Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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very good for a poet, but very poor for a
historian. A question may be answered
by a question: Does not M. Renan
know that at this very moment there
are delapsed families of royal blood liv-
ing in Europe, Avho are not ' ' figuring by
the side " of the Bonapartes or the Bis-
marcks, " in the great struggles of these
times " ? He snys the Asmoneans never

claimed descent from David. Is that
an argument ? Because people who do
not belong to a certain family make no
claim to the relationship, is that a proof
that another man's claim is false ? He
admits that Jesus seemed to take pleas-
ure in the name of the " Son of David,"
' ' for he performed most graciously those
miracles which were sought of him in
this name. " And to verify this M. Re-
nan cites several passages in Matthew,
Mark, and Luke ! Is it not surprising
that any man can be in such a moral
state as to write a glowing, almost ador-
ing, poetical romance of one whom he
begins by representing as a sneaking
impostor? In that new the " Vie de
Jesus" is the most remarkable moral
phenomenon in modern literature.


The simple maiden Mary was residing in Nazareth, a small
town among the hills which constitute the south ridges of Leba-
non. The historians give her no worship, no idealizing, no halo.
They describe her as a quiet soul, looking and longing for the
salvation of her nation. Her becoming a mother was supernatu-
ral, in the sense of a loftier class of influences bearing down upon
that world we call " the natural," by which we can reasonably
mean only so much of the chain of cause and effect as we discern.
It is as unphilosophical to deny supernature as to deny nature.
In writing history we must follow our best authorities, and how-
ever unsatisfactory they may be, they will always be our best until
better be found. In this history we must mainly follow the writ-
ers called the Evangelists. If they set forth before us what
Neander calls "the divine ideal become a reality," shall we throw
away this finest thing because it is so fine %

Elizabeth was in her sixth month of retirement, when Mary, a

virgin, saw an angelic apparition in the city of Nazareth. The angel

is called Gabriel by the historians. Perhaps this m# , m ,
i i mr xt , , ,, ' Birth of Jesua

is the name he gave to Mary. Her report ox tne announced,
interview was that the angel said to her, " Hail,
highly favored ! The Lord is with you ; and blessed are you
among women ! " This annunciation troubled the simple maiden,
and she began to think what it might mean, when the angel spoke
again and said, " Fear not, Mary : for you have found favor with
God. And, see ! you shall conceive and bear a son, and you
shall call his name Jesus.-' And he shall be great, and shall be
called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give
him the throne of his father David, and he shall rule the house
of Jacob through the ages, and of his kingdom there shall be no

Knowing herself to be of the lineage of David, she had no
surprise at the assumption that her son should be a descendant
of the great kino-; but that she should be at once a mother and a
virgin was a puzzle to her, and she took courage to say as much
to the angel. The angelic reply was, "The Holy Spirit shall
come up. mi you, and the power of the Most High shall invest you

* Jesus — Joshua = a Saviour. J<
was a common name at that time, and

Child n of consuls was

of the utmost importance in their chro-

tho English dated everything by the
year of their reigning sovereign, and the
Americans by the year of their Presi-
dent. The Vaati among the Romans
w< re marbles in which were carved this
don uf consuls. I'l-a^iurnta of

nology it i.s as if we ha., an I th> so marbles still exist.

A.D. 160

A.D. 161


in at this point of the chronological calculation, and two sets ol
consuls have been shrunk into one year. The authority of three
lists (those of Cassiodorus, Victorius, and the Paschal Chronicle)
makes two years, while that of one list (Idatius) makes one year.
It is safer to follow the stronger authority, and by correcting the
mistakes of copyists, the consular list at this particular period is
restored thus :

' T. El. Aur. Antoninus " Pius," Emperor (who died

this year), and
M. El. Aurelius Anton., the Philosopher (who sue

ceeded him).
M. El. Aurelius Anton., the Philosopher, and
L. Aur. Ant. "Verus, called " Commodus."

It will be perceived that this pushes back all the other consul-
ships one year, so that those for 160 must be placed in a.d. 159,
and so all the way back through the list. The consulship of
Sextus Appuleius and Sextus Pompeius, usually entered a.d. 14
(Julian Period 4727), must be one year earlier.

The result is that Augustus died on the 19th of August, a.d.
13 : * the associate reign of Tiberius began three years before
this, namely, a.d. 10, in February : in the fifteenth year of that
reign — between February, a.d. 24, and February, a.d. 25 — Jesus
reached his thirtieth year. This is marked, because it was the
legal time of entering upon the Jewish priesthood, and was the
age at which Jesus actually began his public ministry. From
that date deduct thirty years, and the conclusion is reached that
Jesus was born between the Februaries of the years 6 and 7
before the beginning of the Vulgar Era.

Seeing that this event has been by different writers assigned to
every month in the year, can we ascertain the very day? If not,
let us see how nearly it can be approximated. The Latin Church
has kept the 25th of December; the Greek Church originally
observed the 6th of January, but subsequently came over to the
Latin calendar. Keither date has any conclusive authority.

According to Josephus, Jerusalem was taken in the second year
of the reign of Vespasian, on the 8th day of Sep-

Examination of temb AJX 7 Q which , vas in the year f the

month and day. . . 7 . nnn , , . , , i

city ( 823, and the temple was destroyed on

* Be careful to notice that this is I the actual birth of Jesus,
the Vulgar Era, not an era dated from I


the 4th of August. According to the Jewish Mishna — compiled in
Palestine toward the close of the second century — on that day
the first sacerdotal class of the twenty-four which officiated in
rotation, each a week (1 Chron. xxiv., and Neheiniah xii.), entered
upon their duties. Computing the number of sacerdotal cycles
between a.d. 70 and b.c. 8, we ascertain * that on the 4th day of
August, b.c. 8, there were nine weeks and five days needed to
complete the cycle. Add these to 4th of August and we reach
October 11 as the recommencement of the cycle. The eighth class,
that to which, according to Luke i. 5, Zacharias belonged, would
enter upon duty on the forty-ninth day after October 11 ; that
is, November 29 (b.c. 8). A simple arithmetical calculation shows
that Zacharias must have been serving on the following days :

B.C. 9. .August 12 I b.c. 8. .July 14 I b.c. 7. .May 1G

b.c. 8. .January 27 | b.c. 8. .November 29 I B.c. 7. .October 31

Add to these dates fourteen months and twenty-two days, by
which allowance is made of seven days for Zacharias's ministry,
five months and fifteen days for Elizabeth's time before the Annun-
ciation, and the usual period of nine months for Mary's time, from
the Annunciation to the birth of Jesus, and you have the follow
ing table :

b.c. 8. .November 31 b.c 7. .October 6 I b.c 6. .August 7

B.C. 7.. April 18 1 b.c 6. .February 20 I b.c 5. .January 22

These six dates are all that seem possible on the calculation by
the courses of the priests. It is not necessary to point out objec-
tions to any single date, as our previous calculations have shown
that it must have been b.c. 6. Was it February 20 or August 7?
To decide between these dates we are helped by the statement in
Luke ii. 8, that at the Nativity "there were in the same country
shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks
by night." Would this have been in the month of February ? In
Bnhle'a Economical Calendar of Palestine (it maybe found as
the 454th of the fragments in the 4to edition of Calmet), which
contains a very satisfactory account of the weather for each
month, it is shown that February is rainy and snows are frequent

* In this way : The interval between I divided by 24, gives ICO cycles, with 9
the dates is 77 years, being 28, 1 2 1 'lays, weeks and 5 days over,
being 4,017 weeks and 5 days, which, I


in the southern part. It was not a month for shepherds to be
watching their flocks at night in the open air. Nor is it probable
that the enrolment which was had at the imperial order would
have been assigned to so distressing a portion of the year, nor
that Mary, in her condition, could have taken this journey in

The 1th day of August, b.c. 6 (a.u.c. 747), is the nearest approach
we can make to the date of the bikth of Jesus. Within a fort-
night of that day this great event most probably

Jesus born pro- occurre d.

B c q In reaching this date I have used the most

direct and most trustworthy mode of calculation,
and yet find only a probable conclusion, after having read an im-
mense amount of matter on this question. It is annoying to see
learned men use the same apparatus of calculation and reach the
most diverse results.* It is bewildering to attempt a reconcilia-
tion of these varying calculations. It may be proper to consider
the other data used in these calculations, and give the reader the
benefit of the latest investigations.
It is recorded in Matthew ii. 1-10:

" Now when Jesus was bom in Bethlehem of Juclea in the days of Herod the

king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where

is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his

proximation s * ar m * ne eas *> an °l are come t° worship him. When He-

rod the king had heard tliese tilings, he was troubled, and
all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and
scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be
born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea : for thus it is written
by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least
among the princes of Juda : for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall
rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise
men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent
them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child ;
and when ye have found Mm, bring me word again, that I may come and
worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed ; and, lo,
the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood
over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with
exceeding great joy."

* For example : the birth of our Lord
is placed in B. c. 1 by Pearson and Hug;
R.C. 2 by Scaliger ; B.C; 3 by Baronius

and Greswell; B.C. 5 by Usher and Pe-
tavius; B.C. fi by Strong, Luvin, and
Clark; B.C. 7 by Ideler and Sancle-

and Paul us; B.C. 4 by Bengel, Wieseler, | mente.



" The data in this passage furnish little help towards precision,

but do fix the exterior limit of the Nativity. We learn from it

that Christ was born before the death of Ile-

7 jttjj'j j- j.t i Date of Herod'a

rod; and Herod died, according to Josephus , ,

{Ant. xvii. 8, § 1), 'having reigned thirty-four
years from the time that he had procured Antigonus to be slain ;
but thirty-seven from the time he had been declared king by the
Romans ' (see also B. J. i. 33, § 8). His appointment as king,
according to the same writer (Ant. xiv. 14, § 5), coincides with
the 184th Olympiad, and the consulship of C. Domitius Calvinus
and C. Asinius Pollio. It appears that he was made king by the

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 3 of 77)