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A. M. 4001,

ant Ær.

No sooner was this heavenly concert ended, but the overjoyed shepherds, remember&c. or 5406. ing the signs which the angel, before he disappeared, had given them, immediately has1. &c. tened to Bethlehem, where they found the virgin-mother, and Joseph the supposed Vulg. 3, or 5. father, attending the godlike babe, whom, in humble reverence, they adored, and then returned, praising and extolling the mercies of God, and, to the great amazement of all that heard them, publishing in all places what they knew concerning this child. As soon as the child was eight days old, his parents had him circumcised † accord

the remainder was 29 years complete, or 30 years current. But it is very far from being certain that St Luke dates the commencement of the reign of Tiberius from the death of Augustus; for there were different computations of the reigns of both these emperors then in circulation, though the time of Augustus's death is indisputably fixed by means of the great lunar eclipse, which happened, soon after it, September 27, U. C. 767. Why there were different accounts of the commencement of the reign of Tiberius, we learn from his contemporary Velleius Paterculus, as well as from the succeeding historians Tacitus. Suetonius, and Dio Cassius, who all agree, that Tiberius was admitted by Augustus "colleague of the empire" -in the administration of the imperial provinces (among which was Judea), and in "the command of the armies," two or three years before his death, either in U. C. 764, or more probably U. C. 765; and that this partnership was confirmed by a decree of the seNow it is probable-indeed almost certain➡ that St Luke computes the commencement of Tiberius's reign from that period; for otherwise his date of the baptism of our Lord, and the age which he assigns to him at that period, cannot be reconciled with St Matthew's account of the massacre at Bethlehem, which was ordered by Herod, and soon followed by the death of that tyrant himself.


The death of Herod is fixed beyond all controversy: for we collect from Josephus (Antiq. lib. xvii cap. 6 -8. Beil. Jud. i. cap. 13, 4-8.) that it happened between the lunar eclipse of March 13, U. C. 750, and the passover which fell that year on the 12th of April. That it happened likewise soon after the massacre at Bethlehem is equally certain; for we learn from Macrobius (Saturnal, lib. ii. c. 4.) that, at Rome, Herod's own son was supposed to be one of the infants murdered. This was indeed a mistake, but Antipater must have been slain about the same time, or there could have been no room for such a mistake; and we know certainly that Herod himself died just five days after he had ordered him to be put to death. As all the infants murdered in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood were from two years old and under, it follows from all these facts, that Jesus could not have been born earlier than U. C 748, nor later than U. C. 749, as the wise men could not have, from the first appearance of the star, come in much less than a year from Parthia to Jerusalem. If we assume the latter year as the exact date of his birth, the two evangelists are at once reconciled; for the 15th year of Tiberius, reckoned from U C. 765, when he began to reign in partnership with Augustus, would be U. C. 780; from which subtracting the year of Christ's nativity U. C. 749, the remainder, 31 years, more or

less, sufficiently agrees with the latitude of St Luke's, expression" being about 30 years of age."

It appears therefore that Dionysius fell into an error when he dated our Lord's nativity in the year of Rome 753; but an additional error was soon fallen into by making the era, which he invented, commence January 1, U. C. 754; thus making it recede still farther from the true year of the nativity. Dr Hales, from whose valuable work the substance of this note is taken, having ascertained that year in the most scientific and satisfactory manner, has constructed on it a table of gospel chronology, from which the following dates are extracted. Some of them indeed anticipate the order of events in this narrative; but a view of them here will enable the reader to feel the force of the answer to part of our author's ensuing objection. Perhaps some readers may require to be told, that U. C. denote the building of Rome; B. C. before Christ according to the vulgar era; and A. D. the year of that era.

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+ Our Blessed Lord, as he was the supreme Lawgiver of the world, was not, in strictness, bound to the observation of his own law, nor did he stand in any need of circumcision, considered as a remedy against original sin; because, in his incarnation, he had contracted no pollution; but, as he was "made of a woman, made under the law." and came (as him. self testifies, Matth. iii. 15.) "to fulfil all righteous. ness," it became him to receive the character which distinguished the Jews from all other nations. Among the Jews, indeed, it was thought a reproach to keep company with persons that were not circumcised.

Gospels to

Luke vi. 1.

ing to the law; when, pursuant to the order which the angel had given before his con- From the be ception, they called his name JESUS; and as soon as he was forty days old, two other ginning of the ceremonies were performed, viz. the purification † of his mother, and the presentation Matth. ix. 8. of her first-born. Though therefore her son's immaculate conception needed not that Mark ii. 23. ceremony, yet the Holy Virgin went up with Joseph to Jerusalem, there to offer the sacrifice + prescribed by the law for her own purification, and there to present her son to the Lord, by delivering him into the priest's hands, and redeeming him again for five shekels. But, while she was in the temple performing this, old Simeon † (who had long waited for the redemption of Israel, and had been promised, by the mouth of heaven, that he should not leave this world before he had seen the illustrious person who was to effect it) came in, and taking the blessed infant in his arms, in an heavenly ecstasy

"Thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them," is the accusation which they brought against St Peter, Acts xi. 3.; and therefore, as our Lord was sent chiefly to the lost sheep of Israel, he could not have been qualified for their acceptance and free conversation, had he not submitted to this ordinance. Of him was that most glorious of all the promises made to Abraham intended, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," Gal. iii. 16. And therefore fit it was, that he should have the seal or testimony of circumcision, in order to shew that he was truly and rightly descended of that ancestor: And as he was come to be the Mediator of a new and better covenant, it was but decent, that the former should recede with honour, and that it might do so, himself should approve of a sacrament, which was both of Divine institution, and a means of admission into that former covenant. Pool's Annotations, and Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. i. The law concerning the purification of women we have in the 12th chapter of Leviticus, wherein it is ordained, that a woman, after bearing of children, should continue for a certain number of days in a state which the law termed unclean. For the seven first days, all conversation or contact polluted them that approached her, and for three and thirty days more, which in all amounted to forty, she was still, though in an inferior degree, reputed unclean; but at the expiration of this term, if her child was a son (for the time was double for a daughter), she was commanded to bring a burnt-offering and a sin-offering, which wiped out the stain which the law laid upon her, and restored her to all the purity and privileges she had before. Now, though the miraculous conception of the Blessed Virgin set her quite above any obligation to the law of impurity, yet, since her being a mother was sufficiently notorious, though the manner of her being so was a secret, it was fit that she should submit, as the known mother of a son, to the ceremonies expected from her. Her sin-offering was not indeed due in any sense; but she lay under the same legal incapacity, in the eye of the world, as other women did, and was to be restored to the temple by it. Her burnt offering was not due, as that of other parents is, to commemorate a deliverance from pangs and danger; but never, sure, were thanks so justly due for any son as this; never from any mother as from her, who had the honour to bring forth her own

and the world's Saviour, the blessing and expectation of all the earth. As therefore he was circumcised in his own person, though the mystical and moral part of circumcision had nothing to do with him; so his mother submitted to all the purifications of any other Israelitish woman, though she partook not in any degree of the infirmities and pollutions common to other births. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. iv.

+ What the Blessed Virgin offered, we read, was a pair of turtles, which being the oblation appointed only for the meaner sort of people, Lev. xii. 6, 8. discovers the poverty of Joseph and Mary, that they could not reach to a "lamb of the first year," the offering which they who had ability were obliged to make. Whitby's Annotations.

+3 Some are of opinion, that this Simeon was the son and successor of Hillel, a very famous doctor in the Jewish church before our Saviour's time, and that he was either the father or master of Gamaliel, at whose feet St Paul was educated. But (besides that, we can hardly suppose, how a person of this note could make so public a declaration in favour of our Lord, and yet no more notice be taken of it) if we look into the several revelations which God, at this time, was pleased to give of his Son, we shall find, that none of them were directed to any of the Pharisees, or principal doctors of the law, but that to Joseph a carpenter, to Zacharias an ordinary priest, and to a company of poor shepherds, such discoveries were made: And therefore, it is much more reasonable to presume, that this Simeon, to whom God had revealed the time of Christ's coming, was some honest plain man, more remarkable for his piety and devotion than any other quality or accomplishment. When he came into the temple, it is said, that among the other mothers, who brought their children to be "presented to the Lord," he observed the Holy Virgin all shining with rays of light, and that, putting the multitude aside, he went directly to her, gave her his blessing, took the child Jesus in his arms, and, being divinely inspired, pronounced the canticle, Nunc dimittis. Nicephorus relates, that as soon as he returned the child to his mother he died; and Epiphanius adds, that the Hebrew priests refused to give him burial, because he had spoken of our Saviour with too much advantage. But these traditions may be groundless fictions. Pool's Annotations, Calmet's Commentary and Dictionary, under the word Simeon.

Ann. Dom.

1, &c. ant Er.

A. M. 4001, praised God for the completion of his promises, in letting him live to see the Saviour of &c. or 5407. the world before he quitted it. And no sooner had he ended his divine rapture, but an ancient widow of the tribe of Aser, whose name was Anna, and whose piety and devotion, severity of life, and constant frequentation of the public worship, were very remarkable, coming into the temple, and being herself likewise excited by a prophetic spirit, gave God thanks for his infinite mercies; testifying, that this child was the true Messiah, and declaring the same to all such devout persons in Jerusalem as waited for his coming.

After these legal performances and solemn testimonies in favour of the child, Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem ||, where, in a very short time, they were visited by certain strangers, coming from afar, of a rank and character somewhat extraordinary For God, to notify the birth of his Son to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, caused an uncommon star to arise in the East, which some wise men or astronomers in those parts observing, and understanding withal that this was to signify the birth of the Messiah promised to the Jews, travelled to the metropolis of Judea, there enquiring after this new-born Prince, that they might testify their homage and adoration of him. Their public character and appearance, and their openly calling him the King of the Jews, put Herod into a great consternation, and the whole city indeed into no small commotion, as both fearing and hoping something extraordinary.

Herod, however, being resolved to destroy this supposed rival in his kingdom, immediately assembled the whole body of the Sanhedrim, and demanded of them the very place where the Messiah should be born. Bethlehem, in the land assigned to the tribe of Judah, (they told him) was the very spot which the Holy Spirit, by the prophet Micah, had marked out for this great event; which when he understood he dismissed the assembly, and sending for the above-mentioned astronomers, with the utmost secrecy he enquired of them the exact time of the star's first appearance, and then dismissed them to Bethlehem, with orders to make diligent search for the young Prince, and, when they had discovered where he was, to bring him word to Jerusalem, that he, in like manner, might go and pay him his homage: but this pretence of worshipping was no more than a cloak to his intention of killing the child.

These persons, however, having received the king's instructions, te departed towards

The words in St Luke are, "when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth," chap. ii. 39. which must be interpreted of some time at least after they had performed these things. For, upon supposition that the Magians came to Beth lehem, after that Joseph and Mary had been at Jerusalem with the child, upon the child's return from thence, his parents must have taken Bethlehem in their way, and there made some small stay (in which time we suppose that the wise men came), before they departed to the place of their settled abode: Because the other two suppositions, viz. That the wise men came to Bethlehem before the presentation of the child at Jerusalem, or, that they came not till he was in the second year of his age, when his parents, upon some business or other happened to be at Bethlehem, are attended with more difficulties than can easily be surmounted. Vid. Spanheim's Dub. Evang. part ii. Dub. 25, 26. [Whitby however reasons very cogently in support of the opinion, which, I believe, is the most common, that the wise men came to Bethlehem within forty days of our Lord's birth; but the arguments for the other opinion appear to me more


Herod, who was naturally of a jealous and suspicious temper, knew very well that himself was hated by the Jews, and that the Jews were then in full expectation of the Messiah (a Prince that was to subdue all other nations) to come and reign over them, and had therefore great reason to fear, that this rumour of a king's being born among them, confirmed by such extraordinary means, as persons coming from a far country, and conducted to Jerusalem by the guidance of a wonderful star, might be a means to excite sedi tion among the people, and occasion perhaps a revolution in the government. Calmet's Commentary.

+ Some upon this occasion are apt to wonder why none of the Jews should have the curiosity to attend the wise men in their journey to Bethlehem; and the reason that is commonly assigned for their omission in this respect is, the dread they might have of offending the tyrant under whom they lived: but as it is highly probable, that when the wise men came to Jerusalem, they made their immediate application to court, as the most likely place where to gain intelligence of him "that was born King of the Jews," and as it is much to be questioned, whether Herod,

Gospels to

Bethlehem, and in their way were very agreeably surprised with a new sight of the From the besame miraculous star they had seen in their own country, which went before them, and ginning of the (like the fiery pillar in the wilderness) directed them to the very house where Jesus and Matt. ix. 8. his mother abode. As soon as they entered in, they fell prostrate on the ground, according to the Eastern custom, and having in this manner adored the child, † presented him with the richest products of their country, gold and precious odours, more particularly frankincense and myrrh.

Having thus performed their homage and congratulations, these Eastern strangers were thinking of nothing more than to return to Jerusalem, and acquaint Herod with the happy discovery they had made; but God, who knew the heart of that tyrant, prevented them by a vision that very night, which directed them into their own country another way; and, not long after, sent an angel to Joseph to acquaint him with Herod's intended cruelty against the child, and to order him to retire into Egypt with him and his mother, and there to continue till farther notice; which Joseph instantly obeyed, and, for fear of discovery, taking the advantage of the night, with all possible speed set forward for Egypt.

In the mean time Herod waited impatiently for the return of the eastern sages; but at length, finding himself deluded, and his most secret and subtle designs blasted, he fell into a most violent rage and fury; and having resolved to effect by cruelty what he had been disappointed of doing by policy, he sent out his soldiers, and † made a bloody massacre of all the children in the city of Bethlehem and the neighbouring

when he convened the doctors of the law, made any mention of the wise men's coming, but nakedly propounded the question to them, "where Christ was to be born?" so there is great reason to presume, that he sent them away so privately, that if any of the Jews had been courageous enough to have gone along with them, they possibly might not have had an opportunity. The greater wonder of the two, therefore, is, that Herod should send none in whom he could confide to be present at the discovery of this rival Prince, and to bring him word thereof, if not dispatch him; but in this the protection and Providence of God was visible. Pool's Annotations.

Some of the ancients are of opinion, that, in the presents which these Eastern sages made, they had a mystical meaning, and designed to signify their acknowledgment both of the divinity, royalty, and humanity of our Blessed Saviour: for the incense, say they, was proper to be given him as a God; the gold, as a king; and the myrrh, as a mortal man, whose body was to be embalmed therewith. But all this is no more than the sport of a luxuriant fancy. It is certain, that the Eastern people never came into the presence of their princes without some presents, and that their presents were usually of the most choice things that their country did afford. All that they meant therefore was to do homage to a new born prince of a neighbouring nation in the best manner they could; and if, (what naturalists tell us be true) viz. that myrrh was only to be found in Arabia, and frankincense in Sabæa, which is a part of Arabia; and that this country was not destitute of gold, 2 Chron. ix. 14. and at the same time was famous for men conversant in astronomy; this makes a very probable argument that the wise men came from thence. But of this we shall see more hereafter. Pool's Annota tions. [I think it likewise probable, that the wise

men were inwardly directed by the Spirit of God to
make such offerings to the new-born Saviour, as might
enable Joseph and Mary, who appear to have been
very poor, to travel with him into Egypt.]

It is thought strange by some, that Josephus, who
writes the life of Herod, in most of its circumstances,
should make no manner of mention of the murder of
these innocents: but, when it is considered that Jose-
phus was only born in the first year of Caligula, and the
thirty-seventh of Christ; that he wrote his History
of the Jewish Wars (which he extracted from public
records) in the fifty-sixth year of his age; and that it
can scarce be supposed, an action so inglorious to the
memory of Herod as this massacre was, should be
preserved in the Jewish records; it is not so very
wonderful, that he, who wrote above ninety-three
years after the fact was committed, should make no
mention of it: Nor is it very material that he did
not, since we find Macrobius, an heathen author,
about the latter end of the fourth age, not forgetting
to acquaint us, that "Herod the king ordered to be
slain in Syria (which in Roman authors is frequently
set for Judea) some children that were under two
years old," though he is mistaken in the circum-
stances of the story, when he makes Herod's own
son to be one of them. Saturn, lib. ii. c. 4.

[The massacre of the infants is mentioned likewise
in a Rabbinical work, called Toldeth Jeshu, in the
following words: " And the king gave orders for
putting to death every infant to be found in Bethle
hem; and the king's messengers killed every infant
according to the royal order."
Cedranus too says,

Herod was distinguished by the title of παιδοκτόνος
the child-murderer; but Cedranus flourished in the
eleventh century, and is, besides, a writer of no great
authority. Hales's Analysis, &c. vol. 3. p. 716,

Mark ii. 23.
Luke vi. 1.

&c. or 5407.

1, &c or 1.

A. M. 4001, towns, that were two years of age and under, including herein the whole time and more that the wise-men had told him, and not doubting but that, in this general slaughAnn. Dom. ter, he should dispatch the young Prince whom he so much dreaded : But God had provided him with a safe retreat. The shrieks, however, of tender mothers for their innoVulg., or 4. cent babes, and the groans of expiring infants, which, on this occasion, filled the skies, were inexpressible, and were one reason, doubtless, why the divine vengeance not long after overtook this tyrant, and smote him with a strange and terrible distemper, which put an end to his wicked and brutal life.

1, &c. ant Er.

(a) Before his death, he had, by will, (which in some measure Augustus confirmed) settled his dominions upon his sons and his sister. Archelaus he had made his successor in that part of his kingdom which included Judea, Idumæa, and Samaria: To Philip he had given Auronitis, Trachonitis, Panea, and Batanea: To Herod Antipas, Galilee and Peræa; and to his sister Salome, some particular cities with a considerable sum of money. After his death therefore, (which was notified to Joseph by a vision) God ordered him to return, with the child and his mother, into the land of Israel, which Joseph readily obeyed; but when he arrived in Judea, hearing that Archelaus succeeded Herod in that part of the country, and being apprehensive that the cruelty and am

Some will needs infer from hence, that this dreadful massacre was not committed until our Lord was almost two years old, because they were children of that age, and under, whom Herod ordered to be slain but besides that the word drns may signify one who has lived one year only, and so the words ἀπὸ διετοῦς καὶ κατωτέρω may be translated “ from a year old and under" Herod might possibly think, that the star did not appear till some considerable time after the young King's birth, and so (to make sure work) might be induced to slay all born at Bethlehem a year before, and more, even to the star's appearing for he who had the heart to slay three of his own sons would hardly be sparing of the blood of other people's children. Whitby's Annotations.

The disease of which he died, and the misery which he suffered under it, plainly shewed that the hand of God was then in a signal manner upon him. For, not long after the murder of the infants at Bethlehem, his distemper, as Josephus informs us, daily increased, after an unheard-of manner, and he him self laboured under the most loathsome and torment ing accidents that can be imagined. "He had a lingering and wasting fever, and grievous ulcers in his entrails and bowels; a violent cholic, an insatiable appetite, venemous swelling in his feet, convulsions in his nerves, a perpetual asthma and stinking breath, rottenness in his joints and privy members, accompanied with prodigious itchings, crawling worms, and intolerable smells, so that he was a perfect hospital of incurable diseases." And thus he died in horrid pain and torment, being smitten by God for his many enormous iniquities. For, setting aside some appearances of generosity and greatness, there was never a more complete tyrant than he. He suppressed and changed the high priest's office as he thought fit, and even profaned the temple itself. He slew the legal king of the Jews, extirpated all the race of the Maccabees, destroyed the whole Sanhedrim, and substituted ot ers in their room: Nor was his rage confined to the Jews, but descended to his own family and near

est relations, even to the executing his beloved wife Mariamne, and his own sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, upon slight and trivial occasions. So wicked a prince as he was conscious he had been, could not (he knew) occasion any true lamentation at his death, but rather a great deal of gladness and rejoicing all the kingdom over; and therefore, to prevent this, he framed a project, which was one of the most horrid that ever entered into the mind of man. All the nobility and most considerable men in every city, town, and village in Judea, upon pain of death, he summoned to come together to Jericho, where he was then lying sick; and when they were come, commanded his soldiers to shut them all up in a spacious place called the Hippodrome, when having called his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, with some choice friends, he told them with tears, "That he was sensible of the Jews hatred to his government and person, and that his death would be an high satisfaction to them; that his friends therefore ought to procure him some solace in the midst of his bitter anguish, which if they performed according to his order, the mournings and lamentations at his death would be as great and magnificent as ever any prince had; and this order was, that on the same hour when he expired, the soldiers should surround the Hippodrome, and put all the enclosed persons to the sword, and then publish his death, which (as he said) would cause his exit to be doubly triumphant; first, for the posthumous execution of his commands; and, secondly, for the quality and number of his mourners." But Salome and Alexas not being wicked enough to do what they had been made solemnly to promise, chose rather to break their obligation than make themselves the executioners of so bloody a design; and therefore as soon as Herod was dead, they opened the Hippodrome, and permitted all that were shut up in it to return to their respective homes. Josephus de Bello Jud. lib. i. c. 18. Prideaux's Connection, part ii. and Eachard's Ecclesiastical History, lib. i. (a) Joseph. Antiq. lib. xvii. c. 8.

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