Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

That appears to be the most proper and critical, or at least the primary sense of this text; however, by some, it is also applied to Christ, and the church. They say, the reason of men. tioning Ecom is, that it is usual for the prophets to denote the enemies of the church in general, by the name of some country, or people, which has been remarkable for its hatred of the Jewish nation; and that here the prophet seems to take a hint from some remarkable calamity, that had befallen the Edomites, to describe some more general judgment, that should be inflicted upon the enemies of God's church and people.

Be it so: still this passage of scripture has no relation to the sufferings of Christ, but to some deliverance of God's people in ancient or later times, out of the hands of their unrighteous enemies and oppressors.

And we may perceive, that these words in ver. 5. “ I looked, and there was none to help ; and I wondered, that there was none to uphold, therefore my own arm brought salvation unto me, and my fury, it upheld me;" do not point to Christ's transactions on this earth. These words may be allusively applied to that great salvation, which is the work of God and Christ alone, but no otherwise : and allusions, even where no more is intended, are dangerous : for texts, often alleged in the way of allusion, and separate from the connection, are apt to gain a sense in our minds, which is not the true meaning of them.

Your readers, if they think fit, may compare this with the same paragraph of the prophet Isaiah, as versified in the Protestant Magazine for April, p. 40.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

You have touched upon a difficult text: permit me also to propose some observations upon it. You think it probable, that the scene of danger here referred to, is that mentioned Acts xix. 30, 31.' But I rather think, that the first epistle to the Corinthians was written and sent away, before the tumult caused by Demetrius. St. Luke there informs us, ver. 22. “ So he sent into · Macedonia two of them that ministred unto him, Timothy and Erastus. But he himself stayed

in Asia for a season.” Then at ver. 22." And the same time there arose no small stir about that way,” &c. Says Lightfoot, vol. I. p. 299. • Between ver. 22 and 23, of this nineteenth “chapter of the Acts, falleth in the time of St. Paul's writing the first epistle to the Corinthians :' which I take to be very right. You have Dr. Ward with you, at p. 200, where he says: It is 'most reasonable, therefore, to understand the expression as metaphorical, and that he refers to • the tumult raised by Demetrius.' But turn over the leaf, and look to p. 199, there you may see him saying, “ After the affair of Demetrius, he immediately left the city, and went into Macedonia. This decides the point. The epistle was written before the tumult, not after it; and therefore cannot refer to it.

I understand the expression, “ fighting with beasts," literally: I do not love to depart from the proper meaning of a word, unless there be a necessity for so doing. • Nevertheless I do not suppose that St. Paul ever fought with beasts. St. Luke is entirely silent about it; nor is it mentioned by himself in the catalogue of his dangers and sufferings, 2 Cor. xi. 23–33. Moreover,' as Dr. Ward well observes, had St. Paul been thus engaged, it is difficult to apprehend how he could have escaped, without a miracle. . To proceed. I am of opinion that St. Paul refers not here to any particular event, or occurrence of his life : it is only a supposition made, an affecting case put by him, to enforce his arguments in behalf of a resurrection, and a life to come.

* First published in the LIBKARY, for October 1701.

Let us observe the context. Ver. 19. “ If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable." Ver. 20. “ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." Ver. 30. “ And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Ver. 31. “ I protest by our rejoicing, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. .I exert myself to the utmost, and am continually exposed to the gre « acquiesce in, and even am joyful; hoping for a resurrection, and to be for ever with Christ. • Without that expectation, all such laborious and hazardous services would be unreasonable, and o unprofitable." Ver. 32. * If, according to a cruel custom which obtains among men, I had, • for the sake of the gospel, been condemned in this city to fight with beasts, and had been « miserably torn to pieces, and destroyed by them: would it have been of any advantage to me? • None at all. All such fortitude and alacrity in serving the interests of religion, and with a o view to promote the general good of men, would have been quite lost, and fruitless. “ If the * dead rise not,” if there be no life after this, we might be disposed to adopt that profane saying, * « Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." But, my brethren, far be it that any of us • should embrace such sentiments, or act upon them, ver. 33, “ be not deceived,” &c.

I allow of your pointing. My version is little different from yours, and agrees also with that of Dr. Gerdes, professor of divinity at Groningen, who has lately published a critical commentary upon this whole chapter. It is thus : • Quod si secundum hominem etiam cum bestiis * decertassem Ephesi, quid inde ad me lucri ? Si mortui non resurgent, edamus & bibamus. Cras • enim moriemur.'

A.

AN INQUIRY INTO THE TRUTH OF THE

HISTORY OF THE SEVEN BROTHERS,

SAID TO HAVE SUFFERED MARTYRDOM IN THE TIME OF

ANTIOCHUS Epiphanes, 2 Macc. vii.

IOCHU

IPHANE

1. The truth of this history depends entirely upon the second book of the Maccabees. Dr. Prideaux has given a large and judicious account of both those books. Conn. year before Christ 166, p. 185, &c. • The first,' he says, which is a very accurate and excellent history, and

comes the nearest to the style and manner of the sacred historical writings of any extant, was • written originally in the Chaldee language, of the Jerusalem dialect, which was the language • spoken in Judea from the return of the Jews thither from the Babylonish captivity. The second book of the Maccabees, he says, was written by an Egyptian Jew, probably of Alexandria. But he says, it does by no means equal the accurateness and excellence of the first.' And he observes, that it consists of several pieces compiled together, by what authór iš « uncertain. It begins with two epistles sent from the Jews of Jerusalem, to the Jews of Alex• andria and Egypt. Both these epistles seem to be spurious, wherever the compiler of this • book picked them up.'

After these two epistles, which end at the eighteenth verse of the second chapter, the author proposes to write of things, • as declared by Jason of Cyrene, in five books which he will assay to abridge in one volume. . But,' says Dů Pin, the author of this abridgment does not make • an exact abridgment of Jason. Sometimes he copies, sometimes he abridges, and oftentimes • he passes from one narration to another, and does not relate facts in their true order.'

II. The sufferings of these seven brothers, and likewise of Eleazar, related in the sixth chapter of this second book of Maccabees, and said to be “ one of the principal scribes, and fourscore years old and ten, are entirely omitted in the first book of the Maccabees : though

* First published in the LIBRARY for February 1762.

the author of it there writes of the Jewish affairs, and their sufferings in the time of Antiochus. It appears to be probable, that he would not have omitted the sufferings of these persons, if he had been acquainted with them. But so far from relating them particularly, he does not give any the least hint of them

III. There is not any notice taken of this Eleazar, or these seven brethren, or their mother, by Josephus, in any of his authentic writings. He had twice a fair occasion to mention them: first in his History of the Jewish War, written not many years after the destruction of Jerusalem, in the first book of which he relates the encroachments of Antiochus Epiphanes: and secondly in his Antiquities, written many years afterwards, where he again recounts the sufferings of the Jewish people under the same prince, Ant. L. xii. cap. v. But in neither of those works has he said any thing of Eleazar, or these seven brothers; whose story is so remarkable, that it could not have been omitted by him, if it had been matter of fact.

It is true, there is a work, sometimes ascribed to Josephus, entitled, “Of the Empire of Reason, or a Discourse of the Maccabees. But, as Cave says, it is denied to be his by many learned men. "Josephi tamen esse negant ex eruditis quam plurimi.' And the late Mr. Whiston, who translated into English all the genuine writings of Josephus, omitted this, and would not join it with the rest. And in an advertisement at the end of his version, he says, • I have omitted what is in the other editions of Josephus: I mean the discourse about the : Maccabees, that is, about the torments of the mother, and her, seven children, under Antiochus • Epiphanes. It is commended by Eusebius, and Jerom themselves, as an elegant performance,

and as the genuine work of Josephus. It seems to me not to deserve that character. Nor can • it, I think, with the least probability be ascribed to Josephus, unless as a declamation, when he . was a school-boy. And he observes, that the history is taken from the second book of the Maccabees, which it evidently appears Josephus never made use of in his other writings.' So Mr. Whiston. To me it appears to be the work of some Christian.

IV. This account is defective in what we generally call internal characters of credibility. .]. The thing is in itself very extraordinary: that so many persons, of one and the same family, should be all at one and the same time called out to suffer, and be all steady and valiant. It is very improbable, and almost incredible.

2. The whole story has the appearance of a contrived fiction. First there is an account of Eleazar, who suffers at the age of fourscore years and ten, that he might leave a notable example to such as are young, to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws.' Then follow the sufferings and death of these young men, who too are exactly seven, a. number much respected among the Jews.

3. The sufferers are not described so particularly as they ought to be, and generally are, in credible relations. The names of the seven brothers are all omitted. Nor is it said, what was their tribe, or family, or what was the usual place of their abode. Nor are we told, who was their father. In some modern accounts the fore-mentioned Eleazar may be said to be their father. But there is no ground for it in this narrative. Nor are we told the name of the mother of these brothers, though she is so often mentioned. Nor is it said, how she died. All that is said, is this : “ Last of all, after the sons, the mother died.” In the discourse of the Maccabees, ascribed to Josephus, it is said, “ the mother, that no man might touch her body, threw herself upon the pile." Kei ove diy faUGEIE T8 owuatos QUTUS EQUIMV Egeiste nat U TuS Tupas, chap. 17. Upon which the note of Cambesis might be seen. This is one of those passages, which makes me think, that work to have been composed by a Christian. Josippon, or Josephus Ben Gorion, a Jewish writer of the ninth or tenth century, or later, says, that after she had offered up her prayer to God, her spirit departed from her, and she fell upon the heaps of her sons' dead bodies, and lay upon the earth. But these things are additional to the original account. • Postquam desiit ita orare, & effundere orationem coram Jehova, egressa est anima ejus, dum adhut loqueretur, & exiit spiritus ejus, & corruit super acervos corporum filiorum ejus & jacuit etiam cum eis projecta super terram, p. 115, Oxon. 1706."

4. These seven brothers are here represented to have been examined, tortured, and slain, one after another, in the presence of the king, or Antiochus. Which is very improbable. For such examinations and executions are generally delegated to officers. And in the first book of the Maccabees, upon which we can depend, we are assured, that Antiochus had officers for this purpose in the several parts of Judea. So 1 Macc. i. 51. “ In the self-same manner wrote he

to his whole kingdom, and appointed overseers over all the people, commanding the cities of Judah to sacrifice, city by c

by city.” And aftet wards it is particularly said, 1 Macc. ii. 25, “ that Mattathias slew the king's commissioner at Modin, who compelled men to sacrifice.”

5. It is not said, or hinted, where these persons suffered. Here is a very extraordinary transaction, seven men, all brothers, the sons of one mother, tried, tortured, put to death, one after another, in the presence of a great king. But where, is not said, whetlier at Jerusalem, or in some other city of Judea. As it is not said, where all this happened, we may not unreasonably infer, it never happened, or was done any where.

For these reasons this history appears so much like a fiction, that I do not see, how it can be relied upon as true. Many acts of Christian martyrs, which had been received for a while, have since been examined by learned men, and rejected, some as spurious, others as very much interpolated : why then should we be afraid to examine a like narrative in a Jewish apocryphal. book, of little credit ?

Obj. It will be said : does not the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews refer to this history, and thereby assure us of the truth of it? Heb. xi. 35. “ And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” To which I answer. It is not clear, or certain, that there is a reference to this history in that text. And I shall add a part of what Mr. Hallett says. upon this place, in his paraphrase and notes upon the three last chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews. All the commentators agree in supposing, that the apostle here refers « to the history of the martyrdom of Eleazar, and the mother, and her seven sons, inentioned in

the second book of the Maccabees. And I was once carried away with the stream; but I am & now persuaded, that the apostle, in this whole chapter, does not refer to any examples that are

recommended by any other book, beside the holy scripture. Estius goes upon this same general

principle : and therefore concludes from the common application of this passage, that it affords . more than a probable argument for the sacred authority of the second book of the Maccabees. • For,' says he, “ all the examples of the saints mentioned, either expressly, or tacitly, in this 6 chapter, are taken from the sacred scriptures, that is, from those books, which were in the 6 days of the writer of this epistle esteemed to be sacred by Christians." Yet still how a man • of Estius's excellent good sense could have a notion, that the second book of the Maccabees, • was a part of sacred scripture, when it was confessedly written after the spirit of prophecy 6. ceased in Malachi, and before it was restored in John the Baptist, is not a little surprising.

• But there is no more need to go to the Apocrypha, than to Fox's Book of Martyrs, for • instances of men, “ being tortured, not accepting deliverance." There are confessedly severa?

instances of this kind in the Old Testament. The apostle, just after, more particularly points • at the persons he means, viz. such as “ were stoned," sawn asunder, or slain with the sword,” "ver. 37. “ These were tortured. These did not accept deliverance.” And these refused to 6 accept of deliverance upon sinful terms, for this very end, “ that they might obtain a blessed • resurrection” to eternal life. These therefore may be the persons here meant.'

I am not fond of singularity: yet I hope I can follow truth alone, with a view of increasing her train, and having more company in time, attracted by the same reasons and arguments, by which I have been swayed myself.

We have just seen how Mr. Hallett argues, and that these persons are not referred to in the epistle to the Hebrews; but I do not say that he denied the fact, since he has not expressly told us.

I once thought that Dr. Prideaux doubted of the truth of this history, because he has not particularly related it; and because he points at the want of a material circumstance, the place of this transaction. But perhaps I was mistaken ; however I shall transcribe here what he says: Conn. year before Christ 167, p. 181. •*On this occasion happened the martyrdom of Eleazar,

and of the mother and her seven sons, which we have described to us by the author of the • second book of the Maccabees, and by Josephus: by both of which a full account having been • given of this matter, especially the latter; I refer my readers to them. Rufinus, in bis Latin

paraphrase of this book of Josephus, concerning the Maccabees, gives us the names of these • seven brothers, and of their mother. Maccabees, Aber, Machir, Judas, Achaz, Aseth, Jacob : .. and their mother's name Solomona: but the later Jewish historians call: her. Anna. And he • tells us, that as well they as Eleazar were carried from Judea to Antioch: and that it was there • that they were judged by Antiochus ; but without any authority that we know of for either, « except his own invention. The reason of the thing, as well as the tenor of the history, which • is given us of it by both the authors I have mentioned, make it much more likely, that Jeru. • salem, and not Antioch, was made the scene of this cruelty: and that, especially, since it being • designed for an example of terror unto the Jews of Judea, it would have lost its force, if • executed any where else than in that country.'

So says that eminent writer : but, I presume, that 110 modern, however learned and eminent, can determine the place of an event, which is entirely omitted by all ancient writers. If Rufinus had no authority for placing this transaction at Antioch, except his own invention ; Prideaux can have no better authority in behalf of Jerusalem. And if these brothers were tortured, and slain in the presence of Antiochus, Rufinus's conjecture would be as plausible as any other. But all conjectures of this sort are vain and groundless. And they should be declined, and never be proposed, or mentioned by wise and sedate men. We cannot now add to what ancient authors have delivered. In history there is no room for invention.

I am desirous, gentlemen, if you please, by your means, to recommend these thoughts to the consideration of the public.

LETTER

TO THE AUTHOR OF THE

REMARKS UPON THE INQUIRY INTO THE TRUTH OF THE HISTORY

OF THE SEVEN BROTHERS IN THE MACCABEES."

Sir, I am obliged to you for your Remarks, as they will give me an opportunity farther to clear up the point. . You chiefly object to what I have alleged from Mr. Hallett, relating to Heb. xi. 35.

You say, • There are no instances in the Old Testament of any persons, who, on account of • their faith in God, were sawn asunder, or wandered about in sheep-skins or goat-skins, or were

afflicted by other instances of distress or persecution, mentioned in the three verses above men• tioned,' viz. 35, 36, 37.

But I somewhat wonder that you should say so. Is it not the opinion of all interpreters in general, that by the persons " who wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins,” are intended Elijah and Elisha, and other prophets of the Old Testament? And, says Clement of Rome, a companion of St. Paul, in his epistle to the church of Corinth, ch. xvii. Let us be imitators of those who went about in goat-skins and sheep-skins, preaching the coming of Christ : we mean the prophets, Elijah, and Elisha, and Ezekiel, &c. which passage is largely quoted by Clement

of Alexandria in the fourth book of his Stromata. And see 1 Kings xix. 13, 19. and 2 Kings ü. - 8, 13, 14, in the Greek version, where Elijah's mantle is called a melote.

And Estius and Grotius have referred to persons in the Old Testament, who were instances of all the several sorts of distress and persecution, mentioned in ver. 36 and 37, though they also take notice of other like examples in later times. - Dr. Owen's observation upon ver. 36, which also may be applied elsewhere, is to this purpose : It is of no use to fix the particulars here mentioned to certain determinate persons. • For seeing the apostle has left that undetermined, so may we do also. Certain it is, that there

[merged small][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »