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reading over ancient writings, to judge for themselves concerning the external evidence of the facts related in the New Testament.
At present I offer only the evidence of the facts occasionally mentioned in the books of the New Testament, intending hereafter to treat of the principal facts in a like manner.
The method taken in this work is to set down in the first place the representation, which the sacred writers have given of
persons, facts, customs, or principles ; and then to produce passages of other ancient writers, which confirm or illustrate the account delivered in the New Testament.
Wherever the matter treated of is of any special importance, and wherever there is any ambiguity, or any peculiar beauty or emphasis in the style and expression of the authors I quote, I have placed their original words at the bottom of the page.
There are added likewise, here and there, some short notes for the benefit of the unlearned reader.
I presume it is needless for me to acknowledge particularly, that I am accountable for the translations of all the passages here transcribed : or to declare, that I have used the best care I could about them. I may have mistaken, but I am sure, that I have not, with a view to any particular purpose whatever, designedly misrepresented any fact, or given a wrong turn to any passage. My putting down the original words of my authors, or very particular references to them, will prevent all suspicions of this kind.
The reader is not to suppose, that I have exhausted the argument. The geography of the New Testament, and many facts, custoins, and principles, besides those here insisted on by me, are also confirmed by testimonies of ancient writers. I apprehend, however, that what is here offered is sufficient to answer the end proposed. And though the positive part be not full and complete, and indeed could not be so without being tedious; yet I think I have, in the second book, taken in all the chief difficulties affecting that kind of facts I am now concerned with.
The point I was to make out is the Credibility of the Gospel-History. And to that I have confined myself. But no one may bence surmise, that I give up the inspiration of the books of the New Testament. Nor am I aware, that I have in the least weakened any argument, that they were written under a special direction and influence of the Spirit of God. I think, however, that if the Gospel History be credible, the truth of the christian religion cannot be contested.
I fatter myself, my design will be approved. I wish the execution had been equal to the subject. Imperfect as it is, I hope what is here performed, may be of use to remove, or abate the prejudices of some; to confirm others upon a good foundation in the belief of the christian religion, and in their high esteem for the writers of the New Testament, and to enable them to read them with new pleasure and profit.
CONCERNING THE SECOND EDITION,
I now allow, that the words of St. Luke, chap. ii. 2. are capable of the sense in which they are understood by Herwaert and Perizonius. But as I still dispute most of the examples alleged by those learned men in support of that sense, there is but a small alteration made in that article. The Rev. Mr. Masson has given me occasion to consider afresh what I had said concerning Macrobius's passage. I hope what is now added will be to his and others' satisfaction. I have also taken this opportunity to add some farther observations on Josephus's silence about the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem. But the most important addition, is a curious observation on Josephus concerning the Egyptian impostor, which I received from Mr. Ward. These and the few other alterations and additions made in this edition, can need no apology with those who understand the nature of this design. And as they are printed by themselves, and may be had separate, I hope the first edition is not much prejudiced hereby.
Having in the following work made great use of Philo and Josephus, I here prefix a short account of those two writers.
Philo was a Jew, of Alexandria in Egypt, brotherb of Alexander the Alabarch, or chief magistrate of the Jews in that country. The Jews having been much abused by the Egyptians, and by Flaccus, the Roman president, in
* See his Slaughter of the Children in Bethlehem, as an historical Fact, vindicated, &c. In the dedication to the Bishop of Coventry and Litchfield.
Joseph. Antiq. 18. c. 9. sect. 1.
the year of our Lord 39 or 40, Philo with others was sent to Caligula, the emperor, in the name of the whole Jewish people living in Alexandria. The embassy consisted of o five, and he has assured us himself, that he was the eldest and most experienced person among them. It is reasonable to conclude therefore, that he was born at, or before the commencement of the christian æra. He was eminent for his wit and learning, as well as for his family. Many of his writings are still remaining, though some have been lost. The two books which I have chiefly quoted, are his discourse against the forementioned Flaccus, president of Egypt, and his account of the embassy to Caligula.
Josephus, the Son of Matthias, of the race of the priests, by his mother descended from the Asmonean family, which för a considerable time had the supreme government of the Jewish nation, was born at Jerusalem in the first year
of the reign of Caligula, A. D. 37. In the beginning of the Jewish war he commanded in Galilee. Vespasian, then general under Nero, having conquered that country, Josephus became his prisoner, and continued with him as long as Vespasian staid in those parts. When Vespasian, upon his being declared emperor, went to Rome to take possession of the empire, Josephus staid with Titus, was present at the siege of Jerusalem, and saw the ruin of his city and country. Josephus afterwards settled at Rome, and obtained the freedom of the city from Vespasian. Some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote his history of the Jewish war in seven books. After that he wrote in twenty books the Jewish antiquities, or, history of the Jews from the creation of the world to the twelfth of Nero, in which year the war began. This work he finished in the 56th year of his own age, in the 13th year of the reign of Domitian, A. D. 93. Besides these, we have his life, written by himself, and two books against Apion, an Egyptian author, who had calumniated the Jewish people. The works of Philo and Josephus were written in the Greek language. c Philo de legat. p. 1043. C. Ibid. 1018. C. e In vit. sect. 1.
r Vid. Antiq. 20. c. 10. Vit. sect. 75, 76. De Bell. in Proæm.
AN EXPLICATION OF SOME TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS.
A. U. or, Anno Urbis, is the year of the foundation of the city of Rome, according to Varro's account.
The Julian year is an epoch, so called from Julius Cæsar. The first year of this epoch, when Cæsar's reformation of the Roman year took place, commences the first of January, A. U. 709.
A. D. Anno Domini, or the year of our Lord, or the vulgar christian æra. According to this account our Saviour was born Dec. 25. Julian year 45. A. U. 753. But the computation does not begin till the year following, viz. January 1. Julian year 46. A. U. 754. This computation all writers, as well as others, follow. But learned men are sensible it is defective. Our Saviour was born in the reign of Herod the Great. But it is certain, that Herod died before the passover, A. U. 752; very probable in A. U. 750, or 751.
The Reigns of the Roman Emperors, during the Period
of the Evangelical History.
A. U. A. D. Augustus having reigned from the death of Julius
Cæsar 57 years and some months, and from the August 19. 767. 14.
defeat of Mark Antony at Actium 44 years, died Tiberius began his reign
August 19. 767. 14. Caius Caligula
March 16. 790. 37. Claudius
January 24. 794. 41. Nero
October 13. 807. 54. Nero died
June 9. 821. 68. Galba June 9. A. D. 68.
822. 69. Vitellius Jan. 2. 69.
Dec. 21. Vespasian reigned from July 1. A. D. 69. tó June 24.
The History of the New Testament hath, in an eminent degree, all the internal marks and characters of credibility. The writers appear honest and impartial. They seem to have set down very fairly the exceptions and reflections of enemies, and to have recorded without reserve the weaknesses, mistakes, or even greater faults, which they themselves, or any of their own number, engaged in the same design with them, were guilty of. There is between the four evangelists an harmony, hitherto unparalleled between so many persons, who have all written of the same times or events. The lesser differences, or seeming contradictions, which are to be found in them, only demonstrate they did not write with concert. The other parts of the New Testament concur with them in the same facts, and principles. These are things obvious to all who read the books of the New Testament with attention. And the more they are read, the more conspicuous will the tokens of credibility appear.
But it must be an additional satisfaction, to find that these writers are supported in their narration, by other approved authors of different characters, who lived at or near the time, in which the facts, related by the evangelists, are supposed to have happened.
It is plainly the design of the historians of the New Testament to write of the actions of Jesus Christ, chiefly those of his public ministry; and to give an account of his death and resurrection, and of some of the first steps, by which the doctrine he had taught, made its way in the world. But though this was their main design, and they have not undertaken to give us the political state or history of the countries in which these things were done; yet in the course of their narration, they have been led unavoidably to mention many persons of note; and to make allusions and references to the customs and tenets of the people, whom Jesus Christ and his apostles were concerned with.
Here are therefore two kinds of facts, principal, and oc