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Clemens Ale.randrinus says, that Christ suffered in the 15th year of Tiberius, forty-two years and three months before the destruction of Jerusalem. Now, Augustus dying in August, A. D. 14, the remainder of that year may be ascribed either to him, or to Tiberius ; and therefore the same year may, by different persons, be called the 15th or the 16th of Tiberius.
Julius Africanus also says, that Christ suffered in the 15th year of Tiberius.
Origen evidently had the same opinion with Clemens Alexandrinus, as may be inferred from his saying, after him, that Christ was crucified forty-two years before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Tertullian is more express ; saying, that Christ suffered in the 15th year of Tiberius, Rubellius Geminus, and Fusius Geminus being consuls, before the 7th (in some copies the 10th, in others the 17th) of the calends of April, and in another place after the 10th of the calends of April.
Some of the primitive Christians were so fully persuaded that Christ suffered on the 8th of the calends of April, that is, on the 25th of March, that they would always keep their Easter on that day.* This agreeing with Tertullian, leads us to imagine that those Christians, whoever they were, had the same opinion with him concerning the year of the passion.
Lastly, Sulpicius Severus says, that Christ suffered when Fusius Geminus and Rubellius Geminus were consuls.
As this evidence stands uncontradicted by any thing in antiquity, I do not see how any person at this day can reasonably object to it.
What may be principally alleged against this date is, that, according to the rules for fixing Easter, the passover will not fall on a Friday for that year. But in this, several things are taken for granted, and especially that the Jews computed precisely as we do, and with the same exactness ; neither of which is at all probable. The modern Jews give very different accounts of the custom of those ancient times in this respect, and certainly no exact rule can be deduced from what Josephus or Philo says on this subject.
Josephus says, that the passover was to be kept on the 14th
mony, I was so struck with admiration of the excellent discourses of Jesus, so inflamed with love of his most holy doctrine, that methought I but just then began to be acquainted with what I scarce ever laid out of my hands from my infancy."
* See Walch's " Explanation of the Decree of the Council of Nice, concerning the Time of keeping Easter.” Novi Commentarii Gottengersis, I. p. 36. (P.)
day of the month Nisan, according to the moon (xata geammv).* But from this nothing can be inferred but that the Jewish year was a lunar one; and notwithstanding this, it might be regulated by a very inaccurate cycle.
Philo says, that the feast of passover was “to be kept on the 14th day of Nisan, when the moon's orb would be near to being full” (μελλοντG- το σεληνιακο κυκλο γενεθαι πλησιφαες); but this admits of its being a little before, though perhaps not a little after, the full moon.
Nay it may, I think, be inferred from this writer's expressing himself in this manner, that the ancient Jewish rule for fixing the time of passover was not what it is now generally supposed to have been, viz. that it was always on the very day of the full moon. Had this been their invariable rule, he could never have said that it fell on a day when the moon was only near to being full. It is evident from this that the Jews made use of a method which admitted of some latitude in this respect, and how much we cannot tell.
It is even certain, from the facts that may be collected from the controversy concerning the time of keeping Easter in the Christian Church, that the Jews did not observe the equinox; that even the Latins, for several centuries, celebrated Easter in such a manner that the full moon which regulated it was sometimes before the equinox; that the present rule of fixing it, so that it is always after the equinox, was only contrived by Dionysius Alexandrinus in the third century, after the example of some Jews only; and that the Jews in general were not exact in observing the equinox till the fourth century. I
Some have contended that the Jews determined the beginning of every month by the actual observation of the new
But this is an opinion that I think has been suffici. ently confuted by Mr. Mann. S
* Antiq. B. iii. Ch. x. Sect. v.; Mann, pp. 195, 196. + Ibid. (P.)
For the proof of these particulars I refer to the dissertation of the learned Mr. Walch above-mentioned, in the Novi Commentarii Societatis Gottingensis, p. 10. (P.)
§ See his Dissertation, p. 192. (P.) “ Many affirm," says Mr. Mann, “ that the Jews before the devastation of Jerusalem, always begun their months, only from the first sight and appearance of the moon after its conjunction with the sun. Petavius (in Doct. Temp. L. ii. C. xxvii.) gives us out of the Talmud and Maimonides, the method of observing and declaring a new moon: that several men of approved fidelity, watchfulness, and quick sight, were carefully chosen by the Sanhedrin, and sent to the highest mountains near Jerusalem to watch for the new moon, on the 29th evening after the preceding new moon. If they saw it then, it was presently reported, and declared to be sanctified : if the next day, that month had 30 days: and if the Sanhedrin waited all the soth day in vain, and heard no news of
The oldest writer who has given us any account of the Jewish method of fixing the time of passover is Epiphanius ; and M. Le Clerc informs us that, according to a cycle composed from this writer, partly by Kepler, and partly by Petavius, the passover of the year 29 fell on the 25th of March, which M. Le Clerc says, was a Thursday. But Mr. Ferguson's tables † make it to have been a Friday. Otherwise, this computation would, in my opinion, correspond to the account of the Evangelists. Whereas Mr. Mann I and most others, who assign different dates to this event, and observe the present methods of fixing the time of Easter, all suppose the passover of the year of crucifixion to have been on a Friday.
I find, that the full moon of the year 29 B. C. fell on the 18th of March, so that according to the opinion adopted by M. Le Clerc, the passover must have been almost a whole week after the full moon; and though it is impossible to say that the old Jewish cycle was more exact than this, it must be acknowledged not to be very probable. And yet the evidence of Tertullian, and those primitive Christians abovementioned, who kept their Easter on the 25th of March, is in favour of the latter of these two weeks, viz. before the 7th of the calends of April, 1. e. before the 26th of March, and after the 10th of the calends, i. e. 23d of March. And a council assembled at Cæsarea, in Palestine, upon the question of keeping Easter, in 195, say that the crucifixion was on the 11th of the calends of April, or the 22d of March. S Now the Friday in that week was on the 25th of March. And though we may presume that, in general, the Jews, as well as other nations, whose year was luni-solar, began their months about the time of new moon, (so that the full moon thc moon, the 31st day was of course the new moon. Upon the resolution of the council, couriers went every way to notify the appointed new moon, to the distance of ten days' journey.
“This short account of the ceremonial of regulating a new moon,” continues Mr. Mann, “carries with it so much absurdity, as well as superstition, that it raises our wonder, how this found credit with some judicious writers, who despise many other fables of the same authors; especially since no ancient Greek or Latin writer is produced to warrant the tale, except one anonyinous forger of a piece called the Preaching of Peter.-It is added, that some of these moon-couriers went ten days' journey from Jerusalem: whither bound, would be hard to say; for the remotest part of the Jewish dominions was not 120 miles from Jerusalem." True Years, pp. 193, 194, 197.
* Harmony, 1701, p. 580.
| Astronomical Tables and Precepts for calculating the true Times for New and Full Moons, &c. 1763. By James Ferguson, F.R.S.” He had published in 1754, “ A Brief Description of the Solar System; to which is subjoined, an Astronomical Account of the Year of our Saviour's Crucifixion." Mr. Ferguson died in 1776, aged 66. | True Years, p. 200.
See Ibid. p. 205. (P.)
would fall about the 15th day,) it is plain from Reland's Jewish Antiquities, * that the Jews did not observe this rule with any strictness; for then their months would always have been alternately of 29 and 30 days. Whereas, according to his account of their calendar, they had sometimes 8 months of 30 days, with 4 of 29; and sometimes 8 of 29 days, with 4 of 30; or with any intermediate proportion. Now this is inconsistent with their beginning every month with a new moon, and how far they might depart from that rule, one way or the other, we cannot tell.
If, rejecting the rule deduced from Epiphanius, we keep to the present rule, which never admits of the passover to have fallen a single day before the equinox, we must carry the passover of this year to the 17th of April, which is expressly contrary to all the evidence of Tertullian and of the council.
It is remarkable enough, however, that it is only taking the week before this, in the same month, and the day of full moon itself falls on a Friday. For the 18th of March was on that day of the week, and only two days before the equi.
And who can say that the Jewish cycle might not admit of the passover being fixed so near the equinox as two days before it, as well as some time after it; especially considering that the Jews of those times did not observe the equinox ; no purpose of theirs requiring such exactness ? For those, therefore, who will have the passover of the week of crucifixion to have fallen on a Friday, I should think this year to be sufficiently for their purpose. They who, with myself, prefer the Thursday, may take the same week, supposing that the 14th day of the month might fall one day be. fore the full moon; which, according to Řeland's account of the Jewish calendar, was very possible ; and if the Jews had any regard to the benefit of moonlight, they would choose a day before the full moon, viz. the Thursday in that week, rather than five days after. Inclining to this hypothesis, on account of the full moon falling nearer to the middle of the month, I drew out the Jewish and Roman calendars for the time of Christ's ministry according to it, which was easily done by allowing seven of the Jewish months in that year to have been defective, or to have consisted of no more than 29 days; and according to Reland they had sometimes eight such months in the year.
*" Antiquitates sacræ veterum Hebræorum. : Traj. ad Rh. 1708." † Ibid. p. 244. (P.)
Accordingly, in that calendar which I have annexed, * I have made the 14th of Nisan in the year 29 to correspond to the 17th of March. But the 14th of Nisan may be made to coincide with the 18th of March (to suit the opinion of those who suppose the passover in the week of crucifixion to have been on a Friday) by only making one less defective month in the
year. Several persons who have endeavoured to fix the time of the death of Christ, have availed themselves of what the Jews observed to our Saviour at the time that he was purging the temple, viz. that it had been 46 years in building, or, as it may be rendered, that it had been built (wxoôoun In) 46 years. (John ii. 20.) The computations relating to this question have been made so variously, and the facts referred to have so much uncertainty attending them, that I own it affords no sufficient argument for any particular date of the transaction. I shall subjoin, however, what Mr. Whiston says upon the subject, and it will be allowed to have some. what more weight, as this writer assigns a much later date for the death of Christ than I do, supposing the temple to have been cleansed at a preceding passover.
- Josephus assures us that the vaos, or temple, was begun in the eighteenth year of the reign of Herod, (which in such cases he always reckons from the death of Antigonus,) and that it continued for a year and six months, and then was finished. Now from these circumstances we may certainly find the year we inquire for. Antigonus was slain about July, A. P.J. 4677 ; and so Herod's eighteenth year must begin about July, 4664, and continue till July, 4695. Let us suppose the temple begun about the feast of tabernacles in this eighteenth year Tisri, 4694. Add a year and six months, the space in which it was building, and it will appear to have been finished at the passover Nisan, 4696. From this passover let us count 46 years, and this will bring us to the passover we inquire for, Nisan 4742, which is A.D. 29.”+
I have carefully considered all Dr. Whitby's objections | to this computation of Mr. Whiston, and think them to be of no weight, especially that on which he lays the greatest stress, viz. that the outer buildings were erected before the proper temple (vaos) which was built by the priests. I infer from the passage that he himself quotes from Josephus, that
+ Whiston's Harmong, p. 144. (P.)
* Now reserved for the last volume. i Paraphrase, I. p. 497. (P.)