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According to the best accounts we can collect of the harmony of Tatian, but concerning which critics have differed very much, he divided the ministry of Christ into three years, but in fact only meant two years and a part of another. But Eusebius extended it to a year more.
The opinion of Eusebius is now generally prevalent, though there are some critics who extend the public ministry of Christ a year or two farther.
It is evident, however, that Eusebius had a very different idea of the distribution of the events in the gospel history from our modern harmonists. He says, "It is evident that all the acts of our Saviour related by Matthew, Mark, or Luke, are those that followed the imprisonment of John, and were comprised within the space of one year; and that John enlarged the history, by taking in the events that preceded the imprisonment of the Baptist."† Eusebius, therefore, throws that business into one year, which the generality of Harmonists distribute into two or three.
I own I cannot help expressing my surprise, that so little regard should have been paid to the opinion of those who lived the nearest to the time of Christ, and therefore had, certainly, the best opportunity of being well informed concerning it; and especially that Sir Isaac Newton himself, after reciting what I have quoted from him, should extend the ministry of Christ so as to comprehend in it five passovers. And yet when Mr. Mann, with his modesty and ingenuity, proposed the original hypothesis, of one year, he absolutely staggered and offended, as I may say, the whole Christian world; and I never heard of so much as one single person having adopted his opinion. +
Without, however, being discouraged by this circumstance, I thought that the deliberate sentiments of such a writer as Mr. Mann at least deserved attention; and I must
* See Lardner, II. pp. 137, 138.
+ Hist. L. xiii. C. xxiv. (P.)
Mr. Mann's opinion had, however, been adopted in a former century, by Francis Burman, Professor of Divinity at Utrecht, where he died in 1679, aged 51. His Exercitationes Academice were published at Rotterdam in 1688. This work was noticed, in 1692, under the title of "Dissertations of Mr. Burman," in a folio volume which is, probably, the earliest English Review of books.
On the subject in question the Reviewer says, " Opinions have been always much divided about the duration of the ministry of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church. The most common opinion is, that he preached the space of three or three years and a half. Mr. Burman takes another party, and maintains, that Jesus Christ celebrated but two Feasts of the Passover : whence he concludes, ⚫That he could live but a year and a half after his baptism.' See "The Young Student's Library, containing Extracts and Abridgements of the most valuable Books printed in England, and in the Foreign Journals, from the year sixty-five to this time."-By the Athenian Society. Printed for John Dunton, 1692, pp. 107,
acknowledge, that the more attention I have given to his scheme, the more evidence I see in favour of it, and the more improbable every contrary hypothesis appears to me; and I have at present a satisfaction that I cannot express in reading the gospel history with his ideas of it. Upon this plan, all the events have a much more easy and natural connexion than upon any other; they have consequently a greater propriety and an additional evidence.
Mr. Mann seems to have been led to his hypothesis by his peculiar interpretation of Daniel's prophecy of seventy weeks, with which he makes it correspond. But though it has been seen that I agree with him in the time that he assigns for the birth of Christ, I think him mistaken with respect to the time of his death, which he places in the year 26, or the 15th of Tiberius, reckoned from the time of his becoming associate in the empire, with Augustus. And I rather wonder that this excellent critic should allow so much to the evidence of the Christian fathers in one of these cases, and so little in the other; especially as the two opinions of Christ having preached but one year, and of his having been crucified when the Gemini were consuls, went together, and therefore rest upon the same authority.
I shall now proceed to recite, in brief, the evidence that Mr. Mann has produced in favour of his scheme, besides what arises from its agreement with the dates that he assigns to the birth and death of Christ, and his interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel above-mentioned.
In addition to those fathers who held the same opinion with himself quoted by Sir Isaac Newton, he adds the testimony of Justin Martyr and Valentinus the heretic.*
Luke, he observes, mentions only two epochs in his history of Christ, that of his birth, and that of his baptism; and therefore was with reason understood by the fathers to comprehend in the second epoch his death with his baptism, both happening within the compass of the same year, or but a few months more. To this, says he, may be added the probability that this evangelist mentions both Annas and Caiaphas as high priests, because Annas was in that office. in that year in which was most of the preaching and miracles of Christ, and Caiaphas in the other, ‡ in the first quarter of which our Lord suffered.
The passage in Isaiah lxi. 1, 2, which our Lord read in the synagogue at Nazareth, and which he notified to be then
* See supra, p. 47; Theol. Repos. II. p. 44, No. 4. ↑ P. J. 4789. Ibid.
† P. J. 4738. Ibid.
§ See ibid. pp. 43, 44, No. 1.
fulfilled, viz. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, was anciently, he says, thought to signify that Christ was to preach but one year, distinguished by that appellation.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke evidently supposed the preaching of only one year; and even John's Gospel, which alone. has been thought to suppose more, will not, in fact, be found to do so. For he mentions only one summer and one winter; he describes the events of only two passovers, one pentecost, one feast of tabernacles, and one feast of dedication; and he mentions them in their natural order, if we suppose that the 6th chapter of this evangelist hath been transposed out of its proper place, and that it should precede the 5th. But the marks of the transposition he thinks to be evident.
1. The last words of chap. v. are mentioned as spoken by Jesus in Jerusalem, and the words immediately following them, in chap. vi., without any introduction or preparation whatever, represent him passing out of Galilee to the eastern side of the sea of Tiberias; but this is an easy sequel of the 4th chapter, which left him in Galilee. Again, the end of the 5th chapter has the same easy connexion with the beginning of the 7th, that the end of the 4th has with the beginning of the 6th. For in chap. v. 16 and 18, Jesus, in Jerusalem, is reasoning with the Jews, who were seeking to kill him; and the 7th chapter opens with an account of his going into Galilee, because the Jews sought to kill him. But as the chapters stand at present, the 6th represents him teaching at Capernaum, in Galilee; and yet the 7th begins with these words, "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee," as if he had been just arrived there from some other territory.
2. The passovers, as the chapters are now ranged, are multiplied beyond all probability: for, chap. iv. 45, Jesus appears to be just returned from the first passover, and cures the nobleman's son at Capernaum; and at the end of nine verses more, (v. 1,) he is gone back to the second passover, (as some reckon it), and nothing more is said of him during the remainder of that first year. From this imaginary passover, (v. 1), when Jesus healed the cripple at the pool of Bethesda, to the feast of tabernacles, (vii. 2,) that is, according to the modern account, during all the second year, the third passover, and half the third year, he is only said to have worked one miracle, and the next day to have taught in Capernaum; and nothing more is said of him for all the rest
Theol. Repos. II. p. 44, No. S.
of the supposed eighteen months. Now doth it seem at all probable, that any person, professing to write the history of Christ's public ministry, during the space of about three years, should omit near two years and a half of that time?
3. It appears that Jesus retired to the desart of Bethsaida upon the death of John the Baptist, and there fed the five thousand. This is mentioned John vi. 5; and yet, in v. 35, Jesus at Jerusalem, speaks of him as of one who had been dead some time before: "He was a burning and a shining light." But to this argument of Mr. Mann it may be replied, that it might refer to John's being in prison, as well as to his being dead.
It may be objected to the whole of Mr. Mann's hypothesis, that in John vi. 4. we read, and the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. But it cannot, he says, be supposed that John wrote so; because he had mentioned the passover in chap. ii. and even related several of the events of it; and therefore could not suppose that his readers would want an explanation of the term in that place. Gerard Vossius, therefore, and other critics, would read, and a feast of the Jews was nigh, and imagine that the word passover was first added, as a conjectural explanation of some person or other. However, the ancient fathers could never have imagined, as they did, that Christ preached only one year, if this third passover had been so expressly mentioned in their copies of this gospel. Besides, there is no mention of Christ's assisting at any third passover.*
Remarks on some of the Arguments of Mr. Mann, with Observations in Confirmation of them.
THUS I have given an epitome of the arguments that Mr. Mann has advanced in favour of his hypothesis, to which I would add the following remarks, previous to some distinct additional arguments in favour of it.
1. It has been observed, since Mr. Mann's publication, that Clemens Alexandrinus, and the rest of the fathers who embraced the same opinion, were led to it by their peculiar interpretation of the above-mentioned passage in Isaiah, On the contrary, it appears to me that the interpretation is so very singular and unnatural, that it could never have
See Theol. Repos. II. pp. 44-47; True Years, pp. 161–163, in Appendix, No. III.
suggested the opinion; but that the opinion, once previously fixed, viz. that Christ preached only one year, might very easily have led such interpreters of the Scriptures as the fathers were, to that explanation of the text; and that nothing but a corresponding opinion, generally received, could have made such an interpretation supportable. It could never have stood its ground against a contrary opinion.
2. Mr. Mann thinks that the fathers supposed St. Luke, in the date that he fixes to the baptism of Christ, viz. the 15th of Tiberius, meant to include that of his death also; and that, in reality, it is to the latter event, as being the more important of the two, that those dates correspond. I own I see no foundation for this construction, either with respect to the thing itself, or the opinion of the fathers concerning it. On the contrary, it is certainly most natural to suppose that if Christ was baptized in the 15th of Tiberius, and preached one entire year after that, he must have died in the 16th of that emperor, which is the year in which the Gemini were consuls. But notwithstanding this mistake of Mr. Mann, I think the conduct of Luke upon this occasion affords almost a demonstration that the year of Christ's death immediately followed that of his baptism.
Luke has given us the date of John the Baptist's beginning to preach with a most remarkable precision. "Now in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness," &c. There is, perhaps, no example of any other event so circumstantially and emphatically dated, in the whole compass of history. Now can it be supposed that the same writer would leave an event of infinitely more consequence, viz. that of the death of Christ, with which his history terminates, without any date at all? But this is the case if he has left no trace by which the one may be certainly inferred from the other; in consequence of having confounded the events of several years, in such a manner that no person can pretend to distinguish or number them. Whereas the conduct of this writer is perfectly reconcileable with itself, upon the supposition that, in his idea, the year of the death of Christ immediately followed that of the preaching of John, no other year intervening between them; for then the date of the one would be abundantly sufficient for the