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JEWISH AND HEATHEN TESTIMONIES.
With some farther observations upon the paragraph in the
Works of Josephus concerning our blessed Saviour.
NOTWITHSTANDING all that has been said by me and others, for showing that the paragraph concerning our Saviour, now found in the Antiquities of Josephus, is not genuine, but an interpolation, some learned men are still tenacious of it. I therefore intend to offer here some further observations
I have as yet taken no notice of an argument which is entitled, “ A Dissertation upon the Account supposed to have • been given of Jesus Christ by Josephus: being an attempt
to show that this celebrated passage, some slight corrup• tions only excepted, may reasonably be esteemed genuine. At Oxford, in the year 1749, pp. 69, beside a short preface.
The dissertation is without a name, but is generally ascribed to Dr. N. Forster. As great regard has been shown to it by a some, I think it not improper for me to consider the inerits of it.
Says the learned author, p. 12, 13: First then I consider • the account itself as a mere simple narrative, in which there • is not a sentence that, when properly read and understood, • betrays the writer to have had any suspicion that Jesus • was the Messiah, or even a teacher sent from God. On the
a See Dr. Sharpe's Argument, taken from the concessions of adversaries, p.
a mere man,
* other hand, some expressions plainly imply him to have 'been persuaded of the contrary. And the whole, taken together, seems to be the composition of a person perfectly satisfied that the christian scheme could not be true: 6 astonished however at some amazing appearances in its favour, but artfully evading the force of them, avoiding to enter into the merits of the affair, and yet affecting to give . a seemingly plausible account of its original.' And at p. 49, 50 : “But a short view of the whole
para• graph will best illustrate and confirm what has been ob• served. It may, I think, be fairly rendered in the follow
ing manner: « But about this time appears one Jesus, a ‘ man of great abilities, if indeed he may be properly styled
For he was a worker of wonders, a teacher • of people, who embraced his new and extraordinary doc* trines with eagerness. And he led away many, not only • of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles after him. This was * the person so well known by the name of Christ. And though Pilate, upon the impeachment brought by the principal persons of our nation against him, caused him to be crucified, they who had before entertained an affection • for him did not desist. For he appeared to them to be . alive again on the third day, their own preachers at least
having reported both these and numberless other wonder* ful things concerning him. And the sect of the christians, 6 who received their denomination from this person, are not • extinct even to this day.”
In support of this interpretation, the learned writer proposeth two alterations, as emendations of the present text in Josephus. And instead of men' who received the truth * with pleasure, των ηδονη τ' αληθη δεχομενων, he would read, Ta anon, new, strange, unheard-of, extraordinary doctrines, p. 27-29. And instead of twv Dewy moontwy, the divine prophets,' he is for reading twv ye lòiwv,' their own prophets or preachers,' p. 41-44.
Upon all this I must say, first, that this is indeed giving a new turn to the passage, never so understood before, so far as we know, by any ancient christian writers. But still the objections taken from the want of connexion' in the place where the passage stands, and from the silence of all chris• tian writers before Eusebius,' and of some others after him, remain in their full force. Some things are offered by the learned author of the dissertation to diminish the force of those considerations. But they are of small moment. Nothing material can be said here. Interpret the paragraph as you please; it was worth alleging. "If the things here
mentioned are the declarations not of the ancient Jewish
prom phets, but of the first preachers among the christians, or the discip’es of Jesus, their testimony was fit to be taken notice of. Nor could it have been omitted by the early apologists for christianity. The apologists, and other christians, of the second and third centuries, who were continually speaking of Jesus, and his resurrection from the dead, and his wonderful works, as proofs of a divine mission, would not have failed to reinind their adversaries, and all men, that their doctrine was no other than the doctrine of the first disciples of Jesus, and that Josephus, a learned Jew and an unbeliever, who was contemporary with Christ's first disciples, and wrote before the end of that age, had borne witness of it in his writings to all the world.
Secondly, the alterations proposed by the learned author of the Dissertation, as emendations of the text, are destitute of authority.
The paragraph is twice quoted by Eusebius, and afterwards, in the space of a few centuries, by many others: by Jeroin in his Book of Illustrious Men in Latin; by his interpreter in Greek; by Isidore of Pelusium, Sozomen, Suidas, and others, and all in the like manner, without affording any the least countenance to either of the proposed alterations. I therefore do not see how they can be admitted or approved of by any sober and cautious critics, who are concerned for the integrity of ancient writings. I do not think it needful for me to say any thing more here. I therefore proceed.
Thirdly, in this paragraph it is said of Jesus, he per• formed many wonderful works:' or, ' he was a worker of • wonders.' Hy yap zapadotwv epywy points. Which I think could be said by none but a christian.
But let us see what this learned writer says, p. 25: • And 6 what Jew almost, either ancient or modern, that has writ• ten of Jesus, does not say the same ?' And in a note at the same page: This is not merely a periphrasis for errompe, • but somewhat more express and particular. He was by * profession and character παραδοξων εργων ποιητης. This was what he was chiefly remarkable for, the light in which, according to our author (Josephus) he is principally to be 6 considered.'
b Indeed I cannot think it needful to enlarge here. And yet I know not how to forbear to confront the proposed ta anın for t'annon, with a reference to a letter of Isidore of Pelusium, who, after having quoted the paragraph in Josephus, according to the present reading, reflects upon it in these words: Εγω δε λιαν θαυμαζω τ' ανδρος εν πολλοις μεν το φιλαληθες, μαλισα δε, εν οις, ειπε, διδασκαλος ανθρωπων των ηδονη τ' αληθη δεχομενων. L. 4. ep. 225.
I am rather of opinion, that few or none will admit miracles to have been performed by any but such as they believe to have been teachers, who acted with divine authority.
However, let us not perplex ourselves about the opinions of modern Jews. We are examining a paragraph in an ancient writing. Let us therefore observe the sentiments of the ancients.
When Nicodemus came to our Lord, he said, John iii. 2 : 6 Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him :" which I take to be a certain truth, and that no man can work miracles unless he have the special presence of God with him. I suppose this to have been the opinion of the Pharisees, and all Jews in general, in the time of our Saviour. The poor man who had been born blind, and had been healed by our Lord, was of this opinion, and openly declares it, and argues from it before the Jewish council : John ix. 30-33, “ Herein
• Herein is a marvellous thing, that
ye know not from whence he is, and yet he has opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if a man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man were not of God he could do nothing."
It is said, Acts iv, 13-18, that when Peter and John were brought before the council, after healing the lame man at the temple : " And beholding the man which was healed, , they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying: What shall we do to these men ? for that a notable miracle has been done by them, is manifest to all them that dwell at Jerusalem
and wè cannot deny it.” So they say privately in a consultation among themselves. The meaning is: . It is not our busi
ness to dispute about it, or contest the truth of the miracle • with the people.' Or, as Dr. Doddridge: • Nevertheless, it • is equally plain that both our credit and our interest re
quire us to suppress the rumour of it as much as we can.' Which they did. They did not publicly declare the miracle, as Josephus is here made to do. “ But that it spread no farther among the people, let us straitly threaten them that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus."
The sentiment of the unbelieving Pharisees at that time
may be clearly discerned in the debate between the council and the man who had been healed of blindness, John ix. 18–22: But the Jews did not believe concerning him that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received sight. And they asked them, saying: Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? How then doth he now see? His parents answered them, and said: We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now seeth we know not or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of
age ask him. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
The parents did not dare to own either the miracle or the consequence. But the man who had been healed acknowledgeth both; that his cure was miraculous, and that Jesus, by whom it had been performed, was a prophet. For which he was reviled by the council, and then excommunicated.
Let us now observe the sentiment of Josephus himself in this point. Speaking of Elisha, he says: And not long
after the prophet also died, a man celebrated for his vir* tue, and manifestly favoured by God. For through his
prophecy were shown wonderful and extraordinary works, • and such as were worthy of an honourable remembrance among the Hebrews.'
Josephus therefore supposed the performance of wonderful works to be a proof of divine favour, and a prophetical character.
However, still our learned author proceeds, p. 26: The • fact then, which Josephus mentions, could not be dissembled. But the conciseness and ambiguity with which it is expressed are extremely proper. Silent entirely with regard to the great variety and singular nature of the mira·cles which Jesus had done, he is satisfied with simply
representing him as a worker epywv zapadotwv, a word, ' which all who are acquainted with its natural and original signification, and more particularly with the uses to which Josephus commonly applies it, (denoting any thing strange, extraordinary, or unaccountable, of what kind and degree • soever it may be,) will perceive it to be one of the most equivocal, and consequently the best adapted to his du
• Μετ' ου πολυ δε και ο προφητης απεθανεν ανηρ επι δικαιοσυνη διαβοητος, και φανερως σπεδασθεις υπο τ8 θεε. θαυμαστα γαρ και παραδοξα δια της προφητειας απεδειξατο εργα, και μνημης λαμπρας παρα τους Εβραιοις αξιωDevra. Antiq. 1. 9. c. 8. sect. 6. p. 494.