« AnteriorContinuar »
the empire to peace, he should make the fears for Italy the lighter."
Tacitus, Ann. xvi. cap. 13, "This year (A.D. 65 or 67) so disgraced by crimes, was also marked by the gods with tempests and pestilences. Campania was ravaged by a hurricane, which destroyed villas, woods, and harvests; and extended its violence as far as the city, in which the pestilence was thinning all living creatures, &c." According to Eusebius, three cities, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse, suffered much from an earthquake in the reign of Nero; and Lardner has collected several accounts of earthquakes in the same reign. Jewish Test. chap. iii.
Jos. War iv. ch. 9, "Now, as Vespasian was getting ready to march to Jerusalem, he was informed that Nero was dead (A.D. 68, 10th June). But how he abused his power, how also the war in Galatia was ended; and how Galba was made emperor, and returned out of Spain to Rome, and how he was slain by treachery, and Otho made emperor, with his expedition against the commanders of Vitellius, and his destruction thereupon; and besides what troubles there were under Vitellius; I have omitted to give an account of them, because they are well known by all."
Ch. 10, "Now about this very time (third year of the war) it was that heavy calamities came upon Rome on all sides."
Book v. ch. 1, In describing the three factions which raged at Jerusalem, and the burning of the corn laid up for the siege, Josephus breaks into this exclamation: "and now, O most wretched city, what misery so great as this didst thou suffer from the Romans, when they came to purify thee from thy intestine hatred! For thou couldst be no longer a place fit for God, nor couldst thou longer continue in being, after thou hadst been a sepulchre for the bodies of thine own people, and hadst made the holy house itself a burying-place in this civil war of thine!"
Ibid., "And now as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they
wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to deliver them from their domestic miseries. Nor could such as had a mind flee away, for the robbers, although contending with one another in other respects, agreed in killing those who were for peace with the Romans, or shewed an inclination to desert. Nor was any regard paid to those that were still alive, by their relations; nor was any care taken of burial for those that were dead: every one despaired of himself. But the seditious themselves fought against each other, whilst treading upon the dead bodies as they lay heaped together: and when they had resolved upon any thing, they executed it without mercy, omitting no method of torment or barbarity." More minute details of the cruelties of the seditious, and of the miseries of the famine, are given in chap. 10.
9, Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my
The first persecution of the Christians by the Roman government, that of Nero, began A.D. 64 or 65.* Tacitus calls them a people abhorred for their crimes.
10, And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11, And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.
Jos. War vi. ch. 5, "A false prophet was the occasion of these people's destruction, who had publicly proclaimed, that God commanded them to get up upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting. Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretel their future desolation."
*Luke is more particular concerning the date of the persecutions, and says it was before the wars, earthquakes, &c., xxi. 12; which agrees exactly with Tacitus and Josephus.
12, And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
War v. ch. 11, "Neither did any city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world."
13, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14, And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations ; and then shall the end come.
The churches planted by Paul up to the year 62 continued to increase, and Christianity to spread further into the Roman empire.
15, When therefore ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand).
This seems to apply to the temporary entrance of Cestius's army into Jerusalem (30 Oct. A.D. 66) and his attack upon the temple. The writer adapts the latter part of Daniel, ch. ix. to the events of his time, and imitated towards his readers the address of the angel, who told Daniel that he was come to give him understanding. The phrase seems merely to imply a covert meaning, which might be understood with attention. The slight ambiguity rendered the warning more solemn; and besides, as the Christians at Pella did not wish to identify themselves with the revolted Jews, it would have been injudicious to say openly that the "abomination of desolation" meant the Romans.
16, Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains. 17, Let him who is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house. 18, Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes.
War ii. 20, "After the defeat of Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship about to sink." Eusebius and Epiphanius say, that before the war began (which might mean before the entrance of Vespasian's army into Galilee) the Christians left Jerusalem and went to Pella.
19, And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days. 20, But pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath. 21, For
then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world until now, no nor ever shall be. 22, And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days shall be shortened.
The term "elect" is common in the later epistles; but in the time of Jesus, his followers seem to have been usually called the disciples, and, afterwards, the brethren.
23, Then, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24, For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25, Behold, I have told you before. 26, Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert, go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not. 27, For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. 28, For, wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
So far the prophecy corresponds minutely with history.
29, Immediately (EvEws) after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the mowers of the heavens shall be shaken. 30, And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31, And he shall send his angels with a great sound of the trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32, Now learn a parable of the figtree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. 33, So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34, Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.
These things did not happen.* The rest of the chap
*The frequent allusions in the Epistles to the approaching end of all things confirm the first impression of the reader, that the
ter, and the following one, go on to describe the coming of the Son of Man, but contain nothing corresponding with real events.
Since, therefore, the writer was acquainted with real events till nearly the end of the Jewish war, but ignorant of them afterwards, it follows that he wrote between the years A.D. 66 and 70. The Christians who took refuge at Pella probably addressed many exhortations to their brethren to escape from the city, and to avoid following the impostors; and in the loose state of Christ's history at that time, it was easy to amplify some traditionary sayings of his into directions for the crisis at hand. The author of Matthew, writing about that time, naturally introduced such a prominent topic of the day into his work; and being, as is seen from other parts of it, less studious of historical accuracy than of rendering it interesting and impressive, gave to his description the favourite and poetical form of prophecy. The greater part is well adapted to the period between the defeat of Cestius, A.D. 66, and the arrival of the Romans around the city, 14th April, A.D. 70; for until then, escape, although opposed by the tyrants, was still possible, and the miseries of the city were growing daily more intolerable. The most probable date seems to be 68 or 69, because, with the exception of the allusion to the destruction of the temple, the writer does not shew any acquaintance with the events accompanying the final capture of the city, which he was most likely to do, if he knew them, after dwelling so minutely on the previous occurrences; as is seen in the account of Luke. The allusion to the temple was not unlikely to be made about the year 68, since Josephus says, that most anticipated the entire destruction of the city. Nevertheless, there appears to be no very weighty reason against placing the date as late as A.D. 70, cotemporary with or immediately after the capture of the city; for although the exhortations to flight could then be of no practical use, the record of them helped to describe, in an impres
writer intended the prediction to be understood in its literal and obvious sense. That it refers figuratively to the spread of the Gospel is a later explanation.