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Velleius making it three years, but Suetonius only two years, before the death of Augustus.
If, as Velleius tells us, Tiberius's proconsular empire began about three years before Augustus died, that is to say, August 28. A. U. 764, A. D. 11. the whole of that year would by common computation be reckoned the first of Tiberius, and consequently his fifteenth year, though really beginning August 28. A. U. 778, A. D. 24, would be reckoned from the January preceding. Supposing then that the Baptist began to preach in the spring of this fifteenth year, according to common computation, and that Jesus came to him in the summer or autumn following, the latter would be at his baptism thirty years of age, a few days more or less; provided we fix his birth to September, A. U. 748, that is, a little more than a year before Herod died; or but twentynine years of age, if we suppose that he was not born till September, A. U. 749; that is, a few months only before Herod died.
But if, as Suetonius tells us, Tiberius's proconsular empire began only two years before the death of Augustus, A. U. 765, A. D. 12, then the fifteenth of Tiberius will be A. U. 779, A. D. 26. And supposing the Baptist went out in the spring, and that Jesus came to him in the summer, Jesus would be at his baptism, about thirty years of age and nine months; or, if he came to him in the autumn, he would be thirty-one complete, that is, on supposition he was born September, A U. 748. But if he was born September A. U. 749, he would be three months less than thirty, provided he came to him in the summer; or, if he came to him in autumn, he would be thirty complete.
If Jesus did not come to be baptized till the summer or autumn of the second year of John's ministry, that is to say, the sixteenth year of Tiberius, he must have been a year older at his baptism, according to the several suppositions already mentioned.
The fifteenth year of Tiberius's sole empire began A. U. 781, A. D. 28. If Jesus was baptized in the summer or autumn of that year, he would be about thirty-three years of age, supposing he was born so early as September, A. U. 748. But if he was born September 749, he would be no more than thirty-three, even though he was not baptized till the second year of John's ministry, that is to say, the sixteenth year of Tiberius's sole empire.
But since the commencement of Tiberius's proconsular empire is disputed, and it is not certain what space of time passed between the beginning of John's ministry and Christ's baptism, we have a good right to take such dates of these events as are most favourable. At the same time it is obvious, that the least favourable dates also, I mean such as make Jesus to have been thirty-three years of age at his baptism, are very consistent with Luke's ac
count, chap. iii. 23. For though our Lord was really thirtythree, Luke might, after the example of the other sacred writers, express Christ's age in round numbers, and say he was about thirty, especially if he had a mind to insinuate that he began his ministry at the time of life when the priests, who were all types of him, entered on their ministrations in the temple. Besides, as he makes use of the indefinite particle, which admits some latitude in its interpretation, his account is perfectly agreeable to truth, although Jesus had really been thirty-three years of age complete, when he was baptized. It can be no objection to this calculation, that the years of his ministry, added to his age at his baptism, will make him thirty-eight or thirty-nine when he died. He might be so old then; for, in the last year of his public life, the Jews said to him, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?" John viii. 57. which might be said to a person about forty, much more properly than to one who was but one or two and thirty.
From what hath been said, I presume that the reader will easily gather the reasons which have made learned men differ so much in their opinions about the year of Christ's birth. Harduin and Mann fix it to A. U. 747: Antonius Capellus, Kepler, Henschenius, Antonius Pagi, think it happened A. U. 748. Joannes Dekerius, Dionysius Petavius, Usher, Lancelot, declare in favour of A. U. 749. Cardinal Baron, Joseph Scaliger, Sethus Calvisius, affirm that he was born A. U. 751. Pagi informs us, that this latter opinion obtained anciently in the patriarchate of Alexandria; as appears from Julius Africanus, who makes use of it; and that it remains there in vogue to this day.
Of the commencement of John Baptist's ministry, and of Pilate's procuratorship in Judea.
LUKE says, that Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea when the Baptist began his ministry. But against this an objection has been raised from the following passage in Josephus, Antiq. xviii. fine. Vitellius, the president of Syria, sending his friend Marcellus to administer the affairs of Judea, commanded Pilate to go to Rome, to answer to the emperor for those things of which he was accused by the Jews. And Pilate having spent ten years in Judea, hasted away to Rome in obedience to the command of Vitellius, not daring to refuse; but before he got to Rome, Tiberius was dead."-Dr Lardner's translation. Tiberius died March 16. A. D. 37. Counting backwards ten years, it brings us to March, A. D. 27. But though Josephus tells us, that Pilate having spent ten years in Judea, hasted away, his meaning cannot be, that Pilate was so long in Judea, to a day.
We may suppose that he remained in the country ten years 2nd some months. Besides, the historian is evidently speaking of the time Pilate had been procurator of Judea, which office expired when Marcellus arrived, probably in the end of the year 36; for, on any other supposition, Pilate could not put his affairs in order, so as to be at Rome before March in the following year. Reckoning therefore ten years backward, from October or November, A. D. 36, it brings us to October or November, A. D. · 26. But Pilate may have been governor some months more than ten years. Supposing, therefore, that he came into Judea early in the year, A. D. 26, it was the spring or summer of that year when John began to preach, that is to say, computing the fifteenth year of Tiberius's proconsular empire with Suetonius from its commencement, two years before Augustus died. This difficulty however may be removed another way; for a variety of passages in Josephus have been marked to prove that Pilate was deposed from his government about a year and a half before Tiberius died. The reader who inclines to see this matter accurately handled, may look into the Credibility, B. ii. c. 3. To conclude, if the fifteenth of Tiberius is reckoned from the commencement of his sole empire, the objection taken from the duration of Pilate's procuratorship can have no place.
Of the time spent in building the temple, mentioned John ii. 20.
Ar the first passover, the Jews said to Christ, "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?" Josephus, Bell. i. 16. initio, tells us, that "in the fifteenth year of his reign, he (Herod) repaired the temple itself, and inclosed a space of ground about it of double the compass, with that which surrounded it before." But in the Antiquities, xv. 14. initio, he corrects this note of time: "In the eighteenth year of his reign, Herod projected the rebuilding of the temple."Some attempt to reconcile the passages, by supposing, that in the one, Herod's reign is dated from the decree of the senate, and in the other from the death of Antigortus; for the eighteenth year from the decree of the senate is coincident with the fifteenth from the death of Antigonus. But though this solution of the dithculty should be admitted, it cannot be refused that we have Josephus in one passage telling us Herod did that, which in the other he says he only projected to do. For which reason we may suppose, if we please, that the Jews dated the rebuilding of the temple from Herod's proposal to repair it, rather than from his actuaily falling about the work. The proposal was made probably at the passover, in the eighteenth year of his reign from the deathr of Antigonus, A. U. 73. Add 46 years, the time mentioned by
the Jews, and it brings us to the passover, A. U. 780. A. D. 27. the year after John began his ministry, reckoning the fifteenth year of Tiberius from its commencement, two years before the death of Augustus, as Suetonius has fixed it. Or though the offer was made by Herod at any other of the great feasts that year, it will occasion a difference only of a few months.-Herod finished what he proposed in about eight or nine years time; for he reared the Naos, or temple itself, in the space of one year and an half, that is, made it fit for the sacred ministrations in that time; and the Isg, or cloysters, in eight years, Antiq. xv. 11. But it seems, a number of workmen had for many years after been constantly employed in beautifying and improving the buildings of the temple; for the whole was not finished before the arrival of the procurator Florus, A. D. 65. as Josephus expressly testifies, Antiq. xx. S. where he also informs us, that the people employed in this work amounted to 18,000, and that they were paid out of the sacred treasury. The saying therefore of the Jews to our Lord, John ii. 20. is perfectly consistent with the account which Josephus has given; for though the reparation of the temple might in so long a tract of years meet with interruptions, it is probable they were short and not worth mentioning. We have a form of expression in Pliny perfectly similar to that used by the evangelist in the passage under consideration. It is found lib. xxxvi. c. 14. where, speaking of the temple of Diana at Ephesus, he says it was two hundred and twenty years a building by all Asia, "ducentis viginti annis factum a tota Asia."
Of the day whereon Jesus celebrated the last passover
Of all the questions pertaining to the harmony of the Gospels, this concerning the day on which Jesus celebrated the last passover is the most difficult. Toinard indeed, and Tillemont, with Harduin, Du Pin, and Lamy, easily resolve this difficulty. For they affirm that the supper which Jesus ate with his disciples the night before he suffered, and which is generally supposed to have been the passover, was not really so, but a common valedictory meal. In this notion, however, they so flatly contradict the sacred text, and particularly our Lord himself, who calls it the passover, that they need not be formally confuted. Wherefore, the point in dispute is, whether Jesus kept the last passover in his ministry on the day observed by the nation, or whether he anticipated the time, by celebrating it the day before. The fathers of the Greek church have generally espoused the latter opinion, because on supposition that Jesus anticipated the time, they imagine he must have eaten it with leavened bread, and of conse
quence that he instituted the sacrament of the supper in the same kind, which with them is a favourite tenet. This was the notion of Origen, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Cedrenus, Nicephorus, and indeed of all the Greeks. On the other hand, the Latins, who make use of unleavened bread in the eucharist, do almost unanimously declare in favour of the national day, not doubting but that, as unleavened bread was used with the passover, the eucharist was given in that kind. Nor are the doctors of the reformed church better agreed in their opinions on this subject. For Broughtoun, Cloppenburgh, Bochart, Lightfoot, Burman, and others, have declared for the national day; whereas Munster, Scaliger, Casaubon, Vossius, Capel, Lang, Gerhard, Heidegger, Petavius, Cocceius, Wolf, and others, strenuously defend the anticipation.
I. In a strife of this kind, where so many great names are ranged on the one side and the other, it may seem bold to venture on a decision. Yet, if I may be allowed to give my opinion, I must acknowledge myself inclined to think with those who maintain the anticipation. For that Jesus did not keep the passover on the national day, but the day before, appears probable for the following reasons.
1. The law of the passover was this, Lev. xxiii. 5. « In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover. 6. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must cat unleavened bread. 7. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation, ye shall do no servile work therein." See also Num. xxviii. 16,-25. The Jewish day began at sun-setting. On the fourteenth day at even, or before sun-setting, the paschal lamb was slain; and that night, i. e. in the beginning of the fifteenth day, they roasted and ate it. They began the eating of unleavened bread with the paschal supper, and continued to eat that kind of bread till the end of the twenty-first day. Hence these seven days were sometimes called the feast of unleavened bread, sometimes the feast of passover. Of this feast the first and last days, that is, the fifteenth and twenty-first, were holy convocations, in which no servile work was to be done. In the original institution, Exod. xii. 16. there is one exception, indeed, made with respect to the sanctification of these days. Such servile work might be done, as was necessary for dressing the meat used on those days of feasting. But this exception, instead of diminishing from the rigour of the sanctification of these days, rather increased it; in regard that the nature of all exceptions, from general rules, is to render them without exception, unless in the case mentioned.