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of God in the Scriptures, instead of having the Messiah sent to them, soon after their return to Jerusalem, as I think the true Sons of God would expect from His words, should never have seen him, nor heard of his doctrine ; and that he should have been sent only to their distant posterity, who had not been in captivity, whose mind had not been prepared to receive him by the Babylonian miseries and the longing for Jerusalem ; and to whom the promises are not made in the Old Testament? Strange also that they should have been for so long a period as five ages in a manner forsaken by God, and worse off than they ever would have been,
I know not whether the Books of the Maccabees belong to the Sacred History, or not. If they do, though disappointed at not finding in them the fulfilment of the prophecies, which I should look for in writings subsequent to the release from captivity, I should take them for inspired and Sacred Books, and I should not understand them, as they are generally, like profane records. If they do not, being handed to us by uninspired men, I should consider them as writings of doubtful and uncertain knowledge, most likely speaking of things very inferior and totally different from those that are mep. tioned in the Scripture : and I should not bring them in support of them, as it has been done by those who have endeavoured to fill up partly with their accounts the supposed period of five hundred and thirty-six years, between the return to Jerusalem and the coming of the Saviour: which length of time appears to me quite at variance with the Sacred History; admitting that it is, what I take it for, the history of the regeneration of the soul; as it would be a complete and seemingly unaccountable interruption in the process of that new birth.
The generations spoken of in Matt. 1. 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16, I believe to be, like the preceding ones, not natural, but mental, or referring only to the soul : a spirit within man, proceeding or being born from another, or rather from the union of two.
being without Prophets and Judges filled with the Spirit of God, and able to lead them in His ways; differing from other nations only in their religious tenets and worship, but subject to the same accidents, passions, factions, wars, diseases, &c. and quite incapable to show any remarkable superiority over pagans? How could such a condition, evidently in contradiction with the Word of God, how could it be accounted for? It seems to me that to concede that the ancient Judeans were the Scriptural people of God would be on my part equivalent to saying that the Divine promises had been made in vain; since all we know of our Jews, after the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, cannot be reconciled with the prophecies; the accomplishment of which surely would not bave failed them, had they been the peculiar people of God. Rather than to entertain an opinion which does not agree with the Sacred History, and tends to raise a doubt that a promise from on high has not been performed, a thing impossible, I should sooner confess that we have been mistaken in the way that we have understood the Bible ; that the Jews of this earth two thousand years ago were deceived as to their origin; that their posterity is in a great mental delusion about it; and that the denominated Christians are equally in error respecting their pretended descent, and in the way that they understand what is said of the real Jews in the Old Testament.
I am too deficient in capacity and learning to attempt. refuting thoroughly Josephus ; but it seems to me that an able writer who would examine his works closely, divesting himself of the long-existing prejudices in his behalf, could easily succeed to demonstrate that he was
not entitled to the praises that have been bestowed on him, by those who have thought that he was a very creditable authority. The many improbabilities I have met with in perusing his books, make me suspect that be was either exceedingly credulous, or much inclined to alter the truth, and to invent stories : perhaps both. I do not wonder that among those who lived in his time, and might be better judges of his veracity than the moderns, as they could compare what he has said, with the documents that were then admitted as authentic, I do not wonder, I say, that he has been, as he owns it, “ loaded with opprobrious invectives, and that his “ history could gain no other character than that of a “ fable.” Here are a few extracts from which I suppose you will doubt that he deserves any credit:
He says that Lot's wife went out of the town with her husband, but either from a motive of tenderness or curiosity, she violated the strict command of God in looking behind her, and she was in consequence turned into a pillar of salt. He adds: I have seen the pillar, and can safely assert that it still remains.
Josephus may have been shown somewhere about the country, where it has been fancied that the Scriptural Sodom was, a pillar, whether of salt or any thing else ; and he may have been told that it was the identical pillar of salt which the Scripture represents Lot's wife as being turned into for her disobedience, (just the same as pious travellers in Palestine are still imposed upon by the natives with fabulous accounts); and he may have believed that the pillar he saw was the very pillar we read of in Genesis. For my part I think that he was foolishly credulous, or that he has told a shameful lie.
He mentions that one Hyrcanus had plundered the tomb of David and Solomon of 300 talents; and that Herod wishing to get a share of the spoil, went into the building where it was, and found only some plate; upon which, not being satisfied, he ordered two men to break open the tomb; but that immediately, on their attempting to do it, came out a flame that devoured them. Of this again I cannot believe a single word ; but whether he had been told so, and had from credulity received it as true; or whether he invented the whole of the story, I cannot decide.
I have read in his works, that agreeable to the directions of Titus, he first walked through several parts of Jerusalem, and then stopt on an elevated spot, within the hearing of the enemy, though not within the reach of their shot, from which he made a speech to them. He adds that the people, far from being grateful for his friendly admonition, reviled him in the most contemptuous manner from the walls, and accompanied their sarcastic speeches with darts and stones. Then he relates a much longer speech than the first, which he made to them. I ask you whether it is likely that he could be within the hearing of the Jews, but not within the reach of their shot, darts, and stones; and that he had been allowed to walk through several parts of the city, where he was most despised and hated, and would have been considered as nothing else than a spy.
Josephus relates that there perished 1,100,000 persons in Jerusalem during the siege, and that no less than 97,000 were taken captives; (from which one might conclude, if it should be admitted as true, that it must have been an exceedingly large town to contain such a multitude ;) that it was surrounded by three walls, except in one part, where, he says, that the steepness of the hill made it unnecessary; that during the night the Jews used to go into the country in search of food ; and that Titus, to prevent them from conveying any relief to the city, ordered a wall to be built round it, the whole extent of which was thirty-nine furlongs; that thirteen forts were erected outside of it, ten furlongs being the compass of each fort; and he adds : " It is somewhat extraordinary, but no less so than true, that this amazing work was completed in three days, though an equal number of months might have been supposed a reasonable time for it." I do not believe that so marvellous a circumstance is to be found in any of the creditable Roman histories. Would any body have been surprised, if one of the besiegers, in reading the article, had exclaimed, what an exaggeration, and what a misrepresentation of facts! What a fable, seemingly invented to persuade the superstitious that something supernatural had been done in behalf of Titus!
He speaks of a mother who, being starved to death, destroyed her infant, and boiled a part of it for her sustenance. In an excess of hunger such thing is possible; but what is most improbable, and, in my opinion, may discredit the lamentable circumstance, is the speech which he relates as having been made by the mother to her sucking victim, before killing it. Is there the least likelihood in that speech, and that she was cool enough to narrate it to those who entered her dwelling, just after she had committed the crime? I cannot take that speech but for a fabrication of Josephus; who, in the course of his works, gives several others, of which I