« PreviousContinue »
diverse places,' as particularly that in Crete in the reign of Claudius, mentioned by Philostratus in the life of Apollonius, and those also mentioned by Philostratus at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos."* in all which places some Jews inhabited; and those at Rome mentioned by Tacitus ; and that at Laodicea, in the reign of Nero, mentioned by Tacitus, which city was overthrown, as were likewise Hierapolis and Colosse; and that in Campania, mentioned by Seneca ;§ and that at Rome in the reign of Galba, mentioned by Suetonius; and that in Judea, mentioned by Josephus. "For by night there broke out a most dreadful tempest, and violent strong winds with the most vehement showers, and continual lightnings, and horrid thunderings, and prodigious bellowings of the shaken earth and it was manifest, (as he saith,) that the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men; and any one might easily conjecture, that these things portended no com mon calamity."¶
To these St. Luke addeth, xxi. 11, that there shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.' Josephus, in the preface to his history of the Jewish war, undertakes to relate "the signs and prodigies, which preceded the taking of the city;"** and he relates accordingly, that "a star hung over the city like a sword, and the comet continued for a whole year;" that "the people being assembled to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth
* Gravis terræ motus qui in Creta accidit Claudio imperante meminit Philostratus in vita Apollonii. Item terræ motuum Smyrnæ, Mileti, Chii, Sami, panlo ante tempora excisæ urbis Hierosolymorum. [Translated in the text.] Grot. in locum.
+ Tacit. Annal. lib. 12, p. 91, edit. Lipsii.
Tacit. Annal. lib. 14, p. 113, edit. Lipsii. Orosius, lib. 7, cap. 7, p. 473, edit. Havercamp.
§ Nat. Quæst. lib. 6, cap. 1.
|| Suet. Galb. cap. 18.
¶ Joseph. De Bell. Jud. lib. 4, cap 4, sect. 5. Δια γαρ της νυκτος ἀμηχανος ἐκρηγνυται χείμων, ἀνεμοι τε βιαιοι συν όμβροις λαβροτατοις, και συνεχεις, ἀστραπαι, βρονται δε Φρικώδεις, και μυκήματα σειομενης της γης ἐξαισια· προδηλον ἦν, ἐπ' ανθρωπων ὄλεθρο, το καταςημα των όλων συγκεχυμενον και όυχι μικρυ τις ἀν εικασαι συμπτώματος τα τερατα Nocte enim gravissima erumpit tempestas, ventusque violentus cum imbre vehementi conjunctus, et crebra fulgura, horrendaque tonitrua, et ingentes terræ concussæ mugitus: manifestumque erat, hominum in exitium, mundi statum fuisse conturbatum: eratque ut quis conjiceret ea non vulgares portendere calamitates. [Translated in the text. p. 1811 edit. Hudson.
** Και τα προ ταυτής σημεία και τερατα Quæque præcesserant signa et prodigia [Translated in the text.] Sect. 11, p. 957.
tt Ύπερ την πολιν άςρον ἐςη ῥομφαια παραπλήσιον, και παρατεινας ἐπ ̓ ἐνιαυτον κομήτης" Supra civitatem stetit sidus simile gladio, et anni spatio, ardere perseverabat cometes. Translated in the text.] Lib. 6, cap. 5, sect. 3, p. 1281
hour of the night there shone so great a light about the altar and the temple, that it seemed to be bright day, and this continued for half an hour;"* that "at the same feast a cow, led by the priest to sacrifice, brought forth a lamb in the middle of the temple;"+ that "the eastern gate of the temple, which was of solid brass and very heavy, and was scarcely shut in an evening by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts, was seen, at the sixth hour of the night, opened of its own accord, and could hardly be shut again;" that "before the setting of the sun there were seen over all the country chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities;"§ that "at the feast of Pentecost, as the priests were going into the inner temple by night as usual to attend their service, they heard first a motion and noise, and then a voice as of a multitude saying, Let us depart hence;" and what he reckons as the most terrible of all, that one Jesus, an ordinary country fellow, four years before the war began, when the city was in peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying up and down the streets day and night, A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, a voice against all the people.' The magistrates endeavoured by stripes and tortures, to restrain him; but he still cried with a mournful voice, Woe, woe to Jerusalem!,' This he
* ̓Αθροιζόμενο τη λακ προς την των 'Αζυμων ἑορτην,—κατα νυκτος ἐννατην ώραν, τοσατον φως περιέλαμψε τον βωμον και τον ναόν, ὡς δοκεῖν ήμεραν εἶναι λαμπραν, και τετο παρέτεινεν iar par. Populo ad festum diem Azymorum congregato-hora noctis nona tanta lux circa altare tempiamque circumfusa est, ut dies clarus esse videretur, atqu hoc horæ dimidiæ spatio duravit. [Translated in the text.]
+ Και κατα την αύτην, ἑορτην βυς μεν, άχθεισα ὑπο το ἀρχιερεως προς την θυσίαν, ἐτεκεν ἀρνα ἐν τω ίερω μεσω. In eadem quoque solennitate, vacca, cum a pontifice ad sacrificium adduceretur, agnum in medio templo enixa est. text.] Ibid.
[Translated in the
† Η δε ἀνατολικη πυλη, κ. τ. λ. Sed et janua, &c. [Translated in the text.] Ibid. § Προ ήλιο δύσεως ώφθη μετεωρα περι πασαν την χωραν άρματα και φαλαγγες ένοπλοι διαττεσαι των νεφων, και κυκλυμεναι τας πόλεις" Ante solis occasum per universam regionem currus in aere sublimes ferri, et armatæ phalanges per nubes discurrere urbesque circumvallare sunt visa. [Translated in the text.] Ibid. p. 1282
|| Κατα δε την εορτην, ἡ Πεντεκοςη καλεῖται, νυκτωρ οἱ ἱερεις παρελθοντες εις το ένδον ίερον, ὥσπερ ἀντοις ἔθος ἦν προς τας λειτεργίας, πρωτον, μεν κινησεως ἀντιλαβεσθαι έφασαν και κτυπο, μετα δε ταυτα και φωνης άθεοας, μεταβαινωμεν ἐντευθεν Festo autem die qui Pentecoste appellatur, sacerdotes noctu templum ingressi ad obeunda ex more ministeria, primum quidem motum ac strepitum se exaudisse dixerunt, tum deinde vocem quasi confertæ multitudinis simul clamantis, Migremus hinc. [Translated in the text.] Ibid.
Η Το δε τύτων φοβερώτερο, Ίησες γαρ τις κ. τ. λ. Quod vero his omnibus terribilius est, Jesus quidam, &c. [And what was more terrible than all the rest, there was one Jesus, &c.] Ibid.
continued to do for seven years and five months together, and especially at the great festivals; and he neither grew hoarse nor was tired; but went about the walls, and cried with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe to the city, and to the people, and to the temple;' and as he added at last, Woe, woe also to myself,' it happened that a stone from some sling or engine immediately struck him dead. These were indeed fearful sights and great signs from heaven :' and there is not a more creditable historian than the author who relates them, and who appeals to the testimony of those who saw and heard them. But it may add some weight to his relation, that Tacitus, the Roman historian, also gives us a summary account of the same occurrences. He saith that "there happened several prodigies, armies were seen engaging in the heavens, arms were seen glittering, and the temple shone with the sudden fire of the clouds, the doors of the temple opened suddenly, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were departing, and likewise a
great motion of their departing."* Dr. Jortin's remark is very pertinent. "If Christ had not expressly foretold this, many, who gave little head to portents, and who know that historians have been too credulous in that point, would have suspected that Josephus exaggerated, and that Tacitus was misinformed; but as the testimonies of Josephus and Tacitus confirm the predictions of Christ, so the predictions of Christ confirm the wonders recorded by these historians."+-But even allowing all that incredulity can urgethat in the great calamities of war, and famine, and pestilence, the people always grow superstitious, and are struck with religious panics;—that they see nothing then but prodigies and portents, which in happier seasons are overlooked;-that some of these appear to be formed in imitation of the Greek and Roman historians. as particularly the cow's bringing forth a lamb;-that armies fighting in the clouds, seen in calamitous times in all ages and countries, are nothing more than meteors, such as the aurora borealis ;-in short allowing that some of these prodigies were feigned, and others were exaggerated, yet the prediction of them is not the less divine on that account. Whether they were supernatural, or the fictions only of a disordered imagination, yet they were behieved as realities, and had all the effects of realities, and were
* Evenerant prodigia-Visæ per cœlum concurrere acies, rutilantia arma, et subito nubiam igne collucere templum. Expassæ repente delubri fores, et audita major humanâ vox, Excedere deos. Simul ingens motus excedentium. [Translated in the text.] Tacit. Hist. lib. 5, p. 217, edit. Lipsii.
+ Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, p.
equally worthy to be made the objects of prophecy. Fearful sights and great signs from heaven' they certainly were, as much as if they had been created on purpose to astonish the earth.
But notwithstanding all these terrible calamities, our Saviour ex horts his disciples not to be troubled. The Jews may be under dreadful apprehensions, as they were particularly in the case of Caligula above mentioned; but 'be not ye troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet,' but the destruction of Jerusalem is not yet. All these are only the beginning of sorrows,'-ver. 8, ȧpxn údivwv. Great troubles and calamities are ἀρχη often expressed in scripture-language metaphorically by the pains of travailing women. All these are only the first pangs and throes, and are nothing to chat hard labour which shall follow.
From the calamities of the nation in general, he passeth to those of the Christians in particular: and indeed the former were in great measure the occasion of the latter; famines, pestilences, earthquakes, and the like calamities being reckoned judgments for the sins of the Christians, and the poor Christians being often maltreated and persecuted on that account, as we learn from some of the earliest apologists for the Christian religion. Now the calamities which were to befal the Christians were cruel persecutions, ver. 9,-Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations,' not only of the Jews but likewise of the Gentiles, for my name's sake.' St. Mark and St. Luke are rather more particular. St. Mark saith, xiii. 9, 11,- They shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten, and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.' St. Luke saith, xxi. 12.-15,- But before all these they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.' We need look no farther than the Acts of the Apostle for the completion of these particulars. There are instances enow of the sufferings of some Christians, and of the death of others. Some are delivered to councils,' as Peter and John, iv. 5, &c.
Some are brought before rulers and king,' as Paul before Gallio, xviii. 12; Felix, xxiv; Festus and Agrippa, xxv. Some have a mouth and wisdom which all their adversaries were not able to gainsay, nor resist,' as it is said of Stephen, vi. 10, that' they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake,' and Paul made even Felix to 'tremble,' xxiv. 25, and the gospel still prevailed against all opposition and persecution whatever. Some are imprisoned, as Peter and John, iv. 3. Some are beaten, as Paul and Silas, xvi. 23. Some are to put to death, as Stephen, vii. 59, and James the brother of John, xii. 2. But if we would look farther, we have a more melancholy proof of the truth of this prediction in the persecutions under Nero in which (besides numberless other Christians) fell those two great champions of our faith, St. Peter and St. Paul. And it was nominis prælium, as Tertullian calleth it; It was a war against the very name. Though a man was possessed of every human virtue, yet it was crime enough, if he was a Christian; so true were our Saviour's words, that they should be hated of all nations for his name's sake.'
But they were not only to be hated of all nations, but were also to be betrayed by apostates and traitors of their own brethren, ver. 10,- And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.' By reason of persecution 'many shall be offended,' and apostatize from the faith; as particularly those mentioned by St. Paul in his second epistle to Timothy, i. 15,-- Phygellus and Hermogenes, who with many others in Asia turned away from him,' and vi. 10, Demas who forsook him, having loved this present world.' But they shall not only apostatize from the faith, but also shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.' To illustrate this point we need only cite a sentence out of Tacitus, speaking of the persecution under Nero "At first," says he, "several were seized who confessed, and then by their discovery a great multitude of others were convicted and barbarously executed."+
False teachers too, and false prophets, were to infest the church, ver. 11,—' And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.' Such particularly was Simon Magus; and his followers, the Gnostics, were very numerous. Such also were the Judaizing
* Euseb. Eccles. Hist. lib. 2, cap. 25.
Tertul. Apol. cap. 2, p. 4, edit. Rigaltii. Paris, 1675.
Primò correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens convicti sunt. Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, &c. [Translated in the text.] Tacit., Annal lib. 1ð, p. 128, edit. Lipsii.