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Title: A Class-Book of New Testament History

Author: G. F. Maclear

Release date: May 3, 2021 [eBook #65247]

Language: English

Credits: Richard Hulse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)

Book Cover


Transcriber’s Notes

The cover image was provided by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

Punctuation has been standardized.

Most abbreviations have been expanded in tool-tips for screen-readers and may be seen by hovering the mouse over the abbreviation.

This book was written in a period when many words had not become standardized in their spelling. Words may have multiple spelling variations or inconsistent hyphenation in the text. These have been left unchanged unless indicated with a Transcriber’s Note.

Index references have not been checked for accuracy.

Footnotes are identified in the text with a superscript number and have been accumulated in a table at the end of the text.
(Note: numbers 413‒416 not used; skipped in error.)

Transcriber’s Notes are used when making corrections to the text or to provide additional information for the modern reader. These notes have been accumulated in a single section at the end of the book and are identified in the text by a dotted underline and may be seen in a tool-tip by hovering the mouse over the underline.


(‡ Colophon)

Elementary Theological Class-Books.












[The Right of Translation is reserved.]

First printed 1866.
Reprinted 1867, 1869, 1871, 1873, 1875, 1877,
1879, 1880, 1882, 1885, 1888, 1890.


The present Volume forms a sequel to the Author’s Class-Book of Old Testament History, continuing the Narrative from the point at which it there ends, and carrying it on to the close of St Paul’s second imprisonment at Rome.

In its preparation, as in that of the former Volume, the most recent and trustworthy Authorities1 have been consulted, notes subjoined, and references to larger Works added. It is thus hoped that it may prove at once a useful Class-Book and a convenient Companion to the study of the Greek Testament.

All questions relating to the Canonicity of the several Books of the New Testament have been considered in another Volume of the Cambridge School Class-Books, viz. The Bible in the Church, by the Rev. B. F. Westcott.



The connection between the Old and New Testaments.
Part I.

The Jews under the Persians, and the Kings of Egypt.
Chap. I. High-Priesthood of Jaddua—Alexander at Jerusalem
Chap. II. Ptolemy Soter and Ptolemy Philadelphus
Chap. III. Ptolemy Euergetes and Ptolemy Philopator
Part II.

The Jews under the Kings of Syria.
Chap. I. Antiochus the Great—Seleucus Philopator
Chap. II. Reign of Antiochus Epiphanes
Chap. III. Persecution of the Jews under Epiphanes
Part III.

Rise of the Asmonean Dynasty.
Chap. I. Mattathias and Judas Maccabæus
Chap. II. Battle of Emmaus—Re-dedication of the Temple
Chap. III. Exploits and Death of Judas Maccabæus
Chap. IV. Jonathan Maccabæus
Chap. V. Exploits and Death of Jonathan
Chap. VI. Simon Maccabæus
Chap. VII. John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannæus
Part IV.

Decline of the Asmonean Dynasty; Interference of the Romans, and rise of the Herodian family.
Chap. I. Hyrcanus II. and Aristobulus; Pompeius and Crassus
Chap. II. Antipater and Herod; Julius Cæsar and Antonius
Chap. III. Herod, King of Judæa
Chap. IV. Herod, King of Judæa
Chap. V. Herod, King of Judæa
Chap. VI. Herod, King of Judæa
Part V.

Retrospect and Reflections.
Chap. I. Dispersion of the Jews—Rise of Synagogues
Chap. II. The Jewish Sects
Note. The Expectation of the Messiah

The Gospel History.
Part I.

The Birth and Childhood of Christ.
Chap. I. The Birth of John the Baptist
Chap. II. The Nativity of Christ
Chap. III. The Saviour’s Early Life at Nazareth
Part II.

From the beginning of the Ministry of the Baptist to the First Passover.
Chap. I. The Preaching of John—the Baptism of Christ
Chap. II. Call of the First Disciples—The Marriage at Cana
Chap. III. The First Passover, and Cleansing of the Temple
Part III.

From the first Passover to the Election of the Apostles.
Chap. I. Imprisonment of the Baptist—The woman of Samaria
Chap. II. Second visit to Cana and Jerusalem
Chap. III. Miracles at Nazareth and Capernaum
Chap. IV. Call of Matthew—Hostility of the Pharisees
Part IV.

From the Election of the Apostles to the death of John the Baptist.
Chap. I. Call of the Apostles—Sermon on the Mount
Chap. II. Teaching in Galilee
Chap. III. Miracles at Capernaum—Death of the Baptist
Part V.

From the Death of John the Baptist to the visit of the Saviour to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles.
Chap. I. The Feeding of the Five Thousand, and the Walking on the Lake
Chap. II. The Discourse in the Synagogue of Capernaum
Chap. III. The Four Thousand Fed—The Confession of St Peter
Chap. IV. The Transfiguration—The Lunatic Child
Chap. V. The Coin in the Fish’s mouth—Tour through Samaria
Part VI.

From the Feast of Tabernacles to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
Chap. I. The Feast of Tabernacles—Hostility of the Sanhedrin
Chap. II. The opening of the eyes of one born blind
Chap. III. Mission of the Seventy—Discourses and Miracles
Chap. IV. The Feast of Dedication—Tour in Peræa
Chap. V. Raising of Lazarus
Chap. VI. Resolve of the Sanhedrin—Jesus retires to Ephraim
Part VII.

From the Arrival at Bethany to the Ascension.
Chap. I. The Anointing at Bethany—The Triumphal Entry
Chap. II. The Second Cleansing of the Temple
Chap. III. The Day of Questions—The Enquiring Greeks
Chap. IV. The Compact of Judas—The Last Supper
Chap. V. The Agony and Betrayal—Peter’s Denial
Chap. VI. The Jewish Trial—Remorse and Suicide of Judas
Chap. VII. The Trial before Pilate—The Condemnation
Chap. VIII. The Crucifixion
Chap. IX. The Burial and Resurrection
Chap. X. The Great Forty Days, and the Ascension

The Apostolic History.
Part I.

The Church of Jerusalem.
Chap. I. The Election of Matthias—The Pentecostal Effusion
Chap. II. Activity of the Apostles Peter and John
Chap. III. Ananias and Sapphira—Renewed Hostility of the Sadducees
Chap. IV. The Institution of Deacons—Activity of Stephen
Part II.

The Church of Palestine.
Chap. I. Dispersion of the Christians—Activity of Philip
Chap. II. The Conversion of St Paul
Chap. III. St Paul’s First Visit to Jerusalem—Peter at Joppa
Chap. IV. The Conversion of Cornelius
Chap. V. Martyrdom of St James—Death of Herod
Part III.

The Church of the Gentiles.
Section I.

First Missionary Tour of Paul and Barnabas.
Chap. I. Cyprus—Perga—The Pisidian Antioch
Chap. II. Visit to Lystra, Derbe—Disputes at Antioch
Chap. III. The Council at Jerusalem
Section II.

St Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.
Chap. I. The Sharp Contest—Tour in Phrygia and Galatia
Chap. II. Paul and Silas at Philippi
Chap. III. Thessalonica, Berœa, Athens
Chap. IV. Arrival and Stay of St Paul at Corinth
Section III.

St Paul’s Third Missionary Journey and Imprisonment at Cæsarea.
Chap. I. Visit to Ephesus
Chap. II. Letter to the Corinthians—Disturbance at Ephesus
Chap. III. Troas—Second Journey to Greece
Chap. IV. The Return to Jerusalem—The Tumult in the Temple
Chap. V. The Imprisonment at Cæsarea
Chap. VI. Paul before Felix and Festus
Section IV.

St Paul’s Imprisonment at Rome.
Chap. I. The Voyage from Cæsarea
Chap. II. The Reception at Malta, and Arrival at Rome
Chap. III. The first Imprisonment at Rome
Chap. IV. St Paul’s Second Imprisonment and Death
Appendix and Chronological Tables


1. A Map of the Holy Land to illustrate the Asmonean Period

2. A Map of the Holy Land to illustrate the New Testament

3. The Shores of the Sea of Galilee

4. Jerusalem in the time of Our Lord

5. A Map to illustrate the Apostolic History






B.C. 413332.

“AFTER the death of Nehemiah, about B.C. 413, a thick curtain falls on the history of the Jews till the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes, B.C. 1752.” During upwards of 230 years, a period as long, to compare it with modern history, as from the death of Queen Elizabeth to the accession of Queen Victoria, the record of events is of the scantiest description. It appears certain, however, that Nehemiah was the last of the governors sent from the court of Persia. Judæa itself was annexed to the satrapy of Cœlesyria, and the administration of affairs was entrusted to the high-priest subject to the control of the Syrian Governor. Thus the civil and spiritual functions were united in one person, and the pontifical office became an object of competition to the different members of the family of Aaron, and the cause of many violent and disgraceful contests.

As subjects, however, of the Persian kings, the Jews were pre-eminent for their loyalty and good faith. While Egypt, Phœnicia, Cyprus, and other dependencies of the Persian crown, were frequently the scenes of rebellions, which were with difficulty suppressed, the Jews remained steadfast in their allegiance to the “Great King,” and increased rapidly alike in wealth and population.

A single incident distinguishes the uneventful annals of this period. During the lifetime of Ezra and Nehemiah, the high-priest was Eliashib. His successor, Joiada, had two sons, the one Jonathan or Johanan (Neh. xii. 11, 22), the other Joshua. Joshua stood high in the favour of Bagoses, the general of the Persian army, and obtained from him the promise of the high-priesthood. Relying on this assurance, he ventured to quarrel openly with his brother in the Temple, and fell slain by his hand within the precincts of the sanctuary itself. So flagrant a crime roused the indignation of Bagoses. Advancing to Jerusalem he demanded admittance into the Temple, and when the Jews would have prevented his entrance, declared he was less unclean than the body of the murdered man, and not only polluted the sanctuary by entering it, but also levied a fine of 50 shekels on every lamb offered in sacrifice during the next seven years.

Like his father, Johanan also had two sons, Jaddua (Neh. xii. 11) and Manasseh. Jaddua succeeded to the high-priesthood, B.C. 341, and distinguished himself by zealously maintaining the Mosaic institutions as restored by Ezra and Nehemiah. Manasseh, on the other hand, married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite3, thus contracting one of those alliances, against which the Princes of the Captivity had so energetically protested. This roused the indignation of the elders in Jerusalem, and of Jaddua himself, who declared that Manasseh must put away his wife, or be no longer associated in the priesthood. This the other declined to do, and repaired to his father-in-law in Samaria, who suggested the building of a temple on Mount Gerizim, where Manasseh might continue to exercise his priestly functions. With the permission of the Persian court, this was accordingly done, and Manasseh became the first priest of the Samaritans at their rival sanctuary, being joined from time to time by those Jews who had been guilty of criminal offences in their own country, or had any cause for dissatisfaction4.

Though by these immigrations the Samaritans were more and more recalled from idolatry, the building of this temple tended in no small degree to stimulate the animosity between the two nations. The Jews affirmed that sacrifice could only be offered at Jerusalem; the Samaritans replied that on Gerizim Joshua had built his first altar, and that it was the true place of sacrifice. The controversy thus generated gradually extended, and produced that intense degree of illwill between the two peoples, to which there are several allusions in the New Testament (Lk. ix. 5156; Jn. iv. 9, viii. 48).

During the high-priesthood of Jaddua, the Persian empire, to which the Jews had so long been faithful, crumbled to pieces before the armies of Alexander the Great. Victorious over the Persian forces at the Granicus, B.C. 334, and again at Issus in the following year, the conqueror captured Damascus, and having taken Sidon, laid siege to Tyre, B.C. 332. Thence he sent a message to the high-priest at Jerusalem, demanding the transference of his allegiance, and auxiliaries and supplies for his army. This Jaddua declared was impossible, on the ground of his oath of fidelity to the Persian monarch. Though incensed at this reply, Alexander delayed to execute his vengeance, till after the reduction of Tyre, and then set out for the Holy City. Jaddua and his people were in the utmost consternation. Sacrifices were offered, prayers were put up to God, and the Divine aid sought to appease the wrath of the invader. At length the high-priest is said to have been warned in a dream how to act. He hung the city with garlands, threw open the gates, and as soon as he was informed that Alexander drew near, clad in his pontifical robes, and followed by the priests in their ceremonial attire and the people in white garments, he went forth to meet him at Sapha, probably Mizpeh, the watch-tower, on the high ridge to the north of the city.

As soon as the Grecian conqueror beheld the venerable form of the high-priest, he fell prostrate, and adored the holy Name inscribed in golden letters on the frontal of his tiara. The Phœnicians and Chaldæans in his retinue, ancient enemies of the Jewish people, were only awaiting the signal to pillage the city and put the high-priest to the torture. They could not, therefore, conceal their astonishment, while the Syrian chiefs concluded that the great conqueror had lost his senses, and Parmenio addressing him enquired why he, whom all the world worshipped, should kneel before the high-priest. “It is not the high-priest,” replied the other, “whom I worship, but his God, who has honoured him with the priesthood. In a vision at Dios in Macedonia, I saw him arrayed precisely as he now stands, and when I was debating how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, he exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly cross over the sea, for he would conduct my army, and give me victory over the Persians.”

Then taking Jaddua by the right hand, he entered the city, and repairing to the Temple, offered sacrifice to God, and paid high honours to the whole priestly body. The prophecies of Daniel5 were now read in his hearing, and overjoyed at the prediction there recorded that a Greek would overthrow the Persian Empire, he offered the Jews whatever privilege they might select. Thereupon they requested that the free enjoyment of their lives and liberties might be secured to them, as also to their brethren in Media and Babylonia, and that they might be exempted from tribute during the Sabbatical years. These privileges the conqueror willingly conceded.

This famous visit is recorded only by Josephus, and has been discredited on the ground that it is not mentioned by Arrian or Plutarch, Diodorus or Curtius. But it has been observed that, though probably incorrect in some of the details, there are several points which confirm the truth of the main facts. Thus Curtius himself relates that, after the capture of Tyre, Alexander visited some of the cities which refused to submit to him, and that he personally executed vengeance on the Samaritans6. The Jews, moreover, certainly served in the army of Alexander, and were located by him in great numbers in his new city of Alexandria; while the privileges he is said to have conferred upon them undoubtedly existed in later times, and imply some such relation between them and the great conqueror. Moreover, from policy or conviction, Alexander delighted to represent himself as chosen by destiny for the great acts which he achieved, and his visit to Gordium before the battle of Issus, and his pilgrimage to the shrine of Jupiter Ammon alike illustrate the force of religious feelings in connection with his campaigns7.


B.C. 323247.

ON the death of Alexander, B.C. 323, the vast empire, which he had won by his arms, was divided amongst his generals, and Palestine, as a province of Syria, passed into the possession of Laomedon, while Egypt was assigned to Ptolemy Soter. Between these two war soon broke out, and Ptolemy having conquered Cyrene, cast longing eyes on the kingdom of Syria, the harbours of Phœnicia, and the iron and timber, which abounded in Palestine and amongst the lofty ridges of Libanus and Anti-Libanus. Accordingly he invaded the realms of Laomedon, defeated him in a great battle, and gained possession of all Syria and Phœnicia.

The Jews on this occasion manifested such unwillingness to violate their engagements to the Syrian king, that Ptolemy advanced against Jerusalem, and besieged it with a large army. Entering the city B.C. 320, under pretence of offering sacrifice on the Sabbath-day, when the scruples of the inhabitants forbade their offering any defence, he easily succeeded in capturing it. Instead, however, of following up his victory by an indiscriminate massacre, he contented himself with transporting a great number of the inhabitants to Egypt, where he distributed them as garrisons in different places, but especially in Alexandria, and conceded to them equal privileges with the Macedonians themselves. Eight years afterwards he transported another large body of them to Libya and Cyrene, and thus by successive deportations and voluntary immigrations on the part of the people themselves, Egypt became an important centre of Jewish influence.

The king of Egypt, however, was not allowed to remain long in undisturbed possession of his prize, and found it disputed with him by Antigonus, one of the most turbulent of the successors of Alexander. Twice the coveted province fell into the hands of his rival, twice Ptolemy managed to recover it, and it was finally adjudged to his share after the decisive battle of Ipsus in Phrygia, B.C. 301.

Meanwhile Jaddua had been succeeded in the high-priesthood at Jerusalem by his son Onias I., and he again by Simon the Just, the last of the men of the “Great Synagogue8,” as he was called by the Jews. He superintended the repair of the sanctuary of the Temple, surrounded with brass the cistern or “sea” of the principal court, fortified the city-walls, and maintained the sacred ritual with much pomp and ceremony (Eccles. i. 122). He is also said to have completed the Canon of the Old Testament, by adding to it the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, of Chronicles and Esther, as also the prophecies of Malachi9. He died B.C. 291.

The battle of Ipsus, besides securing to Ptolemy Soter the dominion of Palestine, Phœnicia, and Cœlesyria, elevated Seleucus to the command of an Empire greater than any other held by the successors of Alexander. He assumed the title of “king of Syria,” and his dominion, in the words of the prophet Daniel (Dan. xi. 5), was a great dominion, extending from the Euxine to the confines of Arabia, and from the Hindokush to the Mediterranean. His Eastern capital he founded on the banks of the Tigris, and called Seleucia, after his own name. For his western metropolis he selected a spot admirably situated both for military and commercial purposes10, on the left bank of the river Orontes, just where “the chain of Lebanon running northwards, and the chain of Taurus running eastwards, are brought to an abrupt meeting11.” Here he founded a city with much display in the year B.C. 300, and called it Antioch, after the name of his father Antiochus. Convinced, like the Egyptian monarchs, of the loyalty of the Jews, he began to invite many of them to his new capital and other cities in Asia Minor, assuring them of the same privileges which they enjoyed under Ptolemy in Alexandria. This invitation was readily embraced by many of the Jews, who settled down in Antioch, were governed by their own ethnarch, and were admitted to the same advantages as the Greeks12.

Ptolemy Philadelphus succeeded his father Ptolemy Soter, B.C. 283. In pursuance of the policy of the previous reign, he distinguished himself by uniform kindness to the Jewish nation, ransoming many who had been sold as slaves, and inviting many to settle in Egypt. A liberal patron of literature and science, he established a famous library at Alexandria, and spared no pains in procuring books to be deposited therein. He is also represented to have caused the Hebrew Scriptures to be translated into Greek, and thus to have originated the celebrated Version called the Septuagint, from the tradition that 72 persons were engaged in the translation, which obtained a wide circulation, and was extensively read. The same monarch conferred costly presents on the Temple at Jerusalem, consisting of a table for the shewbread of marvellous workmanship, cisterns of gold, bowls, and other vessels for the public and private use of the priests13.


B.C. 247222.

ON the death of Philadelphus, Ptolemy Euergetes succeeded to the Egyptian throne. The new king considerably extended the privileges of the Jews, and bestowed many presents upon their Temple. During his reign an incident occurred, which illustrates in a striking manner at once the condition of Judæa at this time, and the influence of individual members of the chosen nation.

On the death of Simon “the Just,” his brother Eleazar became high-priest B.C. 291. He was succeeded in B.C. 276, not by his own son Onias, but his uncle Manasseh, the son of Jaddua. At his death, B.C. 250, the son of Simon, Onias II., became high-priest, but inherited none of his father’s virtues, being distinguished for nothing but meanness, and an inordinate love of money. The older he grew, the more avaricious he became, and neglected from year to year to remit to Ptolemy Euergetes the customary tribute of 20 talents of silver. At length, about B.C. 226, that king sent his commissioner Athenion to Jerusalem to demand the arrears, and threatened violence, if his claims were not satisfied. The Jews were filled with dismay at the too probable consequences of continued disobedience, but Onias still persisted in his refusal.

At length his nephew Joseph took upon him the task of appeasing the royal anger, and having ingratiated himself with Athenion persuaded him to return to Alexandria, and promised that he himself would speedily follow, and satisfy every demand. Shortly afterwards he himself set out, and on his way fell in with several men of distinction belonging to Phœnicia and Cœlesyria who were going up to the Egyptian capital to compete for the farming of the revenues, which were annually sold to the highest bidder. Not suspecting a competitor in the Jew, whose slender equipage contrasted unfavourably with their splendid cavalcade, they unwittingly revealed the amount at which the revenues had been farmed.

Thereupon Joseph resolved to outbid them, and in an audience with the king contrived by his cleverness and ready address completely to win the royal favour. When the day for the auction came, the nobles of Phœnicia and Cœlesyria bid 8000 talents for the farming of the revenues. But Joseph came forward and engaged to pay twice that sum, in addition to all the goods which should be confiscated for neglect of payment. Thereupon Ptolemy granted his request, and he became collector of the revenues from Judæa, Samaria, Cœlesyria, and Phœnicia, and was furnished with a guard of 2000 soldiers to extort payment from the refractory.

Having liquidated the arrears due from his uncle, Joseph returned to Palestine to carry out his instructions. Excited by the disappointed collectors, Askelon at first refused payment, and treated his demands with insult. But Joseph was not to be trifled with. He slew 20 of the chief inhabitants, and sent 1000 talents of their confiscated property to the king, who highly commended his determination. A similar instance of severity at Scythopolis14 put down all further opposition, and Joseph was at length universally acknowledged as the collector for the Egyptian king, and held the office upwards of 22 years. He now became the founder of a family, which vied with that of the high-priest in power and influence, and became the occasion of many serious quarrels between them.

The reign of Ptolemy Euergetes came to a sudden and tragical close. In the year B.C. 222 he was assassinated by his own son Ptolemy IV., who in irony was called Philopator, the lover of his father. As soon as he ascended the throne, he murdered his mother Berenice, and his brother Magas, and gave himself up to luxury and dissipation. Taking advantage of his well-known effeminacy, Antiochus the Great welcomed the offer of Theodotus, governor of Cœlesyria, to surrender that province, and after a brief campaign became master of Phœnicia, Tyre, Ptolemais, Damascus, and the greater part of Cœlesyria. Roused at length from his lethargy, the Egyptian monarch confronted his rival at Raphia, between Rhinocorura and Gaza, and defeated him with enormous loss, B.C. 217, the same year that Hannibal was victorious at Thrasymene.

Meanwhile the Jews had remained steadfast in their allegiance to Ptolemy, and the conqueror visited Jerusalem, offered sacrifices according to the Jewish law, and presented rich gifts to the Temple. Attracted by the beauty of the building, and the solemnity of the service, he desired to penetrate into the Holy of Holies. Simon II., who had succeeded Onias, together with the priests, entreated him to desist from his purpose, but this only increased his determination to view the interior, and he pressed forward, amidst the dismay of the pontiff and the lamentation of the people, towards the sanctuary. Here, however, he was seized with a sudden and supernatural terror, and was carried forth half-dead. Enraged at this repulse, he retired to Alexandria, and wreaked his vengeance on the numerous Jews who had settled there. Some he is said to have put to death, others he degraded from their high positions and consigned to slavery, or reduced to the lowest class of citizens. Thirteen years afterwards, B.C. 204, he died a victim to his sensual habits, and was succeeded by his son Ptolemy Epiphanes, then only five years old.

Meanwhile, since his disastrous defeat at Raphia, Antiochus had been gradually strengthening his position in Upper Asia, where he had won his title of “the Great” by his successes against the Parthians and Bactrians, as also on the banks of the Indus. Having thus re-established the supremacy of the Seleucidæ he returned to Western Asia, to find his old rival dead, and the Egyptian throne in the possession of a child. He instantly embraced the opportunity of attacking the Egyptian dominions, and in concert with Philip III. of Macedon resolved to avenge the defeat at Raphia. In the campaigns that ensued the Jews suffered severely, and became in turn the prey of each of the contending parties15. In B.C. 203, Antiochus succeeded in taking Jerusalem. In B.C. 199 it was retaken by Scopas, the general of the Egyptian forces. Next year Antiochus reappeared in the field, and at the foot of Mount Panium16, near the sources of the Jordan, gained a decisive victory over Scopas, capturing that general himself and the remnant of his forces, which had fled for refuge to Sidon.

Wearied of the struggle, and remembering the indignities offered to their sanctuary by Philopator, the Jews now threw off their subjection to Egypt, welcomed the conqueror as their deliverer, and furnished supplies for his army. Antiochus in his turn treated his new subjects with liberality and kindness. He not only guaranteed to them perfect freedom and protection in the exercise of their religion, but promised to restore their city to its ancient splendour, forbade the intrusion of strangers in their Temple, and contributed largely towards the regular celebration of its services. At the same time, imitating the examples of Alexander and Seleucus, he issued orders to Zeuxis, the general of his forces, to remove 2000 Jewish families from Babylon into Lydia and Phrygia, where they were to be permitted to use their own laws, to have lands assigned them, and to be exempted from all tribute for ten years17.




B.C. 198175.

THE battle of Mount Panium marks an era in the history of the Jews. For a century since the battle of Ipsus they had been steadfast in their allegiance to the Egyptian throne. They now transferred it from the descendants of the Ptolemies to those of Seleucus Nicator, and their connection with the Syrian kings begins.

Antiochus, who had bestowed upon them so many privileges, did not long enjoy the fruits of his victory. His chief ally in the late campaign had been Philip of Macedon, who, at the conclusion of the third war against Carthage, found himself attacked by the forces of the great Republic of the West now commencing its conquest of the world. Deserted by his friend Antiochus, whose aid he might reasonably have expected, he was forced after three campaigns to sue for peace, and the Romans became supreme in Macedonia and Greece, B.C. 197.

Five years afterwards Antiochus found his turn was come to feel the weight of the same all-conquering arms. In the year B.C. 192 he crossed over into Greece on the invitation of the Ætolians, and under the expectation of a general rising of the Greeks ventured on a campaign with Rome, entrenching himself at Thermopylæ18. But in the following year the consul M. Acilius Glabrio attacked him in his entrenchments, and speedily put his whole army to flight. Thereupon the Syrian king hastened back to Asia, and employed himself in collecting a vast host from all parts of his dominions, wherewith to prosecute the campaign, which his friend Hannibal truly warned him was close at hand. In B.C. 190 the Romans, under Scipio Africanus and his brother Scipio Asiaticus, crossed the Hellespont, and Antiochus confronted them in the neighbourhood of Magnesia19, at the foot of Mount Sipylus. His motley hosts, though aided by numerous elephants and the Macedonian phalanx, were utterly unable to resist the terrible Roman legions. Defeated with a loss of 50,000 men, the haughty Syrian was constrained to sue for peace. The conditions exacted by the conquerors were the death-blow of the Syrian empire. Antiochus was forced to cede all his dominions in Asia Minor west of Mount Taurus; to surrender all his ships of war, and retain no more than 10 merchant vessels; to keep no elephants; to raise no mercenaries in any of the countries allied with Rome; to pay down 2500 Euboic talents at once, and 12,000 more by instalments of 1000 a year; and to deliver up Hannibal and other enemies of Rome who had taken refuge in his dominions.

Beaten, baffled, and disgraced, the Syrian monarch returned to his capital. The hard conditions of peace were approved by the senate B.C. 188, and to raise the heavy tribute, which threatened to exhaust all the resources of his empire, he resolved to plunder the temples throughout his dominions. The first attack it was agreed should be made on that of Elymais, situated at the meeting-point of the caravan routes which connected Media with Persia and Susiana. But the guards of the temple, aided by the hardy mountaineers of the district, made a vigorous defence of their shrine, and Antiochus was slain, B.C. 18720 (Dan. xi. 19).

On the news of his death, his son Seleucus ascended the throne, and assumed the title of Philopator. During the early period of his reign, the new king carefully abstained from giving any offence to the Jewish nation, guaranteed to them the free exercise of their religion, and even contributed to the expenses of the Temple services (2 Macc. iii. 2, 3).

Before long, however, his attention was directed to the riches deposited in the sanctuary at Jerusalem. At this time that city presented an appearance of much external prosperity. The high-priest Onias III, who succeeded Simon B.C. 195, was held in high respect, and ruled the people with firmness and vigour (2 Macc. iii. 1). But an untoward cause of intestine dissension soon arose, and led to the interference of the Syrian king.

Joseph, the collector of the revenues of Phœnicia and Cœlesyria, had left behind him an illegitimate son, named Hyrcanus. Between this son and his legitimate brothers a serious quarrel arose respecting their father’s property. Onias espoused the cause of Hyrcanus, and on his death secured his property in the treasury of the Temple, the custody of which was now held by one Simon, who is supposed by some to have been a son of Joseph (2 Macc. iii. 4). Filled with spite against the high-priest he gave information to Apollonius the governor of Phœnicia and Cœlesyria respecting the amount of treasure contained in the Temple, and represented that it might without difficulty be applied to the king’s use (2 Macc. iii. 46). The governor reported this to Seleucus, and the Syrian king, straitened for means to pay the Roman tribute, directed his treasurer Heliodorus not only to penetrate into the Temple, but plunder it of its funds.

Heliodorus arrived at Jerusalem, communicated his instructions, and demanded the surrender of the money. In vain the high-priest expostulated on the insult which would be offered to the national sanctuary, and declared that one half the treasures belonged to God, and the other to widows and orphans, who had placed it there for security. Heliodorus declared that his orders must be carried out, demolished the outer gates, and was on the point of entering the sanctuary, when, like Ptolemy Philopator, he too was struck with a panic terror, which prostrated him speechless on the ground, so that he had to be carried away insensible by his retinue (2 Macc. iii. 2630). Restored, however, by the prayers of Onias, he gradually recovered, and returning to Antioch related all that had occurred, and declared to his Syrian lord that nothing would induce him to venture again on such an errand.

On the death of Antiochus the Great, it had been agreed between the senate of Rome and Seleucus that he should send his son Demetrius to take the place, as a hostage, of his brother Antiochus, who was to be allowed to come back to Syria. Shortly after his return from Jerusalem, Demetrius departed for this purpose, and Heliodorus, in the absence of the two persons nearest in succession to the throne, poisoned his master and usurped the crown. News of this reached Antiochus as he was visiting Athens on his way to the Syrian capital. He instantly invoked the aid of Eumenes king of Pergamus, at this time master of the greater part of the territories in Asia Minor wrested by the Romans from his father, and having quickly crushed the usurper, ascended the Syrian throne, and assumed the title of Epiphanes, or the Illustrious, while his nephew Demetrius remained a hostage at Rome21, B.C. 175.


B.C. 175170.

THE long-continued subjection of the Jews to Grecian monarchs had by this time exerted a very considerable influence on their habits and mode of life. Familiar not only with the language but the literature and philosophy of Greece, many had acquired a strong taste for Grecian studies, preferred the Grecian religion to their own, adopted Grecian manners, and practised Grecian arts. Amongst this Hellenizing party none was more active than Joshua the brother of the high-priest, who even assumed the Grecian name of Jason.

On the accession of Epiphanes he made his appearance among the princes who flocked to Antioch to assure the new monarch of their allegiance, and by his insinuating manners rapidly rose into high favour. Knowing the depressed condition of the Syrian exchequer, in consequence of the annual tribute to Rome, he offered the king the tempting bribe of 440 talents of silver to secure the deposition of his elder brother, and his own appointment to the high-priesthood. Successful in this he caused Onias to be summoned to Antioch, and kept there as a prisoner at large, and then returning to Jerusalem devoted himself to the work of introducing Grecian customs among the people.

By a second bribe of 150 talents he obtained permission from his patron to establish at Jerusalem a gymnasium for athletic exercises, and with such success that even the priests despised the Temple and neglected the sacrifices to take part in the games (2 Macc. iv. 14). He next procured a license to establish an academy in which the Jewish youth might be brought up in the Grecian fashion, and was empowered to confer the citizenship of Antioch on many of his fellow-countrymen, who eagerly coveted the empty honour (2 Macc. iv. 9). Not content with this, in the year B.C. 174 he went so far as to send a deputation with 300 drachmas of silver to Tyre, towards the celebration of the games in honour of the tutelary deity, Hercules. But even his own partisans shrunk from such open idolatry, and in place of bestowing the money on the games, preferred to offer it towards the building of a fleet (2 Macc. iv. 20).

For three years the high-priest continued his work of corrupting the manners of his people, and then found the means he had used to acquire his ill-gotten dignity turned against himself. Having occasion to send his brother Onias IV., who had assumed the name of Menelaus, to the Syrian court, his envoy embraced the opportunity of offering Antiochus 300 talents a year more than his brother had paid for the office of high-priest, and succeeded in supplanting him in the royal favour (2 Macc. iv. 24). Escorted by a body of Syrian troops, he then expelled Jason, who fled into the country of the Ammonites, and assuming the position and title of high-priest, proved even more wicked than his predecessor.

For some time, however, he delayed to make the stipulated payment to Antiochus, and when Sostratus, the commander of the Acra, had made several ineffectual demands for it, they were both summoned to the Syrian capital. At the time of their arrival Epiphanes was absent in Cilicia, and had left Andronicus in charge of affairs. Finding that in some way the money must be procured, Menelaus sent instructions to his brother Lysimachus to abstract some of the golden vessels of the Temple, and having secretly sold them at Tyre, obtained sufficient money to liquidate the debt and bribe over Andronicus to espouse his cause. The sacrilegious sale, however, transpired, and came to the ears of the venerable Onias III., the legitimate high-priest, who severely reproved the usurper for his conduct. Enraged at this reproof, Menelaus prevailed on the king’s deputy to seize the aged priest and put him to death (2 Macc. iv. 2735). This atrocious deed roused the utmost indignation amongst the Jews at Antioch, and the Syrian king stripped Andronicus of the purple, and ordered him to be executed on the very spot, where the venerable priest, whose sober and modest behaviour (2 Macc. iv. 37) he always respected, had been murdered.

At this time the thoughts of Antiochus were fixed on the reduction of Egypt. In B.C. 171 he led his forces through Palestine and defeated the Egyptians before Pelusium. In the following year he led a second expedition, and taking advantage of the occupation of the Romans with the war against Perseus, the last king of Macedonia, evaded the condition of the late treaty22, which restricted his fleet to 10 ships, and attacked Egypt by sea and land. Again he was successful, and reduced the whole country with the exception of Alexandria.

While he was before the walls of this city, a report reached Palestine that he was dead. On this Jason, taking advantage of the unpopularity of Menelaus, placed himself at the head of 1000 men, seized Jerusalem, and, while his brother secured himself in the castle of Zion, put great numbers of the Jews to death (2 Macc. v. 5, 6).

The first intelligence of these events received by Antiochus represented that all Judæa was in a state of rebellion, and that the Jews were rejoicing in his supposed death. Enraged at these tidings he instantly made preparations for marching upon Jerusalem, whence Jason, hearing of his approach, fled into the country of the Ammonites. The city was taken by storm, and the late proceedings being considered as a revolt, it was resolved to inflict a proportionate punishment. Accordingly for three days Antiochus surrendered the capital to the fury and license of his soldiers, and during this period 40,000 of the inhabitants were slain, and an equal number sold into captivity. Under the guidance of the impious Menelaus, he then entered the Sanctuary, seized all the sacred vessels, and searching even the subterranean vaults, carried off treasure to the amount of 1800 talents of gold. He next ordered a great sow to be sacrificed on the brazen altar of burnt-offering, a portion of the flesh to be boiled, and the liquor poured over every part of the Temple; and having thus drained the capital of its treasure, drenched the streets with blood, and profaned its Sanctuary, handed it over once more to the administration of Menelaus, supported by Philip, a Phrygian, and for manners more barbarous than he that set him there (2 Macc. v. 1523; 1 Macc. i. 2028).


B.C. 169167.

HIS exchequer recruited by this valuable plunder, Antiochus in the following year, B.C. 169, led a third expedition into Egypt, and once more laid siege to Alexandria. But his late proceedings at Jerusalem had raised against him fiercer enemies even than the Egyptians. The Jews, who formed a full half of the population, stung to the quick by the indignities offered to their fellow-countrymen and the desecration of the national Temple, assisted the Alexandrians with the fiercest zeal in repelling his attacks, and once more forced the king to raise the siege.

Undaunted, however, by this second repulse, he reappeared before the walls the next year, B.C. 168, and having a still larger force at his command, determined to reduce the city to subjection. But he was now confronted with a power it was impossible to resist. Having defeated Perseus at the decisive battle of Pydna, and reduced Macedonia to the condition of a Roman province, the Romans had at length found themselves able to listen to the repeated entreaties of the Ptolemies for assistance.

Accordingly Antiochus, on invading Egypt for the fourth time, found at Eleusis, about 4 miles from Alexandria, Caius Popilius Lænas, Caius Decimius, and Caius Hostilius, ambassadors from Rome, who commanded him to abstain from all hostilities against the Ptolemies, or prepare for war against the haughty republic of the West. During his long residence at Rome23, Antiochus had made the acquaintance of Popilius, and seeing him at the head of the embassy, stretched forth his arms to embrace him. But the Roman sternly repelled the salute, and handed to him the written orders of his government. The Syrian monarch requested time to refer the matter to his council, but Popilius drew a circle on the sand with his staff round the king, and declared that he should not leave it, till he had given him an answer, which he could report to the senate. Confounded at this determined conduct, Antiochus was obliged to yield, and having, after a brief struggle, consented to bow to the senate’s decree, was rewarded with the ambassador’s hand24.

Accordingly the command was given to desist from any attack upon Alexandria, and the Syrian mercenaries prepared to evacuate the land of the Ptolemies. But the rage and disappointment of Antiochus knew no bounds. The imperious commands of the haughty Romans roused him to positive phrenzy. His private life had long since procured for him the title of Epimanes, “the madman,” instead of Epiphanes, “the illustrious25.” Uniting “the quick and versatile character of a Greek with the splendid voluptuousness of an Asiatic26,” he thought nothing of debasing the royal dignity by mingling with the revels of his meanest subjects. He would scour the streets, visit the lowest places and the commonest baths, or, like Peter of Russia, converse with the artizans in their shops respecting their various trades. Sometimes he would mingle with some drunken revellers, and amuse them by singing or playing on his flute. At other times he would array himself in a white robe like the candidates for office at Rome, and in this guise go about the streets of Antioch, saluting the citizens, taking them by the hand, and supplicating their votes for some Roman office, of which in all probability they had never heard the name. Having in this way obtained a sufficient number of votes he would, with all the solemnity of a tribune or an ædile, take his seat in the market-place after the Roman fashion, and deliver judgment with all the gravity of a Roman magistrate. Immoderately fond of wine, he became under its influence a madman, and when thwarted in any design his fury knew no bounds. At the same time he was bigoted and intolerant to an extent almost incredible. His favourite deity was Zeus Olympius, and in his honour he was in the habit of celebrating games at Daphne, which exceeded in splendour anything that his predecessors had ever attempted, and erected a magnificent temple, at which he offered the most sumptuous and extravagant sacrifices.

Such was the man, now goaded into even more than usual fury by the disappointments of his designs on Egypt, who was forced to bow before the power of Rome. As he returned to his own dominions, Jerusalem unfortunately lay in his way. Accordingly, he detached Apollonius, one of his generals, with a division of 22,000 men, and ordered him to wreak that vengeance on the city which he could not inflict on Egypt. As he was the chief collector of the tribute throughout Judæa, Apollonius found no difficulty in effecting his way into the capital, and no suspicions were entertained of his designs. He then waited till the first sabbath after his arrival, when he knew no resistance was to be dreaded, and suddenly let loose his soldiers on the unresisting multitude, instructing them to slay all the men they met, to make slaves of the women and children, plunder the houses, and throw down the city walls (2 Macc. v. 2426).

His orders were executed with relentless severity; the streets of the city and the courts of the Temple ran with blood; the houses were pillaged; the dwellings near Mount Zion demolished; and with the materials thus obtained the fortifications of that citadel were strengthened, and occupied with a Syrian garrison (1 Macc. i. 33). This fortress overlooked the Temple, and the Jews could no longer steal into the city, and offer sacrifice in the accustomed place. The daily sacrifice therefore ceased in the month of Sivan, B.C. 167; Jerusalem became deserted; her inhabitants fled; her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness; her feasts were turned into mourning; her sabbaths into reproach; her honour into contempt (1 Macc. i. 39).

But the persecution did not end here. Like Nebuchadnezzar before him, Antiochus resolved on obtaining a uniformity of worship throughout his dominions. A decree therefore was issued from the Syrian capital enjoining his subjects to worship the gods of the king, and none other. Some of the Jews now fled from the land, or concealed themselves in caves or mountains. Others, long secretly attached to Grecian customs, consented to conform, sacrificed unto idols, and profaned the Sabbath (1 Macc. i. 43).

Before long a royal commissioner, named Athenæus, arrived with instructions to enforce a general compliance to the royal edict. He re-consecrated the Temple in honour of Zeus Olympius; erected on the brazen altar of burnt-offering another in honour of that god; offered swine’s flesh upon it; and introduced the heathen ritual with all its lascivious accompaniments. Having thus set up the abomination of desolation upon the altar (1 Macc. i. 54; comp. Dan. xi. 31), he made the observance of any portion of the law of Moses a capital offence. Circumcision, the keeping of the Sabbath, the reading of the Law, were strictly forbidden. Every copy of the sacred books that could be found was seized and defaced, torn to pieces or burnt. Groves were at the same time consecrated, heathen altars set up in every city, and every month, on the birthday of the king, the people were ordered to offer sacrifice and eat swine’s flesh. Moreover, in place of the Feast of Tabernacles, they were compelled to observe the licentious festival of the Bacchanalia, to join in the procession, and to appear crowned with the ivy wreaths sacred to the god of wine (2 Macc. vi. 37).

Proceedings equally tyrannical were enacted in other parts of the land. The Samaritans, on the occasion of the visit of Alexander the Great, had claimed relationship with the Jews. They now wrote to Antiochus, stating that they were Zidonians, and offering to dedicate their temple on Mount Gerizim to Zeus Xenios, the Defender of Strangers. With this proposal the Syrian monarch complied, and the temple was dedicated accordingly. Meanwhile all who refused to yield to the orders of the persecutor suffered the most fearful tortures. Two women, who had dared to circumcise their children, were led round the streets of Jerusalem with their babes hanging round their necks, and were cast down the battlements into the deep valley below the city-walls. Eleazar, an aged man, and one of the principal of the scribes, for refusing to eat swine’s flesh was beaten to death, while a mother and her seven sons for the same offence were executed after enduring the most revolting and horrible tortures (1 Macc. i. 61; 2 Macc. vi. vii.).




B.C. 167165.

NEVER did the fortunes of the Chosen People look so dark and troubled as now; never did the nation itself, never did the religion of Jehovah appear so near to total extermination. But it was at this very time, when the gradual prevalence of Grecian manners, Grecian idolatry, and Grecian corruption threatened to eradicate all real attachment to the Law of Moses, that God interposed in behalf of His people, and through the genius, bravery, and heroic devotion of one noble-minded family, raised them from their prostrate misery to a height of power, which recalled the glory and the splendour even of the reign of David.

At Modin27, a town situated on an eminence on the road between Jerusalem and Joppa, there lived a priest, named Mattathias, of the line of Joiarib, the first of the 24 courses (1 Chron. xxiv. 7). The son of Jochanon, the son of Simon, the son of Asamonæus or Chasmon, from whom the family took its name, he could boast of noble blood. At this time he was advanced in years, but his sons were in the prime of life, and were five in number, Johanan, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan.

The sad declension of the nation and the ruthless persecution of Antiochus had already roused his keenest indignation, when a royal commissioner, Apelles, arrived at Modin, charged to carry out the edict against the Jewish religion, and to require the people to offer idolatrous sacrifice. Knowing his influence in the place, the commissioner used his utmost efforts to induce Mattathias to conform to heathen customs. But it was in vain. The aged priest not only declared his resolution to live and die in the faith of his fathers, but when an apostate Jew approached the altar which Apelles had erected to offer sacrifice, struck him down, and then, aided by his sons and the men of the town, rushed upon the commissioner himself, slew him and his retinue, and tore down the altar (1 Macc. ii. 1529). The first blow thus struck, he called upon all such of his fellow-townsmen as were zealous for the Law of Moses to follow him, and, unfurling the banner of the national Faith, fled to the dark and rugged mountains of Judæa, where he was soon joined by many who feared God, and hated idolatry.

Tidings of these events quickly reached the ears of the Phrygian governor at Jerusalem, and he dispatched a large force, which attacked the patriots on the Sabbath-day, when they were unlikely to offer any resistance, and slew upwards of 1000, with their wives, children, and cattle (1 Macc. ii. 3138). This untoward incident awoke the little army of Mattathias to the conviction that they would be rooted out of the earth (1 Macc. ii. 40), if they persisted in their resolve not to act in self-defence on the Sabbath-day. With the sanction, therefore, of their brave leader, they determined to break through this overscrupulous observance, and though they would not attack, they henceforth considered it lawful to defend themselves on this day.

Before long, they were joined by the “Assideans,” the zealots for the Law (1 Macc. ii. 42), and by numbers flying from the persecution still going on throughout the country, and prepared to conduct the war of independence with prudence and discretion. For a time, therefore, they laid hid in their mountain fastnesses, and, as opportunity offered, poured down upon the towns, destroyed the heathen altars, enforced circumcision, punished all apostates who fell into their hands, recovered many copies of the Law from the possession of their enemies, and re-established public worship.

But the hardships of the campaign did not suit the advanced age of Mattathias. Sinking under the weight of years, he called together his followers, exhorted them in noble words to constancy and devotion, and bequeathed the command of his little army to Judas, the third and most valiant of all his sons, associating with him Simon, his second son, as chief counsellor (1 Macc. ii. 4969). Having given them this prudent advice, he died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his fathers at Modin, amidst the universal lamentations of the people, B.C. 16628.

Though Judas was young in years, he lacked neither energy nor prudence, and succeeding to the designs of his aged father, first unfolded the banner of the Maccabees. This name is of uncertain meaning. Some derive it from the concluding letters of a sentence in Exod. xv. 11, Mi Camo Car Baalim Jehovah, i.e., Who is like unto Thee among the gods, O Jehovah? Others, again, derive it from the banner of the tribe of Dan, which is said to have contained the three last letters of the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Others, with more probability, understand it to have been a personal appellation of Judas himself, meaning the Hammerer, like Martel, the surname of the famous Carlovingian chief, Charles.

Whatever was the precise meaning of the name, the new leader girt his warlike harness about him (1 Macc. iii. 3), rallied his forces, and bent all his energies to the task of uniting in a compact body all who were zealous for the national faith. “By night attacks, by sudden surprises (2 Macc. viii. 6, 7), he taught his people how to fight and conquer. Alert of foot and quick of brain; yesterday in the mountains, to-day in the plain; now marching on a post, now storming a castle; in a few months of service he changed his rabble of zealots into an army of solid troops, capable of meeting and repelling the royal hosts commanded by generals trained in the Macedonian school of arms29.”

At length Apollonius, who had recently signalized himself by plundering Jerusalem and massacring its inhabitants, deemed it time to interfere. At the head of a large army, mostly composed of Samaritans and apostate Jews, he marched against the patriot chief, but was totally defeated and slain (1 Macc. iii. 1012). Tidings of this disaster roused Seron, the deputy-governor of Cœlesyria, and he went forth at the head of a still larger force, determined to have his revenge. Judas did not decline the combat, which took place at Beth-horon, famous as the scene of Joshua’s victory over the southern Canaanites30, and resulted in the complete defeat of the Syrian general, whose troops were driven in confusion down the rocky pass to the western lowlands (1 Macc. iii. 24).

These two disasters moved the indignation of Antiochus beyond measure. He was himself, however, unable to take the field, for his exchequer being exhausted by his prodigal munificence (1 Macc. iii. 29), and his eastern provinces, Armenia and Persia, refusing to pay any further tribute, he deemed it expedient to lead an expedition thither in hopes of recruiting his treasury. Accordingly he entrusted the government of all that portion of his empire, which lay between the Euphrates and the borders of Egypt, to Lysias, one of his nobles and of the blood royal, and gave him the command of half his army, with instructions utterly to destroy and root out the strength of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem (1 Macc. iii. 35).


B.C. 165.

ON the departure of Antiochus, the regent, who entered zealously into all his plans, began to concert measures with Ptolemy Macron, the governor of Cœlesyria, and diligently collecting his forces, early the next year dispatched 40,000 troops into Judæa, under the command of Gorgias and Nicanor, two generals of tried ability.

While the Syrian troops, who were shortly joined by 7000 cavalry, encamped at Emmaus, about a mile to the north-east of Modin, Judas had assembled his little army of 6000 devoted followers at Mizpeh, the Watchtower, over against Jerusalem (1 Macc. iii. 46), where Samuel, in one of the darkest periods of his nation’s history, had erected the Stone of Eben-ezer, the rock of help, after the Lord had given victory to the people31. Here the Maccabæan chieftain kept a solemn fast, laid open the book of the Law, wherein the heathen had sought to paint the likeness of their images (1 Macc. iii. 48), and made a public confession of the national sins. In strict conformity with the command of Moses (Deut. xx. 58), he then bade all, who in the course of the year had built a house, or betrothed a wife, or had planted a vineyard, or were fearful, to return every man to his home. Half of his little army obeyed the invitation, and with barely 3000 men, who had neither armour nor swords to their minds (1 Macc. iv. 6), he was left to confront the vast hosts of the enemy.

So certain did the Syrians deem themselves of a victory in the approaching encounter, that Nicanor had proclaimed beforehand in all the cities and sea-ports round about (1 Macc. iii. 41) a sale of Jewish captives, at the rate of 90 for a talent. This proclamation attracted numbers of slave-merchants to his camp, who with their servants made every preparation to carry off their anticipated booty. Hearing through his scouts of the reduction of the forces of Judas, he now dispatched Gorgias with 5000 infantry and 1000 cavalry, to surprise him by night, and cut off his retreat into the mountains. But equally well served by his spies, the Jewish warrior was no sooner made aware of his intention, than he instantly conceived the daring design of attacking the camp of Nicanor, in the absence of his brother commander, and sallying forth early in the evening, fell upon it with the utmost fierceness at midnight.

Fully believing in the certain success of Gorgias, Nicanor had made no provision against such an attack, and was roused from sleep only to find his camp in inextricable confusion. The terrible bravery of the Maccabees filled the Syrians with a sudden panic, and they were as little able to resist the fury of their attack as the Midianites to oppose the onset of Gideon’s three hundred men. Without striking a blow, they fled precipitately to Gazara32, the plain of Idumæa33, Azotus34, and Jamnia35, and left their camp at the mercy of their foes, with all the wealth which it contained.

Meanwhile Gorgias was wandering in the mountains, vainly searching for the little army of Judas, who having persuaded his men to restrain themselves from rifling the Syrian camp till their victory was complete, calmly awaited his return. The first sight that met the Syrians, when they came back, was the flame of their blazing tents; the first sound, the signal from the Maccabæan trumpets for the onset. Filled with alarm they too fled precipitately, nor attempted to lift a hand against the victorious Hebrews.

After these two routs, in which the Syrians lost upwards of 9000 men, their camp could be plundered with impunity of its gold and silver, provisions, and rich merchandise (1 Macc. iv. 23). The numerous slave-dealers who had followed the Syrians for the purpose of buying up the Jewish captives were themselves sold into bondage, and the spoil was divided partly amongst the conquerors, and partly amongst the numerous widows and orphans of the late persecutions. Nicanor himself escaped from the field in the disguise of a slave, and flying to Antioch, openly acknowledged the power of that God who had so mightily avenged the wrongs of His people, and raised them up from their former prostrate condition.

Thus closed the first campaign of the Maccabees. Furnished from the recent spoils with ample arms and ammunition, and joined by numerous fresh followers, Judas was now in a position to cope with the forces of Timotheus, governor of the country beyond the Jordan, as also of Bacchides, an experienced Syrian general, who next invaded Judæa with a large army. Defeating them in a pitched battle, he captured upwards of 20,000 stand of arms, and ample provisions. Next year he was called to confront Lysias himself, who with 60,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry marched through Idumæa, and encamped before Beth-sura36, or Beth-zur, a strong fortress in the mountains of Judæa, north-west of Hebron. Though the Maccabæan chief had but 10,000 men, with whom to confront this formidable array, he did not scruple to meet them in the field, and again succeeded in obtaining decisive advantages (1 Macc. iv. 29, 34).

The Syrian regent now returned to Antioch, and Judas, successful on every side, turned his thoughts towards the capital of the recovered province of Judæa. On ascending Mount Moriah, and entering the courts of the Temple, a sad scene of desolation met his eyes. The altar of burnt-offering was surmounted with that dedicated to Zeus Xenios; the gates were in ashes; the priests’ chambers were in ruins; shrubs grew in the courts as in a forest, or on one of the mountains (1 Macc. iv. 38); while the sanctuary itself was empty and exposed to all eyes. Having taken the precaution to fill the avenues with his choicest troops to be on the watch against the Syrian garrison in the Acra, Judas at once cleared the sacred precincts, took away the polluted altar, constructed a new one, replaced the holy vessels, reinstated the priests, rekindled the sacred flame, and three years after its desecration by Apollonius celebrated the re-dedication of the Temple, on the 25th of the winter month Chisleu, in the year B.C. 165, with a festival which lasted 8 days (1 Macc. iv. 4559).

to illustrate the

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B.C. 165161.

THIS recovery of a powerful city by the skill and energy of one man, was regarded with no friendly feelings by the surrounding nations. But Judas, resolving to be beforehand with any opposition they might offer, carried his victorious arms into the territories of the Idumæans and Amorites. Then, having strengthened the outer wall of the Temple, and placed there a garrison to act against the Syrians in the Acra, and fortified the stronghold of Beth-zur, he divided his army into three parts. With 8000 men he himself crossed the Jordan into the land of Gilead; his brother Simon with 3000 was stationed in Galilee; while Joseph and Azariah were posted with the remainder in Judæa, with express orders not to venture on any attack before they were joined by the rest of the patriot forces.

As before, the energy of the brothers was irresistible. Simon fought many battles in Galilee, chased the Syrians to the gates of Ptolemais37, and restored many Jewish captives to their own land (1 Macc. v. 2123). Judas with his brother Jonathan captured numerous cities in Gilead, ransomed many captives, and returned in triumph to Jerusalem to find that the captains he had left there, disregarding his instructions, had made an unsuccessful attack upon the sea-ports of Jamnia, and had been driven back with severe loss.

Meanwhile Epiphanes, the terrible oppressor of the Jews, had died. Repulsed in an attempt to capture the rich Temple of Nanea, the Moon Goddess, at Elymais, which was hung with the gifts of Alexander the Great (1 Macc. vi. 1, 2; 2 Macc. i. 1316), he fell back upon Ecbatana, and there received intelligence of the disasters which had befallen his arms in Palestine. Filled with rage and vexation, he urged his troops westward, but, struck with an incurable disorder which preyed upon his vitals, he died, B.C. 164, at the village of Tabæ near Mount Zagros, on the road to Babylon, having appointed his foster-brother Philip regent of Syria, and guardian of his son, Antiochus the Fifth.

On receiving intelligence of his death, Lysias, who was himself of the blood royal (1 Macc. iii. 32), assumed the government as guardian of Antiochus Eupator, another son of the deceased king, who was at this time but nine years old. His first act was to attempt the reconquest of Judæa, to which he was urged at once by the representations of many apostate Jews, and by the Syrian garrison at Jerusalem, which Judas was now besieging with banks and engines (1 Macc. vi. 1827). Accordingly assembling all his forces to the number of 180,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants, he marched, accompanied by the young king, through Idumæa, and once more laid siege to Beth-zur. The Jewish garrison posted there made a vigorous defence, and succeeded for some time in keeping off the assailants. Resolved to succour them, Judas marched forth from Jerusalem, and encamped at Bethzacharias, an almost impregnable position about nine miles north of Beth-zur. Thither Lysias also marched with all his elephants, each attended by a thousand of his troops, and bearing a strong tower of wood containing 32 men. Several obstinate contests took place, in one of which Eleazar covered himself with glory by rushing under an elephant, and stabbing it in the belly, to be himself crushed to death by its fall (1 Macc. vi. 3246).

Perceiving the strength of the foe, Judas now fell back upon Jerusalem, and entrenched himself in the Temple-fortress. Thereupon the garrison at Beth-zur, pressed by famine, capitulated on honourable terms, and the Syrians advanced against the capital. But the stronghold of Zion resisted all their efforts, and assault after assault was delivered in vain. Soon however, for it was a Sabbatical year (1 Macc. vi. 53), the garrison began to be hard pressed by famine, and many effected their escape. At this juncture Lysias received information that Philip had been appointed regent by the late king, and had succeeded in taking Antioch. On this he hastily concluded a treaty with the Jews, guaranteeing to them the use of their own laws and religion, and retired to Syria, taking with him the apostate Menelaus, whom he persuaded Antiochus to smother in the Ash-tower at Berœa, as being the cause of all the late reverses. Judas was now recognised as governor of Palestine, and from this year, B.C. 163, his accession to the principality is usually dated.

On reaching Antioch, Lysias defeated Philip, but in the course of a year was himself put to death by another aspirant to the Syrian throne. It has been mentioned, that in the year B.C. 175, Demetrius was sent as a hostage to Rome, in exchange for his uncle Antiochus Epiphanes. Secretly leaving Italy, he now landed with a small force at Tyre, and having given out that the Romans had recognised his claim to the Syrian throne, easily succeeded in putting Antiochus and Lysias to death, and seizing the crown (1 Macc. vii. 114).

At the same time that he put Menelaus to death at Berœa, Lysias had conferred the high-priesthood on one Jakim, or Joachin, who, according to the prevailing fashion of adopting Grecian names, was also known by that of Alcimus. One of the stock of Aaron, but not of the pontifical family, the new high-priest was a zealous adherent of the Hellenizing party. In him, Demetrius saw a ready instrument for sowing discord among the Maccabæan patriots. Accordingly he confirmed him in the sacerdotal dignity, and sent him to Jerusalem, accompanied by Bacchides, governor of Mesopotamia, and one of his most able generals. With a large force they appeared before Jerusalem, and the zealots for the Law, unwilling to reject a descendant of Aaron, admitted Alcimus within the walls, and acknowledged him as high-priest. So long as the Syrian general remained in the neighbourhood, Alcimus was able to assert his authority, and take a cruel revenge on his enemies. But no sooner had Bacchides withdrawn his troops, than Judas, quickly recovering his old influence, compelled the innovating high-priest to fly to Antioch.

By dint, however, of large bribes, Alcimus again succeeded in persuading Demetrius to assist him in recovering his authority, and crushing the Maccabæan chief. Accordingly a large army was entrusted to Nicanor, with strict injunctions to cut off the partisans of Judas, and reinstate Alcimus in power. Nicanor, taught by past experience on the disastrous field of Emmaus to entertain a wholesomer dread of his enemy’s prowess, at first endeavoured to get him into his power by treachery (1 Macc. vii. 2731). Unsuccessful in this, and urged on by the express orders of Demetrius, he then ventured to attack him at Capharsalama, but was defeated with the loss of 5000 men. Shortly afterwards, with 40,000 men he again attacked him at Adasa, about 30 stadia from Beth-horon, where his whole army sustained a total rout, and he himself fell amongst the slain (1 Macc. vii. 4047; 2 Macc. xv. 36).

This signal victory restored peace for a short time to Judæa, and was deemed of sufficient importance to justify an annual commemoration on the 13th of the month Adar. Fully aware of the necessity of providing against the ceaseless animosity of Demetrius, Judas resolved to improve this interval by concluding an alliance with the Romans. He had heard much of the fame of this great nation, of their conquests in Gaul, Spain, and Greece, of their victories over Philip and Perseus, and the great Antiochus (1 Macc. viii. 116). Accordingly he sent two ambassadors to the metropolis of the West, and the Roman senate, whose settled policy it was to weaken great states by forming alliances with smaller ones, readily passed a decree acknowledging the Jews as their friends and allies, and resolved to send a letter to Demetrius, commanding him, on pain of their heavy displeasure, to desist from any further attacks upon them (1 Macc. viii. 1732).

Before, however, the ambassadors could return, the Syrian king keenly resenting the disaster which had befallen the army of Nicanor, had sent Alcimus and Bacchides with the entire force of his realm into Palestine. Never were the Maccabæan patriots so ill prepared to meet this fresh invasion. The mass of the people were tired of constant fighting, and the late negociations with Rome had alienated a considerable number of the Jewish zealots from the councils of Judas. In consequence the brave Maccabee was unable to bring more than a very small force into the field, and of these, a large portion deserted him on the eve of battle (1 Macc. ix. 6). With 800 men, however, he ventured to attack the Syrian host at Eleasa, not far from Ashdod, and actually succeeded in routing their right wing with enormous loss. But the odds were far too desperate, and the brave chief fell amongst a number of gallant followers, and was buried amidst universal lamentation in the ancestral tomb at Modin (1 Macc. ix. 1921).


B.C. 161146.

THE death of their great leader was a terrible blow to the hopes of the Jewish patriots, and for a short time their plans were totally disorganized. The Syrians regained their ascendancy everywhere, Alcimus was reinstated in the high-priesthood, and Bacchides wreaked his vengeance on the adherents of Judas with unrelenting cruelty. All the advantages which that brave chieftain had gained during six years of incessant warfare, seemed to have been utterly thrown away, and the national cause to be on the verge of destruction.

At length, however, the Maccabæan party rallied, and offered the command to Jonathan, surnamed Apphus (the wary), the youngest son of Mattathias. In view of the present desperate circumstances of the nation, the new leader did not attempt to operate in the open country, but retired to the wilderness of Tekoa, where the Syrian general in vain endeavoured to surprise and capture him. Thence, crossing the Jordan, he carried on a guerilla warfare, while Bacchides resolving to keep the Jews in subjection, employed himself in strengthening the fortifications of Emmaus, Beth-horon, Gazara, and Beth-zur. At the same time he furnished the garrison in the Acra, which commanded the city and temple of Jerusalem, with fresh supplies of arms and provisions, and placed there the children of several of the chief Jewish families as hostages. Meanwhile Alcimus, bent on his plan of fusing Jew and Gentile, gave orders that the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary should be pulled down, and was in the act of seeing them carried out, when he was suddenly struck with paralysis, and died in great misery.

Upon this, Bacchides returned to Antioch, and Jonathan re-appearing from his hiding-place, established himself in Judæa, where, for upwards of two years, he was left unmolested by the Syrians, in accordance with orders from Demetrius, who by this time had received the commands of the Roman senate forbidding all hostilities towards their new allies. This condition, however, of tranquillity by no means fell in with the views of the large Hellenizing party in Judæa, and they invited Bacchides to return once more and crush their enemy. Accordingly the Syrian commander re-entered Judæa at the head of a considerable army, and Jonathan retiring as before into the wilderness, maintained a desultory warfare, while his brother Simon occupied the fortress of Beth-basi, in the Jordan valley, not far from Jericho. Though he attacked it with all his forces, Bacchides was utterly unable to reduce this stronghold, and at length, wearying of a campaign which brought little glory and less profit, he turned against those who had advised the expedition, and sought means to secure an honourable retreat. Informed of the altered feelings of his foe, Jonathan thereupon sent envoys, and succeeded in concluding a peace, agreeing to acknowledge Bacchides as governor under the Syrian king, and obtaining a promise from that general that he would not enter the land again.

On these terms, hostilities were suspended, and the authority of Jonathan as deputy governor of Judæa was publicly recognised. Establishing himself at Michmash (1 Macc. ix. 73), he ruled the people according to the law of Moses, though Jerusalem and many of the stronger towns were still retained by garrisons of Syrians or apostate Jews.

After the lapse, however, of a very few years, a revolution took place in Syria, which produced a surprising change in his fortunes. About the year B.C. 153, Demetrius retired to a new palace he had built at Antioch, and there gave himself up to pleasure, and various luxurious excesses38. This, added to other causes, made him extremely unpopular with his subjects, and gave rise to a conspiracy which was fostered by Ariarathes king of Cappadocia, Attalus king of Pergamus, and especially by Ptolemy Philometor king of Egypt, from whom Demetrius had taken the island of Cyprus. By their connivance, a young man named Balas39 was persuaded to give himself out as the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, and to claim the Syrian throne. Through the intrigues of Heraclides, a former treasurer of Epiphanes, his claim was admitted by the Romans, and on his landing at Ptolemais after a visit to Rome, the place was betrayed by the garrison, and his standard was joined by numerous disaffected subjects of Demetrius, B.C. 152.

Roused at last from his lethargy, that monarch collected an army, and prepared to defend his crown. Both kings had an equal interest in securing the friendship of Jonathan, who could render essential service to whichever side he joined. The promises of Demetrius were lavish even to desperation. He offered to make Jonathan commander-in-chief over Judæa, to allow him to levy soldiers, and also undertook to release the Jewish hostages held by the Syrian garrison in the Acra. Jonathan read the letter containing these offers to the soldiers in the citadel, and they straightway delivered up the hostages, while the garrisons retired from most of the stronger towns, save those of Beth-zur and Jerusalem, which were chiefly composed of apostate Jews (1 Macc. x. 39, 1214), who dreaded to leave their places of refuge. The power of the Maccabæan chief was thus greatly extended; he levied troops, and supplied them with arms; he rebuilt and repaired the walls of Jerusalem, particularly around Mount Zion, which were strongly fortified, and took up his own abode in the capital (1 Macc. x. 10, 11).

It was now the turn of Balas to court the alliance of the Jewish prince, and he resolved to outdo Demetrius in the liberality of his promises. Accordingly, he wrote a letter in which he saluted Jonathan as his “brother” (1 Macc. x. 18), conferred upon him the high-priesthood, which had now been vacant seven years, and sent him the purple robe, and the crown of an ethnarch, or independent prince of Judæa. Jonathan accepted all that the other conferred, and without openly espousing the cause of either king, assumed the pontifical robes at the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Macc. x. 21), and with them the purple. Thus the high-priesthood, which had remained in the family of Jozadak ever since the time of Cyrus, was transferred to that of Joiarib, and the reign of the Priest-kings of the Asmonean line commenced, B.C. 153.

As soon as Demetrius was informed of the offers of Balas, he wrote a second time to Jonathan, and made him the most extravagant promises if he would espouse his cause. But the Jews, remembering what they had suffered at his hands, could not be convinced of his sincerity, and threw all the weight of their influence into the cause of his rival. At first the efforts of Balas were unsuccessful, but eventually, B.C. 150, he succeeded in completely routing the army of Demetrius, mounted the Syrian throne, and at Ptolemais was united in marriage with Cleopatra, the daughter of Philometor, king of Egypt. On this occasion Jonathan also repaired to that city, where he was received by Balas with every mark of friendship and regard, raised to the rank of meridarch, or ruler of a part of the empire (1 Macc. x. 65), and invested with regal honours.

But the prosperity of the usurper of the Syrian throne was shortlived. So long as the contest with the late king continued, he evinced both energy and courage, but no sooner was his power confirmed, than he gave himself up without restraint to the indulgence of the worst passions, and became only an object of contempt to his subjects. At this time Demetrius, surnamed afterwards Nicator, was at Cnidus. Hearing of the feelings with which Balas was regarded, he landed in Cilicia at the head of a considerable force, and rapidly gained over a number of adherents, and amongst them Apollonius, governor of Cœlesyria, who openly revolted and espoused his cause. Jonathan, however, still remained faithful in his allegiance, and attacking Apollonius near Azotus, completely defeated him, laid that city in ashes, and returned to Jerusalem with rich spoils. This complete suppression of the revolt in Cœlesyria excited the warmest gratitude in the heart of Balas, who sent his faithful ally a rich gold chain, such as was worn by none but princes of the highest rank (1 Macc. x. 88, 89), and bestowed upon him the city and territory of Ekron as a free gift.

But though checked in Cœlesyria, the rebellion made such progress in other parts of his dominions, that he shut himself up in the city of Antioch, and appealed for aid to Philometor, the father of his wife Cleopatra.

Accordingly, B.C. 146, that monarch set out attended by a fleet and a numerous army to assist his son-in-law. As he proceeded along the coast of Palestine, every city threw open its gates in token of friendship, and at Joppa he was met by Jonathan, who escorted him as far as the river Eleutherus (1 Macc. xi. 17). No sooner, however, had he reached Antioch, than he threw off the mask, and wrote to Demetrius offering to support his claims, and to unite him in marriage with his daughter. Demetrius eagerly accepted his offer, and, though not without some difficulty, was acknowledged as king. Early in the following year Balas made a determined effort to recover his crown, but being defeated in battle, fled to Abæ in Arabia, where five days after he was murdered by a native chief named Zabdiel, who sent his head to Demetrius (1 Macc. xi. 17).


B.C. 146144.

THE accession of the new Syrian monarch once more raised the hopes of the faction opposed to Jonathan, who had gathered his forces and laid siege to the Syrian garrison in the Acra (1 Macc. xi. 20). This was eagerly reported to Demetrius, and he instantly sent for the priest-king to meet him at Ptolemais. Great as was the risk, without suspending the siege, Jonathan forthwith set out thither with some of the elders of the Sanhedrin, and pleaded his cause with such effect that he not only succeeded in silencing the clamour of his enemies, but was confirmed in all the dignities he had received from Balas, and even secured for himself still further advantages. Three principalities, hitherto included in the district of Samaria, were added to his dominions, and all previous claims for tribute due from his kingdom were remitted (1 Macc. xi. 2337).

Successful beyond his utmost expectations, Jonathan returned to Jerusalem, and again pushed forward the siege of the Syrian garrison. But such was the energy of the defenders, and such the strength of the fortress, that all his efforts were frustrated, and he resolved on making an application to Demetrius for an order directing the evacuation of the stronghold, as also of Beth-zur.

At the time when this request reached him, Demetrius himself was in the greatest straits. Young and inexperienced he had entrusted the entire management of his affairs to a Cretan officer, named Lasthenes, who had assisted him in obtaining his crown with a large body of mercenaries (1 Macc. x. 6740), and by his advice had disbanded the whole of the national troops. This, added to the ferocious conduct of his general, naturally roused the illwill of the citizens of Antioch, and they broke out into a furious revolt, which all the efforts of the king were unable to quell. At this juncture he received the message of Jonathan, and anxious for assistance from whatever quarter, professed his readiness to grant all his demands, on condition of receiving help in putting down the rebellion of his own subjects. To this Jonathan readily assented. A force of 3000 Jews marched to Antioch, and, aided by the royal mercenaries, slew upwards of 100,000 of the rioters, and quenched the rebellion in blood. But the priest-king soon found reason to regret the step he had taken. Once more secure upon his throne, Demetrius not only refused to order the evacuation of the fortress, but demanded the speedy payment of all the tribute, which he had agreed to remit at Ptolemais41.

But in a very short time he learned to repent of his perfidy. Attached to the court of the late usurper Balas was a Syrian Greek, named Diodotus, or, as he was afterwards called, Tryphon, the Luxurious. Perceiving the growing unpopularity of Demetrius, he repaired to the Arab chief Zabdiel, to whom Balas had entrusted the care of his young son Antiochus, and by dint of much importunity prevailed upon him to surrender the young prince into his charge. Then returning to Antioch he shewed him to the disaffected soldiers, whom Lasthenes had disbanded, and easily persuaded them to revolt against Demetrius. A battle was fought in which that king was defeated, and the young prince was crowned at Antioch, and assumed the title of Theos, the God.

One of the first steps of the new monarch was to secure the co-operation of Jonathan and his people. Accordingly he not only confirmed all former grants made to the Jewish nation, and remitted all arrears of tribute, but sent him a purple robe and gold chain, and invested his brother Simon with the command of all the royal forces between the “ladder of Tyre” and the frontiers of Egypt. Jonathan, who had every reason to resent the ingratitude of Demetrius, readily accepted his proposals, and at the head of a large army speedily subdued the entire country, as far as Damascus, to the power of Antiochus, while Simon captured the fortress of Beth-zur, and garrisoned it with Jewish soldiers (1 Macc. xi. 65, 66)42.

Resolved to make the most of the present advantageous turn of events, the Jewish prince now sent ambassadors to Rome, renewed the previous treaty, and at the same time concluded another with the Lacedæmonians (1 Macc. xii. 1, 2)43. Meanwhile Demetrius had assembled an army, with which he encamped at Hamath on the extreme north of Palestine. Thither Jonathan quickly went forth to meet him, and gaining information that a night attack on his camp was meditated, made such a disposition of his troops that the enemy gave up their design, and retired beyond the river Eleutherus. Returning thence he fell upon the Nabathæan Arabs, who had espoused the cause of Demetrius, and defeated them, while Simon attacked and succeeded in taking Joppa (1 Macc. xii. 2535).

Never did the fortunes of the Jewish patriots appear brighter than at this period. Masters of the entire province of Judæa, strong in the confidence of the Syrian monarch, invested with the command of numerous trained warriors, the Maccabæan brothers seemed on the verge of restoring their country to a condition of complete independence. Accordingly they convened an assembly of the elders, and consulted on the present state of affairs. The reduction of the garrison in the Acra was the great object of the national hopes. It was clear that this could never be accomplished so long as the garrison was able to communicate, as had hitherto been the case, with the city and the country, and there buy provisions. While therefore Simon was sent to fortify several of the more important towns, Jonathan himself remained in the city, and superintended in person the erection of new defences. Accordingly the wall of the Temple was repaired, especially on the eastern side, towards the valley of the Kidron, while a new wall was built between Mount Zion and the rest of the city, of such a height and strength as to cut off the hostile garrison from all communication with the city on the west, and the country on the east44 (1 Macc. xii. 36, 37).

It soon appeared that these precautions had not been unreasonable. Tryphon, though he had placed Antiochus on the throne, now resolved to usurp the royal authority for himself. The only serious obstacle to his design was the faithfulness of Jonathan to the Syrian king. At all risks, therefore, he determined to get the Jewish prince into his power, and for this purpose advanced into Palestine as far as Beth-shan or Scythopolis, with a considerable force. Here Jonathan met him with an army of 40,000 men. Afraid to confront so numerous a force, Tryphon resorted to treachery, and pretended that the sole object of his coming was to mark his gratitude for Jonathan’s services in the cause of Antiochus, by placing him in possession of Ptolemais45. Completely deceived, the Jewish prince disbanded all his forces, excepting 3000 men, and having left 2000 of these in Galilee, set out with the scanty remainder for Ptolemais. No sooner however had he entered the city, than the traitor Tryphon ordered the gates to be shut, butchered Jonathan’s retinue to a man, and flung him loaded with chains into a dungeon (1 Macc. xii. 3752).


B.C. 144135.

NEWS of these occurrences filled the Jews with the deepest sorrow and the utmost consternation. For 17 years their late leader had conducted the affairs of the country with prudence, vigour and success. Now all their fair hopes seemed destined to be crushed, if the perfidious Tryphon should succeed in following up the success he had already gained. In this emergency the eyes of all were turned towards Simon surnamed Thassi, the elder and only surviving brother of Jonathan, whom the aged Mattathias on his death-bed had commended for his prudence in council. He therefore assumed the command of the patriot forces, and was acknowledged as their leader.

His first step was to finish the walls and fortifications of Jerusalem and to place the country in a complete posture of defence (1 Macc. xiii. 10, 11). He then went forth to meet Tryphon, who taking Jonathan with him, had moved up from Ptolemais with a large force, and encamped at Adida or Adithaim (Joshua xv. 36), a town on an eminence overlooking the low country of Judæa. No sooner however did he find a Jewish army ready to oppose him, than he once more had recourse to treachery, and representing that Jonathan was merely held in custody on account of a debt of 100 talents, offered to deliver him up on condition of receiving the money and two of his children as hostages. Though he was certain this was nothing more than an artifice, Simon determined that it never should be said he had left any means untried for the release of his brother (1 Macc. xiii. 1719), and accordingly sent the money and the hostages. But, as he had expected, Tryphon failed to fulfil his word, and began to ravage the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile the Syrian garrison in Jerusalem, suffering severely from the long-continued blockade, sent messengers begging Tryphon to come to their aid. Thereupon the other ordered his cavalry to press forward instantly to their relief, but a heavy fall of snow rendered the roads impassable, and Tryphon finding it impossible to render the required assistance, retired across the Jordan into the land of Gilead. Here he put the heroic Jonathan to death at the city of Bascama, and hurrying into Syria, murdered the young king Antiochus, and seized the supreme power, which he exercised with cruelty and violence (1 Macc. xiii. 23). As soon as he retired Simon sent to Bascama, and brought thence the body of his brother to Modin, where he laid it with great pomp in the ancestral tomb, and erected over it a magnificent monument, consisting of seven pillars, and adorned with the beaks of ships, a conspicuous sea-mark for all the vessels which sailed along the coast (1 Macc. xiii. 2730).

The continued tyranny of Tryphon once more raised the hopes of Demetrius, and the Jews resolved to espouse his cause in preference to that of his treacherous enemy. Accordingly Simon sent an embassy offering to acknowledge his supremacy, and to aid him against the usurper. Demetrius received the proposition with alacrity, and in a royal edict formally drawn up and ratified, agreed to recognize Simon as the high-priest and prince of Judæa, to renounce all claims on the Jewish nation for tribute, customs, and taxes, and to grant an amnesty for all past offences against himself. This amounted to a virtual recognition of the complete independence of the country, and the year B.C. 143, in which it was granted, was regarded as the first year of the “freedom of Jerusalem” (1 Macc. xiii. 42).

Secure from all immediate danger of foreign interference, Simon now devoted his energies to provide for the internal security of his kingdom. He began by reducing the fortresses that still held out, and garrisoned Gaza, Jamnia, and Joppa. He then turned his attention to the Syrian garrison in the Acra, and reduced it to such straits that the troops composing it were in imminent danger of perishing by famine, and finally agreed to evacuate the fortress on condition that their lives were spared. These terms were accepted, and, to his inexpressible satisfaction, Simon entered the place on the 23rd day of the second month of the year B.C. 142, with thanksgivings, and branches of palm-trees, and with harps and cymbals, and with viols and hymns and songs (1 Macc. xiii. 51). The fortress was then entirely demolished, and the eminence on which it had stood was lowered, until it was reduced below the height of the Temple-hill beside it. This operation cost incredible labour, and occupied upwards of 3 years46. The fortifications of the hill, on which the Temple stood, were next strengthened, and a fortress, called Baris47, was erected to command the site of the Acra, and here Simon and his immediate adherents took up their abode.

The dominion of the priest-king was now confirmed on every side, and the land enjoyed profound quiet. His subjects tilled their ground in peace, and the earth gave her increase, and the trees of the field their fruit. The ancient men sat all in the streets, communing together of good things, and the young men put on glorious and warlike apparel ... every man sat under his vine and his fig-tree, and there was none to fray them (1 Macc. xiv. 413). Taking advantage of these circumstances Simon sent an ambassador to Rome bearing a golden shield weighing upwards of 1000 pounds. His present was accepted, and Lucius the consul (1 Macc. xv. 16) sent letters recognizing his authority, and claiming protection for the Jews from the kings of Syria, Pergamus, Cappadocia, and Pontus, from the inhabitants of Sparta, Delos, Sicyon, Gortyna in Crete, Samos, Cos, Rhodes, Myndus, Halicarnassus, Cnidus, Aradus, Cyprus, and Cyrene (1 Macc. xv. 22, 23); “a singular illustration,” it has been remarked, “of the widespread dispersion of the Jews, and of the all-commanding policy of Rome48.” In the same year, B.C. 141, an assembly of the elders met at Jerusalem, and out of gratitude for the services rendered to the nation by the house of Mattathias, it was resolved that the high-priesthood and the dignity of regent should be henceforth hereditary in the family of Simon. This resolution was then engraven upon tables of brass, and set up in a conspicuous place in the Temple, and copies of it were deposited in the treasury (1 Macc. xiv. 4149).

During this period, taking advantage of the disturbed condition of Syria, Arsaces VI., king of Parthia, who was also called Mithridates, had extended his authority from the Euphrates to the confines of India. Wishing to collect forces, or in some way to strengthen his position against the usurper Tryphon (1 Macc. xiv. 1), Demetrius penetrated into the Parthian territory, and after several engagements was taken prisoner B.C. 139. The conqueror, however, treated his captive honourably, gave him his daughter Rodoguna in marriage, and permitted him to reside in Hyrcania, with every indulgence due to his rank (1 Macc. xiv. 3).

News of this marriage, and of the improbability of her husband ever returning no sooner reached his wife Cleopatra, whom he had left regent, than she sent to his younger brother, who was then residing at Rhodes, and offered him her hand and kingdom. Antiochus entered into the project with all the eagerness of youthful ambition, levied an army, and assuming the title of king of Syria, wrote to Simon begging his aid in recovering his father’s dominions from the usurper Tryphon, and in turn confirming all his former privileges, and further conceding that of the right to coin money of his own. Then sailing to Syria, he married Cleopatra, and joining her forces to his own, commenced hostilities against Tryphon, who fled to Dora, on the coast of Samaria, where he straitly besieged him (1 Macc. xv. 1114)49. Thence, however, he managed to effect his escape to Apamea in Syria, and there was put to death, or, according to some authorities, committed suicide.

Antiochus Sidetes50 had no sooner become undisturbed master of the Syrian kingdom, than, forgetting the promises already made to Simon, he sent Athenobius to Jerusalem to demand the surrender of Gazara and Joppa, of the fortress on Mount Zion, and other strongholds, or in lieu of these 500 talents of silver, and an additional 500 as a compensation for the injuries done to the Syrian dominions. Simon replied that he was willing to give 500 talents for Gazara and Joppa, but the other places were the inheritance of his fathers, and could not be given up or bartered. This answer greatly irritated Antiochus, and as soon as he had reduced Dora, he sent Cendebeus, the governor of Phœnicia, to invade Judæa with a portion of his forces, and enforce the payment of his demands.

Accordingly the Syrian general entered upon the expedition with a powerful army of horse and foot, and capturing Cedron near Azotus and Jamnia, fortified it in order to command the road of Judæa (1 Macc. xv. 39; xvi. 9), and ravaged the neighbouring country. Simon was at this time far too advanced in age to bear the fatigues of a campaign, and therefore entrusted the command of the Jewish forces to his two sons John Hyrcanus and Judas. The brothers forthwith set out, and bivouacking for the night at Modin, descended on the following day into the lower ground, and after a sharp engagement succeeded in defeating the Syrian general, and carried a portion of his forces into Cedron, and the remainder into Azotus, the tower of which they laid in ashes (1 Macc. xvi. 110).

This invasion repulsed, the Jews enjoyed during three years a season of peace, and the priest-king, though far advanced in age, devoted himself assiduously to the superintendence of the internal affairs of his people, while his three sons guarded the frontier. In the prosecution of his design of inspecting in person the national defences, he now visited Jericho where his son-in-law Ptolemy held the supreme command. A prominent leader of the Hellenizing faction, and a man of great wealth, Ptolemy bore no goodwill towards the priest-king, and, in concert, it is probable, with Antiochus Sidetes, had resolved to assassinate his father-in-law, and raise himself to supreme power. The visit of Simon, with his two younger sons Judas and Mattathias, presented a favourable opportunity for carrying out his designs, and he treacherously murdered the three at a banquet, B.C. 137. Then sending messengers to John Hyrcanus at Gazara he instructed them to stab him also, and would have succeeded, had not the latter received speedy tidings of what had occurred at Jericho. He therefore put the intended assassins to death, and hurrying to Jerusalem, was acknowledged as his father’s successor, and afterwards besieged Ptolemy in his stronghold of Dôk, whence he effected his escape to the court of the prince of Philadelphia, to be heard of afterwards no more (1 Macc. xvi. 1521)51.


B.C. 13579.

THOUGH the confederacy between Ptolemy and Antiochus was thus disconcerted by the rapid movements of Hyrcanus, the Syrian monarch nevertheless led his forces into Palestine, overran the whole country, and laying siege to Jerusalem, reduced Hyrcanus to the greatest extremities. So close, in fact, was the siege, that for fear of famine Hyrcanus was constrained to expel from the city all such as were, from age or infirmity, unable to bear arms. As the Syrians refused them a passage through their ranks, the fugitives presented a miserable spectacle, wandering about between the two armies, and perishing in extreme wretchedness amidst the outworks52.

At length the Feast of Tabernacles drew near, and Hyrcanus requested a week’s respite to celebrate that time-honoured festival. With rare generosity, his adversary not only granted his request, but supplied the besieged with victims for the sacrifices, and gold and silver vessels for the Temple service. Such kindness induced Hyrcanus to send an embassy, and endeavour to obtain a suspension of hostilities. In this he succeeded, and peace was concluded on far better terms than he had any right to expect. A portion of the fortifications of the city was dismantled, tribute was exacted for the fortresses held out of Judæa, but the conqueror was induced, by a present of 500 talents, to forego the rebuilding of the fortress on the Acra, and the introduction of a Syrian garrison53.

The unexpected forbearance of Antiochus on this occasion won for him not only the admiration, but the friendship of Hyrcanus, and when the Syrian king led an expedition against the Parthians, who were now extending their dominions on every side, the Jewish prince resolved to accompany him. For this purpose he took into his pay a body of foreign mercenaries, and with these and a detachment of his Jewish forces followed him across the Tigris. At first Antiochus was successful, but his army giving themselves up to luxury and dissipation, he was unexpectedly attacked, and lost his life, B.C. 128.

Disorders of every kind, civil wars, murders, and mutinies of troops, now rapidly succeeded one another in the Syrian kingdom, and Hyrcanus, who had fortunately returned to Jerusalem before the overthrow of his late ally, now threw off the Syrian yoke altogether, and employed himself in extending his own kingdom. After reducing, therefore, various fortresses on the further side of the Jordan, he invaded Samaria, captured Sychem, and levelled with the ground the temple on Mount Gerizim, which for 200 years had been a constant offence to his subjects. Then, B.C. 129, turning his arms against the Idumæans, who had made themselves masters of the southern part of Judæa, he vanquished them in battle, and offered them the choice of leaving the country, or adopting the Jewish religion. They chose the latter alternative, submitted to circumcision, and became so completely identified with their conquerors, that their name as an independent power henceforth disappears.

During the next 20 years Judæa enjoyed profound peace under the energetic government of Hyrcanus, who renewed the treaties with Rome, and secured his subjects from foreign aggression. At length, B.C. 110, he resolved to overpower the province of Samaria, and entrusted the command of the expedition to his two sons, Aristobulus and Antigonus. Twice the Samaritans applied for aid to Antiochus Cyzicenus, prince of Damascus, who was twice defeated by the Jewish forces, and at length, after an obstinate defence which lasted an entire year, their capital fell, and with Scythopolis and other towns, passed into the hands of the conqueror54.

During his long and prosperous reign, Hyrcanus had raised his nation to a height of greater power and dignity than it had ever enjoyed since the return from the Captivity. But while triumphant abroad, his domestic peace began to be troubled by serious dissensions between two rival parties, now rapidly growing in power, the Pharisees and Sadducees. An examination of their respective tenets may be reserved for another place. For the present it will be sufficient to say that Hyrcanus was an adherent of the Pharisaic party, till a characteristic incident induced him to espouse the cause of their rivals. Towards the close of his administration he invited the chiefs of the Pharisees to a banquet, and requested them to inform him if he had been guilty of any dereliction of duty towards God or man. All the guests with one accord testified to his blameless integrity, and praised his government, save one, Eleazar, who affirmed that he ought to resign the high-priesthood, because his mother had once been a captive, and it was doubtful whether he was descended from Aaron, or from a heathen. Indignant at this calumnious charge, Hyrcanus demanded the trial of Eleazar for aspersions upon his character. By the influence of the Pharisees the sentence was limited to scourging and imprisonment, and the priest-king, considering this a proof of hostility to himself, listened to the representations of Jonathan, a Sadducee, that the rival faction was bent on lowering his sovereign power, and henceforth alienated himself entirely from the Pharisaic party, and deposed from their high offices many who had been the firmest supporters of his dynasty55.

Escaping the fate of the older members of the Maccabæan family, Hyrcanus died in peace, B.C. 106, bequeathing the sovereignty to his wife. And now the decline of the Asmonean dynasty rapidly set in. Aristobulus, the son of the deceased king, seized the supreme power, flung his mother into prison, and starved her to death. He also imprisoned three of his four brothers, sparing but one, Antigonus, the next in age to himself. Assuming the diadem and the royal title, he hastened to take advantage of the distracted state of affairs in Syria, and turning his arms against Ituræa, a district south of Anti-Libanus, forced the inhabitants, like the Idumæans, to conform to the Jewish religion, on pain of being expelled from their country. During this expedition he was seized with a dangerous illness, which compelled him to return to Jerusalem, and leave his brother Antigonus to complete the subjugation of the country. As he had no children, his queen Salome, according to the Jewish law, would, in the event of his death, be expected to marry Antigonus; but such was her aversion to him, that she resolved to compass his death rather than be united with him in marriage56.

An opportunity soon presented itself for carrying out her design. Successful in subjugating Ituræa, Antigonus returned to Jerusalem, and at the Feast of Tabernacles hastened to the Temple, with his body-guard, to offer up his petitions for his brother’s recovery. This act was represented to Aristobulus as covering a seditious design against his own life. Scarcely able to credit such a calumny, the king, who still lay sick in his chamber in the tower of Baris, desired that his brother should appear before him, but without arms. A dark underground passage led from the Temple to the tower, and here, by the queen’s connivance, a company of soldiers was stationed with instructions to put Antigonus to death if he appeared clad in armour. She then caused it to be represented to the unfortunate prince that it was the royal will he should appear in a suit of splendid armour, which his brother wished to see. Thus deceived he entered the underground passage, and was instantly assassinated. What had occurred was reported to Aristobulus, and brought on a sudden paroxysm of his malady followed by an excessive hæmorrhage. A slave bore away the vessel into which the blood had flowed, and stumbling on the very spot where Antigonus had been murdered, caused the blood of the two brothers to mingle on the floor. A cry of horror ran through the palace, and reaching the ears of the king, roused a wish to know the cause. For some time his attendants refused to tell the truth, but at length he forced them to declare what had occurred, and had no sooner heard it than he was seized with such an agony of remorse that he instantly expired.

After this tragical event, Alexander Jannæus, the eldest of the imprisoned brothers, was placed upon the throne, B.C. 104. Taking advantage of the disordered condition of the Syrian kingdom, he turned his arms against Moab, Gilead, Ammon, and Arabia Petræa, and after several successes laid siege to the port of Ptolemais. The inhabitants called in the aid of Ptolemy Lathyrus, who came to their aid with an army of 30,000 men. But no sooner did he appear before the gates, than the very party which had invoked his aid refused to admit him. On this he turned his arms against Gaza, and Jannæus, while pretending to negotiate with him for a friendly surrender of the place, secretly corresponded with his mother Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, and besought her aid in expelling him from the country. Discovering this, Ptolemy marched into Judæa, defeated Alexander with enormous loss, and to spread the terror of his name, fell upon some villages, murdered the women and children, and cutting their bodies in pieces boiled their flesh.

The kingdom of Judæa would now have been totally lost, had it not been for the intervention of an Egyptian army led by two Jews of Alexandria, They drove Lathyrus into Cœlesyria, and once more restored to Jannæus the sovereignty of the country, who now embarked on fresh expeditions east and west of the Jordan, captured Gadara, Raphia, and Anthedon, and at length succeeded in reducing Gaza.

But the domestic discords, which had distracted the reign of Hyrcanus, broke out with tenfold violence in that of his son. The Pharisees had by this time gained an extraordinary degree of influence over the people. Detesting their turbulence and lofty pretensions, Alexander attached himself to the Sadducaic faction, and thus brought down upon himself the concentrated hatred of the Pharisees, who lost no opportunity of aspersing his name and character. At length their opposition took a more violent turn, and at the Feast of Tabernacles, when the priest-king, clad in his gorgeous robes, was officiating before the altar, they excited the people to fling at him the citrons, which it was the custom of the Jews to carry in their hands at this feast, and to deny his right to the high-priesthood. A fearful outbreak ensued, in the midst of which Alexander ordered his body-guard to fall on the unarmed multitude, and slew upwards of 6000.

To obviate a recurrence of such insults, he next caused a wooden partition to be erected between the court of the priests and that of the people, and surrounded himself with Pisidian and Cilician mercenaries. But a defeat he sustained, while carrying on an expedition in the country east of the Jordan, was the signal for a general rising, which resulted in civil war carried on for upwards of six years, and marked by the most shocking barbarities on both sides.

At first Jannæus met with much success, but on endeavouring to come to terms with his subjects, they declared that nothing would satisfy them short of his death, and even invoked the aid of Demetrius Euchærus, king of Syria, and in a battle near Shechem utterly routed the priest-king, with the loss of all his mercenaries. Thereupon he fled to the mountains, rallied fresh troops, drove Demetrius from the country, and took the majority of his rebellious subjects prisoners in the fortress of Bethone. Returning to Jerusalem he crucified 800 of them in one day, and seated at a banquet surrounded by his concubines, caused their wives and children to be slain before their eyes, and glutted his vengeance with the spectacle of their dying agonies.

This shocking act, which won for him the title of “the Thracian,” shews how terribly the Asmonean princes were degenerating. Externally, indeed, the country appeared to be prosperous, for the realm of Jannæus extended over Samaria and Idumæa, the entire western seaboard from Strato’s Tower to Rhinocorura, and a considerable district beyond the Jordan, but the temper neither of prince nor people was the same as in the times of Mattathias and Judas, and evil days were at hand.

Four years after his triumph over his rebellious subjects, Alexander Jannæus died, B.C. 79, having on his death-bed advised his queen Alexandra to ally herself closely with the Pharisaic faction, as being alone able to control the people. Acting on this advice, she convened the most eminent of that faction, and entrusted to them the entire management of affairs. Upon this their conduct underwent an instant change; the highest honours were paid to the memory of the late king, and the priesthood was conferred on his eldest son Hyrcanus II.




B.C. 7953.

BESIDES the new high-priest, Alexander had left another son named Aristobulus, a man of an ardent and impetuous temper, who took no pains to conceal his dislike of his mother’s proceedings. Placing himself at the head of the now offended and persecuted Sadducees, he encouraged them in their opposition to the triumphant Pharisees, and so far prevailed with the queen, that the leaders of the Sadducaic faction were allowed to retire to the frontier fortresses of the kingdom. Shortly afterwards he himself was sent on an expedition to Damascus, to check the depredations of Ptolemy, who governed a small independent kingdom at Chalcis57. The young prince did not lose the opportunity thus afforded him of ingratiating himself with the soldiers, and began to form designs of usurping the kingdom.

After a successful reign of 9 years, queen Alexandra died, B.C. 69, and the Pharisaic party immediately placed Hyrcanus II. on the throne. This was regarded as the signal for definite action by Aristobulus. Quickly summoning his adherents from the frontier cities, he marched towards Jerusalem, where the partisans of Hyrcanus seizing his wife and children, placed them as hostages in the Tower of Baris, and then prepared to meet the invader at Jericho58. But so strongly did the feeling of the army declare itself in favour of Aristobulus, and so many were the desertions to his side, including even not a few members of the Sanhedrin, that Hyrcanus fell back upon Jerusalem, and with such of his adherents as still remained faithful took refuge in the fortifications of the Temple. But provisions failing them, they were unable to stand a lengthened siege, and were soon compelled to yield to Aristobulus, who thus obtained possession of the entire kingdom, while his brother, who was of a feeble and indolent disposition, retired into private life after a brief reign of three months.

But now a different actor appeared upon the scene, destined to prove a far more fatal enemy to the Asmonean dynasty, and to raise his own house upon its ruins. This was Antipater, the son of an officer who had been high in the confidence of Alexander Jannæus, and had been appointed governor of Idumæa. A man of great courage, astuteness, and decision, he had acquired a complete mastery over the feeble Hyrcanus, and in concert with the Pharisees repeatedly urged him to attempt the recovery of his throne, but for a long time the indolent prince absolutely refused to listen to his suggestions. At length, by representing that his life was in danger, he succeeded in persuading him to fly with himself to the court of Aretas, king of Arabia, whom he induced, by promising to restore twelve frontier cities which Jannæus had taken and united to Judæa, to espouse his cause. At the head of 50,000 men Aretas marched into the country, and being joined by the partisans of Hyrcanus, defeated Aristobulus, and closely besieged him in the Temple-fortress at Jerusalem59. The feast of the Passover drew near, during which even heathen generals had been wont to allow the sacrificial victims to be introduced into the city. But such was the fury of the rival claimants for the supreme power that even this indulgence was refused to the besieged. When Aristobulus let down baskets from the top of the wall with 1000 drachmas of silver for each victim, the besiegers took the money, but returned the baskets empty, or, as some say, even laden with swine60.

At this juncture news reached Jerusalem that a Roman army had seized Damascus, and was advancing towards the country. Bent on their plan of establishing a universal empire, the great republic of the West was now busily engaged in those wars, which gradually placed at her feet the old Asiatic monarchies. The Syrian kingdom, since B.C. 83, had passed into the power of Tigranes, king of Armenia. This monarch, as well as Mithridates, king of Pontus, was utterly defeated by Pompeius, B.C. 66, and the ancient realm of the Seleucidæ was now reduced to a Roman province. Retiring himself into lesser Armenia, the conqueror placed his lieutenants Scaurus and Gabinius at Antioch and Damascus, the two great capitals of the Syrian Empire.

This intelligence determined both brothers to try and secure the aid of these powerful arbitrators, and their emissaries soon appeared before Scaurus at Damascus, with 400 talents. The Roman general at first hesitated which side to espouse, but at length reflecting that Aristobulus was in possession of the Temple-fortress, and therefore of the treasures, he ordered Aretas to withdraw, and break up the siege61. The Arabian chief was forced to comply, and taking with him Hyrcanus and Antipater marched away with his army, but not before Aristobulus had sallied forth and inflicted upon it a considerable loss.

His triumph, however, was shortlived. Before long Pompeius arrived in person at Damascus, and twelve kings crowded together to pay him homage. The king of Egypt brought him a crown worth 4000 pieces of gold. Aristobulus sent him a golden vine upon a square mount, the leaves and branches most skilfully wrought, beneath which were lions, deer, and other animals in life-like attitude62. His present was accepted, but instead of his own name, that of his father was inscribed upon it, and after hearing the ambassadors of each brother, the conqueror declared that they must attend and plead their cause before him in person early in the following year B.C. 63.

At the time appointed the brothers appeared, attended by numerous witnesses in support of their respective claims, as also by representatives of the Jewish people. Pompeius listened with attention to their arguments, and then closed the conference by announcing his purpose of settling the question in person at Jerusalem, intending first to subjugate Aretas and to conquer Petra. The impetuous Aristobulus, divining that the decision would be adverse to his interests, prepared for resistance by flinging himself into the fortress of Alexandrium, on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, a position well adapted for resisting an approach to his capital.

Professing the greatest indignation at this conduct, and relieved from the necessity of invading Arabia by the timely submission of Aretas, Pompeius marched through the country east of the Jordan, and besieged the impetuous Asmonean in his stronghold. After three fruitless interviews, Aristobulus was forced to sign written orders for the surrender of all his strongholds, and on promise of obedience was liberated. Fleeing to Jerusalem, he now betook himself to the Temple-fortress, and prepared for a siege. Pompeius advanced to Jericho63, where his soldiers were struck with admiration by the beautiful palm-groves and balsam-trees of that tropic region, and then pressed on to Jerusalem. The partisans of Hyrcanus, who were the most numerous, threw open the gates, those of Aristobulus remained within their stronghold, and resolutely refused the summons of the Roman general to surrender.

On this Pompeius sent to Tyre64 for his military engines, and prosecuted the siege with the utmost vigour for three months65. It might have been protracted still longer, but for the suspension of hostilities by the Jews on the Sabbath-day. At length the largest of the towers was thrown down by one of the battering engines, and Cornelius Faustus, a son of Sylla, mounted the breach, and the day was gained B.C. 63. A terrible carnage now ensued, during which the priests remained unmoved at the altar, and continued their solemn services, pouring their drink-offerings, and burning their incense, till they were themselves stricken down. The conqueror entered the Temple, and, amidst the horror of the Jews, explored the total darkness of the Holy of Holies, and found, to his great amazement, neither symbols, nor statues, nor representation of any deity66. He surveyed with interest the sacred vessels, the golden altar of incense, the golden candlestick, and the Temple treasures, but with politic generosity left them untouched. He then ordered the sacred enclosure to be cleansed from the profanation of his soldiers, nominated Hyrcanus to the high-priesthood, though without the royal diadem, and confined the limits of his jurisdiction to Judæa. The walls of the city having been demolished, he then set out for Rome, taking with him the captive Aristobulus, as also his two sons and two daughters to grace his splendid triumph.

On the way, however, Alexander, the eldest son of the captive king, managed to effect his escape, and returned to Judæa, where, rallying round him the partisans of his father, he seized the fortresses of Alexandrium, Hyrcania, and Machærus, and began to attack the adherents of Hyrcanus. Alarmed at the progress of the invader, and unable to make head against him themselves, the ethnarch and Antipater called in the aid of the Romans, and Gabinius, who had been appointed prefect of Syria, B.C. 57, deputed Marcus Antonius, his master of the horse, to render the required assistance. Antonius, having defeated the invader in a short engagement, shut him up in the stronghold of Alexandrium, and on the arrival of Gabinius forced him, after a somewhat protracted siege, to purchase his life by the surrender of the three fortresses, which were now demolished67.

Gabinius now employed himself in completely reorganizing the government of the country. Hitherto the nominal power had centred in Hyrcanus. Now he was deprived of even this semblance of authority, which was placed in the hands of the aristocracy, five independent senates or Sanhedrins being established, the first sitting at Jerusalem, the second at Jericho, the third at Gadara, the fourth at Amathus, the fifth at Sepphoris67. These arrangements made for destroying the influence of the capital as a centre of union, Gabinius returned to Syria. But scarcely had he done so, when Aristobulus himself reappeared, having escaped from Rome with his younger son, Antigonus. He was, however, more quickly disposed of even than Alexander had been, for the prefect of Syria instantly dispatched a force against him, and having overpowered his adherents, sent him back as a prisoner to Rome with his son, who was afterwards, however, released.

Gabinius now proceeded with Antonius to Egypt to place Ptolemy Auletes upon the throne, and both generals were strenuously assisted by Hyrcanus and Antipater, who sent supplies for their armies, and urged the Jews at Leontopolis to befriend them in like manner. Taking advantage of the absence of the legions, Alexander made a second attempt to recover the supreme power, but only to be a second time defeated near Mount Tabor by the Roman commanders on their return from Egypt, with a loss of 10,000 men.

The next year, B.C. 54, the prefect was recalled to Rome, where numerous charges of rapacity and extortion were preferred against him, and though defended by Cicero he was ignominiously banished68. The celebrated triumvir Marcus Crassus now succeeded to the prefecture of Syria, a man of mean abilities, but enormous wealth, and unbounded avarice. Armed like Pompeius with proconsular authority for five years, and empowered to maintain as large a force as he might see fit, and to carry on wars without consulting the senate and people of Rome, Crassus resolved on entering upon a war with Parthia. Hurrying to his province, with some of the troops he had already collected, he entered Jerusalem, attracted by the well-known fact that the treasury of its Temple contained 2,000 talents, equivalent to nearly £2,000,000 sterling, besides vessels of gold and silver to an almost equal amount. The Jews were powerless to resist his intentions, but Eleazar, the guardian of the Temple, offered him a solid bar of gold weighing nearly 1000 pounds, concealed in a beam of wood, on condition that he left the rest of the treasures untouched. Crassus solemnly promised to be satisfied with this huge ingot, took it, and then, in defiance of his plighted faith, robbed the Temple of all the treasures he could lay his hands on, not sparing even the sacred vessels. The total amount he carried off is said to have been worth upwards of 10,000 Attic talents, and consisted of the gifts and offerings which during a hundred years the annual contributions of Jews from well-nigh every quarter of the world had amassed69. He then set out against the Parthians, crossed the Euphrates, and plunged into the sandy deserts of Mesopotamia, to be defeated with the loss of nearly his entire army at the disastrous battle of Carrhæ, B.C. 53.


B.C. 5341.

MISFORTUNE seemed to follow in the footsteps of every Roman general that interfered in the affairs of Judæa. Gabinius was ignominiously exiled, Crassus perished miserably in a foreign land, and now the disastrous issue of the battle of Pharsalia, B.C. 48, drove Pompeius to the shores of Egypt, there to perish by the blow of an assassin.

A new actor now appeared upon the stage. Master of Rome, nominated dictator for the second time, Julius Cæsar repaired to Egypt in pursuit of his rival, and a few days after his death arrived at Alexandria. For the purpose of effecting a diversion in his favour, he had liberated Aristobulus, and sent him to Palestine with two legions to overawe Syria. But the partisans of Pompeius managed to poison him on the way, and Scipio, who held the command in Syria, seized his son Alexander, and caused him to be beheaded after a mock trial at Antioch70.

The supremacy was thus left in the hands of Hyrcanus, or rather of his minister Antipater, who really ruled in his name. With prudent alacrity the wily Idumæan completely changed his tactics, and did everything in his power to promote the cause of Cæsar. Resolved to settle the disputes concerning the succession to the throne of Egypt, and determined to uphold the claims of Cleopatra, who had completely won his heart, this general embarked in a war, in which for some time he was exposed to great danger on account of the small number of his troops. Antipater seized the opportunity of displaying a prudent activity on his behalf. He assisted his ally, Mithridates, king of Pontus, in marching to his relief, he contributed to the reduction of Pelusium, he conciliated the Jews in Egypt, who had espoused the cause of the opposite party, and received wounds in almost every part of his body71, while fighting on his behalf.

Cæsar was not slow to declare his gratitude. Having brought the Egyptian war to a close B.C. 47, he conferred upon his friend the privileges of Roman citizenship, and at the same time at his request confirmed Hyrcanus in the high-priesthood72. But Antigonus, son of Aristobulus, now appeared before him, and breaking forth into the fiercest accusations against Antipater, charged him with cruelty towards himself, oppression of the Jews, and an insincere friendship for his patron. The Idumæan was equal to the occasion. Throwing open his vest, he exposed the numerous wounds he had received in Cæsar’s cause, and protested his innocence and fidelity. The Dictator could not resist such an appeal, appointed him procurator of Judæa, and granted him permission to restore the ruined fortifications of Jerusalem73.

Having made these arrangements Cæsar marched through Syria towards Pontus, to attack Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates the Great, who had defeated one of his lieutenants. Antipater conducted him beyond the Syrian frontiers, and returning to Jerusalem, commenced rebuilding the walls which had been overthrown by Pompey. He then set out on a tour through the country, suppressing tumults, and exhorting all to submit to the rule of Hyrcanus; soon waxing bolder, and taking advantage of the indolence of his nominal sovereign, he appointed his eldest son Phasael military governor of Judæa, and conferred the tetrarchy of Galilee on his younger son Herod, afterwards Herod the Great.

Though but a youth of 15, according to Josephus74, but more probably of 2575, the new governor of Galilee soon began to give signs of that decision of character which subsequently distinguished him. Turning his energies against numerous robber bands, who infested his province as also the confines of Syria, he put to death Hezekias, one of their notorious chiefs, with nearly all his associates. Such energy and determination won the delighted approval of the Syrians, who sang his praises in their villages and cities76, and not less of Sextus Cæsar, the new president of that province.

But the news of these successes of the young man filled Hyrcanus and many of the national party at Jerusalem with indignation. The priest-king felt that the family of Antipater was everything, while he himself was nothing. Herod was, therefore, summoned before the Sanhedrin to answer for his conduct in putting so many to death without a trial. He came, not in the garb of a suppliant, but clothed in purple, accompanied by a strong escort, and bore with him a letter from Sextus Cæsar, ordering his acquittal of the capital charge77. The great council was terrified. Not a man dared to lift his voice to accuse him, backed as he was by the terrible power of the Roman governor, save Sameas, or Shammai, one of the most learned Rabbis and a man of unblemished character. He sternly rebuked the accused for the haughty independence he had evinced, and the others, emboldened by his conduct, were ready to pronounce the sentence of death78. Hyrcanus now interposed, and secretly advised Herod to fly from the city. He took the advice and hurried to Damascus, where he threw himself at the feet of Sextus Cæsar, and in consideration of a heavy bribe, was appointed governor of Cœlesyria and Samaria. Burning with rage, he now gathered an army, marched against Jerusalem, and would have taken summary vengeance on his opponents, had it not been for the intervention of his father and brother, who advised him to be satisfied with his acquittal and draw off his troops.

Two years afterwards, B.C. 44, Cæsar was assassinated on the Ides of March, in the senate-house at Rome. Cassius, the chief conspirator, betook himself to Syria, to secure the troops stationed at Apamea79, and began to impose heavy tribute on the various cities of Asia Minor, and the Syrian provinces. Palestine was assessed to pay the enormous sum of 700 talents of silver80, and Antipater commissioned his son Herod to collect the contribution from Galilee, while Malichus, a powerful Jew, and principal adherent of Hyrcanus, collected the rest. With characteristic tact, Herod employed himself diligently in raising his quota, and repairing to Cassius with 100 talents gained his hearty good will, while Malichus so incensed him by his dilatoriness, that he would have put him to death, had not Hyrcanus soothed the Roman’s anger by the present of another 100 talents81.

The influence of Antipater on this occasion Malichus deemed unendurable. He saw that his patron Hyrcanus was rapidly losing even the semblance of power, and he resolved to compass the Idumæan’s death. Suspecting his designs, Antipater fled beyond the Jordan, and collected a body of men to defend himself. But persuaded that his suspicions were groundless, he returned to Jerusalem, where he was shortly afterwards poisoned with a glass of wine at an entertainment in the high-priest’s palace, B.C. 43. Herod would have instantly avenged his father’s murder, but Phasael persuaded him to bide his time, and the brothers celebrated their father’s obsequies with the greatest splendour, pretending to believe the assassin’s assertion of innocence. Before long, an opportunity of revenge presented itself. On the capture of Laodicea by Cassius, the kings and nobles of the surrounding provinces assembled, bearing gifts and crowns. Amongst the rest came Hyrcanus and Malichus, and on the way stayed at Tyre, where Herod, who had joined them, invited them to a banquet, and sending secret instructions to the Roman soldiers, caused Malichus to be dispatched on the sea-shore. The feeble Hyrcanus witnessed the bloody deed, and immediately fainted away, but no sooner heard that it had been done by command of Cassius, than he acquiesced, and denounced Malichus as the enemy of his country.

It was now clear that the virtual supremacy lay in the hands of the sons of Antipater, and that the party of Hyrcanus could but struggle in vain against their influence. It was not, however, their interest to come to an open rupture with the high-priest, and Herod for the sake of conciliating the people, who still clung with unabated devotion to that noble race, resolved to ally himself with a princess of the Asmonean family. He had already married Doris, a native of Judæa, and by her had become the father of a son Antipater. He now was betrothed to the beautiful and accomplished grand-daughter of Hyrcanus, the famous Mariamne, who was as yet a child.

Meanwhile, B.C. 42, the forces of Brutus and Cassius had met their opponents Antonius and Octavius on the bloody field of Philippi, and had sustained a disastrous defeat. The conquerors separated; Octavius departed for Italy, Antonius for Asia. On his arrival in Bithynia, a number of influential Jews waited upon Antonius with bitter complaints against Phasael and Herod82, but Herod plied him with such heavy bribes, that the deputation withdrew unable to effect anything. Shortly afterwards another deputation met him at Daphne near Antioch, and with them came Hyrcanus. The Roman listened to their complaints, and then turning to the high-priest, asked whom he deemed best fitted to rule the country? Influenced probably by the projected alliance between Herod and his grand-daughter, he named the brothers. Antonius, who had been hospitably entertained by their father Antipater, when he accompanied Gabinius to Egypt83, readily assented, and named them tetrarchs of Judæa, nor could a subsequent deputation of 1000 Jews, who waited upon him at Tyre, avail to alter his decision84.

A single obstacle to the complete success of the brothers still remained in the person of Antigonus. He had already made an ineffectual attempt to recover the throne, and now assistance appeared in an utterly unexpected quarter. While Antonius was wasting his time in the society of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, the Parthians, under Pacorus, entered Syria, overran the whole country, and made themselves masters of Sidon and Ptolemais. Antigonus resolved to court the assistance of these unexpected allies, and by a bribe of 1000 talents and 500 Jewish women, persuaded Pacorus to espouse his cause. With a division of the Parthian army he now marched against Jerusalem, and an obstinate struggle commenced. At length the Parthian general with a few horsemen was admitted into the city, and offered to act as umpire between the rival claimants. Phasael assented, and in an evil hour for himself, accompanied by Hyrcanus repaired to the court of Barzapharnes, the new Parthian governor of Syria, who threw them into chains85. Meanwhile Herod, suspecting treachery, and warned by Mariamne, secretly escaped with a picked body of troops from Jerusalem86, and made his way to Masada87, a strong fortress on the south-western side of the Dead Sea. So desperate were his circumstances, that he was with difficulty restrained from making away with himself88, and finally, leaving Mariamne and his family at Masada, in charge of 800 men, he fled to Petra, to try to obtain help from the successor of Aretas. This being denied, he dismissed the remainder of his forces, and made his way to Pelusium, and so to Alexandria, whence declining the command of an expedition offered him by Cleopatra, he took ship, although it was the depth of winter, and sailed for Rome89, B.C. 40.


B.C. 4033.

MEANWHILE the Parthians had made themselves masters of Jerusalem, reinstated Antigonus in the supreme power, and delivered into his hands the captives Hyrcanus and Phasael. The new ruler, unwilling to put his aged uncle to death, but determined that he should never be able to hold the office of high-priest again, caused his ears to be cropped off90, and then sent him to Seleucia in Babylonia to be retained as a prisoner of the Parthians. Phasael, knowing his death was certain, anticipated the executioner by beating out his brains against the walls of his prison.

In the mean time Herod had reached Rome, where he found Antonius at the very summit of power. The Roman received him with much kindness, and introduced him to Octavius, who calling to mind the aid which the great Julius had received from Antipater during his Egyptian war91, was no less ready to befriend him. Herod protested he wished for nothing more than that Aristobulus, the brother of his betrothed Mariamne, should be placed on the throne of Judæa. But the triumvirs would not entertain the proposition for a moment. Who was more fit to receive the title of king than Herod himself? Who was more likely to cope effectually with Antigonus, and to render aid in the projected war with Parthia? Accordingly with the assent of the senate he was formally nominated King of Judæa, and preceded by the consuls and other magistrates, walked in procession between Antonius and Octavius to the Capitol, where the usual sacrifices were offered, and the decree formally laid up in the archives92.

A week only had elapsed since the arrival of Herod in Italy. But without losing a moment he hurried to Brundusium, and thence took ship for Ptolemais, where he presented himself after an absence of barely three months. Meanwhile Antigonus had been unsuccessfully besieging the fortress of Masada, with the design of obtaining possession of Mariamne and Aristobulus. The first object of the newly-arrived king was to relieve this stronghold, and the recollection of his energy as a governor in Galilee quickly attracted many to his standard. He also invoked the aid of Ventidius the Roman general, who had been sent to check the advance of the Parthians and had encamped before Jerusalem, and partly through his aid but still more by his own energy succeeded in raising the siege of Masada, liberated his relatives, and recovered the treasures he had deposited there.

His next step was to march upon Jerusalem, and having united with the Roman forces, encamped on the west side of the city B.C. 38. Finding, however, that he could not reduce it with the forces then at his command, he repaired to Samaria, and there was formally united in marriage with the beautiful Mariamne. Early in the following spring, B.C. 37, he again set out for Jerusalem, supported on this occasion by Sosius, the lieutenant of Antonius, with 11 legions and 6000 cavalry. Now for the first time the Romans found how desperate an enemy they had to encounter in the Jews, who defended Antigonus with all the constancy of their race. Upwards of 40 days elapsed before the first wall was taken, 15 before the second was reduced. Fighting with reckless courage, the besieged were driven successively from the outer court of the Temple and the lower city into the interior of the Sanctuary, nor was it till after five long months of combat that the signal could be given for an assault. No sooner had this been given than a dreadful massacre ensued. Exasperated by the obstinacy of the foe, the Romans struck down all whom they met, without distinction of age or sex. Multitudes were butchered in the narrow streets, many crowded together in their homes, many flying for refuge to the Sanctuary. Herod used every effort to mollify the wrath of the legions, and even threatened to cut down any who attempted to penetrate into the Holy of Holies. Finding all was lost, Antigonus descended from the Baris, where he had taken refuge, and flung himself at the feet of Sosius. The Roman treated him with contempt and scorn, called him in derision Antigona, and put him in chains. Then laden with munificent presents from the new ruler of Jerusalem, he retired to Antioch with his captive, to await the pleasure of Antonius himself. The latter, at the request of his favourite now installed in power, had the unfortunate prince tried and condemned, and after he had first been scourged by the Roman lictors, struck off his head93. Thus ignominiously perished the last priest-king of the Asmonean dynasty, 126 years94 after Judas Maccabæus obtained the government of Judæa.

Herod had now attained the highest object of his ambition. In the prime of his vigour and great abilities he had become ruler of Palestine, being lifted into his high position by the Roman legions, and by uniting himself with one of the Asmonean line he had conciliated somewhat the popular favour. But though successful, he clearly foresaw the difficulty and danger of his position, for the partisans of Antigonus still retained much influence, and the people were strong in their attachment to the Asmonean dynasty. But the Idumæan had profited in the school of the Roman proscriptions, and selecting 45 of the most prominent partisans of Antigonus, he put them all to death, and confiscated their estates to liquidate the heavy debt he had contracted with Antigonus. He next wreaked his vengeance on the Sanhedrin, every member of which was executed save two only, Sameas and Pollio, who alone during the late siege had urged their countrymen to capitulate and receive him as king.

The question of the appointment to the high-priesthood next required to be disposed of. Hyrcanus was in captivity at Seleucia, where the Parthian Phraates treated him with every consideration, and allowed him to live at full liberty among many of his own nation, who had settled in that region95. Herod sent an embassy requesting that his former patron might be permitted to return, and pretended a wish to recompense him for old kindnesses. The Jews in Seleucia easily divined his insidious designs. But the weak old man heeded not their council, and returned to Jerusalem. The mutilation of his ears by Antigonus rendered it impossible for him to hold the office of high-priest, and Herod, while treating him with much apparent respect, conferred the coveted post on Ananel, an obscure priest of the line of Aaron, whom he had summoned from Babylon.

But this selection was regarded with feelings of detestation by Aristobulus, his youthful brother-in-law, his wife Mariamne, and her mother-in-law, Alexandra. Well acquainted with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, at whose court Antonius was now living in luxury and indolence, Alexandra began to address her complaints to her, and succeeded in awakening an interest in her favour. The secret correspondence coming to the ears of Herod, he forthwith deposed Ananel, and with great pomp installed Aristobulus in his stead. The people were delighted at his elevation, and when the handsome youth the descendant of their ancient princes appeared before them at the feast of Tabernacles B.C. 35, clad in the gorgeous robes of his office, they could not restrain the expression of their admiration, and their shouts of acclamation rent the air.

This sealed the doom of the unfortunate young man. Seeing in him a possible rival, and suspecting the designs of Alexandra, Herod resolved to compass his destruction, and an opportunity soon presented itself. At the close of the solemnities he repaired with the youthful high-priest to Jericho, where Alexandra had invited them to an entertainment. The day was close—sultry, even for that tropical region—and the two, with many of their retinue, betook themselves to the fish-ponds, for the purpose of bathing. At first the attendants alone plunged into the water, and Herod and the high-priest merely looked on. But as it grew dark, the king proposed that his companion should join the rest in the water, where several of the attendants, suborned for the purpose, plunged him under the water, and held him down till life was extinct96. Next day it was announced at Jerusalem that Aristobulus had been accidentally drowned, and the spectacle of the dead body excited the wildest sorrow. Herod himself pretended the utmost grief. But neither the tears he shed, nor the magnificent funeral with which he honoured the young man’s remains, could divert the popular suspicion and indignation. Least of all could he deceive the bereaved mother. The grief of Alexandra was intense, and more than once she was on the point of laying violent hands upon herself. At length she resolved to appeal for the second time to the friendship of Cleopatra, and wrote her a full account of the treacherous deed. The Egyptian queen, herself a woman and a mother, moved by her touching story, would not let Antonius have any rest till he had promised that the matter should be investigated.

On his arrival, therefore, at the Syrian Laodicea97 B.C. 34, the triumvir sent to Herod, and demanded an explanation of the death of Aristobulus. Though Herod was well aware of the ill-will of Cleopatra towards himself, and of the risk he ran, he dared not disobey this summons, and resolved to go in person and plead his cause. Before setting out he entrusted to his uncle Joseph not only the government of Jerusalem, but the care also of the beautiful Mariamne, strictly enjoining him, in the event of his own death, to slay her rather than let her fall into the hands of Antonius. Having thus provided for the worst he departed, and, on his arrival at Laodicea, presented himself before the Roman and his Egyptian enchantress. Cleopatra, eager to add Judæa to her dominions, exhausted every expedient to ensure his ruin. But by his confidence, and still more by his lavish bribes, Herod succeeded in defeating her designs, and in clearing himself in the opinion of her paramour, so that Antonius not merely dismissed the charges against his favourite, but placed him by his side on his judicial throne, invited him to his luxurious banquets, and heaped upon him every mark of distinction.

Meanwhile very different events had occurred at Jerusalem. In an evil hour Joseph had revealed his secret instructions respecting Mariamne, and while she and Alexandra were indulging in transports of rage, a sudden rumour reached the city that Herod had failed in his mission, and been put to death. Instantly both mother and daughter took measures for seizing the supreme power, and Alexandra indulged the hope that the glorious beauty of her daughter might win the affections even of the paramour of Cleopatra. But in a moment all these schemes were dashed to the ground. Letters arrived announcing Herod’s complete success, and soon he himself appeared. His sister Salome, jealous of the charms of Mariamne, filled his mind with suspicions against her, which at first he refused to credit. But unhappily one day, as he was protesting his undying love, she chanced to inquire how, if he really loved her, he could have given the order for her execution. Furious at the discovery of his secret compact, he rushed from her arms, and was on the point of putting her to death with his own hand. Her loveliness, however, induced him to spare her, and he contented himself with ordering the instant execution of his uncle Joseph, and flinging Alexandra into prison with every mark of insult.


B.C. 3424.

MEANWHILE the friendship between Octavius and Antonius had at length been broken, and the whole East rang with preparations for the coming contest between the triumvirs for the supremacy of the world. Herod raised a body of troops to assist Antonius, but the latter declined his aid, and being thus excused taking any prominent part in a doubtful struggle, he turned his arms against Malchus, king of Arabia. The artful designs of Cleopatra had involved him in this war. Already mistress of Cœlesyria, and of the palm-groves around Jericho by the concessions of her Roman lover, she cast longing eyes upon Judæa also. The Arabian king, emboldened by the rupture between the Roman triumvirs, had withheld the payment to her of his annual tribute, an insult which Antonius directed Herod to avenge. Seeing her opportunity, she urged Herod to embark in the war, hoping if he was successful to become mistress of Arabia, if unsuccessful, of Judæa.

But the Jews were exceedingly unwilling to undertake a war against a nation with whom they had no quarrel, and Herod was defeated in the first campaign with great loss. His troops were still more unwilling to engage a second time, but fortune came to his aid. A sudden earthquake convulsed the cities of southern Palestine, and destroyed in one day upwards of 30,000 of the inhabitants. Taking advantage of the consternation thus caused, the Arabs slew the Jewish ambassadors who had come to treat of peace. News of this treachery roused once more the martial spirit of the nation, and enabled Herod to win a signal triumph over his foes, and to reduce the country to subjection.

On his return from this expedition he received intelligence that his patron Antonius had been defeated in the decisive battle of Actium, B.C. 31, and had left the supremacy of the world to his rival Octavius. His first impulse was to urge the triumvir to seize Egypt, and put to death Cleopatra, the faithless cause of his misfortunes. But the infatuated Roman, rejecting this advice, followed his enchantress to Alexandria. There twelve months afterwards, deserted by his troops, and unable to come to any terms with Octavius, he fell upon his sword, and Cleopatra, rather than grace a Roman triumph, applied the fatal asp to her breast.

Herod’s fate once more seemed to tremble in the balance. But, equal to the emergency, he provided with characteristic energy and boldness an escape from his embarrassments. He first resolved to put Hyrcanus out of the way, as the last remnant of the Asmonean dynasty, and on a charge of a treasonable correspondence with the king of Arabia, dragged him before the Sanhedrin, and caused him to be executed. He next resolved to make a personal appeal to Octavius, and before he left sent his mother, sister, and children to Masada, and placed Mariamne in the fortress of Alexandrium, under the custody of faithful adherents, Soemus the Ituræan, and Joseph his steward, again enjoining that, in the event of his death, Mariamne should be instantly dispatched.

Then setting out for Rhodes he appeared before Octavius without the diadem, but with all the spirit and dignity of a king, and addressed him in a speech of the utmost freedom98. He did not in the least disguise his friendship for the late triumvir. He had given him, he said, the best advice in urging him to put Cleopatra to death, and prosecute the war with vigour. But Antonius had rejected his counsels, and pursued a course ruinous to himself and beneficial only to his rival. If Octavius, seeing the steadiness of the speaker’s friendship towards his late foe, would honour him with his confidence, he might count on being served with the same steadiness and the same fidelity. His frankness completely won over the arbiter of the world, who restored to him the diadem, treated him with the greatest distinction, and assured him of his friendship and confidence99.

Thus successful beyond his utmost expectations, Herod returned to Jerusalem. But the secret orders entrusted to the guardian of Mariamne had been again disclosed, and she met his greeting with coldness and aversion, and reproached him bitterly with the murder of her grandfather Hyrcanus. Herod’s anger was deeply roused, but for the present other and more public duties demanded his attention. Bent on the invasion and conquest of Egypt, Octavius passed through Syria and arrived at Ptolemais. Thither Herod went to meet him, presented him with 800 talents, and supplied provisions in great abundance for his troops. This still further conciliated the Roman’s favour, and on his return from Egypt, where the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra removed all obstructions to the reduction of the country to a Roman province, he not only conferred upon him the territory around Jericho, which had been ceded to the late Egyptian queen, but reannexed to his dominions the cities of Gadara, Hippo, and Samaria, together with the maritime towns Gaza, Joppa, and Strato’s Tower100, B.C. 30.

But these successes did little towards compensating the Jewish king for the loss of the affections of Mariamne, who persisted in rejecting his caresses, and reproaching him with his cruelty towards her family. At this juncture the envious Salome suborned the royal cupbearer to accuse the queen of having bribed him to poison his master. This new accusation filled Herod with such rage that he ordered Mariamne’s favourite eunuch to be put to the rack. The wretched man denied all knowledge of the plot, but confessed that the secret orders given to Soemus had excited the queen’s hatred and disgust. Furious at what he deemed a second proof of her infidelity, Herod directed that Soemus should be instantly executed, and arraigned Mariamne before a tribunal of judges on a charge of adultery. The judges, too terrified to do any thing but obey his bidding, pronounced her guilty, and sentenced her to death. But though he had procured her condemnation, the tyrant shrunk from proceeding to her execution. His mother and sister, however, suffered him to have no rest, and so worked upon his feelings that at length he signed the fatal order for her execution, and Mariamne was led forth to die, B.C. 29.

But now a reaction set in. The terrible reality of the deed, combined with a sense of his own loss, so wrought upon his feelings, that he became the victim of the most violent remorse. “Everywhere, day and night, he was haunted by the image of the murdered queen; he called upon her by name; he perpetually burst into passionate tears; he ordered his servants to bring Mariamne to him, as though she were yet alive. In vain he tried every diversion,—banquets, revels, the excitements of society. A sudden pestilence breaking out, to which many of the noblest of his court and of his own personal friends fell a sacrifice, he recognised and trembled beneath the hand of the avenging Deity. On pretence of hunting he sought out the most melancholy solitude, till the disorder of his mind brought on a disorder of body, and he was seized with violent inflammation and pains in the back of his head, which led to temporary derangement101.”

After lying in this state for some time in his palace at Samaria, he was at length partially restored to health, and came forth gloomy, stern, revengeful, more ready than ever to resort to cruelty and bloodshed. Alexandra was his first victim. Taking advantage of his malady she had again renewed her intrigues, and tried to gain possession of Jerusalem. She was now executed, together with Costobaras, governor of Idumæa and Gaza and husband of Salome, who was accused of harbouring some of the Asmonean dynasty, with many others of rank and influence102.

Meanwhile, B.C. 27103, the senate of Rome had conferred upon Octavius the title of Augustus, the august, the divine, and soon in every part of the empire temples began to rise in honour of the divinity of the Emperor. Herod resolved not to be behindhand in adulation towards his patron, and, all being now dead who had any claims to the crown, he devoted himself to the introduction of foreign customs into the country. Though fully aware of the intensely national feelings of his subjects, he resolved to lose no opportunity of breaking down the wall of partition between them and the surrounding nations.

He introduced, therefore, public exhibitions and spectacles of all kinds; erected a theatre within, an amphitheatre without, the walls of Jerusalem; instituted quinquennial games, which were celebrated on a scale of the most lavish magnificence; invited to his capital the professors of every kind of gymnastic exercises, and did not even shrink from exhibiting in the city of David shows of gladiators and combats with wild beasts.

The stricter Jews regarded with horror those innovations, but their indignation knew no bounds when, for the purpose of celebrating the victories of Octavius, he set up in his theatre complete suits of armour captured during the imperial wars. Nothing could persuade them to believe that these trophies did not conceal heathen images, and it was only when they had been taken to pieces, and the bare peg of wood exposed underneath, that their suspicions were removed. This raised a laugh, but the deepfelt exasperation of the majority was not removed. At length ten men formed a conspiracy to assassinate the king as he entered the theatre. The plot was betrayed, and they were put to death with the most cruel tortures. The people, sympathising with their sufferings, seized the informer who had betrayed the secret to Herod, tore him to pieces, and flung his flesh to the dogs. This roused the king in his turn to retaliate, and seizing the ringleaders he put them to death, together with their families, B.C. 25.

These risings, however, convinced him that his life was insecure, and he had recourse to various measures of precaution. He erected a palace on the impregnable hill of Sion; restored and enlarged the Baris, and named it Antonia, after his former patron. At the same time he rebuilt and founded various cities to serve as military ports and retreats on occasions of danger, such as Gaba in Galilee, and Heshbon in Peræa. Samaria also, which had been destroyed by John Hyrcanus, once more rose from its ruins, was surrounded with a wall, strongly fortified, and peopled with 6000 veterans devoted to the king’s interests. A temple also was erected within it, dedicated to the occupant of the imperial throne, in whose honour the city also was now called Sebaste, the August104.

But Herod105 further resolved that his kingdom should have a naval harbour and a maritime city, whereby he might communicate more securely with the western world. A convenient point along the inhospitable coast-line of Palestine offered itself at a spot called Strato’s Tower, situated about 30 miles south of Mount Carmel, and 70 miles north-west of Jerusalem, on the line of the great road from Tyre to Egypt. To protect the shipping from the violent south-west winds, which blew along the coast, it was first necessary that a breakwater should be constructed. Accordingly enormous stones were sunk in deep water to form a mole 2000 feet in length. This supported a pier, 200 feet wide, defended by a wall and towers, and formed a sort of double harbour equal in size to the Piræus at Athens, and surrounded with broad landing wharves. The entrance was from the north, so that a vast fleet could ride at anchor with perfect safety. Above the harbour rose the city, built on the Greek model with a forum and amphitheatre, and called, in honour of the king’s friend on the imperial throne, Cæsarea. Upwards of 12 years were spent in the erection of this important maritime city106.


B.C. 2414.

THUS Judæa seemed to be sinking more and more into the form of a Roman province, while Herod rivalled the other vassal kings of Rome in subservience to the master of the world. It was a saying that Cæsar assigned to him the next place in his favour to Agrippa, while Agrippa esteemed Herod higher than all his friends, except Augustus107. The three vied with one another in mutual courtesies, and whenever either Cæsar or Agrippa visited the Eastern provinces, the Jewish king was sure to be first to pay his homage, and to assist with his personal support and advice.

In return for these attentions the Roman emperor was profuse in his concessions. When Herod sent his two elder sons by Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus, to Rome for their education, he received them into his palace and treated them with the utmost care and distinction108. Moreover, besides the large addition he had already made to Herod’s territories, he now conceded to him the district east of the Lake of Gennesaret, known as Trachonitis, with Batanæa and Auranitis, and afterwards appointed him procurator of the province of Syria, and with such authority, that his colleagues in command could take no step without his concurrence109. At the same time a tetrarchy was conferred on his brother Pheroras, and in memory of these concessions, Herod erected a splendid temple of white marble at Paneas, near the sources of the Jordan, and dedicated it to his benefactor110.

But while the Jewish king was on terms of such intimate friendship with his imperial patron, his relations with his own subjects were far from satisfactory. In spite of the profuse liberality with which he had poured forth the contents of his treasury, and even parted with the silver plate of his table to satisfy their wants during a severe famine, B.C. 25, in spite also of his munificence in diminishing a third of the annual taxation, the murmurs of the populace against his rule could not be restrained.

Strong as was the party which favoured his designs and approved his policy, the majority of the nation regarded with undissembled suspicion and mistrust his numerous innovations, and the introduction of foreign rites and customs. In vain he forbade any assemblages of the citizens for feasting or deliberation; in vain he kept himself informed through his spies of all who disapproved of his government, threw them into prison, and sometimes punished them with death; in vain he tried to compel all his subjects to take an oath of fidelity towards himself and his dynasty; he could not control the opposition of the powerful Pharisaic faction111, or check the general feeling of disaffection.

At length, B.C. 20, he determined on a measure which he trusted might have the effect at once of giving employment to large numbers, and winning the favour of the nation. He resolved to rebuild the Temple.

Since the construction of the second Temple by Zorobabel that structure had suffered much from dilapidation, and bore unmistakeable traces of the assaults of various armies. The evident need, therefore, of renewal, induced the king to hope that no obstacle would be put in the way of his design. But on laying his project before the assembled people, he found that it was regarded with little favour and greater suspicion112. Under pretence of rebuilding, many believed he really intended to destroy their national sanctuary.

Great caution was therefore needed, and everything was done that could be devised to allay the popular mistrust. Vast preparations were made before a single stone of the old building was removed, and two years were spent in bringing together all the materials; 1000 waggons were constructed for the purpose of bearing stones for the building, and upwards of 10,000 of the most skilful workmen, superintended by 1000 Levites, who had been taught the arts of carpentry and stone-cutting, were employed on the works113.

In the 20th year of Herod’s reign, or B.C. 18, the erection of the new structure began. The foundations of the Temple of Zorobabel were removed, and on those laid by Solomon the new pile arose, built of hard white stones of enormous size. The Porch, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies, were completed in a year and a half114; the rest of the pile, with the courts and cloisters, in eight years more, so as to be fit for the actual services of religion, but the whole structure was not finally completed115 till A.D. 65116.

On the highest level of the rocky platform stood the Temple itself, divided as in the days of Solomon, and covered with plates of gold, which shone like a meteor under the rays of the sun, so that the eye could hardly bear to rest upon them. Twelve steps below was a second level, occupied by the Court of the Priests, with the Great Laver, and the Altar of Burnt-offering. Three flights of steps below this was the Court of the Israelites, with the houses of the priests, the various offices, and hall of the Sanhedrin. Fourteen steps more led down to the Court of the Gentiles, which was hardly regarded as a part of the Temple, and was open to men of all nations and became a kind of exchange and market-place.

While the Sanctuary had been left to the care of the priests, Herod exhausted all his taste on this Court of the Gentiles. “Cloisters ran round the wall on the inner side, sustained on rows of columns exquisitely wrought, the capitals being ornamented with the acanthus and waterleaf, as in the famous Tower of the Winds. West, north, and east these columns were in three rows; on the south they were in four. The floor made a shaded walk, like the colonnade in Venice, and the roof an open walk like the gallery of Genoa. The pavement was inlaid with marbles of many colours. Leading into this Court from the city and the country were many noble gates; one of these on the Eastern side, facing the Mount of Olives, was called Solomon’s Porch, and a second near by it was called the Beautiful Gate117.”

Immediately after the completion of the Sanctuary, which was commemorated with lavish sacrifices and splendid feasts118, Herod set out for Rome, to bring back his sons Alexander and Aristobulus. On his arrival in the imperial city119, he was received by Augustus with every mark of regard, and returned with his two sons apparently in the spring of the year B.C. 15. During the autumn his friend Agrippa visited Judæa120, and Herod shewed him his new cities, Sebaste and Cæsarea, and the fortresses of Alexandrium, Herodium, and Hyrcania. Then conducting him to Jerusalem, he entertained him at a sumptuous banquet, while the people welcomed the great minister of Augustus with acclamations, and Agrippa offered a sacrifice of 100 oxen in the Temple, and feasted the subjects of the Jewish king at a splendid entertainment.


B.C. 154.

BUT the return of the young princes, Alexander and Aristobulus, from Rome was the signal for a scene of bloodshed, still more awful than that which had darkened the beginning of Herod’s reign.

The monarch married them, Alexander to Glaphyra, daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia; Aristobulus to Berenice, the daughter of his sister Salome121. The grace and beauty of the young men, added to their descent through their mother from the great Asmonean house, made them objects of the utmost interest to the people, and they were regarded as the future rulers of Palestine.

The popular favour, however, which they thus attracted, aroused the keenest hatred of Salome and Pheroras. Conscious of the part they had played in the execution of Mariamne, they looked with dismay at the future elevation of the young princes. Taking advantage, therefore, of some incautious expressions they chanced to let fall respecting the execution of their mother, they began by circulating rumours that the young men were bent on avenging their mother’s death, and bore no goodwill towards the king. For some time Herod refused even to listen to these rumours. But before long they acquired fresh strength and consistency, and to check their pride, he sent for Antipater, the son of his first wife Doris, and set him up as a foil to the aspirations and popularity of Alexander and Aristobulus122.

Salome had thus a ready tool for prosecuting her cunning designs, and as Herod had permission from Augustus to appoint whom he pleased as his successor, the two together bent all their efforts towards alienating him from the sons of Mariamne.

In the beginning of B.C. 13, the king went to join Agrippa at Sinope, and attended him through Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Ionia, to Ephesus. On this occasion he introduced Antipater to his powerful friend, and sent him in his train on a visit to Rome, with many costly presents and an introduction to Augustus. Even at Rome the crafty Idumæan did not remit his machinations against his rivals, but in every letter to his father dropped something to the discredit of the sons of Mariamne, veiling his real designs under pretence of great anxiety for Herod’s security.

By these artful means the suspicions of the king were at length raised to such a pitch, that he resolved on formally accusing his sons before the tribunal of Augustus. Accordingly, B.C. 11, he conducted them to Rome, and in the presence of the emperor charged them with designs upon his life. Augustus perceived that the accusation rested only on hearsay and suspicion, and after hearing the case succeeded in reconciling the young men to their father, and the three, accompanied by Antipater, returned to Jerusalem apparently on terms of amity and goodwill.

On regaining his capital, Herod convened an assembly of the people, introduced to them his three sons, and formally announced his design that they should succeed him in the order of their birth, first Antipater, then Alexander, and lastly Aristobulus123. But this arrangement was satisfactory to no one. The sons of Mariamne were indignant that the right of primogeniture should have been confined to Antipater, while Antipater was indignant that they should obtain honours even second to his own124.

While the jealousies in the royal household were thus for a short time hushed, the building of the new and magnificent city of Cæsarea was completed, B.C. 10. This event was celebrated with an imposing ceremonial, with shows, games, exhibitions of gladiators, and sumptuous entertainments, to which the wife of Cæsar herself contributed largely125. Other cities now arose in honour of different members of Herod’s family. Antipatris126, between Cæsarea and Lydda, preserved the name of his father Antipater; Cypron, near Jericho, of his mother Cyprus; Phasaelis, in the plain near the same city, of his brother Phasael.

But soon the quarrels in the royal household broke out afresh. With a strange lack of caution, the sons of Mariamne again indulged their dissatisfaction by the use of intemperate language, which the artful Antipater managed to report to Herod, exaggerated or distorted, as best suited his purpose. Knowing not whom to trust, the king had no rest night or day. At length he ordered some of the confidential slaves of the young princes to be put to the torture, and they, to obtain relief from their agony, made false declarations respecting Alexander, who was immediately flung into prison and loaded with chains.

There the wretched young man had recourse to a strange expedient. He sent four papers to his father, in which he accused himself of all kinds of treasonable practices, but added that Pheroras, Salome, and several of the king’s most intimate friends, were his accomplices. The whole court was now a scene of suspicion and distrust. Herod knew not which way to look or whom to believe. In a state of phrenzy he day after day caused persons of all grades to be apprehended; some of these he executed; others he tortured to compel them to confess, and with such severity that several of them died under the hands of their tormentors. In the midst of these troubles, Archelaus, king of Cappadocia, and father-in-law of Alexander, arrived at Jerusalem, and succeeded in obtaining his release, and restoration to Herod’s favour.

But the lull was only temporary. A few months had barely elapsed before Salome and Pheroras, regaining all their old ascendancy, poisoned the king’s mind with suspicions. Unable to trust any one around him, Herod once more had recourse to Augustus, and poured forth the bitterest complaints against the sons of Mariamne. In reply, the emperor advised him to summon a council of sovereigns at Berytus127, with Volumnius and Saturninus the prefects of Syria, and formally arraign the young men before them.

Acting on this advice, Herod thereupon summoned a council of princes. Upwards of 150 met together, and before them he pleaded his own cause, examined witnesses, read documents, and accused his sons with the utmost vehemence. After hearing the charge, Saturninus expressed himself in favour of mercy; Volumnius and the majority for condemnation. For a short time Herod appeared to hesitate, but the malice of Salome eventually had its reward, and the young men were strangled at Sebaste128, B.C. 6.

But they had scarcely perished before Herod found himself exposed to a far more terrible danger. Pheroras had married a slave, who attached herself to the powerful Pharisaic party. For the second time the king ordered the members of this influential sect to take the oath of allegiance to Augustus and himself. Upwards of 600 positively refused, and were sentenced to pay heavy fines. These the wife of Pheroras instantly liquidated out of her own property, and the Pharisees, grateful for such kindness, began to whisper that God intended the kingdom for her and her husband129.

Salome announced these signs of disaffection to Herod, who instantly executed the ringleaders of the Pharisees, and ordered Pheroras to put away his wife. This his brother absolutely declined to do, and retired to his own tetrarchy in Peræa, while the wily Antipater contrived to get himself summoned to Rome.

Shortly afterwards Pheroras sickening, Herod came to visit him, and on his death gave him a magnificent funeral. He was scarcely buried before rumours of foul play were bruited about. To ascertain their truth, Herod ordered a strict examination of the female slaves of his brother’s wife, and under the agonies of torture a horrible secret came to light.

Antipater, for whom Herod had strangled the sons of Mariamne, whom he had designed as his successor, had been associated with Pheroras in a plot against his life, and his brother’s widow was in possession of a subtle poison, with which it had been intended to take him off on the first opportunity. Thereupon she was examined, acknowledged her guilt, and immediately after flung herself from the roof of the house. The fall, however, was not fatal, and being brought before Herod, she recounted the whole history of the plot, adding that his kindness to her husband on his death-bed had caused him to relent, and he had bidden her fling the poison into the fire. This she had done, and had reserved only a small portion, which was now produced130.

Just at this juncture, a freedman of Antipater’s arrived from Rome, with letters for the king, accusing Archelaus and Philip of disaffection towards their father. The man was instantly placed upon the rack, and confessed that he had brought another phial of poison, which he was to entrust to Pheroras, in the event of the first not proving successful. The proofs of this dark treachery being thus complete, Herod wrote to Antipater requesting his instant return, and at the same time gave orders that the roads should be strictly guarded, and that not a word should be allowed to drop respecting what had transpired at Jerusalem.

Triumphing in the success of his base intrigues, and confident of his succession to the throne, Antipater had already set out, and arrived at Celenderis in Pamphylia. News of the death of Pheroras had reached him at Tarentum, and excited some misgivings, but, contrary to the advice of many of his friends, he continued his journey and entered the port of Cæsarea.

Here his fears were still more excited. The crowded harbour appeared like a solitude. Not a soul approached to salute or congratulate him on his return. The few who did meet him turned aside, or looked on, as if they now dared to shew the hatred they had long borne towards him. Every one seemed in possession of some dark secret, of which he alone was ignorant131.

Dissembling, however, his fears, he pressed on, for it was too late to fly, and reaching Jerusalem, hurried to his father’s palace. At the gates his retinue was denied entrance, and with Herod he found Quintilius Varus the prefect. Advancing to salute the king, he was angrily repelled, informed of the charge against him, and told that his trial would take place on the morrow before the prefect.

Accordingly, on the next day the accusers appeared. The evidence of his guilt was conclusive. The cup of poison was brought in, and a criminal under sentence of death being ordered to drink it, expired on the spot. Antipater was condemned and placed in bonds, but Herod delayed the execution of the sentence, till the will of Augustus could be ascertained.

By this time the king was 70 years of age, and being seized with a severe illness, removed for the sake of change of air to Jericho, and resolved to make the final alterations in his will. Passing over Archelaus and Philip, whom Antipater had accused of disaffection, he nominated Antipas as his successor in the kingdom, and bestowed rich donations of money and lands upon Salome, and other members of his own family.

But during his absence fresh symptoms of disaffection appeared amongst his subjects. Of all his numerous innovations, none had irritated the Jews more than the placing of a large golden eagle, the emblem of Roman power, over the principal gate of the Temple. Two of the most learned rabbis, Judas and Matthias, resolved to have it removed. Accordingly they instigated some daring and fanatical youths to take down the offensive symbol. Emboldened by a sudden rumour of the death of Herod, the young men lowered themselves by ropes from the roof, and cut away the eagle with hatchets. They could never have hoped to execute so daring a deed with impunity, and being apprehended and brought before Herod, boldly avowed their guilt, and gloried in the success of the feat. Dissembling his anger, the king assembled the chiefs of the nation at Jericho, and reproaching them bitterly for their ingratitude after all the favours he had bestowed upon them, ordered the instigators of the deed to be burned alive132.

In the meantime his disorder had made rapid progress. A slow fire seemed to consume his vital parts. His appetite became ravenous, but he dared not gratify it on account of dreadful pains and internal ulcers, which preyed on the lower parts of his body. Moreover his breathing became difficult, and violent spasms convulsed his frame, and imparted supernatural strength to his limbs133. But in spite of these accumulated sufferings he still clung to life, and cherishing hopes of recovery caused himself to be conveyed across the Jordan to Callirrhoë134, hoping to obtain relief from its warm bituminous baths. Arrived there, the physicians advised that he should be fomented with warm oil. For this purpose, he was lowered into a vessel filled with that fluid, when his eyes relaxed, and he suddenly fell back as if dead. Roused, however, by the cries of his physicians, he revived, and was conveyed back to Jericho, where, as if defying death, he devised a new atrocity. Knowing the joy his death would cause, he gave instructions that the men of distinction from every town in Judæa should be assembled in the hippodrome, and secretly confided to Salome his pleasure that they should be butchered immediately upon his decease, that thus his funeral might at least be signalized by a real mourning.

He had scarcely given these orders, when his messengers returned from Rome, and announced the ratification of the sentence against Antipater. Instantly the tyrant’s desire for life revived, but being as quickly followed by a sudden racking pain, he called for an apple and a knife, and in an unguarded moment tried to stab himself. He might have succeeded had not an attendant seized his hand. The clamour that followed reached the ears of Antipater, who was in bonds in a neighbouring apartment. Thinking his father was dead, he made a desperate effort to escape by bribing his guards. Informed of this Herod instantly ordered a spearman to dispatch him on the spot. Antipater having thus paid the penalty of his life of treachery, the king once more amended his will, nominated his eldest son Archelaus as his successor to the throne, and appointed Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa, Herod Philip tetrarch of Auranitis, Trachonitis, and Batanæa, and Salome mistress of Jamnia and some other towns. Five days more of excruciating agony remained to the tyrant, and then he expired135, after a reign of 34 years.





ARRIVED at the threshold of the Gospel History, it may not be amiss to survey some of the more prominent features of the period we have traversed, and to notice some of the changes which it had produced on the Jewish nation.

The influences under which the Jews had been brought since the Captivity were, as we have seen, of a very varied character. For two centuries after that event, they were subject to the dominion of Persia; for nearly a century and a half they were under Greek rulers; for a century they enjoyed independence under their native Asmonean princes; and for more than half a century, while nominally ruled by the family of Herod, were really in subjection to the power of Rome136.

In the present Chapter we shall notice, (a) The Wide Dispersion of the Jews, (b) The Change in their Vernacular Language, and (c) The rise of Synagogues.

(a) The Wide Dispersion of the Jews.

About the time of the building of Rome the ten tribes were carried away by the Assyrian monarchs, and 130 years after, this event was followed by the removal of their brethren of Judah and Benjamin to Babylon. The influential results of this earliest migration, it has been observed, “may be inferred from the fact, that about the time of the battles of Marathon (B.C. 490) and Salamis (B.C. 480), a Jew was the minister, another Jew the cupbearer, and a Jewess the consort, of a Persian monarch137.” Once settled under the shadow of the Babylonian and Persian kings, the Jews were very loth to quit the country of their adoption, and comparatively few availed themselves of the permission of Cyrus to return to their native land. The important colony in Babylonia which afterwards exerted a very remarkable influence, threw off shoots which extended to the borders of the Caspian Sea and the confines of China.

Important, however, as were the results of this earliest dispersion, they were exceeded by those which attended the policy of Alexander and his successors. That great conqueror, as we have seen, removed a great number of Jews to his new city of Alexandria138, and there conferred upon them many and important privileges, setting an example, which Ptolemy Soter and Philadelphus were alike not slow to follow139. To such an extent did the Egyptian Jews increase, that Philo estimates them in his time at little less than 1,000,000, and declares that two of the five districts of Alexandria derived their names from them. From Egypt they quickly spread along the coast of Africa to Cyrene (Acts ii. 10), and the towns of the Pentapolis, and inland to the realms of Candace, queen of Ethiopia (Acts viii. 27).

The Seleucidæ, in their turn, were equally anxious to locate colonies of Jews in the cities which they founded. Seleucus Nicator invited them to his new capital at Antioch140; Antiochus the Great removed 2000 Jewish families from Babylon to Lydia and Phrygia141. Led on by that love of trade which now began to distinguish them, they soon became numerous in the commercial cities of Western Asia, Ephesus and Pergamus, Miletus and Sardis. The Archipelago furnished a natural bridge whereby to cross over into the countries of Europe and to settle at Philippi (Acts xvi. 12), Berœa (Acts xvii. 10), and Thessalonica (Acts xvii. 1); Athens (Acts xvii. 17); and Corinth (Acts xviii. 4); and the decree of Lucius142, the consul during the reign of Simon Maccabæus, gives us a vivid idea of the extent to which they spread themselves in every direction, and no less of the power of the Sanhedrin143 at Jerusalem, to which all Jews, wherever located, were amenable.

At Rome itself they first appeared in the train of captives led up by Pompeius to the Capitol, but their captivity was of no long duration, and under the protection of Julius Cæsar, who reproduced in the West the privileges they had enjoyed under the Ptolemies and Seleucidæ in the East, they quickly multiplied, and not only appropriated a whole quarter in the capital144, but spread into other towns of Italy. Thus the Nation, whose native land had for centuries been in the centre of the world’s power, civilization, and commerce, now, under the superintending Hand of Providence, was scattered everywhere, East and West, North and South, bearing about with them their peculiar customs and institutions, and diffusing a knowledge of the Law and the Prophets.

(b) Corresponding to this wide diffusion of the Elect Nation was the change which gradually grew up in their vernacular language.

i. The earliest dispersion in Babylonia produced a change in the older Hebrew of Judæa. The language spoken in the days of David and Solomon was gradually exchanged for the Chaldee or “Syrian tongue.” (Comp. 2 K. xviii. 26; Isai. xxxvi. 11; Dan. ii. 4.) And those who returned from the Captivity and settled in Palestine and Syria, used Chaldee Targums or paraphrases for the interpretation of the Old Hebrew Scriptures, and spake kindred Aramæan dialects, and hence were known as the Aramæan Jews.

ii. After the conquests of Alexander, Greek became the language almost of the whole world145. It was a Greek speech that Pompeius was reading, preparatory to delivery, when he received his deathblow off the port of Alexandria. It was in Greek that Brutus conversed with his friends on the evening of the battle of Philippi. The mass of the poorer population at Rome were Greek either in descent or speech. The Jews, therefore, dispersed by the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ over the shores of the Mediterranean, were forced to adopt the Grecian language, and to use the Septuagint translation made at Alexandria, hence their name of Hellenists146, or “Jews of the Grecian speech,” which we shall find recurring so often in the Acts of the Apostles.

(c) The Rise of Synagogues.

During the captivity, when of course the Temple ritual was suspended, we gather that the devouter Jews were wont to assemble round the prophet Ezekiel and listen to his words and counsel147 (Ezek. viii. 1; xiv. 1; xxiii. 31). Such meetings Ezra reproduced in Palestine amongst those who returned from Babylon (Ezra viii. 15; Neh. viii. 2; ix. i, &c.), and after the Maccabæan period they spread through every town and village, and in course of time gave rise to buildings called Synagogues, in which they might be held.

i. These Houses of Meeting varied in size according to the town or village in which they were built148. They were usually erected on the highest ground available, and so constructed, that a worshipper, when entering, or kneeling in prayer, might have his face towards Jerusalem. Like the ancient Tabernacle, they were divided into two parts by a hanging veil, behind which, at the upper end or that facing Jerusalem, was the ark containing the Book of the Law. Before this veil were the “chief seats,” for which the Pharisees strove so eagerly (Matt. xxiii. 6); a silver lamp always kept burning; and an eight-branched candlestick, only lighted on the greater festivals. About the centre of the building was a raised platform, on which was a desk, where the reader stood to read the lesson or sat down to teach (Acts xiii. 16; Lk. iv. 20). All round were seats, where the men sat on one side, and the women on the other, separated by a low partition149.

ii. The chief officers of each synagogue were (a) a kind of Chapter or college of elders, presided over by the ruler of the Synagogue (Lk. viii. 41, 49; Acts xviii. 8, 17), who superintended the services, and had the power of excommunication150; (b) the Sheliach, or officiating minister, who read the prayers and the Law; (c) the Chazzan, ὑπηρέτης (Lk. iv. 20), a sort of deacon, whose office it was to open the doors, prepare the room for service, maintain order, scourge the condemned; (d) ten men called Batlanim (men of leisure), who attended the week-day as well as sabbath services, and were at once representatives of the congregation, and collectors of alms151.

iii. The worship of the Synagogues was on the model of the Temple Services, and at the same hours, the third, sixth, and ninth152 (Acts iii. 1; x. 3, 9). On entering, the people bowed towards the ark, and took their places in the body of the building; the elders ranged themselves on the raised platform; the rich went up to the “chief seats” near the ark. A prayer was said, and a psalm was sung. Then the Chazzan walked towards the veil, drew it aside with reverence, took out the Book of the Law from the ark; and as he carried it to the platform, on which the Sheliach stood, every one pressed forward to kiss or touch it with his hand.

Taking the roll, the Sheliach rose, and commenced reading a portion according to a fixed cycle, the interpreter rendering the sacred verses from the Hebrew into the vulgar tongue153. The writings of the Prophets formed a second lesson, and were also read according to a fixed order. Then followed the delivery by one of the Elders sitting, of the word of exhortation (Lk. iv.; Acts xiii. 15), at the close of which the roll of the Law was carried back towards the ark, while as before, men and women stretched out their hands and tried to touch or kiss it. The Law replaced in the ark, the Prayers began and were carried on till the close of the service.

Such were the Synagogues, one of which was at this time to be found in every town, and almost in every village throughout Palestine, as also in every city in Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece, where was a Jewish settlement. In Jerusalem itself there are said to have been upwards of 480154, some of which were built specially for the use of the foreign Jews of Cilicia, Alexandria, and other countries, resident in or visiting the capital. Comp. Acts vi. 9. Where the Jews did not exist in sufficient numbers to found or fill a synagogue, a Proseucha155 or ‘Place of Prayer’ was built, sometimes open, sometimes covered in, usually outside towns and near running water, for the ablutions before prayer (Acts xvi. 13).

It is easy to see how the synagogues thus scattered through wellnigh every town or city in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, and in which not “Moses” only but “the Prophets” were read every sabbath-day (Acts xv. 21), tended to keep alive Israel’s hopes of the Advent of the Messiah, and to diffuse the expectation of the kingdom of Heaven.



HAVING considered in the previous Chapter the wide dispersion of the Jewish nation, the change in their language, and the general adoption of synagogue worship, we shall now proceed to notice the rise of various sects among the Jews themselves.

(i) Of these sects the most important were (aThe Sadducees, (bThe Pharisees, (cThe Essenes, (dThe Herodians.

(a) The Sadducees.

It has been already observed that the long-continued subjection of the Jews to Grecian monarchs exerted a very marked influence on their habits and modes of life. Familiar not only with the language but the literature and philosophy of Greece, many acquired a strong taste for Grecian studies, preferred the Grecian religion to their own, adopted Grecian manners, and practised Grecian arts156. We have seen from time to time how it became the fashion even for many amongst the highest families to adopt Grecian names, and to recommend themselves in every conceivable way to Grecian rulers in the courts of Alexandria and Antioch. The Law, with its restraints and strict requirements, was regarded by them as a heavy yoke, and they affected the gymnasia, the theatres, and all the worldly pleasures of Grecian life.

To such aspirants after freedom the principles of the Epicurean philosophy would naturally recommend themselves, the more so as they found special acceptance in the Syrian courts. Amongst the scholars of Simon the Just157 was Antigonus of Socho, the first of the Jewish doctors who bears a Greek name. Antigonus was the master of one Sadoc158 (B.C. 291260), the essence of whose teaching was that virtue is its own reward, that men ought not to serve the Lord for the sake of gain, but to do good because it is right.

True as this doctrine was in itself, it was perverted by the disciples of Sadoc, who first attract our attention under the name of Sadducees159, in the time of Jonathan the Asmonean160. While on the one hand especially after the Maccabæan period, they were far removed from any actual adoption of Grecian customs, or apostasy from the national faith, yet on the other, they betrayed evident marks of the influence on their opinions of Grecian philosophy.

Hence they denied the doctrine of the Resurrection161 (Mtt. xxii. 23; Lk. xx. 27), any rewards or punishments after death, and the existence of angels or spirits (Acts xxiii. 8). Holding that the actions of men depended entirely on their own free will, they denied that there was such a thing as destiny, and while they admitted the creation, they removed the Deity as far as possible from any actual administration of the world. It has been thought that they recognised as Scripture only the five books of Moses, but the truth appears to be that while holding the Law in higher estimation than the prophetical and other books of Scripture, they acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament like the rest of the Jews, but refused to hold the authority of tradition.

Aiming as they did at a philosophic elevation of sentiment they found little favour with the common people, and caring little about making proselytes numbered their followers chiefly among the rich and powerful162, and especially the young men of Judæa, and those who were in a position to live a life of ease and worldly enjoyment163.

(b) The Pharisees.

The tendency to adopt Grecian customs and modes of thought above alluded to was not, of course, shared by the entire nation. When Mattathias unfurled the banner of revolt against the heathenizing policy of Antiochus Epiphanes, it will be remembered that he was joined before long by a class calling themselves Assideans164 (1 Macc. ii. 42), who seem to have been already in existence as a distinct party, and bound by a vow to the strict observance of the Law. The name they assumed sufficiently indicates their views. Living in times when their countrymen were becoming more and more infected with heathen customs, they protested against such declension from the spirit of the law, and in opposition to the impious (1 Macc. iii. 8; vi. 21; vii. 5), the lawless (1 Macc. iii. 6; ix. 23), the transgressors (1 Macc. i. 11), as they called the Hellenizing faction, adopted for themselves the title of the Assideans, the pious, and in these days of mixing (2 Macc. xiv. 3, 38) maintained the strictest observance of the Law165.

Amongst a nation, which prided itself on its distinction from all other people on the earth, such a party would naturally have great influence, and when the Maccabees triumphed over their Syrian tyrants, the tenets of the Assideans rapidly gained ground, and received their complete development in those of the Pharisees, from Perashin, to separate, the Separatists, who are also first distinctly mentioned during the time of the high-priest Jonathan, B.C. 145166.

Like their earlier prototypes, the Pharisees were distinguished by great zeal for the Mosaic Law and the whole Canon of Scripture. But in their rigorous interpretation of its precepts and doctrines, they were mainly guided by Oral Tradition, the traditions of the Elders (Mtt. xv. 2; Mk. vii. 3). This Oral Tradition, which was regarded as supplementary to the written Law, was said to have been received by Moses on Sinai, to have been delivered by him to Joshua, by Joshua to the elders, by the elders to the prophets, by the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue.

Of this Law the Pharisees were regarded as the highest interpreters, and presided over various schools, the principal of which in the time of the New Testament, were those of Hillel and Shammai, the former a moderate, the latter the strictest sect.

They held, (i) the existence of angels and spirits, good and bad; (ii) the immortality of the soul; (iii) a state of rewards and punishments after death; (iv) a resurrection of the just and unjust167 (Comp. Acts xxiii. 8). As exponents of the Law, (i) they attached an undue importance to the outward act as compared with the inward spirit and motive; (ii) they were rigorous in exacting every external ceremonial, especially in reference to washings, fastings, tithes and alms; and (iii) were noted for pride and austerity.

Their political influence we have already seen was very great168. Holding strongly that the nation ought to be independent of foreign rule, standing high in favour with the people, and especially with the women169, pervading the entire country and forming the majority in the Sanhedrin, they wielded a very considerable power in the state, against which we have seen Hyrcanus, and Jannæus, vainly struggling170, and which Herod, with all his energy, was unable to control.

The writings of the New Testament illustrate, amongst many others, the following features of their character as a sect: their high repute, Jn. vii. 48; Acts xxii. 3; their regard for externals, while they disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, Mtt. xxiii. 24; xii. 2, 7; Mk. vii. 1; Lk. vi. 7; Jn. ix. 16, &c.; their regard to tradition, Mtt. xv. 2; Mk. vii. 3; their scrupulous exactness of washings, tithes, alms, &c., Mtt. ix. 14; xxiii. 15, 23; Lk. xi. 39 sq.; xviii. 12; their excessive zeal in making proselytes171, Mtt. xxiii. 15; their lax morality, Mtt. v. 20; xv. 4, 8; xxiii. 3, 14, 23, 25; Jn. viii. 7.

(c) The Essenes.

Though nowhere mentioned in the New Testament, the Essenes were a numerous body, amounting, according to Philo, to upwards of 4000. Dating, like the other sects already mentioned, from about the middle of the second century B.C., they formed a purely ascetic order, and dwelt far from the distractions of their age in the villages along the western shore of the Dead Sea, where they led a life of labour, abstinence, and meditation172.

They were divided into four orders, but permitted marriage only in one of them, maintained a community of goods, and inculcated a hatred of all riches and all luxury. Sacrifice they did not allow, and though they sent gifts to the Temple, never resorted to it, but held religious assemblies on the Sabbath, where they read the Scriptures, and listened to the expositions of their elders.

Even in their intercourse with one another they observed the greatest secrecy, dreaded contact with all who were not circumcised, and would rather die than eat food which had not been prepared by themselves or those of their own order.

(d) The Herodians.

This sect, which is twice mentioned in the Gospels (Mtt. xxii. 16; Mk. iii. 6; xii. 13), was rather a political than a religious body. Taking alike their names and their views from the family of Herod, the Herodians held that the hopes of the Jewish nation rested on the Herods as a bulwark against Roman ambition, and almost looked to them for a fulfilment of the prophecies of the Messiah173. Hence many amongst them would not regard with dissatisfaction that fusion of the national faith and heathen civilisation, which it was the great object of Herod the Great and his successors to bring about.

It is not improbable that the Herodians in some respects approached very nearly to the Sadducees in their opinions (Comp. Mk. viii. 15 with Mtt. xvi. 6), for both would hold the duty of submission to the Romans, and join in supporting the throne of Herod. The hostility of the Pharisees to the teaching of our blessed Lord may be estimated by the fact that they joined their enemies the Herodians in attempting to ensnare Him (Mtt. xxii. 16).

(ii) Before concluding this Chapter, this seems the appropriate place for noticing the Samaritans, who are frequently mentioned in the New Testament.

In the year B.C. 721 Sargon captured Samaria, and removed into captivity the remains of the ten tribes, already decimated by Tiglath-Pileser174, and located them partly in Gozan or Mygdonia, and partly in cities recently captured from the Medes. This was not a partial but a complete evacuation of the country, which was wiped clean of its inhabitants as a man wipeth a dish (2 K. xxi. 13), in accordance with a not unusual custom of Oriental conquerors actually to exhaust a land of its inhabitants175.

In this desolate condition the country remained till about the year B.C. 677, when Esarhaddon during the invasion of Judah perceived the impolicy of leaving it thus exposed, and resolved to garrison it with foreigners. Accordingly he gathered men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim (2 K. xvii. 24; comp. Ezra iv. 2, 9, 10), and entrusting them to an officer of high rank, the great and noble Asnapper, had them conveyed to the country formerly occupied by the Ten Tribes, and there settled them.

These strangers (comp. Lk. xvii. 18) from the further East176 were of course idolaters, and worshipped various deities, and knowing not the God of the land provoked Him by their heathenish rites to send lions among them, which slew some of them (2 K. xvii. 25). In their distress they applied to the king of Assyria, who sent one of the captive priests to instruct them how they should fear the Lord. Under his teaching they added the acknowledgment of Jehovah as the God of the land, to their ancient idolatries, and in course of time detached themselves more and more from heathen customs, and adopted a sort of worship of Jehovah.

Refused permission, on the return from the Captivity, to participate in the rebuilding of the Temple, they became the open enemies of the Jews, and erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim177, where they continued to worship till it was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 130. After this they built another temple at Shechem, and there, under its modern name of Nablûs, they have a settlement, consisting of about 200 persons, at the present hour.

Gradually detaching themselves from their ancient idolatries, the Samaritans adopted the Mosaic religion, but received as Scripture only the Pentateuch, rejecting every other book in the Jewish Canon. They celebrated the Passover (and celebrate it even now), on Mount Gerizim, and even after their temple had fallen, directed their worship towards that mountain. Holding the doctrine of the coming of the Messiah (Jn. iv. 25), whom they called Hashah, “the Converter178,” their conceptions of His functions and character were derived chiefly from the original promise of a Saviour (Gen. iii. 15), the Shiloh or Peace-maker predicted by Jacob (Gen. xlix. 10), and the Prophet promised to the Israelites like unto Moses (Num. xxiv. 17; Deut. xviii. 15), and they mainly expected that He would teach all things (Jn. iv. 25), and restore the glory of the holy Law on Mount Gerizim179.

The feud between the Jews and Samaritans, engendered by the refusal of the former to permit their participation in the rebuilding of the Temple, ripened into a mutual hostility of the most bitter description.

The Jews were perpetually reminding the Samaritans that they were “Cuthites,” mere “strangers from Assyria.” They loved to call them “proselytes of the lions” (2 K. xvii. 25), and to accuse them of worshipping the idol-gods buried long age under the oak of Shechem (Gen. xxxv. 4). To such an extent did they carry their dislike, that they cursed them publicly in their synagogues; declared their testimony was naught, and could not be received; affirmed that any who entertained a Samaritan in his house was laying up judgments for his children; that to eat a morsel of his fare was to eat swine’s flesh180; refused to receive him as a proselyte, and declared that he could have no part in the resurrection of the dead. Moreover they would have no dealings with them that they could possibly avoid, and in travelling from the South to the North preferred to take the long circuit through Peræa rather than pass through their hated country.

On the other hand, the Samaritans were not behind-hand in recriminations. They would refuse hospitality to the pilgrim companies going up to the feasts at Jerusalem (Comp. Lk. ix. 53), and sometimes even waylay and murder them181. On one occasion certain of them are said to have entered the Temple at Jerusalem, and defiled it by scattering on the pavement human bones182. One special mode of annoyance was frequently practised. The Jews were in the habit of communicating to their numerous brethren in Babylon, the exact day and hour of the rising of the Paschal moon, by means of a system of beacon fires, which telegraphed the welcome news from the Mount of Olives, through Auranitis, to those who sat by the waters of the Babylon. The Samaritans would, therefore, annoy the watchers on the mountain-tops by kindling a rival flame on the wrong day, and thus perplex them, and introduce confusion.


The Expectation of the Messiah.

From the earliest period of their national history the Jews had been pre-eminently “the people of the future,” and at the period we have now reached they were filled with the expectation that an extraordinary Being would appear, and prove Himself the Messiah or Deliverer. But though in the Temple of Prophecy183 there had from the beginning ever been heard two Voices mysteriously blended, one jubilant and glad, telling of victory and of triumph, the other subdued and mournful, whispering of shame and suffering, yet to one of these Voices only had attention been really paid.

The characteristics attributed by the nation to the Messiah were (iregal, and (iiprophetic.

i. Many looked for a great Conqueror, whom God would send, investing Him with the attributes of majesty and humanity, describing Him as the “Elect One,” the “Anointed,” the “Son of Man,” who should “execute a terrible vengeance on the enemies of His people,” “cleanse Jerusalem,” and exalt the Jews above all other nations184. These attributes, ascribed to the Messiah in early Jewish literature, receive illustration from the Gospel Narrative. It was the opinion of the national teachers that His coming would be heralded by Elias, and the belief was shared by the common people (Mtt. xvii. 10 and the parallels; Comp. also xvi. 14).

There was considerable uncertainty, indeed, as to the precise manner of His appearance (Jn. vii. 27), but it was fully expected that He would be born at Bethlehem, the city of David (Mtt. ii. 5; Comp. Jn. vii. 41, 42); that He would be David’s Son, and should sit on David’s throne (Mtt. xxii. 42; xii. 23; ix. 27; xx. 30; xv. 22); that He would abide for ever and set up a kingdom in which He would dispense honours on His right hand and on His left (Mtt. xx. 21; Mk. x. 37).

ii. With these regal attributes others combined prophetic functions, and looked for the Prophet that should come into the world (Comp. Jn. vi. 14; i. 21, 46; vii. 40; 1 Macc. xiv. 41), expecting that He would show “signs” not unlike the giving of the manna in the wilderness, and instruct the people in all things (Jn. iv. 25), and instead of altering or abolishing any of the Mosaic ordinances, would enhance them to a greater glory, making the sacrifices, purifications, Sabbaths, festivals, and all other usages, far more resplendent and glorious than they had ever been before. That the Messiah would ever suffer or die was an idea, from which, to the last, even the Apostles shrank with horror and amazement (Mtt. xvi. 22, 23; Lk. xxiv. 21; Jn. xx. 9).






A.U.C. 749, B.C. 5.

ABOUT the year B.C. 5, when the bloodstained reign of Herod was approaching its close, there lived in Judæa, either at the little village of Juttah, or the time-honoured city of Hebron185, an aged priest named Zacharias. His wife Elisabeth was also of the priestly family (Lk. i. 5), and both enjoyed a high reputation for piety and uprightness of life, being alike righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Lk. i. 6). One great sorrow, however, cast a deep shadow over their daily life. They were now old and well-stricken in age, but no child had ever gladdened their humble home.

In the time of Solomon the priests were divided into twenty-four “courses,” each of which served at the Temple in weekly rotation (1 Chr. xxiv. 119). Of these, four only returned from the captivity, but they were again divided into twenty-four, and received the same names as the original courses. The course, to which Zacharias belonged, was the eighth, known as that of Abiah or Abijah (1 Chr. xxiv. 10), and in process of time, in accordance with the prescribed arrangement, it devolved on him to go up to the Holy City. Of all the services at the Temple (which to avoid contention were uniformly decided by lot), none was deemed more honourable than that of entering into the Holy Place and offering incense on the Golden Altar186. This was done twice every day, before the morning and evening sacrifice, i.e. at 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. The sound of a small bell announced the priests’ entrance for this purpose, and on hearing it the Priests and Levites took up their position before the Altar of Burnt-offering, the space between the Porch and the Altar was cleared, and the people in the different courts stood and prayed in solemn silence (Rev. viii. 1) so long as he remained within the Holy Place. As soon, however, as he reappeared, they laid the sacrifice on the altar, and the Levites, amidst the full burst of the Temple music, commenced the sacred Psalmody187.

Such was the august office which now fell to the lot of Zacharias. Bearing the incense in a large vessel of gold, he entered into the Holy Place, and was kindling it on the Golden Altar, when he was accosted by an Angel standing at the right side of the Altar. This sudden apparition startled and affrighted him. But the Angel calmed his fears, and announced that the prayers he had offered to God in secret were heard. Though Elisabeth was stricken in years, she should yet become the mother of a son, who was to be named John188. From the first hour of his existence this child should be filled with the Holy Ghost, and drinking neither wine nor strong drink, in accordance with the Nazarite’s vow, should be great in the sight of the Lord. As the second Elijah, to whom the finger of prophecy had pointed (Isai. xl. 3; Mal. iii. 1), he should be the immediate forerunner of the long-expected Messiah, and make ready a people prepared for him (Lk. i. 1217).

Astounded by so sudden an announcement, the aged priest sought some assurance of the promised blessing. On this the Angel, who announced himself as no other than he that had appeared many years before to the prophet Daniel under the name of Gabriel (Dan. viii. 16; ix. 21), replied, that such an assurance would be vouchsafed, but, because of his unbelief, it should be in the shape of a judgment. He should be dumb, and not able to speak, till the day that these things should be performed (Lk. i. 20).

While Zacharias was receiving this mysterious intimation within the Sanctuary, the people189, who crowded the Temple-courts, were anxiously expecting his return, and marvelled at his unusual delay. At length he reappeared. But his strange aspect shewed that something had occurred. When questioned he could not return any answer, and intimated by signs that he had seen a vision in the Sacred Place. Then at the close of his week of ministration he returned to his own house, where, in accordance with the announcement of the Angel, Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself for five months in quiet and peaceful retirement (Lk. i. 24).

Six months after his appearance in the Temple, the same Angel was sent from God to Nazareth190, a secluded village unknown and unnamed in the Old Testament, hidden away amongst the hills of Galilee, and within the limits of the ancient tribe of Zebulun. At this village there lived a lowly Virgin named Mary, or Miriam. She belonged to the royal tribe of Judah, and the lineage of David (Lk. i. 32; Rom. i. 3), and was connected by marriage with Elisabeth (Lk. i. 27), who belonged to the tribe of Levi. Moreover, she was at this time betrothed to Joseph, who occupied a humble position as a carpenter at Nazareth, but like herself was of the lineage of David (Lk. i. 27; ii. 4).

To this lowly Virgin the Angel Gabriel now appeared, and announced that by virtue of the operation of the Holy Ghost, she should become the mother of a Son, whom she was to call Jesus191 (God the Saviour). He should be great, and should be called the Son of the Highest, should sit on the throne of His father David, and reign over the house of Jacob for ever (Lk. i. 3033). Though at first startled at the sudden address of an angelic visitant (Lk. i. 29), the Virgin received his announcement with implicit faith, and prayed that it might be with her according to his word (Lk. i. 38), and being informed of what had occurred to her relative Elisabeth, arose with haste to seek out her home amidst the Judæan hills. The journey of four or five days192 accomplished, she reached the humble abode, and had no sooner crossed the threshold, and saluted the aged wife of Zacharias, than the other addressed her as the mother of her Lord, and fully confirmed the words of the angel. Thus assured of the certainty of the mighty event about to happen, the lowly virgin, like Hannah at the birth of Samuel, burst forth into words of holy praise and exultation, and gave utterance to the inspired hymn, which under the name of the Magnificat, remains one of the most precious treasures of the Church, and the most familiar of her hymns (Lk. i. 4656).

After a sojourn of about three months with Elisabeth, Mary returned to Nazareth, and Joseph perceived that she was with child. Being a just man, he resolved on privately giving her a bill of divorcement, instead of making her a public example (Mtt. i. 19). But as in deep perplexity he pondered on these things, he too was visited by an Angel in a dream, and bidden not to be afraid to take to him Mary as his wife. That which was conceived in her was not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of the Holy Ghost, and the Son, to whom she would give birth, he was to name Jesus, for He should save His people from their sins (Mtt. i. 21).

Meanwhile the event announced in the Temple to the aged Zacharias had taken place, and Elisabeth brought forth a son. Such an event in the East is always an occasion of unbounded joy. In the present instance it would be still more so, and the relatives and neighbours of Elisabeth came together with no ordinary feelings to rejoice with her. On the eighth day, the child was brought to the priest for circumcision, and the relatives proposed that it should be named after his father, but Elisabeth demurred, and declared that it should be called John (the grace of God). Marvelling at her wishing for a name, which had no precedent in the family, they appealed by signs to the speechless Zacharias. The aged priest called for a writing tablet, and wrote His name is John, and then, while all were lost in astonishment, his mouth, which had been closed for nine months, was opened, and he too burst forth into an inspired Psalm of exultant thanksgiving, in which he acknowledged the faithfulness of God in the birth of his son, and foretold his future greatness as the forerunner of the Messiah (Lk. i. 6179).

Born as one out of due time the child grew, waxed strong in spirit (Lk. i. 80), and, in accordance with the words of the Angel, adhered steadfastly to the Nazarite vow193. Like Samson, like Samuel, no razor was suffered to come near his head. Drinking neither wine nor strong drink, he systematically denied himself all the pleasures and indulgences of ordinary life. The son of a priest, he doubtless received a strict religious education, and at some period, though when we are not told, retired to the dreary deserts west of the Dead Sea. Here, like Moses in Midian, he prepared himself by solitary communion with God for his high emprise, assumed the garb of one of the old prophets, the robe of camel’s hair fastened round the body by a leathern girdle (2 K. i. 8), and subsisted on such fare as the desert afforded, eating locusts194 and wild honey (Mtt. iii. 4).


A.U.C. 750, B.C. 4.

THE voice of Prophecy (Mic. v. 2) had declared that the Messiah should be born at Bethlehem of Judæa, a spot endeared to every Jew as the birth-place of the son of Jesse. Though Mary was now living at Nazareth, a circumstance apparently fortuitous, under the superintending hand of Divine Providence, brought about a fulfilment of the prediction.

At this particular period there was peace throughout the dominions of the Roman empire. The Temple of Janus was shut195. The fierce contests, which for so many years had been carried on with such relentless persistence, which had drenched with blood the fairest fields in the dominions of Augustus, had ceased, and the din of battles was hushed. As that monarch revolved in his mind the most suitable means for the administration of his numerous dependencies, it occurred to him that it would be well to carry out a general registration196 of all his subjects, with a view to some fixed scale of taxation. He issued, therefore, a decree that all the world, which owned his sway, should be taxed197 (Lk. ii. 1). Judæa was not indeed at this time a Roman “province,” but its reduction to that condition sooner or later was already determined198. The imperial edict, therefore, declaring the will of his master was placed in the hands of the Idumæan Herod as in those of other rulers, and he would naturally ordain that while the Roman orders were obeyed, the customs and traditions of the country should not be entirely overridden199.

Toilsome, therefore, as was the journey, and not altogether free from danger, the Virgin left the place of her usual abode, and set out for the village of Bethlehem accompanied by Joseph. This he would have done as her natural protector, but the Jewish law required his presence in the town of his forefathers, because he, like Mary, was of the house and lineage of David (Lk. ii. 4)200. Accordingly, in the society, probably, of others bound on the same errand as themselves, they proceeded on their southward journey, either through Samaria or across the Jordan through Peræa201, and after probably visiting and passing through Jerusalem, surmounted the long ascent leading to the village of Bethlehem, and sought shelter in the inn or khan, which the inhabitants had provided for the reception of strangers.

But they had reached it too late. Every guest-chamber was already full, and crowded with strangers, who, like themselves, had come up to be taxed. They were constrained, therefore, to seek shelter amongst the cattle and beasts of burden of the wayfarers, and so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that the lowly Virgin should be delivered, and she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in one of the mangers by her side (Lk. ii. 6, 7).

Such was the first Advent of the Saviour “in great humility.” Thus did He who was with the Father before all worlds, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made (Jn. i. 13), deign to take upon Him our nature. Unimportant, however, as appeared the event that had just taken place in that crowded inn, unknown to the Idumæan Herod, unknown to his imperial master in the City of the Cæsars, signs were not wanting that it had moved all heaven to its centre, and was there hailed with rapturous acclaim. On the bleak downs of Bethlehem shepherds were that night keeping watch over their flocks, when suddenly there came upon them a light brighter than the brightest of the countless stars that spangled the midnight sky, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them (Lk. ii. 9). Sore afraid, they would have fled in dismay. But a Voice came to them which calmed their fears. An Angel addressed them, and announced the Glad Tidings that in the city of David had that day been born to them a Saviour, even Christ the Lord, whom they would find wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (Lk. ii. 11, 12). He ceased, and then a multitude of the heavenly host brake the silence of the night, and sang Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace, Goodwill towards men. Such an announcement roused all the wonder of the simple, humble men who heard it. Hastily leaving their flocks they repaired to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger, and recounted all that they had heard from the heavenly visitants concerning the Child. Great was the astonishment of those who listened to their tale, but the holy Virgin treasured their words in her heart, and the shepherds returned to their lowly occupation, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard (Lk. ii. 1620).

Born under the Law (Gal. iv. 4) the Saviour was to submit to all its ordinances. Accordingly on the eighth day after His birth He was circumcised, like any other Jewish child, and received the name of Jesus. Moreover on the fortieth day after His birth, the Virgin repaired to the Temple, and presented her humble offering of a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons (Lev. xii. 2, 6, 8), according to the law of her purification. Without pomp or earthly circumstance, the infant Saviour, the Messenger of the Covenant, came to His temple (Mal. iii. 1), and might have left it equally unnoticed. But two humble worshippers, who had long been waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk. ii. 25), recognized “in helpless infancy and clad in mortal flesh” the long-expected Messiah.

There was living at Jerusalem a just and devout man named Symeon. Though far advanced in years, he had received divine intimation that he should not see death till his eyes had rested on the Lord’s Christ. He was now present at the national sanctuary, when His parents brought in the Child to do for Him after the custom of the Law (Lk. ii. 27), and no sooner did he behold the Child, than he saw that the long-promised hour was come. He took Him up in his arms, and blessed God that at length his eyes had been permitted to see His Salvation, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of His people Israel (Lk. ii. 32). Then while Joseph and Mary were marvelling at his words, the aged seer, already on the verge of the eternal world, blessed them also, and addressing the Virgin Mother declared that her Child was appointed for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and that a sword should in days to come pierce through her own heart. At the same time there came forward an aged woman, a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel. Seven years had she lived with her husband after quitting her maiden state, and since his death had remained in widowhood upwards of 84 years. Though the territories of the tribe of Asher, to which she belonged (Lk. ii. 36), were at a great distance from the Holy City, yet there she had taken up her abode, and was constant in every act of worship and in her attendance at every sacred service. She too drew near while the Holy Child was being brought into His Father’s house, and, like the aged Symeon, gave thanks to God, and spake of Him to all those that were looking for redemption in Jerusalem (Lk. ii. 38).

But as she was thus proclaiming to the faithful in the Holy City the Advent of their King, pilgrims and worshippers were drawing near from far different and far distant lands. A short time after Joseph and Mary had returned to Bethlehem, there appeared certain travel-stained pilgrims, whose arrival stirred Jerusalem to its very centre. In their native home in Arabia or Persia, their attention had been directed to a luminous body in the sky, which had guided them to Palestine, and they now enquired where was He that was born King of the Jews202, and declared that they had seen His star in the East, and had come to worship Him. The arrival of these Magi203, as they were called in their own land, was quickly announced to Herod, and the enquiry respecting an hereditary King of the Jews roused the alarm and suspicion of one so jealous for the integrity of his own dynasty204. Hastily convening a formal assembly of the Chief Priests and Scribes, he enquired where, according to the prophetical books, the long-expected Messiah was to be born. Without the least hesitation they pointed to the words of the prophet Micah (v. 2), which declared Bethlehem in Judæa to be the favoured place. On this the monarch sought a private interview with the Magi (Mtt. ii. 7), and made diligent enquiries respecting the time of the appearance of the Star, and then bade them repair to Bethlehem and seek diligently for the young Child, declaring his intention, if they found Him, to come himself and lay his honours at the feet of the heir of David’s throne.

Thus advised the Magi set out, when lo! the Star, which they had seen in their far-off eastern home appeared before them, and guided their feet to the lowly abode where lay the object of their search. With great joy (Mtt. ii. 10) they entered the house, and seeing the young child and Mary His mother fell down and worshipped Him, and opening their treasures brought forth costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh205. Then warned in a dream not to return to the perfidious tyrant, they made their way to their own land by another route. Thus He, who had been “manifested” to the shepherds, to the faithful Symeon and Anna, was manifested also to these His first Gentile worshippers from the distant East.

But that same night Joseph was also warned in a dream, of peril awaiting the young Child. Herod was watching his opportunity to put Him to death, and it was necessary that he should fly. So Joseph arose, and taking the Infant and His mother, went down into Egypt, where He and they were to remain till they received further intimations respecting their course.

Their departure had not been too soon. Perceiving that the strange visitors to his capital had not returned, and that his design against the young Child’s life had been frustrated, with a reckless ferocity, which, we have seen, he too often displayed, Herod sent and slew every male child in Bethlehem from two years old and under, to make sure that he had included the Object of his terrible vengeance. His cruel edict was carried out, and filled many a home in Bethlehem with sorrow and mourning206. The voice of lamentation and weeping arose in Ramah, of which an inspired Prophet (Jer. xxxi. 15) had spoken 400 years before, and which the Jewish historian Josephus does not record, even if he knew of it, as though it was a matter of little moment compared with other atrocities207 of the same monarch, who could butcher on one occasion well-nigh every member of the Sanhedrin208, and on the very eve of his death meditate the wholesale slaughter of the chiefs of the Jews in the Hippodrome209 at Jericho.


B.C. 4A.D. 27.

THIS ferocious action was one of the last crimes in the bloodthirsty career of this guilty monarch. Very shortly afterwards he died under circumstances already related210 at Jericho A.U.C 750. This event was made known to Joseph by an Angel in a dream (Mtt. ii. 19), and he was bidden to arise and return with the young Child and His mother into the land of Israel. Accordingly he set out, but hearing that the tyrant’s son Archelaus211, who enjoyed a reputation worthy of his father, was reigning in his stead, he was afraid to continue his journey, and was only encouraged to proceed by another supernatural intimation. The place whither he was to go had not before been distinctly specified, and he might have supposed that Bethlehem, the city of David, was the proper place to rear the Son of David, so near to Jerusalem, the most religious, the most sacred part of Palestine212. But now he was directed to repair to the safer obscurity of his former residence in Galilee, and accordingly went down from the highlands of Judæa to Nazareth, and there the Holy Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him (Lk. ii. 40).

From this time till the commencement of His public ministry a thick veil conceals from us all details of the Saviour’s life. The Evangelists pass this period by with a solemn reserve. One event, and one only, emerges from the obscurity that enshrouds it.

It was the custom of Joseph, and even of Mary213, to go up year after year to attend the celebration of the great festival of the Passover at Jerusalem (Lk. ii. 41). When He had attained the age of twelve years, A.U.C. 762, the Holy Child accompanied them, having attained to that period of life when Jewish children were required to attend the feasts and began to be instructed in the Law. At the close of the Festival, and probably on the eighth day, His parents, in company with other pilgrims (Lk. ii. 44), set out on their return to Galilee. On reaching, however, their resting-place on the first evening214, they found their Son was missing, and, full of trouble and anxiety, returned a day’s journey, and sought Him amongst their kinsfolk and acquaintance, and the travelling companies hastening homewards from the Holy City. But they found Him not. Still another day was spent in searching for Him in the city itself, but with the same result. At length on the third day215 they found Him in the precincts of the Temple, probably in one of the chambers where the Rabbis were wont to give instruction during the festivals216, sitting in the midst of learned Masters of Israel, not only listening to their words, but asking them questions. While all present were marvelling at the understanding He displayed, His parents drew near, and were amazed to find their Son in the midst of so august an assemblage, and the holy Mother expostulated with Him on the anxiety His absence had caused. To this He replied in artless but mysterious words, How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business? proving that even already He was aware of His heavenly origin. Then, while they understood not the saying, which nevertheless His Mother kept and treasured in her heart, He went down with them to the lowly home in despised Galilee. There in meek subjection He abode beneath their humble roof, and probably shared217 in His reputed father’s earthly labours, growing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man (Lk. ii. 52; Mk. vi. 3).

While thus in silence and seclusion the Holy One was advancing towards man’s estate, great changes were taking place in the fortunes of the Jewish nation, which now demand our attention.

After the death of Herod some considerable delay took place before the confirmation of his will by Augustus arrived from Rome, and Jerusalem was the scene of tumult and violence. At length that emperor was pleased to announce his approval, and Archelaus was appointed to the government of Judæa218, Idumæa, and Samaria, with the title of ethnarch; Herod Antipas obtained Galilee219 and Peræa220; Herod Philip, Auranitis221, Gaulanitis222, Trachonitis223, Batanæa224 and Ituræa225; while Salome was declared mistress of Jamnia, Azotus, and Phasaëlis, with a palace at Askelon and a revenue of 60 talents226. The emperor promised to Archelaus the title of king, if he proved worthy of it. But his government was marked by such gross cruelty and injustice both towards the Jews and Samaritans that complaints were lodged against him before the emperor. After a reign, therefore, of nine years he was summoned to Rome, and his cause having been formally heard, sentenced to be banished to Vienne in Gaul227, and to forfeit his estates228, A.D. 6.

And now in truth the sceptre departed from Judah (Gen. xlix. 10), and the kingdom of David and Solomon, of the famous Asmonean house and of Herod, sank into the form of a Roman province229, and was annexed to the prefecture of Syria. This office was now conferred on P. Sulpicius Quirinus, but the immediate government of Judæa and Samaria was given to a procurator, Coponius230, a man of equestrian rank, who had a body231 of troops at his command, and was entrusted in certain cases with the power of life and death232.

Quirinus, as we have seen above233, had in all probability been already governor of Syria, and in this capacity had conducted the preliminary enrolment of names preparatory to a general census. This census he was now entrusted to carry out234, and with it a levying of imposts and rates in money. This was regarded by the Jews as the last and most degrading mark of their subjection to a foreign power. The whole country was in a ferment, and though the energy of the high-priest Joazar235 repressed any actual outbreak at Jerusalem, the popular feeling could not be restrained in the provinces. At the head of the disaffected appeared one Judas of Gamala236 in Gaulanitis.

A man of energy, eloquence, and undaunted courage, he quickly gathered around him a body of adventurers, and aided by a confederate Sadoc, of the Pharisaic faction, unfurled the banner of resistance to foreign dominion, and especially to foreign tribute. For a time the country was at the mercy of the fierce and lawless throng, which flocked to his standard, but the effort was utterly fruitless. Nothing could withstand the terrible Roman legions; Judas himself was slain (Acts v. 37), and his followers were dispersed, but his work lived after him, and the Zealots and Sicarii or Assassins, who drank deeply of his fierce and independent spirit, long kept alive the popular discontent under a foreign sway.

Having completed the confiscation of the property of Archelaus, Quirinus deposed Joazar from the high-priesthood, and substituted in his place Annas, the son of Seth237, the ablest friend of Rome. He then returned to Syria, and Coponius having planted a small garrison on Zion and a guard at the Temple-gate, took up his abode at Cæsarea on the sea.

So long as Augustus filled the imperial throne the procurators in Judæa held their commands for a very limited number of years, and were rapidly changed. Thus Coponius, whose supremacy began in A.D. 6, was succeeded after four years, in A.D. 10, by Marcus Ambivius238. In three years Marcus Ambivius handed over the reins of power to Annius Rufus, who in the following year made way for Valerius Gratus. But in A.D. 14 Augustus died, and Tiberius resolved that such rapid changes should be discontinued239. Gratus, therefore, held his command till A.D. 26. He deposed the high-priest Annas, and set up Ishmael, son of Phabi, but a furious uproar ensuing he deposed Ishmael, and elevated Eleazar, a son of Annas, to the pontificate, permitting the latter, under the name of Sagan, or deputy, to discharge the spiritual functions of his office and conduct the ceremonial rites. But this appointment was of no long duration. Deeming Annas to possess too much influence the procurator deposed Eleazar, and set up Simon, son of Kamith, who held the office for less than a year, and then made way for Joseph Caiaphas, the Sagan’s son-in law240. These rapid changes shew how entirely the high-priesthood was at this time at the mercy of the Roman governors.

Valerius Gratus was succeeded in A.D. 26241 by Pontius Pilate242. He brought with him his wife, and a Roman household, established himself at Cæsarea, but repaired oftener than any of his predecessors to Jerusalem. Resolved to keep on good terms with the noble families, and to unite with himself as many as possible who were likely to help him to preserve the public peace, he suffered the Jewish priests to manage their own affairs. So Annas remained Sagan, and Caiaphas high-priest.

But one of his first acts roused the furious animosity of his new subjects. He resolved to transport the head-quarters of the army from Cæsarea to Jerusalem. With the soldiers, followed, as a matter of course, the standards, bearing the image of Cæsar; but as they were introduced in the night-time they did not at first attract attention243. No sooner, however, was the fact observed, than there were no bounds to the rage of the people. They resorted in crowds to his residence at Cæsarea, and besought him to remove the obnoxious emblems. For five days they beset his palace, and at length he gave the signal to his troops to put them to death, unless they desisted from troubling him. Thereupon the petitioners flung themselves upon the ground, and declared their willingness to meet death in any shape, rather than see their city polluted with heathen symbols. Their undaunted bearing had its effect. The procurator deemed it best to concede the point, and the standards were brought back to Cæsarea.

In spite, however, of this warning, he on another occasion had a clear proof of the refractory spirit of the people. Anxious to signalise his reign in Judæa by erecting a noble aqueduct, which was to bring a supply of water to the city from a distance of twenty-five miles, and wanting funds, he appropriated the Corban244, or the money laid up in the Temple and dedicated to God. This act roused the Jews to madness. They gathered in thousands and tens of thousands before his palace-gates, obstructed the works, and demanded that the sacred treasures should be restored245. Resolved not to be thwarted, Pilate ordered a company of the legionaries, carrying daggers under their garments, to surround and disperse them. The soldiers carried out his orders with greater cruelty than he had intended, charged the rioters, chased them into the Temple-courts, slew great numbers, and wounded many more, so that their blood was mingled with the blood of the victims on the altar.

Such was the man who now presided over the province of Judæa. Under his rule, and that of his predecessors, the Roman yoke cut more and more deeply into the heart of the nation. Finding no hope from their own chiefs, who all sided with the Romans, the people prayed with increased earnestness that the Messiah, the Deliverer, would come. The Galilæans in the North, the Separatists in the South waxed hotter and hotter in their hatred of their heathen rulers246. Many claiming the title of Messiah appeared, and gathered numbers of excited followers. But their careers were soon cut short, and they were swept away before the Roman legions.

But before Pilate had been many months in power, all Jerusalem and Judæa was roused by the appearance of a strange Preacher on the banks of the Jordan247, announcing the advent of a very different Messiah from that expected by the nation, and the speedy establishment of a kingdom not of earth but of heaven.

to illustrate
of the successive divisions of the Holy Land mentioned in the New Testament after the death of Herod the Great.

London and New York: Macmillan & Co.
Stanford’s Geograph.l Estab.t




A.U.C. 780, A.D. 27.

THE strange Preacher was none other than John, the son of Zacharias. Recalling in his garb and appearance one of the Prophets of the Old Testament, he now came forth from his retirement, and straightway commenced his task of preparing the way for the Messiah. The wilderness of Judæa (Mtt. iii. 1), that is the dry and unpeopled region extending from the gates of Hebron and Jerusalem to the shores of the Dead Sea, was the first scene of his ministration. Thence he moved northwards towards the Jordan, and at Bethabara, or rather Bethany248, administered the rite of baptism in its rushing waters to all who were willing to receive it.

The news of his appearance quickly spread throughout the length and breadth of the land. From Jerusalem, the towns of Judæa, and the Jordan valley, multitudes flocked forth to hear him (Mtt. iii. 5; Mk. i. 5). The river’s banks became like the streets of a crowded city. Pharisees and Sadducees (Mtt. iii. 7), tax-gatherers (Lk. iii. 12), and soldiers (Lk. iii. 14), rich and poor, gathered around him and listened to his burning words. No temporal Messiah did he proclaim, no king higher than the Cæsars, no rising against the Roman yoke. Personal repentance, personal reformation, this was his message. To all alike his language was bold, severe, uncompromising. The chiefs of the great religious parties approached him, and were bidden to abjure all trust in mere descent from Abraham (Mtt. iii. 9), to bring forth fruits worthy of the repentance they professed, and to flee from the wrath to come. The multitudes groaning under the Roman dominion drew near, and enquired what they should do in view of the great crisis he proclaimed to be at hand, and were bidden to cultivate mutual charity (Lk. iii. 11). The tax-gatherers offered themselves for baptism, and were told that there was room for them, if they would practise justice (Lk. iii. 12). Rough, and too often brutal, soldiers enquired what they should do, and they too were not rejected, but exhorted to abstain from violence and pillage, and to be content with their wages (Lk. iii. 14).

With a boldness hitherto unparalleled, save in the teaching of the sternest of the prophets of the Old Covenant, the son of Zacharias declared the whole nation to be spiritually unclean. The baptism, which the Jewish teachers required of all who would be admitted as proselytes from heathenism249, he demanded of the elect nation itself, of high and low, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, if they would be prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The axe, he cried, lay at the root of the trees, and EVERY tree which brought not forth good fruit would be hewn down and cast into the fire (Mtt. iii. 10).

Great were the searchings of heart caused by the appearance of this strange Preacher, and the utterances of this Voice crying in the wilderness (Lk. iii. 15). Some thought he was the Messiah, the hope of Israel; others Elias; others the Prophet of whom Moses had spoken. John replied he was none of these. He was only preparing the way for Another. He, indeed, baptized with water unto repentance, but One was at hand far mightier than himself, the latchet of whose shoes he was not worthy to bear250, He should baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. His winnowing fan was in His hand, and He would throughly purge His floor, gathering the wheat into His garner, but burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Lk. iii. 1618).

The impression thus made upon the people was profound. How long the Baptist continued his work of preparation we are not told251. But at length, even as he declared, the Messiah appeared, and commenced His public ministry. Leaving the home of His childhood in retired Nazareth (Mtt. iii. 13; Mk. i. 9), probably about the close of the year A.D. 27, Jesus advanced southward towards the Jordan Valley. Either at the northern ford of Succoth or the more southern one east of Jericho, He found His great Forerunner, and desired to be baptized by him. The Baptist, who had hitherto rebuked without distinction the sins of all classes and all grades, was deeply moved by the request. With an instinctive conviction of the immaculate purity of Him, whose advent he had announced, he sought to prevent252 Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me? (Mtt. iii. 14). But his objection was overruled. Suffer it to be so now, replied the Holy One; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (Mtt. iii. 15). Then at length the Baptist consented, and when all the people had been baptized (Lk. iii. 21), descended with Him into the river, and administered the initiatory rite, after which the Redeemer ascended from the water, and was engaged in solemn prayer (Lk. iii. 21), when the heavens were opened, and in an embodied form, like unto a Dove, the Holy Spirit descended, and abode upon Him. But this was not all, for at the same time there came a Voice from heaven, saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mtt. iii. 16, 17; Lk. iii. 22; Mk. i. 11).

Thus in the presence of His Forerunner, the Divine nature of the Messiah was attested, and His work of Redemption inaugurated. He had come to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. iii. 8), His very first work, therefore, was to enter on a conflict with the great Enemy of mankind. Full of the Holy Ghost, He was led up by the motions of that Spirit (Mtt. iv. 1), either into the wilderness of Judæa, or the lonely desert mountains east of the Jordan253, to be tempted by the devil (Mtt. iv. 1; Mk. i. 12). For forty days and forty nights He remained amidst the thickets and caverns of that dreary region, abounding in fierce and savage beasts (Mk. i. 13), and during all this period He had nothing to eat.

At length, when hunger had weakened the energies of the body, the Tempter approached, and suggested that if He was in truth the Son of God, He should command the stones that lay around to become bread. But the Holy One detected at once the subtle insinuation to mistrust His heavenly Father’s power, and in the words of Scripture (Deut. viii. 3) replied, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Mtt. iv. 4; Lk. iv. 4).

Foiled in his attempt to induce the Redeemer by a selfish display of power to satisfy the wants of the body, the Tempter now sought by another avenue to achieve a victory over Him. Taking Him up to an exceeding high mountain, he displayed before His eyes in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and the glories of them, promising to place all in His power, if He would only fall down and worship him. But this temptation also the Holy One repelled. Falling back a second time on the revealed Word, and the same portion of it (Deut. vi. 13), He replied, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.

But yet again the Evil One renewed his attack. Taking the Redeemer into the Holy City, he placed Him on the lofty pinnacle, the topmost ridge of the South side of the Temple, and bade Him, if He were the Son of God, vindicate His eternal nature, cast Himself down, and thus display by one dazzling exhibition of power His relation to the Supreme, and confirm His Messianic claims. But he was no more successful than before. The Redeemer saw through his wiles, and the sophistry wherewith he sought to support his demand by quoting the language of the Psalmist (Ps. xci. 11), He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. For the third time He had recourse to the written Word, and for the third time referring to the same portion of it (Deut. vi. 16), made answer, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

With this last assault the Temptation was ended. Where the first Adam had fallen, the second Adam had triumphed, nor swerved for a moment from the path of strictest obedience to the will of His Father in Heaven. The Devil now left Him for a season (Lk. iv. 13), or rather till a more convenient occasion for renewing his attempt, and angels came and ministered unto Him, who had already proved Himself “more than conqueror” over the crafts and assaults of the Wicked One.


A.D. 27.

SUSTAINED by the ministries of these blessed spirits the Saviour returned towards the Jordan Valley, and drew near the ford of Bethabara or Bethany (Jn. i. 28). Here again He met the Baptist, who was still prosecuting his work, and baptizing the multitudes who flocked around him. Such was the effect produced by his preaching, that the rulers at Jerusalem determined to interpose, and the day before a formal deputation had waited upon him to enquire whether he was the Messiah, or Elias, or the prophet predicted by Moses (Jn. i. 21). Again he declared that he had no pretensions to such a dignity, that he was but the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, and preparing the way of the Messiah, of One infinitely mightier than himself, the very latchet of whose shoe he was unworthy to unloose.

But now, lifting up his eyes, he beheld Him to whom he had borne such faithful testimony (Jn. i. 29), and addressing Him as the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, repeated his solemn and assured conviction of His Divine nature (Jn. i. 3034). Again, the day following, as he was standing in the company of two of His disciples, he beheld the Redeemer, and in their hearing pointed Him out under the same impressive title. On this occasion his words were not without their effect. The two disciples, one of whom was Andrew, a native of Bethsaida (Jn. i. 41), and the other, in all probability, the Evangelist St John, were so powerfully affected by them, that, drawn as it were by a powerful magnet, they left the Baptist and followed Jesus (Jn. i. 37).

The Redeemer perceived them following Him, and enquired what they sought? Rabbi, where dwellest Thou? was their reply. He mercifully bade them come and see, and they went and abode with Him for the rest of that day (Jn. i. 39), and resolved to follow Him. Others soon followed their example. Andrew went in quest of his own brother Simon, and declaring that the true Messiah had been found brought him to Jesus, who named him Cephas or Peter, the Rock-man. The day following, the Saviour set out in the direction of Galilee, and finding Philip, a native, like Andrew and Peter, of Bethsaida, bade him join their company. Philip obeyed, and falling in with Nathanael254, the son of Tolmai, a native of Cana in Galilee (Jn. xxi. 2), announced that He, of whom Moses and the Prophets had written, had been discovered in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph. Though a native of Galilee, Nathanael could not at first believe that any good could come out of a town which enjoyed so low a reputation as Nazareth. But his friend bade him come and judge for himself. He obeyed, and was drawing near the Holy One, when he heard His declaration that he was an Israelite indeed in whom was no guile (Jn. i. 48). So little was Nathanael prepared for such words of praise, that he could not refrain from enquiring how he had become known to Jesus. Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree255, answered the Holy One. The reply convinced the other that One from whom no secrets were hid could be no ordinary Being. Rabbi, said he, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel, and was enrolled in the number of his new Master’s followers.

On the third day after His departure towards Galilee, the Saviour with His five disciples reached the little village of Cana256, situated no great distance from Nazareth. Here a marriage-feast was about to be celebrated, at which the Virgin was present, and the Holy One with His new found followers was invited as well. Their presence appears to have increased beyond expectation the number of the guests, and to have rendered the provision made for their entertainment insufficient. When, therefore, they wanted wine, the mother of the Saviour directed His attention to the fact. Whatever was the precise meaning she herself attached to her words, they drew down upon her a slight rebuke. Woman, was His reply, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. But as though these words concealed a real granting of her request, she bade the servants execute any command He might give, and the issue justified her expectations (Jn. ii. 25).

In the apartment, where the feast was proceeding, were placed, for the sake of the frequent lustrations of the Jews, six large waterpots of water, containing as much as two or three firkins a-piece. These the Saviour commanded the servants to fill with water. And on their filling them up to the brim, bade them draw out and bear to the master of the feast, i.e. either one of the guests set over the banquet by general consent of the guests, or a chief attendant who ordered the course of the feast, and superintended the ministrations of the inferior servants. He tasted the water now converted into wine, and knowing not whence it was, remarked that men usually set forth good wine at the beginning of the feast, and afterwards that which was worse, but He had kept the good wine until then (Jn. ii. 10).

Unobtrusively, however, as it had been wrought, the reality of this first miracle could not escape the notice of the guests. The glory of the Saviour hitherto hidden was now manifested, and the faith of the disciples in their new-found Master was confirmed. The marriage festivities of the Jews usually lasted six or seven days, and at the close of this period with His mother, His brethren, and His five disciples (Jn. ii. 12), the Saviour went down to Capernaum257 on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret. The Passover was now nigh at hand, and Capernaum would afford a convenient point for joining the pilgrim companies going up to Jerusalem258, and there He abode a few days (Jn. ii. 12), engaging, probably, in private intercourse with His disciples, rather than any public ministrations in the city.


A.D. 28.

AFTER a stay of not many days at Capernaum (Jn. ii. 12) the Redeemer and His five disciples turned their steps southward towards Jerusalem, to celebrate the first Passover of His public ministry (Jn. ii. 13).

Strange and full of deep significance was the scene which the Holy City presented at this season. The streets were filled with multitudes of Jews and proselytes, who had come up from all quarters of the world to celebrate the Feast. The hills around were whitened with countless flocks of lambs259 and kids. The gates, especially the Sheep-gate, were choked with moving masses of helpless victims ready to be examined by the priests, and on being pronounced free from blemish, to be selected by each Paschal company for their Paschal meal.

In the midst of a moving scene like this He, who had been already pointed out as the Lamb of God, entered the city. Repairing to the Temple, He was confronted, probably in the Court of the Gentiles, with a scene of desecration, which called forth the first260 display of holy zeal for the dwelling-place of Him, whom He had already declared to be His Father (Lk. ii. 49). For the convenience of Jews and proselytes residing at a distance from the Holy City, a kind of market had been established in the outer court, and here sacrificial victims, incense, oil, wine, and other things necessary for the service and the sacrifices, were to be obtained. The common money, moreover, circulated in foreign countries not being receivable within the Temple, the money-changers had set up their tables in the same locality, to exchange all common and foreign coins for the sacred shekel, alone current in the Temple precincts. But together with the money-changing other business had gradually crept in, and in place of the order and decorum that ought to have reigned there, the noisy huckstering of merchants and traders disturbed the devotions of the worshippers, and converted the Sanctuary of the most High into the likeness of a wrangling mart.

Such was the scene that presented itself to the Saviour in the courts of His Father’s House. As soon as His eye had rested upon it, He made a scourge of small cords (Jn. ii. 15), and with this simple weapon, singly and alone, drove forth the sheep and oxen. Then overthrowing the tables of the money-changers, He poured out their unholy gains, and with a voice of conscious authority bade even those who sold doves, to take those things thence, nor make His Father’s house a house of merchandise. Awed by His words and His calm majesty, the desecrators left the scene of their unholy traffic, while others wondering at an act, which legally could only be performed by one of the Sanhedrin or a prophet, approached Him and requested a sign, the performance of some miracle or prodigy, in attestation of His right to do these things261 (Jn. ii. 18).

Thus challenged the Holy One did not withhold a “sign.” With that majestic calmness, which ever distinguished Him, but without a single word of comment or explanation, He said, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Perplexed and confounded the Jews replied, Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou raise it up in three days? But to their enquiry no answer was vouchsafed. They had asked for a “sign,” and a “sign” had been given, but in the shape of a “parable,” a “dark saying,” which they never forgot262, and which, though not understood by the disciples at the time, was afterwards revealed to them in all its deep meaning (Jn. ii. 21, 22).

But another incident was to render this Passover forever memorable. During His stay at Jerusalem (Jn. ii. 23) the Saviour wrought signs and wonders, which stirred the hearts of those who witnessed them, and caused many to believe on His Name. But their faith sprang from imperfect motives, and He, who knew what was in man, would not entrust Himself to them, or unveil the mysteries of His kingdom. Still even thus early there was one to whom He could more nearly reveal Himself.

One of the members of the Sanhedrin263 at this time was a Pharisee, named Nicodemus, who had probably heard of the marvellous incident, which had so lately occurred in the Temple-courts, and had witnessed one or more of the mighty works, which the Stranger from Nazareth had wrought. Convinced that He could be no ordinary person, that unassisted by Divine Power He could not perform such signs and wonders, he had resolved, in spite of his position, in spite of the risk he ran, in spite of the natural prejudice against so obscure a teacher, to go himself and ascertain who and what He was.

Under cover of night, therefore, he sought out the Saviour, who not only graciously received him, but unfolded to him the mystery of a birth, not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of water and of the Holy Spirit (Jn. iii. 58). And when the wondering ruler enquired how could these things be, He went on to hint at a still deeper mystery, and to intimate the true purport of the coming of the Son of Man, the Messiah, whom he and the nation expected. As Moses, that Moses whose writings he studied and expounded, lifted up the serpent in the wilderness264, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn. iii. 1216). How far the Jewish ruler entered into the meaning of this mysterious intimation, so entirely opposed to all that was expected by his nation of their Messiah, and how far it served to stimulate him to still deeper enquiries into the Law and the Prophets, we are not told. Certain, however, it is that he was not entirely alienated from the new Teacher, and we shall find at a later period that he, who thus came to Jesus by night, lived to plead for Him in open day before the council of the nation (Jn. vii. 50, 51), and to do honour to His crucified body, when all the Apostles had forsaken Him and fled (Jn. xix. 39).




A.D. 28.

THE private interview with Nicodemus just related appears to have closed the occurrences at this first eventful Passover. When the pilgrim-companies broke up each for their own homes, the Saviour repaired with His more immediate followers to the north-eastern parts of Judæa near the Jordan. Here He too administered the rite of baptism by the hands of His disciples (Jn. iii. 22; iv. 2), and quickly drew around Him so great a number of followers, that the adherents of the Baptist began to find a sensible decrease in the multitude that flocked around their master.

Repairing, therefore, to him at Ænon265 near Salim266, where he was baptizing, they drew his attention to the fact that He, to whom he had borne witness, was also baptizing, and all men were flocking to Him. But John knew nothing of the mortification of his followers. With a true greatness of soul far exalted above their wounded feelings, he asserted in the most emphatic manner that his position was only secondary with that of the Prophet of Nazareth. He must decrease, but the Other would increase, for He was the Bridegroom and had the Bride. He himself was but the friend of the Bridegroom, and rejoiced to hear His voice, and was satisfied with that measure of joy (Jn. iii. 2932).

This was the last public testimony of the Baptist to the exalted nature of the Saviour’s person and work. His own career was rapidly drawing to a close. The place where he was baptizing was close to the dominions of Herod-Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Peræa. This monarch had been married by his father to the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia Petræa, but becoming acquainted at Rome with Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod-Philip, he made overtures of marriage to her, which were accepted, on condition that he divorced the daughter of Aretas267. But the facts becoming known to the latter, she fled to her father’s court, who forthwith assembled an army to avenge her wrongs, and punish her guilty husband. The contest waxed hot on the frontier of Herod’s dominions, and it was, not improbably, on his way to confront his father-in-law, when he first encountered the Baptist. If he had hoped to escape the censure of one, whose influence with all classes was unbounded, he was utterly deceived. The Baptist was no reed shaken by the wind (Lk. vii. 24). Boldly, straight-forwardly, he not only rebuked the king for his notorious offences (Lk. iii. 19), but denounced the royal incest, and declared the marriage unlawful (Mtt. xiv. 4; Mk. vi. 18). Such an outspoken reproof from one, whom all reverenced as a prophet, the monarch could not forgive, and therefore flung the bold preacher into prison, probably in the gloomy castle of Machærus, which his father had built on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea to overawe the wild Arab tribes268.

The imprisonment of His great forerunner was announced to the Saviour at a time when He was also aware that the results of His ministry had roused the jealousy of the Pharisees (Jn. iv. 1). Accordingly, He left Judæa, and prepared to return by the shortest route through Samaria to the hills of Galilee (Jn. iv. 3, 4). It was now late in December, four months from the harvest269 (Jn. iv. 35), when He thus set out with His disciples, and reaching the well near Shechem270, which Jacob had built in the parcel of ground he gave to his son Joseph, He sat upon it, weary with travel, for it was the sixth hour, the sultry hour of noon271.

As He sat there alone, for His disciples had gone to the neighbouring town to purchase provisions, a woman of Samaria approached with her pitcher on her head, and the Saviour requested of her water to quench His thirst. Astounded that such a request should be made to her by a Jew, she enquired how He could thus address a Samaritan, with whom it was not lawful to have any dealings272? On this, drawing, as was ever His wont, similitudes from present circumstances, He excited her wonder by telling her of living waters at His command springing up unto everlasting life (Jn. iv. 10, 14), and increased it by revealing His acquaintance with the secret of her life, for she was living in adultery (Jn. iv. 18). Roused by this proof of superhuman knowledge to the fact that she was in the presence of no ordinary Being, she instantly sought to change the subject, and pointing to the slopes of Gerizim273 near at hand, remarked that her fathers worshipped on that mountain, while the Jews affirmed that in Jerusalem was the place where men ought to worship. Thereupon the Saviour assured her that an hour was at hand, when neither on Gerizim nor yet at Jerusalem would men worship the Father; the Samaritans worshipped they knew not what; the Jews worshipped that which they knew, for of them was salvation; but a time was coming when the true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The astonished woman replied that this might be, when Messiah came, for He could teach them all things (Jn. iv. 25), and then heard from the Speaker’s own lips the first clear and distinct announcement that He was the long-expected Messiah (Jn. iv. 26)274.

At this juncture the disciples returned with the provisions they had bought, and marvelled that their Master talked with one of the hateful race, but ventured on no open expostulation. Meanwhile the woman herself had returned to the town, and bade the inhabitants come and see One, who had told her all that ever she did, and could be no other than the Messiah (Jn. iv. 28, 29). Accordingly the townsfolk came forth to see the Saviour, and requested Him to abide with them, which He did, staying amongst them two days, during which period, the number, which had learned to believe on Him on account of the woman’s testimony to His Omniscience, was increased by many others, who, listening to His own gracious words, were convinced that He was indeed the Saviour of the world274 (Jn. iv. 42).

Thus to a woman of Samaria He, whose meat it was to do the will of Him that sent Him and to finish His work (Jn. iv. 34), revealed Himself as the true Messiah, and she became the first herald of the Gospel, the firstfruits of a harvest now sown and to be afterwards reaped by Philip the Deacon (Jn. iv. 38; Acts viii. 5; &c.).


A.D. 29.

AFTER this stay in Samaria the Saviour returned to Galilee. Thither had gone before Him the fame of the miracles He had wrought at Jerusalem, reported by those Galilæans who had returned from the Passover (Jn. iv. 45), and this was now confirmed by a second miracle wrought at Cana.

While staying in this little village, He was visited by a nobleman, or officer of state275, not improbably in the service of Herod-Antipas, who besought him to go down to Capernaum, and heal his son who was lying at the point of death. Though he was clearly unable to conceive of any cure, save through the Lord’s bodily presence, and was urgent that He should come down to Capernaum, the Holy One sent him away with the assurance that his son was alive. Contented with this word, the father returned, and on the morrow was met by his servants, who announced his son’s recovery, and in answer to his enquiries when the youth had begun to amend, informed him that the day before, at the seventh hour276, the fever not only began to abate, but left or suddenly forsook him. This the other remembered was the very hour when the Lord had assured him of his son’s recovery, and he became a believer with all his family (Jn. iv. 53).

After a brief stay in Galilee, the season approached for the celebration of the Feast of Purim277, and the Redeemer went up to Jerusalem (Jn. v. 1). At this time there was near the Sheep-gate, through which the victims intended for sacrifice were usually brought into the city, a pool called in the Hebrew language Bethesda278, or the House of Mercy, which at certain seasons possessed remarkable healing properties, heralded it would seem by a violent commotion or bubbling of the waters. Around the pool, sheltered by five porticoes (Jn. v. 2), there was wont to assemble a multitude of diseased persons, lame, blind, withered, waiting for the troubling of the waters (Jn. v. 3).

Amongst these was one who for upwards of 38 years had been a helpless paralytic, and had long watched in vain for an opportunity to descend into the healing stream. As often as with slow and painful motion he crawled towards the waters, another was certain to step in before him, and anticipate him in acquiring the welcome cure. Seeing this miserable sufferer, and knowing how long he had been thus afflicted, the Saviour drew near, and enquired whether he wished to be made whole. Deeming, probably, that he was only listening to words of casual sympathy, and little expecting a cure, the man contented himself with relating the sad story of his constant disappointments (Jn. v. 7). Great, then, must have been his astonishment, when the Saviour not only bade him rise and take up the bed or pallet on which he had lain so long, but with the word gave him also the power to obey, so that he was instantly made whole, and taking up his bed bore it away with healthy tread.

It was a Sabbath-day on which this marvellous cure was wrought, and the carrying of any burden was regarded by the Pharisaic interpreters of the Law as a heinous violation of the sanctity of the day. The sight, therefore, of a man whose case must have been well known, thus openly and publicly violating a received rule, could not but excite much attention. Accordingly “the Jews,” a term by which St John generally denotes the adherents of the Sanhedrin, summoned him before them, and questioned him closely concerning his conduct. With artless simplicity, the man replied that he was only acting up to the command of his Healer, but when further questioned who He was, could not say, for Jesus had vanished from the crowd when the cure was wrought (Jn. v. 13).

Shortly afterwards, however, he met his Healer in the Temple, and then returning informed the authorities that Jesus was the author of his cure. On this the Saviour Himself was called to account for His conduct (Jn. v. 16, 17), and proceeded to avow before His astonished and indignant auditors His union in dignity and honour with the eternal Father. This avowal, added to the fact that He had shewn dishonour to the Sabbath, roused the first symptoms of hostility on the part of the authorities at Jerusalem, and they even sought to kill Him (Jn. v. 18). But, undeterred by their opposition, the Holy One went on to claim plainly and unreservedly, the character and functions of the Messiah, to reiterate the fact of His Divine Original, and to declare that He was invested with power as the future Judge of mankind (Jn. v. 2230). In support of these claims, He appealed to the testimony which the Baptist had publicly borne to His exalted nature (Jn. v. 3335), to the miracles which He had wrought (Jn. v. 36), to the authority of the sacred writings which testified of Him (Jn. v. 39), and to the great Lawgiver Moses, who, He declared, had written of Him (Jn. v. 46).

This incident forms an important epoch in the Gospel history279. The degree of toleration, and even of acceptance, with which the preaching of the Saviour had been received in Judæa, was exchanged for hostility, which, though as yet it led to no attempt to seize His Person, manifested itself with increasing distinctness. Accordingly, He left Judæa, which had shewn itself unwilling to receive Him, and retired to Galilee, and there taught in the synagogues (Lk. iv. 15).


A.D. 29.

AMONGST the places He now visited, the Redeemer repaired to Nazareth, where He had been brought up (Lk. iv. 16), and where many, if not all His kindred were residing. The Sabbath came round, and, as was His wont, He entered the Synagogue, and for the first time stood up to read in His native village. The worship, which began with prayer, was followed by the reading of the Law and the Prophets, and the portion of the latter either appointed for the day, or selected by His own Divine wisdom and foreknowledge, was taken from the 61st chapter of the prophet Isaiah. This portion was by universal consent applied to the Messiah, and spoke of Him as anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor, as sent to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that were bound (Lk. iv. 18, 19). Accordingly the Saviour read the words in the ears of those assembled, and then folding up the scroll, returned it to the chazzan or minister, and sat down280.

This last act was a sign that He intended to take upon Himself the office of interpreter, and the eyes of all were fastened upon Him (Lk. iv. 20). This day, He began to say, is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears, and proceeded to pour forth the long-hidden treasures of wisdom and grace. The first effect upon His audience was one of signal approval. They all marvelled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His lips (Lk. iv. 22). But other and very different feelings soon arose in their minds. They began to recall the fact of His lowly origin (Lk. iv. 22), and when the Holy One went on to intimate that no prophet was accepted in his own country, that, as was illustrated, even in Old Testament times, by the cases of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, the mercies of God were not restricted to the Jews only (Lk. iv. 2428), they were wrought up to such a pitch of fury, that they not only arose and thrust the Speaker out of their synagogue, but leading Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built281, would have cast Him down headlong, had He not, probably by an exercise of Divine power, escaped from their hands, and disappeared (Lk. iv. 30).

Thus rejected at Nazareth as He had been at Jerusalem, the Saviour turned His steps towards the busy neighbourhood of the lake of Gennesaret, and took up His abode at Capernaum282 (Mtt. iv. 13; Lk. iv. 31), whence He could easily communicate, as well by land as by lake, with many important towns, and in the event of any threatened persecution retire into a more secure region283.


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Maclear’s New Test.t History   Stanford’s Geog.l Estab.t

The recent cure of the son of the officer in Herod’s court was not forgotten at Capernaum, and many pressing upon the Saviour to hear the word of God (Lk. v. 1), it became clear that an opportunity was now afforded for an active and systematic ministry among a people sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death (Mtt. iv. 16). The first act, therefore, of the Redeemer was permanently to attach to His Person, and invest with the authority of teachers, four of the number afterwards known as the “twelve Apostles.” As He walked by the lake, He saw Simon and Andrew employed in fishing, and the sons of Zebedee284, James and John, in a vessel mending their nets (Mk. i. 16, 19; Mtt. iv. 18, 21; Lk. v. 26). They had already known Him for above a year, and now He would formally call them to leave their earthly occupations, and become fishers of men285.

As the people, therefore, pressed upon Him, He requested Simon to push off his boat a little way from the shore, that He might teach the multitude, and at the close of His discourse, bade him thrust out into the deeper waters, and let down his net for a draught. The ill success that had attended his efforts the previous night, made Simon at first hesitate, but he had no sooner made the trial, than the net enclosed such a multitude of fishes, that it began to break (Lk. v. 6). On this he and Andrew beckoned to James and John, and their companions in the other boat, who had doubtless watched all that had occurred, and they immediately came to their help, and filled both the boats so that they began to sink (Lk. v. 7). So deep was the impression made by this unlooked-for success upon the mind of Peter, that yielding as always to the impulse of the moment, he cried, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord286. But the emblem of their future destinies, and the pledge of future success, having thus been given them, the Saviour bade him and the others leave their ships and become fishers of men. And thus Peter and Andrew, James and John, quitting their earthly occupations, henceforth became His regular attendants and disciples.

The report of this miracle, and of the determination of the four to follow the Prophet of Nazareth, would soon be noised abroad among the populous villages along the lake. It is no wonder, then, that on the following Sabbath the words of the Saviour were eagerly listened to in the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk. i. 22; Lk. iv. 32), confirmed as they also were by a remarkable occurrence that now took place. A man was present in the synagogue possessed with an evil spirit, which, in the hearing of all, cried out, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. Thereupon the Redeemer rebuking him, and bidding him hold his peace, commanded the Evil Spirit to leave the sufferer he was tormenting, and the demon having thrown the man into strong convulsions (Mk. i. 26), and “uttering an inarticulate cry of rage and pain287 left him, amidst the awe and wonder of those assembled.

This miracle—the first of the kind—over unclean spirits was speedily noised abroad throughout the whole region of Galilee, and excited a strong enthusiasm in favour of the Prophet of Nazareth. Leaving the synagogue, the Saviour repaired to the abode of Peter, whose wife’s mother lay struck with a violent fever288, and taking her by the hand lifted her up. Immediately the malady yielding before that Divine rebuke (Lk. iv. 39), left her, and in place of the exhausted energy and prostration usually following it, she found herself able not only to rise, but even to minister to the Healer and His disciples (Mk. i. 31).

When, however, the sun began to set, the effect of the miracle in the synagogue became still more apparent. The whole city seemed to have collected about the abode of the humble fisherman, bringing with them all who were sick, or afflicted with demons, and placed them before his Master. Nor did they come in vain, for laying His hands upon each of them, He, who Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses (Is. liii. 4; Mtt. viii. 17), restored to them the blessing of health.


A.D. 28.

EARLY on the following morning Peter and his companions found that their Master had left the city, and retired to a solitary place for the purpose of engaging in secret prayer. Having discovered the place of His retreat, they announced that the excitement of the previous evening was not subsided, that all were seeking Him (Mk. i. 37); and soon their words were confirmed by the coming of a crowd, who besought Him not to leave them. But this could not be. The Divine Purpose required that He should proclaim the Glad Tidings of His kingdom in other places also; and He commenced a tour throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, casting forth demons, and healing all manner of sickness and disease (Mtt. iv. 23; Mk. i. 39).

Among other recipients of His gracious bounty, was one afflicted with the awful malady of leprosy, which none ever hoped could be cured. Bearing about him all the emblems of his sad condition, his clothes rent, his head bare (Comp. Num. vi. 9; Ezek. xxiv. 17), his lip covered (Ezek. xxiv. 17), he drew near the Saviour, and flinging himself on the ground before His feet, besought Him, if it was His will, to cleanse him. Though the Law forbade all contact with one, afflicted with a disease, to which the Jews gave the significant name of the Stroke, the Holy One put forth His hand, and touched Him, saying, I will, be thou clean. Instantly his flesh returned to him as the flesh of a little child, and he was clean, and, at the command of his Healer, repaired to the priests at Jerusalem to present the offering required of one so cleansed289, and thus in his own person bear witness against them290, and their unbelief.

Obedient to this injunction of his Healer, the cleansed leper found it more difficult to remember His other command, and abstain from saying anything to any one of the way in which he had been healed (Mk. i. 44; Lk. v. 14). In the fulness of his exulting thankfulness he could not contain himself, but, wherever he went, began to blaze abroad the matter, so that crowds gathered round the Saviour, and, unable to enter Capernaum (Mk. i. 45), He was fain to remain in secluded places, where He continued in prayer (Lk. v. 16) and ministered unto such as sought Him (Mk. i. 45).

After the subsidence, however, of the first excitement, He returned to Capernaum (Mk. ii. 1), and either in His own abode (Mk. ii. 1), or possibly that of Peter, preached the word to the multitudes, who flocked thither. During His absence there had arrived not only from Galilee, but even from Judæa and Jerusalem (Lk. v. 17), Pharisees and lawyers, who insidiously watched all that He did. As, then, He was proclaiming the doctrines of the kingdom in their presence, an incident occurred, which roused in no small degree the ill-will of these doctors of the law. Four men approached the chamber where the Saviour was, bearing upon a litter a helpless paralytic, and finding an entrance in the usual way impracticable, they bore the man up the outside staircase, and let him down through the roof into His presence.

Perceiving their faith, the Saviour was ready to bestow upon the object of so much solicitude the boon they craved. But, instead of assuring him of the cure of his malady, He addressed the paralytic with the words Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. This expression, more startling than anything He had yet said, inasmuch as it implied a distinct equality with God in respect to one of His most incommunicable attributes, roused much disputing among the watchful emissaries from Jerusalem. Was not this a blasphemous utterance, for who could forgive sins, save God only? But, unmoved by their dark suspicions, and knowing the secret thoughts of their hearts, the Holy One bade the man rise, take up his bed, and walk, which he straightway did, and so revealed the completeness of his restored powers to the astonishment of all the spectators, who confessed that they had seen strange things that day, and glorified God, who had given such power unto men (Lk. v. 26; Mtt. ix. 8).

Overpowered by their wonder at this signal miracle, the Pharisees and Scribes did not give further vent to their indignation at this claim to exercise the awful power of forgiving sins. But their national prejudices were soon to receive a still greater shock. As He walked by the side of the lake of Gennesaret, the Saviour beheld sitting at the receipt of custom, probably at the port of Capernaum, a tax-gatherer named Levi or Matthew291, the son of Alphæus. Though he belonged to a class above all others hated and despised by Jews of all orders, the Lord did not hesitate to invite him to become one of His immediate followers. The tax-gatherer, who may have had some prior acquaintance with the Prophet of Nazareth, straightway gave up his usual calling, and in honour of his new Master made a great feast (Lk. v. 29; Mk. ii. 15), to which he invited many of his old associates.

When the Scribes and Pharisees beheld Him thus openly associating with a degraded caste, they could not restrain themselves, and openly protested against such an infraction of custom and right behaviour. But they were speedily silenced by His wise reply. If those, amongst whom He sat, were sinners, then to them was it specially meet that He should vouchsafe His presence, for, as the Physician of souls, He had specially come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance (Mtt. ix. 13; Mk. ii. 17; Lk. v. 31, 32). Nor were they more successful in contrasting His apparent laxity and freedom with the strictness and austerity of the Baptist. The very garments worn by those around, the very wine they were drinking, suggested similes that conveyed the true answer to their objections292. To sew a piece of new cloth on an old and ragged garment, to pour new wine into old bottles of skin, was not more foolish than to attempt to unite with the Dispensation He was inaugurating the dead formalities of one which was rapidly passing away for ever (Mtt. ix. 1417; Mk. ii. 1822; Lk. v. 3339).

The day following was a Sabbath, the second-first Sabbath293, as St Luke calls it (Lk. vi. 1), and the Saviour walked through the corn-fields with His disciples, who began to pluck the ears of ripening grain, and to eat them, rubbing them in their hands. Such an act, though not forbidden by the Mosaic code, was declared unlawful by the traditional expounders294. The Pharisees, therefore, already scandalized by His assumption of power to forgive sins, and His associating with publicans, now urged a third complaint against His allowing His disciples to do what was unlawful on the Sabbath. But in full and explicit vindication of what they had done, the Saviour not only referred His accusers to the well-known incident in the life of David, when flying from Saul, he ate the shewbread, forbidden to all except the priests (1 Sam. xxi. 6), and to the words of the Prophet, who had declared that God would have mercy, and not sacrifice (Hos. vi. 6), but openly declared that He, as the Son of Man, was Lord also of the Sabbath, which had been ordained for man, and not man for the sabbath (Mtt. xii. 8).

A week afterwards He entered the Synagogue, and descried a man having his right hand withered, occupying, it would seem, a prominent position, and surrounded by Scribes and Pharisees, who were maliciously on the watch to see what He would do, and to obtain matter for accusation (Mtt. xii. 10; Mk. iii. 2; Lk. vi. 7). They now propounded the distinct question whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day. In reply the Saviour reminded them that the Law allowed a man, whose sheep had fallen into a pit, to lift it out on the Sabbath, and enquired whether they deemed it more consistent with the holiness of the day to do good or to do evil, to save life or to slay. Silenced and abashed they had not a word to urge in their own defence, and were obliged to stand by, while He, looking round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts (Mk. iii. 5), bade the man stretch forth his hand, which was instantly restored whole as the other.

Such an exhibition of Divine power, such a calm and unanswerable protest against their narrow bigotry, was more than they could bear. Filled with madness (Lk. vi. 11), the Scribes and Pharisees went forth and called a council (Mtt. xii. 14), and not ashamed to unite with their political opponents, the followers of Herod Antipas (Mk. iii. 6), began to form plans for compassing His death (Mk. iii. 6; Lk. vi. 11).




A.D. 28.

WE have now reached a very important turning-point in the Gospel History. While the fame of the Saviour had spread abroad in every direction throughout the land, the animosity of the ruling powers had clearly displayed itself alike in Judæa and in Galilee, and there was already an active correspondence between the Scribes and Pharisees in both districts respecting His claims and pretensions. As yet, while the current of popular feeling ran in His favour, their hostility confined itself to secretly plotting against Him, and devising means for hindering Him in His work, with the hope that some imprudence or sudden change in the feeling of the multitude might put him in their power.

It was at this juncture, then, that He took a more decided step towards the establishment of His Divine work. Hitherto He had seemed to stand almost alone. Though a few had been gathered around Him as His disciples they did not present the appearance of a regular and organized community, of which He was the Head, nor had they received a distinct and solemn commission to disseminate His doctrines.

Such a commission was now to be given.

Attracted by His miracles of healing, crowds gathered about Him not only from Judæa, Jerusalem and Galilee, but even from Peræa, Idumæa, and the country around Tyre and Sidon (Mk. iii. 7, 8; Lk. vi. 17), bringing such as were afflicted with any diseases, and beseeching his aid. While, therefore, He did not withhold that Divine assistance which they so eagerly craved (Lk. vi. 9), but graciously healed them, He now retired from the constant interruption, to which their coming exposed Him, and sought a retreat in the lonely mountain-range west of the sea of Tiberias. There he spent a night in solemn meditation and prayer (Lk. vi. 12), and on the following morning called to Him His disciples, and made selection amongst them of Twelve, who should be in continual personal attendance upon Him (Mk. iii. 14), and whom He might send forth to preach in His name, and to exercise power over evil spirits (Mk. iii. 15).

The Twelve thus selected and denominated Apostles were:—

1.   Symeon or Simon, the son of Jonas (Jn. i. 42; xxi. 16), called also Cephas295 or Peter (a stone or rock).

2.   Andrew, his brother (Mtt. iv. 18), a native of Bethsaida, and a former disciple of the Baptist296.

3.   James, the son of Zebedee (Mtt. iv. 21) and Salome (Mk. xv. 40), also of Bethsaida, and

4.   John, his brother, afterwards known as “the friend of Jesus,” the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn. xiii. 23), and in the ancient Church as ὁ ἐπιστήθιος, he who “leaned on His breast297.”

5.   Philip, a native of Bethsaida, and one of the earliest disciples (Jn. i. 43)298.

6.   Bartholomew = Bar-Tolmai, “the son of Tolmai,” most probably identical with Nathanael299.

7.   Matthew or Levi, a collector of customs at Capernaum300.

8.   Thomas or Didymus (a twin), (Jn. xi. 16; xx. 24).

9.   James, the son of Alphæus, or “James the Less.”

10. Judas, a brother or, possibly, a son of James (Acts i. 13), and surnamed Thaddæus and Lebbæus (Mtt. x. 3; Mk. iii. 18).

11. Simon the Canaanite (Mk. iii. 18) or Cananæan (Mtt. x. 24), in Greek Zelotes (Lk. vi. 15; Acts i. 13), one, probably, who before his call had belonged to the sect of the zealots301.

12. Judas, sometimes called the son of Simon (Jn. vi. 71; xiii. 2, 26), more generally Iscariot, i.e. probably a native of Kerioth (Josh. xv. 25), a little village in the tribe of Judah.

After this formal selection and ordination of the Twelve Apostles, the Saviour descended from the mountain-peak302, where He had spent the night, to a more level spot (Lk. vi. 17), and sitting down in the formal attitude of a Teacher in the presence of His disciples and the multitude, which had gathered around Him, proceeded to deliver that wondrous summary of Christian doctrine and practice known as the “Sermon on the Mount”303 (Mtt. v.‒vii.; Lk. vi. 2049).

At its conclusion, He repaired again to Capernaum (Lk. vii. 1), where He was met by certain elders of the synagogue bearing a message from a centurion belonging to the Roman garrison quartered in the place, one of whose slaves lay stricken with paralysis. Though an officer of imperial Rome, he had not regarded with contempt the religion of the people amongst whom He was placed, but had aided them in building their synagogue, and evinced much kindness towards them. At their request, therefore, the Saviour proceeded towards his house, but on the way was met by certain of the centurion’s friends, who bade Him not trouble Himself to enter his abode, but speak the word, and he was assured his slave would recover. Such faith, the faith of a true soldier304, who could believe that the Holy One was as well able to command the unseen agencies producing sickness, as he was himself to rule his own soldiers, moved the wonder even of the Lord, and was quickly rewarded by the healing of apparently the first Gentile sufferer305.

On the following day (Lk. vii. 11), leaving Capernaum, accompanied by His disciples and a large multitude, the Saviour proceeded in the direction of Nain, then a place of considerable extent in the Esdraelon plain, now little more than a cluster of ruins306. As he drew near, a sad and mournful spectacle met his eyes. A young man, the only son of his mother, and she a widow (Lk. vii. 12), was being carried on a bier towards his last resting-place, probably in one of the sepulchral caves which perforated the rock on the western side of the town. Beholding the forlorn and desolate mother, the Holy One was filled with the deepest compassion, and bidding her not weep, advanced towards the bier and touched it. Thereupon the bearers stood still, while addressing the corpse He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise, at which word of power the dead man instantly sat up and began to speak, and was restored to his wondering and rejoicing mother (Lk. vii. 15).

This first signal victory over death filled all those, who witnessed it, with awe and astonishment, and they thankfully glorified God who had raised up a prophet among them and truly visited His people (Lk. vii. 16). No such miracle had been wrought since the days of Elisha, and the fame of it went forth throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about. (Lk. vii. 17). Amongst those to whom it was related, together with the mighty works of the Saviour, was the Baptist, still detained in prison in the gloomy castle of Machærus307 (Mtt. xi. 2; Lk. vii. 18). Thereupon he sent two of his disciples308 to Jesus with the question, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another? Whatever was his precise motive in making this formal enquiry, whether it was for the sake of fully convincing his own disciples, or from a desire for the comfort of a definite assurance from the Saviour’s own lips, or from impatience at the slow establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah, it was fully answered. At the hour when the messengers arrived, the Saviour was actively engaged in His daily labours of love, healing diseases, casting out demons, and restoring sight to the blind (Lk. vii. 21); He therefore bade the two disciples return and tell their master what things they had seen and heard, how the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the dead were raised, the poor had the Gospel preached to them (Mtt. xi. 5). But besides these proofs of His Messiahship, which, as the Baptist could hardly fail to remember, had been distinctly indicated by the Prophets (comp. Isai. xxxv. 5, 6; lxi. 1), the Holy One added a special word for John’s weary prison-hours and the doubts of his disciples, saying, Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me (Mtt. xi. 6; Lk. vii. 23), “at My calm and unassuming course of mercy and love to mankind, at My total disregard of worldly honours, at My refusal to place Myself at the head of the people as a temporal Messiah309.”

No sooner, however, had the messengers departed than the Saviour took the opportunity of vindicating before the bystanders310, who, perhaps, from the enquiry he had put, might receive an unfavourable impression respecting the Baptist, the true greatness of his character. No reed shaken by the wind was he, whom, a little more than a year ago, all Judæa and Jerusalem had flocked forth into the wilderness to see; no effeminate prince clad in luxurious apparel; no prophet merely, such as those of the Old Testament dispensation. Himself the subject of prophecy (Mtt. xi. 10), he was greater than all the prophets that had preceded him, being no other than the long-expected Forerunner of the Messiah (Mtt. xi. 10; Lk. vii. 27), the true Elias of whom Malachi had spoken, as destined to prepare His way before Him.


A.D. 289.

APPARENTLY while He was in the neighbourhood of Nain311, the Saviour received an invitation from a Pharisee, named Simon, to enter his house, and sit at meat with him (Lk. vii. 36). Among the guests there pressed in a woman of unchaste life312, which had brought her into bad repute amongst her neighbours. Standing behind Him weeping, she kissed His feet, and anointed them, as He reclined at meat, with a costly unguent from an alabaster box313, and wiped away with her hair the copious tears that fell from her eyes. Shrinking from any moral or physical uncleanness, Simon marvelled that the Holy One suffered such a woman to approach Him, and could only attribute it to His ignorance of her real character. But the Saviour addressing His entertainer in the touching parable of the “Two Debtors314 (Lk. vii. 4043), pointed out that there was hope and mercy even for the lowest and most degraded, and turning to the woman bade her go in peace, for her faith had saved her, and her sins, though many, were forgiven (Lk. vii. 10, 47).

Almost immediately after this striking incident, accompanied not only by the Twelve, but by pious women, amongst whom were Mary of Magdala, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward315, Susanna, and many others (Lk. viii. 3), He proceeded on a somewhat lengthened tour through the cities and villages of Galilee, preaching the kingdom of God. Returning, as it seems most probable, to Capernaum, the multitude quickly gathered around Him, thronged Him in such numbers, and importuned Him with such persistent craving for His merciful aid, that neither He nor His disciples had sufficient leisure even to eat bread (Mk. iii. 20). The enthusiastic zeal of Him, whose meat it was to do the will of Him that sent Him and to finish His work (Jn. iv. 34) inspired His mother and brethren with the desire to interpose, and to protest against such exhausting labours316 (Mk. iii. 21). But the intelligence that they were without the circle of the crowd seeking Him, did not induce Him to suspend His loving toil. Stretching forth His hands towards His disciples (Mtt. xii. 49), He declared that they and all who heard and did the will of His Father in heaven were as dear to Him as brother, or sister, or mother (Mtt. xii. 49, 50; Mk. iii. 34, 35; Lk. viii. 21).

While, however, the feelings of the multitude were thus openly enlisted on the side of the Redeemer, those of the Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem were tinged with the intensest virulence and hostility. The miraculous cure of a deaf and dumb demoniac (Mtt. xii. 22) caused the greatest astonishment amongst the multitudes, and roused the enquiry whether this was not the Messiah, the son of David (Mtt. xii. 23). Resolved to check their enthusiasm, the Pharisaic faction openly declared that the Saviour owed His authority over the inferior demons to a secret compact with Beelzebub, the prince of the powers of darkness (Mk. iii. 22). Such a fearful charge, which ascribed to the influence of the Author of Evil works of beneficence and divine power, brought down upon those who urged it a terrible reply. The Saviour’s acts, they were reminded, were those of purest beneficence, while evil spirits took a malignant pleasure in the miseries of men. Could it be believed that Satan would allow his kingdom thus to be divided, that he would cast out those who were only accomplishing his will? Such an ascription of works of purest mercy to the energy of the Prince of Darkness, was an outward expression of an inward hatred of all that was good and Divine, and bordered closely on a terrible climax of sin, incapable of forgiveness either in this world or the world to come, even sin against the Holy Ghost (Mtt. xii. 2437; Mk. iii. 2230; Lk. xi. 1723).

In the afternoon or evening of the day on which these solemn warnings were uttered, the Lord went down to the shores of the Lake (Mtt. xiii. 1; Mk. iv. 1), followed by a great multitude from all the towns round about. So numerous, indeed, were the crowds which gathered around Him, that, for the sake of more conveniently addressing them, He entered into one of the fishing-vessels, and sitting there a little distance from the water’s edge, addressed them in a series of parables317 illustrative of the growth and extension of His kingdom—the Sower (Mtt. xiii. 39; Mk. iv. 39; Lk. viii. 415); the Wheat and the Tares (Mtt. xiii. 2430); the Seed growing secretly (Mk. iv. 2629); the grain of Mustard-seed (Mtt. xiii. 3133; Mk. iv. 3032; Lk. xiii. 1821); the Hid Treasure (Mtt. xiii. 44); the Merchant and the Pearl (Mtt. xiii. 45, 46); the Draw-net (Mtt. xiii. 4750).

Later in the evening He requested of His disciples that they would push across the lake towards the Eastern shore; on which, they took Him as He was (Mk. iv. 36), i.e. without any preparations for the voyage, and made for the opposite coast. Wearied with the toils of that long and exhausting day He fell asleep on a cushion in the stern, when suddenly from one of the deep clefts in the surrounding hills a violent storm of wind318 (Mk. iv. 37; Lk. viii. 23) burst upon the surface of the lake, lashed it into waves (Mk. iv. 37), which almost hid the little vessel (Mtt. viii. 24), and threatened to sink it to the bottom. Terror-stricken at the sudden tempest, the Apostles hastily awoke Him, and implored His aid, lest they should perish, whereupon He arose, rebuked the wind and the surging waters, and instantly there was a great calm (Mtt. viii. 26; Mk. iv. 39), amidst which they reached next morning the other side, deeply wondering at the power of their Master, which could reduce even the winds and the sea to obedience to His word.

In the country of the Gadarenes319, where they now arrived, a fearful spectacle awaited them. Amongst the tombs, which existed, and can even now be traced in more than one of the ravines on the Eastern side of the lake, dwelt two demoniacs. The more notable or fiercer of the two was possessed of such extraordinary muscular strength that all efforts to bind and restrain him had proved ineffectual, and the chains and fetters, with which he had at times been secured, had been broken and crushed, nor had any been able to tame him (Mk. v. 4). Fleeing from the fellowship of his kind (Lk. viii. 27), he had for a long time taken up his dwelling in the tombs, and there in the paroxysms of his misery he often cried out and cut himself with stones (Mk. v. 5), and so terrified all travellers, that they dared not pass by that way (Mtt. viii. 28).

Such was the miserable being, who now in company with his companion, without any garment to cover him (Lk. viii. 27), issued from his lonely abode, and seeing the Saviour afar off (Mk. v. 6) ran and fell down before Him crying out What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God that Thou torment me not (Mk. v. 7; Lk. viii. 28).

Resolved in His infinite mercy to rid him of the terrible spirit that possessed him, the Great Physician enquired his name. Thereupon he replied, My name is Legion, for we are many, comparing the cruel and inexorable powers that mastered him to the “thick and serried ranks of a Roman legion, that fearful instrument of oppression, that sign of terror and fear to the conquered nations320.”

Sensible that they were in the presence of the Lord of the spirit-world, the demons possessing him besought the Holy One that He would not drive them out of the country (Mk. v. 10), or send them into the Abyss of Hell321, the abode of the lost (Lk. viii. 31), but suffer them to enter into a herd of swine (Mk. v. 12; Mtt. viii. 31), which numbering nearly 2000 was feeding close at hand (Mk. v. 13). The Saviour gave the required permission, and the whole herd rushing wildly down the cliff322 into the lake were choked and destroyed.

Such a remarkable incident paralysed the keepers of the herd with fear, and straightway flying to the city, they recounted all that had occurred, as also the marvellous change, which had come over the terrible demoniac. Their report brought out wellnigh all the inhabitants (Mtt. viii. 34), and though in the man, probably a fellow-citizen323, who sat at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind (Mk. v. 15), they saw a proof of the superhuman power of his Deliverer, they yet besought Him to depart from their neighbourhood.

Thereupon the Saviour, taking them at their word, turned towards the lake, and was in the act of stepping into the boat (Mk. v. 18), when the healed man prayed that he might be allowed to accompany Him. But this the Holy One did not see fit to concede, and bade the man return to his friends, and recount to them what great things the Lord had done to him. On which the other went his way, proclaiming throughout the region of Decapolis324 the story of his wonderful deliverance, himself a witness and a standing monument of the Saviour’s grace and power.


A.D. 29.

IMMEDIATELY after this miracle the Lord crossed over to the western shore of the lake (Mk. v. 21), where a great multitude was awaiting Him, and amongst them one of the prefects of the synagogue, probably of Capernaum, whose name was Jairus. Falling down before His feet, he earnestly besought Him to come to his house, and lay His hands upon his little daughter, who was at the point of death. Thereupon the ever compassionate Redeemer arose and followed him, accompanied by His disciples, and a curious and eager crowd.

Amongst the rest, who thus followed and pressed upon Him, was a woman, that had laboured for upwards of twelve years under an issue of blood, which all the efforts of many physicians had proved powerless to asswage. Believing that, if she could but touch His clothes, she would be made whole, she now came behind, and touched the hem or blue fringe on the border of His garment. No sooner had she done so, than she felt within herself that the long wished-for cure had at length been accomplished. The fountain of her blood was stanched, and she was healed. But she was not to bear away the boon thus totally unobserved. Perceiving that power had gone out of Him, and turning round amidst the crowd, the Saviour enquired who had touched Him? The Apostles, with Peter at their head, would have put the enquiry aside, but the Saviour repeated it, and then the woman, trembling and alarmed, came and fell down before Him, confessed all that she had done, and was gladdened by the cheering words, Daughter, be of good cheer, thy faith hath saved thee go in peace (Mk. v. 34; Lk. viii. 48).

Meanwhile, though the delay must have been a sore trial to Jairus, “now when every moment was precious, when death was shaking the last few sands in the hour-glass of his daughter’s life325,” he betrayed no signs of impatience at a boon so readily bestowed upon another. But at this juncture his faith was still more put to the proof. Messengers arrived informing him that the worst was over, and that his daughter was already dead, and suggesting that he should no further trouble the Master. Overhearing the announcement (Mk. v. 36), the Holy One bade him not be afraid, but only believe, and hastened towards his house. Entering it, accompanied only by Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the maiden, He advanced into the chamber of death, where He found a number of hired mourners weeping and wailing with all the boisterous and turbulent symbols of Oriental grief. Putting them forth, while they laughed to scorn His announcement that the damsel was not dead but only asleep, He went forward to the bed, and said, Talitha Cumi, “Maid, arise.” Instantly His word was obeyed. The spirit of the maiden came to her again, and she arose straightway, and began to walk, while “at once to strengthen that life which was come back to her, and to prove that she was indeed no ghost, but had returned to the realities of a mortal existence, He commanded to give her meat326 (Mk. v. 43).

Soon afterwards, accompanied by His disciples, He left Capernaum, and for the second time appeared on a Sabbath in the synagogue of His own town of Nazareth (Mk. vi. 2; Mtt. xiii. 54). The conduct of His hearers on this occasion did not betray the frantic violence they exhibited during His previous visit. The miraculous works wrought by His hands, of which they must have heard, could not be gainsaid, and the wondrous wisdom with which He spake filled them with astonishment (Mtt. xiii. 54; Mk. vi. 2). But again their minds recurred to the thought of His lowly origin, to the fact that He was the son of a carpenter, that his family connections were well known to them, and living in their midst (Mk. vi. 3; Mtt. xiii. 55). Stumbling at this rock of offence (Mtt. xiii. 57) they still refused to believe in Him, and the Lord Himself marvelling at their unbelief (Mk. vi. 6), confined His designs of mercy to laying His hands on a few sick folk (Mk. vi. 5), who felt the influence of that Divine touch and were healed.

On the morrow He and His disciples set out on another circuit amongst the towns and villages of Galilee (Mtt. ix. 3538; Mk. vi. 6), preaching the glad tidings of the Kingdom, and healing the sick. Great multitudes from that thickly-peopled district followed Him, and deeply moved to see them scattered like sheep without a shepherd (Mtt. ix. 36), He said to His disciples that the harvest truly was plenteous, while the labourers were few, and calling the Apostles to Him (Mtt. x. 1; Mk. vi. 7; Lk. ix. 1), formally bestowed on them power over unclean spirits, and the ability to heal diseases, and sent them forth two and two with instructions not to enter into any heathen or Samaritan city (Mtt. x. 5), but to proclaim to the lost sheep of the house of Israel the near approach of the Kingdom of Heaven. Accordingly they went forth and preached in the various towns and villages the message of repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick, and at the conclusion of this trial of their powers, returned to their Master, probably at Capernaum (Mk. vi. 30; Lk. ix. 10).

Meanwhile important events occurred in the gloomy prison, where John the Baptist was confined. The anger he had excited in the breast of Herodias by his outspoken denunciation of her sin, never slumbered or slept. She constantly kept her eye upon him, and would have put him out of the way without scruple, but Herod, though there was little from which he would shrink, dared not lay hands on one so venerated by the people, and whose exhortations he himself was not above listening to and in some respects obeying (Mk. vi. 20).

At length an opportunity for gratifying her revenge presented itself, which she instantly embraced. Herod’s birthday327 came round, which, like a true Herod, conforming in this as in other things to Roman customs, he kept probably at Machærus, with feasting and revelry, surrounded by the petty chiefs and grandees of Galilee, the lords of his court, and the officers of his camp (Mk. vi. 21). During the feast the youthful Salome, the daughter of Herodias, entered the banqueting hall, and danced before the riotous company. So delighted were the guests, and especially Herod, with the brilliancy of her movements, that in the delirium of his admiration, he promised her anything, everything even to the half of his kingdom, and ratified his word with the royal oath.

The maiden departed, and consulted with her mother. Herodias saw that at last her hour was come, that at length the long-desired vengeance was within her grasp. No jewelled trinket, no royal palace, or splendid robe should be the reward of her daughter’s feat; Ask, said she, for John Baptist’s head in a charger (Mtt. xiv. 8; Mk. vi. 24), i.e. on one of the dishes on which the fruits and viands of the table had been served. Forthwith (Mk. vi. 25), as though not a moment was to be lost, Salome returned, and named her price to the assembled company.

Herod’s brow instantly fell. Even amidst the delirium of that riotous hour he was exceeding sorry (Mk. vi. 26) for the brave preacher, whose words he had so often listened to, and for whom he entertained much reverence. But he had promised, and ratified the promise with an oath. The captains and great lords, who had heard him swear, sat round the festive board, and none in that riotous company would say a word for the friendless prophet. So the word was given, and an officer was bidden to seek out the Baptist’s dungeon and bring the reward which the maiden claimed. He went, and executed his command, and Salome bore the bleeding head to her mother (Mk. vi. 28).

Before long the news of their master’s death became known to the disciples of the Baptist, and having consigned his headless body to the grave (Mtt. xiv. 12; Mk. vi. 29), they went and recounted all that had occurred to the Saviour (Mtt. xiv. 12), whom they appear to have found in or near Capernaum (Mtt. xiv. 13; Mk. vi. 30; Lk. ix. 10). On receiving these sad tidings respecting His Forerunner, the Lord left the place with His Apostles, who had just returned from their tentative mission, and crossing the lake of Gennesaret (Mtt. xiv. 13), sought the neighbourhood of Bethsaida-Julias328 (Lk. ix. 10).

Meanwhile the news of the Baptist’s death excited much consternation amongst the Jews329, who all regarded him as a prophet (Mtt. xiv. 5), and Herod’s conscience allowed him little rest after the cruel murder. Returning to Galilee330, he received intelligence, probably from those who had witnessed the mission of the Twelve, of the wonderful works of the Prophet of Nazareth (Mtt. xiv. 1; Mk. vi. 14; Lk. ix. 7). Perplexed at the appearance of a new Teacher he enquired who this could be, and received different answers. Some said He was the awful Elias, whose coming had been so often predicted; others that He was a prophet, or as one of the prophets (Mk. vi. 15). But the uneasy and superstitious king could not be satisfied with these replies, and declared Him to be none other than the Baptist risen from the dead (Mk. vi. 16), come back to haunt his footsteps, and reproach him with his crimes. All that he heard awakened in him a desire to see the new Teacher, and destined he was to see Him, but not now (Lk. ix. 9).




A.D. 29.

AT this time the Passover, the second Passover, as seems most probable, during the Saviour’s public ministry, drew nigh (Jn. vi. 4), but on this occasion He does not appear to have gone up to Jerusalem, where the determined hostility of the ruling powers rendered any further activity dangerous, at least for the present.

It was probably, to commune in retirement with the Twelve, and to afford them a season of comparative rest after their late labours, that the Lord now sought the neighbourhood of Bethsaida-Julias (Mk. vi. 31). But the numbers moving about the country in consequence of the near approach of the great Festival, who came on foot from all the towns round about to see and hear Him (Mtt. xiv. 13; Mk. vi. 32; Lk. ix. 11), rendered the desired solitude impossible. The sight, moreover, of these multitudes scattered as sheep without a shepherd (Mk. vi. 34), again roused His deepest compassion, and He not only taught them many things concerning the Kingdom of God, and healed those amongst them that were afflicted with various diseases (Mtt. xiv. 14), but was moved on this occasion to minister still further to their temporal necessities.

Accordingly at a somewhat early period, as it would seem, in the afternoon331, He enquired of the Apostle Philip where bread might be bought to satisfy the hunger of the multitudes (Jn. vi. 5). Though He Himself knew what He would do, He put this question to prove the trust of the Apostle. But Philip, thinking of no other supplies save such as natural means could procure, replied that two hundred pence (or rather denarii) would not be sufficient to procure sustenance for such a number (Jn. vi. 7). Having thus obtained from his own mouth a confession of the inability of all human power to satisfy the present need, the Holy One left “the difficulty and perplexity to work in his mind and the minds of the Apostles332,” and thus prepare them for what He was about to do.

As the evening, however, drew on (Mtt. xiv. 15; Lk. ix. 12) the disciples approached Him, and drawing His attention to the desert333 character of the locality, proposed that He should send away the multitudes, in order that they might seek refreshment in the neighbouring towns and villages. To this He replied that they need not depart (Mtt. xiv. 16), and bade them supply their needs, and when, reiterating the assertion334 of Philip, they declared how impossible it was to do such a thing, He sent them to see what supplies they had. Returning they informed Him that from a lad in their company they had been enabled to procure five barley loaves and two small fishes (Jn. vi. 9), and were thereupon bidden to marshal the multitudes in companies335 amid the green grass of the rich plain around. This done, He took the loaves and the two fishes and looking up to heaven He blessed, and brake, and gave of the food to the Apostles, who in their turn distributed to the different groups, till they did all eat and were filled. When the wondrous meal was over, the Holy One, who, as the Lord of nature, ever “makes the most prodigal bounty go hand in hand with the nicest and truest economy,” bade the disciples gather up the fragments that remained, that nothing might be lost, and though 5000 men besides women and children (Mtt. xiv. 21) had eaten and been satisfied, yet they took up twelve baskets full of fragments that still remained over and above (Mtt. xiv. 20; Mk. vi. 43; Jn. vi. 13).

The impression made upon the people by this miracle was profound. It was the popular expectation that the Messiah would repeat the miracles of Moses336, and this “bread of wonder,” of which they had partaken, vividly recalled to the minds of the multitude their great Lawgiver, who had given their fathers manna in the wilderness. They were convinced, therefore, that the Holy One was none other than the Prophet, of whom Moses had spoken (Deut. xviii. 15), and in this conviction would have taken Him by force and made Him a king (Jn. vi. 14, 15).

To defeat this their intention, the Saviour bade His Apostles take ship and cross over to Bethsaida337 (Mk. vi. 45), on the other side of the lake, while He dismissed the multitudes. Having done so, He ascended to a point in the neighbouring mountain-range, and there continued in solitary communion with His Heavenly Father till near the fourth watch338 of the night (Mtt. xiv. 2325; Mk. vi. 46).

Meanwhile the Apostles had rowed about 25 or 30 furlongs339 (Jn. vi. 19), when one of those sudden storms of wind to which the lake is subject, rushed down from the western mountains, and lashing the usually placid surface into waves (Mtt. xiv. 24) prevented them making their way towards Capernaum, and exposed them to imminent peril. At this moment, to add to their fears, they discerned amidst the darkness (Mk. vi. 50) a Figure walking on the water and approaching their vessel. Thinking it could be nothing but a Phantom, they cried out in their terror, when a well-known Voice was heard saying It is I, be not afraid. Thereupon the ardent, impetuous Peter replied, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. The rejoinder was Come; and so descending from the vessel (Mtt. xiv. 29) amidst the darkness and howling wind the Apostle made some little way towards his Lord. But soon the wind roared (Mtt. xiv. 30) and the waters raged, and his heart failed him, and beginning to sink he cried, Lord, save me. Thereupon Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him, and gently rebuking him for his want of faith took him with Him into the ship, which amidst the calm that now stilled the waves, quickly reached the harbour of Capernaum, while the Apostles, amazed beyond measure (Mk. vi. 51), worshipped Him, saying, Truly Thou art the Son of God (Mtt. xiv. 33).


A.D. 29.

THE fact of the Saviour’s presence on the western side of the lake was soon spread abroad amongst the people (Mk. vi. 54), and, as so often before, they brought their sick, who experienced the effects of the healing word (Mtt. xiv. 36). Meanwhile many of the five thousand, who on the previous evening had witnessed the marvellous multiplication of the loaves, not finding the Lord on the eastern side of the lake, had taken ship340 and crossed over to Capernaum seeking Him (Jn. vi. 24). Knowing that He had not embarked with His disciples after the miracle, they wondered how He had crossed over, and finding Him in the Synagogue of Capernaum (Jn. vi. 59) eagerly questioned Him on the subject.

But, as in the case of Nicodemus, the Holy One was not pleased to vouchsafe a direct answer to their question. He knew the superficial character of their enthusiasm, and the merely temporal objects that had brought them to Him; Verily, verily, I say unto you, He replied, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you, for Him hath God the Father sealed. Apparently understanding the Bread He spoke of in a literal sense, they replied by asking how they might work the works of God, whereupon the Holy One declared that the work acceptable to God was to believe on Him whom He had sent (Jn. vi. 29). To this they rejoined, with their usual craving for miracle after miracle, by asking for some sign to confirm their belief in Him, and then proceeded to suggest “a sign from heaven” such as they desired. The miracle of the preceding evening had convinced many of them that the Speaker was indeed the Prophet that should come into the world, and whose Advent had been predicted by Moses. That Lawgiver had given them bread from heaven not once only, but during a space of forty years; could He give them such a sign from heaven?

In condescension to the associations they had themselves recalled, the Saviour replied that Moses had not given them the bread from heaven, but His Father was giving them the true Bread, even Him who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world (Jn. vi. 33). Still understanding Him to speak of some miraculous life-sustaining food, the Jews begged that He would evermore give them that Bread, whereupon, passing from indirect to direct assertions, He replied in the ever-memorable words,

I am the Bread of Life;

and in language majestic in its very simplicity proceeded to vindicate His Divine nature and His descent from heaven.

This last assertion gave great offence to His hearers; they called to mind the earthly parentage of the Speaker (Jn. vi. 42), and marvelled how He could claim a Divine origin. But, unmoved, unruffled by their increasing discontent, whether “they would hear or whether they would forbear,” He went on to repeat that He was the Bread from heaven, that the Bread He would give was His flesh, which He was about to give for the life of the world (Jn. vi. 4751).

These mysterious words provoked still greater opposition on the part of the Jews; they strove with one another, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? But their opposition and questionings moved not His calm majesty. With the same formula of solemnity, which He had already thrice used341 (Jn. vi. 53), He resumed in language still more emphatic His assertion, that unless they ate the flesh of the Son of Man, and drank His blood, they could have no life in them—that His Flesh was meat indeed, and His Blood drink indeed—that whoso ate His Flesh and drank His Blood had eternal life, and He would raise him up at the last day (Jn. vi. 5358).

These solemn words, so entirely in keeping with the associations of the Passover, now on the point of being342 celebrated at Jerusalem, exerted a great influence on those who heard them. The Jews, as we have seen, were deeply offended. But many even of His disciples regarded what they had heard as a hard saying (Jn. vi. 60), and walked no more with Him (Jn. vi. 66). Turning to the Twelve, the Saviour enquired whether they too were about to join the general defection, whereupon Peter replied, in the name of the rest, that there was no other Teacher to whom they could go, for He had the words of eternal life, and they believed and were assured that He was the Holy One343 of God (Jn. vi. 69). This declaration of faithful adherence their Omnipotent Master accepted, but with the sad remark that even now there was a traitor in their midst (Jn. vi. 70, 71).

After this memorable day in the synagogue of Capernaum, the Holy One appears to have continued a short time in the Plain of Gennesaret, during which period the excitement caused by His first landing was not diminished, His popularity was great in spite of the mysteriousness of His doctrines, and His mighty power continued to be marvellously displayed344.

But soon His labours of love were interrupted. Having kept the Feast at Jerusalem the Scribes and Pharisees returned (Mk. vii. 1), and soon found matter for accusation against Him. In the social gatherings of the Saviour and His Apostles they noticed that He did not observe the strict and minute traditions of the elders, but ate bread with unwashen hands (Mtt. xv. 2; Mk. vii. 5). In reply the Holy One told them that by those commandments of men which they so studiously observed they were making of none effect the commandments of God, whom, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, they honoured only with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him (Isai. xxix. 13). The external defilement they were so careful to avoid was, He declared in the hearing of the people (Mk. vii. 14), nothing compared with the defilement of the heart, out of which proceeded all manner of evil thoughts, which ripened into the worst crimes—these truly defiled a man (Mtt. xv. 1322).

The severity with which He thus, in the presence of the people, rebuked the rulers of the nation for a hypocritical observance of vain traditions, roused to a still greater height the animosity of the Pharisaic faction (Mtt. xv. 12). Knowing that He could not now shew Himself openly without being exposed to their machinations345, the Lord passed north-west through the mountains of upper Galilee, and thence into the border-land of Tyre and Sidon (Mtt. xv. 21; Mk. vii. 24). Here He entered into a house, and would have no man know it (Mk. vii. 24). But the rest and seclusion He sought were not to be found. A Syrophœnician346 woman crossed the frontier (Mk. vii. 25), and earnestly besought His aid in behalf of her daughter, who was grievously afflicted with a demon. At first it seemed as though she had come in vain. But in spite of silence (Mtt. xv. 23), refusal (Mtt. xv. 24), and seeming reproach (Mtt. xv. 26), she persevered in her petition, and at length, when the trial of her faith was ended, she obtained that which she had sought so earnestly, and with the encouraging assurance that though a descendant of ancient idolaters, her faith was great (Mtt. xv. 28), and that her daughter was made whole, returned to the place whence she came forth.

After a short stay in this region, the Saviour proceeded northwards, still nearer, as it would seem, to pagan Sidon347, and thence passing round the sources of the Jordan and in a south-easterly circuit through Decapolis (Mk. vii. 31), to the further shore of the sea of Gennesaret. In this region His merciful aid was besought in behalf of a deaf and dumb348 man (Mk. vii. 32), whom He withdrew from the throng of bystanders (Mk. vii. 33), and after using special outward signs349 gradually restored to the full possession of his faculties, charging the multitudes to preserve a strict silence respecting the miracle (Mk. vii. 36). This injunction, however, was not obeyed, for the spectators spread abroad the news far and wide (Mk. vii. 36), and the effect was that many who were lame, blind, dumb, maimed (Mtt. xv. 30), were brought to Him, and experienced the beneficent results of the healing word.


A.D. 29.

THE effect of these miraculous cures on the inhabitants of the half-pagan district of Decapolis was very great, and they confessed that the God who had chosen Israel was indeed above all gods350 (Mtt. xv. 31). Before long, therefore, a great multitude, amounting to upwards of four thousand besides women and children (Mtt. xv. 38), were collected from the neighbouring region, and continued with the Lord three days (Mtt. xv. 32), beholding His works and listening to His words.

They had not, like the multitude earlier in the year, assembled for the purpose of going up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover, and their scanty provisions failing them, could only retire to their mountain-homes through the passes by which they had followed the Lord351. The compassionate Redeemer had no wish that they should return only to faint by the way (Mk. viii. 3), and enquired of the disciples how many loaves they had with them. To this they replied, Seven, and a few small fishes (Mtt. xv. 34), and were thereupon commanded to make the men sit down352, when their scanty supply in the hands of Him, who was the true Bread from heaven, proved sufficient for the hungry multitude: they did eat and were filled, and took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets353 full (Mtt. xv. 37).

Having dismissed the recipients of His bounty, the Lord immediately entered with His disciples into a ship354, and crossed over, according to St Matthew, into the coasts of Magdala355 (xv. 39), according to St Mark, into the parts of Dalmanutha356 (viii. 10), a village close by. Here, however, His stay was of no long duration, for certain Pharisees, now for the first time combined with the Sadducees, approached (Mtt. xvi. 1) with a demand that He would shew them a sign from heaven. This request, already twice preferred357, and now urged in explicit terms, He, who knew the hearts of those who claimed it, would not gratify. Sighing deeply in His spirit (Mk. viii. 12), and grieved at their continued unbelief, He denounced them as hypocrites, who could discern the face of the sky, but not discern the signs of the times (Mtt. xvi. 3), and refusing to give them any other sign than that of the prophet Jonah (Mtt. xvi. 4), straightway entered the vessel, in which He had come (Mk. viii. 13), and made for the other side.

Warning His disciples during the voyage against the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Mtt. xvi. 512; Mk. viii. 1421), he reached the eastern shore of the lake and the neighbourhood of Bethsaida-Julias (Mk. viii. 22). Here a blind man was brought to Him, with a petition that He would touch him. Taking him, like the deaf and dumb man spoken of above, outside the village, the Lord anointed his eyes with the moisture from His own mouth, and laying His hands upon him enquired whether he saw aught? To this the sufferer looking up replied that he saw men, as trees, walking (Mk. viii. 24). Thereupon the Redeemer laid His hands again upon his eyes, and his sight was completely restored.

From Bethsaida, accompanied by His Apostles, He now set out in a northerly direction, and travelling along the eastern banks of the Jordan and beyond the waters of Merom, reached the confines or the villages (Mk. viii. 27) of Cæsarea Philippi358. In this neighbourhood, on one occasion, the Apostles found their Master engaged in solitary prayer (Lk. ix. 18), a solemn and significant action, the precursor of not a few important events359, as now of a deeply momentous revelation. For as they resumed their journey, He addressed to them the formal enquiry, Whom do men say that I am?

This was not an ordinary question. He was speaking to those who had now for some time been His constant companions, hearers of His words, and spectators of the signs which accompanied them. He seems to have wished to ascertain from their own lips the results of those labours, which now, in one sense, were drawing to a close, and thence to pass on to other and more painful truths, which He had to communicate to them360. To this enquiry, then, the Apostles replied in words that reflected the various opinions then held amongst the people; Some say John the Baptist, others Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the prophets (Mtt. xvi. 14; Mk. viii. 28; Lk. ix. 19). But, continued the Holy One, whom say ye that I am? To this the Apostle Peter, speaking in the name of the rest, made the ever-memorable reply, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mtt. xvi. 16).

The object for which the question had been put was now partly achieved. By the mouth of one of their number the Apostles had expressed the conclusion, to which they had come after so long enjoying the society of their Master, that He was no other than the Messiah, the Son of God. This their testimony He accepted; acknowledged the truth of the Apostle’s confession; declared that it had not been revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by His Father in heaven; and bestowed upon him the promise of peculiar dignity in the Church He was about to establish (Mtt. xvi. 18, 19).

But now, having, as three Evangelists distinctly tell us (Mtt. xvi. 20; Mk. viii. 30; Lk. ix. 21), charged them strictly not to divulge the fact of His Messiahship to the world at large, He began to reveal to them strange and mournful tidings respecting Himself. The Son of Man, He declared, must go up to Jerusalem, and there suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be put to death, and after three days rise again. This was the first announcement, clear, distinct, peremptory of what lay before Him (Mk. viii. 32), revealing not only that He should suffer, but the agents in His sufferings, the form they would take, the place where He would undergo them, and their issue, a mysterious resurrection after three days. To the Apostles the announcement sounded utterly strange and inconceivable. The selfsame Peter, who, a moment before, had witnessed so noble and outspoken a confession to his Lord’s Divinity, was utterly unable even to endure the thought of His suffering. That be far from Thee, Lord, was his indignant reply. But with a solemn rebuke the Holy One checked his untimely expostulations, which savoured of the weakness of flesh and blood, not of holy obedience to a heavenly Father’s will. Nay more, as if to seal the words He had uttered in the presence of many witnesses, He called to Him some of the people that were standing near (Mk. viii. 34), and in their hearing, as well as that of the Apostles, bade any who would come after Him, take up his Cross and follow Him, for through the gate of suffering lay the road to Glory, not only for Himself, but for all His followers (Mtt. xvi. 24; Mk. viii. 34; Lk. ix. 23).


A.D. 29.

AFTER the announcement we have just considered, the teaching of the Lord as addressed to His disciples assumed a new character. The mysterious close of His life had been already361 more than once hinted at in figures or parables, but now He began gradually, as they were able to bear it, to speak clearly and openly of His death and rejection by the Jews. So far from establishing any earthly kingdom such as they expected, in which they might occupy distinguished places, He proceeded from this time to intimate in precise and distinct language how very different was the end that really awaited Him.

To the Apostles, who indulged to the close in dreams of a reign like that of earthly kings, these intimations of their Master sounded strange and unaccountable. To cheer, therefore, their wounded spirits, to enable them in some measure to comprehend the supernatural character of His kingdom, the Holy One was pleased to assure them that there were some standing there, who should not taste of death till they had seen, in spite of the sad announcement He had just made, the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Mtt. xvi. 28; comp. Mk. ix. 1; Lk. ix. 27).

Accordingly six days afterwards, with three of the most privileged of their number, who had already in the chamber of Jairus witnessed their Master’s power over death362, He retired to one of the numerous mountain-ranges in the neighbourhood, not improbably one of the summits of Hermon363. From St Luke’s intimation that one object of His own withdrawal was that He might engage in solitary prayer (Lk. ix. 28), and that the three Apostles were wearied and oppressed by sleep (Lk. ix. 32), we infer that evening was the time of this retirement of the Holy One, the close, it may be, of a long day spent in going about doing good. While, then, they slept and He continued engaged in prayer, a marvellous change came over His person (Lk. ix. 29). His raiment suddenly became shining, exceeding white as snow, the fashion also of His countenance was altered, and shone like the sun (Mtt. xvii. 2; Mk. ix. 3; Lk. ix. 29).

Roused at length by the supernatural brightness around them, the Chosen Three awoke364, and shaking off their slumbers, perceived not only the mysterious change that had come over their Master, but also that He was no longer alone! He was accompanied by two men, in whom they were enabled to recognize no others than the great pillars and representatives of the Old Testament dispensation, Moses and Elias. Nor did they only see their transfigured Lord attended by these strange visitants from the world of spirits, but they were privileged to overhear the subject of their mutual converse. They spake of, or described365, the decease He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Lk. ix. 31).

Upon the ardent, impulsive Peter it was the scene itself, and not the topic of mysterious converse he overheard, that made the most impression. To him it seemed as though the kingdom of heaven was indeed “revealed in power.” In the excitement of the moment he would have made three tabernacles, one for his Lord, one for Moses, and one for Elias, in order that from thence the laws of the kingdom might be promulgated, and all men might recognise the true Messiah attended by the Pillars of the old Economy. But it was not to be. While he was yet speaking there came a cloud overshadowing them, and out of it there came a Voice, saying, This is My Beloved Son, hear ye Him. And then all was over. While the Apostles lay panic-stricken on their faces, their Master once more joined them, and bade them rise and not be afraid, and, as they descended from the Mount, He charged them to reveal to no man what they had seen, till (again the mysterious words recurred) He should have risen from the dead (Mtt. xvii. 9; Mk. ix. 9).

Rejoining the rest of their fellow-Apostles, the Chosen Three found them surrounded by a great crowd, amongst which were certain of the Lord’s old adversaries, the Scribes, not unwilling witnesses of a defeat which His disciples had sustained. During their Master’s absence a man had besought their aid in behalf of his son, who was possessed with an evil spirit of peculiar malignity. But he had besought their aid in vain. The Nine had been unable to expel the demon, and the Scribes, making the most of their discomfiture, were eagerly disputing with them (Mk. ix. 14), and doubtless “arguing from the impotence of the servants to the impotence of the Master366,” when He suddenly appeared, bearing, it would seem, on His face and person traces of the celestial glory of the past night. Greatly amazed (Mk. ix. 15) at His appearance, the multitude no sooner saw Him, than they ran to Him and saluted Him (Mk. ix. 15), and as He was asking of the Scribes the reason of their dispute with His disciples, the father drew near, related what had occurred, and the terrible condition of his only son (Lk. ix. 38). Possessed he had been for a long time with a dumb spirit (Mk. ix. 17), but at times it seized him with such violence, that he foamed and gnashed with his teeth (Mk. ix. 18), or was driven with almost irresistible impulse into the water and into the fire (Mtt. xvii. 15).

With a sad rebuke of the faithlessness of the generation in which He lived, the Lord commanded the boy to be brought into His presence. He was brought, but no sooner did he see the Saviour (Mk. ix. 20), than he was seized with one of those sudden paroxysms, which the father had described, and falling on the ground, he wallowed foaming at the mouth (Mk. ix. 20). On beholding the miserable sufferer, the Lord enquired of his father how long he had been in this case. To this the other replied that it dated from his childhood (Mk. ix. 21), and described the terrible nature of the fits which came upon him, ending with a touching request, that if He could do anything, He would have compassion on him, and help him. All things are possible, said the Holy One, to him that believeth. Lord, I believe, replied the agonized father, help Thou mine unbelief (Mk. ix. 23, 24), and his faith, though but a little spark, was rewarded. Addressing the demon in words of solemn and conscious authority the Holy One commanded him to leave the child and enter him no more (Mk. ix. 25), and the foul spirit, unable to resist the word of power, uttering a piercing cry and rending the sufferer with one last convulsive paroxysm (Mk. ix. 26), left him lying on the ground, to all appearance dead. But his merciful Healer took him by the hand, and, invigorated by that touch, he rose up, and was restored to his rejoicing father (Lk. ix. 42).


A.D. 29.

AFTER the incidents just related, the Redeemer appears to have again turned His steps southward through the northern parts of Galilee and in the direction of Capernaum (Mtt. xvii. 22; Mk. ix. 30). This journey He wished should be as private as possible (Mk. ix. 30), undisturbed by the presence of the large crowds that usually gathered about Him. For now that He had so plainly and unreservedly spoken to His Apostles of His approaching death and resurrection, He desired that these His words should sink deep into their ears (Lk. ix. 44), and that they should be more fully instructed respecting their reality and certainty. Once more, therefore, He began to tell them of His coming rejection by the rulers of the nation, of His death, and resurrection. But His words took no root in the minds of His hearers. His “thoughts were not their thoughts,” nor His “ways their ways;” they could not understand that whereof He spake, or how One, whom they believed to be the Messiah, could be called upon to suffer, and were afraid to ask Him personally what He meant (Mk. ix. 32; Lk. ix. 45).

On their arrival at Capernaum, the collection of the half-shekel367 due from every male Israelite, who had attained the age of 20 years, for the service of the sanctuary at Jerusalem, was going on. Approaching the Apostle Peter, the collectors enquired whether his Master did not pay this sum (Mtt. xvii. 24), to which he replied in the affirmative. Shortly afterwards on reaching the house where they were about to lodge (Mtt. xvii. 25), the Lord, aware of the incident, enquired of the Apostle whether earthly monarchs levied custom and tribute368 of their own children or of strangers. Of strangers, was the instant reply. Then, said the Holy One, alluding to His own relation to His heavenly Father, are the children free, and He as the Son of God was exempt from a payment which went to the support of His Father’s house. Lest, however, it should be said that He and His Apostles despised the Temple, and so men should be offended, He bade him go down to the lake, cast in a hook, and take the first fish that came up, assuring him that, when he had opened its mouth, he would find sufficient369 to pay both for the Apostle and his Master (Mtt. xvii. 27).

In spite of His repeated intimations respecting His own coming sufferings, the thoughts of the Apostles were still running on the high places they believed in store for them in their Master’s kingdom, and the late selection of three of their number to behold the glory of His transfiguration, added to the prominence of Simon in the miraculous payment of the tribute-money, excited their jealousy and carnal aspirations. While their Master was contemplating the cross, their imaginations were apportioning crowns, and the question which was the greatest amongst them excited much discussion (Mk. iv. 33; Lk. ix. 46, 47). Knowing their thoughts He replied to their question respecting the disputed point (Mtt. xviii. 1) by a touching symbolical action. Taking a little child in His arms (Mk. ix. 36) He placed him in their midst, and solemnly (Mk. ix. 35) declared that unless they laid aside all their thoughts of dignity and place and power, and became like little children (Mtt. xviii. 3), they could not hope to enter into His Kingdom at all; for in that Kingdom he was greatest who could humble himself like the little child before them, and whoso received even one such little child in His Name, received Him.

These last words reminded the Apostle John of a fault which he now confessed. On one occasion he and the rest of the Apostles had seen a man trying to cast out demons by pronouncing over the possessed the name of Jesus (Comp. Acts xix. 13), and they had forbidden him, on the ground that he was not one of their Master’s avowed followers (Mk. ix. 38; Lk. ix. 49). On being informed of this, the Holy One gently rebuked the spirit which had prompted the Apostle thus to act. No man, He declared, who could work a miracle in His name, could lightly speak evil of Him; he that was not against them was for them; and even a cup of cold water given to a disciple in His name should not lose its reward (Mk. ix. 41). Having thus urged upon them the duty of child-like humility, He proceeded to enforce that of avoiding offences (Mtt. xviii. 10), and of cultivating a spirit of love towards their Lord’s little ones. Then by the Parable of the Lost Sheep He taught them the joy that pervaded heaven at the repentance of a single sinner (Mtt. xviii. 10, &c.; Lk. xv. 37), and by that of the Debtor who owed ten thousand talents (Mtt. xviii. 2335), how they were bound to forgive every one his brother their trespasses.

While the Apostles were being thus gradually trained for the reception of other ideas than those of earthly glory, in respect to the establishment of their Master’s Kingdom, the season for the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles drew near (Jn. vii. 2). The harvest being over, and the grapes trodden in the winepress, numerous caravans of Jewish pilgrims would be gathering together to go up to the Holy City and keep the Feast. At this juncture, then, the Lord’s brethren370 (Jn. vii. 3) who, though they did not believe in His Divinity (Jn. vii. 5), were yet not above cherishing feelings of pride and exultation at the mighty works which He wrought371, bade Him leave Galilee, and display proofs of His wonder-working power, no longer in obscure northern towns, but in the streets of Jerusalem itself (Jn. viii. 36).

Though He intended to keep the feast, the Redeemer could not go up to it for such a manifestation of Himself to the world as they desired (Jn. vii. 4). His Hour, the Hour for a very different exaltation, was not yet come (Jn. vii. 6), nor for the present could He take part in festal solemnities. They accordingly went their way to Jerusalem, and on their departure, amidst no open, avowed procession of a mere wonder-worker, but privately and unobtrusively as became a lowly Redeemer (Jn. vii. 10), accompanied by His Apostles, He set His face to go up to the Holy City (Lk. ix. 51).

Instead of taking the longer and more frequented route through Peræa, for the sake, probably, of greater seclusion, the Saviour chose that through Samaria (Lk. ix. 52), and sent messengers before Him to prepare for His coming. Entering a certain village of the Samaritans, the Apostles sought to do as He had bidden them. But the churlish inhabitants, perceiving the reason why He was passing through their land, usually so studiously avoided, refused to receive Him372 (Lk. ix. 53). Indignant at this rebuff, the impetuous “Sons of Thunder,” James and John, would have had their Master act in the spirit of Elijah373, and call down fire from heaven on the inhospitable and churlish villagers. But the Holy One rebuked their intemperate zeal, and the forgetfulness they evinced of the true spirit that became them as His followers, and sought shelter in another village (Lk. ix. 56).




A.D. 29.

MEANWHILE the excitement at Jerusalem respecting the Saviour was very great. The Festivals of Passover and Pentecost had alike passed away, and He had not assumed publicly the title or functions of the Messiah. The question whether He would present Himself at the Feast of Tabernacles was eagerly discussed (Jn. vii. 11), and many were the opinions advanced concerning Him; some affirming Him to be a good man; others, a deceiver of the people; while fear of the ruling powers in the city prevented any open declaration in His favour (Jn. vii. 12).

When, however, the Feast had reached its midst, He suddenly appeared in the Temple, and began to teach openly in its crowded courts. Such a step at a time when the Sanhedrin had pronounced Him guilty of a capital offence374, when they were even seeking to kill Him (Jn. vii. 25), excited the greatest astonishment. That One, who had been brought up at the feet of none of the recognised and celebrated teachers (Jn. vii. 15), should venture thus openly to instruct the people, should claim for His doctrines a mysterious and exalted origin (Jn. vii. 16, 17), should justify His violation of the Sabbath by His works of mercy (Jn. vii. 21),—this, added to the hesitation and inactivity of the ruling powers375, caused much perplexity. While, therefore, some could not recognise His claims to be regarded as the Messiah with His well-known Galilæan origin, and the uncertainty which was popularly ascribed to the quarter whence the Messiah was to come (Jn. vii. 27), many could not resist the impression His wondrous works made upon their minds, and refused to believe that the long-expected Deliverer would perform any greater miracles than those they now witnessed (Jn. vii. 31).

These murmurs of the multitude at length reached the ears of the Sanhedrin, and they resolved to take steps for securing His person (Jn. vii. 32). For this purpose they sent their officers to seize Him on the first favourable opportunity. But their hostility, though now clearly avowed, did not stay the Lord from continuing His teaching; He knew He was to be but a little while longer with the multitude, who listened to Him gladly, before He returned to Him that had sent Him, and now for the first time publicly, though darkly, hinted at His speedy removal (Jn. vii. 3336), and on the last, the great day of the Feast (Jn. vii. 37), taking up His parable from the water brought in a golden vessel from the Pool of Siloam and poured before the Brazen Altar376, preached with peculiar appropriateness on the living waters of the Spirit, which should flow forth when He was glorified (Jn. vii. 39).

This boldness, added to the solemnity of His words, exerted a still greater influence on the multitudes. Some declared He must be the Prophet (Jn. vii. 40); others that He was the Messiah (Jn. vii. 41); others would have thought so too had He not risen out of Galilee instead of Bethlehem of Judæa, as Prophecy had indicated (Jn. vii. 42; Mic. v. 2), while a fourth, but clearly a smaller party, wished to apprehend Him, but dared not from fear of the people.

Accordingly the Sanhedrin met a second time, and the officers they had deputed to effect His apprehension appeared before them (Jn. vii. 45), and in reply to the enquiry why they had not brought Him, declared it was impossible—never man spake like Him—and they felt powerless to carry out their instructions. Such an avowal was received with undisguised contempt (Jn. vii. 47, 48), but the Sanhedrin found that the influence of the mysterious Teacher had penetrated within their own council. While they were, apparently, proceeding to discuss some plan for His condemnation, Nicodemus interposed with the enquiry whether the Law did not demand an open examination of a man’s claims before they pronounced judgment? This candid and generous suggestion drew down upon the speaker the uttermost derision. He was asked whether he too was from Galilee, and bidden to search and see whether any prophet had risen out of that despised and half-heathen region377? (Jn. vii. 52).

On the following day the Pharisees, finding open hostility ineffectual, made a crafty and insidious effort to undermine the growing popularity of the Saviour378. When He returned from the Mount of Olives (Jn. viii. 1), and reappeared in the Temple surrounded by the multitude, they brought to Him a woman who had been taken in the act of adultery, and placing her in the midst requested His decision respecting her. The Law of Moses certainly denounced death as the penalty of her crime (Lev. xx. 10), but, owing to the corrupt morals of the times, such a sin seldom incurred any other penalty than divorce. If, then, He decided for the punishment of death, He would, they expected, lose ground with the people by rigidly adhering to an enactment which they themselves were wont to mitigate379; if, on the other hand, He pronounced her acquittal, they could denounce Him as One who set at nought the Law of Moses, and lowered its time-honoured authority (Jn. viii. 6).

While, however, they were eagerly claiming His decision, the Holy One, as if indifferent to their request, continued seated (Jn. viii. 2), and stooping down appeared to be tracing characters with His fingers in the dust. At length He looked up (Jn. viii. 7), and said, He that is without sin amongst you, let him first cast a stone at her, and then again bending downwards resumed the writing on the floor. Such was the solemnity of His words, and such the authority with which they appealed to the consciences of all present, that they dared not persist in advancing their charge, and stole out one by one. When, therefore, He looked up again, He found Himself alone with the woman, and enquired whether none was present to convict her. To this she replied, No man, Lord, and He, declining to assume the functions of the judge, or to pronounce her condemnation, bade her go and sin no more (Jn. viii. 11).


A.D. 29.

AFTER this signal discomfiture of His enemies, the Redeemer would seem to have been permitted to resume His discourses to the people in one of the temple corridors, known as the Treasury, where stood the numerous treasure-chests380 to receive the contributions of the worshippers (Jn. viii. 20). Resuming, then, His teaching on the first Sabbath, probably, after the late festival, He reiterated with increasing boldness and authority His claims to be the Messiah, and drew attention to the testimonies whereby they had been confirmed (Jn. viii. 12, 20). Again, too, He hinted at His approaching removal, and declared with unruffled composure that, when He should have been lifted up upon the Cross, then men would truly know who He was, and recognise the authority with which He spake (Jn. viii. 28, 29).

The effect of these solemn declarations was again apparent, and many believed on Him (Jn. viii. 30). But His advice to those, who thus professed their belief in Him, to abide in His word, and His assurance that thus they would know the truth, and the truth would make them free (Jn. viii. 32, 33), excited much discussion amongst the Jews. How could they, the descendants of Abraham, who had never been slaves to any one, be made free? Though, as the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia all too plainly attested, they were nationally in a condition of vassalage to a foreign power, they protested against the idea of their being in a state of bondage, and urged their descent from the great patriarch Abraham. The children of Abraham, the Holy One replied, they were not, for they were seeking to kill Him, Whose day Abraham had desired to see, and had rejoiced to behold. This assertion roused the utmost fury of their wrath; they heaped upon Him the most bitter taunts, declared Him a Samaritan, and possessed with a demon, and taking up some of the stones lying about ready for some repair of the temple, were on the point of inflicting upon Him the punishment of a blasphemer, when He passed through the midst of them, and withdrew beyond the present reach of their malice (Jn. viii. 3359).

The Sabbath, however, was not to close without another manifestation of His divine and merciful power even in the midst of those who sought His life. As He passed by, accompanied by His disciples, he encountered a man, who, it was well known, had been blind from his birth (Jn. ix. 1). His sad affliction suggested to the Apostles the enquiry whether it was to be ascribed to sins of his own or to those of His parents; to which the Lord replied that it was due to neither of the causes they suggested; that his privations were intended to subserve higher objects of God’s love; and making clay with the moisture from His mouth, He anointed the sufferer’s eyes, and sent him to the Pool of Siloam, with the injunction to wash therein. The man went, and returned perfectly restored to sight (Jn. ix. 7).

Such a recovery of such a man, in such a manner, excited no small stir amongst his kinsfolk and acquaintance, and some actually doubted whether he could be the same as the man they had so long remembered sitting in pitiable plight at the corner of the street and begging alms of every passer by. He, however, persisted that he was really the same, and related in simple and artless language the particulars of his cure.

A miracle like this could not fail to arouse much attention, and the Sanhedrin determined, if possible, to invalidate its effect on the public mind, and summoning the man before them, began to investigate the circumstances of the cure. Their questions he answered with the same simplicity as those of his kinsfolk—whereas he was blind, now through the power of One, who had put clay upon his eyes, he saw. But it was a Sabbath-day when the cure had been effected, and some of the council wished to decide at once that one, who had flagrantly violated the law, could not be acting under the sanction of God (Jn. ix. 16). Others, however, were too much impressed by the evidence of the miracle, to acquiesce in such an off-hand decision, and there was a division in the council (Jn. ix. 16).

The man himself, therefore, was again examined, but he could add nothing to the information he had already given, and expressed his conviction that his Healer must be a Prophet (Jn. ix. 17). Hoping next in some way to throw discredit on the reality of his malady and its cure, they sent for his parents, who allowed that he was their son, and that he had been born blind, but, fearful of the terrible sentence of excommunication, with which the Council had threatened all the followers of Jesus, referred the judges to their son for any further information they might require.

Turning therefore, once more, to the healed man, they bade him give praise for the blessing he had received to God alone (Jn. ix. 24), and take no thought about Jesus of Nazareth, whom they authoritatively pronounced to be a sinner. But their dicta had no effect upon his resolute and honest temper; whether his Healer was a sinner or not he would not discuss before such an assembly; of the reality of his cure he was certain, and that was enough for him; it was useless to question him further, unless, perchance, they desired to become the disciples of Jesus.

This opened a door for the more violent party in the council. They began to revile the man, and to declare their conviction that he was a secret adherent of Jesus, while they were the followers of Moses. God had spoken to that great Lawgiver, but of the origin of Jesus they avowed themselves utterly ignorant. With increasing boldness the man commented on the extraordinary fact that One, of whose origin such a learned body was in such complete ignorance, could perform so great a miracle, utterly unheard of before, and inexplicable save on the supposition of Divine power (Jn. ix. 33). This outspoken language excited the utmost indignation, and after taunting the poor man with his blindness in which he had been born, and which marked him out as accursed of God, the Council proceeded to pass upon him the terrible sentence of excommunication (Jn. ix. 34).

Informed of the step they had taken, the Lord sought out the late recipient of His bounty, and enquired whether he believed on the Son of God? To this question the other replied, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him? (Jn. ix. 35, 36); I that speak unto thee, rejoined the Holy One, am He, and accepted his act of instant adoration and avowal of belief (Jn. ix. 37).

But the present visit to Jerusalem was to be marked by yet another protest against the assumptions and errors of the ruling party in the city. The Holy One affirmed that they were guilty of misleading the people; that, whereas they pretended to see, they saw not; that they were hireling shepherds, caring not for the lives and souls of the people; that He, and He alone, was the true, the genuine Shepherd, the purport of whose coming into the world was to lay down His life for the sheep (Jn. x. 117). With this sublime discourse respecting the Good Shepherd, the occurrences of this visit to Jerusalem appear to have come to a close. On no occasion does such an effect appear to have been made on the minds of the people. We are told indeed of few works of mercy and redeeming power; but the gracious words that fell from His lips appear to have sufficed to produce a great influence on many and divers classes. “The mixed multitude, the dwellers at Jerusalem (Jn. vii. 25), the officials of the Temple (Jn. vii. 46), and to some extent even the hostile Jewish party (Jn. viii. 30), bore witness to the more than mortal power of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth381.”


A.D. 29.

FROM this point the exact movements of our blessed Lord are enwrapped in some obscurity, and the region whither he now retired is a matter of conjecture. It seems probable, however, that He did not leave Judæa, but continued His ministrations within its frontier, and about this period sent forth the Seventy Disciples382 (Lk. x. 16), two and two before His face, to preach the word, and to visit various towns whither He Himself also intended to come (Lk. x. 1). After receiving specific instructions respecting their mission, the Seventy set out probably in the direction of Peræa, and after some short time returned to recount with much joy (Lk. x. 17) the success of their ministrations, and their discovery that even the evil spirits were subject to their Master’s Name.

One of the places visited by the Saviour during the present sojourn in Judæa, was the village of Bethany383 (Lk. x. 38), situated about 15 stadia from Jerusalem (Jn. xi. 18). Here the abode of two sisters, Martha and Mary384, and their brother Lazarus, was gladly thrown open to welcome Him, and each member of the little family enjoyed a share of His peculiar affection (Jn. xi. 5), and from time to time the sunshine of His presence.

Scanty as are the indications of the places the Holy One now visited, it seems clear that the effect of His ministry was not inconsiderable: multitudes gathered about Him to hear the Word of Life385 (Lk. xi. 16), and behold His works of power386. But the enmity of the Pharisees and the ruling body of the nation increased rather than lessened in intensity (Lk. xi. 53, 54). They still persisted in ascribing His power over unclean spirits to a secret collusion with the Evil One (Lk. xi. 14, 15; Mtt. ix. 3234); reiterated their demand for a sign from heaven (Lk. xi. 2936); carped at His refusal to conform to their superstitious observances in respect to divers washings (Lk. xi. 3742); and stung to the quick by His denunciations of their hypocritical and bloodthirsty spirit387, bent all their efforts to entangle Him in His talk, and find some matter for accusation against Him (Lk. xi. 54).

Undeterred, however, by their ceaseless hostility, He persevered in His ministrations, warned His disciples in the presence of the multitudes, who crowded around Him in such numbers as to tread upon one another (Lk. xii. 1), against the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Lk. xii. 14); reiterated His solemn words respecting blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Lk. xii. 10); and, refusing to accede to a request to divide an inheritance amongst two brothers, took occasion to warn His hearers against covetousness, and delivered the striking parable of the Rich Fool (Lk. xii. 1321). Not merely, however, would He warn them against this common sin, but “knowing how often it springs from a distrust in God’s providential care388,” He proceeded to teach them where they might find a preservative against over-anxiety389 about the future, in the assurance of the loving care of a Father in heaven, who feeds the fowls of the heaven, though they neither sow nor reap, and have neither storehouse nor barn (Lk. xii. 2224), and clothes the lilies390 of the field with a beauty, such as Solomon in all his glory never approached (Lk. xii. 27).

It was probably about this time that certain persons informed the Lord of a fresh outrage amongst the many that Pilate had committed391. On the occasion of the visit of a body of Galilæans, whose turbulent character has been already noted392, to Jerusalem, the governor for some unrecorded reason had slain them, and mingled their blood with the blood of the slain beasts they were offering on the Altar at the Temple393. If men “might have been supposed to be safe anywhere, or at any time, it would have been at the altar of God, and while in the act of offering sacrifices unto Him394;” their terrible death, therefore, appears to have been urged by the narrators of this outrage as a peculiar evidence of God’s anger against them, and of some unknown awful guilt395 on their part (Lk. xiii. 1, 2). But such hasty and cruel judgments the Lord instantly rebuked, and declared that the terrible ends of these sufferers no more marked them out as sinners above all other of their fellow-countrymen than certain eighteen persons on whom a tower of Siloam396 had recently fallen and crushed them beneath its ruins (Lk. xiii. 4). In such swift calamities they were not to trace the evidence of a pre-eminence of guilt on the part of the sufferers397, but a call to remember their own uncertain tenure of life, and to repentance398 while as yet the day of grace lasted, which solemn considerations He still further enforced by the appropriate parable of the Barren Fig-Tree (Lk. xiii. 69).

On a subsequent occasion the Lord entered a synagogue on the Sabbath-day (Lk. xiii. 10), where there was a woman inwardly afflicted in her spirit399 (Lk. xiii. 16), and outwardly with a permanent and unnatural contraction of her body (Lk. xiii. 11). Without waiting till His aid was sought, He forthwith called her to Him, and laying His hands upon her, said, Woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity, whereupon the affliction of eighteen long years (Lk. xiii. 11) instantly left her, she was made straight, and glorified God. Such a cure, which excited the wonder of all present, was more than the ruler of the synagogue could bear, and he openly expressed his indignation at this violation of the Sabbath, remarking that there were six days in the week when such servile working as healing might be done, and bidding those who needed help come then, and not degrade the sanctity of the Sabbath-day (Lk. xiii. 14). Such hypocritical strictness on the part of one who sat in Moses’ seat and was regarded as a teacher of the Law, moved the Saviour’s righteous indignation. In words, the force of which was irresistible (Lk. xiii. 17), He justified that He had done by the “very relaxations of the Sabbath strictness400,” which the ruler of the synagogue himself allowed. Would he not loose his ox or his ass from the stall and lead him away to water on the Sabbath-day, and should he be blamed for merely speaking a word and releasing a daughter of Abraham from a bond with which Satan had enthralled her for so many years? The question admitted of no reply; even His adversaries were ashamed, while the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that had been done by Him (Lk. xiii. 17).


A.D. 29.

BY the time the incident recorded in the last Chapter took place, the season of winter had returned (Jn. x. 22), and the snow lay upon the mountains401. With the return of winter came also the celebration of the Feast of Dedication402, on the 25th of the month Chisleu, which lasted eight days. On this occasion the Lord once more visited Jerusalem, and presented Himself in the Temple, and probably on account of the wintry state of the weather sought shelter in “Solomon’s Porch403,” where He was speedily encircled by the Jews (Jn. x. 24), who began with eager impetuosity to enquire how long He intended to keep them in suspense, and to ask that if He was the Messiah He would tell them so plainly and distinctly (Jn. x. 24).

The question appears to have been put neither in a hostile nor unfriendly tone, and indicates a wish on the part of the ruling powers to discover whether He might not be induced to set Himself forth as the Messiah they expected, and, like a second Judas Maccabæus, whose exploits they were commemorating, deliver them from the hated yoke of the foreigner404.

In reply, however, to their question, the Holy One contented Himself with pointing to the wonderful works He had already wrought in their midst. This testimony they had refused to receive, for neither in their aims nor desires were they of His sheep (Jn. x. 26). His sheep heard His voice, and He knew them, and He would give them eternal life, nor should any ever snatch them out of His hand (Jn. x. 27, 28); for the Eternal Father in heaven had given them to Him, and He and the Father were one (Jn. x. 29).

This solemn and mysterious language, this claim to essential unity with the eternal Father, again405 provoked the anger of His hearers. Their earthly and carnal hopes centered on some great earthly conqueror. The words of the Holy One sounded in their ears like blasphemy, and taking up some of the stones lying around for the repairs406 of the Temple which were almost always going on, they were on the point of stoning Him as He stood.

But He calmed their fury by enquiring for which of His many works, that proved by their moral goodness no less than the power they displayed, His union with the Father, they wished to stone Him. In reply the Jews declared that it was His blasphemous words which made them act as they now did, for though a man, He claimed a union with God (Jn. x. 32, 33). This charge the Holy One repelled by reference to their own sacred books407. Was not the title of God sometimes applied there to the judges and rulers of the nation (Ps. lxxxii. 6408), and was it with less justice applicable to One, whose wondrous works proved His intercommunion with the Father and His Divine mission to the world? (Jn. x. 3438). This reply only excited a fresh burst of fury, and though the Jews gave up their design of stoning Him, they tried to apprehend Him and bring Him before their courts (Jn. x. 29).

But His “hour” was not yet come, and retiring from the capital, He crossed the Jordan, and sought the fords of Bethabara or Bethany, where His forerunner at first baptized (Jn. x. 40). In this region, where that eminent servant of God had closed his course409, it was proved that “though dead he yet spake.” Many remembered his burning words and faithful testimony to the Messiah, whom the Jews at Jerusalem had rejected, and acknowledging the truth of His words, gathered round the Saviour (Jn. x. 41), and avowed their belief in Him.

Still even here He had to encounter hostile opposition. His indefatigable enemies, the Pharisees, penetrated His seclusion and represented that Herod Antipas, within whose dominions He now was, sought opportunity to kill Him (Lk. xiii. 31). But He saw through their cunning and hypocrisy, no less than the fox-like (Lk. xiii. 32) craft of the Tetrarch, by whom they had been probably suborned410. He, doubtless, would be glad to get out of his territory411 One, whose fame caused him so much perplexity, and they would be no less anxious to drive Him from a quarter, where He was comparatively safe, to the hostile neighbourhood of Jerusalem412. But though it was impossible that a prophet could perish elsewhere than in a capital, which had slain so many who had been sent to it417, yet there was still time for the performance of works of mercy (Lk. xiii. 32, 33), for the healing of the sick, and the expulsion of demons, before He went up to Jerusalem, whose children He would so often have gathered together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing418, but they would not, and whose house was now left unto them desolate (Lk. xiii. 34, 35).

Of the works of mercy here mentioned, apparently but one is actually recorded by the Evangelist. At the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, to which He had been invited (Lk. xiv. 1) on the Sabbath-day, for a hostile purpose419, the Holy One healed a man afflicted with dropsy (Lk. xiv. 26), and taking occasion from the associations of the time and place, not only rebuked the haughty selfishness with which the Pharisees claimed the chief seats at feasts (Lk. xiv. 714), but also uttered the appropriate parable of the Great Supper (Lk. xiv. 1524).

In the same neighbourhood also, finding Himself surrounded by great crowds, amongst which some indicated a wish to follow Him, He addressed them solemnly on the self-denial required of all who would be His real disciples (Lk. xiv. 2535), and the necessity for first counting the cost, and taking up the cross if they would truly follow Him. On another occasion a great number of tax-gatherers, who were very numerous near Jericho and the Jordan fords420, gathered round Him, together with many regarded as profligate sinners. Their eagerness to listen to His teaching, and His willingness to receive and eat with them (Lk. xv. 1), roused again the hostility of the Pharisees and Scribes, and provoked them to open murmuring. But, undeterred by their opposition, the Good Shepherd, with striking appropriateness now, gave utterance to the parables of the Lost Sheep (Lk. xv. 1), the Lost Coin (Lk. xv. 810), and the Prodigal Son (Lk. xv. 1132), and afterwards addressed to His disciples, though in the hearing of the Pharisees, those of the Unjust Steward (Lk. xvi. 113), and of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk. xvi. 1931).


A.D. 30.

WHILE the Lord was in Peræa, and apparently in the neighbourhood of Bethabara, a messenger reached Him from the sisters Martha and Mary421, announcing that their brother Lazarus was sick (Jn. xi. 13). On receiving this intelligence, He replied in the hearing of His Apostles, but chiefly to the messenger, and for him to bring back to those that had sent him422, This sickness is not unto death (Jn. xi. 4), but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

Whatever amount of hope this announcement may have raised in the minds of the sisters was for the present at least dashed to the ground. For He, to whom they had sent their simple message, and who had so often healed others at a distance by simply uttering a word, now neither spoke the word of power, nor came to them, but remained still two days in the same place where He was (Jn. xi. 6), and in the meantime Lazarus died, and was laid in a rock-hewn sepulchre.

At the close, however, of the two days, the Holy One proposed to His disciples that they should go into Judæa again. But the trembling Apostles, recollecting the extreme danger He had so lately incurred at Jerusalem, ventured to expostulate: a short time back the Jews were seeking to stone Him (Jn. xi. 8), and for the sake of safety He had been constrained to seek the seclusion of the region where He now was, would He venture then, so soon to incur afresh the malice of His foes?

Thereupon He calmed their apprehensions, and announced that their friend Lazarus was asleep, but He intended to wake him out of sleep (Jn. xi. 12). This announcement perplexed the Apostles still more. If Lazarus slept, it indicated a favourable crisis of his illness, and the perilous journey was unnecessary. Perceiving that they understood His words literally, He now told them plainly that Lazarus was dead, but still declared His intention of going to Bethany (Jn. xi. 15), on which the Apostle Thomas, betraying the tendency to misgiving and despondency which distinguished him423, and convinced that his Master would fall into the hands of His deadly enemies, proposed to the rest that at least they should accompany Him, and share His end (Jn. xi. 16).

With these sad forebodings the Apostles accompanied their Lord, and on reaching Bethany found that Lazarus had been already dead four days424, and as the village lay only three quarters of an hour’s journey from Jerusalem, many Jews (Jn. xi. 19) had come thither over the Mount of Olives, to pay the customary visit of condolence to the two sisters425.

Tarrying Himself outside the village (Jn. xi. 30), the Lord suffered the tidings of His arrival to go before Him, and no sooner did Martha become aware of it, than she hurried forth to meet Him, while Mary remained in the house. In few and touching words Martha revealed the anguish of her heart. Lord, said she, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, but added, shewing that even now she had not abandoned every hope, I know that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee (Jn. xi. 22). In reply the Holy One assured her that her brother would rise again, and when she answered that she knew he would rise again at the last day (Jn. xi. 24), proceeded to declare Himself to be the Resurrection and the life, in whom whosoever believed should live though he died, and whosoever lived and believed should never die (Jn. xi. 25, 26).

Having spoken of Himself in these solemn and momentous words, He enquired whether Martha herself believed He was what He thus claimed to be. Yea, Lord, was her reply: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world (Jn. xi. 27), and with this assurance hastened away, and secretly called her sister. Informed of her Lord’s arrival Mary also hurried to meet Him, and was quickly followed by a large number of the Jews, who took for granted that, according to the usual custom426, she was proceeding to the grave to weep there. Arrived at the spot where Jesus was, Mary could only fall down before His feet (Jn. xi. 32), and falter out the words her sister had already uttered, and then gave way to passionate grief. The spectacle of her deep sorrow deeply affected many of the Jews also, and they mingled their tears with hers, while the Lord Himself groaned in spirit and was troubled, and enquired where they had laid the dead (Jn. xi. 33).

With the words come and see, they conducted Him to the sepulchre, and on the road427 He Himself, borne away by the “great tide of sorrow428 around, joined His tears with theirs (Jn. xi. 35).

On reaching the sepulchre, which, like the family vaults of the Jews, was a cave429, with recesses in the sides, in which the bodies were laid, He commanded the stone, which closed the entrance, to be removed. On this Martha, shrinking from the exposure to the eyes of strangers of the body of one so dear, and already partially decomposed (Jn. xi. 39), ventured to expostulate; but Jesus reminded her of His promise that, if she believed, she should see the glory of God, and calmed her feelings. Accordingly the stone was removed, and then the Holy One, after a brief pause, during which He thanked the Eternal Father for having heard Him (Jn. xi. 41, 42), cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. Instantly the word of Power was obeyed. There was a stir in the sepulchre. The dead man rose, and came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face covered with a napkin, while the Lord, who was never calmer than when during His greatest works, simply bade the bystanders loose him and let him go (Jn. xi. 44).


A.D. 30.

THE remarkable miracle recorded at length in the preceding Chapter marks an important epoch in the life of our Lord.

The effect it exerted upon those who witnessed it was twofold. Many of those, who had come to mourn with the sisters of Bethany, avowed their belief in the Saviour’s claims (Jn. xi. 45), but others, with no friendly intentions, hurried to the Pharisees and recounted to them all that had taken place. Their report led to instant measures.

The ruling powers, hitherto comparatively calm, became very uneasy. A meeting of the Sanhedrin was convened, at which Caiaphas presided, and the course to be followed was keenly debated. It was clear that the sentence of excommunication (Jn. ix. 22), lately passed upon the followers of the Saviour, had not counteracted the impression made by His ministry on the minds of the people430. The notable miracle He had just wrought could not be gainsaid, and its effect upon the multitude was profound. If he was suffered to continue His ministry, all, it was argued, would believe on Him, and in all probability proclaim Him as their King. Such a proclamation would inevitably lead to a riot, a riot to a visit from Pilate, the ruthlessness of whose character had been again and again experienced431, and this would be followed by a massacre, and the total deprivation of what remained of their national existence.

Many measures were, probably, advocated by various members of the Council, but found no general acceptance. At length Caiaphas arose, and with unconcealed contempt declared that his weak and vacillating colleagues knew nothing at all (Jn. xi. 49). The life and teaching of One Man threatened to imperil the whole nation, and to bring them into collision with their Roman masters. One effectual remedy alone existed. It was expedient that He should be put to death rather than the whole nation should be swept away. As a Sadducee432 (Acts v. 17) Caiaphas believed in the might of the Roman legions, though he denied the doctrine of the resurrection and the existence of spiritual powers, and rather than embroil the nation in fresh troubles with their unscrupulous masters, he advocated the death of the Holy One, all unconscious433 of the momentous results of the step he advised.

Though there were some dissentients (Lk. xxiii. 50, 51), his words expressed the feelings of the majority of the Council. The more decided and violent party triumphed. It was deliberately determined that Jesus should be put to death, and from that day forward continual councils were held to decide how this should be brought about (Jn. xi. 53).

But the Holy One, knowing that His “hour” was not yet come, retired with His disciples to Ephraim, a town situated434 in the wide desert country north-east of Jerusalem, not far from Bethel, and on the confines of Samaria.

Here in quiet and seclusion He remained till the approach of the Passover, and then commenced a farewell-journey along the border-line of Samaria and Galilee, in the direction of the Jordan (Lk. xvii. 11; Mtt. xix. 1), and so to Peræa (Mk. x. 1).

It was probably while yet on the confines of Samaria, that at the entrance of a village, the name and position of which are not recorded, He encountered Ten Lepers, one of whom was a Samaritan435 (Lk. xvii. 16). Standing afar off (Lk. xvii. 12), they all lifted up their voices, and implored His aid, on which, filled with compassion for their miserable condition, He bade them go and shew themselves to the priests at Jerusalem. Though they must have been aware that they could not expect healing from the priest, whose only office it was either to pronounce the sufferer affected with this fearful malady, or to restore him with ceremonial washings to the society of his fellow-men436, the Lepers nevertheless set out, and lo! as they went (Lk. xvii. 14), their flesh came back to them like unto the flesh of a little child (2 K. v. 14), and they were cleansed. But though they all experienced His unlooked-for blessing, one only, and he a Samaritan, returned to give thanks to His Healer, who, accustomed as he was to man’s ingratitude, yet marvelled at this striking proof of it (Lk. xvii. 17, 18), and dismissed the grateful man with a higher and a peculiar blessing437, saying, Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole (Lk. xvii. 19).

Continuing His journey towards the Jordan, the Saviour at some place, the name of which is not mentioned, encountered certain Pharisees, who professed, probably in treachery or mockery, a question respecting the coming of the kingdom of God, to which He replied, that it would be with no such visible establishment as they expected (Lk. xvii. 20, 21), and proceeded to found upon the question a warning to His own disciples on the same subject (Lk. xvii. 2237). It was now also, in all probability, either before or just after He crossed into Peræa438, that He delivered the parables of the Unjust Judge and the Pharisee and Publican (Lk. xvii. 114), and replied to a question respecting the lawfulness of divorce (Mtt. xix. 312; Mk. x. 212), on which the rival schools of Hillel and Shammai439 held opposite opinions.

In striking contrast to the malice which prompted these questionings, certain parents, who probably honoured Him, and valued His benediction, brought their children to Him, and begged that He would lay His hands upon them and offer up a prayer in their behalf (Mtt. xix. 13). To the disciples such an act appeared unfitting, and they would have kept back those that brought them (Mk. x. 13; Lk. xviii. 15), but with touching condescension He not only rebuked their interference (Mk. x. 14), and said, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven, but called them to Him (Lk. xviii. 16), took them up in His arms, laid His hands upon them, and blessed them (Mk. x. 16; Mtt. xix. 15).

It was in this region also that a rich young ruler approached Him, desiring to know what he should do to inherit eternal life (Mtt. xix. 16; Mk. x. 17). The Holy One referred him to the commandments. These the other declared he had kept from his youth (Mk. x. 20), on which the Lord looked upon him with a glance of deep affection, informed him that he lacked yet one thing (Lk. xviii. 22), and bade him go and sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and take up his cross (Mk. x. 21) and follow Him. Such a demand, so totally opposed to the popular notions of the kingdom of the Messiah, in which the Jews expected every form of temporal blessing, was too severe a test for the ruler’s sincerity; he had great possessions (Mtt. xix. 22; Mk. x. 22), which he could not part with, and in sorrow he left the Saviour and went his way.

But the same ideas of temporal blessings were still held by the Apostles themselves. They had left everything to follow their Master, might they not look for some great reward? To Peter, who put the question (Mk. x. 28; Mtt. xix. 23) the Holy One replied, by assuring him and the rest that a reward they should have, though very different from what they expected, and taking them apart (Mtt. xx. 17; Mk. x. 32) began for the third time440, and with greater particularity than before, to speak of the future that awaited Himself; how at Jerusalem He should be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, and be mocked, and scourged, and crucified (Mtt. xx. 1824; Mk. x. 3340; Lk. xviii. 3234). But though awed by the unusual solemnity of His manner (Mk. x. 32), and the dauntless resolution with which He pressed on towards Jerusalem (Mk. x. 33), they could not enter into the meaning of His words. His predictions of suffering and death clashed with all their deeply-rooted ideas of the nature of the Messianic kingdom, and it was now that two of their number, James and John, encouraged by their mother, preferred the request441 that in His kingdom they might sit the one on His right hand, and the other on His left. Even His reply that they should indeed drink of His cup, and be baptized with His baptism, sounded to the rest like the concession of some mysterious dignity, and provoked a jealousy on their part, which the Holy One strove to check by reminding them once more of the true nature of His kingdom, that therein He is truly first who is the servant of all; even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.

With this final proof of the utter inability even of His own chosen Twelve to lighten by their sympathy a particle of what lay before Himself, the Holy One, having recrossed the Jordan, continued His way amidst the crowd of pilgrims setting forth towards Jerusalem. Approaching Jericho He healed two blind men442, who sat by the wayside begging and implored His aid; He accepted in the City of Palm Trees itself the hospitality of Zacchæus443, a superintendent of customs or tribute there (Lk. xix. 110); corrected, by delivering the Parable of the Pounds444, the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven was about immediately to appear, and at length, six days before the Passover, reached the safe seclusion of the mountain hamlet of Bethany (Mtt. xxvi. 613; Mk. xiv. 39; Jn. xii. 111).

JERUSALEM in the time of OUR LORD

London and New York: Macmillan & Co.
For Maclear’s New Test.t History   Stanford’s Geog.l Estab.t




A.D. 30.

IT was apparently on a Friday evening when the Saviour reached the hamlet of Bethany, where in quiet retirement He could spend His last earthly Sabbath. At Bethany resided one Simon (Mtt. xxvi. 6; Mk. xiv. 3), who had been a leper445, and possibly had been restored by the Lord Himself, and at his house the sisters of Lazarus provided a festal repast446, to welcome Him who had in so signal a manner restored happiness to their little circle (Jn. xii. 2).

In keeping with her character Martha on this occasion busied herself in ministering to the Lord (Jn. xii. 2), while Lazarus reclined at the table as one of the guests. As the feast proceeded, Mary approached with an alabaster casket in her hand, containing a pound of precious spikenard447 (Jn. xii. 3), and breaking off the closed top (Mk. xiv. 3), poured a portion on the head of the Saviour. Then kneeling down she anointed His feet also (Jn. xii. 3), while the sweet odour diffused itself through the whole room.

But her act of beautiful affection did not win the approval of all the guests at the table. Judas Iscariot enquired why a casket of such precious unguent, which might have been sold for more than 300 denarii448 and given to the poor, should be wasted in such a useless piece of extravagance449 (Jn. xii. 5), and even others of the Apostles sympathised with his views, and had indignation and murmured against her (Mtt. xxvi. 8). He, however, for whom she had thus manifested her affectionate adoration, suffered scarcely a moment to elapse before He signified His opinion of that she had done. Not only did He bid the murmurers desist from troubling her, but declared that she had wrought a beautiful and worthy deed. The poor, for whom they pretended so much anxiety, they had always with them, but Himself they would not have always (Mk. xiv. 7), thus reminding them again of that speedy removal He had so often predicted. Moreover, He proceeded to declare that what she had done had a special significance. In reference to the mysterious event so soon about to befall Him, wherein He should receive so little assistance or comfort from any human being, she at least had done what she could (Mk. xiv. 8), she had come beforehand to anoint His Body for the burying, and wherever the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, there should also the deed which had moved their unworthy indignation be told for a memorial of her (Mtt. xxvi. 13; Mk. xiv. 9). Thus by a prophetic word He elevated and interpreted her act of affectionate adoration.

Thus the eventful evening wore on. Meanwhile the news of the Saviour’s presence at Bethany had reached Jerusalem, and great crowds (Jn. xii. 9) resorted thither not only to see Him but Lazarus also, whose resurrection from the dead caused many to avow their belief in the Lord of life (Jn. xii. 11). This fact was well known to the chief-priests, and a council was convened to consider the propriety of putting him also to death (Jn. xii. 10).

The next day dawned, the first day of the Holy week. Leaving Bethany, the Saviour proceeded towards Bethphage450, and sending two of His disciples, desired them to bring an ass, and her colt with her, which they would find tied at the entrance of the village (Mtt. xxi. 2, 3; Lk. xix. 30; Mk. xi. 2). The disciples went, and in answer to the question of the owners (Lk. xix. 33), why they thus loosed them, replied, as bidden, that the Lord had need of them, and returned to their master.

The voice of ancient prophecy (Zech. ix. 9) had declared that her King would come to Zion meek, and sitting on an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass; and the hour for its fulfilment had now come. The road from Bethany to Jerusalem wound through rich plantations of palm-trees, and fruit- and olive-gardens451, and was now crowded with pilgrims making their way towards the Holy City, or the encampments on the declivity of the Mount of Olives452. Amongst these would naturally be many who had witnessed the Saviour’s miracles in Galilee, and their enthusiasm would be much increased by the news of the wondrous event at Bethany. The heart of the people, therefore, was deeply stirred, and the disciples, filled with the general excitement, spread their garments on the animals they had brought to their Master (Mtt. xxi. 7), and placed Him thereon. Soon the crowds began to express their joy in a more lively manner. Some strewed their garments453 on the rough mountain-path, others cut down branches454 from the neighbouring gardens, and threw them on the road before Him.

Meanwhile a second stream issuing from the Holy City (Jn. xii. 12) came forth to meet the Conqueror of Death, and meeting the others coming from Bethany, turned round, and swelled the long procession towards Jerusalem. As they approached the descent of the Mount of Olives (Lk. xix. 37), their feelings found expression in the prophetic language of the Psalms, and with loud Hosannas they glorified God (Lk. xix. 37), and proclaimed the approach of the Son of David to receive the kingdom of His Father, and to establish His Messianic kingdom (Mtt. xxi. 9; Mk. xi. 9). Certain of the Pharisees alone were found to murmur. They would have had the Saviour rebuke the zeal of the multitude, but pointing to the stones beneath their feet, He declared that they would immediately cry out if these were to hold their peace.

Thus amidst loud Hosannas the procession swept along, till on a nearer approach, the whole of the magnificent City, as if rising from an abyss, burst into view, “with its back-ground of gardens and suburbs455,” and its glorious Temple-tower. The procession paused, and the hour of triumph became the hour of deepest sorrow. In strange contrast with the excited emotions of the crowds around Him, the Holy One wept over the devoted city, foresaw the Roman legions gathered round its fated walls, its proud towers laid low in the dust, and its children within it, because they knew not the day of their visitation (Lk. xix. 4144).

Such things were hidden from the eyes of the eager throngs who were shouting “Hosanna,” and believed that now at length the Messiah, welcomed and accepted, would claim the sceptre and ascend the throne. Passing through the City the Holy One advanced towards the Temple. Jerusalem was stirred to its very centre. Who is this? enquired many. This is the Prophet, Jesus, of Nazareth of Galilee (Mtt. xxi. 10, 11), was the eager reply of His believing followers, expecting, doubtless, that some unmistakeable sign would be given of His real character.

They were doomed to disappointment. Entering the Courts of the Temple, He surveyed with a clear and searching glance (Mk. xi. 11) the scene of disorder and mercenary desecration which they again presented, and in the evening returned with the Twelve (Mk. xi. 11) to the seclusion of Bethany, and the great Palm-Sunday was over.


A.D. 30.

THE country between Bethany and Jerusalem, as has been observed in the previous Chapter, abounded in gardens of fig-trees, from which fact indeed Bethphage, or the “House of Figs,” derived its name.

Early in the morning after the Triumphal Entry the Saviour set out once more for the Holy City, where, as the inspection of the previous evening had too clearly testified, a second vindication of the sanctity of His Father’s house was needed. Being a hungred, probably after a night of fasting, and perceiving afar off (Mk. xi. 13) a fig-tree standing alone by the way side (Mtt. xxi. 19), which presented an unusual show of leaves for the season, He went up to it to see if haply456 He might find fruit thereon (Mk. xi. 13), but on reaching it found nothing but leaves. Though at this early period of the year neither leaves nor fruit were to be expected on a fig-tree, this tree by its ample foliage appeared to give promise of the fruit, which ordinarily appears before the leaves457. But a nearer approach proved that this promise it fulfilled only in appearance, and in the hearing of His disciples the Holy One laid upon it the doom of utter barrenness, saying, Let no man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever, and straightway it was dried up (Mtt. xxi. 19), and withered.

Passing onwards to Jerusalem, He entered the Temple. The nefarious scene He had rebuked at the first Passover of His public ministry was still enacted. The evil practices which had called forth that first display of holy zeal for the honour of His Father’s house had by degrees returned. The fruit, the reality of righteousness, which He had come seeking then and sought in vain, He found not now. As before, therefore, so on this occasion, He drove forth the intruders, the buyers, the sellers, and the money-changers, upset their tables, and poured forth their unholy gains, and declared in words of conscious authority that His House was not for thievish traffic, but for prayer and praise (Mk. xi. 17; Mtt. xxi. 13).

Having thus once more vindicated the sanctity of the Temple, He commenced teaching in its courts, and speedily gathered around Him many eager to listen, and astonished at His doctrine (Mk. xi. 18). But works of mercy were now to follow words of power. Those who needed His help sought Him in the Temple itself. The blind and the lame (Mtt. xxi. 14) came to Him, and experienced the effects of the healing word. The marvels that He wrought (Mtt. xxi. 15) moved the youngest pilgrims at the festival, and children’s voices cried Hosanna to the Son of David. This was more than the chief priests and scribes could endure. Eager as they were to put Him to death, they dared not lift a hand or show open violence, for the whole multitude hung upon Him to hear His words (Lk. xix. 48). In a tone of expostulation, however, they ventured to enquire whether He heard what these children were saying, to which He replied by asking whether they had never read the words of the Psalmist, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise (Ps. viii. 2); with which rebuke He left them, and when even was come returned to Bethany (Mk. xi. 19; Mtt. xxi. 17).

As He proceeded towards Jerusalem on the following day, the Apostles observed with surprise how rapidly the tree doomed the day before had withered away. The late hour at which they left the City the preceding evening had probably prevented their noticing it before, and now the Saviour took occasion by it to teach them a lesson respecting the nature and power of Faith (Mtt. xxi. 2022; Mk. xi. 2025).

On entering the Temple and recommencing His gracious work of teaching those assembled there, He was interrupted by the arrival of a formal deputation from the Sanhedrin, which had resolved to discredit Him if possible with the people (Mtt. xxi. 23; Lk. xx. 1).

They began by enquiring by what authority He acted as He was doing, and from whom He had received it (Mk. xi. 28). This question the Holy One met by another. Two years before458 they had sent a deputation to the Baptist (Jn. i. 26), and he had borne a public and emphatic testimony to His Messianic claims. The prophetic character of John was generally admitted (Mtt. xxi. 26), and his bold rebuke of Herod had endeared him to the hearts of many—Whence, then, was his baptism, from heaven or from men? The question filled his hearers with embarrassment. If they replied that his was a divine commission, they exposed themselves to the obvious rejoinder, why had they not received his testimony respecting the Messiah? If they said of men, they would expose themselves to popular indignation (Mk. xi. 31, 32). Accordingly they preferred to own that they could not tell, whereupon He also declined to answer the question they had put to Him respecting His mission (Mtt. xxi. 27; Lk. xx. 8).

Though thus repulsed, His enemies do not appear to have left the Temple-courts, and were condemned to listen to still more humiliating language. In the parables of the Two Sons (Mtt. xxi. 2832), and the Wicked Husbandmen (Mtt. xxi. 3344; Mk. xii. 111; Lk. xx. 918), the Redeemer set forth with the utmost distinctness their neglect of their high vocation, the guilt of that outrage which they already meditated against Him in their hearts, their speedy rejection, and the bestowal of the privileges they had abused on other nations.

The drift of these parables the Pharisees and chief priests clearly discerned, and sought earnestly to lay hands upon Him (Mk. xii. 12; Lk. xx. 19), but feared to do so openly because of the multitude, who all regarded Him as a Prophet (Mtt. xxi. 46). Undeterred, however, by these manifestations of intended violence He warned them solemnly, for the last time, in the Parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son (Mtt. xxii. 114), that a day was at hand when the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jewish people who had despised its privileges, and be bestowed upon the Gentiles459.


A.D. 30.

THUS far the efforts of the ruling powers had been of no avail. The authority of the Lord with the people remained unshaken, His career was unchecked, and they themselves had been humiliated in the very midst of the Temple-courts460. A formal council was therefore held (Mtt. xxii. 15), and it was resolved to organize some plan for ensnaring Him in His speech (Mtt. xxii. 15; Mk. xii. 13), and beguiling Him into statements which might afford a pretext for delivering Him up to the Roman procurator (Lk. xx. 20). United, therefore, in one formidable conspiracy, the Pharisees461, Sadducees461, and Herodians461, suborned (Lk. xx. 20) men, to all appearance right-minded and thoroughly in earnest, to propose various cases of conscience to Him as the Lord and Judge in the land462.

i. First, then, approached the Herodians with certain of the Pharisees (Mtt. xxii. 16) enquiring whether it was lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? How keenly this question was debated in Palestine, and what disturbances it had caused, especially in Galilee, the province of Herod, has been already noticed463. To answer it now, and to avoid on the one hand giving offence to the excited crowds in the Temple-courts, and on the other supplying matter for accusation before the Roman governor in the Tower of Antonia, so close at hand, appeared impossible. No patriotic Jew would admit that tribute was due to Cæsar. No one claiming to be the Messiah could allow it for a moment, unless he would forfeit all his popularity with the people. And yet if the Redeemer denied this, a charge of treason, which the Romans were always quick to hear, was clearly made out. But the Holy One, thrown off His guard neither by the affected courtesy nor adulation of their address (Mtt. xxii. 18; Lk. xx. 23), saw through their hypocrisy and the snare they had laid. With infinite wisdom He called for the tribute-money. They brought Him a denarius464. Whose image and superscription is this? He enquired. They answered, Cæsar’s. Render, therefore, He replied, to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. The snare they had laid so cunningly was broken. A single word had rent the whole “web of craft and hypocrisy.” The enquirers themselves acknowledged the wisdom of His answer. There was nothing they could take hold of (Lk. xx. 26). They were silent, and went their way (Lk. xx. 26).

ii. The Herodians thus repulsed, the Sadducees approached. With their wonted465 philosophic pride they usually kept aloof from all popular religious movements. Now, however, they advanced to the encounter with a religious difficulty respecting the position in another world of a woman who had had seven husbands in this466. But their coarse question was met with Divine wisdom. Had they known the Scriptures, or the power of God, they could never have asked it (Mtt. xxii. 29). Such corporeal and earthly relationships ceased with this life, and in the next man would be exalted to a higher order of beings by the almighty power of Him, who even in the Law467, which they professed to receive, had declared Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the living, and not of the dead (Ex. iii. 6).

iii. Struck with the singular wisdom, with which He had put the Sadducees to silence (Mtt. xxii. 34), a scribe belonging to the Pharisaic sect (Mk. xii. 28) now drew near, requesting information as to the relative greatness of the commandments of the Law (Mtt. xxii. 36). The point was probably one much debated in the Rabbinical schools, though it is not clear in what way it was calculated to ensnare the Saviour. But the sublime, though simple response it received, comprising the whole of religion, under the precepts of Love to God and Love to Man, struck even the questioner with admiration (Mk. xii. 32); he frankly owned that such love was better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifice468, and obtained the gracious declaration from the Redeemer that he was not far from the kingdom of God (Mk. xii. 34).

After such successive proofs of Divine wisdom the Pharisees did not venture469 to put any more questions to the Redeemer, and He Himself, taking advantage of the opportunity, now assumed the character of a questioner, and interrogated them (Mtt. xxii. 41) respecting the descent of the Messiah. Speaking under the influence of the Spirit, David in the Psalms (Ps. cx. 1) had called Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, till I have made Thy foes a footstool for Thy feet. If the Messiah was to be David’s son, how could He be at the same time his Lord, thus mysteriously uniting a Divine and a human nature?

To this profound question those addressed did not even venture to make a reply, and were in their turn constrained to listen, while in words of awful and righteous judgment He denounced the hypocrisy (Mtt. xxiii. 112) and tyranny (Mtt. xxiii. 1318) of the Pharisees, their bigoted attachment to the most minute observances, and their blindness to the spirit of true religion (Mtt. xxiii. 1836), which had led them to pour out the blood of Jehovah’s prophets, even as they now thirsted for His own. For them and for their city the hour of desolation was at hand. The times of mercy, when He would have gathered the children of Jerusalem as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing470 (Mtt. xxiii. 3739), had passed away, never to return.

After this stern denunciation of the ruling powers, who veiling their malice and wickedness under the pretence of righteousness had so pertinaciously sought to entrap Him, the Redeemer sat down opposite the Treasury, in the Court of the Women471, and looking up beheld the multitude casting in their voluntary472 gifts and contributions. Amongst the rest His eye rested on a certain poor widow, one of the helpless class which He had just described as devoured by the extortion of the Scribes and Pharisees (Mk. xii. 40; Lk. xx. 47). All her possessions consisted of two mites473, which together made a farthing, both of which she now cast into the Treasury, and knew not that One had called to Him His disciples (Mk. xii. 43), and declared that she had cast in more than all the rest, and that her gift should be known and remembered till the end of time.

It was apparently while the Redeemer was still in the Court of the Women that two of the Apostles, Andrew and Philip, approached Him with what they deemed a strange announcement. Amongst the thousands that crowded the Holy City were certain Greeks, not Grecian Jews474, but Gentiles, proselytes of the gate, who were in the habit of coming up to the Feast. In common with many others they had heard of the famed Teacher of Nazareth, of His mighty works, and His wondrous words, and they wished with their own eyes to behold Him (Jn. xii. 21). Shrinking, however, from approaching Him directly, they had applied to the Apostle Philip, possibly on account of his Græcised name475, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip, apparently perplexed, consulted his brother Apostle Andrew, and together the two went and told their Lord.

No sooner did the Saviour hear their announcement, and perhaps behold these enquirers from the West, than He instantly broke forth into words of mysterious joy: The Hour, He declared, as if in a transport of holy rapture, The Hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there will also My servant be; if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour (Jn. xii. 2426).

But with the thought of the seed-corn cast into the ground and dying, and the spectacle of these pledges476 of the vast multitude He should draw unto Him if He was lifted up, came the thought of all that He must first undergo. There fell upon Him the shadow of the dreadful hour so close at hand, and He exclaimed, Now is My soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour; and then, as though a cloud had rolled away, the perfectly willing spirit spoke again, For this cause came I unto this hour477: Father, glorify Thy Name (Jn. xii. 27, 28).

But these words, expressive of such deep, such infinite resignation, were not to pass unheeded; they called forth the last of the Three478 Heavenly Voices, which, during His life on earth, attested the Divinity of His mission. The Voice, which had been heard on the banks of Jordan and on the Mount of Transfiguration, was now heard in the courts of the Temple itself, saying in response to the Redeemer’s significant utterance, Father, glorify Thy Name; I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

Various479 were the interpretations of this mysterious Voice by the surrounding crowd. Some thought that it thundered, others that an angel had spoken to Him (Jn. xii. 29). But the Redeemer set all doubts at rest, saying, This Voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes; and then He exclaimed in the same strain of triumph, which the announcement of two Apostles respecting the enquiring Greeks had called forth, Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the Prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me, signifying, adds the Evangelist, by what death He should die480.

This striking incident was the appropriate close of this great day in the Temple. The public work of the Holy One was now over. He had given His last counsels and His final warnings to the ruling powers; He now departed and hid Himself from them (Jn. xii. 36). In spite of the mighty works He had wrought (Jn. xii. 37), the Jewish nation did not believe on Him. Many, indeed, of the rulers could not resist the evidence of His life and works, but they dared not openly avow their faith for fear of the Pharisees and the terrible ban of excommunication (Jn. xii. 42).

As thus, however, He quitted the Temple, which as a Teacher He was never to enter again, a striking incident took place. His disciples began to invite His attention to the magnificence and solidity of the structure, the enormous size of the stones (Mk. xiii. 1), the glistering of its marble blocks, and the gorgeous gifts with which it was endowed481 (Mtt. xxiv. 1; Lk. xxi. 5). But their words of admiration could not mislead Him. The imposing building might seem to them to be founded for eternity. But He told them that a day was coming, when not one of these enormous masses of stone should be left standing upon the other.

With this mysterious announcement of a dreadful doom awaiting their national sanctuary ringing in their ears, the Apostles accompanied their Lord along the well-known road towards Bethany. But when they reached the Mount of Olives, He sat down (Mtt. xxiv. 3; Mk. xiii. 3), as if to take one last look at the glorious city and its still more glorious Temple. And as He sat there directly opposite to it in the evening twilight482, four of the Apostles, Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mk. xiii. 3), disquieted by the announcement of the coming destruction of their City, approached with an earnest enquiry when all these things should come to pass, and what should be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the world (Mtt. xxiv. 3; Lk. xxi. 7).

In reply to their enquiries the Holy One, with the utmost conceivable solemnity, proceeded to set forth the judgments destined to befall Jerusalem, and from these to lead up their thoughts to the contemplation of His own second coming to judge the world (Mtt. xxiv. 542), to describe the events that should precede it, and to enforce the necessity on their part of watchfulness and preparation by the striking parables of the Ten Virgins (Mtt. xxv. 113) and the Talents (Mtt. xxv. 1430), closing His solemn revelations with a distinct declaration of the circumstances of the Awful Day, when the Son of Man should come in His glory to judge both the quick and dead (Mtt. xxv. 3146).


A.D. 30.

AT the close of these solemn prophecies the Redeemer reminded the Apostles that after two days the Passover would be celebrated, and the Son of Man would be betrayed to be crucified (Mtt. xxvi. 1, 2). Having thus indicated the precise time, when the Hour so often spoken of before should come, He retired in all probability to Bethany483, and there, hidden in holy seclusion (Jn. xii. 36), spent the last day preceding His sufferings.

Meanwhile the rulers of the nation were holding a formal and deliberate consultation as to the best means for putting Him to death. Humbled as they had been that day in the Temple in the eyes of the people, and disappointed in all their projects of ensnaring Him in a capital charge, they saw that their influence was lost unless they were willing to take extreme measures484. The chief priests, therefore, the scribes, and the elders (Comp. Mtt. xxvi. 3; Mk. xiv. 1) assembled not in their usual place of conclave, the hall Gazith485 on the Temple Mount, but in the court of the palace of Caiaphas, the high-priest (Mtt. xxvi. 3). He, as we have seen, had already advised that the Holy One should be put to death486, and doubtless many of those present would have gladly resolved on seizing Him by force. But by degrees they became alive to the difficulties of the case.

The recent events on the day of the Triumphal Entry convinced them of the great influence which the Redeemer wielded over many of the nation, and especially the bold and hardy mountaineers of Galilee. The only place where He appeared in public after the nights had been spent at Bethany was the Temple. But to seize Him there in the present excited state of popular feeling would certainly lead to a tumult (Mtt. xxvi. 5; Mk. xiv. 2; Lk. xxii. 2), and this to the interposition of the procurator in the fortress of Antonia. Forcible and hasty measures were therefore to be avoided, and it was formally resolved to take Him by craft, and therefore secretly, and for this purpose to await a favourable opportunity487.

While, however, they were thus debating, a mode of apprehending Him suddenly presented itself which they had never anticipated488. Judas Iscariot, whose chagrin at the discovery of His real character489 and the rebuke of His Master on the evening of the Anointing at Bethany has been already described, approached with an enquiry as to the sum they were willing to give him in the event of his betraying the Holy One into their hands (Mtt. xxvi. 14). Thereupon with a joyous alacrity (Mk. xiv. 11; Lk. xxii. 5) they covenanted to give him thirty pieces of silver490, and he on his part began to watch for a seasonable occasion of delivering Him into their hands, without rousing the feelings of the multitude (Lk. xxii. 6).

Thus, then, the day of seclusion at Bethany, the Thursday of the Holy Week, passed away. Meanwhile the hour for the celebration of the Passover drew near. The Saviour had already reminded His disciples of its approach, and connected it with His own death. Accordingly the Apostles now enquired of Him where He intended to celebrate it, and in reply He bade two of their number, Peter and John, go into the city (Lk. xxii. 8), and informed them that on entering it they would meet a man bearing a pitcher of water, whom they were to follow to whatever house he should enter. On reaching it they were to address to the owner491 of this house the significant words, The Master saith, My time is at hand; where is the guest-chamber where I may eat the Passover with My disciples? and he would shew them a large upper-room furnished and prepared; there they were to make ready492 (Mtt. xxvi. 18; Mk. xiv. 14; Lk. xxii. 11).

Thus directed, the two Apostles went their way, and found everything as their Lord had described with such striking minuteness. The large upper-room is represented as already furnished and prepared (Mk. xiv. 15; Lk. xxii. 12). Hence we may perhaps infer that the searching for and putting away of every particle of leaven (1 Cor. v. 7), so important a preliminary to the Passover, had already been carried out, and that the preparation made by the Apostles included the provision of the unleavened cakes, of the bitter herbs, and the cups of wine; of everything, in short, that could be prepared on the day before the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb493.

This done, they probably returned to their Lord, who later in the evening, when the hour was come (Lk. xxii. 14), left the little village of Bethany, crossed the Mount of Olives, and entering the city repaired with the Twelve to the upper-room. There they sat down, or reclined, according to the usual custom, and the Redeemer, taking the place of Celebrant or Proclaimer of the Feast, said, With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say unto you, I will no more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. With these words He took a Cup, the first Cup we may believe, usually devoted to the “announcement” of the Feast, and gave thanks, and said, Take ye this, and divide it amongst you; for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the Vine, till the Kingdom of God shall come (Lk. xxii. 17, 18).

But even now, even in this solemn hour, the old contention touching priority again broke out among the Apostles (Lk. xxii. 24). Thereupon the Holy One spake a few gentle but solemn words to repress so unseemly a dispute (Lk. xxii. 2530); and to teach them in the most striking manner possible a lesson of humility, took upon Him the form of a servant, and girding Himself with a towel washed His disciples’ feet (Jn. xiii. 16). Simon Peter, with his wonted impetuosity, would have checked the loving designs of His Master, and when the Redeemer told him that, unless He washed his feet he had no part with Him (Jn. xiii. 9), with that quick revulsion so natural to him, he begged that He would wash not only his feet, but his hands and his head. He that hath bathed, replied his Master, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; and ye are clean, but not all (Jn. xiii. 10, 11).

With this sad intimation of treachery in their midst the Feast was resumed494, and probably the second Cup of Wine was drunk. But soon the consciousness of the Traitor’s presence so wrought upon the Saviour, that His inmost soul was deeply moved and troubled, and He testified and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you will betray Me (Jn. xiii. 21). This announcement excited great surprise and deep sorrow among the Apostles, and many were the earnest questionings, Lord, is it I? At length He gave a special and private indication to the disciple that reclined upon His bosom. He was the Traitor to whom He should give the sop495, when He had dipped it (Jn. xiii. 26). At this point Judas Iscariot, though he had already made his compact with the chief priests, dared to enquire, Lord, is it I? (Mtt. xxvi. 25). Thou hast said, replied the Redeemer, and gave him the sop, adding shortly afterwards, That thou doest do quickly (Jn. xiii. 27). The real import of these words remained unknown to the rest of the Apostles, and they imagined that they related only to the provision of something needed for the feast, or the bestowal of some charity on the poor. As soon, then, as he had received the sop, Judas arose and went forth to execute his awful purpose, and it was night (Jn. xiii. 30).

On his departure the Saviour was no more troubled in spirit, but brake forth into the same triumphant language which fell from His lips when He heard of the request of the Greeks in the Temple Courts: Now, said He, is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will straightway glorify Him (Jn. xiii. 31, 32).

Again the Meal proceeded, and soon taking one of the unleavened cakes that had been placed before Him, and giving thanks, probably in the usual words, He brake it, and gave it to His Apostles, saying,

Take, eat: this is My Body, which is given for you: do this in remembrance of Me496.

Afterwards He took a Cup of wine, in all probability the third Cup, and known as the “Cup of blessing,” and having offered thanks, gave it unto them saying,

Drink ye all of this; for this Cup is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins: this do ye, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me497.

The Holy Eucharist thus instituted, He conversed with the Apostles concerning the events that were soon to happen to Himself and them, how they would desert Him in His most critical and trying hour, how their faith would fail, how they would be dispersed each unto his own. These announcements of coming failure sounded unbearable to the Apostle Peter. Lord, said he, I am ready to go with Thee unto prison and to death—I am ready to lay down my life for Thee (Mtt. xxvi. 33; Jn. xiii. 37). Verily, verily, I say unto thee, replied the Master, in solemn words, This night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice (Mtt. xxvi. 34; Mk. xiv. 30; Jn. xiii. 38). But this sad announcement, so far from solemnising the Apostle’s feelings, provoked him to fresh protestations of fidelity (Mk. xiv. 31). With still greater vehemence he declared, If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee; and in these well-meant but short-sighted declarations the rest of the Apostles joined also (Mtt. xxvi. 35; Mk. xiv.  31).

And now, whereas at the usual Paschal Feast it had been customary to continue long in religious conversation respecting the great events of the Exodus, and the national deliverance from Egypt, so on this occasion did the Saviour continue long in earnest conversation with His chosen ones. But He spake to them of other and still more exalted themes; of His own departure to the Father and the coming of the Comforter (Jn. xiv. 131); of Himself as the true Vine and His disciples as the branches (Jn. xv. 16); of the hatred of the world and its sin against Him (Jn. xv. 1825); of the trials which the Apostles must expect, and the assured aid of the Comforter (Jn. xvi. 116); of offering up prayer in His name (Jn. xvi. 2327). And at the close of these solemn and affecting discourses, lifting up His eyes to heaven in rapt and solemn devotion, He committed the Apostles to the guardian care of the Eternal Father, and dedicated to Him His own completed work, contemplating it once more in its issues not only on these then present, but on all that should believe on His Name (Jn. xvii.).

The night was now far advanced. A hymn, probably the Hallel, was sung, and the Apostles went forth with their Lord through the quiet streets of the city towards the Mount of Olives (Mtt. xxvi. 30; Mk. xiv. 26).


A.D. 30.

THE road, which the Redeemer and His Apostles now traversed, led across the Kidron, and thence to a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, which from the produce of the adjacent hills was called Gethsemane498, or the oil-press499, and was a spot to which He often resorted with His disciples (Jn. xviii. 2).

On reaching this garden, the Holy One left the greater number of His Apostles at the outskirts (Mtt. xxvi. 36), while with three chosen witnesses500, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He Himself advanced further into the shadow of the overhanging olives. Here He began to be sore amazed (Mk. xiv. 33) and very heavy (Mtt. xxvi. 37; Mk. xiv. 33), and His soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and as a last request He begged them to watch, while He proceeded about a stone’s throw further (Lk. xxii. 41) and engaged in solitary prayer. And now had come the hour for the last and most terrible assault of the Prince of Darkness (Comp. Lk. iv. 13). Kneeling down (Lk. xxii. 41), and falling forward on the earth (Mk. xiv. 35), He twice prayed that, if it were possible, the cup of suffering might pass from Him, and as often with infinite resignation added, Not as I will, but as Thou wilt (Mtt. xxvi. 39). Soon the conflict deepened in intensity, and being in an “agony” He prayed yet more earnestly, while drops of bloody sweat fell from Him, and testified to the terrible nature of His sufferings (Lk. xxii. 44). Twice, as if to assure Himself of their sympathy and watchfulness, He came to the three Apostles, who had promised so eagerly even to die with Him, and twice He found them sleeping (Mtt. xxvi. 40, 43). The first time He awoke them, saying to Simon, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation (Mk. xiv. 37, 38). But on the second occasion He uttered not a word. Alone He retired to renew once more the conflict, and to offer for the third time the prayer of mingled entreaty and resignation to His Father in heaven; and then, having been strengthened by an angelic being, He for the third time revisited the Apostles to find them still sleeping. On this occasion, however, He awoke them, and with words of sorrowful expostulation told them that the golden opportunity for watching and prayer was over: Rise, said He, let us be going; behold he that betrayeth Me is at hand (Mtt. xxvi. 46; Mk. xiv. 42).

He had scarcely spoken, when the Garden was filled with armed men, and flashed with the light of numerous lanterns and torches501. At the head of a portion of the Roman cohort502 with its captain (Jn. xviii. 12) in attendance on the procurator (Jn. xviii. 3), and of the Levitical guards of the Temple, attendants and apparitors of the Sanhedrin, the traitor503 approached. Advancing he saluted his Master with a kiss, the signal which had been agreed upon, and received the reproachful reply, Friend, wherefore art thou come? betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? (Mtt. xxvi. 50; Lk. xxii. 48). Having thus rebuked the traitor, the Lord proceeded towards the entrance of the garden504 (Jn. xviii. 4), and meeting the soldiers and officers enquired whom they sought. They replied, Jesus of Nazareth. I am He, answered the Holy One, and immediately, awed by His calm majesty and the sudden appearance of One whose name had so long had for them a mysterious significance, they recoiled backwards and fell to the ground (Jn. xviii. 6)505. Whom seek ye? the Redeemer again enquired, and when they answered as before, again declared that He was the object of their search, and covenanting only for the safe dismissal of His followers, freely surrendered Himself into their hands (Jn. xviii. 79).

But one of His followers was not minded to yield thus willingly. Drawing his sword the impetuous son of Jonas cut off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high-priest. The soldiers were just on the point of laying hands on the Holy One, and taking Him into custody, but seeing what His Apostle had done, He said to them, Suffer ye thus far, and touching the ear of the wounded man restored it whole as before (Lk. xxii. 51); then rebuking the disciple for his over-hasty zeal, and protesting506 meekly against the mode in which He had been arrested by His captors, He allowed Himself to be bound and led towards the city; for it was their hour and the power of darkness (Lk. xxii. 53).

On the part of the Apostles all was now terror and confusion. Though they had all promised to die with Him, they now forsook their Master and fled (Mtt. xxvi. 56; Mk. xiv. 50). Their last hope of a temporal kingdom of the Messiah had crumbled to pieces507.

Meanwhile the Roman guard and the officers (Jn. xviii. 12) led the Saviour over the Kidron, and up the road leading into the city, and either at the suggestion of some of the ruling powers, or in accordance with previous concert, conducted Him to the palace of Annas508, who as the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and as an able and experienced counsellor, had great influence with the nation.

It is not improbable that both Annas and his son-in-law occupied509 a common official residence, and that before it or within the outer porch was a large square open court, in which public business was transacted. Into this court510 or hall the Redeemer was led, and thither two of the Apostles, John and Peter (Jn. xviii. 15), recovering from their first alarm, ventured to follow. The former, as being acquainted with the high-priest511, easily obtained admittance into the hall, but Peter appears to have been at first rejected by the porteress. After a while John missed his companion, and going back spake to the porteress, who thereupon immediately allowed him to enter (Jn. xviii. 16).

The night was chilly, and the servants having made a fire of charcoal in the centre of the court, were warming themselves before it (Jn. xviii. 18; Mk. xiv. 54), and thither Peter pressed forwards, anxious to see the end (Mtt. xxvi. 58). As he sat there, the porteress, whose suspicions appear to have been aroused, approached the group, and fixing her eye steadfastly upon him (Lk. xxii. 56) said, Surely thou art one of this Man’s disciples. Thrown off his guard, and perhaps disconcerted by the searching glances of the bystanders, the Apostle replied at first evasively512, I know not what thou sayest (Mtt. xxvi. 70; Mk. xiv. 68), and then more strongly, I know Him not (Lk. xxii. 57; Jn. xviii. 17).

Thus silenced the maid withdrew, and after a brief delay the Apostle, anxious probably for a favourable opportunity of retiring, went back towards the porch (Mtt. xxvi. 71; Mk. xiv. 68). But here another maid approached and said to the bystanders, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth (Mtt. xxvi. 71). Thus a second time assailed, and not knowing what might happen, his faith again failed him, and with an oath he declared I know not the Man (Mtt. xxvi. 72); and the cock crew.

While this sad scene of moral cowardice was going on, Annas began to put several questions to the Saviour respecting His disciples and His doctrine (Jn. xviii. 19). Thus interrogated, the Redeemer appealed to the publicity of His teaching, and referred His enquirer to His hearers, whom he had so often addressed in the wonted places of resort, the synagogue and the Temple (Jn. xvii. 20, 21): He had no secret doctrines, and no secret society of dependants513 for purposes either of tumult or sedition. This reply was the signal for the first beginning of a dreadful scene of insult and violence. An officer of the high-priest struck Him on the mouth, saying, Answerest thou the high-priest so? If I have spoken ill, bear witness of the ill, meekly replied the Holy One, but if well, why smitest thou me? (Jn. xviii. 2224).

The day was now rapidly dawning, and the Sanhedrin, which had been hastily summoned, had begun to assemble. Annas therefore sent the Saviour, who was still in bonds, to the official judgment-hall of Caiaphas (Jn. xviii. 24), and it was not improbably as He was crossing the court514, that He turned and looked upon the Apostle, who now for the third time denied that he had ever known Him. Recognised at the porch, Peter, it would seem, had returned again to the fire, and there mingling with the group of soldiers and servants (Jn. xviii. 25), conversed with them freely in his rough uncouth Galilæan dialect515. This excited suspicion, and an hour had scarcely elapsed (Lk. xxii. 59) before certain of the bystanders began to express their opinions. Surely, said one, this fellow was one of them. Thou art a Galilæan, said another (Mk. xiv. 70). Thy speech bewrayeth thee, added a third (Mtt. xxvi. 73). Did I not see thee in the garden with Him? broke in a fourth, a kinsman of the servant whose ear the Apostle had cut off (Jn. xviii. 26). Thus attacked on all sides he fell deeper still. With oaths and curses (Mtt. xxvi. 74; Mk. xiv. 71) he declared, I know not the Man, and for the second time the cock crew (Mk. xiv. 72). It was this base denial that the Holy One now overheard. Turning round He looked upon Peter (Lk. xxii. 61). The remembrance of all that He had said rushed to the Apostle’s recollection. He could not linger a moment in that Presence. His faith indeed had not utterly516 failed, but Satan had sifted him as wheat. He went forth and wept bitterly (Mtt. xxvi. 75; Lk. xxii. 62)517.


A.D. 30.

BY this time the entire body of the Sanhedrin had assembled in the palace of Caiaphas, and the Redeemer was placed before them.

The first object was to secure the agreement of two witnesses on some specific charge (Mtt. xxvi. 59; Mk. xiv. 55). But this was found to be a matter of the utmost difficulty. Many indeed were at hand suborned to utter any falsehood, but their testimony was so confused and contradictory (Mk. xiv. 56), that the council could not receive it. At length two were found who could testify to the words the Holy One had uttered on the occasion of His first visit to the Temple518. This fellow said, was their charge, I will destroy this Temple made with hands, and in three days I will raise up another made without hands (Mk. xiv. 58). But besides the fact that their allegations were exaggerated, they themselves did not agree in their statements (Mk. xiv. 59), and though eager to pronounce the capital sentence, the council felt themselves unable with any decency to do so on such evidence.

Meanwhile the Redeemer preserved a solemn and impressive silence, neither interrupting, nor replying to the questions of the high-priest or the statements of His accusers (Mtt. xxvi. 62; Mk. xiv. 60). He condescended not to any defence.

Nothing therefore remained but, if possible, to make Him criminate Himself. Once more, then, the high-priest stood up in the midst (Mk. xiv. 60), and in the most solemn manner adjured Him in the name of Jehovah to declare whether He was the Messiah, the Son of God (Comp. Mtt. xxvi. 63; Mk. xiv. 61).

Thus formally addressed, the Holy One at length broke the silence He had hitherto maintained, saying, in reply to the question, I am; and hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven519. He thus in the most solemn and explicit manner asserted that He was not only the Messiah, but the Son of God, and that in the sublimest sense of the words.

All was now uproar and confusion. In token of his horror the high-priest rent his clothes, and pronounced the utterance of the Redeemer to be direct and treasonable blasphemy. What further need, he exclaimed, have we of witnesses? Ye have heard His blasphemy: what think ye? (Mtt. xxvi. 65; Mk. xiv. 63, 64). Carried away by his vehement gestures and words, and his great influence, the court pronounced their opinion, He is guilty of death (Mtt. xxvi. 66). Worse than false prophet, worse than false Messiah, He had declared Himself to be the Son of God, and that in the presence of the high-priest and the great council of the nation. He had incurred the capital penalty.

And now ensued a scene of fearful violence. The bystanders were permitted to do their worst to One thus declared guilty of blasphemy. Some spat upon His face; others smote Him with the palms of their hands; others blindfolded Him, and in derision of His Messianic claims bade Him detect the hand that had been raised against Him (Mtt. xxvi. 67, 68; Mk. xiv. 65; Lk. xxii. 63, 64).

But though the great council of the nation had thus passed sentence, there remained a serious obstacle before they could carry it out. Cases punishable with death, such as false claims to prophetic inspiration, or blasphemy, they were fully competent to try520 (Comp. Acts iv. 521; v. 1740; vi. 1215; xxiii. 110), but they could not execute the sentence of death, for the right had been taken from them ever since Judæa became a Roman province521. Mistrusting, therefore, the people who might attempt to rescue the Holy One from the hands of their own officers, reluctant to incur the odium of profaning so sacred a day with a public execution, anxious to shift the responsibility from their own head upon that of the Romans, yet determined to insure the destruction of their Victim, they again reassembled their court (Mtt. xxvii. 1; Mk. xv. 1), and resolved to send the Redeemer before the tribunal of Pilate, who, they might not unreasonably suppose, “would not hesitate, at once, and on their authority, on the first intimation of a dangerous and growing party, to act without further examination or inquiry, and without scruple add one victim more to the robbers and turbulent insurgents, who, it appears, were kept in prison, in order to be executed, as a terrible example at that period of national concourse522.” Pilate had, as usual, come up to Jerusalem to preserve order during the Passover, and was now residing either in a palace near the tower of Antonia523, or in the splendid and luxurious structure which had been erected by Herod the Great524. Thither, therefore, the Saviour, after He had been again placed in bonds (Mtt. xxvii. 2), was led, attended by a deputation of the Sanhedrin to support and explain the charge525.

Meanwhile the fact of His condemnation had become known526 to the traitor Judas (Mtt. xxvii. 3), and filled him with the deepest remorse. Hitherto he had been lured on by covetousness, and his eyes had been blinded by the Evil One. Now they were opened, and he saw what he had done. He had betrayed innocent blood (Mtt. xxvii. 4). Filled with terror and anguish, he hurried to the chief priests and elders, and openly confessed his awful crime. But they received his confession with gibes and taunts. What is that to us? said they; see thou to that (Mtt. xxvii. 4). In frantic despair the wretched man resolved to get rid of the reward of his treachery. Rushing into the sanctuary527 he flung down the thirty pieces of silver before the priests, and went and hanged himself528 (Mtt. xxvii. 5), but, probably in consequence of the rope breaking, he fell headlong, and burst asunder in the midst (Acts i. 18), so that, when his body was found, all his bowels had gushed out. With the blood-money he had left in the Temple the chief priests were at first perplexed what to do. Though they had not scrupled to pledge it as the reward of the basest treachery, yet they were unwilling to return it to the Temple funds, and at length resolved to apply it to the purchase529 of a field for the burial of strangers, which was afterwards known as Aceldama530 (Acts i. 19), or the Field of Blood (Mtt. xxvii. 610; Zech. xi. 13).


A.D. 30.

WHAT amount of knowledge Pilate already possessed of the Saviour’s person and character is not known. But he could not fail to have been surprised, on this occasion, at the earnest request so early in the morning to decide the question respecting the Teacher from Galilee. The deputation from the Sanhedrin would not enter his prætorium, lest they should incur pollution, and be unable to keep the Passover (Jn. xviii. 28). Yielding, therefore, to the popular custom531, with political tact he came forth from his palace (Jn. xviii. 29), and enquired the nature of the accusation against the Redeemer.

At first they replied evasively, and as if they felt hurt at the question, If this fellow were not a malefactor we would not have delivered Him unto thee (Jn. xviii. 30). But this would not satisfy Pilate, and he replied ironically532, Then take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law, as if anxious to refer the whole matter back to themselves. To this the Jews replied that it was not lawful for them to put any one to death (Jn. xviii. 31), and having thus intimated that the Redeemer had committed a crime, for which the punishment of death was due, artfully put forward a charge, which, as a Roman procurator, Pilate could not overlook. We found this fellow, said they, perverting our nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar, saying that He is Christ a King (Lk. xxiii 2).

Though Pilate must have known the Jews too well to imagine that the Sanhedrin would really hate and persecute One, whose sole crime was an anxiety to free them from the Roman power533, he saw that the case could not be hastily put aside, involving as it did three grave charges; (i) seditious agitation, (ii) attempted prohibition of the payment of the tribute-money, and (iii) the assumption of the suspicious title of “King of the Jews.”

It was clearly necessary that he should at least examine the Accused, and, as a procurator534, he was bound to conduct the examination himself.

Withdrawing, accordingly, with the Redeemer into the interior of the prætorium (Jn. xviii. 33), he began by enquiring, Art thou the King of the Jews? (Jn. xviii. 33; Mtt. xxvii. 11). To this the Holy One replied by asking the governor whether he put this question of himself, or at the suggestion of others (Jn. xviii. 34). Apparently offended at such a rejoinder, and disclaiming all communion with the prejudices of the Jews535, Pilate responded that he was not a Jew; His own countrymen, and the ruling powers of the nation, had brought Him before his tribunal, what had He done?

Thus interrogated the Saviour replied by an assertion of the real nature of His kingdom: My kingdom, said He, is not of this world; had my kingdom been of this world, then would my servants have contended that I should not be delivered to the Jews: My kingdom is not from hence. Art Thou536, then, a king? enquired the wondering governor. Thou sayest it, answered the Redeemer; for I am a King. For this purpose was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My Voice (Jn. xviii. 37, 38). These mysterious words from the lips of One, whose life seemed to be entirely at his mercy; this denial that He was a king in a worldly sense, and the implication that in another sense He was537; this declaration that the object of His birth and of His life was to bear witness to the truth, increased the procurator’s perplexity. What is truth? he asked, partly in sadness, partly in irony, partly from a real inability to discern the connection of such an abstract matter with “the present question, with a question of life and death, with a capital charge brought by the national council before the supreme tribunal538.” He could connect a kingdom with power, but not with truth.

The only sect Pilate could have ever heard of that believed in such a kingdom was the Stoics539, and their opinions he would naturally regard as those of visionary enthusiasts. The Accused might be a dreamer, but certainly He was not one who had done anything deserving of the sword of the civil power, and going out to the Jewish deputation standing before the gate (Jn. xviii. 38), he declared his conviction of His innocence; he found no fault in Him (Lk. xxiii. 4).

But this was the signal for a furious clamour on the part of the chief priests and the members of the Sanhedrin. He stirreth up the people, they cried, teaching throughout all Judæa, beginning from Galilee even unto this place (Lk. xxiii. 5). Pilate thereupon turned once more to the Accused, and enquired what answer He had to give to these charges (Mtt. xxvii. 13). But the Holy One continued silent, and answered not a word. This increased still further the astonishment of the procurator (Mtt. xxvii. 14; Mk. xv. 5), but he fancied he had discovered an escape from the dilemma. The word Galilee had not escaped his ears (Lk. xxiii. 6). Galilee was in the jurisdiction of Herod-Antipas, who was now present in the city as a worshipper at the Feast (Lk. xxiii. 7), and by sending the case before him540, he might at once rid himself of a troublesome responsibility541, and conciliate one, with whom he had hitherto been on no friendly terms542 (Lk. xxiii. 12). Having assured himself, therefore, that the Accused was a Galilæan (Lk. xxiii. 6), he sent Him before Herod’s tribunal.

The tetrarch of Galilee543, as we have seen before, had often heard of the Saviour, and had long desired to see Him544 (Lk. xxiii. 8). He was highly pleased, therefore, when informed who was awaiting an audience with him, and hoped his curiosity to see some sign of supernatural magical power might be gratified. With this view he put many questions to Him, but the Redeemer maintained an imperturbable silence. Meanwhile the chief priests and scribes, who had followed into the presence of Herod, persisted in their furious accusations. But neither their charges nor the questions of the tetrarch could induce the Holy One to utter a word. Provoked at being thus disappointed of the object of his hopes, Herod’s superstitious curiosity was exchanged for scorn. He did not venture indeed to condemn the Accused to death, and saw that there was nothing He had done which rendered Him liable to punishment, but he did not scruple to insult Him, and therefore handed Him over to his soldiers, amongst whom probably, as in his father’s body-guard545, were Gaulish and Thracian barbarians, who treated the Holy One with every kind of indignity (Lk. xxiii. 11). This done, he sent Him back to the Roman procurator, clad in a purple robe, and the ill-feeling between the two was from that day exchanged for friendship (Lk. xxiii. 12).

Perplexed, as Pilate probably was, at finding the case thus thrown back upon his hands, he was more than ever convinced that the Holy One was entirely innocent of such grave charges as had been made against Him. He therefore summoned the chief priests and rulers of the people (Lk. xxiii. 13) together, and once more declared his conviction that their accusations could not be sustained, and added that in this he was fortified by the judgment of Herod also. He offered, however, to scourge Him before letting Him go (Lk. xxiii. 16).

This first symptom of weakness and irresolution was not lost upon the Jewish rulers, and their followers assembled before the prætorium, and the proposition merely to scourge the meek Sufferer found little favour with them. Pilate therefore resolved to try another method of making the proposed acquittal more acceptable546.

It appears to have been a custom, the origin of which is wholly unknown547, to release at the season of the Passover any prisoner whom the people might select. There was at this time in confinement a celebrated (Mtt. xxvii. 16) bandit, named Barabbas548, who with others had committed murder in an insurrectionary tumult (Mk. xv. 7) in the city (Lk. xxiii. 18). The procurator therefore, in accordance with this custom, proposed to the Jews that they should select for release one of the two, either Barabbas, a condemned murderer and insurgent, or the Prophet of Nazareth. He saw clearly that it was envy of His fame and popularity (Mk. xv. 10) which had induced the ruling powers to accuse the Holy One, and he hoped by this appeal to the people to procure His release. Indeed so certain does he appear to have been that they would select for release One, whom thousands had so lately welcomed with loud Hosannas as their Messiah, that he ascended and sat down upon the judgment-seat549 as if to ratify and formally accept their decision (Mtt. xxvii. 19).

But at this moment, as if to increase his perplexity, an attendant approached bearing a message from his wife550 imploring him to have nothing to do with the just person (Mtt. xxvii. 19) standing before his tribunal. During the night she had probably been roused by the messengers551 of the high-priest requesting a Roman guard, and a fearful and harrowing morning (Mtt. xxvii. 19) dream concerning the righteous Prophet of Nazareth had induced her thus to appeal to her husband in His behalf.

Pilate’s feelings of awe and amazement were now intensified, and his determination to release his Prisoner increased. But the chief priests and the Sanhedrists had improved their opportunity while he was listening to his wife’s message, and when he composed himself afresh to receive their decision, he saw that malice and bitter, determined hatred had done their work. Persuaded by their teachers, the multitude cried out, Not this Man, but Barabbas. In vain the procurator tried to stem the torrent, in vain he expostulated (Mk. xv. 9), in vain he re-asserted his conviction of the innocence of the Accused. Loud clamour, and furious faces, and uplifted hands, told him that the feelings of the throng were excited beyond such efforts. Equally powerless was a solemn and significant action, by which he strove to represent in the most striking manner possible, how strongly he was convinced of the perfect innocence of the Holy One. Calling for water, he washed his hands publickly (Mtt. xxvii. 24) before the whole multitude, saying, I am guiltless of the blood of this Just Person: see ye to it. His blood be upon us and upon our children, was the frantic reply, and Pilate saw that further opposition would only increase the tumult (Mtt. xxvii. 25).

One hope, however, he still seems to have retained552. Perhaps that tossing clamorous throng would be satisfied with the infliction of a punishment only less terrible than death. Perhaps the inhuman scourge of the Roman soldiers would be enough553, without the penalty of crucifixion, for which so many were already clamorous. He gave the order, therefore, that He should be scourged, and appears to have again sat down on the judgment-seat while the command was carried into effect.

The soldiers executed his orders with their wonted severity, and then flung around the bleeding body of the Divine Sufferer a purple554 robe (Mtt. xxvii. 28; Jn. xix. 2), and placing a reed in His right hand (Mtt. xxvii. 29), and a crown of thorns555 upon His head, bowed the knee before Him, and in cruel mockery saluted Him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews (Mtt. xxvii. 29; Mk. xv. 18). Not satisfied with this outrage, they took the reed and struck Him with it on the head, and spat in His face (Mtt. xxvii. 30; Mk. xv. 19), and heaped upon Him every kind of indignity.

The scourging appears to have been inflicted within the prætorium (Mtt. xxvii. 27), and when it had been carried out, Pilate himself went and led forth the Sufferer wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe (Jn. xix. 4, 5), and presented Him to the people, saying, Behold the Man556. Would not this spectacle of terrible suffering suffice? Could cruelty demand yet more? Crucify Him was the cry of the chief priests and their attendants (Jn. xix. 6). The sight of so much suffering so meekly borne drew forth no pity, and no relenting. Take ye Him, and crucify Him, replied the procurator; for I find no fault in Him. We have a law, rejoined the Jews, and by our law557 He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.

These last words roused afresh all Pilate’s fears (Jn. xix. 8). Taking his bleeding, lacerated Prisoner once more within the prætorium he enquired anxiously, Whence art Thou558? But the Holy One made him no reply. Startled by this continued silence the procurator asked whether He did not know that he had power to release Him, and power to crucify Him. Thou couldest have had no power at all against Me, was the mysterious reply, unless it had been given thee from above; therefore he559 that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin (Jn. xix. 11). This answer, so calm, so gentle, so full of mystery, made a deep impression on Pilate, already awed by the message of his wife, and still more by the infinite patience of the accused, and he resolved to make one last effort to release Him (Jn. xix. 12). But it was too late. A cry, far more formidable to himself than any he had yet heard, struck upon his ears: If thou let this Man go, cried the Jews, thou art not Cæsar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar (Jn. xix. 12). It was a crafty, well-chosen cry. Pilate knew that the Jews already had matter for accusation against him560, and could well divine the consequences, if they accused him before the gloomy suspicious Tiberius of sparing a prisoner who had been accused of treason561. Loss of place, degradation, banishment, perhaps a death by torture, stared him in the face. His fears for his own personal safety turned the scale. He must save himself562, even though he sacrificed One whom he had confessed to be innocent. Once more, therefore, he took his seat upon the tribunal (Jn. xix. 13), but even now he could not resist the impulse to bid the Jews bethink themselves before it was too late. Behold your King, said he. His words were the signal for uproarious cries of Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him! Shall I crucify your King? asked the procurator. We have no king but Cæsar, replied the chief priests (Jn. xix. 15), thus renouncing altogether the hope of the Messiah in order to satisfy their thirst for the Redeemer’s blood, and Pilate seeing it was useless to prolong the controversy, pronounced the word, the irrevocable word, Let Him be crucified (Joh. xix. 16).


A.D. 30.

THUS the Holy One was formally delivered into the hands of the soldiers563, who instantly made their preparations for His crucifixion. The place of execution was a spot of slightly rising ground without the gates of the city, called, probably from the shape of its rounded summit564, Golgotha565, the place of a skull (Mtt. xxvii. 33; Jn. xix. 17). Thither, therefore, after stripping Him of the purple robe, and putting on Him His own garments (Mtt. xxvii. 31; Mk. xv. 20), the soldiers led Him forth bearing566, as was customary, the Cross on which He was to suffer (Jn. xix. 17), attended by a centurion567, and two malefactors who were to be crucified with Him568 (Lk. xxiii. 32).

As they proceeded from the city, the Redeemer, exhausted by the grievous sufferings He had already undergone, sank under the heavy weight of the Cross, and the soldiers meeting one Simon569 of Cyrene in Northern Africa, coming from the country570, laid hold upon him, and compelled571 him to assist in bearing it (Mtt. xxvii. 32; Mk. xv. 21; Lk. xxiii. 26). And so the mournful procession was resumed, followed by a great multitude, amongst which many women began to utter loud laments at the sad spectacle. Turning to these daughters of Jerusalem the exalted Sufferer with superhuman composure bade them weep not for Him, but for themselves; for nameless sorrows awaited them, days when they would bless the wombs which had never borne, and the paps that had never given suck, when they would cry to the mountains to fall upon them, and to the hills to cover them572 (Lk. xxiii. 2831).

On reaching the appointed place, the hole for the Cross was dug in the ground, and the customary stupefying potion573 of wine mingled with myrrh was offered to the Holy One. He touched it with his lips (Mtt. xxvii. 34), but would not drink it, being resolved to preserve His senses clear, and to endure all the coming agony in the full possession of His consciousness. Then the soldiers stripped Him of His garments, nailed His hands and feet to the Cross574, placed over His head the title575 which Pilate had written in three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin,

This is Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews,

and between the two malefactors, one on His right hand and the other on His left (Isai. liii. 12), the Redeemer hung suspended between heaven and earth, breathing forth even under the hands of His murderers words of infinite love, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk. xxiii. 34).

It was now about the third hour576 (Mk. xv. 25), and the quaternion or party of four soldiers577 (Jn. xix. 23), with their centurion (Mtt. xxvii. 54), whose special duty it was to see that the bodies of those who suffered by crucifixion were not taken away, sat down and watched (Mtt. xxvii. 36). According to custom, the clothes of the Redeemer had become their perquisite. Of the outer garment they made four parts, probably loosening the seams578. But the inner garment579 was without seam, woven from the top throughout (Jn. xix. 23). That they might not rend this garment, therefore, they drew lots for it whose it should be, and thus unconsciously fulfilled the words of the Psalmist, They parted My raiment among them; and for My vesture they did cast lots (Ps. xxii. 18; Jn. xix. 24).

While, however, the soldiers were thus employed, and the high-priests were busy wrangling with Pilate respecting the title he had placed upon the Cross, a few faithful ones had ventured to draw near the suffering Redeemer. Near His Cross stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas580, and Mary Magdalene (Jn. xix. 25), and with them the Apostle John. Looking upon His mother, and seeing standing by her the disciple whom He loved, He said to her, Woman, behold thy son, and to the disciple, Behold thy mother, and from that hour the Apostle took her to his own home581 (Jn. xix. 27).

But soon others than these faithful ones drew near. The passers-by began to vent their mockery and bitter gibes upon The Redeemer. Some reminded Him in derision of His deep saying at the first Passover of His public ministry, and bade Him who could destroy the Temple and build it in three days, save Himself (Mtt. xxvii. 39, 40; Mk. xv. 29). Others, and especially the chief priests, bade Him if He was in truth the Son of God, the Messiah, and King of Israel (Mtt. xxvii. 42; Mk. xv. 32), come down from the Cross. The soldiers also took up their words, and drawing near offered Him in mockery their sour wine582 (Lk. xxiii. 36), and required Him, if, as His title portended, He was the King of the Jews, to deliver Himself, and soon even the crucified malefactors followed their example, and cast the same in His teeth (Mtt. xxvii. 44; Mk. xv. 32).

But as the weary time wore on, the feelings of one of the two, won over by the heroic bearing of the Saviour and His infinite patience, underwent a striking change. He began to reprove the other for his revilings (Lk. xxiii. 40). They indeed were suffering justly, and receiving the reward of their misdeeds, but the Holy One in their midst had done nothing amiss. This avowal, made amidst all His present agony and degradation, was a great step, but soon it led to another. The more the penitent malefactor reflected on the sinlessness of Him who hung beside him, the more he contrasted it with his own shortcomings, the more the light streamed into his soul, and at length the eye of faith opening to discern the invisible, and the conviction dawning upon him that this was his Lord, the true King of the Jews, he turned and said, Lord, remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom, and received the comforting reply, This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise (Lk. xxii. 43).

But now the greatest and most mysterious period of the Passion drew near. Already nature herself had begun to evince her sympathy with the awful scene that was being enacted. At the sixth hour, the hour of noon, the clearness of day began to be obscured. A fearful darkness583 gradually spread over the whole land (Mtt. xxvii. 45; Mk. xv. 33; Lk. xxiii. 44)584, and deepened in intensity till nearly the ninth hour, the hour of the evening sacrifice. Meanwhile the Holy One began to be sensible of the burning thirst, which is the most painful aggravation of a death by crucifixion, and gave expression to it in words (Jn. xix. 28). Close at hand stood a vessel full of vinegar, and one of the soldiers took a sponge, and filling it with the fluid put it on a hyssop-reed, and raised it to His lips. At this moment the Redeemer gave utterance to the prophetic words of the xxiind Psalm, in which, in the bitterness of his heart, David had complained of the desertion of his God, and said, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? (Mk. xv. 34).

On hearing this exclamation, some of those standing near, either misapprehending His words, or in wilful mockery, declared that He called not on Eli, God, but on Elias, whose appearance was universally expected as the sign of the Messiah’s kingdom. They would, therefore, have waited to see whether the great prophet would really come (Mk. xv. 36), and would have arrested the compassionate hand that was raising the vinegar. But the moment of release was near. As soon as He had tasted the vinegar (Jn. xix. 30), the dying Redeemer cried with a loud voice, It is finished; Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit, and gave up the ghost.

These last words had hardly been uttered before a wondrous event took place in the Temple. The veil, the beautiful veil, inwrought with figures of Cherubim, which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy, was suddenly rent in twain from the top to the bottom585 (Mtt. xxvii. 51; Mk. xv. 38; Lk. xxiii. 45), and at the same moment the earth trembled with the convulsion of an earthquake, and the rocks were rent, laying open many of the sepulchres with which they were perforated on all sides of the city586 (Mtt. xxvii. 52).

These marvellous incidents made a deep impression, not only on the centurion and his soldiers who had been stationed to watch the cross, but on the multitudes who had been spectators of all that had occurred, and the women and kinsmen of the Holy Sufferer who stood gazing afar off (Mtt. xxvii. 55; Mk. xv. 40). The people beating their breasts in deep but unavailing sorrow (Lk. xxiii. 48) began to pour back with fearful forebodings into the city, while the Roman officer, who though he had often looked upon death and its victims in various forms, had never witnessed such a death as this587, under the influence of deep emotion testified that He, who had been condemned as a blasphemer, was indeed a righteous man (Lk. xxiii. 47), nay more, that He was in truth the Son of God588 (Mtt. xxvii. 54; Mk. xv. 39).


A.D. 30.

THE day was now far advanced. Unconscious that the true Paschal Lamb, the antitype of all previous sacrifices, had offered up Himself upon the altar of His Cross for the sins of the whole world, numerous bands of householders were gathering towards the Temple to slay their victims and make ready for the Feast589. The morrow being a high day, at once the Sabbath and the solemn fifteenth of Nisan590 (Jn. xix. 31), the Jewish rulers would be more than usually anxious that the bodies of the Saviour and the two malefactors should not remain upon the cross, profaning the sanctity of their great national festival, and violating one of the strict injunctions of their law591.

It was not indeed the Roman custom to remove the crucified from the cross. Instead of shortening their agonies the Roman law had left them to die by a lingering592 death, and suffered their bodies to moulder under the action of the sun and rain593, or to be devoured by wild beasts594. The more merciful Jewish custom, however, did not allow such barbarities, and their Roman masters had made an express exception in their favour. The Jewish rulers therefore repaired to Pilate, and requested that the legs595 of those on Golgotha might be broken and their bodies removed (Jn. xix. 31). The Procurator gave his consent, and the soldiers entrusted with the task repaired thither, and broke the legs of one malefactor and then of the other. When however, they came to the Body of Jesus, they found that He was dead already (Jn. xix. 33). Unconsciously fulfilling, therefore, the typical language of Scripture respecting the Paschal Lamb, which declared that not a bone of it should be broken (Ex. xii. 46; Ps. xxxiv. 20), and a prediction that men should look upon Him whom they pierced (Zech. xii. 10), they abstained from breaking His legs, but one of them, as if resolved to give a stroke of itself sufficient to cause death, thrust his spear596 into His side, whence immediately there flowed forth Blood and Water, a wondrous incident, of which the Evangelist St John was himself a spectator (Jn. xix. 35).

Meanwhile, before the tidings of the Saviour’s death could reach the ears of Pilate, Joseph of Arimathæa597, a man of wealth (Mtt. xxvii. 57), a member of the Sanhedrin (Lk. xxiii. 50), and a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn. xix. 38), who had not consented to the cruel resolution of the rest to put Him to death (Lk. xxiii. 51), boldly went in to the Procurator, and requested that the Body of the Redeemer might be given up to him (Mk. xv. 43). Filled with astonishment that death had so speedily taken place, Pilate called in the centurion who had kept watch on Golgotha, and enquired whether this was really the case (Mk. xv. 44). Assured that it was so, he freely granted the request, and Joseph having purchased fine linen (Mk. xv. 46) repaired to Golgotha, to take down the Holy Body. Here he was joined by Nicodemus (Jn. xix. 39), who, probably informed of his successful petition to the procurator, had brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound598 weight (Jn. xix. 39). Together, then, they took down the Body, wrapped it in the linen clothes, sprinkled the myrrh and aloes amongst them, and conveyed the Holy One to a tomb which was close at hand. It was a new tomb, wherein no man had ever yet been laid (Lk. xxiii. 53), and had been hewn by Joseph himself out of a rock in a garden, which he possessed hard by Golgotha (Jn. xix. 41). Hither they bore the Body, and in the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Joses, and other women who had followed the Saviour during His lifetime from Galilee (Mtt. xxvii. 61; Mk. xv. 47; Lk. xxiii. 55), laid it in the receptacle599, and with the utmost despatch, for the Sabbath was drawing on (Lk. xxiii. 54), rolled a great stone to the entrance, and departed.

Thus He, who all His life long had been the poorest of the poor, made His grave with the rich (Is. liii. 9), and received the anointing of the great ones of the earth. But though the outward temple of His body had been destroyed, the Pharisees and chief-priests could not forget the mysterious saying of His that in three days He would raise it up, and probably were not altogether unaware of the more direct assertions He had made to His Apostles respecting the same subject600. These words now recurred to them with such alarming force that on the morning after the Crucifixion, though it was their great Paschal Sabbath, they met together, and repairing to the residence of Pilate, informed him of what that Deceiver had said, and requested that the sepulchre might be made secure till the third day, lest His disciples should come and steal Him away, and give out that He had risen (Mtt. xxvii. 63, 64).

With the curtness of one who felt himself fatigued and wearied out, the Procurator replied, Ye have, or rather, Take601 a watch, and make it secure as ye know how. Accordingly with the guard thus deputed they went their way, sealed602 the stone at the entrance of the sepulchre with their official seal in the presence of the soldiers, and then consigned to them the duty of watching the tomb of the Holy One.

Though both Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus had assisted in embalming the Body of the Saviour, it had necessarily been done in haste, and the women who had witnessed the entombment resolved to complete it, and on the evening of the Crucifixion had prepared spices and ointments for that purpose (Lk. xxiii. 56). With these, then, early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was yet dark (Jn. xx. 1), Mary Magdalene603, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome (Mk. xvi. 1), set out for the sepulchre, their thoughts occupied on the way with the natural question who would roll away the great stone604 they had seen fitted into its appointed place (Mk. xvi. 3).

While they were thus musing, and, as it would seem, were as yet some distance from the sepulchre, the earth quaked beneath their feet with a mighty convulsion (Mtt. xxviii. 2), and an angel descended and rolled away the stone and sat upon it; his countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow, and before him the Roman sentinels fell prostrate for fear, and became as dead men (Mtt. xxviii. 3, 4).

Bewildered by the sudden earthquake, the women advanced nearer, and beheld the stone rolled away from the tomb (Mk. xvi. 4; Lk. xxiv. 2). Summoning courage two of them thereupon entered in (Lk. xxiv. 3), and became assured of the fact that the tomb was empty, that the Holy Body they had seen securely placed therein, was there no longer.

While, however, they were standing bewildered at this unexpected discovery, one of their number, Mary Magdalene, had already hurried back to Jerusalem. The sight of the stone rolled away had roused her worst apprehensions, and she could think of nothing but that the Body of her Lord had been taken away and the tomb violated. Resolved, therefore, to seek more effectual aid than such as weak women could afford, she ran with all speed to Simon Peter605, and announced to him and the Apostle John, who was apparently with him, that the tomb was empty, and she and her companions606 of the morning knew not whither the Body of their Lord had been conveyed (Jn. xx. 2). On receiving this startling intelligence the two apostles forthwith set out towards the tomb (Jn. xx. 3), followed by Mary Magdalene herself (Jn. xx. 11).

Before, however, they reached the spot, the women who had remained behind, and who had ventured into the open sepulchre, had received other and still more startling tidings. As they were standing irresolute and bewildered by the sight of the empty tomb, there appeared to them two (Lk. xxiv. 4), or, as it seemed to others of their number, one of the heavenly host (Mk. xvi. 5) in mortal guise indeed but clad in glistering apparel, who announced to them, while ready to fall prostrate in alarm and terror, that their Lord was risen: there was no need for them to seek the living amongst the dead (Lk. xxiv. 5); He had told them that on the third day He should rise again (Lk. xxiv. 7), and thus His words were fulfilled; the spot, where they had seen Him laid, did not contain Him now (Mk. xvi. 6); let them, therefore, go to His Apostles, and announce the joyful tidings that their risen Lord was going before them into Galilee, and there they should see Him (Mtt. xxviii. 7).

Without losing a moment (Mtt. xxviii. 8), agitated at once by mingled fear and joy (Mk. xvi. 8), which sealed their lips to any whom they chanced to meet upon the road (Mk. xvi. 8)607, the women hurried with all speed to the Apostles, and recounted their cheering tidings (Lk. xxiv. 9). But in their deep sorrow (Mk. xvi. 10) the Eleven regarded the words of the women as no better than an idle tale (Lk. xxiv. 11), and could not credit their announcement, on which the latter, saddened it may be by their refusal to believe, returned once more to the sepulchre.

Meanwhile the two Apostles, Peter and John, had been running thither with all speed, to ascertain the truth of what they had heard from Mary Magdalene. Outrunning his fellow Apostle, John first reached the tomb, and stooping down saw608 the linen clothes lying there, but probably from feelings of awe entered not in. The characteristic energy of Peter overcame such feelings, and entering in he steadily contemplated the state of the sepulchre and the position of the grave-clothes; there lay the swathing-bands in one place (Jn. xx. 6); there was the napkin which had been about His head, not lying with the rest of the clothes, but folded up in another spot by itself. There was nothing to indicate disorder or confusion, or any violation of the tomb. Encouraged by the other’s boldness, the Apostle John also now ventured to enter in, and surveyed the condition of the sepulchre, and though as yet neither of them understood the announcements of the resurrection contained in the Scripture (Jn. xx. 9), yet he could not resist the evidence of his senses609. The position of the grave-clothes precluded the idea that the Holy Body had been removed by enemies: he believed that his Lord had risen, and turned back towards Jerusalem610 with his fellow Apostle, who marvelled at what had taken place (Lk. xxiv. 12).

But these signs did not carry conviction to the mind of Mary, who had followed them, but more slowly. Unable to tear herself away from the sepulchre, she stood outside weeping (Jn. xx. 11), and stooping down beheld two angels in white standing, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of her Lord had lain, who said to her, Woman, why weepest thou? She replied, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him; and turning away even from their sympathy, beheld One standing near, in whom she did not recognise her Lord, but who repeated the angels’ question why she wept? Thinking it was the keeper of the garden, and that he could give her further information, she replied, Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take him away (Jn. xx. 15). She had hardly spoken, when the Stranger addressing her in well-known intonations, said, Mary. Instantly she knew who He was. Prostrating herself before Him, she called Him in the Hebrew dialect Rabboni (Jn. xx. 16), and apparently in her bewildered joy sought to clasp the feet of His risen Body. But this might not be. The relations between herself and the mighty Conqueror of death were changed. Touch Me not611, said He, for I am not yet ascended unto My Father: but go unto My brethren, and tell them, I am about to ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God (Jn. xx. 17). And Mary went, and thus she, out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons, became the first messenger of His resurrection to His disciples612.

Soon, however, the other women, who had brought the first tidings to the Apostles, and who appear to have also returned towards the sepulchre, were met by their risen Lord (Mtt. xxviii. 9), who saluted them with the word Hail. Thereupon they drew near and worshipped Him, and, like Mary Magdalene, were bidden to announce to His brethren the joyous news that He was going before them into Galilee (Mtt. xxviii. 10).

As they departed to execute His commands, certain of the Roman sentinels entered into the city and recounted to the chief priests all that had occurred (Mtt. xxviii. 11). On the receipt of this startling intelligence, a meeting of the Sanhedrin was convened, and it was resolved that by some means the miraculous disappearance of the Body of the Redeemer must be concealed. Accordingly the soldiers were called in, and by dint of heavy bribes (Mtt. xxviii. 14) persuaded to give out, that, while they were sleeping at their posts, the disciples had come and stolen away the Body of their Master, and this story obtained a very general circulation amongst the Jews.


A.D. 30.

THUS the morning of the world’s first Easter-day passed away, and the risen Saviour had revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene and the other ministering women.

Early in the same afternoon two613 of the disciples, Cleopas614 and another, whose name is not recorded, set out from Jerusalem in the direction of the village of Emmaus615 (Lk. xxiv. 13). As they went, they conversed earnestly about the events that had so lately occurred in the Holy City, and that with heavy hearts, for every hope was buried in their Master’s grave. While they were thus engaged, He of whom they spake drew near, and accompanying them along the road began to enquire the meaning of their sorrowful looks, and of the earnest conversation they were holding with one another. Not recognising Him (Comp. Lk. xxiv. 16; Mk. xvi. 12), and surprised that even a stranger at Jerusalem could be ignorant of the event which filled their hearts and had stirred their whole capital, they proceeded to give full vent to their disappointed hopes. Jesus of Nazareth, they said, had appeared amongst them, and had proved Himself a Prophet616, mighty both in word and deed, before God and all the people; they had joined themselves to Him in the full belief that He was the long promised Redeemer of Israel, but their chief priests and rulers had condemned and crucified Him617, and three days had now passed since His death: some women, indeed, of their company had gone to His tomb early that morning, and had returned with the mysterious tidings that His Body had disappeared, and that they had seen a vision of angels, who declared that He was alive, and on this certain disciples had repaired thither also and found that the Body indeed had disappeared, but they had not seen their risen Lord (Lk. xxiv. 1924).

Such was the touching record of their deep disappointment. But to their surprise it evoked serious reproof instead of sympathy from their companion. O foolish, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken, said He: ought not the Messiah to have suffered these things, and to have entered into His glory? and then beginning from Moses and all the Prophets He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things relating to the Messiah’s work and person (Lk. xxiv. 26, 27).

Meanwhile the hours had sped quickly, and by the time He had finished speaking, the two disciples found themselves close to Emmaus (Lk. xxiv. 28). Their Companion appeared to be going further, but they could not bear the idea of parting with One, who had opened up such new fields of hope. Abide with us, said they earnestly; the day is far spent, and it is towards evening; nor did they cease till they had constrained Him to enter their abode (Lk. xxiv. 28, 29).

There they quickly prepared an evening meal, and their Companion, assuming the office of “Master of the House,” took bread, and pronouncing probably the grace618, with which the Jews commenced their meals, proceeded to distribute it amongst them (Lk. xxiv. 30). But while so doing, the tone of His voice, or some well-known gesture, or, it may be, the marks of the nails in His hands, revealed to them who He was. Their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, and at the same moment He vanished out of their sight (Lk. xxiv. 31).

Certain now who it was that on the road had caused their hearts to burn within them, as He talked with them and opened up the Scriptures, they instantly hurried back, though it was dark, to Jerusalem, and ascended to the upper-room, where the Apostles and others were assembled with closed doors for fear of the Jews619 (Lk. xxiv. 33; Jn. xx. 19). They thought they were the bearers of strange and welcome tidings. But their companions had equally joyous news for them. The Lord was risen indeed, and by a special appearance had revealed Himself to the repentant Simon620 (Lk. xxiv. 34; comp. 1 Cor. xv. 5).

Then they told their tale, and suddenly, while they yet were speaking, and perhaps replying to the others’ doubting questions621, the Lord stood in their midst (Lk. xxiv. 36; Jn. xx. 19), and saluted them with the words, Peace be unto you. Terrified by so sudden an apparition, they imagined that they beheld a spectre or phantom, and shrunk back. But He calmed their fears. Why are ye troubled, He enquired, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have. But though He shewed them His hands and His side (Jn. xx. 20), their joy still struggled with unbelief (Lk. xxiv. 41) and bewilderment, on which He enquired whether they had anything to eat, and when they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and of an honeycomb, the remains probably of their evening meal, He took and ate in their presence (Lk. xxiv. 42, 43). Then with the reiterated salutation, Peace be unto you (Jn. xx. 21), He proceeded, As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you; and with these words He breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained (Jn. xx. 23).

On the evening, however, of this first Easter-day, when the risen Saviour thus manifested Himself to the Apostles, and bestowed upon them the firstfruits622 of the effusion of the Holy Spirit, one of their number, Thomas623, was not present. Why he was not has been much debated. Some suppose it was owing to an accident. Others imagine that he had thrown away all hope, that he had concluded it was impossible that his crucified Lord could ever revive. Certain it is that he was not with the rest in their wonted place of meeting. When, therefore, he was informed by the others of the wondrous appearance in the upper-room, he utterly refused to believe it. Unless, said he, I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe (Jn. xx. 25). Slow of faith, subject to despondency, ever ready to take the darker view of things, and to distrust extraordinary good news all the more because it was good, he could not accept the evidence of his fellow Apostles in so weighty a matter as the resurrection of his Lord, he must see and touch Him for himself624.

Seven days passed away, and no recorded appearance of the risen Saviour was vouchsafed. On the eighth, the first day of the week, the Apostles were again assembled in the upper-room. On this occasion Thomas was not absent. Hope probably had revived, and he expected some removal of his doubts. While, then, the doors were shut as before from fear of the Jews, suddenly the familiar words, Peace be unto you (Jn. xx. 26), struck on the astonished ears of the assembled Eleven, and their risen Lord stood in their midst. Knowing all things, knowing therefore all the hesitation and doubt of His apostle, with infinite condescension He gave him the required sign. Thomas, said He, reach hither thy finger, and see My hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless but believing (Jn. xx. 27).

Whether the Apostle touched his Lord or not is not recorded. The impression is that he did not. But whichever was the case, certain it is that the effect upon him was instantaneous. All his doubts fled away like the morning mist. In the fulness of believing faith, he exclaimed, My Lord and my God. Because thou hast seen Me, replied the ever-merciful One, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen Me, and yet have believed (Jn. xx. 29).

At some period after this last appearance, though when exactly we are not told, obedient to their Lord’s repeated commands, the Apostles returned to the region of Galilee625 and the familiar neighbourhood of the lake of Gennesaret. Here once more amidst old haunts, and quiet scenes of nature, some of them resumed, probably for the sake of their daily sustenance626, their former occupations as fishermen; and on one occasion, seven of their number, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael Bar-Tolmai, James, John, and two others, whose names are not mentioned, entered into a boat at eventide and plied their craft627 (Jn. xxi. 13). Hour after hour passed away, and still they toiled but took nothing. Just, however, as the morning broke (Jn. xxi. 4), and the sun bursting forth began to reveal distinctly each cleft and broken cliff628 down the rocky sides of the hills fringing the lake, a Voice was heard through the still morning air, saying, Children, have ye any meat? They answered, No. Thereupon the Voice spake again, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find (Jn. xxi. 6).

Ready after the ill success of the previous night “to take any suggestion by whomsoever offered,” they did so, and straightway found themselves unable to drag the net in again by reason of the multitude of the fish they had enclosed. Awakened partly by the incident itself, partly perhaps by the Voice of the Stranger, to the recollection of a former and similar experience (Lk. v. 5)629, the Apostle John felt sure He knew who was standing on the beach, and said to Simon Peter, It is the Lord (Jn. xxi. 7). Instantly the son of Jonas, eager, ardent, impetuous as of old, girding his fisher’s coat630 about him, flung himself into the lake, and by swimming and wading reached the shore, followed by the rest in the boat dragging the net with the fish they had caught.

On landing they not only found themselves in the presence of their risen Lord, but perceived mysterious provision made for their wants after the wearying night. On the smooth margin of the lake631 was a fire of charcoal632, and fish laid thereon and bread, and the Redeemer bade them add to these some of the fish they had just brought to land. In obedience to this command Peter drew the net to shore, and brought of the fish, which numbered a hundred and fifty and three (Jn. xxi. 11), and then all sat down to the early morning meal as in former days, when dwelling with Him by the shore of that same lake. And now too, as at Emmaus, the risen Saviour as Master of the family took of the bread and fish, and distributed unto them, while they, filled with reverential awe, though certain that it was He, did not venture to question633 Him with regard to the exact “state of His holy personality634.”

When the meal was over, turning to the Apostle Peter the risen Saviour enquired, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest635 thou Me more than these? Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee, replied the Apostle, but not as on the sad evening of the Betrayal, exalting himself on his own faithfulness above his fellow-disciples636 (Jn. xxi. 15). Feed My lambs, responded his Lord. A second and yet a third time was the question repeated, till the Apostle touched probably by this reminder of his three denials, and flinging himself on the Omniscience of the Holy One made answer, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Once more the command Feed My sheep was given, and thus the Apostle was restored to his old place in the circle of the Twelve (Jn. xxi. 16, 17).

But this was not all. The Apostle was to learn what great things he must suffer for the Master, who had thus reinstated him in his Apostolic office. When thou wast young, the Lord continued, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not (Jn. xxi. 18). And with this intimation of the death that awaited the Apostle, of a day when he should be bound to the cross, and his hands be extended upon it637, He added, Follow Me, i.e. even unto that martyr’s death for His name which He had just foretold638. Apparently not understanding the meaning of the command, the Apostle interpreted it literally, and while advancing perceived the “loved disciple” also following, and filled with a desire to know what lot awaited him, enquired, Lord, and what shall this man do? (Jn. xxi. 21). But the question, whatever was its precise motive, was gently put by: If I will that he tarry till I come, replied the Saviour, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me; which intimation of long tarrying in store for St John, in contrast to the sharper discipline for which his fellow Apostle was destined, originated the mistaken idea that the “loved disciple” was to leave the world without undergoing the penalty of death (Jn. xxi. 23).

This was the third occasion on which the Saviour appeared to His Apostles after His resurrection, and it was probably now that He gave them specific directions respecting a manifestation to a still larger assembly, which was not long delayed. For apparently a short time after this last appearance, the Eleven repaired to a mountain639 in Galilee which He Himself had indicated (Mtt. xxviii. 16), and there He appeared not only to them but in all probability to the five hundred brethren of whom St Paul speaks640 (1 Cor. xv. 6). Even now some doubted whether they were really beholding their Lord (Mtt. xxviii. 17), but the Eleven no sooner saw Him than they offered Him their reverent adoration (Mtt. xxviii. 17), which He accepted, and declared that now all power was given Him in heaven and in earth, and at the same time gave them His great commission;

Go ye into all the world, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have told you, and lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Mtt. xxviii. 19, 20; Comp. Mk. xvi. 1518).

And now the great Forty Days (Acts i. 3) were rapidly drawing to a close641. Warned it may be by the Saviour Himself, or attracted by the near approach of the festival of Pentecost642, the Apostles and their companions left Galilee and returned to Jerusalem. There once more amidst the scene of His late sufferings they saw their risen Lord, and for the last time received from His own Divine lips instruction in the things concerning the kingdom of God, and learned to trace in the prophetic Scriptures, in the Law, and in the Psalms, intimations of the sufferings and resurrection of the Messiah (Lk. xxiv. 4448). There too they received His last command to remain in Jerusalem (Acts i. 4) till the promise of the Eternal Father should receive its accomplishment, and they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost, and endued with power from on high (Acts i. 5; Lk. xxiv. 49).

At last one day He bade them accompany Him along the road towards Bethany and the Mount of Olives (Lk. xxiv. 50), associated with so many memories of the risen Lazarus, of the Triumphal Entry, and the last sad days in His earthly life.

Convinced that something mysterious was about to happen, and with their carnal hopes still set on the idea that He was about to commence His long-looked for reign, they began to enquire, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts i. 6)? But their enquiries were solemnly silenced. It was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father had put in His own power. A time was at hand when, on the descent of the Holy Spirit, they should receive power, and become witnesses to their Lord in Jerusalem, and all Judæa, in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts i. 8).

Thus conversing they followed Him even to the borders of the district of Bethany, to one of the secluded hills which overhang the village of Bethany on the Eastern slope of Olivet643. There they received His last solemn and abiding blessing (Lk. xxiv. 50), and while His hands, bearing the marks of the wounds which man had inflicted, were yet uplifted in benediction (Lk. xxiv. 51), He began to be parted from them, and there came a cloud (Acts i. 9), in which slowly and gradually He rose from Olivet, till at length He was lost to sight, and ascended up to that highest heaven, where He was in the glory of the Father before the world was.

Long time stood the Eleven looking wistfully upwards, and watching Him as He receded more and more from view (Acts i. 10). At length two angelic beings clad in white apparel addressed them, saying, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who hath been taken from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven (Acts i. 11).

And then all was over. With hearts subdued and solemnized the Apostles returned to the Upper Room at Jerusalem, and there continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary644 the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren (Acts i. 14).






A.D. 30.

IN accordance with the command of their lately ascended Lord, the Apostles remained in the Holy City, and there continued with one accord in prayer and supplication (Acts i. 14) with the rest of the little company. This now amounted in all to about 120 (Acts i. 15), and consisted of

1. The Eleven,

2. The Virgin, the women who had accompanied the Saviour from Galilee to Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, and others,

3. The brethren645 of the Lord, who though at an early period they were not for but against Him (Jn. vii. 5), now undoubtedly believed on Him,

4. The other disciples.

Though the duty enjoined upon them at this time, was that of patient waiting for the bestowal of the promised gift of the Holy Ghost, one thing could be done by way of preparation for the work they were called to perform. They could restore their original number as it was composed by their Lord, and fill up the gap which the treachery of Judas had made in their body.

Accordingly, the Apostle Peter, already beginning to take that lead for which his natural gifts no less than the prophetic words of the Saviour had destined him, stood up in their midst, and called attention to the deserted seat of the traitor. He had fallen, as they all knew, and after a terrible end646 had gone to his own place (Acts i. 25). The language of inspired prophecy had not been silent respecting his shameful treachery, but the same Psalms (Ps. lxix. 25; cix. 8), which had foreshadowed his fall, had spoken also of the election of another to take his charge or office of oversight (Acts i. 20). He advised, therefore, that they should proceed to choose a new Apostle, and suggested, as the conditions of his election, that he should be one who had companied with them from the beginning to the close of their Lord’s official ministry, from the Baptism of John to the Ascension, and so be qualified in an especial degree to be a witness of His Resurrection (Acts i. 22).

His suggestion found favour with the assembled body of the brethren, and they nominated two of their number, who eminently possessed their confidence, as also the special qualifications thus laid down. One was Joseph Bar-Sabas, surnamed Justus, and Matthias, of whom, however, nothing further is known in the New Testament647. These they put forward, and leaving to the Lord the final determination, they prayed that, as the Searcher of hearts, He would indicate whom He had selected for the office, and then gave forth their lots648, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbered with the Eleven Apostles (Acts i. 26).

Thus quietly and without observation was the first seed sown of what was destined to grow into a great tree649 (Mtt. xiii. 3133). Never did it seem more unlikely that the religion of the crucified Redeemer could be revived. The City had been restored to peace, as though nothing extraordinary had taken place. The Roman guard had been bribed to contradict any rumour that might be bruited about of the Resurrection; in the popular estimation the death of Jesus had extinguished all ideas that He was the Messiah; and no leader of any weight appeared likely to rally the little band of His once attached followers650. The triumph of the Sanhedrin appeared complete.

But this was the very hour when the new Faith was to achieve its first conquest. Ten days passed away after the Ascension. The Fiftieth, the day of Pentecost651, the Feast of Weeks, was come652. The Holy City, crowded with strangers from every quarter of the then known world, presented a scene of unusual animation. There was scarcely a region but had its representative in its streets. Not only from Palestine653 itself, but from the lands beyond the Euphrates, whither the Israelites had been carried by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities654, Parthia and Media, Elam655 and Mesopotamia656; from the various districts of Asia Minor, Cappadocia and Pontus657, Phrygia and Pamphylia, as well as those fringing the Western coast-line, Mysia, Lydia, and Caria, and now comprehended under one name, Roman Asia658; from the islands of the Mediterranean659; from populous Alexandria and the flourishing region of Cyrene660; from the capital of the West itself, Jews and Hellenists, “proselytes of righteousness661 and “proselytes of the gate,” had flocked to take part in the great Festival (Acts ii. 911).

All gathered together in one place, the disciples were awaiting any indications of the Divine will, when suddenly there arose out of heaven a sound as of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the whole house where they were sitting (Acts ii. 2), and simultaneously tongues as if of fire662 distributed663 themselves amongst and settled upon each one of them (Acts ii. 3). The Strengthener, the Comforter, had come, the disciples were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and though poor, illiterate, and obscure men of Galilee, found themselves by the operation of the indwelling Spirit able to speak not only in their own rough unpolished language, but in as many dialects as were represented that day at Jerusalem664 (Acts ii. 4).

Meanwhile the noise665, with which the mighty rushing wind had descended from heaven, had been audible all over the city, and attracted a great multitude to the abode of the disciples. Arriving there they were confounded to find natives of the despised region of Galilee speaking of the wonderful works of God, not only in the language, but the very dialect of the language, which each recognized as his own (Acts ii. 6). In the minds of most this strange portent excited emotions of serious awe. What meaneth this? they exclaimed; are not all these which speak Galilæans? There were not wanting, however, some who ascribed the strange sounds they heard to the effects of drunken excess; these men, said they, are full of new wine (Acts ii. 13).

Thereupon the Apostle Peter stood up with the Twelve, and having in a loud voice indignantly refuted the charge of drunkenness by a reference to the hour of the day, the third only from sunrise666 (Acts ii. 15), proceeded to explain the meaning of what they heard and saw.

“Eight hundred and fifty years before, as they knew from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the prophet Joel (ii. 28, 29) had foretold the coming of days, when God would pour out of His Spirit on all flesh, not on one or two only, but upon His people generally without distinction of age or rank or sex, upon sons and daughters, upon young men and old, upon servants and handmaidens (Acts ii. 17, 18). Thus had the prophet spoken, and this day they beheld the fulfilment of his words. Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved667 amongst them by miracles668, and wonders, and signs, which God had wrought by Him in their midst, as they themselves knew full well, they had taken and by the wicked hands of Roman soldiers had crucified and slain. But in so doing they had not frustrated the gracious purposes of Him who had sent Him. All things had happened according to His determinate counsel and foreknowledge (Acts ii. 23), and He had raised up that same Jesus, and had loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible that He could be permanently mastered by them. For He, of whom the Psalmist had said that God would not leave His soul in Hades669 nor suffer Him to see corruption, could not be the patriarch David. He had died and been buried, and his ashes had long reposed in the tomb which was before their eyes. It was not of himself that he had thus spoken, but of Another, the fruit of his loins, whom as a prophet he foreknew God would raise up to sit upon his throne; and this King was no other than Jesus (Acts ii. 32). Him God had raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of power, and made both Lord and Christ, and He had that day bestowed upon His disciples those wonderful gifts which they saw and heard, the expressions and indications of the presence of the Spirit promised by the Father.”

Such was the substance of the Apostle’s words, and though they clashed with the strongest prejudices of those who had so short a time before given such fearful evidence of their hatred of that crucified Saviour, they produced a deep impression. Pricked to the heart they addressed him and the rest of the Eleven, saying, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Repent670, was the reply, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts ii. 38); for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off671, even as many as the Lord their God shall call. These and many other similar words of his were not lost; many received them gladly, and were baptized, and the same day there were added to the Church about three thousand souls672 (Acts ii. 41).


A.D. 30.

THUS at the Feast which celebrated the ingathering of the natural harvest, a rich harvest of souls was for the first time gathered into the Christian garner, the Church assumed its separate and organised existence, and its members gave themselves up to the full requirements of their new life:

1. They continued673 steadfastly, or waited constantly upon the Apostles’ doctrine (Comp. Mtt. xxviii. 20), by whose hands many wonders and signs were wrought (Acts ii. 43), and who were enlightened to remember and commissioned to teach all that their Lord had said and commanded (Jn. xv. 26; xvi. 13).

2. They persevered in fellowship and communion with one another674, cultivating and fostering a spirit of mutual love, and instead of living each for themselves, had all things common, selling their possessions and lands, and parting them to all men, as every man had need (Acts ii. 4245).

3. They attended constantly on the breaking of the Bread675, and thus consecrated their chief daily meal with the celebration of that Feast, which shewed forth (1 Cor. xi. 26) their Lord’s death, and the sacrifice He had offered.

4. They were stedfast also in their attendance at the public prayers676 in the Temple, at the stated hours of the national worship (Acts ii. 42, 46), praising God, and having favour with all the people.

And in the Temple occurred the next eventful incident in the history of the early Church. Two of the Apostles, Peter and John, were going up thither at the ninth hour677, the hour of prayer and the offering of the evening sacrifice. At the entrance they encountered a man lame from his birth, who was in the habit of being laid day by day at the Gate known as the “Beautiful Gate678,” for the purpose of exciting the compassion and appealing to the charity of the passing worshippers. On the present occasion he appealed to the two Apostles, and supplicated their aid. Thus accosted they stopped, and fixing upon him an earnest gaze, bade him look on them (Acts iii. 4). Expecting perhaps some charitable offering, he did so679, when Peter addressing him said, Silver and gold have I none, but what I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk (Acts iii. 6, 7), and with the words took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and he, who had been lame from his birth, found strength suddenly restored to his crippled feet680 and ankles, found himself able to spring up, stand, and walk, found himself able to accompany the Apostles into the Temple, and there give thanks to God (Acts iii. 8).

The cure of such a man in such a manner was quickly noised abroad amongst the worshippers crowding the Temple-courts. Filled with wonder and amazement the people ran together with one accord into the porch or colonnade of Solomon681, and there beheld the two Apostles, and clinging682 to them in the first transport of grateful attachment, the very man they had so long and so often seen sitting for alms at the Beautiful Gate (Acts iii. 11). It was a meet occasion for addressing the astonished throng, and Peter commenced one of those heart-stirring discourses, whereby in these early days, as his Lord had predicted, he strengthened his brethren (Lk. xxii. 32).

Why marvel ye, said he, at this? Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by magical power or holiness of our own we have caused that this man should walk? The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom for years ye have owned and worshipped, He and no other has been working by us. Though ye delivered up, and denied in the presence of Pilate His Servant683 Jesus, and demanded that, in place of the Holy One and the Just, a murderer, Barabbas, should be granted unto you; though ye killed the Prince of life, yet God hath raised Him from the dead, and our faith in His Name hath restored this cripple, as your eyes behold (Acts iii. 16).

“In ignorance, indeed, ye and your rulers did this. But in so doing ye fulfilled a mysterious purpose of Divine Love, even the counsels of that God, who predicted by the mouth of all His prophets that Christ should suffer. Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, and that so684 seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send unto you Christ Jesus, whom the heavens must retain till the times of the restitution of all things, of which God from the beginning hath spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets. Moses, your great lawgiver, said when your fathers stood before the awful mount of Sinai, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren. Him shall ye hear according to all things whatsoever He shall say unto you, and it shall be, that every soul which shall not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people (Deut. xviii. 15, 18). This Prophet hath appeared in the person of Jesus, and to you first685 hath God sent Him forth, blessing you in turning away each one from your iniquities (Acts iii. 1726).”

This powerful address had a still greater effect than the previous discourse of the Apostle. Upwards of five thousand avowed themselves believers in the Crucified, and swelled the ranks of the Christian Church (Acts iv. 4). But it had other issues also. The Sanhedrin, which had hitherto stood aloof686 from all notice of the movements of the Apostles, resolved to act with decision. As the evening of this eventful day closed in, the priests, the captain of the Levitical guard687, and the Sadducees688, naturally annoyed at the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead through the power of a risen Saviour, laid hands on the two Apostles and the healed cripple689 (Comp. Acts iv. 14), and committed them to prison, intending on the morrow to institute a formal trial (Acts iv. 3).

Accordingly on the next day the rulers, the elders, and scribes, Annas690 the high-priest and Caiaphas, John691 and Alexander692, and others of the pontiff’s family, assembled probably in their hall Gazith, and when the Apostles had been placed in the midst of the judicial circle, enquired by what authority and by virtue of what commission they had acted as they had done.

Thereupon Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts iv. 8), again stood forward, and boldly declared that the miracle of the previous day was due entirely to the mighty working of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead. He was the Stone whom, in the language of the cxviiith Psalm, they the builders of the nation and its appointed teachers had rejected as worthless, but which had become the head of the corner, nor was there in any other the Salvation, for which all hoped; for there was no other Name under heaven given among men, whereby they could be saved (Acts iv. 812).

The boldness, power, and knowledge, which this speech betrayed, astonished the Sanhedrin beyond measure, and the more so when they reflected that the speaker and his fellow Apostle were of the common class, unlearned and ignorant693, in whom they recognised694 the obscure followers of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts iv. 13). The miracle, indeed, which they had wrought could not be gainsaid, for the restored cripple, a man more than 40 years of age (Acts iv. 22), stood beside them (Acts iv. 14), ready to support by his testimony the power by which he had been so marvellously healed. It was deemed, therefore, inexpedient to go into the question of evidence, and after a secret conference (Acts iv. 15) it was resolved to prevent, if possible, the spread of the report of the miracle amongst the people, and to forbid for the future any preaching or teaching in the name of Jesus.

Accordingly the Apostles, who had been ordered to withdraw during the consultation, were recalled and informed of their decision. But they absolutely declined to act upon it. They could not, they said, refrain from proclaiming what their own eyes had seen and their own ears had heard, or hearken to the council rather than to that God, whose commissioned witnesses they were. After further threats, therefore, they were dismissed; for the Sanhedrin saw plainly that they had done nothing deserving punishment, and the popular feeling ran so strongly in their favour, that they dared not resort to violence (Acts iv. 21).

Thus released they returned to the rest of the disciples, and recounted all that had occurred. Their tidings had not the effect of lessening the courage of their hearers. Lifting up their voices with one accord to the Lord and Maker of heaven and earth, they declared their conviction of the vanity of the machinations of their rulers against the Supreme and the Messiah whom He had sent. Herod, and Pontius Pilate, the nations and people of Israel, had gathered themselves together against their Master, but only to do what His hand and counsel had foreordained should come to pass. The threats, therefore, of their foes they regarded not, and only prayed that, while695 the Lord stretched forth His hand to heal, and caused signs and wonders to be performed through the Name of His holy servant Jesus, they themselves might receive still greater strength to preach His Word (Acts iv. 2330).

Their petition received an immediate and sensible response. The place where they were assembled was shaken as by an earthquake, and a fresh and special communication of the Holy Ghost filled them with still greater boldness to proclaim their message and deliver their testimony (Acts iv. 31).


A.D. 3034.

THUS terminated the first collision of the Christian community with the ruling powers at Jerusalem. Within that community itself all as yet went well. While the Apostles with increased power gave forth their testimony to the resurrection of their Lord, the disciples proved the sincerity of their convictions by the self-denial of their lives. All being of one heart and of one soul (Acts iv. 32), they regarded their possessions as belonging to a common fund, and such as were possessed of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price and laid it at the Apostles’ feet, who caused distribution to be made thereof according to the requirements of each (Acts iv. 35).

Of this self-denying goodwill no one afforded a brighter example than a man of the tribe of Levi696, and a native of Cyprus, whose name was Joseph, or, as he was called by the Apostles, Barnabas697, the Son of Consolation, or rather of Exhortation, on account of the extraordinary gifts of inspired discourse and exhortation by which he was distinguished698 (Acts iv. 36). His estates, which were probably considerable, he sold, and rejoiced in the distribution of the price amongst his poorer brethren.

Before long, however, a sad incident occurred, which told of evil already at work within the Christian society. A certain man named Ananias, with the privity of his wife Sapphira, sold a possession, and having appropriated a portion of the price, laid the remainder at the Apostles’ feet, giving it to be understood that that was the whole sum he had received (Acts v. 1, 2). But his aspiration after high honour amongst his brethren with so little cost to himself did not escape the detection of the Apostle Peter. Fixing his eye upon him as he brought the portion and laid it before him, he enquired how he had permitted Satan to tempt him to deceive the Holy Ghost. While it remained, said he, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God (Acts v. 4). At these words, so stern, so solemn, and yet so true, reading his heart to its lowest depths, the wretched man was utterly overwhelmed, and fell down and gave up the ghost. When the awe of the assembly at this instant judgment on the sin of hypocrisy had somewhat subsided, the young men699 who were present rose up, and wrapping the body in the usual burial clothes700 bore it forth to a tomb without the city701 (Acts v. 6).

Three hours had scarcely elapsed before his wife Sapphira, not knowing what had occurred, entered the place where the disciples were met together, and was straightway asked by Peter whether she and Ananias had really sold the farm for the price which the latter had alleged. To this she replied in the affirmative, and thus made her husband’s sin her own, and deliberately confirmed the fraud. The Apostle had not denounced the awful judgment, which had befallen her husband, he had only denounced the offender. But now he not only denounced the sin, but declared its instant penalty, saying, Behold the feet of them which buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Thus informed at one and the selfsame moment of her husband’s fate and her own, she too dropped down a corpse, and was instantly conveyed to the grave by those who had just returned from burying Ananias (Acts v. 810).

The effect of this terrible but just judgment was very great. Fear came upon all who saw and all who heard what had taken place, and the Apostles, by whose hands many signs and wonders continued to be wrought, acquired still greater reverence. Those who did not yet believe, forbore to join themselves to the Christian society rashly or from light motives, while the common people, impressed with a sense of the supernatural power possessed by the Apostles, brought forth their sick, and placed them on beds and couches in the streets, that they might have the benefit even of Peter’s shadow passing by702 (Acts v. 15). Soon the populations of the towns round about Jerusalem imitated their example, and experienced the effects of the healing word as addressed either to the sick or those possessed by unclean spirits (Acts v. 16).

The excitement thus aroused could not escape the notice of the Sanhedrin. Annas and Caiaphas and the Sadducaic faction saw that they must make another effort to suppress the new sect so quickly gaining adherents in their very midst. Accordingly they caused the Apostles to be seized and cast into the common prison, and on the morrow calling together the whole Council, sent their officers to summon them into their presence.

When, however, they reached the prison, the officers found indeed the doors fast closed, but the prisoners had disappeared! On receiving this intelligence the high-priest and the Sanhedrin703 were in the utmost perplexity, which was still further increased by the entrance of a messenger, announcing that the Apostles were in the Temple, where indeed they had been since daybreak, having been released by an angel during the night (Acts v. 1825). Thereupon the Captain of the Levitical guard was despatched to fetch them, and even he found himself obliged to act with caution and gentleness, for the feelings of the people were largely on the side of the Apostles, and stones were ever ready at hand in the precincts of the Temple, to furnish weapons for a tumultuous resistance704.

But the Twelve readily accompanied the officers, and presented themselves before the Sanhedrin, and in reply to the high-priest’s complaint that they had not obeyed the injunctions of the council to forbear preaching in the Name of Jesus, evinced even more boldness and resolution than before. Peter, once more their spokesman, declared that obedience was due to God rather than to man, for he had raised up from the dead that same Jesus, whom they had crucified and slain, and exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. To the fact of His resurrection they were witnesses, and their testimony they were bound to deliver (Acts v. 2932).

These words, breathing such dauntless resolution, roused the Council to the utmost fury, and the majority, especially the Sadducaic party, were eager for the execution of their prisoners. But the rising of one of their number was the signal for calmer measures.

This was the famous Rabbi Gamaliel705, an illustrious teacher of the Law, who was held in the utmost reverence by the people, and according to Jewish tradition was the president of the Sanhedrin. He advised that the Apostles should withdraw for a while, and then proceeded to urge his brethren to moderation and calmness. There was no need, he said, for any apprehension from such an obscure band of Galilæans. Could not the Council recall how a few years before one Theudas706 had arisen, boasting himself to be some great one, and had collected a body of 400 followers? But what was the issue? Was he not slain, and as many as followed him dispersed and annihilated? And then again in the days of the taxing did there not rise up707 Judas of Galilee, who also drew away much people after him? But was he a whit more successful? Did he not perish with all his followers? Let these instances, he continued, suffice, and let the assembly refrain from these men. If their work or counsel was of men, it would come to nought, but if it was of God, it would be impossible to overthrow it, and they ought to be on their guard lest they should by any chance be found fighting against God708 (Acts v. 3439).

The weight of the speaker’s name and his high reputation prevailed over the bitterness of faction. His prudent advice was adopted. The Apostles were recalled, and after being beaten with rods, were dismissed with strict injunctions to abstain from speaking any more in the name of Jesus (Acts v. 40). But threats and stripes were alike ineffectual to seal their mouths. They went forth from the council rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer for the Name of their Master, and ceased not publicly in the Temple courts, and privately from house to house, to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah (Acts v. 41, 42).


A.D. 3436.

UP to this time, it will be observed, the attempts to put down the new Faith had come from the Sadducaic party. Separated in no respect from the nation, the members of the Christian society attended the festivals, worshipped in the Temple and the Synagogue, and observed the ordinances of the Law side by side with the “breaking of the Bread” from house to house709. Conforming, then, to national rites and usages, and agreeing with the Pharisees in opposition to the Sadducees respecting the resurrection of the dead, their relations with the more moderate portion at least of the former were of an amicable character710.

But they were now destined to incur the hostility of both sects alike. Their own numbers, so far from suffering any diminution in consequence of the recent persecutions, steadily increased, and were swelled by the adhesion of multitudes of men and women (Acts v. 14), both Hebrews or Jews proper, and Hellenists or Jews of the Grecian speech711. For some time the same brotherly love which had prevailed before, distinguished all alike, and out of the common fund daily distribution was made according to the requirements of each person and household.

But before long in the midst of this general benevolence arose suspicions that the distribution was not made with perfect fairness. Between the Jews who spoke the sacred tongue of Palestine, and those scattered in different lands, who had adopted the Grecian language712; between the zealous Aramæan, who read the Scriptures in the Hebrew, and the Hellenists, who read the Septuagint, and whose most learned teachers strove to “accommodate Jewish doctrines to the mind of the Greeks, and to make the Greek language express the mind of the Jews,” there had long been a feeling of mutual jealousy and dislike.

This now reproduced itself even within the Christian community. There arose a murmuring between the “Hellenists” and the “Hebrews,” on the ground that the widows of the former were overlooked in the daily distribution713 (Acts vi. 1). Such complaints, if not checked, might lead to disastrous results. Accordingly the Apostles met together, and having assembled the general body of the disciples (Acts vi. 2), urged that it was not meet to expect them to leave the ministry of the word and serve tables, and advised that seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost and of practical wisdom, should be selected, who might devote themselves to the superintendence of this distribution, while they confined themselves to the more spiritual functions of their office (Acts vi. 3, 4). The proposal met with universal acceptance, and the general body of the disciples submitted to the Apostles seven men, whose names appear to indicate that they were of Hellenistic, rather than Jewish extraction, Stephen714, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas715 a proselyte of Antioch (Acts vi. 5). The Twelve approved of the selection, and after offering prayer they laid hands upon them716, and thus solemnly consecrated them to their office717.

Thus a danger, which threatened a breach in the Christian community, was happily removed by a wise and liberal concession. The Hellenists were introduced into the actual ministry of the Church, and the admission of a body more free than their Hebrew brethren from local and national prejudices was doubtless divinely ordered to pave the way for still greater results. Meanwhile the Word of God had free course and was glorified, the multitude of the disciples in Jerusalem was largely increased, and a great company even of the priests, whose antecedents and prepossessions would be all strongly against such a step, became obedient to the faith (Acts vi. 7).

One of the “Seven” now admitted into the ministry of the Church was destined to be the proximate cause of its first collision with the Pharisaic party, and to prepare the way for the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian fold. This was Stephen, a man full of faith and power, of irresistible spirit and wisdom. Though appointed to superintend the distribution of secular funds, he soon became eminent for other gifts, and not only wrought great wonders and signs amongst the people (Acts vi. 8), but proved himself able to argue with the Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria, of Cilicia718 and Roman Asia, as also the Libertini719 or enfranchised Jews, in their several synagogues in Jerusalem, and that with such wisdom and power that they were unable to confute his arguments, or resist the spirit by which he spake (Acts vi. 10).

Freed by the circumstances of his birth and education from mere local and national prejudices, he appears to have spoken strongly of the fulfilment of the Mosaic ordinances720 by the Founder of the Christian Church, and to have proclaimed that a time was at hand when, in the words of the Holy One to the woman of Samaria721, men should worship the Father in spirit and in truth, not in the Temple only, or in Jerusalem only, but everywhere throughout the world. This teaching roused a furious opposition, and unable to oppose the eloquent Hellenist by fair means, those whom he addressed had recourse to artifice. Having privily suborned722 men, who affirmed that they had heard him utter blasphemous words against the Temple and the Law; that they had heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the national sanctuary and change the rites which Moses had ordained; they succeeded in stirring up the people, as also the ruling powers of the nation (Acts vi. 12). Accordingly an assembly of the Sanhedrin was convened, Stephen, who had in the meanwhile been apprehended, was placed before them, and the charges formally preferred against him.

As he stood in the midst of the council-hall, the members of the Council looked steadfastly upon him and observed his face as it had been the face of an angel (Acts vi. 15) lighted up with supernatural radiance and serenity. At length, as in the case of the trial of his Lord723, the high-priest enquired what he had to say respecting the accusations brought against him, and Stephen commenced his reply, “the framework of which was cast in a summary of the history of the Jewish Church724,” and treated of all the great epochs of the national existence,—from Abraham to Joseph,—from Joseph to Moses,—from Moses to David and Solomon725. Keeping in mind the charges, of which he was accused, he shewed that the Divine blessing had not been confined to the Jews solely as inhabitants of the sacred land of Palestine, or as partakers in the Temple-worship.

The original cradle of their faith was not Palestine but Mesopotamia, and not only had the patriarch Abraham been called from the far distant land of the Chaldæans (Acts vii. 25), but whole centuries of the nation’s existence had been spent in a strange country. In Egypt the Divine blessing had not failed to rest upon the piety of Joseph (Acts vii. 610), or upon the descendants of Jacob, when they all went down and sojourned there (Acts vii. 1116). In Egypt God raised up Moses their great Deliverer, preserved his life from the machinations of Pharaoh, and so ordered events that he became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and in deeds726 (Acts vii. 1722). In Midian He revealed Himself to him in the vision of the Burning Bush, and sent him forth to lead the ransomed people towards the Promised Land; but though by his hands their fathers had received the Law, it had not kept them from idolatry727; though he had set up the tabernacle of witness, it had not kept them from setting up the tent of Moloch, and the star of their god Remphan728 (Acts vii. 2244): nay, when, on the subjugation of the Canaanitish nations, that Tabernacle had been brought into Canaan, and was there after a long delay exchanged for the Temple, on which the Jews threw the whole stress of their dependence, neither Solomon himself who built it, nor the prophets729 had ever regarded it as in the highest sense the dwelling-place of the Most High (Acts vii. 4450).

Thus far the great Hellenist was heard with patience. “It was the story of the Chosen People, to which every Jew listened with interest and pride730.” But now,—perhaps perceiving that his hearers had caught the real drift of this review of their national history,—perhaps carried away by the retrospect of their narrow and persistent opposition to the divine counsels which it suggested,—in a strain of holy indignation he rebuked the unbelieving hypocritical disposition of the Jews, whose conduct in reference to the divine communications had been the same from the time of Moses up to that very moment731; who had always resisted the Holy Ghost, persecuted the prophets, and slain those that had predicted the coming of the Just One; who had betrayed and murdered Him, and had not kept the Law which they had received by the disposition of angels (Acts vii. 5053).

This severe though just rebuke was the signal for an outburst of wrath and fury on the part of his judges. They were sawn asunder732 in their hearts, and gnashed upon him with their teeth. Perceiving what was coming, and unaffrighted by their tumultuous rage, he looked up to heaven, and exclaimed, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man733 standing734 on the right hand of God (Acts vii. 56). This last declaration was more than the Sanhedrin could bear. Breaking forth into a loud yell (Acts vii. 57), they stopped their ears, as if to close them against any more words of blasphemy, and rushing upon him with one accord led him forth outside the city gate to stone him735 (Lev. xxiv. 16). The instruments of punishment were collected, the witnesses threw off their loose outer garments (Deut. xvii. 7), laid them at the feet of a young Pharisee, a prominent member of the Cilician synagogue, named Saul, and hurled the first stones. As they fell, the martyr cried to Him whose form he had so lately seen standing at the right hand of God, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts vii. 59). Then falling on his knees, he exclaimed with a loud voice, in the words of his Master on the Cross, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge, and—in the touching language of the narrator, “who now uses for the first time the word, since applied to the departure of all Christians, but here the more remarkable from the bloody scenes in the midst of which the death took place—he fell asleep736 (Acts vii. 60).”




A.D. 36.

THE martyrdom of the great Hellenist, who was conveyed to his grave amidst much lamentation by devout men737 (Acts viii. 2), was the signal for a furious persecution of the Christians. The protection with which the prudence of Gamaliel had hitherto shielded them was now withdrawn. Pharisee and Sadducee alike738, in the absence or with the connivance of the Roman procurator739, turned against the hated sect, and the young Cilician of Tarsus, who was consenting to the death of Stephen (Acts viii. 1), and probably was now or shortly afterwards a member of the Sanhedrin740, found himself able to give vent to the full fury of his zeal.

Resolved to make havoc of the Church (Acts viii. 3), he invaded the dwellings of those who professed adherence to the Christian faith, dragged forth their inmates, whether men or women, and committed them to prison (Acts viii. 3, xxvi. 9, 10, xxii. 3). Some of these persecuted people he scourged, often, in many synagogues (Acts xxvi. 11); some he strove to compel to blaspheme the Holy Name whereby they were called (Acts xxvi. 11); others he brought before the Sanhedrin, and when it was decided that they should be put to death, gave his vote against them741 (Acts xxvi. 10), so that his fame as an inquisitor spread beyond the boundaries of Palestine, and reached even the distant city of Damascus (Acts ix. 13).

From a persecution instigated by such a zealous leader the disciples fled in different directions throughout Judæa and Samaria, and even further north still, to Phœnicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts xi. 19), but the Apostles remained firm at their posts, and for the present did not leave Jerusalem (Acts viii. 1).

Amongst those, who were thus dispersed abroad, was one of the “Seven” who had been elected with Stephen to superintend the distribution of the funds of the Christian society. Between Judæa and Galilee lay the district of Samaria, the inhabitants of which, though shunning and shunned by the Jew, “yet clung to the same promises and looked forward to the same hopes742.” Thither Philip now went down, and entering one of its towns743, began to proclaim the message of Glad Tidings to its people, and performed many miracles, casting out demons, and healing many that were lame and paralysed. He was received with no less readiness than the Holy One Himself, when sitting on Jacob’s well744, He declared Himself the Messiah to the woman who was a sinner. With one accord the Samaritans gave heed to his words (Acts viii. 6).

At this time there was present in the neighbourhood a man, who made no small stir in his day, by name Simon745. By his skill as a magician he had succeeded in astounding the people of Samaria to such a degree that he found votaries amongst all ranks and all ages, and was pronounced to be the Power of God which is called Great746 (Acts viii. 10). But in Philip he found a rival whom he could not resist. He might astonish and perplex, but Philip could do more. He could heal, and restore gladness to many a saddened home (Acts viii. 12). The magician, therefore, soon found himself deserted, and many, both men and women, left him, and believing the Glad Tidings announced by the Evangelist, were admitted into the Church by baptism (Acts viii. 12). These results made a deep impression on the mind of Simon, and he too professed himself a believer, and received baptism at the hands of Philip (Acts viii. 13).

Meanwhile news that the despised Samaria had received the word of God reached the ears of the Apostles at Jerusalem, and they dispatched Peter and John747 thither on a special mission of enquiry. They on their arrival prayed that some of those extraordinary gifts, which followed and attested the effusion of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, might be bestowed upon the Samaritan believers, and laid their hands upon them (Acts viii. 17), whereupon the endowments, for which they had prayed, were vouchsafed, and attested the planting of a Church in Samaria, standing in an equal rank with the first Church at Jerusalem748.

Astonished as Simon had been at the miracles of Philip, he was still more astonished at the results of the imposition of the hands of the two Apostles, and he tried to bribe them to bestow upon him the same peculiar power (Acts viii. 18, 19). This mercenary proposal opened their minds to the real character of the man, and with the same just severity with which he had rebuked Ananias, Peter now denounced the wickedness of the pretender, and declaring that his heart was not right in the sight of God, that he had neither part nor lot in the matter, bade him pray that peradventure his evil intentions might be forgiven (Acts viii. 2022). Struck dumb by the plain-spoken truthfulness of the Galilæan fisherman, and awakened rather to feelings of apprehension of the Divine vengeance than to repentance749, Simon implored the Apostles to intreat the Lord for him, that none of the things which they had threatened might come to pass (Acts viii. 24)750.

After this encounter Peter and John extended their missionary labours to many other villages of the Samaritans751 (Acts viii. 25), and then returned to Jerusalem. But other work was reserved for Philip, for a Divine intimation bade him go toward the south, along the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. Of the roads leading to this well-known city752, one by Ramleh passed through town and villages; another, better adapted for carriages, through Hebron, and thence through a district comparatively little inhabited753, and exposed to the incursions of southern marauders, whence it was called desert754 (Acts viii. 26). The latter was the one which the heavenly Voice bade the Evangelist take, and as he traversed it, probably ignorant of the cause wherefore he was sent, he perceived a chariot, in which one sat reading as he rode. This was a man of Ethiopia755, a eunuch, the chief officer of Candace, queen of Meröe, and steward of all her treasure, who had come up to worship at one of the Feasts at Jerusalem, and was now returning (Acts viii. 27, 28). Bidden by the heavenly Voice to join the Stranger, Philip quickened his steps, and presently overheard him reading aloud756, probably in the Septuagint Version757, the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. liii. 6, 7):

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened He not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? For His life is taken away from the earth.

Understandest thou what thou readest? enquired Philip. How can I, answered the other, unless some man should guide me? and he besought him to get up and sit down by his side. Then the conversation began. I pray thee, said the eunuch, of whom is the prophet speaking this? of himself, or of some other man?

Thereupon Philip opened his mouth, and told him who that “Man” was, and preached the glad tidings of Him, who died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven. As he went on, the eunuch was filled with an ardent desire to embrace the faith, and, being probably informed by Philip of the last command of his ascended Lord to the Apostles, on reaching a stream of water, enquired whether aught could hinder his being baptized? Thereupon the chariot was stayed758, and the two went down to the water759, and Philip baptized him, and then, either in consequence of some sudden inward summons or by a miraculous withdrawal, was instantly caught away, so that the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing (Acts viii. 39). Meanwhile Philip had passed on to Azotus, the ancient Ashdod760, and thence evangelizing all the towns761 in his way, and following the coast-line, proceeded to Cæsarea on the Sea762 (Acts viii. 40).


A.D. 36 or 37A.D. 40.

IN His parting charge to His Apostles the Saviour had declared that they should be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts i. 8). In exact accordance with this order the Church, as we have seen, was first founded in Jerusalem (Acts ii. 1), then spread to the cities round about (Acts v. 16), and after the martyrdom of Stephen to Samaria (Acts viii. 525). Provision was now to be made for its extension to the Gentiles, and for this purpose a fitting instrument was raised up in the person of no other than the young Cilician Pharisee, whom we have seen consenting to the death of the first Martyr, and making havoc of the Church.

At this point, then, it will be well to group together such particulars of his early life as have come down to us.

1. Saul, or as he was afterwards called Paul, was born at Tarsus (Acts ix. 11, xxi. 39, xxii. 3), the capital of Cilicia, situated on the banks of the Cydnus, a river famous for the dangerous fever caught by Alexander while bathing, and for the meeting of Antonius and Cleopatra. Even in early times it was a place of consequence763, and after belonging to the empire of the Seleucidæ, and for a short time to that of the Ptolemies, espoused the cause of Cæsar during the civil wars, was then named Juliopolis764 in honour of a visit from him, and made a free city765 by Augustus. Under the early Roman emperors it was famous as a seat of education, and in this respect could vie even with Athens and Alexandria, and could boast of several Stoics, such as Athenodorus, the tutor of Augustus, and Nestor, the tutor of Tiberius. As a place of commerce, it was a meeting-point for Syrians, Cilicians, Isaurians, and Cappadocians.

2. The family of Saul were strict Jews, though Hellenists in speech, and of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. iii. 5). Neither his father’s nor his mother’s names are mentioned, but we have notices of his sister, and his sister’s son (Acts xxiii. 16), and of some more distant relatives (Rom. xvi. 7, 11, 21).

3. Born probably during the later years of the reign of Herod, or the earlier of his son Archelaus766, as the son of a Pharisee (Acts xxiii. 6), he was circumcised on the eighth day (Phil. iii. 5), and received the name of Saul767. But from his earliest years he probably had two names, “Saul the name of his Hebrew home, Paul768 that by which he was known among the Gentiles.”

4. From his father he inherited a great privilege, that of Roman citizenship. How his father acquired it is unknown. He may have obtained it for a large sum of money (Comp. Acts xxii. 28), or it may have descended to him, or it may have been bestowed upon him in recognition of some service rendered during the civil wars to some influential Roman769.

5. In conformity with the usual custom of his nation, one of whose proverbs was that He who taught not his son a trade, taught him to be a thief, the youthful Saul was instructed in the art of making tents770, of the hair-cloth known as Cilicium, and supplied by the goats of his native province.

6. Carefully nurtured under his father’s roof, speaking Greek, and acquainted with the Septuagint version771 of the Old Testament, he was removed, probably between the age of 10 and 15, to Jerusalem772, where he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel773, and under the superintendence of this wise and candid teacher made progress in his knowledge of Jewish rites above many of his contemporaries in his own nation, and became distinguished for extraordinary zeal for the traditions handed down from his fathers774 (Gal. i. 14). Under the same teacher he probably added to that knowledge of Greek and of the Septuagint, as also of the elements of Gentile learning, which he had brought with him from Tarsus, a more exact acquaintance with the original Hebrew, as also with the hidden and mystical meaning of the Scriptures; a knowledge of aphorisms, allegories775, and the opinions of the learned; as also the facility of quick and apt quotation; while the study of Greek authors776 would not be altogether discouraged.

Such was the early life, and such was the training of the champion of the Pharisaic party, who was now to become the great Apostle of the Gentiles.

In his determination to make havoc of the Church, Saul was not content to persecute its members at Jerusalem. Breathing forth threatenings and slaughter against them, he determined to seek them out wherever they might be found, and with this intention requested letters of the high-priest777 empowering him to seize any of “the Way,” whom he might find in the city of Damascus, whether men or women, and convey them thence to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts ix. 1, 2, xxvi. 12, xxii. 5).

Armed with these credentials, he set out with a considerable retinue, and having probably passed through Shechem, then called Neapolis, and Samaria, and thence through Galilee towards the sea of Tiberias, crossed the Jordan778, and made his way along the dreary barren uplands which stretch between the base of Antilibanus and the city of Damascus.

It was on the last, probably the sixth day779 of this long journey, that about noon (Acts xxii. 6, xxvi. 13), when the sun was burning with the fulness of its noontide heat, that the beautiful city780 appeared in view. But just as the object of his journey seemed to be attained, suddenly a light, brighter even than that fiery sun, flashed upon the persecutor and his companions (Acts ix. 6, xxvi. 13). Struck dumb with fear he and they fell to the ground (Acts ix. 7, xxvi. 14), and then from the inmost depths of the incomprehensible light there came a Voice, which all heard, but one only was enabled to understand781 (Acts xxii. 9, ix. 8), and a Form appeared, which none saw save one, the persecutor himself (Acts xxii. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 8). Saul, Saul, said the Voice in distinct articulate words in the Hebrew tongue (Acts xxvi. 14), why persecutest thou Me? Who art Thou, Lord? replied the stunned and confused Pharisee. I am Jesus, was the answer, Whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the goad782 (Acts xxvi. 14). Trembling and astonished the persecutor went on, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? and in reply was directed to arise and go into the city, and there it should be told him what he was to do (Acts ix. 11).

Thereupon he arose, but when he opened his eyes, all was dark around, for they were blinded by the brightness of the light and the majesty of the Son of God. His companions who had stood speechless listening to the voice783, but seeing no man (Acts ix. 7), now took him by the hand (Acts ix. 8), and led him into the city, and through the street called “Straight784 to the abode of one Judas (Acts ix. 11).

For three days the blindness continued, and during this period he neither ate nor drank (Acts ix. 9), but remained engaged in solitary prayer (Acts ix. 11) unvisited either by the Christians, who had been alarmed by the intelligence of his approach, or the Jews, who could not sympathise with his present condition. At length one drew near to reveal the Divine will respecting him785.

There was living at this time in Damascus a disciple named Ananias, held in high estimation amongst all the Jews resident there (Acts xxii. 12). To him the Lord appeared in a vision, and bade him seek out in the house of Judas for one called Saul, for behold he was praying, and had seen in a vision a man coming in, and laying his hand upon him that he might recover his sight. At first Ananias would have declined the mission, knowing well the character of him to whom he was to go, and the purpose for which he had visited Damascus. But his objections were overruled; he who had been a persecutor was designed by the Lord to do great things, and to him he must go (Acts ix. 1116).

Thereupon Ananias went, entered the house, and beholding the triumphant persecutor lying exhausted and fasting, laid his hands upon him and said, Brother Saul, the Lord hath sent me, even Jesus who appeared unto thee on the way as thou camest, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts ix. 17). He had scarcely spoken when from the eyes of the new disciple of the risen Saviour there fell as it had been scales, and looking up he beheld the face of Ananias (Acts xxii. 13), and learned the object of the heavenly vision, and the purpose for which the God of his fathers had chosen him (Acts xxvi. 18). Thereupon he arose and was baptized, and having taken meat was strengthened for the work that lay before him.

The arrival of the delegate of the Sanhedrin was no secret among the Christians at Damascus, and the words of Ananias testify to the fame he had acquired as a persecutor of their body. Great, then, must have been their surprise when they heard of the change which his spirit had undergone, and still more when they saw him entering the synagogues (Acts ix. 20), and fearlessly declaring his conviction that that Jesus, whose followers he had come to imprison, was the Son of God. The first effect upon those who heard him was blank amazement, for they were well acquainted with his previous history, and the object of his visit, and they clearly saw that the astounding change which had come over him could not be ascribed to any wayward, irregular impulse, for his energy gathered renewed strength day by day, and the Jews were unable to confute the arguments by which he proved that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah (Acts ix. 21, 22).

After the lapse, however, of some days, it became clear that it would not be safe for him to continue his labours. The fury of the Jews would naturally be roused to the utmost pitch, and it became necessary that he should leave the city. But instead of going up to Jerusalem to consult those who were Apostles before him (Gal. i. 17), he departed to Arabia786, either the region which bordered on Syria and Mesopotamia and included Damascus itself787, or the Sinaitic peninsula, the scene of the giving of the law. What was the purpose of this journey we are not told. Perhaps it was to undertake some missionary enterprise, perhaps to engage in solitary communion788 with Him who had called him to be an Apostle, before he entered upon his active labours.


A.D. 40.

WHATEVER was the precise object of this journey to Arabia, and whatever was its duration, certain it is that the Apostle returned thence to Damascus (Gal. i. 17), and preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts ix. 27). On this occasion, however, the Jews, unable to confute his arguments, resolved to assassinate him, but their design reached his ears, and every precaution was taken by the Christians that night to secure him from danger.

This, however, was a matter of no little difficulty. In consequence either of hostilities between the Romans and Herod Antipas on the one side and Aretas king of Petra on the other789, or of the assignment of Damascus by Caligula, the successor of Tiberius, to Aretas, the city was held by the Ethnarch790 of this monarch (2 Cor. xi. 32), and the Jews having won him and his soldiers over to their side, a strict watch was kept day and night to prevent the Apostle’s escape, and deliver him over to execution (Acts ix. 24). In this emergency, therefore, the disciples taking advantage of an unguarded part of the wall and the darkness of the night, let him down in a basket from a window, which opened on the outer country791 (Acts ix. 25; 2 Cor. xi. 33). Thus delivered from circumstances of great peril, the Apostle turned his steps towards Jerusalem, being desirous, as he informs us, to become acquainted with Peter792, and in the Holy City he arrived three years793 after his conversion (Gal. i. 18).

But his escape had been too hurried to allow him to bring with him letters of commendation; when, therefore, he attempted to join himself to the disciples (Acts ix. 26), they were all afraid of him, and could not believe that he was united with them in the bonds of a common discipleship. But now it was that Barnabas, who, as we have seen794, may have become acquainted with him at Tarsus, took him by the hand and brought him to the Apostles, and told them how he had seen the Lord on the road to Damascus, and how in that city he had already spoken boldly in His Name (Acts ix. 27). Thereupon Peter, and James the Lord’s brother795 (Gal. i. 18, 19), in the absence of the other Apostles, probably on some mission to the churches of Judæa, Galilee, and Samaria (Acts ix. 31), gave him the right hand of fellowship, and for a period of 15 days796 (Gal. i. 18) he was with them coming in and going out of Jerusalem (Acts ix. 28).

As might be expected, the chief sphere of his activity was in the synagogues of the Hellenists, where he had before distinguished himself as a zealous opponent of Stephen. Now, however, he disputed with the same energy and force in support of the very doctrines which he had then persecuted (Acts ix. 29), and brought down upon himself the same furious opposition which had caused the death of the first Martyr. A plot was formed to secure his assassination, and the disciples perceived that he must retire from the work he had commenced in Jerusalem. The Apostle, himself, was unwilling to quit a place, where his former zeal against the faith was so well-known, and his sincerity, as he hoped, would be appreciated (Acts xxii. 19, 20). But as he was one day praying in the temple, he fell into a trance (Acts xxii. 17), and saw his Lord, who said to him, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me; and when he hesitated to obey the command and pleaded his former zeal in persecuting the faith as a reason why he should stay, the injunction to leave the city was repeated, Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles (Acts xxii. 21).

Thus assured that Jerusalem was not to be the field of his labours, he allowed the brethren to convey him to Cæsarea-on-the-sea797, whence he took ship and sailed to Tarsus, his native city, and there probably devoted himself to preaching in its synagogue, and to missionary activity798 in the regions of Syria and Cilicia799 (Gal. i. 21). His brief visit to Jerusalem had not been without some result. He had seen and was recognised by Peter and James, and though he remained for the present personally unknown to the churches of Judæa800, yet the intelligence which reached them from time to time801 that their persecutor of former days was now preaching the Faith, filled them with thankfulness, and they glorified God in him (Gal. i. 2224).

While the Apostle was thus employed amidst the familiar scenes of his childhood, the churches throughout Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, lately disturbed by his unceasing animosity, had peace, increased in numbers, and walked in the fear of the Lord (Acts ix. 31). The rest, however, which they thus enjoyed, may perhaps be ascribed to another cause besides the conversion of their late persecutor802. In A.D. 36 Pontius Pilate, as we have already seen803, was sent to Rome by Vitellius. Thereupon Marcellus was sent out as procurator of Judæa in his place, but on his arrival at Cæsarea was directed to make way for Marullus804. In the following year, A.D. 37, Vitellius was recalled from Syria, and was succeeded in that prefecture by Petronius, while Theophilus805 succeeded his brother Jonathan in the office of high-priest. But a still more important event in the same year was the death of Tiberius806, and the accession of Caligula. Releasing Herod Agrippa807, the grandson of Herod the Great, from his prison at Rome, where Tiberius had confined him, he appointed him king of Trachonitis, which had belonged to Herod Philip’s tetrarchy, and bestowed upon him also the tetrarchy of Lysanias808. But the new emperor was scarcely seated on the throne, before in his insane vanity he ordered divine honours to be paid to himself throughout the empire809, and directed that a golden colossal statue of himself should be placed in the Holy of Holies at Jerusalem. The execution of this mandate was entrusted to Petronius, and having ordered Sidonian workmen to make the statue, he moved up with his troops to Ptolemais, prepared to set it up by force. But no sooner did intelligence of what was intended reach the Jews than one universal feeling of horror pervaded the nation, and thousands assembled from all quarters without distinction of rank or age or sex, imploring the prefect to desist from carrying out his instructions. Shrinking from the horrible task of commencing a war of massacre and extermination which he saw was inevitable, if the statue was set up, Petronius hesitated, wrote to expostulate with his master, and put off the execution of the order. At the same time Herod Agrippa, then at Rome, implored his patron to pause, and a deputation from Alexandria, headed by the learned and venerable Philo, set forth the stern requirements of the Jewish Law. But Caligula was inexorable, and it is impossible to say what would have been the result810, had he not been assassinated811 on the 24th of January, A.D. 41. Thus the Jews were delivered from this terrible indignity.

The rest, then, which the Christians now enjoyed, may not improbably be ascribed to the distractions of Caligula’s reign, and to the fact that the Jewish authorities were wholly occupied with frustrating his mad designs. Taking advantage, therefore, of this period of repose the Apostle Peter made a visitation of the different churches founded in Palestine, and amongst other places went down to Lydda, anciently called Lod812 (1 Ch. viii. 12; Neh. vii. 37), and afterwards Diospolis, situated about 9 miles from the sea-port of Joppa. Here finding a man afflicted with paralysis, who had kept his bed for upwards of 8 years, he addressed him in his Master’s name, Æneas, Jesus Christ healeth thee, whereupon he rose immediately, restored to perfect soundness. The cure of such a man was quickly noised abroad throughout his own town and the neighbouring plain of Sharon, and contributed in no small degree to the spread of the Church in those regions.

While still at Lydda the Apostle received intelligence that the Christian society at Joppa had sustained a grievous loss by the death of a widow of substance, named Tabitha813 or Dorcas, who had been wont not only to minister with her own hands to the wants of the poor, but in providing clothing for them. The death of such a person caused great regret at Joppa, and the Apostle was no sooner informed of it by messengers, who intreated his presence, than he set out, and on his arrival was conducted to the upper chamber, where the body lay prepared for the burial (Acts ix. 3739), surrounded by many widows, who stood by weeping, and shewed him the many proofs of the kindness of their benefactress.

Like his Master before him in the chamber of the daughter of Jairus814, the Apostle thereupon put these mourners forth, and kneeling down815 engaged in prayer. Then turning to the body he pronounced the words Tabitha, arise (Acts ix. 40), whereupon her eyes instantly were opened, and seeing Peter she sat up. Taking her by the hand the Apostle then raised her from the spot where she had lain prepared for burial, and calling in the widows presented her to them alive. The fame of this miracle, confirming as it did the impression already made at Lydda, quickly spread, and caused an accession of many to the Christian Church; and the Apostle perceiving an opportune field of usefulness thus opened to him, tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner (Acts ix. 43).


A.D. 4143.

DURING the Apostle’s stay at Joppa an event occurred destined to have no small influence on the spread of the Church.

Cæsarea, as has been already stated, was the head-quarters of the Roman government in Judæa816. Among the troops quartered there was a cohort of Italians817, possibly volunteers, and amongst its officers was a centurion named Cornelius, a devout man, who had learned to worship the one true God818, and was well known for his almsgiving and uprightness of life (Acts x. 2). One day, about the ninth hour, the hour of prayer, he beheld in a vision an angel who informed him that his prayers and alms were not forgotten before God, and bade him send for the Apostle, now lodging at Joppa, who would tell him what he should do, and inform him concerning that faith which had already excited much attention in the neighbourhood819 (Acts ix. 42).

Obedient to the heavenly vision the centurion summoned two of his servants, and a devout soldier attached to his own person, and sent them with the necessary instructions to Joppa. As the three drew near their destination, the Apostle Peter, who had retired for devotion to the flat820 housetop of his lodging by the seaside821 at the noontide hour of prayer (Acts x. 9), fell into a trance, and saw the heaven opened, and a great sheet-like vessel822, let down by its four corners, till it rested upon the earth (Acts x. 11). As he observed it closely, he noticed that it contained all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air, and he heard a Voice saying, Rise, Peter, kill and eat. But this the Apostle, who from earliest childhood had observed the strict precepts of the Levitical Law823, stedfastly declined to do: he had never eaten anything common or unclean. Then the Voice spoke again, saying, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common, and when the strange scene had been repeated three times, probably with the same command, the same remonstrance, and the same reply824, the vessel was received up again into heaven (Acts x. 15, 16).

The Apostle was deeply moved, and while meditating on the possible meaning of what he had beheld and heard, the messengers of Cornelius had arrived, and were making enquiries for him, and at the same moment the Spirit bade him go down and accompany them whithersoever they went, doubting nothing (Acts x. 19, 20). Thereupon he descended from the housetop, and having learned from the men the purport of their errand, he brought them in and hospitably entertained them (Acts x. 2123).

The next day he set out with them towards Cæsarea, attended by certain of the brethren from Joppa, and on entering the house of Cornelius found him in the midst of many of his relatives and intimate friends, whom he had assembled to listen to the Apostle’s words. As he crossed the threshold (Acts x. 25), the centurion went forth to meet him, and falling down at his feet would have worshipped him. But Peter raised him up, and reminded him that he also was a man, and then addressed himself to the assembled company. They all knew, he said, that he was a Jew, and how unlawful it was for one of that nation to associate with or enter the house of a foreigner: but God had shewed him that he was not to call any man common or unclean, and therefore he had come without delay, and now desired to know the reason for which he had been sent (Acts x. 28, 29).

Then Cornelius recounted the particulars of his vision (Acts x. 3033), and requested the Apostle to announce to him and his assembled friends what he, as a messenger of God, had to say to them. Thus assured that all things had occurred under the Divine guidance, the Apostle opened his mouth, and having acknowledged that God was indeed no respecter of persons, but accepted out of every nation all that feared Him and worked righteousness, proceeded to proclaim the glad tidings of his risen Lord. He told them of His life of love; of His victories over disease and the spirit-world (Acts x. 38); of His death by the hands of men (Acts x. 39); of His resurrection, and His appearances afterwards, not to all the people but to chosen witnesses, even the Apostles, who had eaten and drunk with Him (Acts x. 40, 41); of His exaltation to heaven and His future coming to judge the world; of the commission he and the rest of the Twelve had received to proclaim to all that believed in Him the remission of sins (Acts x. 42, 43).

While he was still speaking, the events of the day of Pentecost were repeated in the house of the Roman soldier. To the astonishment of the Jewish Christians who had accompanied the Apostle from Joppa, the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles, and they heard them speaking in various dialects and magnifying and praising God (Acts x. 46). Now fully awakened to the meaning of the vision on the housetop, the Apostle enquired whether any could forbid that these, who had already evidently received the gift of the Holy Ghost, should be admitted to the rite of baptism, and then ordered that it should be administered; and thus he who had first preached the resurrection to the Jews, baptized the first converts at Jerusalem, and confirmed the first-fruits of the church in Samaria, now, under direct communication from heaven, first threw down the barrier which separated proselytes of the gate from Israelites, and admitted them on an equal footing into the Christian Church825.

The news of such an event was not long in reaching Jerusalem, and provoked not only enquiry and comment, but actual complaint, so that when the Apostle returned thither, he found himself warmly censured by not a few of the more exclusive section of the “circumcision,” who complained that he had consorted and eaten with men who were uncircumcised826 (Acts xi. 13). Thereupon Peter recounted all the particulars of his visit to Cæsarea from the beginning; how he had seen a vision at Joppa, and how a Divine Voice had accompanied and interpreted it; how the messengers of Cornelius had arrived while he was pondering over the vision, and he had been bidden to accompany them nothing doubting827; how taking with him six impartial witnesses (Acts xi. 12), who were then present, he had proceeded to the house of Cornelius, and on his arrival was told of another vision which the good centurion had beheld, the “very counterpart and index of his own;” how when he had only begun to speak and to touch upon the Gospel History, the infallible sign of the Divine Presence had been manifested, and the Holy Ghost had fallen on his Gentile hearers as on the disciples in Jerusalem at the beginning; how this had recalled to his mind his Lord’s words, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, and he had admitted them to baptism; for who was he, after this visible proof of the Divine Presence, that he could withstand God? (Acts xi. 417). The question contained its own answer, and the Christians at Jerusalem not only held their peace, and desisted from further reprehension of the Apostle, but glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life (Acts xi. 18).

Meanwhile events had occurred at other and more distant places than Cæsarea, shewing that the Christian Church was no longer to be confined to the Jews only or to the sacred land of Palestine. The Christians, whom the persecution that followed after the stoning of Stephen828 had driven from the Holy City, travelled in different directions, to Phœnicia, the neighbouring island of Cyprus, and to Antioch829, the metropolis of Syria (Acts xi. 19). For some time they confined their ministrations to the Jews only, but at length some of them, men of Cyprus830 and Cyrene, on their arrival at Antioch, began to preach the word even to the Gentiles, and with such success that a great number became believers, and turned unto the Lord (Acts xi. 21).

Tidings of these events reaching the Church at Jerusalem, in accordance with the precedent already acted upon in Samaria (Acts viii. 14), it was resolved to send to Antioch one in whom they had entire confidence, and who might report on all that had occurred. The person selected for this important duty was no other than Barnabas, the son of exhortation, himself a Hellenist, a native of Cyprus, and in all probability well acquainted with Antioch, one known to be a good man, full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith (Acts xi. 24).

Accordingly Barnabas set out, and on his arrival found much to approve in the ministrations of the Hellenistic teachers. They had evidently been blessed with great success, and he laboured earnestly to advance it, exhorting all to cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart. His own endeavours did not lose their reward, for the church at Antioch received many additions to its numbers (Acts xi. 24), but Barnabas saw that a wise master-builder (1 Cor. iii. 10) was required for the work, and he therefore set out for Tarsus to fetch Saul. Once more, then, the two met, and Saul proceeded with his friend to the Syrian metropolis, and there side by side they continued to labour for a whole year, and so greatly were their exertions blessed, and so numerous were the additions made to the Church, that it was clear the disciples could no longer be confounded with any sect or party of the Jews. Standing out, then, as a separate community, they acquired a distinctive title, and it was first at Antioch, whose inhabitants were notorious for inventing names of derision831, that the honourable appellation of Christians was first applied to them (Acts xi. 26). This name they were not likely to assume themselves832, nor is it probable that it was bestowed upon them by the Jews. They called them in hatred and contempt the sect of the Nazarenes833 (Acts xxiv. 5), and Christ being equivalent to Messiah, they were not likely to apply to them a term they themselves held sacred834. The name, therefore, probably originated with the Gentiles, and with the Romans rather than the Greeks. The disciples would often speak of Christ as their leader and chief, and the heathens835 would naturally call them in mockery and derision Christians, or the Followers of Christ, just as the partisans of Marius were called Mariani, of Pompeius Pompeiani, of Otho Othoniani, of Vitellius Vitelliani, of Herod Herodiani.

While the two Apostles were thus employed, there arrived at Antioch, A.D. 42, certain prophets836 from Jerusalem, one of whom named Agabus stood up and announced that a great famine was at hand, which in fact came to pass during the reign of Claudius Cæsar (Acts xi. 28), a reign distinguished for earthquakes, bad harvests, and general scarcity837. Having full faith in his prophetic words the Christians in the Syrian metropolis838 determined to send relief, every man according to his ability, to their poorer brethren at Jerusalem, and Saul and Barnabas were selected to convey their contributions to the Holy City (Acts xi. 29, 30)839.


A.D. 44.

ABOUT the time when these delegates from the church at Antioch arrived on their errand of Christian love at Jerusalem, a severe calamity befell the Church there. On the accession of Claudius, A.D. 41, Herod Agrippa, who had taken an active part in securing his succession840, was rewarded by the addition of Judæa and Samaria to the tetrarchies of Philip and Antipas which he had already received, and ruled as king over a territory as widely extended as that governed by his grandfather841.

Arriving at Jerusalem, A.D. 42, he dedicated in the Temple, as a memorial of the Divine protection, the golden chain with which he had been presented by Caligula, and which was of equal weight with the iron one he had worn when imprisoned by Tiberius842, and endeavoured to ingratiate himself with his subjects by the strictest profession of Judaism. He offered sacrifice every day; paid the expenses of certain Nazarites on completing their vows843; abstained from every legal impurity; remitted the house-tax of the inhabitants of Jerusalem844; encircled the new suburb of Bezetha with a wall; and prepared to strengthen the entire fortifications of the city845.

Thus determined to ingratiate himself with the Jews, and doubtless at the suggestions of their chiefs, he resolved to take measures for the suppression of Christianity. Accordingly, in A.D. 44, he seized the Apostle James, the brother of St John, and without any apparent process of Jewish law846 summarily slew him with the sword (Acts xii. 2), thus early admitting him to his Master’s baptism847 (Mtt. xx. 23). Perceiving that this atrocity rendered him exceedingly popular with his subjects848, he arrested Peter also at the feast of the Passover, and committed him to the custody of four quaternions of soldiers849 (Acts xii. 4), intending at the close of the festival to bring him forth before the people and gratify them with his death.

Great was the sorrow of the Church at the prospect of the Apostle’s execution, and unceasing and not ineffectual prayer was made to God in his behalf. For on the night before the day fixed for the spectacle of his martyrdom, while the Apostle was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the sentinels without were carefully guarding the doors, a light suddenly shone into his cell, and an angel touched him on the side, and bade him rise up quickly. Thereupon he arose, and his chains fell from off his hands. Gird thyself, resumed the angel, and bind on thy sandals. The Apostle did so, and casting his garment about him, and scarcely believing the reality of what was going on, followed his celestial guide through the first and second ward, and thence through the iron gate, which opened of its own accord, into the street of the city (Acts xii. 510).

Then the angel departed, and the Apostle realising for the first time the fact of his deliverance, repaired to the house of Mary850, a sister of Barnabas, where many were gathered together praying. As soon as he had knocked at the door, a damsel named Rhoda came forth to open it, but recognising his voice was so transported with joy that she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the door. Those within, however, declared that she was mad, that she had seen his angel or ghost, and refused to believe her words. Meanwhile the Apostle stood without knocking, and at length the door was opened, and the disciples were assured that it was he and no other. They would have expressed their joy with loud thanksgivings, but holding up his hand he beckoned to them to be silent, and then having recounted all that had befallen him, bade them carry the joyful news to James the Lord’s brother and the rest of the disciples (Acts xii. 1117). With these words he betook himself to some secure hiding-place.

The morning dawned, and the soldiers rising from their slumbers were overwhelmed with astonishment at finding their prisoner gone, and while with no small stir they were endeavouring to make out what had become of him, Herod sent for them, and when he could not ascertain any tidings respecting their prisoner, ordered them to be put to death, and then left Jerusalem for Cæsarea (Acts xii. 19).

Before the autumn, however, a terrible end had overtaken the tyrant. Tidings reached Judæa of the triumphant return of Claudius from his expedition to Britain851, and shows similar to those at Rome were commenced at Cæsarea, which was crowded with people from all quarters. On the second day852 of the festival the king, clothed in magnificent robes, entered the glorious theatre853 which his grandfather had built, and sitting down on his throne (Acts xii. 21) proceeded to give an audience to certain ambassadors from the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon. For some reason the people of these Phœnician cities had given him offence, and through the intercession of Blastus, the royal chamberlain, they now sought a reconciliation and a renewal of friendly relations, which was a matter of no small importance, since Phœnicia, as in ancient times854, depended on Palestine for its supplies of corn and oil (Acts xii. 20). It was early morning855. The sun’s rays fell upon the apparel of the king glistering with silver tissue, and the excited multitude sitting in a great semicircle, tier above tier, on the stone seats of the theatre, were dazzled with the brightness which flashed forth from the monarch’s robes. Presently he spoke, and they shouted, It is the voice of a god and not of a man. The king made no attempt to repress their adulation, and in the midst of this idolatrous ostentation an angel of God smote him, and he was carried out of the theatre, smitten with a terrible internal disorder, and eaten of worms856 (Acts xii. 23). After lingering five days in excruciating agony he died in the fifty-fourth year of his age, having reigned seven years, four over part of his dominions, and three over the whole of Palestine857, and leaving behind him one son, Agrippa, and three daughters, Drusilla, Berenice, and Mariamne858.



A Map to illustrate THE APOSTOLIC HISTORY.

London and New York: Macmillan & Co.
Stanford’s Geographl Estabt. London


First Missionary Tour of Paul and Barnabas.


A.D. 45, 46.

THE martyrdom of Stephen exercised, as we have seen, an important influence on the development of the Church, scattering the disciples over heathen lands. The martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee marks a no less important epoch. It seems to have been the signal for the withdrawal of the Apostles from Jerusalem859. The special work assigned there to Peter, the Apostle of the Circumcision, was over. He had founded the Church, opened its gates to Jews and Gentiles, and laid down the conditions of their admission. Consigning, therefore, the direction of the Christian society in Jerusalem to James the Lord’s brother (Gal. i. 19), the Apostles departed to enter upon wider fields of action.

After completing the object of their journey, and proving the fellowship that existed between the disciples in Syria and Palestine, Saul and Barnabas, accompanied by a kinsman of the latter860, John surnamed Mark, returned to Antioch. In the Syrian metropolis the three were joined by other teachers, Simeon, surnamed Niger861, Lucius of Cyrene862, and Manaen863 a foster-brother864 of Herod the tetrarch (Acts xiii. 1), and together they continued to instruct and build up the Church. At length while, on one occasion, they were engaged in a solemn service of prayer and fasting, the Holy Ghost intimated, probably through one or more of the prophets then present (Acts xiii. 2), that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart to accomplish a special work, for which they had been called.

In accordance with this intimation, after a solemn religious service (Acts xiii. 3), the hands of the chief members of the church at Antioch were laid upon the two, and accompanied by Mark they repaired to Seleucia865, and thence sailed to Cyprus, where amongst their connections and friends866 it might be expected that Barnabas and his kinsman might labour with good results, and where there was already the nucleus of a Christian Church.

After a few hours’ sail, therefore, they reached Salamis867, the eastern port and ancient capital of the island, and preached the word in its synagogues, of which there appear to have been several. Thence they travelled to Paphos868, at the south-western extremity of Cyprus, the seat of the Roman government and the residence of the proconsul869, Sergius Paulus. At his court was one of those Jewish sorcerers, whom we have already seen encountering the Apostle Peter in Samaria870, named Bar-jesus, or, as he called himself in Arabic, Elymas, the wise (Acts xiii. 8). Provoked at the willingness of the proconsul to listen to the preaching of the newly-arrived teachers, he offered a strenuous opposition to his wishes. But Saul, or, as he is now for the first time called Paul871, fixed his eyes upon him, and in the plenitude of that power which he possessed from the Holy Ghost, sternly rebuked him for thus seeking to pervert the right ways of the Lord, and denounced an instantaneous judgment: the hand of the Lord should be upon him, and he should be blind, nor see the sun for a season. This privation, which the Apostle had himself experienced, was instantly inflicted on the sorcerer, and he had to seek the aid of others in going from place to place (Acts xiii. 11). Such a vivid exhibition of miraculous power produced a deep impression upon the proconsul, and he believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord (Acts xiii. 12).

From Paphos the three sailed in a north-westerly direction to the harbour of Attaleia872 in Pamphylia873, and thence up the river Cestrus 6 or 7 miles inland to the town of Perga874 (Acts xiii. 13). Here Mark, either yearning after the home he had left at Jerusalem, or affrighted by the perils he was likely to encounter875, departed from his companions, and returned to Jerusalem, while the others pressed on alone to Antioch in Pisidia, a town of considerable importance, having been built by the founder of the Syrian Antioch876, and since then advanced by Augustus to the dignity of a Roman colony877.

The population of the Pisidian Antioch was mixed, consisting of Greeks, Romans, and native Pisidians, but the influence of the Jews was considerable, and they had succeeded in making not a few converts. Having waited, therefore, for the ensuing Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas repaired to the synagogue, and after the regular service878 were bidden by the president of the synagogue, if they had any word of exhortation, to address those assembled (Acts xiii. 15).

Thereupon Paul rose up, and beckoning with his hand delivered his first address of which we have any record. Like the discourse he had himself heard from the lips of Stephen879, it was based on the history of the Jewish nation. The call of Abraham, the Wanderings in the wilderness, the occupation of Canaan, the period of the Judges880, the election of the first King, the accession of David; all these important events were touched upon in their order (Acts xiii. 1622). Of David’s seed, he then proceeded, God had promised (2 Sam. vii. 12) to raise up a Saviour, and this promise he had fulfilled. Duly heralded by His predicted Forerunner (Acts xiii. 24, 25), the promised Saviour had appeared in the person of Jesus. The rulers, indeed, of Jerusalem, not knowing Him, or the real meaning of the words of the prophets read in their ears every Sabbath-day, had constrained Pilate to put Him to death, had crucified, and laid Him in a sepulchre; but God had raised him from the dead, and He had been seen after His resurrection881, not by strangers, but by those familiar with His person, who had been His companions from Galilee to Jerusalem (Acts xiii. 2631), who were His witnesses to the people of Israel. By His death and resurrection He had truly accomplished the ancient prophecies882, which could not refer to their forefather David (who was dead, and had long mouldered in the tomb); and now through Him was offered to all the forgiveness of sins, even of those from which they could not have been delivered by the Law of Moses883.

Such was the purport of the Apostle’s first recorded sermon. Its immediate effect was a deep impression upon those who heard it. As they left the synagogue many884 besought the Apostles that these words might be repeated in their hearing on the next Sabbath, and not a few, both Jews and proselytes, accompanied them from the synagogue, and listened to their exhortations that having received the word they would not let it slip, but continue steadfastly in the grace of God (Acts xiii. 43).

Accordingly when the next Sabbath came round almost the whole city was assembled to hear the word, multitudes of Gentiles pressing in with the Jews and proselytes. This was more than the stricter section of the Jews could bear, and filled with envy at the assembly of so many strangers, they made an uproar, and opposed the word spoken by Paul with contradictions and even blasphemy (Acts xiii. 45).

Their opposition only nerved the Apostles with still greater boldness, and they openly proclaimed the course they would now adopt. In accordance with their Master’s directions, they had addressed themselves first to members of their own nation, but since they despised their message, and deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life, they would turn to the Gentiles885. This declaration many of the latter then present received with joy, and became believers, so that the word of the Lord was published abroad through the whole region (Acts xiii. 49).

This success provoked still greater opposition. Through the female proselytes in the city the Jews gained the ear of the chief authorities, and succeeded in raising a storm of persecution against the Apostles, and expelling them beyond the limits of the colony (Acts xiii. 50). They did not leave it, however, without a solemn protest against the impiety of its inhabitants. In obedience to their Master’s directions886, they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and while, in spite of the persecution that had been raised, the little band of Christians were filled with joy and the Holy Ghost (Acts xiii. 52), they proceeded to cross the barren uplands887 which separate Antioch from the plain of Iconium.


A.D. 4850.

ON reaching Iconium888, as they had done at Antioch, the Apostles repaired to the synagogue, and there proclaimed their message with such success, that a great multitude both of Jews and Gentiles embraced the faith. Thereupon the unbelieving Jews repeated the tactics already found so successful at Antioch. They excited the minds of the Gentile population against the brethren, and stirred up a furious opposition (Acts xiv. 2). On this occasion, however, the Apostles did not feel themselves called to leave the city immediately. They remained at Iconium some considerable time, and spoke boldly in the Name of their Divine Master, who attested the truth of their words by many miracles and signs. In the end the population was divided. The one, including the influential classes, sided with the Jews, the other with the Apostles. At length a conspiracy was formed with the connivance of the magistrates (Acts xiv. 5) to insult and even stone them, and Paul and Barnabas, recognising the signal to leave, betook themselves to the neighbouring Lycaonian towns, Lystra889 and Derbe890.

Lystra was the place first visited, and here there was no synagogue, and apparently but few Jews. It was a small town in a wild district and amongst a rude population speaking a dialect of their own, and serving the gods many and lords many of primitive heathenism. The Apostles therefore could only make known their message by repairing to places of public resort, and addressing themselves to such groups as curiosity or interest might gather together. On one of these occasions, a man, who had been a cripple from his birth (Acts xiv. 8), and who probably sat for alms in the public thoroughfare, listened to them with deep attention. Thereupon the Apostle Paul, moved with compassion, and probably sensible of the necessity of some miracle to attest his authority, as also perceiving that the man had faith to be healed, fixed his eye upon him and addressing him in a loud voice, said, Stand upright on thy feet. In an instant the man sprang up, and leaped, and walked.

Such a cure of such a man in such a manner was speedily noised abroad, and the multitudes gathering together no sooner saw what had been done, than they lifted up their voices, saying in their native Lycaonian dialect891, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men (Acts xiv. 11). That the gods, in the form of mortal men, did often visit the earth, was a cherished belief amongst many heathen nations, and nowhere more than in the very district now visited by the Apostles892. The tutelar deity of Lystra was Zeus, Jupiter, and at the entrance of the town he had a temple, where he was worshipped as its founder and protector. The inhabitants therefore rushed to the conclusion, that in the Apostle Barnabas, probably in consequence of his venerable appearance, they beheld none other than the “father of gods and men,” while in his companion, who was the chief speaker, they thought they recognised Hermes, or Mercury, the god of eloquence, and the frequent companion of Jupiter on his visits to earth893.

The news that these deities had honoured Lystra with their presence quickly spread, and reached the ears of the priest of Jupiter. Accordingly he and his assistants soon appeared with oxen and garlands before the residence of the Apostles, prepared to offer sacrifice in their honour. Perceiving for the first time the object of these proceedings, Paul and Barnabas rushed forth from their abode, and meeting the procession approaching the vestibule894, exclaimed, Sirs, what do ye? we also are men of like passions with you. And then they went on to declare the real purport of their coming, which was to persuade them to turn from the worship of such false gods, to the living and life-giving God, the Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein, who in the past generations had permitted all nations895 to walk in their own ways, interposing not by any visible judgment or by any world-wide revelation, but who had not left Himself without witness, doing good to the creatures of His hand, giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with joy and gladness (Acts xiv. 1517).

Even this appeal hardly prevailed upon the people to abandon their intentions. At length they reluctantly retired, and led away the victims without offering them in sacrifice to the Apostles. The impression, however, thus made was on the surface only, and was soon to give place to an entire revulsion of feeling. It had become known at Antioch and Iconium, whither the Apostles had retired. From both places, therefore, certain of the Jews made their way to Lystra, and stirred up the minds of the people against their newly-arrived visitors, representing, it is not improbable, that they were impostors, and practised magical arts896. Thereupon, with the fickleness for which they were proverbial, the Lycaonians turned upon the men they had so lately been willing to adore, and actually stoned Paul897, and supposing him to be dead dragged him forth out of their town.

Some disciples898, however, had been made even in Lystra, and these did not now desert their teacher in the hour of peril. While they were standing around him, and probably using means for his restoration, the Apostle arose, and returned with them to his abode. A longer stay was clearly dangerous, and therefore on the morrow he and his companion left for the neighbouring town of Derbe, and thence, having preached the Word and made several disciples (Acts xiv. 21), they returned through the several towns they had visited, exhorting the disciples to abide constant in the faith, and reminding them that through much affliction they must enter the kingdom of God. Moreover in the several churches they had established they now appointed elders899, and after prayer and fasting, solemnly presented them before the Lord (Acts xiv. 23). Thence they proceeded to Perga, and after preaching the Word there, to the sea-port of Attaleia. There they took ship, and sailing to Seleucia reached Antioch, and on their arrival summoned the brethren, and announced to them the success of their mission, and the many proofs they had witnessed that God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts xiv. 27).

Arrived at Antioch, the Apostles continued there for some time, A.D. 4750, strengthening and confirming the faith of the Church, and during their stay began that contest with the Judaizing Christians with which St Paul was destined to be so largely occupied.

It had by this time become clear that the Christian faith, instead of being the purest and highest form of Judaism, was to prove itself a world-wide universal religion, and that its Jewish elements were to be absorbed and vanish away. In every nation and in every place, at Joppa, at Cæsarea, at Antioch, in rude village-towns like Lystra and Derbe, as well as populous cities like Perga and Iconium, it was seen that God accepted without respect of persons those that feared Him and worked righteousness (Acts x. 34, 35).

Such a revolution of feeling towards the Gentile world900 could not be at once received with entire acquiescence. At Jerusalem, in sight of the Temple, and in the midst of all the associations of his faith and national history, the exclusive feelings, which the Jew carried with him wherever he went, were concentrated and intensified901. Hitherto there had been no attempt to define the mutual relations of Jewish and Gentile converts. “All such questions, it would seem, had been tacitly passed over, neither side perhaps being desirous of provoking discussion902.” Events, however, now occurred, which rendered necessary a solution of the question.

Certain false brethren903 (Gal. ii. 12) went down from Judæa to Antioch (Acts xv. 1), and creeping in unawares904, began to observe with no favourable eye the extent to which the Jewish Law was relaxed in favour of the Gentile Christians, and their liberty in Christ Jesus vindicated (Gal. ii. 4). Before long they began to insinuate, not that the observance of certain ceremonies in themselves indifferent was advisable for the sake of expediency, but that the rite of circumcision was essential for salvation; Except ye be circumcised, said they to the Gentile Christians, ye cannot be saved (Acts xv. 1).

To such a doctrine no one was more opposed than the Apostle Paul. To the subjection which these teachers required, he would not advise his Gentile converts to yield, no, not for an hour (Gal. ii. 5). The consequence was, that no small dissension and disputation arose between himself and Barnabas on the one hand, and the false teachers on the other, and no slight anxiety and perplexity harassed the minds of the disciples.

At length it was resolved that he and Barnabas with certain others should go up to Jerusalem, and seek an interview with the Apostles and Elders, with the object of settling the dispute905. Any hesitation the Apostle might have felt about the expediency of the course proposed was removed by a special revelation906 (Gal. ii. 2) which conspired with the declared view of the church at Antioch, and intimated to him that the journey found favour with God, and that an authoritative settlement of the question was necessary to the well-being of the Christian churches907.

Accordingly he himself, accompanied by Barnabas, a Jew and a Levite by birth, and therefore a fair representative of the circumcision, Titus, a living example of the power of God among the heathen908, and some of the Christian brethren of the towns through which they passed, set out on their memorable journey.


A.D. 50.

FOLLOWING the coast-line of Phœnicia909, and then traversing the midland districts of Samaria and Judæa, the deputation from the church at Antioch proclaimed in every town they entered the conversion of the Gentiles, and caused great joy among all the brethren (Acts xv. 3). On their arrival at Jerusalem they were welcomed by the Apostles present, as also by the elders, and recounted to them all that God had done by their instrumentality amongst the Gentiles. Very soon, however, the Pharisaic section in the Church which the emissaries at Antioch represented, put forward their objections. They rose up and insisted that the Gentile converts should be circumcised and instructed to conform to the Mosaic Law (Acts xv. 5). Their sentiments, put forward with such determination, revealed the importance of the crisis, and it was resolved that a formal assembly of the church should be convened.

In the interval, knowing how much depended on the decision now invoked, the Apostle Paul held private interviews910(Gal. ii. 2) with the more prominent members911 of the Church, and especially with James, Peter and John, the great Pillars of the new society, and used every effort to remove the prejudices against the reception of heathen converts without conforming to the requirements of the Law, and to avoid misunderstanding as to the great principle he had proclaimed wherever he had preached—the freedom of the Gentile churches.

At length the council met, and consisted of the Apostles, elders, and general body of disciples. The debate was earnest, and led to much disputing (Acts xv. 7), in the midst of which Peter rose up, and reminded his hearers that these recent converts in Syria and Cilicia were not the first Gentile believers912. “He himself had been chosen some years before913 to preach the word to ‘those without’ and admit them into the Christian Church, and God who knoweth the hearts had shewn that He was no respecter of persons, for He had bestowed upon them the same miraculous gifts as upon the Jews, and had purified their hearts by faith. In the face of these facts, then, he for his part could not believe it was right to tempt God by laying upon the necks of the new converts a yoke914 which neither they themselves nor their fathers had been able to bear, and from which they had only been delivered by the salvation offered through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts xv. 11).”

This address of the Great Apostle of the circumcision was received with attention by the Council, and in the midst of the general silence (Acts xv. 12) Paul and Barnabas rose, and were eagerly listened to while they recounted in a continued narrative what God had wrought by their instrumentality among the Gentiles in Antioch and Cyprus and the cities of Pamphylia and Lycaonia, and declared how He had attested their labours by the signs and wonders which He had enabled them to perform (Acts xv. 12).

When they had concluded, another speaker arose to address the assembly. This was James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the direction of the Church at Jerusalem had apparently been committed915. No man was more calculated to command the earnest attention and deference of all present. Austere916 and inflexibly upright917, so that both Jews and Christians called him James the Just, resembling not only in the earnestness of his exhortations, but even in his outward garb918, the Baptist or one of the prophets of the older Dispensation, he might be expected to conciliate even the Pharisaic section in the Council.

He began by reminding those present of the reality of the conversion of the household of Cornelius to which Peter919 had alluded (Acts xv. 14). This taking of a people from amongst the Gentiles was not contrary to, but a direct fulfilment of, the words of ancient prophecy (Amos ix. 11, 12)920, which foretold that the tabernacle of David should be gloriously revived, and the worship of Jehovah extended to all nations. What, therefore, had occurred in Syria and Cilicia, in Pamphylia and Lycaonia, need not excite any astonishment. God, to whom all things are known from the beginning, was but fulfilling His eternal counsels, and the words He had Himself spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets. His judgment, therefore, was that they should not trouble the minds of believers from amongst the Gentiles, or lay upon them any obligations beyond those necessary to ensure peace and goodwill amongst them and their Jewish brethren. The latter from ancient times and from immemorial usage were wont to hear the Law read in their synagogues every Sabbath-day, and any direct violation of its vital principles could not fail to give the deepest offence. He advised, therefore, that the Gentile converts should be required to abstain (1) from that which had been polluted by being offered in sacrifice to idols921; (2) from the flesh of animals which had been strangled922; (3) from the eating of blood923; (4) from fornication, and those licentious orgies, which were so closely connected with heathen sacrificial feasts, and nowhere more than in the centres of those very countries about which they had been speaking, the sanctuaries of Antioch924 and Paphos925.

These sentiments found acceptance with the majority. Titus926 was not compelled to submit to circumcision (Gal. ii. 3), and the course adopted by Paul was entirely approved by the other Apostles. James, Peter, and John, who had the reputation of being Pillars927 of the truth, gave to him and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship (Gal. ii. 9), and agreed to recognise unreservedly his independent mission to the heathen as well as their own to the Jews (Gal. ii. 9). One condition only was annexed, that in his journeys among the Gentiles and the dispersed Jews he would not forget the wants and the sufferings of the poorer brethren at Jerusalem928.

Thus the dispute was settled, and a circular letter (Acts xv. 23) was drawn up embodying the views of the Council. This was entrusted to Paul and Barnabas, and they accompanied by certain chief men929 among the brethren (Acts xv. 22), Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas or Silvanus930, returned to Antioch, and the whole body of the disciples having been assembled, read it in their ears. Great was the joy manifested at the contents, and no less welcome the consolation after so much discussion and perplexity (Acts xv. 31), which was in no small degree increased by the fact that Judas and Silas, being both “prophets,” exhorted and confirmed the brethren in the enjoyment of that free and unfettered liberty now assured to them. After some days they returned to Jerusalem, but Paul and Barnabas prolonged their stay in the Syrian capital, and together with many others proclaimed the message of Redemption, and employed themselves in the general work of Christian instruction (Acts xv. 35).

During their stay, for some reason which is not specified, Peter came down to Antioch (Gal. ii. 11). At first he lived in free and social intercourse with the Gentile converts, met them on terms of equality, and ate with them at the Agapæ and on other occasions, in the true spirit of the recent decree, and as he had done in the house of Cornelius (Gal. ii. 12). Before long, however, there arrived from Jerusalem certain brethren, either deputed by James on some special mission, “or invested with some powers from him, which they abused931 (Gal. ii. 12). They brought with them their old Pharisaic932 repugnance against intercourse with uncircumcised heathen, and awed by their presence the Apostle of the Circumcision began timidly to withdraw and separate himself933 from those whom he had lately met on free and equal terms.

Such conduct roused the deepest indignation in the heart of Paul. Through fear of the converts from Judaism934 Peter was violating the very principle of the late decree, and by his example causing others to vacillate. Not only the other Jewish converts resident at Antioch935 (Gal. ii. 13), who had mingled freely with the Gentiles, but even his friend and colleague Barnabas, who had defended their cause at Jerusalem, was carried away with the flood of their dissimulation936 (Gal. ii. 13). It was clearly necessary to interfere, and accordingly he withstood his fellow Apostle to the face (Gal. ii. 11), and rebuked him before all. The dissimulation he had practised carried with it its own condemnation. If he, born and bred a Jew, had made it his principle to discard Jewish customs and to live with the freedom of a Gentile, why did he practically937 coerce the Gentiles into Judaism. Both of them, though born to all the privileges of the elect nation, not sinners938, as they used proudly to call the Gentiles, convinced that a man could not be justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ, had become believers in Him, that of that justification they might become partakers. How, then, could he seek to impose on others the yoke of conformity to the works of the Law?

What ensued upon this indignant rebuke is not recorded. It is not probable that any actual quarrel took place between the two939. Though the character of Peter was impulsive and susceptible of quick and sudden changes, it was loving, generous, and forgiving. Certain it is that afterwards he was not ashamed to allude to the Epistles of his beloved brother Paul (2 Pet. iii. 15, 16), albeit that the censure upon himself finds a place in one of them, and though afterwards they seldom met, yet their lives were united in the propagation of one great cause, and in their deaths they were not divided940.


St Paul’s Second Missionary Journey.


A.D. 51.

THE sphere of the labours of St Paul, as the Apostle of the Gentiles, having been publickly recognized at Jerusalem, he did not deem it right to linger at Antioch, and therefore proposed to Barnabas that they should revisit the places where they had preached the Word of God, and founded churches. To this his fellow Apostle assented, but was unwilling to undertake the journey unless his relative John Mark accompanied them (Acts xv. 37). St Paul, however, was by no means inclined to suffer one, who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work, to become again their companion on a journey requiring resolution and undaunted courage. Barnabas, on his side, was equally earnest in desiring that his kinsman should accompany them, and the consequence was nothing less than a sharp contention between the two, which at last ended in a mutual separation941. They agreed to choose each a different path, and to labour independently. Barnabas, therefore, taking with him John Mark942 sailed to Cyprus, there, doubtless, though the details of his labours are not recorded, to superintend with advantage the churches already planted there, and to quicken and confirm their spiritual growth.

St Paul, on the other hand, selecting for his companion Silas or Silvanus, who had returned from Jerusalem, and commended by the brethren to the grace of God (Acts xv. 40), proceeded to form his own field of labour, instead of trespassing on that of another943. As his late colleague, therefore, had selected an insular, so he chose a continental sphere of operations, and traversed Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches944, and probably exhibiting the circular epistle from the church of Jerusalem.

From Cilicia he and his companion then passed into Lycaonia945, and once more visited the towns of Derbe and Lystra. In the latter place he found a pleasing proof that his labours during his previous visit had not been in vain. In Timothy, who has been already mentioned946, who had been carefully nurtured from childhood in the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois (2 Tim. i. 5), who had witnessed the persecutions which the Apostle had undergone, and now as a Christian enjoyed the confidence of the church at Lystra and Iconium (Acts xvi. 2, 3), he saw one well fitted to do more than supply the place of John Mark, and invited him to become his companion. Timothy, on his part, was ready and willing to join him, and on account of the Jews who were numerous in the town and neighbourhood947, and probably for the sake of his admission into the synagogue in which the Apostle intended to preach, submitted to the rite of circumcision (Acts xvi. 3). Before many witnesses (1 Tim. vi. 12) he was then948 solemnly ordained by the laying on of the hands of the whole assembly of the elders, and of the Apostle himself (2 Tim. i. 6), to do the work of an Evangelist, and proceeded with him and Silas, visiting the churches already founded, and exhibiting the decrees of the Council at Jerusalem (Acts xvi. 4).

The effect of this visitation was speedily felt. Strengthened by the superintendence of three such earnest labourers, the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily (Acts xvi. 5). The first part of their mission completed, the three advanced in a northerly direction through Phrygia949 and Galatia950 (Acts xvi. 6). In the last-named district it does not seem to have been the intention of St Paul to have preached the Gospel, being probably anxious at once to bear his message to the more important and promising district of proconsular Asia951 (Acts xvi. 6). But a sharp and violent attack of a malady, to which he was subject, and which he calls a thorn in the flesh952, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him (2 Cor. xii. 7), prostrated his physical strength, and he was constrained to linger in Galatia953 (Gal. iv. 13, 14).

But though the Apostle appeared in the capitals of Galatia—Pessinus, Ancyra and Tavium—bowed down with physical infirmity, he was received with peculiar kindness by the warm-hearted954 Gauls. They did not despise nor loath the temptation in his flesh (Gal. iv. 14). They welcomed him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, nay, they would have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them to him955 (Gal. iv. 15). His announcement of a crucified Saviour (Gal. iii. 1) they received with eagerness and deep fervour, and many, both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, freemen and slaves956 (Gal. iii. 27, 28), professed themselves believers, and the churches of Galatia were added to those of Cilicia, Lycaonia and Phrygia.

Considering the circumstances under which this visit was made, it is not probable that it was very protracted, but at first the Apostles were somewhat uncertain in what direction to turn, for new fields of labour opened to them on different sides. At one time they thought of proceeding in a south-westerly direction to the populous cities of proconsular Asia957, but received a Divine intimation that this was not to be the scene of their labours (Acts xvi. 6). They then turned towards Mysia958, and were essaying to proceed into Bithynia959, when a monition from the Divine Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Redeemer960, caused them to abandon this route also. Passing, therefore, by the district of Mysia without pausing to evangelise it961, they proceeded in a north-westerly direction towards the shores of the Ægean, and arrived at Alexandria Troas962 (Acts xvi. 8).

There they stayed for the night, and now, after the Apostle Paul had doubtless been pondering deeply over the nature of the supernatural intimations which had been leading him963, the mystery was solved. During the night there appeared to him in vision964, a man from the opposite shores of Macedonia, beseeching him and saying, Come over and help us (Acts xvi. 9). The morning dawned, and the purport of the heavenly vision was discussed by the Apostle with his companions Silas and Timothy, and a new colleague, Luke the beloved physician (Col. iv. 14), who had now joined him, either by pre-arrangement, or by a providential meeting, or perhaps in consequence of his feeble state of health965. They were not long in coming to a conclusion. The vision could have but one meaning. The Lord was assuredly calling them to carry the glad tidings of salvation to the European shores (Acts xvi. 10). Without further delay, therefore, they sought means for crossing over, and having found a vessel on the point of sailing for Europe they embarked and proceeded on their voyage.


A.D. 52.

THE wind blew fair, when the Apostle and his companions left Troas, and running before it in a straight course they reached, probably the same night966, the island of Samothrace, and there came to anchor967. The next day, passing under the lee of the island of Thasos, they reached the Macedonian harbour of Neapolis, and thence passed inland a distance of about 10 miles to Philippi968, the first969 city which the traveller would reach in this part of Macedonia, and a Roman military colony970 (Acts xvi. 12).

Here the Apostle and his companions stayed some days (Acts xvi. 12). Being a military and not a mercantile city, the number of Jews here was small, and consequently there was no synagogue. There was, however, a Proseucha, a House or Place of Prayer, a slighter971 and more temporary structure than the regular places of Jewish worship, outside the gate972, on the banks of the Gaggitas, the fountains of which gave the ancient name to the city973. Those who met here for worship consisted chiefly of women (Acts xvi. 13), and amongst them was one, named Lydia, a proselytess974 (Acts xvi. 14) of Thyatira975 (Rev. i. 11), a town in proconsular Asia, famous ever since the days of Homer for its dyed goods, for the reception of which she had an establishment at Philippi.

On the Sabbath the newly-arrived strangers joined the little company by the river-side, and sitting down976 in the attitude of teachers, spoke to the women there assembled. Lydia was an earnest listener, and the Lord opened her heart, so that she gave heed to the word spoken by Paul, and together with her household was admitted into the Church by baptism, probably in the waters of the stream that flowed by the Proseucha. Thus the Gospel found a lodgment in Europe, and Lydia, grateful for the spiritual things, which the Apostle had ministered unto her, was anxious to minister to him and his companions of her temporal things. Since ye have deemed me a believer in the Lord, said she, come into my house, and there abide. She would take no refusal, and Paul and the rest accepted her offer of hospitality.

At no great distance from Philippi977 was an oracle of Dionysus, the prophet-god of the Thracians. Thence, or from some similar establishment, there came a damsel possessed with the spirit of divination978, who had been hired by certain Philippian citizens, and brought much gain to her owners by her soothsaying (Acts xvi. 16). Meeting the little company of Christians as they went to and fro from the Proseucha, she followed Paul crying out, These men are the servants of the most High God, who are come to announce unto you the way of salvation. This continued many days. At length grieved that this testimony should be borne by one possessed with an evil spirit, Paul turned, and in the name of his Divine Master commanded the evil spirit to leave her, whereupon the word of power was instantly obeyed, and the damsel was restored to her right mind (Acts xvi. 18).

Perceiving that now all hope of any future gain was gone, the owners of the damsel, filled with anger, seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the forum (Acts xvi. 19) before the duumviri or authorities of the colony, charging them with creating a disturbance in the place, and introducing innovations in their religion979. Such an accusation quickly roused the feelings of the populace, and a furious mob beset the Apostle and his companion as they stood before the magistrates. To retain their popularity the latter saw that they must give in to the popular feeling, and ordered the lictors to strip off the clothes of the accused and scourge them980 (Acts xvi. 22). The order was forthwith executed, and faint and bleeding from the infliction of many stripes (1 Thess. ii. 2), they were thrust into prison, and the jailer was strictly enjoined to keep them safely. Anxious to fulfil his instructions to the letter, he thrust them into the inner prison, probably a dark, cold, pestilential cell981, and made their feet fast in the stocks982 (Acts xvi. 24).

But though shamefully intreated (1 Thess. ii. 2), and thrust under a false charge into a loathsome dungeon, the Apostle and his companion were not in despair. At midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God, while the rest of the prisoners listened with eager attention. But deliverance was near at hand. Suddenly a great earthquake shook the prison to its foundations, every door was opened, every fetter was loosed (Acts xvi. 26). Roused from sleep the jailer instantly concluded that his prisoners had escaped, and drawing his sword was on the point of laying violent hands upon himself, when the voice of the Apostle Paul was heard calling out loudly, Do thyself no harm, for we are all here (Acts xvi. 28).

On this the jailer called for lights, and leaped into the inner prison, and trembling with alarm fell down before Paul and Silas, and then leading them forth said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Believe, was their reply, in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, and then they proceeded to explain to him and the members of his family, who probably crowded around, what belief in Jesus meant (Acts xvi. 32). The word fell upon good ground, and in the self-same hour, late as it was, the rough Roman officer washed the stripes of his prisoners, and was baptized together with all his house. Then taking them up into his house he set food before them, and as a believer rejoiced in his new-found faith (Acts xvi. 34).

By this time the morning had dawned, and messengers arrived from the magistrates. Either alarmed at the earthquake, or conscience-stricken with having acted with unnecessary harshness, they had come to a different decision respecting the Apostles, and the lictors now bore their orders that they should be released. The jailer received these instructions with the utmost joy, and going with the messengers announced these commands to the Apostles. But St Paul declined to go in peace, as he suggested (Acts xvi. 36). He and his companion, uncondemned, and without any form of trial, had been openly scourged, and thrust into prison, in direct violation of their rights as Roman citizens983. He refused, therefore, to accept such a secret and ignominious release. Let them come themselves, said he, and lead us forth (Acts xvi. 37).

Without delay the messengers conveyed the intelligence that the prisoners were Roman citizens to the magistrates, who were in no little alarm, when they discovered what an insult they had unwittingly offered to the Majesty of the imperial city. Hastening, therefore, to the prison, they earnestly besought the Apostles to depart from the colony. Accordingly they came forth, and with quietness and dignity repaired to the house of Lydia, and having seen and bidden farewell to the Christian brethren departed (Acts xvi. 40). Timothy, however, and Luke, appear to have remained for the present behind, to water the seed sown, and to build up the newly-formed Philippian Church.


A.D. 52.

LEAVING, then, their first Macedonian converts, Paul and Silas proceeded along the great Roman road, known as the Via Egnatia, to Amphipolis984, and thence through Apollonia985 to Thessalonica986. In the latter city was the987 chief synagogue of the Jews in this part of Macedonia (Acts xvii. 2), and hither Paul repaired, and for three consecutive Sabbaths argued with those of his own nation from their own Scriptures, opening them up to them, and shewing that the Messiah there predicted was no temporal Prince or earthly Conqueror, but One who should suffer and rise from the dead, and that He had appeared in the person of that Jesus, whom he announced to them (Acts xvii. 3; Comp. 1 Thess. i. 10, iv. 14, v. 9, 10).

His words were variously received. Some, including a considerable number of the Greek proselytes and of the influential women, believed. But the Jews, furious at the spread of such obnoxious tenets, gathered together a mob of idlers from the markets and landing-places, threw the town into an uproar, and falling upon the house of Jason988, where the Apostle was lodging, sought to drag him and his companion before the demus, or assembly of the people989. Unsuccessful, however, in finding them, they hurried Jason and certain of the brethren before the magistrates, and charged them with violating the decrees of Cæsar990 in asserting that there was another King, namely Jesus (Acts xvii. 7). This charge caused the magistrates considerable perplexity. Instead, however, of visiting the Apostle with any punishment, they contented themselves with taking security991 from Jason and the rest for their future good conduct, and the maintenance of peace, and then set them at liberty.

But though the city was thus quieted, the position of the Apostle was one of great danger. Without delay, therefore, the brethren sent him and Silas under cover of night in a south-westerly direction to Berœa992. Here also there was a synagogue, and here Paul found far more candid, generous, and willing hearers than he had met with at Thessalonica. The Berœans not only accepted the message he preached, but searched the Scriptures, and that daily, to see whether his arguments were well founded. The consequences were soon apparent. The promise seek, and ye shall find was fulfilled, and many, both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and amongst the latter sex some of the highest rank, professed themselves Christians (Acts xvii. 12).

But the work thus auspiciously commenced was not destined to go on unimpeded. After no long interval the Jews of Thessalonica, hearing that Paul was preaching with success at Berœa, followed in his track993, and threw the town into commotion. The danger was imminent, and perceiving that the ceaseless animosity of the Jews rendered any further labours in Macedonia useless for the present, the brethren conveyed the Apostle to the nearest sea-port994, probably Dium995, and thence by ship to Athens. Silas and Timotheus, who probably had rejoined the Apostle at Berœa, had meanwhile been left there, to strengthen the faith of the new converts, but on the return of those who had conducted Paul to Athens, received his injunctions to join him with all speed (Acts xvii. 15).

Thus the disciple of Gamaliel, once a Pharisee, now a Christian and an Apostle, found himself in the far-famed centre of Grecian culture, the pride of the ancient world, the patroness of Art, Science, and Literature. While awaiting, alone and among strangers, the arrival of his companions, his spirit burned within him, as he beheld on every side proofs of the point to which the inhabitants of the glorious city carried their religious instincts, and the idols and idol-temples with which it was crowded996. Even here, however, he commenced in his usual manner. On each Sabbath-day he repaired to the synagogue (Acts xvii. 17), and preached to the Jews and proselytes, and during the week he was to be found in the busy Agora at the foot of the Acropolis and the Areopagus, conversing with any who would listen to his words.

In such a place and among such a people he was not likely to lack an audience. All the Athenians and the strangers that were there, writes St Luke, spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing (Acts xvii. 21). To them, therefore, the coming of one like the Apostle, burning with zeal, and setting forth with learning and ability new and unheard-of doctrines respecting Jesus and the Resurrection (Acts xvii. 18), would be certain to awaken no little interest. Amongst others, who heard him and marvelled at his words, were certain of the world-famous Epicurean and Stoic schools of philosophy. On them his preaching produced a varied effect. Some treated it with scorn, saying, What doth this babbler997 mean? Others remarked that he appeared to be setting forth certain new divinities. At length they determined to ascertain the point more closely, and taking him to the Areopagus998, requested to know999 the meaning of what he preached (Acts xvii. 19, 20).

So the Apostle took his stand, alone1000 and unaided, “his bodily aspect still showing what he had suffered from weakness, toil, and pain,” on the summit of the hill of Areopagus (Acts xvii. 22) in the midst of temples, statues and altars dedicated to the gods many and lords many of the heathen world. Horror-struck as he must have been at the spectacle of idolatry which confronted him on every side, he yet with peculiar prudence did not begin by attacking in intemperate language the national worship of his hearers. During his brief sojourn in the city he had observed an altar with the inscription, To an unknown God1001 (Acts xvii. 23). “Taking his stone,” therefore, to use the expressive language of Chrysostom, “out of their own brook,” he determined to make this inscription and the mournful testimony it bore to the vanity of heathenism his text, and from it to speak to them words of eternal life.

This altar, he began, like all things else he had seen in their city, proved their carefulness in religion1002, their earnest desire to worship, and at the same time their ignorance in worshipping. “The unknown God,” whose power, by their own confession, they acknowledged, he would declare unto them. The Lord of heaven and earth, who had made the world and all things therein, dwelt not in temples made with hands1003. He was subject to no exigencies, which made him need anything from his worshippers, seeing that He gave to all life, and breath, and all things. For all the nations of mankind, originally made by Him of one blood1004, He had assigned the seasons of their existence and the bounds of their habitation, to the end that they should feel after Him, if haply they might find Him, though in truth He was not far from any of them, as one of their own poets had said,

For we are also His offspring1005.

As the offspring, therefore, of God, and endowed with the faculty of knowing Him, they ought not to have imagined that the Godhead was like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by the art and device of man. Such imaginations they might have indulged in times past of ignorance. But these God had overlooked1006, and now commanded all men everywhere to repent, for He had appointed a day, wherein He would judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He had ordained, and of this He had given to all a pledge and an assurance, in that He had raised Him from the dead (Acts xvii. 30, 31).

At this point the Apostle’s address was suddenly interrupted. Some who heard him broke out into laughter, regarding the idea of the resurrection as ridiculous. Others, in the spirit of Felix afterwards (Acts xxiv. 22, 25), said they would hear him again on the subject; and thus amidst mingled indifference and division, the hearers of the Apostle dispersed, and he departed from among them. The word spoken, however, did not fall utterly to the ground. Dionysius, a member of the Court of Areopagus, a woman named Damaris1007, and some others, professed themselves believers in that Redeemer and Judge of all mankind, whom he had preached to them.


A.D. 52, 53.

AFTER a stay at Athens, the duration of which is not recorded, the Apostle Paul repaired to Corinth, a place eminently adapted to be the centre of missionary operations, being the capital of the province1008 of Achaia, a large mercantile city, and inhabited by a large number of Jews. At this time the number of the latter was unusually large, owing to a decree issued by the emperor Claudius, in A.D. 50, directing their expulsion from Rome (Acts xviii. 2). The imperial edict here alluded to by St Luke is probably the same as that mentioned by Suetonius1009, who relates that Claudius drove the Jews from the capital, “because they were incessantly raising tumults at the instigation of a certain Chrestus,” a name used by mistake, there is little reason to doubt, for Christus, and pointing to mutual hostilities between the Jews and Christians respecting the Messiah1010.

Among those thus banished were two natives of Pontus in Asia Minor, named Aquila and Priscilla, who on their way homewards by the ordinary maritime track across the isthmus of Corinth, had settled down there for the present, and engaged in the manufacture of tents, probably of the Cilicium1011, or hair-cloth, already mentioned as an important article of trade in the Levant. Whether they were already converted to Christianity or not is doubtful, but as workers at a common trade the Apostle came and attached himself to them (Acts xviii. 3), and the intimacy now commenced lasted during the whole of St Paul’s life, and his new found friends became not only partakers of a common faith, but rendered him the most important services.

While, however, he laboured working with his own hands (1 Cor. iv. 12), he did not neglect his great work as an Apostle. According to his usual practice, he repaired every Sabbath-day to the synagogue, and endeavoured to persuade both the Jews and Gentiles there present (Acts xviii. 4) to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah and Saviour of the world. Nor were his labours unsuccessful. Many, both Jews and Gentiles, professed themselves believers. Amongst these was the house of Stephanas, whom the Apostle calls the first-fruits of Achaia (1 Cor. xvi. 15). Another convert, and one of considerable note, was Crispus, a ruler of the synagogue (Acts xviii. 8); a third was Gaius, or Caius, with whom he afterwards lodged. All these he baptized with his own hand (1 Cor. i. 1417).

After he had been thus labouring about two or three months, Silas and Timothy returned from Macedonia (Acts xviii. 5), and relieved the Apostle’s intense anxiety respecting the churches he had planted there (1 Thess. i. 2; ii. 13; iii. 6), informing him of the continuance of their faith and love, of their fond remembrance of himself, and their eager desire to see him again (1 Thess. iii. 6). The effect of this welcome news seems to have been an instantaneous increase of the zeal and resolution with which he prosecuted his labours. Already there were signs of opposition to the progress of the truth, and he had begun his work at Corinth in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling (1 Cor. ii. 3). But now a weight was taken off from his mind (1 Thess. iii. 16), and he was pressed in the spirit, or, according to a preferable reading, he was pressed by the word1012 (Acts xviii. 5). His zeal was a positive pain to him. His anxieties removed, he felt he could not restrain the impulse to give utterance to the Word of God, and to apply himself with redoubled energy to his work.

Satisfactory, however, as had been in the main the tidings brought by Silas and Timothy from Thessalonica, some irregularities which had crept in, and some mistaken notions the new converts entertained, required correction. Since the Apostle’s visit several of their relatives and friends had died, and they feared that these departed Christians would lose the happiness of witnessing their Lord’s second coming, which they conceived to be close at hand (1 Thess. iv. 1318). Under the excitement of the same expectation others had abandoned their lawful callings, and fancying that they need not work claimed the support of the richer members of the church (1 Thess. iv. 11, 12). Others, again, had not learned to subdue their carnal appetites (1 Thess. iv. 18), and there were symptoms of a lack of order (1 Thess. iv. 9, 10), and a tendency to despise the gift of prophesying, or inspired teaching, in comparison with other and more showy gifts (1 Thess. v. 20; comp. 1 Cor. xiv.).

For these reasons he addressed his first Epistle to the Thessalonians. Meanwhile the progress of the Church at Corinth had awakened the determined opposition of the Jews, who not only obstinately opposed the truth, but poured forth coarse blasphemies on the name of Jesus (Acts xviii. 6). Accordingly the Apostle confronted them sternly, and declaring that their blood must rest upon their own heads, announced his intention of turning to the Gentiles, and made the house of a Gentile convert named Justus, which was contiguous to the synagogue, the place of his public teaching (Acts xviii. 7). The difficulties of his position were thus much increased, and so greatly was he discouraged, that, though Crispus remained faithful, and many of the Corinthians had embraced the faith, he appears to have thought of withdrawing from the city1013. But while he was thus hesitating, the Lord Jesus appeared in a vision of the night, and bade him be not afraid, but speak forth boldly, for He was with him, and He had much people in the city (Acts xviii. 810). Thus encouraged the Apostle resumed his labours, and continued them without any apparent interruption for a space of eighteen months.

During this period intelligence received from Thessalonica induced him to address a second Epistle to the Church there. His previous letter had not abated the excitement connected with the expectation of the Saviour’s speedy advent. A fanatical section had even laboured to increase it, claiming imaginary revelations from the Spirit (2 Thess. ii. 2), and the authority of a rumoured letter from the Apostle himself in support of their views (2 Thess. ii. 2). To discourage such ideas, and that neglect of daily employments (2 Thess. iii. 616) to which they led, the Apostle wrote again, A.D. 53, explaining more fully certain signs he had already told them must precede the Redeemer’s second coming (2 Thess. ii. 112), and exhorting the Thessalonians to an orderly and diligent life after the example he had himself set when present in their city (2 Thess. iii. 8, 9).

Thus while continuing to labour at Corinth, did he seek to promote the growth of the Churches he had planted in Macedonia. By this time a new proconsul of Achaia had arrived in the person of Gallio1014, the brother of Seneca the philosopher, and of Mela, whose son Lucan was the author of the Pharsalia. The new governor had the reputation of being a man of remarkable sweetness of disposition and great popularity, whom “every one loved too little, even he who loved him most1015.” Accordingly the Jews thinking they might presume with impunity upon his easy temper, with accord set upon Paul and dragged him before his judgment-seat1016, alleging the old charge that he persuaded men to worship contrary to the law (Acts xviii. 13). When, however, the Apostle was on the point of entering upon his defence, Gallio, probably acquainted with commotions of the same kind at Rome and with the nature of the Jewish opposition to Christianity, refused to listen to it. If the question brought before him had been some act of crime or wickedness, it would have been only reasonable that he should have heard it through. But if, as it appeared to him, it was merely a question of doctrine, of words and names and Jewish law, he would have nothing to do with it, they must see to it themselves; and he drove them from the judgment-seat (Acts xviii. 16).

This decision had a remarkable result. The mob1017, always unfriendly to the Jews, seized Sosthenes, one of the rulers of the Synagogue1018, or perhaps the successor of Crispus, and began to beat him in the very presence of the proconsular tribunal. But Gallio left him to his fate, and cared for none of these things (Acts xviii. 17). Thus the assurance given to the Apostle in the late vision was fulfilled. Though bitter enemies had set upon him, none had “hurt” him, and it had been proved that the Lord had much people in the city.

Having tarried, therefore, at Corinth yet a good while, he took his leave of the brethren, and after1019 terminating a religious vow, taken for some unknown reason, by cutting his hair at Cenchreæ1020, sailed, accompanied by Silas and Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, in the direction of Syria. A voyage of about 13 or 15 days brought them to the port of Ephesus. There Aquila and Priscilla remained, while the Apostle, after only staying long enough to hold one conference with the Jews in their synagogue, hastened on by sea with his other companions to Cæsarea, and thence by land to Jerusalem, in time to keep the great national festival of Pentecost (Acts xviii. 2022). His stay was very brief, and after saluting the Church there he returned to Antioch, from which he had been so long absent, and there continued some time (Acts xviii. 23).


St Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, and Imprisonment at Cæsarea.


A.D. 5457.

AFTER staying some time at Antioch, the Apostle resolved to enter upon his third missionary journey. Accompanied, it is probable, by Timothy1021, he began by a systematic visitation of the Churches he had planted in Galatia and Phrygia, establishing all the disciples in the true principles of the Gospel (Acts xviii. 23), and exhorting them to evince their sympathy with their brethren in Judæa, by weekly collections in behalf of the poorer Christians (Comp. 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2).

While he was thus employed there arrived at Ephesus a certain Jew of Alexandria, named Apollos1022, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures (Acts xviii. 24). He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and was acquainted with the main facts of the Saviour’s earthly history, but had received no other baptism than that of His forerunner. Aquila and Priscilla listened to his eloquent words in the synagogue of Ephesus, and having sought his acquaintance, did much to correct his imperfect conceptions of Christian doctrine, and to explain to him more accurately the way of God (Acts xviii. 26). Though trained in the schools of Alexandria, Apollos was not above receiving instruction from these humble natives of Pontus, and when made fully acquainted with the Christian doctrine was desirous of crossing over into Achaia. On communicating his wishes to the brethren at Ephesus, he received from them much encouragement; and furnished with letters of introduction to the disciples in Achaia, set out for Corinth, where he contributed important aid to the establishment of the Christian Church, employing his extensive acquaintance with Scripture to the confutation of Jewish disputants, and proving incontestably that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts xviii. 28).

Thus where Paul had planted, Apollos watered, and God gave an abundant increase (1 Cor. iii. 6). Meanwhile that Apostle’s circuit through the Galatian district being ended, in accordance with a promise he had made (Acts xviii. 21) he also came to Ephesus. Here Aquila and Priscilla were awaiting him ready to aid him in his work1023. They had already dispatched to the Church of Corinth an eloquent teacher, and now there was present a company of about twelve men (Acts xix. 7), who, like Apollos, were acquainted only with John’s baptism, and who were probably introduced to the Apostle by his friends from Pontus. Thereupon he enquired of them, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye became believers1024? To this they replied that they had not so much as heard of Him and of His great outpouring on the day of Pentecost. This led to further enquiry on the part of the Apostle as to the nature of the baptism they had received, and becoming aware that they had only been made partakers of John’s baptism of repentance and preparation, he proceeded to speak of a yet higher baptism to which it was intended to lead up. On this the men were baptized into the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the imposition of the Apostle’s hands were endued with miraculous gifts and enabled to speak with tongues and to prophesy (Acts xix. 47).

Ephesus now became the centre of St Paul’s missionary labours. Repairing, according to his invariable practice, to the synagogue, he was employed during three whole months (Acts xix. 8) in arguing with the Jews from their own Scriptures, and persuading them that the kingdom of God was truly come, and that Jesus was no other than the long promised Messiah. While some believed and joined themselves to the Christian Church, others were hardened and disobedient, and began openly to calumniate the Apostle’s doctrine before the people. Perceiving this, and resolved that their example should not contaminate the rest, he resolved to abandon his attendance at the synagogue, and separating the disciples transferred his instructions to the school of one Tyrannus, probably a teacher of rhetoric or philosophy to the young of Ephesus, and who may or may not have been himself a convert (Acts xix. 9).

This continued for two years, A.D. 5557, and during this period the labours of the Apostle were carried on with unceasing energy. Not only in the school of Tyrannus, but from house to house he went about amongst the brethren, instructing them in their most holy faith, and warning them with tears (Acts xx. 2031) to hold fast that which they had been taught, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts xx. 21). The result of such labours, carried on by the Apostle himself, and probably by his immediate1025 converts, was speedily perceptible. An important church was founded at Ephesus itself, over which “presbyters” were appointed to preside (Acts xx. 28), and the Word was made known throughout the Roman province of Asia, and probably contributed to the foundation of the seven famous churches of that region (Acts xix. 10).

Ephesus, it must be borne in mind, was no common city1026. The capital of the province, the principal emporium of trade on the nearer side of Mount Taurus, it claimed with Smyrna the honour of being one of the “eyes” of Asia. Though Greek in its origin it was half Oriental in the prevalent worship and the character of its inhabitants, and contained the famous temple of Diana, or Artemis, deemed by the ancients one of the wonders of the world1027. The original temple, built at the expense of all the Greek cities in Asia, the erection of which was begun before the Persian, and lasted even through the Peloponnesian war, was set on fire by Herostratus on the night that Alexander the Great was born. But in its place there soon arose a still more sumptuous structure, on which all that art and skill could achieve was freely lavished. The Temple-area was 425 ft. long by 220 in breadth, and was surrounded by 127 marble columns, 60 ft. high, each the gift of kings, and 36 of them beautifully ornamented. The roof was supported by columns of green jasper, eight of which may be seen in the mosque of St Sophia at Constantinople, whither they were removed by the emperor Justinian after the temple had been destroyed by the Goths. The altar, richly adorned, was the work of Praxiteles, and here and there were statues from the chisels of the most eminent sculptors. The walls were adorned with the finest paintings in the world, the master-pieces of Apelles and Parrhasius, while the sacred precincts, to the extent of a furlong from the building, offered an inviolable sanctuary to all who sought an asylum there.

The presiding deity of this magnificent pile was an ancient, black, wooden idol, said to have fallen down from heaven, representing Artemis, not the huntress-goddess of the Greeks, but an Asiatic divinity1028, the impersonation of nature, the prolific “mother of life,” as shown by the many breasts represented on her image.

Round this worship of Artemis there clustered a host of minor superstitions, and Ephesus was at this time the head-quarters of the magical arts. Here were to be bought charms and incantations of all kinds; amulets to preserve men from bodily danger; formulas to ward off the influence of demons; mysterious symbols called “Ephesian letters,” copied from the inscriptions on various parts of the idol, deemed a safeguard against all kinds of evil. These arts were not studied merely by strolling vagabonds, for the purpose of imposing on idle women and ignorant men; they were believed by the educated, and studied by men of letters, who wrote many books on the subject, opening up the secrets of the art, which were highly valued and fetched great prices.

Here, then, was a new field for the efforts of the Apostle, and in this stronghold of heathenism it pleased God to work special miracles by his hands (Acts xix. 11), so that napkins1029 and aprons1029 brought from his body were enabled to communicate a healing power, to expel disease and deliver the possessed. Such miracles produced a deep impression on those who witnessed them, and before long, as in the case of Moses in Egypt, certain Jewish exorcists, who wandered about the Asiatic cities, strove to effect the same marvellous results by their enchantments. Fancying that the Name of Jesus was used by the Apostle as a kind of spell, and was in fact his secret, they also began to pronounce the same over the possessed saying, We adjure you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preacheth (Acts xix. 13).

One particular family, consisting of seven brothers, sons of one Sceva, a Jewish High-priest1030, were especially addicted to this practice, and on one occasion while thus engaged the evil spirit answered, Jesus I recognise1031, and Paul I know, but who are ye? and thereupon the possessed flung himself upon them, and with the terrible strength of a madman and a demon drove them forth naked and wounded from the house. This incident was quickly noised abroad throughout all Ephesus, became known both to Jews and Gentiles, and proved that the power of the name of Jesus was one “fatal to counterfeit and impossible to resist.” Fear fell upon all. The magicians of Ephesus confessed that this was the finger of God, and many of the converts, who even as Christians had continued the practice of “curious, or magical arts, and had not parted with their books of charms,” confessed their errors, and publickly burned the magic scrolls in the presence of the Church. An estimate of the value of these books was made, and was found to amount to upwards of 50,000 pieces of silver1032, so mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed (Acts xix. 20).


A.D. 57.

DURING the Apostle’s stay at Ephesus disastrous intelligence arrived from Corinth. The Church established there combined two distinct elements, Jews or proselytes and Gentiles, of whom the latter were the most numerous. The natural jealousy between these two bodies repressed during the Apostle’s presence, had burst out on his departure, and divided the Church into various parties. Some affected fidelity solely and exclusively to St Paul himself (1 Cor. iii. 4); others, probably the Jewish section, to Peter and the brethren of the Lord (1 Cor. i. 12, ix. 5); a third, fascinated by the eloquence and learning of the Alexandrian Apollos (1 Cor. i. 12), had attached themselves to him, and probably “hung halfway between the extreme Jewish and the extreme Gentile party;” while a fourth abjured all devotion to any human teachers, and styled themselves the “Christ” party (1 Cor. i. 12).

In addition to these evils the Gentile faction pushed their views of Christian freedom beyond all due bounds. The profligacy that disgraced the inhabitants of Corinth and made their name a byword was openly avowed and gloried in (1 Cor. v. 1). To such a pitch, moreover, did they carry their disputes that lawsuits were brought into Roman and Greek courts of Justice (1 Cor. vi. 18), and instead of shrinking from the contaminating influence of sensuality at the sacrificial feasts, they freely frequented them even in the colonnades of the temples (1 Cor. viii. 10): the women threw off the head-dress which the customs of Greece and of the East required (1 Cor. xi. 216); the most solemn ordinance of the Church was profaned by disorderly and reckless festivity (1 Cor. xi. 1734); the most showy “gifts” were desired to the disparagement of those which tended only to instruct and improve (1 Cor. xii. 1, xiv. 14); mixed marriages were freely contracted (1 Cor. vii. 1017); and the doctrine of the Resurrection was either denied or emptied of all meaning (1 Cor. xv. 12).

Rumours of these disorders had reached the Apostle from time to time, and he had already sent Timothy1033 and Erastus (Acts xix. 22) from Ephesus to Macedonia, desiring the former if possible to continue his journey to Corinth, and recall to the Church there the image of his own teaching and life. But after their departure members of the household of Chloe arrived informing him that the factions had reached a still more formidable height (1 Cor. i. 11), and that an incestuous marriage, scandalous even to the heathen, of a man with his father’s wife, had been allowed to be contracted without rebuke (1 Cor. v. 1). This determined the Apostle to write the first of his extant letters1034 to the Corinthians and other Christian communities in the province of Achaia (comp. 1 Cor. i. 2), in which he treated of all these points, directed that the incestuous offender should be expelled from the Christian community, and replied to various questions, which three members of the Corinthian Church, Fortunatus, Stephanas, and Achaicus (1 Cor. xvi. 17), themselves the bearers of the Epistle, had brought for his solution relating to the controversies respecting sacrificial feasts, meat offered to idols, the right of divorce, and the exercise of spiritual gifts in the public ministrations of the Church.

At the time he dispatched this letter, it was the Apostle’s intention to proceed through Macedonia to Corinth, and after spending the winter there (1 Cor. xvi. 5, 6; Acts xix. 21) to proceed to Jerusalem, whence he contemplated a journey to Rome itself (Acts xix. 21). Till Pentecost, however, he resolved to stay at Ephesus (1 Cor. xvi. 8), for there a great door was opened to him, and there were many adversaries against whom he had yet to contend. But these designs were destined to be rudely interrupted.

It was now about the month Artemisius, or the month of Artemis1035, when the annual festival of the goddess was observed throughout Greece and Asia, and a vast concourse of people from all quarters would be brought together. The preaching of the Apostle had by this time produced a great effect both in Ephesus and throughout proconsular Asia, and a great multitude had avowed themselves believers (Acts xix. 26). Consequently the sellers of portable shrines1036 of Diana found their trade sensibly diminished, and no small tumult arose about the Way. Prominent among the malcontents was a certain Demetrius, a master-manufacturer of these silver shrines, who found employment for a large body of workmen. These he now called together, and others similarly employed, and set forth the damage which their trade had sustained, and the danger lest the temple of the great goddess Diana, which not only Asia but all the civilized world held sacred, should fall into disrepute. His words found eager listeners, and an excited cry arose, Great is Diana of the Ephesians (Acts xix. 28). The commotion thus aroused quickly spread, and the thousands of citizens and strangers, whom the games had attracted to Ephesus, made a general rush towards the theatre. Failing on the way in their attempt to seize St Paul1037, they dragged thither two of his companions, Gaius and Aristarchus of Macedonia. News of the danger of his friends would have urged the Apostle to venture thither himself, but the disciples, aided by the Asiarchs1038, who exercised high authority during the games, induced him to remain in privacy, and not venture to incur inevitable risk. Meanwhile the crowded seats of the theatre presented a scene of the utmost confusion, some crying one thing and some another, and the majority not knowing why they were come together (Acts xix. 2932). At length the Jews, not unwilling to injure the Apostle’s cause, and anxious to clear themselves, put forward one Alexander, who may possibly have been the coppersmith mentioned in 2 Tim. iv. 14, and being connected in trade with Demetrius might have been expected to have some influence with the people. So he stood forth and beckoned with his hand for silence. But he was soon recognised as a Jew, and one unanimous cry which lasted upwards of two hours arose from the tumultuous throng, Great is Diana of the Ephesians (Acts xix. 34).

When this had partially subsided, another effort was made to calm the storm. The Town-clerk1039 or Recorder, who was the lawful president of the assembly, stood forward and reminded his hearers that the city of Ephesus was beyond all question the devoted “warden1040 of the great goddess Diana and the image that came down from the sky. The statements of a few unknown foreigners could not contradict a fact so patent to all the world. Let them, therefore, avoid doing anything rash or inconsiderate, especially as St Paul and his companions had neither profaned their temple nor uttered calumnious words against the goddess. If Demetrius and his friends had any just cause of complaint, it could be decided in the assize-courts1041, then open, or by an appeal to the proconsul, or, if necessary, in the regular assembly. Above every thing, let the present tumultuous proceedings be discontinued, which could only bring down upon them the displeasure of the Romans, who could not be expected to tolerate such causeless and disorderly doings, however willing to indulge an ancient and loyal city (Acts xix. 3540).

With these arguments the cautious man of authority tranquillized the assembly, and the crowd dispersed to their own homes. Thus by the intrepidity of his friends1042 Aquila and Priscilla, and the interposition of a Greek magistrate, the Apostle’s life was saved; and having assembled the disciples and given them his last farewell, set out towards Macedonia (Acts xx. 1), and accompanied, it is not improbable, by Tychicus and Trophimus, reached Alexandria Troas1043. (Acts xx. 4, 5.)


A.D. 57, 58.

ON the occasion of his former visit to Troas1044 the Apostle had been able to stay but a very short time. Now, however, though disturbed in mind by the late outbreak, he occupied himself for some time in preaching the Word (2 Cor. ii. 12). But a cause of still deeper anxiety harassed him. He had sent Titus to Corinth, either with or soon after the first Epistle, to superintend the great collection now being made for the poorer Christians at Jerusalem, to enforce the instructions contained in his Epistle, and to report the state of the Corinthian church; and he had directed him to return through Macedonia and rejoin him probably at Troas1045, where he hoped to have arrived shortly after Pentecost. But the late tumult had driven him sooner than he had intended from Ephesus, and he waited for Titus at Troas with a heart full of anxiety respecting the Church at Corinth. Day after day passed, and still Titus came not. At length the suspense became unbearable, his spirit had no rest (2 Cor. ii. 13) in the prolonged absence of his brother, and though at Troas a door was opened to him of the Lord, and he was enabled to lay the foundation of a flourishing church, he resolved to sail to Macedonia, hoping the sooner to meet Titus on his return.

Bidding farewell, therefore, to the disciples, he embarked, and probably, as before1046, landing at Neapolis, pressed on to Philippi. There he paused, and for a while was cheered by the zeal and warm affection of his Philippian converts (2 Cor. viii. 1, 2). But still he could think of nothing but Corinth. “Corinth, and Corinth only, was the word which would then have been found written on his heart1047.” Timothy, indeed, appears to have met him at Philippi (comp. 2 Cor. i. 1), but till Titus arrived his flesh could find no rest; he was troubled on every side, without were fightings, within were fears (2 Cor. vii. 5).

At last the long-expected messenger reached Philippi, and bore with him tidings sufficiently cheering to relieve the Apostle of the chief load of his anxieties. His first Epistle had not only been received, but bore good fruit. The majority of the Corinthian church had submitted to his injunctions, and were deeply repentant for the sins they had committed (2 Cor. vii. 711); the incestuous person had been excommunicated (2 Cor. ii. 6), and afterwards forgiven (2 Cor. ii. 10); and the collection for the poor Christians at Jerusalem had made good progress (2 Cor. viii. 10). All, however, was not as it ought to be. The parties which claimed the authority of Christ, aided by an emissary from Palestine (2 Cor. xi. 4), who had brought letters of commendation from Jerusalem, had grown so powerful as to openly assail both the Apostle’s authority and his character, charging him with selfish motives, with fickleness, timidity, and self-distrust, and disparaging his inartificial speech, and the insignificance of his bodily presence (2 Cor. x. 10).

The news that the Corinthians had generally submitted to his injunctions, removed a load from the Apostle’s mind, and filled him with overwhelming thankfulness, but the insinuations of his adversaries roused in him the utmost indignation. Titus was, therefore, immediately directed to return to Corinth with instructions to continue the collection, and bearing a second Epistle, in which the Apostle expressed his heartfelt satisfaction at the tidings brought by Titus (2 Cor. i.‒vii.), urged the speedy completion of the contributions (2 Cor. viii. ix.), and vindicated his Apostolical character against the assertions of his Judaizing opponents (2 Cor. x.‒xiii.).

With this Epistle, then, Titus accompanied by Luke (2 Cor. viii. 18) and Trophimus, set out for Corinth, while St Paul, as yet unwilling to revisit that city, continued to prosecute his labours in the northern regions of Greece, and to accomplish those plans which he had been unable to complete during his previous visit to Macedonia. But not satisfied with preaching the word in the towns of that province bordering on the Ægean, he appears now to have penetrated into the interior, and even beyond them, to the shores of the Adriatic, fully preaching the Gospel round about unto Illyricum1048 (Rom. xv. 19).

This tour probably occupied the summer and autumn of A.D. 57, and then having no more place in those parts (Rom. xv. 23), he removed with the approach of winter to Achaia, and took up his abode at Corinth (Acts xx. 2). But while here in the house of Gaius he could enjoy the society of Erastus and Stephanas, of Fortunatus, Achaicus, and others of the brethren, his heart was saddened1049 by painful intelligence concerning the state of the Galatian Churches. The circumstances under which these churches1050 were founded have been already noticed, as also the peculiar affection with which the Apostle had been received there. Now however he learned that his restless enemies the Judaizers, who had been thwarting him at Corinth, were busy also in Galatia, insisting on the necessity of circumcision (Gal. v. 2, 11, vi. 12, 13), inculcating nothing less than submission to the whole ceremonial law (Gal. iii. 2, iv. 21, v. 4, 18), impugning his own credit, representing him as no true Apostle, as having derived his knowledge of the Gospel at second hand, and as nothing in comparison with James, Peter, and John, the Pillars of the Church at Jerusalem (Gal. ii. 2, 9, &c.). Their teaching he heard with the deepest sadness, had completely fascinated1051 (Gal. iii. 1) the easily impressible Galatians, and already many had embraced their doctrines with the same alacrity that they had welcomed himself when he proclaimed Christ crucified amongst them. On receiving this intelligence, the Apostle deemed it right to take instant measures for checking the evil before it became incurable, and accordingly addressed them in an Epistle1052, in which he strenuously defended his own independent Apostolic authority (Gal. i. 11, ii. 21), showed that the doctrine of these Judaizers was calculated to destroy the very essence of Christianity, “to reduce it from an inward and spiritual life to an outward and ceremonial system” (Gal. iii. iv.), and exhorted them once more to walk in a manner worthy of that state of freedom and not of bondage, into which they had been called (Gal. v. vi.).

The Apostle’s present stay at Corinth continued upwards of three months (Acts xx. 3), and he probably employed himself not only in convincing and silencing the gainsayers who opposed him, as he had declared he would (2 Cor. xiii. 16), and in visiting other churches in the province of Achaia, but also in superintending the great collection for the poorer Christians at Jerusalem, about which he felt so solicitous. This collection was now completed, and certain treasurers were nominated by the whole Church, with whom the Apostle was to carry it on his contemplated journey to Jerusalem (1 Cor. xvi. 3).

Meanwhile a Christian matron, named Phœbe1053, of the port of Cenchreæ, was about to sail in an opposite direction to Rome upon some private business. St Paul therefore availed himself of the opportunity thus afforded of addressing an Epistle to the Church in that city, which he already intended to visit speedily, and with the members of which, though they had not seen his face in the flesh, he yet appears, from the numerous salutations at the close of the Epistle, to have been well acquainted. When this Church was founded is uncertain. Christianity may have been planted in Rome by some of the strangers from that city present on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii. 10), or by believing Jews attracted thither in the early days of Christianity, and who had been converted by St Paul’s own preaching. Whichever is the correct opinion, the Church there appears to have been numerous, and though in the first instance its members were probably Jews, who had been converted in the eastern parts of the Empire, they had received large accessions from the Gentiles (Rom. i. 13). Between these two parties disputes had arisen respecting the obligation of the Mosaic law, and while the one could not bring themselves to acknowledge their Gentile brethren as their equals in Christian privileges (Rom. iii. 929, xv. 711), the other could not make sufficient allowance for Jewish prejudices respecting the observation of days and the eating of meats (Rom. xiv.). Long desirous of visiting the Church at Rome, and probably informed of its condition by Aquila and Priscilla, now resident there1054 (Rom. xvi. 3), he deemed it his duty, as the Apostle of the Gentiles, to compose the differences between the two sections of the Roman Church, to lay down, in opposition to the Judaizers1055, the great doctrine of justification by faith only (Rom. i.‒viii.), to explain the mystery of the rejection of the Jews and the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian covenant (Rom. ix.‒xi.), and to inculcate on all the duty of mutual forbearance respecting the matters in dispute, and the need of a holy and a Christian life (Rom. xii.‒xv. 13).

Anxious to visit Jerusalem before his projected journey to Rome, the Apostle at the close of his three months’ stay in Corinth intended to go by sea to Syria and probably from the port of Cenchreæ (Acts xx. 3). Though, however, his intended visit to the Holy City had for its object the supplying of the wants of the poorer Christians there by the great collection, which had been so long in progress, he could not look forward to it without grave misgiving, knowing as he did the inveterate hostility of the Judaizers towards himself (Rom. xv. 3032). But even before he could set sail the enmity of the Jews at Corinth ripened into a plot against his life (Acts xx. 3). He resolved, therefore, to make a change in the proposed route, and instead of going to proconsular Asia by sea, he went by land through Macedonia, Berœa, Thessalonica, and Philippi, towards the spot where he had first landed on the shores of Europe. His companions on this occasion were Sopater, a native of Berœa, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus, and two Christians from proconsular Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus (Acts xx. 4). The whole of this company did not at once cross over to Asia with St Paul, but while he and Luke remained at Philippi, preceded the rest to Troas. It was now the season of the Passover, and the Apostle and his companion remained at Philippi till the feast was ended, and then sailed from Neapolis, and after a voyage, which, probably from unfavourable weather, occupied upwards of five days1056 (Acts xx. 6), reached Troas, and there joined the other disciples and abode seven days. We have no details respecting the Apostle’s labours during the early part of this week, but on the evening of the Sabbath preceding the day appointed for the ship to sail, the Christians were assembled in an upper-room, lighted up by many lamps, celebrating that Breaking of the Bread which now formed so essential a part of their religious services (Acts xx. 7). Impressed with the feeling that the morrow was appointed for his departure, and that the present opportunity might not again recur, St Paul was prolonging his discourse till midnight, when overcome by weariness and the heat of the room, a young listener, named Eutychus, sank into a slumber, and suddenly falling from the balcony where he sat was dashed upon the floor below and taken up dead. Much confusion thereupon ensued and no little lamentation (Acts xx. 10), but St Paul went down and embracing the body said to the bystanders, Trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him. Thereupon he was taken up alive, and amidst joy and thankfulness the Eucharistic feast, combined then, as was usual, with a common meal, was resumed, and the Apostle continued his discourse till the dawn of day.

The ship was now ready to sail, and the Apostle’s companions went on board. It was arranged, however, that he himself should join the vessel at Assos, a little more than 20 miles distant, and thus secure a few more hours with the disciples at Troas. To Assos, therefore, he proceeded by land, and there embarking, sailed with the rest of his companions to Mitylene, the chief city of Lesbos, and separated from Assos by a narrow channel. Another day’s sail brought them to Chios, whence having put in at Samos they lay to for the night at Trogyllium, a cape and town on the Ionian coast. The following morning they got as far as Miletus, the ancient capital of Ionia, about 50 miles south of Ephesus. Here they landed, and St Paul, who was hastening forward to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by Pentecost, sent a messenger to Ephesus to request the elders of the Church to meet him there. They quickly obeyed his summons, and the Apostle took leave of them in an affecting and impressive address, in which he reminded them of his past labours amongst them (Acts xx. 1821), expressed his conviction that bonds and imprisonment awaited him at Jerusalem (Acts xx. 2224), and in the most solemn manner warned them to tend the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers, and to defend the Church of God, which He had purchased with His own blood, against grievous wolves, which he too surely foreboded would enter in among them (Acts xx. 2531).

Having given them these warnings, and finally commended them to God and the word of His grace, he knelt down on the shore and prayed with them, and then with an outburst of natural grief they fell upon his neck and kissed him again and again1057, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more (Acts xx. 38).


A.D. 58.

DEEP as was the grief of the brethren at the departure of the Apostle, no long time could be devoted to its indulgence. The wind blew fair1058, and the vessel was ready to depart. With sorrowing hearts, therefore, they accompanied him to the water’s edge, and there tore1059 themselves away from him and his companions. The voyage was now resumed, and running before the wind the vessel soon reached Cos1060, off the coast of Caria, and on the following day the island of Rhodes. Thence they proceeded to Patara1061 in Lycia, where the vessel in which St Paul had been hitherto sailing apparently finished its voyage, or was bound for some place further east along the coast of Asia Minor.

In the harbour, however, there lay a vessel just about to sail across the open sea to Phœnicia (Acts xxi. 2), and without a moment’s delay they went on board, and made sail. After sighting1062 Cyprus and leaving it on the left hand they made straight for the port of Tyre, and reached it probably in two days. Here their vessel was bound to unlade her cargo, and the anxiety of the Apostle as to reaching Jerusalem in time for the Pentecostal festival being removed, he resolved to remain at Tyre a few days (Acts xxi. 4).

A church had been probably founded at Tyre soon after the death of Stephen1063, and may have been already visited by St Paul during one of his missionary journeys in the region of Syria and Cilicia1064. However this may have been, the Apostle now enjoyed a week of refreshing intercourse with the Tyrian disciples, and so won their affections that on the day fixed for his departure, they all, with their wives and children, accompanied him outside the city-gate to the sea-shore. There the scene at Miletus was repeated, and after prayer and mutual embraces the travellers proceeded on board, while the brethren of Tyre returned to their homes, their hearts filled with many forebodings, for prophets amongst them had intimated that danger awaited their beloved teacher at Jerusalem (Acts xxi. 4).

Before evening the Apostle and his companions had reached Ptolemais1065. Here the sea-voyage terminated, and the little company spent a day with the disciples in the place, and then set out on foot for Cæsarea. At Cæesarea Philip1066 the Evangelist had taken up his residence, and in his house St Paul found a welcome shelter. The family of the Evangelist consisted of four virgin daughters, who all possessed the gift of prophecy. Whether they gave the Apostle any intimations of coming danger is not recorded, but he was not destined to remain at Cæsarea long without receiving even more explicit warnings than he had listened to at Tyre. At the time when news reached Jerusalem of the Apostle’s arrival at Cæsarea, the prophet Agabus1067, who had predicted the famine during the reign of Claudius, was in the city. Thereupon he straightway hastened to the coast and entering Philip’s house, took St Paul’s girdle, and binding1068 with it his own hands and feet, declared in the name of the Holy Spirit that so the Jews at Jerusalem should bind the owner of that girdle, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts xxi. 11).

This explicit intimation of coming trials made a deep impression on all present, and Luke, Trophimus, and Aristarchus, the Apostle’s companions, with the Christians of Cæsarea, burst into tears (Acts xxi. 13) and implored him not to go up to Jerusalem. Though deeply affected by their grief on his behalf, the Apostle was not to be moved from his deliberate purpose. He was ready, he declared, not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus, and finding his resolution not to be shaken, they desisted from all further intreaties, saying, The will of the Lord be done (Acts xxi. 14).

The Festival was now close at hand. The Holy City was already crowded1069 with multitudes of pilgrims, and it was an important matter to obtain a lodging. This an early convert, Mnason of Cyprus1070, whose residence was at Jerusalem, undertook to supply; and with him the Apostle, his companions, and certain of the brethren at Cæsarea, having made arrangements respecting their baggage1071, proceeded to Jerusalem.

On their arrival they were gladly welcomed by the brethren, and St Paul could not but have rejoiced in their sympathy. The day following they repaired to the abode of James, the Lord’s brother1072, and president of the church at Jerusalem, and there found all the Elders assembled to receive them (Acts xxi. 18). Mutual salutation followed, and then the Apostle recounted in a lengthened narrative all that God had wrought by his ministration among the Gentiles, and doubtless pointed with pride and joy to the contributions which the delegates from the various churches he had planted had brought for the relief of the poorer Christians at Jerusalem. The narrative made a deep impression, and in united thanksgiving his hearers glorified God (Acts xxi. 20).

In recounting, however, the progress of the churches in Galatia and Achaia it would be scarcely possible for St Paul to fail touching on subjects which would excite painful feelings, and rouse bitter prejudice in many of his hearers1073, and the peculiar dangers he was liable to encounter in the Holy City soon became apparent. The assembly, which had just glorified God for his success in heathen lands, began to call his attention to the strength of the Judaizing faction in the city1074. They told him it was generally reported and believed in Jerusalem, among the thousands of converted Jews who still remained zealous for the Law, that he forbade their brethren in foreign lands to circumcise their children or observe the Mosaic customs (Acts xxi. 20, 21). This being so, it was advisable to do something that might correct these erroneous ideas. It was impossible that the arrival of one so well known could be concealed, and his public appearance might lead to scenes of violence. They suggested, therefore, that he should adopt the following course.

There were four disciples, who had taken a Nazarite vow, of which seven days remained unexpired, who would at the close of this period present the usual offerings1075 in the Temple. Let the Apostle, then, join himself to them, and defray the necessary expenses of the whole party. This would prove in the most public manner his observance of Mosaic ceremonies, and contradict the calumnies of his enemies (Acts xxi. 2125). This advice, in which James the Just apparently acquiesced, the Apostle wishing, if possible, to conciliate the church of Palestine, was not unwilling to adopt. Accordingly on the following day, after first performing the necessary purifications, he proceeded with the Christian Nazarites to the Temple, and announced to the priests in the name of his friends, their intention of fulfilling their time, and awaiting the moment of the proper offering.

But the Apostle’s object was frustrated by circumstances that took place on the very eve of the completion of the period of their vow. Amongst the thousands present in Jerusalem were many Jews from proconsular Asia, who recognised the able disputant, whom they had so often been unable to confute in their synagogues, walking in the streets with Trophimus the Ephesian (Acts xxi. 29). On one occasion they saw him in the Temple-courts, and rushing to the conclusion that he had taken his companion also thither, instantly sprang upon him, shouting, Men of Israel, help. This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the People, the Law, and this place, yea, who hath also brought Gentiles into the Temple, and profaned this Holy Place (Acts xxi. 28).

Roused to fury a mob quickly rushed towards the spot, and St Paul would probably have been instantly put to death, had it not been for the unwillingness of his foes to pollute the Temple with blood. They therefore dragged him down the steps from the Court of the Women1076 into the Outer Court, and had no sooner passed, than the Levitical guard closed behind them the Corinthian gates1077 (Acts xxi. 30). Once in the Outer Court they began beating the Apostle violently, being clearly bent on putting him to death, and would have succeeded, had it not been for a providential intervention. The commotion in the Temple-courts had not failed to attract the notice of the Roman sentries in the tower1078 of Antonia, and they instantly informed Claudius Lysias, the commandant of the garrison, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar (Acts xxi. 31).

Thereupon, without a moment’s delay, Lysias rushed down attended by some centurions and a strong body of troops. The sight of the dreaded arms of the Imperial forces brought the multitude to their senses, and they left off beating Paul. The commandant then approached, and apprehending the Apostle, ordered him to be chained by each hand to a soldier1079, suspecting that he was an Egyptian pretender1080, who had lately caused a revolt, and had hitherto baffled the pursuit of the soldiers of Felix the governor (Acts xxi. 38). He then endeavoured to ascertain from the bystanders who his prisoner was and what he had done, but some cried one thing, and some another; and finding it impossible to gain any information amidst the tumult, he ordered him to be conveyed into the barracks within the fortress. Accordingly the soldiers proceeded to remove the Apostle, but so furious was the crowd pressing behind them with yells and execrations, that they had to bear him up in their arms up the staircase. Just as they reached the barracks, St Paul, addressing the commandant in Greek, enquired respectfully whether he might speak to him. Startled at being addressed in the Grecian tongue, Lysias in his turn enquired whether he was mistaken in supposing him to be the Egyptian rebel. St Paul replied that he was no Egyptian, but a Jew, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city, and requested permission to address the people. On which the commandant, influenced it may be by the aspect and manner of his prisoner, at once gave his consent (Acts xxi. 40).


A.D. 58.

STANDING then on the stairs, and beckoning to the crowd with his chained hands to invite their attention, the Apostle began to address them in the Hebrew language. Charmed by the accents of their own beloved tongue, the multitude listened with the deepest silence while he tried to dispel their prejudices against himself. Beginning with the well-known circumstances of his birth and education at Tarsus and Jerusalem, he declared that he was a Jew like themselves, that he had been brought up according to the strictest requirements of the Law, and had hated, persecuted, and endeavoured to extinguish the sect of the Christians (Acts xxii. 35). He then proceeded to recount the wonderful circumstances of his conversion on the way to Damascus1081, of his blindness, cure, and baptism (Acts xxii. 616), and how on his return to Jerusalem, as he was praying in the Temple, he fell into a trance1082, saw that Saviour who had appeared to him on his memorable journey, and was commanded by Him to leave Jerusalem, and preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts xxii. 1721).

Up to this point the multitude listened to the Apostle with the deepest attention, but no sooner had he spoken of his mission to the Gentiles, than they broke out into such furious cries of rage and indignation that the previous clamour appeared as nothing in comparison. The thought of uncircumcised heathen being placed on an equality with the children of Abraham was unbearable. Away, they cried, with such a fellow from the earth, it is not fit that he should live, and while some flung dust into the air, others cast off their clothes, as if they would stone him on the spot (comp. Acts vii. 58). This fresh outbreak of frantic violence filled the commandant with still greater perplexity. Unable to understand the language in which the Apostle spake, he could only infer from the results it produced that his prisoner had been guilty of some enormous offence. He therefore gave orders that he should be conveyed into the castle, and, since other means had failed, that the secret of his guilt should be ascertained by torture. As in the case of the Saviour’s crucifixion1083, a centurion was deputed to superintend the scourging, and like a common malefactor the Apostle was on the point of being stretched or fastened to the post to receive the lashes, when he turned to the centurion and enquired whether it was lawful to scourge one who was a Roman citizen and uncondemned (Acts xxii. 25)? Astonished at such a question, the centurion ordered the scourging to be suspended, and hurrying to the commandant, bade him take heed what he was doing, for the prisoner was a Roman citizen. Upon this Lysias himself hastened to the spot and enquired whether the news was true, and on his replying in the affirmative, remarked that he had purchased this privilege for a large sum, on which St Paul informed him that he was free-born (Acts xxii. 28). Thus assured of the true position of his prisoner, the commandant ordered the instruments of torture to be instantly removed, and was in no little alarm at the turn affairs had taken.

For the present, indeed, he was obliged to keep him in the Tower, but on the morrow he determined to make a second effort to ascertain the nature of his prisoner’s offence, and therefore summoned a meeting of the Sanhedrin, and bringing down the Apostle from the Tower to the hall Gazith1084 placed him before them. Casting a steadfast and scrutinizing glance (Acts xxiii. 1) on the faces of those assembled, many of whom must have been familiar to him, St Paul began by proving that he had lived a conscientious1085 life before God up to that very day. This assertion so offended the high-priest that he commanded those standing near to strike him on the mouth, whereupon the Apostle, filled with indignation at so brutal an insult, replied, God shall smite thee1086, thou whited wall1087. For sittest thou to judge me according to the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? To this the bystanders rejoined, Revilest thou God’s high-priest? and St Paul, recovering himself, answered that he did not know or consider that Ananias was high-priest, otherwise he would not so have spoken, for it was written in the Law, Thou shalt not revile the ruler of thy people (Ex. xxii. 28).

By this time, however, the Apostle had seen only too clearly that there was little prospect of his obtaining an equitable decision from his judges. Knowing, therefore, that there were both Pharisees and Sadducees among them, and that however much they might be united in persecuting him, they were sundered from one another by a deep gulf on one important article of faith, he exclaimed, as indeed he could say with truth, that he was brought to trial, because he had testified of the hope of Israel, and of the resurrection of the dead (Acts xxiii. 6). He had scarcely pronounced these words, when there was an instant division in the Council. The Pharisees present were united in his favour, and a hot debate ensued between them and the Sadducaic faction, who denied any Resurrection and the existence alike of angels and spirits1088. While the latter party were furious against him, the former declared they could find no fault in him, and if, as he had said in his speech on the stairs, an angel or a spirit had indeed spoken to him1089, they would not criminate him on this account.

A scene of great confusion now ensued (Acts xxiii. 10), in the midst of which Claudius Lysias being afraid lest the Roman citizen should be torn in pieces by them, ordered a detachment to go down instantly, and bring him into the barracks. Thus the Apostle was delivered from the most imminent danger, and in the evening his anxieties were relieved by the appearance of his Divine Master in a vision of the night, bidding him be of good cheer, and declaring that, as he had testified unto Him in Jerusalem, so he must testify also at Rome (Acts xxiii. 11).

The following morning however had hardly dawned, before a fresh danger revealed itself. Disappointed on the previous day in their malicious designs, more than forty of the Jews bound themselves by a solemn vow that they would neither eat nor drink till they had put the Apostle to death. Accordingly they went to the chief members of the Sanhedrin, and proposed that they should present themselves before the commandant and request him to allow St Paul to be brought down and placed a second time before them, in order that they might resume the enquiry so tumultuously interrupted, and they, on their part, undertook that he should not reach the council-chamber alive, for they would murder him on his way down from the fortress.

But their design in some way reached the ears of the Apostle’s nephew1090, who was now present in Jerusalem, and he no sooner heard of the danger which threatened his uncle, than he obtained admittance into the barracks, and imparted to him the intelligence. Thereupon St Paul called one of the centurions, and requested him to take the young man to Claudius Lysias, for he had something to tell him. The officer complied, and conducting him to the commandant told him of St Paul’s message. Claudius Lysias received the young man kindly, and leading him cautiously aside enquired what he wished to say. The other thereupon acquainted him with the plot that had been laid, and was dismissed with strict injunctions not to divulge the fact that he had given this information.

Thus assured of the danger that threatened his prisoner, and knowing that he was responsible for his safety as a Roman citizen, Lysias resolved to send him away that very night under a strong escort to Cæsarea, and there leave him in the hands of the governor Felix. Summoning therefore two of the centurions, he gave orders that 200 of the legionary soldiers, with 70 cavalry and 200 spearmen1091, should be in readiness to proceed thither by nine1092 in the evening. In the meantime he wrote to the governor a dispatch, giving a fair and clear account of the case, save in the statement that he had rescued St Paul in the first instance because he had discovered he was a Roman citizen, and in the suppression of all allusion to his intention to scourge him (Acts xxiii. 2630).

At the time appointed the escort was ready, and mounted on horseback1093 between the two Roman soldiers, to whom he was chained, the Apostle was conducted from Jerusalem to Antipatris1094. Here the soldiers halted after their long night-march, and while the cavalry proceeded to Cæsarea, the legionary troops, no longer necessary to the Apostle’s safety1095, returned to the fortress of Antonia. It was probably during the afternoon of the day succeeding1096 their departure that the cavalry reached Cæsarea, and the officer in charge immediately delivered up his prisoner to the governor, with the dispatch from Claudius Lysias. Felix1097 read it, and enquired to what province the prisoner belonged1098, and having ascertained that he was a native of Cilicia, replied that he would hear and decide his case as soon as his accusers had arrived, and ordered that for the present he should be kept in Herod’s prætorium1099 (Acts xxiii. 35).


A.D. 5860.

FIVE days after the Apostle’s arrival at Cæsarea his accusers made their appearance, headed by the high-priest Ananias, certain of the elders, and an orator named Tertullus1100, whose services had been engaged for this occasion. Accordingly, Felix took his seat on the tribunal1101, and Paul having been sent for, Tertullus formally opened the case. After paying an adroit compliment to the procurator on the comparative quiet which the land enjoyed owing to his vigilance and energy1102, he brought three charges against the prisoner: First, that he was a pestilent mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, which amounted to a charge of treason1103 against the emperor; secondly, that he was a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes; and thirdly, that he had made an attempt to profane the Temple at Jerusalem. On these charges he declared the Jews had been about to judge him before their own tribunal, when Lysias forcibly took him away, and referred his accusers to the judgment-seat of Felix.

To these allegations the Jews present expressed their consent, hoping doubtless that the procurator would hand over the prisoner to their courts, where his fate would be soon decided. But Felix made a sign to the Apostle to proceed with his defence, and he, after expressing his satisfaction in pleading before one who had been so long familiar with the nation, commenced replying to the charges that had been brought against him. A disturber of the nation, he said, he was not, for on his recent visit to the Holy City but twelve days before, he had neither caused a disturbance, or even disputed in the temple, the synagogue, or the streets. As to his being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, he had never swerved from his belief in the Law and the Prophets; like his accusers, he believed the doctrine of a resurrection, and strove to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and man. As to profaning the Temple, he had lately visited it as the bearer of offerings for his nation, and to observe some of the strictest ceremonies of the Law, not to gather together a multitude or cause a tumult. Certain Jews of Asia, indeed, had brought an accusation against him, but they ought now to have been present as witnesses, ready to bring forward a specific charge, if they had any (Acts xxiv. 1021).

Felix, who had listened attentively to the Apostle’s address, was well acquainted with the character of the Christian religion, which had not only penetrated into Cæsarea, but also numbered disciples even among the troops1104. He was, therefore, in a position fully to appreciate the weakness of the allegations against the prisoner, and the misrepresentations of his accusers, and must have felt that the only proper course was to pronounce his acquittal and set him free. But this he could not make up his mind to do, and chose to reserve his final1105 decision till Lysias should arrive, and in the meantime committed the Apostle to the charge of the centurion1106 who had brought him to Cæsarea, with instructions to keep him safely, but at the same time to allow his friends1107 to have free access to his apartments.

A few days afterwards Felix entered the audience chamber with his wife Drusilla1108, daughter of the late king Herod Agrippa. Her beauty is spoken of as something marvellous, and she had been induced by the procurator to leave her first husband, Azizus king of Emessa, to become his paramour. The two now sent for St Paul, and desired to have the Christian doctrines explained to them. Accordingly before the Roman libertine and the profligate Jewish princess, the Apostle preached with his wonted faithfulness, and while he discoursed concerning righteousness, and temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. But though he trembled, the profligate governor would not release his prisoner from confinement. Go thy way, said he, for this time; when I have a convenient season I will send for thee. He knew that the Apostle’s relatives moved in a respectable sphere, and he had heard him speak of sums of money1109 intrusted to his care, and he wished it to be understood that his liberation was not hopeless, if bought with a suitable sum1110. Hence he frequently sent for the Apostle, and conversed with him. But St Paul was not one to stoop to such dishonourable means. He preferred to remain in confinement rather than purchase his freedom with a bribe, and at Cæsarea he continued upwards of two years, or from A.D. 58 to A.D. 60.

During this long period of suspense from active labour, it is not improbable that the Gospel of St Luke was composed under the Apostle’s eye, and it is possible that “many messages, and even letters, of which we know nothing, may have been sent from Cæsarea to brethren at a distance1111.” Meanwhile the government of Felix became more and more unpopular, and the disaffection of his subjects was increased by a serious quarrel between the Jewish and heathen population at Cæsarea, in which the troops sided with the latter, and committed gross acts of butchery and plunder1112. This led to the recall of Felix, A.D. 60; and anxious to conciliate the Jews, who had complained of his administration at Rome, he left Paul in bonds (Acts xxiv. 27).

His successor was Porcius Festus, who like himself had probably been a slave, and was one of the emperor’s freedmen. Three days after his landing at Cæsarea he repaired to Jerusalem, and there was introduced to the high-priest1113 and leading members of the nation. They instantly embraced the opportunity of renewing their machinations against the Apostle, and requested the new governor to allow him to be removed to Jerusalem, intending to assassinate him on the road (Acts xxv. 3). Festus replied that St Paul was in custody at Cæsarea, whither he himself was on the point of returning: the Roman Law did not allow an uncondemned person to be given up as a mere favour: he must have his accusers face to face, and be enabled to make his defence; if therefore they wished to bring any charges against him, they must come down to Cæsarea and there prefer them (Acts xxv. 4, 5, 16).

After a stay, therefore, of 8 or 10 days in Jerusalem, he returned to Cæsarea, and the accusers apparently went down the same day. No time was lost in putting the Apostle on his trial. The very next day Festus took his seat on the tribunal, and ordered St Paul to be put forward. Then the delegates from the Sanhedrin urged their accusations, which appear to have been much the same as those brought forward at the previous trial. But they were utterly unable to support their statements, and the Apostle contented himself with a brief but emphatic denial that he had done anything against the Law, the Temple, or Cæsar (Acts xxv. 8).

The sincerity of his bearing appears to have told favourably with the procurator, and he quickly perceived that he was involved in no political movements (Acts xxv. 18, 19), that he had done nothing worthy of death (Acts xxv. 25), and that the charges against him related only to religious questions between him and his nation. Unwilling, however, to allow a matter immediately to drop, in which the Jews evidently took so deep an interest, he proposed that he should go up to Jerusalem, and there submit to a formal trial in the presence of himself (Acts xxv. 9). But the Apostle knew full well the danger involved in such a journey. He replied, therefore, that he had done no wrong, as Festus himself knew well, and that if he was guilty he was willing to die, but that since the accusations preferred against him were really groundless, rather than go up to Jerusalem, he would avail himself of his privilege as a Roman citizen; he appealed unto Cæsar1114 (Acts xxv. 11). According to the Roman law, it was sufficient that a Roman citizen should merely utter the words I appeal, and his case was instantly removed to the supreme tribunal of the Emperor. After a brief conversation, therefore, with his assessors, Festus merely enquired whether he adhered to his determination, and then made answer, Thou hast appealed unto Cæsar; to Cæsar thou shalt go (Acts xxv. 12).

Though, however, the appeal had been allowed, Festus was in much perplexity to decide how he might describe the charge against the Apostle to the Emperor. It seemed to him a foolish thing to send a prisoner to Rome, without at the same time specifying the charges against him, but how to do this after the vague and unsatisfactory information elicited at the trial appeared extremely difficult. It happened, however, at this time that Herod Agrippa II.1115, king of Chalcis, with his sister Bernice1116, arrived on a complimentary visit1117 to the procurator, and stayed some time at Cæsarea. Agrippa had long been acquainted with all that related to Jewish customs, and had, as we have seen, been invested by the Emperor with the power of nominating the high-priest. Festus, therefore, gladly embraced this opportunity of consulting one so much better informed than himself on the points in dispute, and related all the particulars concerning the Apostle so far as he was acquainted with them (Acts xxv. 1421), and more especially his reiterated assertion concerning one Jesus who had died and was alive again. Agrippa, who could not have heard now for the first time of the great doctrine of the Christian faith expressed a desire to see the prisoner. To this Festus readily assented, and fixed the following day for the interview.

Accordingly at the time appointed Agrippa and Bernice with much pomp entered the audience-chamber, accompanied by their suite and the chief men of Cæsarea, and at the command of Festus, Paul was brought before them. As soon as the Apostle appeared, Festus in a set speech detailed the circumstances under which he had become acquainted with the prisoner, his appeal to Cæsar, and his own anxiety to obtain some definite information which he might lay before his lord1118 the emperor concerning him (Acts xxv. 2427).

Upon this Agrippa signified to the Apostle that he was permitted to speak for himself, and St Paul stretching forth his manacled hands proceeded to address his numerous and influential hearers. After expressing his satisfaction at the opportunity thus afforded him of speaking before one so well versed as Agrippa in all customs and questions amongst the Jews, he went on, much as he had done on the stairs leading up to the Castle of Antonia, to speak of his education according to the strictest requirements of the Jewish law (Acts xxvi. 48); of the zeal with which he formerly persecuted the believers in Christ; of the vision vouchsafed to him on the road to Damascus, and the commission he had received to preach the Gospel amongst the Gentiles (Acts xxvi. 918); and lastly of his unceasing endeavours to carry out this commission, which had brought upon him the enmity of the Jews, though his teaching was in strict accordance with the Jewish Scriptures, and their predictions of the coming of a Messiah who should suffer and rise from the dead (Acts xxvi. 1923).

This address made no impression upon Festus. Regarding the idea of a resurrection as foolishness, he ascribed the zeal of the Apostle to an excited imagination, or the effect of over-study1119. Interrupting him, therefore, he cried out in a loud voice (Acts xxvi. 24), Paul, thou art mad; much learning doth make thee mad. I am not mad, most noble Festus, replied the Apostle with dignified courtesy, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness; and turning to Agrippa, who had knowledge of these matters, and before whom he could speak freely, he solemnly enquired whether he did not believe the prophets. But the persuasive appeal glanced off from the heart of the profligate prince to whom it was addressed. In playful banter or scornful sarcasm he replied, Lightly1120 thou persuadest me to become a Christian. On which the Apostle, lifting up his chained hands, made answer, I would to God that, whether lightly or with difficulty1121, not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds (Acts xxvi. 29). With these words this memorable conference ended. Agrippa had no wish to hear more. He rose up with Festus, Bernice, and their suite, and retired from the audience-chamber. The case of the prisoner was then discussed, and it was agreed that he was guilty of nothing deserving of death or even of imprisonment, and Agrippa remarked that he might have been released had he not appealed to Cæsar. But the appeal had been made, and to the imperial tribunal the Apostle must go.


St Paul’s Imprisonment at Rome.


A.D. 60.

AS soon, then, as it was actually decided that St Paul should be sent to Rome, he was delivered over with certain other prisoners to a centurion, named Julius, belonging to the “Augustan cohort,” or the bodyguard of the Emperor, who always treated the Apostle with kindness and consideration.

The ship selected was a vessel of Adramyttium, a sea-port of Mysia, opposite Lesbos, which had probably touched at Cæsarea on a return voyage from Egypt, and was now bound for her own port. In her the Apostle embarked with Aristarchus of Thessalonica, the Evangelist St Luke, the prisoners, and their guard. The wind was fair1122, and on the next day they put into Sidon, probably for the purposes of trade, and here the centurion allowed the Apostle to go on shore and receive the kind attentions of his friends1123.

Loosing from Sidon they were constrained, by reason of adverse winds, to run under the lee of Cyprus, that is, probably, along the north side of the island, and thence, keeping nearer the main-land than the isle, to catch the favouring land-breezes1124, sailed through the open sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia to Myra of Lycia, now a desolate waste, but then a flourishing sea-port. Here the centurion found a ship of Alexandria laden with wheat, which though bound for Italy had been carried to Myra by the same westerly winds which had forced the vessel of Adramyttium to keep to the east of Cyprus. To her, therefore, he transferred his charge, and she set sail, laden with a heavy cargo and upwards of 276 passengers (Acts xxvii. 37).

After loading at Myra, their progress was extremely slow, and in consequence of unfavourable winds it was many days (Acts xxvii. 7) before they came over against Cnidus1125, at the extreme S.W. of the peninsula of Asia Minor. From this point their natural course would have been by the north side of Crete and westward through the Archipelago. But with a north-west wind blowing, it was deemed most prudent to run down to the southward, and after rounding Cape Salmone to pursue their voyage under the lee of Crete. Accordingly having worked up with difficulty along the southern coast, they reached the harbour of Fair Havens1126, about 5 miles to the east of which was the town of Lasæa.

Here they were detained a considerable time waiting for a favourable change of the wind. But none occurred, and the Fast of the Atonement1127, which took place about the period of the autumnal equinox, having passed, the navigation had become very dangerous. It now became a grave question whether they should remain at Fair Havens for the winter, or seek some other anchorage. St Paul advised that they should remain where they were, and declared his conviction that any attempt to pursue the voyage would be attended with loss, not only of the ship and cargo, but also of the lives of those on board. But the owner and master of the ship were of a different opinion, and the harbour of Fair Havens being incommodious for wintering in1128, the majority decided for leaving at the first opportunity, and, if possible, making for a harbour called Phœnix, on the south coast of the island, and somewhat further to the west1129. Influenced by the words of the mariners the centurion resolved to adopt this course, and all waited anxiously for a change of the wind (Acts xxvii. 912).

At length the long-looked for change took place. A light breeze sprang up from the south, and the mariners thought their purpose was already accomplished. Weighing anchor, therefore, they set sail, hoping to reach Phœnix in a few hours. Keeping close to the coast they doubled Cape Matala, and were proceeding “with the boat towing astern (Acts xxvii. 16), forgetful of past difficulties, and blind to impending dangers1130,” when suddenly a violent wind, called Euroclydon1131, came down from the heights of Ida1132 on the Cretan shores, and striking the ship whirled her round with such force that it was impossible for the helmsman to make her keep her course (Acts xxvii. 15). Consequently they were obliged to scud before the wind to the south-west about 28 miles, when they neared the little island of Clauda, and running under the lee of it, with much difficulty succeeded in hoisting the boat on board, which was probably full of water. They then proceeded to undergird1133 the vessel, that is, passed strong cables several times round her hull to prevent the starting of her planks and timbers, and being afraid lest they should drift in to the Syrtis1134 on the African coast, lowered the gear, either reefing the mainsail or lowering the great yard upon deck.

Having taken these precautions they proceeded, steering as close to the wind as the gale would permit, and on the following day lightened the ship by flinging overboard all that could be most easily spared. This, however, relieved but little the strain upon her, and on the third day both passengers and crew assisted in throwing out her tackling, including probably the mainyards. Several days of the utmost anxiety and incessant labour then ensued, during which neither sun nor stars appeared in the sky, and the mariners having lost their reckoning, knew neither where they were nor in what direction to steer, and gave up all hopes of safety. But besides being wearied and dispirited, they were suffering also from hunger, owing to the loss of provisions, and the impossibility of preparing any food. On the 14th day, therefore, of the voyage, the Apostle deemed it right to stand forward in their midst (Acts xxvii. 21) with words of encouragement and hope. After gently reminding them that all this harm and loss might have been avoided had they taken his advice, he bade them be of good cheer, for though the vessel could not be saved, not one of their lives should be lost. Of this he was fully assured, for an Angel of that God, whose he was and whom he served, had appeared to him in the night, and told him that he should appear before Cæsar, and that God had given him the lives of all on board; he, for his part, had no doubt that this would prove true, and added that they must be cast upon a certain island.

What effect these words had upon the hungry and exhausted mariners is not recorded, but we cannot doubt that it contributed not a little to nerve them with fresh courage to meet the difficulties before them. The storm, indeed, still continued with unabated fury, but on the midnight of the fourteenth day as they were drifting through the sea of Adria1135, the sailors suspected from the roar of the breakers that they were nearing land. On this they sounded, and found the depth of water to be 20 fathoms. After a brief interval they sounded again, and found it was 15 fathoms. Filled with fear lest the ship should strike and break up, they thereupon let go four anchors1136 by the stern, and waited anxiously for the day (Acts xxvii. 29). During these weary hours, the sailors, aware that the vessel might founder before dawn, lowered the boat under pretence of laying out anchors from the bow for the purpose of steadying the ship, but really to effect their own escape, and leave the passengers to their fate. But the Apostle penetrated their design, and addressing himself to the centurion and the soldiers, declared that unless these remained on board they could not hope to be saved. Thereupon the soldiers, with characteristic decision, cut the ropes, and the boat fell off (Acts xxvii. 32).

Another proof of the ascendancy which St Paul had acquired over all on board was soon afforded. But a short space now remained before daylight, and then fresh exertions would be needed. He advised, therefore, that during the interval they should recruit their exhausted energies by partaking of food. Then setting an example himself, he took bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and began to eat. Encouraged by his calmness, the rest did the same, and, strengthened by the meal, made a final effort to lighten the ship by flinging overboard the cargo, which by this time must have been spoilt by the salt water. While they were thus employed, the long-looked for day at length dawned, and revealed to the sailors a coast, which, however, they did not recognise. But the sight of a small bay, with a sandy or pebbly beach1137, revived their determination, if possible, to run the vessel aground. Every precaution was therefore taken. The cables were cut and the anchors cast adrift; the lashings of the rudders1138 were unloosed; the foresail1139 hoisted (Acts xxvii. 40), and the vessel was run on shore at a spot between two seas (Acts xxvii. 41). Here the bow stuck fast on a bank of tenacious clay, while the stern began to break up under the violence of the waves. Certain that the ship must very speedily go to pieces, the soldiers, who were responsible with their lives for the safe custody of their prisoners, afraid that some might swim off and so escape, formed the cruel design of putting them all to death. This, however, the centurion, resolved at all risks to save St Paul, resolutely forbade, and ordered such as were able to swim to cast themselves into the sea first, while the rest, some on spars, and some on broken pieces of the ship, made their way to land; and thus, as the Apostle had said, the whole company escaped safely (Acts xxvii. 44).


A.D. 60, 61.

THUS flung upon the shore, the exhausted voyagers ascertained that the island was none other than Melita1140, at that time much uncultivated and overrun with wood, and inhabited by a population of Phœnician origin, who not being of Greek or Roman descent were designated barbarians (Acts xxviii. 2). But the reception they gave to the shipwrecked crew proved that they were no savages, for hurrying down to the beach, they eagerly afforded all possible relief to their wants. The rain was falling in torrents, and the weather was extremely cold. Lighting a fire therefore on the shore, they welcomed them all to its genial warmth. Foremost amongst those gathering the sticks to increase the much-needed blaze was the Apostle himself, and as he did so, a viper came out of the heat and fastened on his hand. The incident did not escape the notice of the islanders. This man, said they, must be a murderer: he has escaped from the sea, but vengeance suffereth him not to live. But the Apostle no sooner flung off the creature without suffering any injury, than their feelings underwent an instant change1141, and they said that he was a god. Near the place where the vessel had been lost, Publius, the Roman governor1142 of the island, had some possessions. For three days he entertained the shipwrecked strangers with much hospitality, and the Apostle was enabled to requite his attentions by miraculously healing his father, who lay afflicted with fever and dysentery (Acts xxviii. 8). The fame of this cure soon spread abroad, and others afflicted with disease repaired to the Apostle and experienced similar healing effects.

After a stay of three months on the island, the time when the ancients deemed navigation practicable again came round, and Julius secured a passage for himself and his charge in another corn-ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the island, and was called the Castor and Pollux. Laden with many presents from the grateful islanders the Apostle and his party went on board, and setting sail put into the harbour of Syracuse, where they remained three days. Thence they shaped a course northwards towards the straits of Messina. But the wind was not favourable, and they were constrained, after beating about (Acts xxviii. 13), to put into Rhegium at the entrance of the straits, where they remained one day. On the following morning a south wind sprang up, and they were enabled to reach Puteoli1143, the most sheltered part of the bay of Naples, and the great emporium for the Alexandrian corn-ships1144, and here they were rejoiced to find certain of the brethren, and abode with them seven days (Acts xxviii. 14).

At the end of this period the party commenced their journey towards Rome, distant 150 miles. The first part of their route was probably from Puteoli by a cross-road to Capua, thence along the Via Appia by Sinuessa on the sea, Minturnæ, and Formiæ to Terracina1145. The next stage brought them to Appii Forum1146, whither the Christians from Rome who had heard of the Apostle’s arrival at Puteoli, had come forth a distance of 43 miles to meet him. Deeply moved by this proof of their affectionate zeal, he thanked God and took courage (Acts xxviii. 15). Ten miles further on, at a place called the “Three Taverns,” a second company was waiting to greet him, and thus in the society of numerous friends whom he had probably known during his labours in the East, the Apostle proceeded through the town of Aricia to the imperial city. There Julius the centurion delivered up his prisoners to the prefect of the prætorian guard1147, an office held at this time by Burrhus, one of the chief advisers of Nero (Acts xxviii. 16). Either influenced by the favourable report of the centurion, or the tone of the letter from Festus, the prefect allowed the Apostle to be kept separate from the rest of the prisoners, and to take up his abode in a hired house (Acts xxviii. 30), with the soldier to whom he was chained1148.

Three days after his arrival the Apostle sent for the leading men among the Jews, and sought to remove any prejudices they might have formed against him from the circumstances under which he had entered the capital of the West. Though, he said, he had committed no offence against his nation or the customs of his fathers, he had yet been delivered a prisoner into the hands of the Romans. They had examined him, but could discover nothing he had done that was worthy of death, and would have liberated him, had it not been for the opposition of his Jewish enemies. Under these circumstances, not with any intention of accusing his nation before the emperor, he had appealed to Cæsar. His only crime had been his firm conviction of the reality of the promise of the Messiah, and for the hope of Israel he was bound with the chains he then wore (Acts xxviii. 1720).

In reply to this address the Jews assured him that they had received no information1149 to his disadvantage from Judæa, and none of the brethren had arrived alleging anything against him. The Christian sect they knew well was everywhere spoken against, and they would be glad to hear from him any statement concerning its doctrines which he might be willing to make. A day was accordingly fixed for the desired hearing, and a considerable number repaired to the Apostle’s own private lodging (Acts xxviii. 23), and from morning till evening he continued to plead with them, delivering his testimony concerning the kingdom of God, and opening up, both from the Law and the Prophets, the things relating to Jesus Christ. The result was a division amongst his hearers. Some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not (Acts xxviii. 24), and after much discussion the unbelieving portion departed, but not before they had been warned by St Paul that they were incurring the penalty of that judicial blindness of which the prophet Isaiah1150 had spoken (Is. vi. 9, 10), and that the inheritance they renounced would be bestowed upon the Gentiles (Acts xxviii. 28).

After this address the Jews departed. The ways of the great Apostle were not their ways, neither were his thoughts their thoughts. While they retired to dispute concerning the Christian sect, he remained in his own hired house, and there resided upwards of two years, still indeed a prisoner under military custody, but permitted to receive all who came to him, and to preach boldly the kingdom of God, and those things which concerned the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts xxviii. 30, 31).


A.D. 6163.

BEYOND the point where the last Chapter ends, the sacred narrative, contained in the Acts of the Apostles, does not conduct us. The incidents connected with St Paul’s imprisonment at Rome, and his subsequent history, must be gathered from various allusions in several letters he wrote during this period.

His trial it would seem, then, was for a considerable time postponed. His accusers, whose arrival was not even expected by the Roman Jews (Acts xxviii. 21), do not appear to have reached Rome before the summer or autumn of the year1151 A.D. 61, and the necessity of obtaining evidence as to the charges against him from Judæa, Syria, Cilicia, Pisidia, and Macedonia, added to the fact that according to the Roman law the witnesses both of the prosecutors and the accused must be examined on each of the charges separately1152, would necessitate an adjournment of the case from time to time to suit the convenience of the Emperor.

During, however, this long period of delay the Apostle was not obliged to remain inactive. Allowed to live in a house by himself, and to receive any who wished to visit him, he had many opportunities of preaching the word, and the glad tidings of the Kingdom (Acts xxviii. 31). Nor were his efforts fruitless. To use his own language, he begat many children even in his bonds (Philem. 10), and through the numerous and deeply attached friends, by whom he was surrounded, he was enabled to communicate with many of the Churches which he had planted. Thus there were with him at this time Luke, the beloved physician, and his old companion (Col. iv. 14; Philem. 24); Timothy his favourite disciple (Philem. 1; Col. i. 1; Phil. i. 1). Tychicus1153 (Col. iv. 7; Eph. vi. 21); John Mark, whom he had once1154 been obliged to reject as having abandoned the ministry, but who, he now allowed, was profitable to him (comp. Col. iv. 10, 2 Tim. iv. 11); Demas, now, indeed, a faithful fellow-labourer (Philem. 24); Col. iv. 14), though soon, alas, to be drawn away by love of this present world (2 Tim. iv. 10); Aristarchus of Macedonia (Col. iv. 10); and Epaphras1155 of Colossæ (Col. i. 7).

But amongst these, thus ministering unto him, was one in whom he felt a peculiar interest. This was a slave, named Onesimus, who had run away from his master Philemon1156, a Christian1157 of Colossæ, and had fled to Rome, where, amidst the vast population of the metropolis, he probably hoped to escape the notice of his pursuers. Through circumstances which have not been recorded, the fugitive slave became acquainted with the imprisoned Apostle, and was converted to the faith of Christ. There appears to have been something peculiarly attractive in his character, and so useful did he prove in various private ways, that St Paul would have kept him at Rome and employed him in the service of the Gospel (Philem. 13), but, with his habitual regard for the rights of others, he decided that he must first return and be reconciled to his master; and to make this duty less painful, he sent with him a letter1158 to Philemon, in which he requested his master to forgive him, and offered to reimburse any loss he might have sustained by his running away (Philem. 19), and at the same time expressed his thankfulness to God for the account which he had heard of Philemon’s faith and love (Philem. 47).

But Onesimus was not to return to the East alone. Tychicus was on the point of setting out thither also, and it was the Apostle’s wish that he should be the bearer of a letter to the church of Colossæ1159. Of the condition of this church he had heard through Epaphras, now present in Rome, and who is regarded by some as its probable founder1160 (Col. i. 7), and the news was such as to give him serious concern. Through the coming of some teacher, probably from Alexandria, the Colossians had become imbued with a spirit of a half-Jewish and half-Oriental philosophy, tending to corrupt the simplicity of their faith, and to obscure the dignity of Christ by a spurious union of Jewish observances with a worshipping of angels, and an extravagant asceticism. These growing evils St Paul deemed his duty to counteract, and in the Epistle, of which Epaphras was the bearer, set forth with special prominence the eternal glory and inherent dignity of Christ (Col. i. 1523), and after cautioning the Colossians against false philosophy, legal observances, angel-worship, and asceticism (Col. ii.), exhorted them to various Christian virtues (Col. iii.‒iv. 6), referred them to Tychicus and Onesimus for information respecting his condition (Col. iv. 79), and requested them to forward the Epistle to Laodicea, and to read that from the same place (Col. iv. 16).

As bearers of these letters Tychicus and Onesimus set out for Asia Minor. But Tychicus was charged with another letter, the Epistle to the Ephesians, either addressed to the Christians in the capital of proconsular Asia, or intended as a circular letter for the use of the various churches in that province1161. In this Epistle, the thoughts and language of which betray a very considerable resemblance to those employed in that to the Colossians, the Apostle, after a summary (chiefly in the form of thanksgiving) of the Christian doctrines (Eph. i.‒iii. 19), exhorted the Ephesians to unity (Eph. iv. 116), the abstinence from heathen vices (Eph. iv. 17v. 21), the faithful discharge of their domestic duties as wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters (Eph. v. 22vi. 9), and urged them, amidst surrounding dangers and temptations, to be vigilant, and to array themselves in the whole panoply1162 of God (Eph. vi. 1020).

After the dispatch of these three letters in the spring of A.D. 62, the Apostle’s heart was cheered by the arrival of a contribution from the Philippians, brought by Epaphroditus, a leading presbyter in that church. Though apparently in ill-health when he set out, he had, in the face of some unusual danger, persevered in his journey (Phil. ii. 30), in order that he might present to the Apostle this fresh proof of the noble liberality of the church over which he presided.

Till the close of the year A.D. 62, or the commencement of A.D. 63, Epaphroditus continued at Rome, and while tendering his services to the Apostle fell dangerously ill. Subsequently, however, he fully recovered, and was filled with anxiety to return to his friends at Philippi, who he learnt were in much distress on receiving intelligence of his sickness (Phil. ii. 26). St Paul was also himself anxious that he should return (Phil. ii. 25, 28), and resolved to make him the bearer of a letter to the Philippian church in acknowledgment of the kindness he had experienced from its members. His own circumstances were somewhat changed since he wro