« PreviousContinue »
for this purpose, is, to compare the duration of Herod's reign with the time of its commencement; and the only data from which the calculations necessary for this comparison can proceed, are, notes of time furnished by Josephus, who is the sole autho rity by which we can be guided on the subject. That Historian® states, that Herod began his reign, having received from the Roman Senate, through the influence of Anthony, the kingdom of Judea, in the 185th Olympiad, when C. D. Calvinus for thei second time, and C. A. Pollio for the first time, were Consuls at Rome. This consulship is, on the authority of Pagi and others, assumed as beginning on the 1st of January, and ending on the 31st of December of the year 4674 Julian Period. Writers whose conclusions considerably vary, are agreed in the admission of this date, which is so indefinite as to require the aid of other computations before the particular season of Herod's advance ment can be fixed. The circumstances which occurred between the battle of Philippi and the nomination of Herod, are adduced by Mr. Benson as the reasons which require the commencement of Herod's reign to be assigned to the latter half of the 4674th year of the Julian Period.
The battle of Philippi was fought in the October of the 4672d year of the Julian Period. After that battle Anthony went into Asia, and there conferred upon Herod and Phasael the title and authority of te trarchs of Judea. We may conceive, therefore, that this appoint ment took place in the latter part,' say December, J.P. 4672. In the second year after this event, Pacorus the Parthian invaded and took possession of Syria. Dec. 4672+1 Dec. 4673, which is therefore the earliest date that can be assigned for this invasion of Syria; but it most probably took place early in the Spring of J.P. 4674, the time universally chosen by the ancients for the commencement of their military operations,
After the pentecost which immediately followed that invasion, that is, after the pentecost on the 9th of June" J.P. 4674, Herod fled from Jerusalem to Rome, where he was appointed King of Judea by the Senate; and since we have already seen from Josephus that his appointment to that dignity took place in the year J.P. 4674, it is evident that the commencement of Herod's reign must be dated from some period between the 9th of June and 31st of December of that year. Various other circumstances are mentioned which would enable us to contract these limits still further, and perhaps to fix with precision the commencement of Herod's reign to the month of July J.P. 4674. But as the more extended period which I have stated above will be found sufficiently accurate for all the purposes of the
Antiq. lib. xiv. cap. 22, 23. compared with de Bell. Jad, líbgi. cap. 11.
Lamy Appar. Chron. Part I. cap. v. § 3.
present inquiry, I should be unwilling to detain, and perhaps confound the reader by a more particular discussion." pp. 19, 20.
Josephus is express in stating that, in the second year, Pacorus invaded Syria; but it is not easy to understand how the event from which he dates the irruption of the Parthians can be, the appointment of Herod and Phasael to be tetrarchs. The period between October and the conclusion of December 4672 is, it would evidently seem, too short to admit of the occurrences which Josephus has described as taking place between the battle of Philippi and the appointment of Herod and Phasael. Some days would elapse before the armies broke up from Philippi; and the Jewish Historian, in agreement with the Roman writers, informs us that, after the battle of Philippi, Anthony marched into Asia, and was met in Bithynia by a deputation from the Jews of Jerusalem, complaining of the conduct of Phasael and Herod in usurping the government. Anthony proceeded to Ephesus, where he was attended by the ambassadors of Hyrcanus, who came to request the release of certain Jewish prisoners. On Anthony's going toward Syria, whither be next directed his march, he received Cleopatra in Cilicia, and was again waited upon by Jewish deputies of rank charged with accusations against Phasael and Herod. At Daphne near Antioch, he heard the cause, and deciding in favour of the brothers, appointed them to be tetrarchs. Now, that such extensive countries could be traversed in the manner in which Anthony would pass through them, and such scenes of pleasure and of business take place in the space of less than three months, probably in not more than two, is scarcely credible. The appointment of Herod, then, would seem to be fixed at too early a period in being determined to December J.P. 4672: it could scarcely have taken place before the Spring of 4673. The second year, therefore, we would consider as taking date from the battle of Philippi; and this would fix the invasion of Pacorus in the Spring of 4674, in agreement with Mr. Benson's period.
• The commencement of Herod's reign then is to be dated from the summer or the autumn of J.P. 4674; and he reigned according to Josephus thirty-seven years after he was declared King by the Senate of Rome, that is, he did not reign less than thirty-six, nor more than thirty-eight years.
July J.P. 4674, the earliest commencement of Herod's reign, + $6 years its shortest duration= July J.P. 4710. Dec. J. P. 4674, the latest commencement of his reign, +38 years, its longest duration= Dec. J.P. 4712. The month of Dec. J.P. 4712 is therefore the latest period to which we can assign the death of Herod, and July J.P.4710 the earliest by the same method of computation. p. 21.
But the death of Herod is generally admitted as having taken Place previously to July 1710 of the Julian period. Mann, in
the first of his Two Chronological Dissertations, fixes the time of it to a period about nine or ten days after the eclipse which happened on the 18th of March J.P. 4710, about three weeks before the Passover, which fell that year on the 10th (11th Eamy) of April, that is, about the 21st of March J.P. 4710. Lardner's opinion coincides with that of Mann generally; for, though he is not so minute in his reckoning, nor so positive in his judgement, he evidently gives his support to that calculation which assigns the death of Herod to a date between the 13th of March and the Passover J.P. 4710.* Mr. Benson does not think the arguments which Lardner has alleged in support of the early date of Herod's death, conclusive. They are certainly strong, but not incontrovertible. They are grounded on the great improbability that, considering the diseased state of Herod at the time of the execution of the Rabbis on the 13th of March, he should survive a year after that time, and on the assumption, that between the 13th of March and the 11th of April, there is a sufficient space of time for all the circumstances which Josephus has related between the execution of the Rabbis and the coming of Archelaus to Jerusalem at the Passover. On the other hand, Mr. Benson is of opinion, that there is not a sufficiency of time for the circumstances included in Josephus's history of the events which occurred between those dates. There is great difficulty in the determination of this point. It might seem on the first reading of Josephus's 17th chapter of the Antiquities, that the supposition of Herod's living twelve months after the execution of the Rabbis, is highly improbable. The execution of the Rabbis is considered on all sides as having taken place on the 13th of March J. P. 4710; and Herod was then living. The Passover of that year is computed to have fallen on the 11th of April; and it is certain that Herod died not long before some Passover. His disease had evidently made some proadress before the execution of the Rabbis. Did his last illness then continue for so long a time as twelve months? It is bas scarcely credible that its duration was for so considerable a period. Mr. Benson is perhaps not perfectly correct in his observations on the disease of Herod. It was not,' he says, till after the ambassadors were sent off to Rome on the affairs of Antipater, that Herod's distemper seized him at all: he adds, that Joseplius himself expressly states, that the complaints of Herod did not assume a serious aspect, or seize upon his whole body, until after the execution of the Rabbis,' and that consequently, his disease could not have made so great a progress before that time. But it is clear, that the distemper of Herod had
#1 Lardner's Works, p. 425 and cxxxix. Vol. 1, Ed. 1788.3
of the Rabbis
made considerable progress before the execution golden eagle,
they engaged in their enterprise of removing the golden eagle on, the understanding that Herod's disease was then incurableπυνθανόμενοι του Βασιλέως την νόσον θεραπεύειν άπορον ούσαν : and Mr. Ben son would seem to affirm more than is supported by thewood pressions of Josephus in describing the disease of Herod in its last stage, when he represents that Historian as positively stating that the complaints of the king did not assume a serious aspect until after the execution of the Rabbis. In his remarks on the time probably consumed in the prosecution of the affair relative to Antipater by Herod's ambassadors at Rome, and on the mourning for the Rabbis at the Passover, Mr. Benson is more successful. And if the careful study of Josephius should be found to present circumstances in number and of consequence that would require more time than the twenty-eight days which occurred between the 13th of March and the 11th of April J. P. 4710, then, the death of Herod could not have happened sooner than a short time previous to the Passover of the following year. The circumstances are stated by Mr. Benson, and the time which they may be supposed to require, is carefully computed. Twenty-eight days, he concludes to be quite too narrow a space to comprise them all, and therefore, assuming the correctness of the examination, he considers the opinion of Lardner, that Herod died on the 11th of April 4710, to be positively refuted, and fixes the death of Herod in the Spring of J. P. 4711. "As there are several other notices of time relative to the reign of Herod in Josephus, we should have been glad if Mr. Benson bad included them in his computations, and stated the result. They would, we believe, be found rather in favour of the date which Lardner seems to prefer. But the dates which Josephus supplies in this case are, it must be acknowledged, not readily to be adjusted.
In Chapter the third, the Author inquires into the probable date of Christ's birth. Proceeding on the correctness of the arguments by which he has fixed the decease of Herod at some part of the interval between the 13th of March J. P. 4710, and the Passover J. P. 4711, and not finding any direct information in the Gospels as to the year or period of the year in which Jesus was born, he considers, 1. How long the birth of Christ must necessarily have preceded the death of Herod; 2, How long it may probably have preceded it; and 3. Whether this probable date corresponds with the other chronological marks in the New Testament. With regard to the first of these subjects of examination, the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem is the most important circumstance which occurs in the narrative. Jesus was then born, and Herod was yet alive. The time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi, and the time of this
latter event compared with the time of Herod's death, are, therefore, the leading particulars in this part of the discussion. Iu his arrangement and arguments relative to these several topics, Mr. Benson is ingenious and lucid; but his reasonings are not quite satisfactory, and the basis on which he has constructed some of them, is insufficient for their support. In examining the point, How long the visit of the Magi preceded the death of Herod, the actions of Herod at the time, as they are stated in the Gospel, are the only data of which an inquirer can avail himself; and on these Mr. Benson assumes, that when the Magi arrived, Herod was in a perfect state of health both as to body and mind. This may be an allowable presumption; it is scarcely better, however, than pure bypothesis, since it would be difficult to shew why all the actions recorded of Herod in the narrative of Matthew, might not have taken place in other circumstances than those of perfect health. Such an argument as the following, is clearly unsound,
When Josephus relates the execution of the Rabbis, he makes several allusions to the feebleness of the king, and carefully states the exertion and difficulty it required for him to attend the counci), examine into the sedition, and pronounce the condemnation of the guilty. The narrative of St. Matthew on the contrary proceeds with uninterrupted continuity, and contains no intimation which could impress the mind of the reader with the idea that Herod was otherwise than he had ever been; no symptom of weakness, no phrase to mark the writer's astonishment and horror, when relating the massacre of Bethlehem, that though its perpretator was (to use the language of Josephus upon a similar occasion) μελαγχολών ήδη καὶ μονονουχί αὐτῷ τὶ τῷ θανάτῳ ἀπειλῶν, προέκοψεν εἰς ἐπιβουλὴν ἀθεμίτου πραξεως. Such a remark would have been natural in the mouth of the Evangelist, had 'Herod at that time been in a declining state. But he has not said any thing at all like it, and hence it would appear highly probable that Herod's last illness had not made that progress when the Magi arrived, which we learn from Josephus that it had made at the time of the execution of the Rabbis, on the 13th of March, J. P. 4710. The Magi, therefore, had arrived before that period.' pp. 57, 58.
Now, no reasoning can be more erroneous than that which is here employed to shew, that the illness of Herod had not made the progress noticed, because the Evangelist has not гергоbated the cruelty of the Jewish king. Nothing is more admirable in the Evangelists, than their entire abstinence from invective. Such a remark as that which Mr. Benson has quoted from Josephus, would have been most unnatural in the mouth of the Evangelist. Had Matthew remarked in respect to the massacre of Bethlehem, as Josephus does in reference to the medi