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THÉ ZEBEDEAN FAMILY.
In the northern district of the Holy Land there is a lovely lake, embosomed in the hills, known in sacred and profane story as the Lake of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, and the Lake of Gennesereth. In early days it was called the Sea of Chinnereth, from a city of that name situated upon its shores, belonging to the children of Naphtali. Various other tribes had access to its waters; Gad, Manasseh, Zebulun, and Issachar, each claimed an inheritance in it, and pursued maritime occupations upon its surface and along its coasts. The basin of the lake is estimated at about seventeen or eighteen miles in length, and from five to six in breadth : the Jordan enters it on the north, and its passage through it is said to be clearly discernible by the smoothness of the surface in that part. It is described by Dr. Clarke as longer and finer than any of our English lakes, though perhaps inferior to Loch Lomond. He compares it in picturesque beauty to the Lake of Locarno, in Italy, wanting, however, the beautiful islands with which that majestic sheet of water is adorned.
With the exception of the outlets of the Jordan, the lake is surrounded on all sides with lofty hills, those on the eastern being much higher than on the western side. Owing to its sheltered site, the tempests that visit it are never of long duration, though squalls from the mountain ravines are frequent, and dangerous during their continuance. But the most furious storm quickly subsides, and silence and calm succeed. These local features are recognized in the evangelic narrative: “ And they launched forth. But as they sailed Jesus fell asleep, and there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him and awoke him, and said, Master, Master, we perish. Then he arose and rebuked the wind, and the raging of the water, and there was a calm.” Luke viji. 23.
Travellers speak in high terms of the grandeur of the scenery of the lake, though the total absence of trees upon its mountain ramparts, and the stillness of its waters, which are not navigated by a single vessel, give it an air of desolation, which excites melancholy feelings. The silence that now reigns along its shores has not always been a characteristic feature of it. Fleets of considerable force once traversed it, and bloody battles between the Romans and the Jews have been fought upon its surface. A naval engagement is particularly narrated by Josephus, which covered the lake with the dead bodies of the slain. The Jews who revolted under the administration of Agrippa, fled in immense numbers to Tiberias, and sought refuge upon the water. Here they were attacked by the Romans, who built vessels for the purpose, three individuals being present whose names afterwards filled the world with their fame-Vespasian, Titus, and Trajan. The Jews were defeated with great slaughter, and the shores of the lake, upon which the Prince of Peace not long before had taught, were covered with the mangled corpses of the dead. VOL. I. N. 8.
A few years before this naval action occurred, the Sea of Tiberias presented a very different scene to that which now meets the eye of the casual visitor. Instead of the ruins which now exist upon its coast, betokening a numerous population swept away, and the tranquillity of its waters, unbroken save by the “ windy storm and tempest," there were flourishing cities upon its beach, whose industrious inhabitants plied their avocations upon its bosom. Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsada, names familiar to every reader of the gospel narratives, were situated upon its shores. The time to which we now refer was the era of lofty and imposing transactions. A personage appeared in this beautiful region, teaching “as one having authority," and the rumour went forth among the simplehearted fishers of the lake, that “this was he who should redeem Israel.” He travelled along its banks, tarried in its towns, crossed its waters, had frequent interviews with its maritime population, and by many among them he was hailed as the long-expected hope and saviour of their country.
Among the fishermen of Tiberias, in the days of our Lord, there was one of the name of Zebedee, who stands distinguished in the evangelical history as the parent of two of his most eminent disciples. Of his life and character no notices are given; but from his allowing his sons to leave him suddenly at the command of Christ, placing no obstacle in their path, but cheerfully surrendering his interest in their services, which is evident from the inspired narrative, we may conclude that his own mind was enlightened and impressed upon the subject of the Saviour's pretensions. Humble as the occupation of Zebedee is generally esteemed, he was not in indigent circumstances. The vessel called a “ship,” in which he toiled, was his own; and as, in addition to the aid of his sons, he had hired servants" employed in his business, he was at the head of a considerable and lucrative traffic. Mark i. 20. Nicephorus, understanding John the son of Zebedee to be meant by “another disciple” “known to the high-priest,” spoken of in the history of the Saviour's apprehension, John xviii. 15, accounts for his acquaintance with the dignified ecclesiastic in the following way. His father being dead, had left behind him an estate in Galilee, which John sold to Annas, the high priest, and thus was introduced to him. But that the nameless disciple referred to was John, is as doubtful as the tradition now cited."
The wife of Zebedee, the mother of his far-famed children, was named Salome, as appears by comparing the following passages. “ And many women were there, among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.” Matt. xxvii. 55. “ There were also women looking on afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome." Mark xv. 40. She, who in the former of these passages is called “the mother of Zebedee's children," is in the latter named Salome. This individual is supposed by some to have been related to our Lord
* Hist. Eccles. lib. i. c. 28.
the daughter of Joseph by a former wife. Theophylact, when asserting that John was related to the Saviour, proposes the question, “ But how can that be? Attend. Joseph, husband of the blessed Mary, had seven children by a former wife, four sons and three daughters, Martha, (or Mary) Esther, and Salome, whose son John was; therefore Salome was reckoned our Lord's sister, and John was his nephew.” Cave admits that a relationship subsisted between these parties, but not that mentioned by Theophylact; and Lardner conjectures that some family tie may have been, in part, the ground and reason of several things mentioned in the gospels--as the petition of Salome that her two sons might have the highest places in the kingdom of Christ-John's being the beloved disciple, the friend of Jesus, admitted to some freedoms denied to the rest-our Lord's committing to him the care of his mother, so long as she should survive him.
Doubtful as this relationship is, between the family residing at Nazareth, and that by the borders of the Tiberian lake, an intimate relationship subsisted between the members of the latter and the Saviour of the world. Salome ultimately left her home to minister to his comfort, her husband Zebedee, in all probability, dying soon after her sons became disciples. The fact is expressly mentioned that she followed him from Galilee, “ministering unto him," Matt. xxvii. 55, in the same way, perhaps, as Joanna the wife of Herod's steward did, who gave him of her " substance.” Luke viii. 3. She accompanied him in many of his journies, and was one of those who wept at his cross, attended his burial, and visited his deserted tomb.
Two only of the children of Zebedee and Salome are introduced to our notice in the inspired narrative, and it is likely that they comprised the whole of their family; these are James and John, the former, from his name always occurring first, with only one exception, was doubtless the elder. James became an eminent disciple of the Saviour, and fell in the Herodian persecution, becoming the apostolic proto-martyr--the first of the sacred band, who took that cup, of which they had long before told their Lord that they were ready to drink
The children of Zebedee had not the advantages of a learned education; under the paternal roof they acquired what knowledge they possessed. John is spoken of in connection with Peter as “ unlearned and ignorant.” Acts iv. 13. The original in this passage, however, does not import ignorance in the common acceptation of the term, and by no means conveys what our translation expresses, an idea of gross illiteracy. It simply signifies that they had not been educated in the rabbinical schools, were not versed in the literature of the Talmud, and occupied private stations of life. So when the Jews marvelled upon hearing the Saviour speak, saying, “ How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?" John vii. 15. the question does not relate to a simple ability to read, but to that acquaintance with the Jewish allegories and parables, which our Lord displayed, though he had never attended the schools of the rabbins. "The word rendered “ignorant" is literally idiotæ, an
idiot, a phrase which was commonly applied to those who filled no public office. Hence Æcumenius says, that “ Paul wrote to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, idiwrnv, an idiot,” meaning a man of a private station, and not like Timothy and Titus, who had a public character in the church as evangelists. There can be no doubt but that the sons of Zebedee were well acquainted with the Scriptures of the Old Testament-with the doctrines of the Jewish religion--with the expectations entertained by their countrymen of the advent of the Messiah--as all the pious Jews at that time carefully taught in their families the elements of their theology.
Four persons were once fishing at the same time, upon the sea of Tiberias, and one was calmly walking upon its shore, who have exercised a more powerful influence upon the world, than any other human beings who have trod its surface; these were Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Christ. Little would an observer looking from the margin of the lake upon its calm blue waters, watching these individuals in their humble vessels at their daily employ-little would such an one have imagined that the hard-toiling, homelydressed fishermen before him, were men who were to produce a moral revolution throughout the wide-spread empire of the Roman
to win for themselves an endless renown, and have their names repeated with mysterious apprehension, in the temple of the heathen priest, and the palace of the imperial Cæsar.
The Saviour's visit to the sea of Tiberias was occasioned by his expulsion from the scene of his childhood and youth, Nazareth; his faithful teaching having rendered his townsmen hostile to him. On the brow of one of the precipices which surrounded that place, whither an infuriated rabble led him to cast him down, the Saviour rendered himself invisible by an exertion of his divine power, and then retired northward across the country to Capernaum, Luke iv. 30, 31, the principal city on the borders of the lake. Here he taught in the synagogue, visited the neighbouring hamlets, restored many of the diseased to the animation of healthy existence, and constantly attracted by his doctrine and his power a large concourse of people around him. One day, one memorable day, whose transactions deeply affected the spiritual interests of the world at large, “ the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God” as “he stood by the lake of Gennesaret.” Luke v. 1. Two fishing-vessels were close in shore, but the fishermen were gone out of them, after a night of unsuccessful toil, and were engaged in washing their nets. It was early, therefore, in the morning. Into one of these vessels, which belonged to Peter, the Saviour entered, and requesting him to put off a little farther from the shore, he sat down in the ship, and taught the crowds upon the beach. At the close of his address the Saviour astonished the fishermen by a splendid demonstration of his divine power: he commanded Peter to launch out into the deep, and again to cast forth the nets, when so great was the draught of fishes, that it required the united exertions of all employed on board to bring them to land.
By these circumstances the minds of the sons of Zebedee were prepared to entertain the claim which was immediately made upon
their services; the Saviour called them to follow him; and at once they abandoned their avocations, to share the fortunes and perform the will of this illustrious personage, who, with divine authority, demanded their attentions.
We are not to suppose that these Tiberian fishermen had no other knowledge of the Saviour than what they derived from this single interview with him. In all probability they had previously heard him in the synagogue of Capernaum, for that they belonged to that city is probable from its certainly being the residence of Peter. Peter and Andrew had met him on the banks of the Jordan, while attending the ministry of his immediate predecessor, the Baptist; and as it is expressly stated that the sons of Zebedee were (Luke v. 7) partners with them in trade, what the former had learnt of his mission and character would be known to the latter. Already all Judea and Galilee rang with his fame. The expectations of the people, with reference to the coming of the promised Messiah, had been long excited, and at the period of his actual advent they were raised to the highest pitch. Many were “looking for redemption in Jerusalem," and " waiting for the consolation of Israel ;" • all men mused in their hearts of John as to whether he were the Christ or not.” Having been trained up under the influence of this general expectation, the minds of the sons of Zebedee were prepared to admit the claims of the Saviour, and to submit to his authority when they heard his teaching and beheld his miracles. “ They immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” Matt. iv. 22. Though the beautiful scenes of the lake were dear to them, and the name of home was sweet, and the thought of early friends and associates was cheering, yet the ties of kindred were broken at the call of Christ, whose miraculous power had convinced their judgment of his Messiahship, and whose grace had subdued their affections. '
Sacrifice was required of these disciples in the hour of their first association with Christ. Detachment from the endearments and occupations of home was imperative, in order to give their whole attention to their adopted Lord, to receive the law from his mouth, to hear his words of wisdom, to mark his marvellous works, and thus go through the training that was necessary to qualify them to act as his ambassadors to the world at large, the heralds of his mercy, and the apostles of his dispensation.“ We have forsaken all,” said Peter," and followed thee.” Matt. xix. 27. “ A poor all,” says one, " a parcel of rotten nets." The observation might have been spared; for their all, however humble, was as great a sacrifice as if they had possessed the most splendid external advantages to surrender. Similar acts of self-denial have been frequently required of those who “ would live godly;" persecution has frowned upon them, and the spoiling of their goods has been the consequence of their steady adherence to their principles. Often, in the wise administration of providence, separation from earthly blessings has been ordered as a measure of spiritual improvement; the discipline is intended to lessen the world in the estimation of piety, to humble pride, to conform us to the divine will, to