Imágenes de páginas

formly mention the 15th, and never the 12th of Tiberius in any view, I would conjecture that, instead of XV., some transcriber separated the parts of the V., and thereby made them into II., which would make the reading XII. instead of XV. This is a mere conjecture, but I think not an unnatural one.

Since Lactantius places “ the death of Christ on the 15th of Tiberius," just like Clemens Alexandrinus, and this was the year in which John preached, it is plain enough, (though, as your Lordship observes, he no where informs us “ how long he thought his (Christ's) ministry lasted,'')* that he could not give much more than a year to it. Indeed, it seems to have been taken so much for granted that the Gospel history was comprised within the space of a year, that, without due consideration, the early fathers include all the preaching of John in the same year. And in this we cannot blame them much, since the whole, was not two complete years.

In the Preface to my English Harmony, I quoted the testimony of Archelaus, Bishop of Mesopotamia, in the reign of Probus, about A. D. 278.+ This testimony, I would observe by the way, being that of an eminent bishop in the East, is certainly of more value than that of Irenæus in Gaul, or any of the Western fathers. After his time, Jerome, who resided much in the East, does not pretend to make the duration of Christ's ministry more than two years.

Valesius, as quoted by Lardner, says, that “all the ancients compute no more than one year in Christ's ministry.”

Chemnitius, & who recites all the opinions he could col. lect of the ancients, and who himself supposed Christ to have preached three years and a half, begins with saying, “ Vulgaris opinio etiam apud Vetustissimos, fuit, omnia illa

Reply, p. 133. (P.)

+ with respect to the Critical Dissertations prefixed to the Harmony, I have attended to the remarks of my friends and others, but I see nothing material to add to them, besides what will be found in my Letter to the Bishop of Ossory. I would only observe, that I might have added one authority more to those of the ancients, in support of my hypothesis of the duration of Christ's public ministry, which is that of Archelaus, Bishop of Mesopotamia, who lived, probably, in the reigo of Probus, about the year 278, and who, as Dr. Lardner observes, " allots but one year to Christ's ministry, or at least to the most public part of it, after he

“ Archelaus, or whoever is the writer," says, “ Nec in aliquo remoratus Dominus noster Jesus intra unius anni spatium languentium multitudines reddidit sanitati mortuos luci.” Ibid. in Note g.

1 Credib. Pt. ii. (P.)
§ Martin Chemnitz, who died at Brunswick in 1586, aged 64.

dicta et facta, quæ in evangelica historia à baptismo Christi usque ad passionem ejus describuntur, unius tantum anni spatio comprehendenda esse.” *

I shall now proceed to remarks of a more general nature relating to this subject.

Your Lordship has made no observation on the general testimony of the ancients in favour of Jesus having been crucified when the Gemini were consuls, which was A. D. 29. This, I think, cannot well be invalidated ; and though you say you do not propose to " discuss points of chrono. logy, which rest on authorities beyond the compass of the Gospels themselves," + I do not see how we can help considering them when they may be of real use to settle a point of controversy, such as we are now discussing. Now this year, A. D. 29, immediately following the proper 15th of Tiberius, (reckoning from the time that the years of Augustus ended, which, I think, must be the only proper method,) the year in which John began to preach, is certainly an argument for the short duration of our Lord's ministry that well deserved your Lordship's attention. With me, I own, it weighs considerably, as I think it must do with others, unless your Lordship shall take some method to invalidate it.

It is observable, that long after the opinion began to be formed, that our Saviour's ininistry must have continued at least two years, all the fathers, even so late as Jerome, still speak of our Lord's suffering in the 15th of Tiberius, which is really inconsistent with it. For what could be meant by Christian writers, by the 15th of Tiberius, but the same year that Luke meant by it. In fact, it must have been copied from Luke. But this is the very year in which that evangelist says that John began to preach. There is no room, therefore, for the extension of our Lord's ministry beyond one year.

It cannot, indeed, be strictly true, that our Saviour died in the same year in which John began to preach. But the early Christians, having a general idea that the whole subject of Luke's Gospel, beginning with the preaching of John, was comprised within the space of little more than a year, they might, writing not as chronologers, but only mentioning facts incidentally, give the date that Luke begins with to all the events comprised within it, promiscuously.

* Harmonia Evangeliorum, p. 9. (P.) See supra, p. 18, Note *. + Reply, p. 135. (P.)

Or, since all the most early writers who mention any date of the death of Christ according to the consuls, say that it happened when the Gemini were in that office; and their consulship was the fifteenth of the complete years of Tiberius, they might omit that part of the year after August in which Augustus died, and give it to Augustus. That some of them did compute the years of Tiberius in this manner, will appear presently.

Either of these suppositions will tolerably well account for the slight inaccuracy. But on no consideration can the fixing of the death of Christ to the fifteenth of Tiberius be consistent with the opinion of our Lord's preaching much more than a year, except that of reckoning the years of Tiberius in a manner different from that of Luke, for which none of these writers make any apology, as might have been expected, considering how much better Luke's Gospel was known to Christians than any other writings in which the years of Tiberius could be mentioned. Indeed, that any historian properly dates the years of Tiberius, so that any of them shall fall within the life of Augustus, is, I think, not probable. If, however, your Lordship can produce any evidence of it from history, I shall stand corrected. Notwithstanding Augustus's delegation of the rights of empire to Tiberius, in order to ease himself of the trouble, he was evidently supreme in the empire to the very day of his death. .

Epiphanius makes the 15th year of Tiberius coincide with A. D. 28, so that he reckoned the years of Tiberius from the death of Augustus. *

Eusebius did the same, for he makes the year in which Tiberius was consul the fourth time, which was A. D. 21, to be the 7th of his reign. He, therefore, reckoned the whole year in which Augustus died to belong to him, and did not make the years of Tiberius to commence till the year following. Consequently, A. D. 29, in which the Gemini were consuls, and in which, according to the ancients, Christ suffered, was the 15th of Tiberius.t

Prosper, as quoted by Valesius, in his Notes on Eusebius, I who agrees with Epiphanius in making the duration of Christ's ministry two years and a half, also reckons the years of Tiberius from the year after the death of Augustus ; and therefore, he says, that the 15th, in which the Gemini were consuls, though said by some to be the year in which

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Christ suffered, could not be the year for that event, since that was the year in which he was baptized.

It is true that Clemens Alexandrinus, after saying, that Tiberius reigned twenty-two years, says that, according to some, he reigned twenty-six. But it is plain, from his manner of expression, that himself, and probably all other Christians, supposed Tiberius to have reigned only twentytwo years, and therefore computed them from the death of Augustus.

The other opinion is evidently spoken of by him as held only by a few persons, and this, I believe, is the only notice that is taken of that opinion. But let some passage in any historian be produced, in which some particular year of Tiberius, as the first, the second, or the third, &c. is mentioned, when it shall appear that the years must be reckoned from Tiberius being made partner with Augustus in the empire. Le Clerc, whose hypothesis stood in need of it, only proves that Tiberius was admitted to imperial honours and rights before the death of Augustus ;t but he brings no proof that the years of his reign were ever dated from that term.

On this subject, of the opinion of the ancient Christians, I would beg leave to make one remark, which appears to me to be of considerable consequence. The opinion that Christ's ministry was only of one year's duration, goes so far back into antiquity, that the origin of it cannot be traced. It was not only held by the Valentinians, (who seem only to have distinguished themselves by giving whimsical reasons for it, as they did for other things relating to Christ and the Gospel history,) but also by those to whom Epiphanius gave the name of Alogi, because, as he says, they questioned the authority of John's Gospel, I believing Christ to be a mere man, and asserting that this was the doctrine of the apostles, and of the generality of Christians till the time of Victor.

As these people had no name by which they were distinguished from other Christians before the time of Epiphanius, which was late in the fourth century, it may • P. 339. (P.) + Harmony, 1701, pp. 571-573. See supra, p. 22, Note t.

* “ Serious Christians," says Lardner, “ might propose difficulties relating to any books of the New Testament, with a view of discovering and being established in the truth; and some of the difficulties mentioned by Epiphanius might proceed from such persons. But that there was a sect or number of Christians who rejected John's Gospel and the Revelation, and ascribed both to Cerinthus, (whilst they received the other books of the New Testament,) I do not believe,-because we have not sufficient assurance of it from antiquity." Works, IX. p. 517.

these Alogi; a held that Christ wstles, it would no

be concluded that till that time they were considered as a part of the body of Christians in general, and that they were not deemed to be heretical till the general prevalence of other opinions, introduced from Heathenism, gradually diminishing their numbers, made it necessary to distinguish them from the now more numerous body by some peculiar appellation.

Had the peculiar opinions, as they are now considered, of these Alogi, as well as those of the Nazarenes, or Ebionites (who likewise held that Christ was a mere man) had an origin after the times of the apostles, it would not have been difficult to trace it; and, like other sects, they would immediately have got some distinguishing denomination, either assumed by themselves, or given them by others; whereas these Alogi passed undistinguished in the common mass of Christians till the fourth century. I therefore think their opinions highly respectable, and not to be rejected without good authority.

I will allow your Lordship, however, to suppose that it may bias me in favour of this particular opinion of the Alogi, that they were Unitarians; as, on the other hand, the same circumstance may contribute a little, without being perceiv. ed, to give your Lordship, who is a Trinitarian, some little prejudice against it. Being men, we are all subject to these influences, and if we are not aware of this bias ourselves, others will suppose it for us.

Your Lordship says, that by the notation of A. D. 30" you " mean the true year of Christ's life.”* This certainly required some explanation, because, as far as I know, it is a mode of notation that has not been used before. But I wish your Lordship had considered how the date you assign to the commencement of Christ's preaching would have agreed with any particular date of the birth or death of Christ. I do not, however, wish to draw your Lordship into any chronological discussion, for which you may have no taste, or which you may think unnecessary. I only mention the easy agreement of the different dates of the birth and death of Christ, with the duration of his ministry on my hypothesis, as an argument in its favour. I indeed make Christ to have died in the thirty-sixth year of his age, and therefore to have been near thirty-five when he began his ministry ; but this corresponds sufficiently well with an historian observing, in general, that he was about thirty.

Reply, p. 134. (P.)

« AnteriorContinuar »