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As the history on which we are now about to enter is uncommonly interesting, there is a peculiar propriety in our recapitulating such circumstances as may be necessary for our more perfect understanding of it. The reader will easily recollect, that, from the time of Judas Maccabeus, the Jewish nation was governed by the Asmonean family, who united the sanctity of the priesthood with the authority of the chief magistrate, till, in consequence of domestic dissensions, they were reduced to the state of subjection to the Roman republic, an event which took place in the sixty-third year before the Christian era. They still, however, retained some shadow of royalty till the year, A. C. 37, when Jerusalem was taken by Herod, and Antigonus, the last of the Asmonean race, committed to a close imprisonment. The reign of Herod, splendid, vigorous, and bloody, continued till a little after the birth of Christ, that is, about three years before the commencement of the common account.
Herod had nine wives; the first of whom, named Doris, was the mother of Antipeter, who is stigmatized as the worst of all Herod's sons, and was put to death for treason during the last sickness of his father. The second of them was Mariamne, the daughter of Simon, the high-priest. By this excellent princess he had a son, whom Josephus names Herod, and Luke, Philip, the husband of that Herodias on whose account John the Baptist was beheaded. The third, who was his brother's daughter, and the fourth, who was his first cousin, both of them died childless. The fifth wife was Martac, a Samaritan, by whom he had Archelaus and Antipas; the former succeeded him in the half of the kingdom, under the name of tetrarch; and the latter, called also Philip, was tetrarch of Lturea and Trachonitis, and married Salome, the daughter of Herodias, who demanded the head of John Baptist as the reward of her dancing. This prince died without issue. Herod's sixth wife, Cleopatra, who was a native of Jerusalem, had two sons, Herod Antipas and Philip. Herod Antipas was he that married Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, ordered the execution of Johu, and commanded his soldiers to insult our Saviour. Pallas, the seventh wife, had a son named Phasael. The eighth was Phædra, by whom he had only one daughter, named Roxana. And, by the last, called Elpis, he had another daughter called Salome.
Aristobulus, the son of the beloved Mariamne, left two sons, Agrippa, who is in the Acts called Herod, and noted as the persecutor of the Christians; Herod, king of Chalais, a province of Syria; and a daughter, named Herodias. Agrippa was the father of that king Agrippa before whom Paul pleaded, his sister Berenice, and Drųsilla, the wife of Felix.
It has been already mentioned that the land of Israel was now considered as an appendage of Syria, and divided into four parts, called tetrarchies. Of these, Herod Antipas governed Galilee and Perea, or the country beyond Jordan. Philip, the son of Martac, occupied Iturea and Trachonitis, a rocky country, which afforded great shelter to robbers. Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene; and Pontius Pilate was the procurator, or Roman governor, of Judea.
The government of Pilate appears to have been uncommonly bloody and oppressive;
yet, as Dr. Lardner observes, that they had, according to the sacred writers, the free exercise of their religion, is evident from the whole tenour of the history contained in the gospels, and the Acts of the apostles: they had their synagogues; the law and the prophets were read there; our Saviour taught in the synagogues; whenever he healed any lepers, he bade them go and shew themselves to the priests, [Mat. viii. 4.] and offer the gifts that Moses commanded. [Luke v. 14.] There appears to have been a great resort to the temple at Jerusalem from Galilee and other parts at all their usual great feasts; they were at full liberty to make what contributions they saw fit to their sacred treasury [Mark xii. 41, 44, Luke xxi. 1]; and so secure were they, that they used indirect practices to enrich it. [Mat. xv. 5, Mark vii. 11, 12.] There is no mention made in the history of our Saviour's ministry of any restraint or obstruction they met with, save that one of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. [Luke xii. 1.]
That they might thus freely perform all the services of their religion, though they be supposed to have been then under the Roman government, is not at all improbable; for the Romans had ever permitted the people they conquered to practise their own religious rites in their own way; and the Jews were now at full liberty to worship God according to the institution of Moses, we are assured by Josephus, who has left us the history of these times. The Roman presidents did indeed, for some time, put in and turn out their high-priests at pleasure; the Roman governors did, indeed, sometimes offer them abuses, or suffer abuses to be committed in the country contrary to the institutions of the law, as they did also injure them in their civil properties; but these abuses seem not to have been very numerous. When any were committed, it was without the emperor's authority, and usually the Jews, at length, obtained satis
As a proof of their perfect freedom in matters of religion, Dr. Larduer produces the instance of their being allowed to follow their own customs, though contrary to those of all other nations in the matter of divorce. It has been said, that whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, save for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery. [Mat. v. 31, 32.] It is evident, from the manner in which our Lord condemns all divorces, save those made for the cause of fornication, that they did, at this time, put them in practice on other accounts. This appears also from the questions put to him concerning this matter, and the answers he gave to them, and the surprize and uneasiness which the disciples express at the decision, when he forbade such licentious divorces as those made for every cause.
The Jews were, at this time, divided into several sects, among which the most dis tinguished were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes.
The Pharisees are generally supposed to have derived their name from a Chaldaic word, which signifies, to separate; because they separated themselves from the rest of the Jews, leading a more austere life, and professing a greater degree of holiness, and more religious observation of the law. It is difficult to fix their precise origin. While some suppose they existed in the time of Ezra, and others, that, they sprung up but a little before the Christian era, a third party have embraced a more probable opinion, which fixes their rise in the reign of the Maccabees. Dr. Lightfoot thinks the Pharisaism rose up gradually from a period which he does not assign to the matu rity of a sect. It is certain, from the account given by Josephus, that, in the time of John Hyrcanus, about one hundred, and eight years before Christ, the sect was not only formed, but made a considerable figure. According to Basnage, one Aristobulus,
an Alexandrian Jew, and Peripatetic philosopher, who flourished about one hundred and twenty-five years before Christ, and wrote some allegorical commentaries on the scriptures, was the author of those traditions, by an adherence to which the Pharisees were principally distinguished from other sects. They paid great deference to their Elders, whom they never presumed to contradict, and possessed a high reputation on account of their supposed equity, temperance, and wisdom. They held that fate governed all things, but not in so absolute a manner as to exclude the operations of the human will: that the soul was immortal, and reserved for a future state of rewards and punishments. Most of the Jews of the present day adhere to the Pharisaic doctrine, though they do not generally practise their extreme austerity of life.
The Sadducees generally consisted of persons of the greatest opulence and distinction; and though they attended on the temple worship, were generally considered as a kind of deists, or free-thinkers. They are supposed, by some, to have taken their rise from Dositheus, a Samaritan sectary, and to have allowed no books of scripture, unless the pentateuch; but Josephus does not charge them with this, but only with rejecting the traditions of the elders. Some think they derived their name from an Hebrew word signifying just; and others, from one Sadoc, a disciple of Antigonus Sochæus, president of the sanhedrim, about two hundred and sixty years before Christ, who frequently inculcated upon his scholars that God is to be served for his own sake, not out of view to any reward from him in the next world, as slaves serve their masters merely for recompence. Sadoc, they add, putting a false interpretation on these words of his master, published that there was no reward allotted to good actions done in this world. They held, according to Josephus, that the soul and body die together, and that the only obligation people are under is to keep the law. They accustomed themselves to investigate every thing, and dispute freely with their teachers. He says, that when they were advanced to public offices, they were obliged to conduct themselves as Pharisees, in order to secure the favour of the people.
The Essenes were less ambitious of public distinction than either of the other sects and, in consequence, are not mentioned in the New Testament. As to their origin, Pliny asserts, without mentioning his authority, that they had subsisted for several thousand years. The most probable opinion is, that this sect was formed by Jewish exiles, who, a little before the time of the Maccabees, were forced to retire into caves and deserts, in order to avoid the persecution of their enemies. Philo and Josephus agree that their number in Judea was about four thousand; but the latter writer asserts that they were much more numerous in Egypt. They have been much com mended by Jews, Christians, and Pagans. They held, according to Josephus, that the world is absolutely governed by the providence of God without any other interference. They acknowledged the immortality of the soul, and proved, by their practice, that they considered justice as the chief of all virtues. They did not personally attend at the temple, but sent their gifts, and sacrificed among themselves with much ceremony. They followed no business but husbandry, never married, nor kept servants; but had all their possessions in common, and knew no distinction between rich and poor. They are said to have been divided into the laborious and contemplative; the first of whom divided their time between prayer and labour, and the second between prayer and study. They were not, however, all equally strict in observing their rules of abstinence. Mr. Lampe, in his ecclesiastical history, compares the Pharisees with the Platonists, the Sadducees with Epicureans, and the Essenes with the Stoics and Pythagoreans.
The critics and commentators upon the New Testament are much divided with regard to the Herodians, some making them to be a political party, and others a
religious sect. The former opinion is favoured by the author of the Syriac version, who calls them the domestics of Herod; and also by Josephus, who passes them over in silence, though he professes to give an account of the several religious sects of the Jews. The latter opinion is countenanced by our Lord's caution against the leaven of Herod, which apparently implies that the Herodians were distinguished from the other Jews by some doctrinal tenets. Dr. Prideaux is of opinion that they derived their name from Herod the Great, and that they were distinguished from the other Jews by their concurrence with Herod's scheme of subjecting himself and his dominions to the Romans, and likewise by complying with many of the heathen usages and customs. It is probable that they were chiefly of the sect of the Sadducees; because the leaven of Herod is also denominated the leaven of the Sadducees.
Directly opposed to the Herodians were the Galileans, who are considered by Josephus as the fourth Jewish sect. They derived their origin from a bloody insurgent, Judas of Galilee, who rebelled about the time of the taxing, and excited the people to resist the payment of any tribute to the Romans. They were nearly akin to the Pharisees, being principally distinguished by their holding the maxim of uncontrolable liberty. They acknowledged no superior but God; and, rather than call any man master, were ready to submit to the most excruciating death.
While we are thus treating on the religion and learning of the Jews, it may not be improper to observe, that they had at this time certain Chaldee paraphrases, which are believed to have been read in their synagogues as early as the time of Christ. It is remarkable that they interpret many of the prophecies concerning the Messiah in the same way in which they are now understood by Christians, and therefore are very helpful in the Jewish controversy. These Chaldee paraphrases are known by the name of Targums.
Such was the religious state of the Jews under the government of Pilate. In our Life of Christ we continued his history till the crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God. An opinion prevailed among the antient Christians, that, as Pilate consented unwillingly upon that occasion, so he transmitted to the emperor Tiberius a very favourable account of our Saviour's character. This opinion has been much controverted; but we shall content ourselves with transcribing what Eusebius has observed upon the subject.
"When the wonderful resurrection of our Saviour, and his ascension to heaven, were in the mouths of all men, it being the antient custom for the governors of provinces to write to the emperor, and give him an account of new and remarkable occurrences, that he might not be ignorant of any thing, our Saviour's resurrection being much talked of throughout all Palestine, Pilate informed the emperor of it, as likewise of his miracles, which he had heard of; and that, being raised up after he had been put to death, he was already believed by many to be a god. And it is said that Tiberius; referred the matter to the senate; but that they refused their consent, under a pretence that it had not been first approved of by them, there being an antient law that no one should be deified among the Romans without an order of the senate, but, indeed, because the saving and divine doctrine of the gospel needed not to be confirmed by human judgment and authority. However, Tiberius persisted in his former sentiment, and allowed not any thing to be done that was prejudicial to the doctrine of Christ. These things are related by Tertullian, a man famous on other accounts, and, particularly for his skill in the Roman laws. I say, he speaks thus in his Apology for the Christians, written by him in the Roman tongue, but since translated into Greek His words are these: "There was an antient decree, that no one should be consecrated as a deity by the emperor, unless he was first approved of by the senate. Marcus.
Æmilius knows this by his god Alburnus. This is to our purpose; forasmuch as ainong you divinity is bestowed by human judgment. And if God does not please man, he shall not be God. And, according to this way of thinking, man must be propitious to God. Tiberius, therefore, in whose time the Christian name was first known in the world, having received an account of this doctrine out of Palestine, where it began, committed that account to the senate, giving in, at the same time, his own suffrage in favour of it. But the senate rejected it, because it had not been approved by themselves. Nevertheless, the emperor persisted in his judgment, and threatened death to such as should accuse the Christians." "Which," adds Eusebius, "could be no other than a disposal of Divine Providence, that the doctrine of the gospel, which was then in its beginning, might be preached all over the world without molestation."
To leave, however, this matter undetermined, we proceed to observe, that the conduct of Pilate still continued to be the most atrocious and bloody imaginable. An event soon after happened which brought his tyranny to a conclusion. An impostor appeared in Samaria in the year A. D. 35, a little after the death of Stephen, who gave out to the multitude, that if they would meet him at mount Gerizim, he would shew them the sacred vessels which they believed Moses had concealed in that place. Vast numbers of ignorant people immediately assembled in arms, and laid seige to Tirathaba, a village in that vicinity, waiting for others to join them there, who would, they expected, enable them to form a sufficient body to go up and take possession of the pretended holy treasure. Pilate, who, had received timely information, collected a large body of cavalry and infantry, and took possession of the mountain, whence he attacked the Samaritans, routed them with great slaughter, and brought off a considerable number of prisoners, the most distinguished of whom he ordered to be beheaded Chagrined by this defeat and its bloody consequences, the chief persons among the Samaritans made application to Vitellius, governor of Syria, insisting that Pilate had been guilty of murder, in putting to death men that had not armed to oppose the Roman authority, but only to resist his outrageous oppression. On receiving this complaint, Vitellius dispatched his friend Marcellus to take upon him the government of Judea, and commanded Pilate to repair immediately to Rome, to answer for his conduct at the tribunal of Cæsar. Josephus has informed us nothing further concerning Pilate, than that Tiberius died while he was performing his voyage, and that the loss of his government was only the forerunner of greater evils. There is, however, an antient tradition that he was banished to Vienne in Gaul; and Eusebius asserts, from the authority of some Greek anualists, that he became his own executioner.
On the feast of the passover, this same year, 35, Vitellius was present at Jerusalem, where he was received with the greatest distinction by the Jews, whose favour he took the utmost pains to conciliate, by remitting the whole duty which was levied on the fruits that were exposed to sale. His liberality did not stop here; for, being informed that the Jews were very uneasy that the pontifical habits were kept in the Fort Antonia, under the custody of a Roman officer, he commanded these vestments to be delivered up to the priests, to be disposed of at their pleasure, and released the governor from all responsibility for their safety. Not long after, he deprived Caiaphas of the priesthood, and bestowed it on Jonathan, the son of Ananas. At this period, which was in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius, died Philip, the brother of Herod, after having been tetrarch of Trachonitis, Gaulanites, and Batania, for the space of thirtyHe was a man distinguished by his moderation, and devoted to the quiet enjoyment of his ease, his whole life being spent within the district over which he was appointed to preside. He very seldom left his own house; and, when he did,