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for the Greek criticisms upon which some of them are founded, I refer the reader to the second volume of the first part of Dr. Lardner's large werk.
1. The taxing during which Jesus was born, was “first made,” as we read, according to our translation, in Saint Luke, “whilst Cyrenius was governor of Syria.”* Now it turns out that Cyrenius was not governor of Syria until twelve, or, at the soonest, ten years after the birth of Christ; and that a taxing, census, or assessment, was made in Judea in the be. ginning of his government. The charge, therefore, brought against the evangelist is, that, intending to refer to this taxing, he has misplaced the date of it by an error of ten or twelve years.
The answer to the accusation is found in his using the word "first:"_"And this taxing was first made:” for according to the mistake imputed to the evangelist, this word could have no signification whatever; it could have had no place in his narrative: because, let it relate to what it will, taxing, census, enrolment, or assessment, it imports that the writer had more than one of those in contemplation. It acquits him therefore of the charge: it is inconsistent with the supposition of his knowing only of the taxing in the be. ginning of Cyrenius's government. And if the evan. gelist knew (which this word proves that he did) of some other taxing beside that, it is too much, for the sake of convicting him of a mistake, to lay it down as certain that he intended to refer to that.
The sentence in Saint Luke may be construed thus: “ This was the first assessment (or enrolment) of Cy. renius, governor of Cyria;"+ the words "governor of Syria” being used after the name of Cyrenius as his addition or title. And this title belonging to him at
* Chap. ii. ver. 2.
# If the word which we render “first," be rendered “before,” which it has been strongly contended that the Greek idiom allows of, the whole difficulty vanishes: for then the passage would be,-“ Now this taxing was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria ;" which corresponds with the chronology. But I rather choose to argue, that however the word “ first” be rendered, to give it a weantug at all, it militates with the objection. In this I think there can be no mistake.
the time of writing the account, was naturally enough subjoined to his name, though acquired after the transaction which the account describes. A modern writer who was not very exact in the choice of his expressions, in relating the affairs of the East Indies, might easily say, that such a thing was done by Governor Hastings; though, in truth, the thing had been done by him before his advancement to the station from which he received the name of governor. And this, as we contend, is precisely the inaccuracy which has produced the difficulty in Saint Luke.
At any rate, it appears from the form of the expression, that he had two taxings or enrolments in contem plation. And if Cyrenius had been sent upon this business into Judea, before he became governor of Syria (against which supposition there is no proof, but rather external evidence of an enrolment going on about this time under some person or other),* then the census, on all hands acknowledged to have been made by him in the beginning of his government, would form a second, so as to occasion the other to be called the first.
II. Another chronological objection arises upon a date assigned in the beginning of the third chapter of Saint Luke. “ Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar,"-Jesus began to be about thirty years of age: for, supposing Jesus to have been born, as Saint Matthew, and Saint Luke also himself, relate, in the time of Herod, he must, according to the dates given in Josephus and by the Roman historians, have been at least thirty-one years of age in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. If he was born, as Saint Matthew's narrative intimates, one or two years before Herod's death, he would have been thirty-two or thirty-thrée years old at that time.
This is the difficulty : the solution turns upon an
* Josephus (Antiq. xvii. c. 2. sect. 6.) has this remarkable passage: "When therefore the whole Jewish nation took an oath to be faithful to Cæsar, and the interests of the king.” This transaction corresponds in the course of the history with the time of Christ's birth. What is called a census, and which we render taxing, was delivering upon oath an account of their property. This might be accompanied with an oath of fidelity, or might be mistaken by Josephus for it. † Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 768.
alteration in the construction of the Greek. Saint Luke's words in the original are allowed, by the general opinion of learned men, to signify, not “ that Jesus began to be about thirty years of age,” but “that he was about thirty years of age when he began his ministry.” This construction being admitted, the adverb “ about" gives us all the latitude we want, and more, especially when applied, as it is in the present instance, to a decimal number : for such numbers, even without this qualifying addition, are often used in a laxer sense than is here contended for.*
III. Acts v. 36. “For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves : who was slain ; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to nought."
Josephus has preserved the account of an impostor of the name of Theudas, who created some disturbances, and was slain; but according to the date assigned to this man's appearance (in which, however, it is very possible that Josephus may have been mistakent), it must have been, at the least, seven years after Gama. liel's speech, of which this text is a part, was delivered. It has been replied to the objection, that there might be two impostors of this name: and it has been observed, in order to give a general probability to the solution, that the same thing appears to have happened in other instances of the same kind. It is proved from Josephus, that there were not fewer than four persons of the name of Simon within forty years, and not fewer than three of the name of Judas within ten years, who were all leaders of insurrections: and it is likewise recorded by this historian, that, upon the death of Herod the Great
* Livy, speaking of the peace which the conduct of Romulus had procured to the state, during the whole reign of his successor (Numa), has these words : " Ab illo enim profectis viribus datis tantum valuit, ut, in quadraginta deinde annos, tutam pacem haberet :" yet afterward, in the same chapter, “ Romulus (he says) septem et triginta reg. navit annos. Numa tres et quadraginta."
+ Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament (Marsh's Translation), vol. i. p. 61. Lardner, part i. vol. ii. p. 922.
9 Liv. Hist. c. 1. sect. 16.
(which agrees very well with the time of the commotion referred to by Gamaliel, and with his manner of stating that time, “before these days”), there were innumerable disturbances in Judea.* Archbishop Usher was of opinion, that one of the three Judases above mentioned was Gamaliel's Theudas;t and that with a less variation of the name than we actually find in the Gospels, where one of the twelve apostles is called, by Luke, Judas; and by Mark, Thaddeus.I Origen, however he came at his information, appears to have believed that there was an impostor of the name of Theudas before the nativity of Christ. Ý
IV. Matt. xxiii. 34. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city ; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar."
There is a Zacharias, whose death is related in the second book of Chronicles,|| in a manner which perfectly supports our Saviour's allusion. But this Zacharias was the son of Jehoiada.
There is also Zacharias the prophet; who was the son of Barachiah, and is so described the superscription of his prophecy, but of whose death we have no account.
I have little doubt, but that the first Zacharias was the person spoken of by our Saviour; and that the name of the father has been since added, or changed, by some one, who took it from the title of the prophecy, which happened to be better known to him than the history in the Chronicles.
* Antiq. 1. xvii. c. 12. sect. 4.
+ Annals, p. 797. I Luke vi. 16. Mark iii. 18. Orig. cont. Cels. p. 44.
.“ And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah, the son of" Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper! Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord.” 2 Chroni. xxiv. 20, 21.
There is likewise a Zacharias, the son of Baruch, related by Josephus to have been slain in the temple a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem. It has been insinuated, that the words put into our Saviour's mouth contain a reference to this transaction, and were composed by some writer, who either confounded the time of the transaction with our Saviour's age, or inadvertently overlooked the anachronism.
Now suppose it to have been so; suppose these words to have been suggested by the transaction related in Josephus, and to have been falsely ascribed to Christ; and observe what extraordinary coincidences (accidentally, as it must in that case have been) attend the forger's mistake.
First, that we have a Zacharias in the book of Chronicles, whose death, and the manner of it, corresponds with the allusion.
Secondly, that although the name of this person's father be erroneously put down in the Gospel, yet we have a way of accounting for the error, by shewing another Zacharias in the Jewish Scriptures, much better known than the former, whose patronymic was actually that which appears in the text.
Every one who thinks upon the subject, will find these to be circumstances which could not have met together in a mistake, which did not proceed from the circumstances themselves.
I have noticed, I think, all the difficulties of this kind. They are few: some of them admit of a clear, others of a probable solution. The reader will compare them with the number, the variety, the closeness, and the satisfactoriness, of the instances which are to be set against them; and he will remember the scantiness, in many cases, of our intelligence, and that difficulties always attend imperfect information.