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favoured by the vulgar version, which runs thus: "Hæc descriptio
παντα γίνεται. The enrolment was made in Herod's time, but the taxation according to the enrolment, not till Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
Some one or other of these interpretations must of necessity be espoused. For Luke affirms, that Jesus was conceived in the days of Herod King of Judea, chap. i. 5. 26. By consequente, according to Luke himself, the enrolment under which he was born, must have happened in Herod's reign or soon after. Whereas the taxation under Cyrenius did not happen till Archelaus was banished. But Archelaus, according to Josephus, reigned ten years. It is evident, therefore, that Luke cannot be supposed to connect Cyrenius's government of Syria with the birth of Jesus, which he has fixed to the end of Herod's reign.
Of Herod's Death.
It is necessary to settle exactly the time of Herod's death, in order to understand the chronology of the gospels. Some are of opinion that he died a little before the passover, A. U. 750, Julian year 42, and before the vulgar æra 4. Others fix his death to the 25th of November following. Others place it a little before the passover, A. U. 751. The initial letters A. U. signify the year of the city of Rome. A. U. 750, therefore is the 750th year from the building of that city. But there are two opinions concerning this epoch. The first is Varro's, who, as Plutarch tells us, thought the city was founded in the end of the third year of the sixth Olympiad. The second is that of Flaccus, who in the Fasti Capitolini has placed it about the end of the fourth year of the same Olympiad. Chronologers have generally espoused Varto's opinion. They think the city was founded in the end of the third year of the sixth Olympiad, and this third year they reckon the first of the city. It answers to Julian Per. 3961, being 753 before the vulgar æra.
That Herod died before some passover, is plain from Josephus, who tells us that Archelaus, after his father's death celebrated a passover in Jerusalem before he went to Rome, (Bell. ii. 20. Antiq. xvii. 11.) which we may be sure he would not have done, if that feast had not been near. See Dr Lardner's Appendix. The second opinion therefore is without foundation, being contrary to a testimony of undoubted credit, whilst it is supported by no authority but a book of Jewish feasts and fasts, in which the 25th of November is marked as a feast, because on it Herod died. The title of this book is Megillath Taanith, Volumen Jejunii; but it is reckoned of no authority by the Jews themselves.
That Herod died a little before the passover, A. U. 750, is argued in this manner. Certain Jewish rabbies, fired with an extraordinary zeal, excited their disciples to pull down the golden eagle
which Herod had placed on the chief gate of the temple, having heard that he was dying, as it is in the War, lib. i. 21. or dead, as it is in the Antiquities, lib. xviii. 8. Wherefore Herod's illness was by that time come to a considerable height. The rabbies were apprehended and carried to Jericho, and the king called a council of the principal people, to which he was carried on a couch, Antiq. ibid. It seems he was so weak that he could not walk to it, though it was held probably within his own palace. The issue of this affair was that the prisoners were burnt to death; and on the night of the execution there was an eclipse of the moon, (ibid.) which, according to astronomical observations happened the 13th of March about thirty minutes after three in the morning, A. U. 750. After this, Herod grew worse every day, and his disease was of such a kind, that it is thought he could not outlive the
His death, therefore, is fixed to the passover, A. U. 750. The passover that year happened on the 11th of April. From the 13th of March to the 11th of April, was a sufficient space for all the events which Joseplus has placed between the eclipse and the coming of Archelaus to Jerusalem, at the passover immediately following his father's death : viz. the progress of Herod's distemper, the settlement he made in bis affairs, the execution of Antipater, Herod's death and funeral.
In support of the third opinion it is pleaded, that Josephus says Herod reigned thirty-four years after the death of Antigonus, or the taking of Jerusalem, which is the same thing, and thirty-seven after he was declared king by the Romans. Bello, lib. i. fine. But in the Antiq. xvii
. 10. init. he says he died in the 34th year from the taking of Jerusalem, and the 37th from the decree of the senate. Chronologers suppose that the decree was made A. U. 714, and that Jerusalem was taken A. U. 717. Indeed if these dates were truly fixed, Herod's death would inevitably be brought down to the passover, A. U. 751, provided Josephus is speaking of complete years. For though it should be granted that the above mentioned events happened in the first month of the years assigned to them, which is the most favourable concession that can be made, by adding 37, the length of Herod's reign, computed from the decree of the senate, to 714, the year on which that decree is supposed to have been made, or rather to 713, the decree being passed, according to supposition, the first month of the year 714, we are brought down to the end of 750, consequently, Herod's death is fixed to the passover next year, A. U. 751, unless be died not when the 37th year of his reign was completed, but while it was current, as the passage cited from the Antiquities seems to intimate. The like will happen in the other computation of the length of Herod's reign, viz. that from the death of Antigonus, as shall be shewed immediately. Chronologers have fixed the decree of the senate io A. U. 715,
and the taking of Jerusalem to A. U. 717. But Josephus has characterised the first of these events in the following manner, Antiq. xiv. 26. "Thus did he obtain the kingdom in the 184th Olympiad, C. Domitius Calvinus the second time, and C. Asinius Pollio being consuls." The year in which Jerusalem was taken is characterised, Antiq. xiv. fine. This destruction fell upon the city of Jerusalem, when M. Agrippa and Canid. Gallus were consuls at Rome, in the 185th Olympiad, in the third month, on the feast of the fast." τη ἑορτή της νηςείας. In the Fasti, which exhibit Flaccus's chronology, the year marked for the consulship of C. Domit. Calvinus and his colleague, is A. U. 713, and that for the consulship of M. Agrippa and Canidius Gallus is A. U. 716. According to these commencements, the years allotted to Herod's reign will bring his death exactly to the passover, A. U. 750, provided the historian is speaking of complete years. For the months of the year 713, in which he began to reign, will make up what was wanting of the year 750, when he died. It is not improbable that Josephus computed the length of Herod's reign, according to the years assigned in the Fasti to the consuls under whom his reign commenced. If so, understanding that he died A. U. 750, he necessarily assigned a year more to his reign than they could do, who placed the consuls according to Varro's chronology, a year latter than Flaccus. The difficulty however may be removed another way; for if the years with which Herod's reign began and ended, are reckoned by Josephus, so as those years do respectively make the first and the last of the 37 or 34, which he tells us Herod reigned, the years, which according to Varro's chronology are commonly assigned to the consuls above-mentioned, may be retained, because even thus Josephus's computation will fix Herod's death to the passover, A. U. 750. To 714, the year on which the decree of the senate was made, add 36, the sum is 750; but the year 714 being itself reckoned, according to supposition, makes the 37 years which Herod reigned from the decree of the senate. The above-cited passage in the Antiquities sheweth that Josephus is not speaking of complete years, since the year in which that prince died is called the thirty-seventh of his reign, notwithstanding he died in the very beginning of it. But if the year in which he died is reckoned, the year in which his reign commenced may be one of the number also, though the senate's decree, in consequence of which he assumed the title of king, was not given till towards the middle or end of it. Wherefore the years assigned by Josephus to Herod's reign, may be so understood as to fix his death to the passover, A. U. 750.
The opinion, therefore, which fixes Herod's death to the passover, A. U. 751, seems to be ill founded, having little to support it but Josephus's computations improperly understood. The
true time of Herod's death was, in all probability, a little before the passover, A. U. 750, which date has this farther advantage, that it agrees fully with the account given by Dio of Archelaus's removal. See Dr Lardner's Appendix concerning the time of Herod's death, who concludes his accurate disquisition upon that subject with the following words: “ These are the three principal opinions concerning the time of Herod's death, and these the main arguments for, and objections against them. I presume
it appears to the reader, from particulars alleged from Josephus and Dio, that Herod did not die before the year 750, nor survive the year 751, and that he died a short time before the Jewish passover of one of these years. It follows, that if Herod died in 750, he died three years and nine months before the vulgar æra, which commences January 1. A. U. 754. If at the time above mentioned, in the
ear 751, then he died about two years and nine montlis before the said æra : which is the truth, I am not able to determine.”
DISSERTATION III. Of the 15th year of Tiberius, and of our Lord's age at his baptism.
The evangelist Luke tells us, that the Baptist made his first public appearance in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius. But he has not intimated in what period of his ministry Jesus came to him to be baptized. He only says, “ that when all the people were baptized it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized, and praying,” &c. Wherefore, seeing the Baptist's fame had spread itself into every corner, and brought people to him from all quarters, it is probable that he had preaclied at least several months before our Lord arrived at Bethabara. If so, as it is natural to think that John came abroad in the spring, Jesus could not be baptized by him sooner than in summer or autumn.
The reign of Tiberius had two commencements; one when Augustus made him his colleague in the empire, and another when he began to reign alone after Augustus's death. Tacit. An. i. 3. « Drusoque pridem extincto, Nero solus e privignis erat : illuc cuncta vergere : Filius, collega imperii, consors tribunitize potestatis adsumitur, omnisque per exercitus ostentatur.” Velleius Paterculus, and Suetonius, who agree with Tacitus as to the fact, differ between themselves as to the tiine when Tiberius was declared equal in power with Augustus, over the provinces and armies. According to Velleius, lib. ii. 21. it was before Tiberius returned from Germany to make his triumph ; but according to Suetonius, it was not till after that triumph, which without dispute happened A. U. 765, A. D. 12. There is therfore the difference of one year at least in the commencement of Tiberius's joint and proconsular empire, as it is fixed by these two historians :