, and consequently for the veracity of Bethlehem. Matthew, is too strong to be subverted by any bold and unsupported assertions.
For, in the first place, the whole character which Josephus ascribes to Herod, is the most evident confirmation of the barbarous deed mentioned by the Evangelist.
Secondly, The Gospel of Matthew was published about the year of our Lord 38, at which time there doubtless were persons living, who could, and, from the hostility tben manifested against the Christian faith, who would, have contradicted his assertion, if it had been false or erroneous: their silence is a tacit proof, that the Evangelist has stated the fact correctly.
But, thirdly, the reality of the fact itself, (though mentioned in his usual scoffing manner) was not denied by the philosopher Celsus, one of the bitterest enemies of Christianity, who lived towards the close of the second century, and who would most unquestionably have denied it if he could (a).
Fourthly, Matthew's narrative is confirmed by Macrobius, a Heathen author, who lived about the end of the fourth century, and who metions this massacre in the following terms:—" Augustus having been informed that Herod had ordered a son of his own to be killed, among the male infants about two years old, whom he had put to death in Syria, said, It is better to be Herod's hog than his son (b).” Now although Macrobius is far too modern to be produced as a valid evidence in this matter, unsupported by other circumstances, and although his story is magnified by an erroneous circumstance, yet the passage cited from him serves to prove how universally notorious was the murder of the children in Bethlehem, which was perpetrated by the order of Herod.
Fifthly, With regard to the silence of Josephus, we may further remark, that no historian, nor even annalist, can be expected to record every event that occurs within the period of which he writes.
Sixthly, Contemporary historians do not relate the same facts. Suetonius tells us many things which Tacitus has omitted, and Dion Cassius supplies the deficiency of both.
Seventhly, It is unreasonable to make the silence of the Jewish historian an objection to the credibility of the sacred writer, while there is equal and even superior reason, to confide in the fidelity of the latter.
Eighthly, Herod would naturally be supposed to take such precautions as he might think necessary, without being scrupulous concerning the means. ,
Ninthly, Voltaire, either from ignorance or dishonesty, asserts that fourteen thousand children must have lost their lives in this massacre. If this were true,
(a) See the passages in Lardner's Works, vol. iv. p. 122, 4to. () Macrob. Saturn. lib. ii. c.4. The emperor, according to this writer, seems to have played upon the Greek words, év, a hog, and viov, a son; the point of the saying perhaps consists in this, that Herod, professing Judaism, was by his religion prohibited from killing swine, or having any thing to do with their flesh; and therefore that his hog would have been safe where his son lost his life. Macrobius states this massacre to have been perpetrated in Syria, because Judea was at that time part of the province of Syria. Gilpin and Dr. Clarke, on Matt. ii. 16. The massacre of the infants is likewise noticed in a rabbinical work, called Toldoth Jeshu, in the following passage —" And the king gave orders for putting to death every infant to be found in Bethlehem ; and the king's messengers killed every infant according to the royal order.” Dr. G. Sharpe's first Defence of Christianity, &c. p. 40.
J. P. 4709. the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise
B. V. Æ, 5.
the silence of Josephus would be a very important objection to the veracity of St. Matthew's narrative; and with this view the assertion is made by Voltaire, who every where shews himself an inveterate enemy of revealed, and not unfrequently of natural, religion. But as the children whom Herod caused to be put to death (probably by assassins whom he kept in his pay) were only males, of two years old and under, it is obvious, according to Voltaire's statement, that more children must have been born annually in the village of Bethlehem, thau there are either in Paris or London. Further, as Bethlehem was a very small place, scarcely two thousand persons existed in it, and in its dependent district; consequently, in the massacre, not more than fifty at most could be slain. In the life of such a tyrant as Herod, this was, comparatively, so trifling an act of cruelty, that it was but of small consequence in the history of his sanguinary government.
Lastly, As the male infants that were to be slain could easily be ascertained from the public tables of birth, or genealogies, that circumstance will account for the reputed parents of our Saviour fleeing into Egypt, rather than into any city of Judea (c).
Any of these arguments would be sufficient to vindicate the Evangelist's nar
(c) Lardner's Credibility, part i. book ii. ch. i. sect. 1. p. 180—185. 4to. Volboth causæ cur Josephus cædem puerorum Bethlemiticorum, Matt. ii. 16. narratam silentio præterierit, 4to. Gottingen, 1788, as analyzed in the Monthly Review (0. s.) vol. lxx. p. 617. Schutzii Archæologia Hebraica, p. 52, 53. Vide Horne's Critical Introduction, 2d edit. vol. i. p. 653-4. Among the Barrington papers, I find an unpublished letter of Dr. Lardner to Lord Barrington, in which the learned writer argues at length, with his usual judgment and accuracy, against depending on the authority of Macrobius, in the following passage :-" I the less regarded it (the passage in Macrobius,) because the objection relating to the slaughter of the infants, taken from the silence of Josephus, appeared to me of no moment. When we have but one history of the affairs of a country, and that history a brief one, the omission of some particular event is no difficulty. Josephus was a firm Jew, and there was therefore a particular reason for his passing over this event; because he could not mention it without giving the Christian cause a very great advantage. To write that Herod, at the latter end of his reign, had put to death all the infants at Bethlehem, under two years of age, on occasion of a report spread that the king of the Jews had been lately born there, would have greatly gratified the Christians, whom Josephus hated ; since it was well known that about thirty years after the slaughter, and the latter end of Herod's reign, Jesus, who was said to be born at Bethlehem,) being then about thirty years of age, styled himself king of the Jews, and did many things, to say no more in proof of it." Dr. Lardner then proceeds to discuss at some length the time and occasion of Augustus's jest. That no argument against this part of the Gospel narrative can be derived from the silence of Josephus, is ably shewn also by Bishop Warburton, who mentions several very important omissions of this writer. See his divine Legation of Moses, vol. iv. p. 281, 282. A German writer has written a whole treatise on the wilful omissions of Josephus. He makes them, if I remember rightly, sixtytwo in number. The remark of Michaelis, that historians generally know little of the events of the thirty years immediately preceding them, and that on this account it was probable that Joseph had not heard of the slaughter of the Innocents, does not appear sufficient to account for his silence. It seems utterly impossible that Josephus could have been ignorant of this event. His silence was more likely to have been in this instance, as in others, wilful and interested.
38 See next page.