« AnteriorContinuar »
Julian Pe 11 And when they were come into the house, they Bethlehem
kind; that it is so to be understood, and consequently that it re-
Such is the testimony of this eminent theologian ; and that
There is much difficulty with respect to the question what the star in the east may havo been. Lightfoot(h) supposes it was the light or glory of the Shechinah, which shone round the shepherds, when the angel brought them tidings of Christ's birth, which, seen at a distance, assumed tho appearance of a star-others that it was a comet-others a meteor-which is by far the most probable opinion, as it solves the phenomena, and is most consistent with the scriptural account. The cir. cumstances related of many singular meteors also serve to confirm this solution (i).
Some learned writers, however, have not been contented with this more easy and natural explanation, of this part of the nar. rative. They consider the prophecy of Balaam as a scientific anticipation.
The learned Mr. Nolan informs me, that Dr. Henly, the
-κακόν δέ τε σήμα τέτυκται
Kepler supposed that a star which appeared in the heel of
These notions are very ingenious, but the misfortune is, that the Scripture narrative is decidedly opposed to them: for the star moved before the Magi, and directed them to the house where Mary was dwelling with her holy offspring.
Julian Pe- and worshipped him : and when they had opened their Bethlehem.
incense, and myrrh. 5.
Whatever, then, may bave been the source of the knowledge which induced the Magi to travel from the East to Jerusalem; whether they were instructed by the traditions of their fathers, handed down to them from the times of Balaam; or directed by the traditional knowledge of their ancestors, received perhaps from Daniel and his countrymen; or acquired from the perusal of the Hebrew Scriptures during the captivity-whether that which guided them were a meteor, a comet, or a star, the wisdom and harmony of the dispensation of God is equally manifest : Christ was promised as the Saviour and Deliverer of all nations, and proofs of his descent into this world to fulfil his high mission were given to the pious Jew, and also to the Gentile. To both were declarations made while he was yet an infant, his high official character. The Magi (1), as well as the shepherds, were brought by divine direction to pay their homage to him, not as to one who had yet to earn the dignity ascribed to him, but who was already invested with it. In the poverty and seclusion of his humble condition, he received unequivocal proofs of their belief in his exalted, and probably in his divine nature. Such testimonies as these we can only attribute to the Deity; imposture or collusion on his part, during a state of infancy, was a physical impossibility: and it certainly appears impossible to reconcile such evidences with the supposed mere humanity of Christ.
It has been supposed by some, that the Magi were proselytes to the Jewish religion-and by others that they were of the descendants of the ten tribes. Dr. Doddridge justly calls this latter opinion a wild hypothesis.
The various opinions which have been at different times proposed to the world, respecting the place from whence the Magi came, may be found in Calmet, Ārt. Magi, and in Frank's prize Essay on the Magi. The more generally received opinion is that of Sir Norton Knatchbull(m), that they came from that part of Arabia which was conterminous to Judæa. Bryant's conclusions respecting the situation of Pethor, agree very well with the result of Sir N. Knatchbull's arguments (n).
I have not here discussed the question respecting the time when the eastern sages came to Jerusalem: Lightfoot supposes it was one or two years, and Archbishop Newcome that it was near the end of our Lord's first year. Mr. Benson, in his System of the Chronology of the Life of Christ, (whose hypothesis is here adopted) bas examined the subject with much care, and appears to bave decided the controversy, that the Magi came from the thirty-ninth to the forty-second day after the birth of Jesus (o).
The Jewish traditions inform us, that it was always expected that a star should appear at the time of the coming of the Messiah. Thus we read in one place of the much esteemed Zobar (p)-The king Messiah shall be revealed in the land of Galilee, and to a star in the east, &c. &c. and again (9)- when the Messiah shall be revealed, there shall rise up in tho east a certain star flaming with various colours; and others might be quoted.
(a) Franks' excellent prize dissertation on the Magi, 8vo. Cam. (5) Hesych. νος Μάγον-Μάγον, τον θεοσεβή και θεολόγον, και iepéa, òe Tiépoai stws Néyovoiva-ap. Bryant's Analysis of Ancient My
Julian Pe 12 And being warned ” of God in a dream that they Bethlehem. riod, 4709. should not return to Herod, they departed into their own Volgar Æra, country another way. 5.
The Flight into Egypt.
MATT. ii. 13-15.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod : that it
thology, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 403. (c) Apud Bryant, ut supra. (d) Har-
205, 437, 438; and vol. ii. Horæ Hebr. et talm, p. 109. i) Vide
34 XonjatidévTES. This expression seems to imply that the Magi were honoured with a renewal of divino visions, such as had been in earlier ages imparted to Laban, Abimelech, Nebuchadnezzar, and Balaam. Vide Schleusner in voc. xpnuarifu xequarisopat oraculum, vel responsum divinum accipio, &c. See Luke ii. 26.-Acts x. 22.-Heb. viii. 5.-with other instances there cited.
35 The journey of Joseph and Mary, who were too poor to pay even for the lamb required by the law of Moses, we may justly suppose was defrayed from the offerings of the wise men: their future exigencies, by the over-ruling providence of God, would be equally supplied. Lightfoot quotes on this point the Babylonian Gemara, which states that the Jewish families assembled at this time in Egypt, were so numerous, that the artificers sate by themselves in their companies—the silversmiths—the braziers-the weavers, &c. &c. so that if a poor stranger came into the city, he might know his own fellow-workmen, and betake himself to them, and thence receive sustenance for himself and family. Lightfoot, vol. ij. Works, folio, p. 111.
Julian Pe- might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Egypt.
36 The Evangelist here seems to apply the passage in Hosea
– that “great city, which is spiritually called Sodom, and
Under the Levitical dispensation, all connection and inti-
the passage of Hosea to the Messiah according to this sense. Christ in his human nature, as our representative, went down into Egypt, to be nourished there; and, like Israel of old, was called out of it by a divine interposition.
He was baptized in the river of Jordan-tried in the wilderness forty days—and after the crucifixion of the flesh attained the promised land, the Heavenly Capaan.
The Israelites were baptized in the Red Sea-tried in the wilderness forty years, and not crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts, forfeited the promised land, the typical Canaan. Numb. xi. 4, 5, 6, 33, 34, and Numb. xiv. 27. 29, &c.
Midrash Techillim, Ps. ii. 7. has these remarkable words. I will publish a decree-this decree has been published in the law, in the Prophets, and in the Hagiographia. In the law, Israel is my first born, Exod. iv. 22. In the Prophets, Bebold my servant shall deal prudently, Isa. liii. 13. In the Hagiographa, The Lord said unto my Lord. All which passages the Jews refer to the Messiah ; and St. Matthew, even if he had not spoken by inspiration, would have been justified, according to the custom of his countrymen, in applying the passage in question to the Messiah.
Slaughter of the Children at Bethlehem.
MATT. Ü. 16-18. Juljan Pe
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of Bethlehem. riod, 4709. Before the the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and Valgarðra, slew all the children that were in Bethlehem 7, and in all 5.
37 Because Josephus has omitted to notice the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, which is related in Matt. ii. 16. the evan. gelical narrative has been pronounced a 'fabrication! and a tale that carries its own refutation with it.' This assertion was first made, we believe, by Voltaire, whose disregard of truth, especially in matters connected with the sacred history, is sufficiently notorious. But the evidence for the reality of the fact, and consequently for the veracity of Matthew, is too strong to be subverted by any bold and unsupported assertions.
For, in the first place, the whole character which Josephus ascribes to Herod, is the most evident confirmation of the bar. barous deed mentioned by the Evangelist.
Secondly, The Gospel of Matthew was published about the year of our Lord 38, at which time there doubtless were persons living who could, and from the hostility then manifested against the Christian faith who would, have contradicted his assertion, if it had been false or erroneous: their silence is a tacit proof that the Evangelist has stated the fact correctly.
But, thirdly, the reality of the fact itself, (though mentioned
Fourthly, Matthew's narratire is confirmed by Macrobius, a
Fifthly, With regard to the silence of Josephus, we may
Sixthly, Contemporary historians do not relate the same facts. Suetonius tells us many things which Tacitus kas omitted, and Dion Cassius supplies the deficiency of both.
Seventhly, It is unreasonable to make the silence of the Jewish historian an objection to the credibility of the sacred writer, while there is equal, and even superior reason, to confide in the fidelity of the latter.
Eighthly, Herod would naturally be supposed to take such precautions as he might think necessary, without being scrupulous concerning the means.