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Julian Pe- the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, ac- Betblehem. riod, 4709. Before the Valgar Æra, 5.
Ninthly, Voltaire, either from ignorance or dishonesty, asserts that fourteen thousand children must have lost their lives in this massacre. If this were true, the silence of Josephus would be a very important objection to the veracity of St. Matthew's narrative; and with this view Voltaire makes the assertion, who every where shews bimself an inveterate enemy of revealed, and not seldom of natural religion also. But as the children whom Herod caused to bo put to death (probably by assassins whom he kept in his pay) were only males, of two years old and under, it is obvious, according to this statement, that more children must have been born annually in the village of Bethlehem, than there are either in Paris or London. Further, as Bethlehem was a very small place, scarcely two thousand persons existed in it, and in its dependent district; consequently, in the massacre, not more than fifty at most could be slain. In this description of the life of such a tyrant as Herod, this was so trifling an act of cruelty, that it was but of small consequence in the history of his sanguinary government.
Lastly, As the male infants that were to be slain could easily be ascertained from the public tables of birth, or genealogies, that circumstance will account for the reputed parents of our Saviour fleeing into Egypt, rather than into any city of Judea (c).
Any of these arguments would be sufficient to vindicate the
Evangelist's narrative; but, altogether, they form a cloud of
witnesses, abundantly sufficient to overbalance the negative
evidence attempted to be drawn from the silence of Josephus.
(a) See the passages in Lardner's Works, vol. iv. p. 122, 4to. (6)
Macrob. Saturn lib. 2. c. 4. The Emperor, according to this writer,
seems to have played apon the Greek words, őv a hog, and clov, a son;
the point of the saying perhaps consists in this, that Herod, professing
Judaism, was by bis religion prohibited from killing swine, or having
any thing to do with their flesh; and therefore that his hog would have
been safe where his son lost his life. Macrobius, with singular pro-
priety, states this massacre to have been perpetrated in Syria, because
Judea was at that time part of the province of Syria. Gilpin and Dr.
Clarke, on Matt. ii. 16. The massacre of the infants is likewise noticed
in a rabbinical work, called Toldoth Jeshu, in the following passage-
“ And the king gave orders for putting to death every infant to be found
in Bethlehem; and the king's messengers killed every infant according
to the royal order.", Dr. G. Sharpe's first Defence of Christianity,
&c. p. 40. (c) Lardner's Credibility, part i. book ii. ch. ii. sect.
1. p. 180–185. 4to. Volborth causæ cur Josephus cædem puero-
rum Bethlemiticorum, Matt. ii. 16. narratam silentio præterierit,
4to. Gottingen, 1788, as analyzed in the Monthly Review 0.S.) vol.
lxx. p. 617. Schutzii Archæologia Hebraica, p. 52, 53. Vide Horne's
Critical Introduction, 2d edit. vol. i. p. 653-4. Among the Barrington
papers, I find an unpublished letter of Dr. Lardner to Lord Barrington,
in which the learned writer argues at length, with his usual judgment
and accuracy, against depending on the authority of Macrobius,
in the following passage: -- I the less regarded it (the passage
in Macrobius,) because the objection relating to the slanghter of the
infants, taken from the silence of Josephus, appeared to me of no
moment. When we have but one history of the affairs of a country,
and that history a brief one, the omission of some particular event is no
difficulty. Josephus was a firm Jew, and there was therefore a particu-
lar reason for his passing over this event; because he could not mention
it without giving the Christian cause a very great advantage. To write
that Herod, at the latter end of his reign, had put to death all the in-
fants at Bethlehem, under two years of age, on occasion of a report
spread that the King of the Jews had been lately born there, would have
greatly gratified the Christians, whom Josephus hated; since it was well
Julian Pe- cording to the time which he had diligently inquired of Bethlehem. riod, 4709. the wise men ". Before the Valgar Æra, 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Je5. remy the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Joseph returns from Egypt. Julian Pe
Egypt. riod, 4711.
MATT. ii. 1923. LUKE ii. 40.
Vulgar Æra, 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the
Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel : for they are dead which sought the young child's life *.
known that about thirty years after the slaughter, and the latter end of
Herod's reign, Jesus (who was said to be born at Bethlehem,) being
then about thirty years of age, styled himself King of the Jews, and
did many things, to say no more in proof of it.” Dr. Lardner then
proceeds to discuss at some length the time and occasion of Augnstus's
jest. That no argument against this part of the Gospel narrative can
be derived from the silence of Josephus, is ably shewn also by Bishop
Warburton, who mentions several very important omissions of this
writer. See bis Divine Legation of Moses, vol. iv. p. 281, 282. A
German writer has written a whole treatise on the wilful omissions of
Josephus. He makes them, if I remember right, sixty-two in number.
The remark of Michaelis, that historians generally know little of the
events of the thirty years immediately preceding them, and on this
account it was probable that Josephus had not heard of the slaughter of
the Innocents, does not appear sufficient to account for his silence. It
seems utterly impossible that Josephus could have been ignorant of this
event. His silence was more likely to have been in this, as in other
instances, wilful and interested.
38 'ATO DLETOūs xai xatwTĖpw. Sir Norton Knatchbull, in his
Annotations on difficult Texts, has endeavoured to prove that
it is not necessary to suppose, from these words, that Herod
killed all the children in Bethlehem who had completed, but
those only who had just begun, their second year. The Hebrew
expression would have been on 17, filius duorum annorum.
P. 6. Cambridge. 8vo. edit. 1693.
29 Mr. Mann conjectures that Antipater, who was the heir apparent to the crown of Herod, when Christ was born, was one of the principal advisers of the massacre at Bethlehem. He had already procured the death of his two elder brothers, to pre. pare his way to the succession. His alarm would be as great as that of his father, when he heard that a king of the Jews was born. As this Antipater was executed only five days before Herod died, both might be referred to in the words of the angelThey are dead which sought the young child's life. The very
Jdian Pe 21 And he arosé, and took the young child and his Egypt. riod, 4711. Before the
mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Valgar Æra, 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Ju-
3. dæa in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go
thither 40: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a
dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee :
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth : Nazareth
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the pro-
phets, He shall be called a Nazarene "
LUKE ü. 40.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit,
filled with wisdom : and the grace of God was upon him.
History of Christ at the age of twelve years ".
LUKE ii. 41–52. Julian Pe 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at Jerusalem. riod, 4720. the feast of the Vulgar Æra,
same words are applied to Moses, under similar circumstances,
Exod. iv. 19. Vido Doddridge's Family Expositor, 8vo. edit.
40 The reign of Archelaus commenced inauspiciously: for
after the death of Herod, before he could leave the kingdom to
obtain the confirmation of his father's will from the emperor at
Rome, the Jews behaved themselves so tumultuously in the
temple, in consequence of his having refused them some de-
mands, that this king ordered his soldiers to attack them, on
which occasion upwards of 3000 were slain. It was, probably,
from his knowledge of this circumstance, and a general appre-
hension of the cruelty of the character of Archelaus, that Jo-
seph was afraid to return to his own country.
St. Matthew seems in this passage to apply as it were in a
collective sense all the prophecies in the Old Testament that
refer to the abject and low condition in which the Messiah
should appear. Nazareth, where Cbrist was now conducted,
was the most contemned part of the Holy Land, agreeing well
with that prediction-He was despised and rejected of mon.
The Evangelist, says Lightfoot, does not quote one prophet,
(το ρηθέν διά των Προφητών) but all. All the prophets do teach
the vile and abject condition of Christ; but none that his con-
dition should be out of Nazareth. Cbrist seems destined to
that abject place, to fulfil in a general sense these prophecies.
This seems to be the best interpretation of the passage; pre-
ferable to those which represent St. Matthew as playing upon
the words wy), and 3. Víde Lightfoot. Heb. et Talm. Exerc.
vol. ii. p. 112.
42 The canons of the Jewish law required parents to instruct their children in their intended trade at twelve years of age. It is probable, therefore, that this was the period also when they began to comply with the law, Exod. xxxiv. 23. which required
Julian Pe. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerasalem. riod, 4720. Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. Vulgar Æra, 7.
all the male children to present themselves at Jerusalem three
times every year. As the Jews were accustomed to go ap in
(ovvodiais, Heb. nnor,) caravans, in parties composed of great
numbers, it cannot excite surprise that the Holy Child Jesus
was not at first missed by Joseph and Mary. They found him,
Lightfoot attempts to prove, in the hall, or room adjacent to
that of the Sanhedrim, proposing and answering questions, as
the Jewish youths were permitted to do, of the doctors of the
law. There were in the temple, I. The great Sanhedrim in
the room Gazith, consisting of seventy-one members, with the
nasi, or prince, or president, at their head; and the father of
the court, the Ab beth den on his right hand.-II. Twenty-
three judges in the gate of the court of Israel.-III. Twenty-
three judges in the gate of the court of the Gentiles. Sanhedr.
cap. xi. hal. 2. In each of these it was permitted to ask ques-
tions concerning the law. Instances are given in Lightfoot,
from Hieros. Taanith, fol. 67—4. R. Gamaliel said to a dis-
ciple, “ To-morrow, in the consistory, do thou come forth and
question me on this matter.” There was often a full audience
of many people (a).
The brief narrative of the Evangelist, which confines itself
to the simple statement of facts, without either detail or em-
bellishment, ought not to prevent us from considering the very
peculiar circumstances in which the glory of the second templo
appeared in the house of his heavenly Father. He had now
arrived at that age when the Jews were accustomed to in-
struct their children more fully in the arts of life, and the
knowledge of their religion. At this period Christ shewed him-
self to be perfectly versed in the Mosaic law. Two remarkable
circumstances now occurred: the death of Hillel, the most
eminent of the Jewish expounders of the law, and the banish-
ment of Archelaus. By the first event the Sanhedrim was
deprived of its greatest ornament; by the second the power was
more evidently shewn to be in the hands of the Romans; and
another more decisive proof afforded to the people that the
sceptre was departing. Is it not probable that the appearance
of our Lord in the temple, and his conversation there, might
have been designed to prove to the doctors that there was one
among them more learned than Hillel ; and that one also, by his
well known pedigree from the direct line of David, was the heir
to the long lost, and now vacant throne of Israel. At bis first
appearance as an infant in the temple, the spirit of prophecy
revived-at his present appearance he shewed himself to be
worthy of the homage of his people, as the learned successor of
their most learned instructor, and their lawful sovereign, the
heir to the crown of David.
The conversation of Jesus must have made a deep impression; and not only excited the attention, but the curiosity and admiration of the Sanhedrim. That the object of our Lord's sitting among the doctors was something more than hearing or asking questions concerning the difficulties of the Jewish law, is evidently implied in his answer to the expostulation of his mother, Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? or, as it may be translated, Wist ye not that I must be in the house of God my Father? The God of the Jewish Church did not send the Messiah to excite the amazement, or to gratify the curiosity of the Jews. He came to impress some lesson upon them, suit.
Julian Pe 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they re- Jerosalem. riod, 4720. turned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem ; and Volgar Era,
Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed : and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
able to the peculiar circumstances of the moment, and in con-
cordance with, or to the furtherance of his divine mission.
Lightfoot has shewn the probability that Hillel had died some
short time before our Lord visited the temple at this period.
Should his opinion be erroneous, there might have been assem-
bled round our Lord, when he conversed with the Jewish doc-
tors, Hillel and Shammai, the two most celebrated Rabbis of
the Jews; R. Judah and R. Joshua, the two sons of Bethira;
Jonathan Ben Uzziel, the author of the Chaldee Paraphrase
and R. Jochanan ben Zacchai. Before these distinguished men
our Lord displayed that knowledge of the law, which over-
whelmed them with astonishment and admiration (6).
(a) See Lightfoot, Heb. and Talm. Exerc. in Luke, vol. ii. p. 396-7. Lightfoot thinks it is not impossible that our Lord had found admission into the very Sanhedrim, a circamstance of rare occurrence, permitted only in extraordinary cases. (b) Doddridge, Fam. Expositor, translates the word ffisávro, “ they were in a transport of admiration.” 'Etioravro, obstapescebant, mirabantur. Verbum ibiotnue de quacunque animi commotione vehementiori, imprimis etiam de admiratione summa usurpatur. Roseomaller in loc.