Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

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knew that the doctors Ilillel and Ciama-
liel were reputed of the race of David,

and Dr. Strauss' s reference to Luke
xviii. brings up a passage in which a
blind beggar by the way -side salutes Je-
sus as the " son of David," no one of
the multitude present objecting, shew-
ing that Jesus was publicly and notori-
ously recognized as of that race and

It is to be noticed how unreliable are
the quotations and references of those
who attack the Evangelists. A great par-
ade is made in footnotes and parentheses.
They look like authority. The shrewd
writers knew that not one in a thousand
of their readers will consult the passages
referred to. Take this instance: M.
Ilenan positively names the place of the
birth of Jesus, and then in a foot-note
quotes three distinct ancient authors,
and gives chapter and verse. That looks
like settling the question. Butane\a;n-
ination shows that not one of these au-
thors alludes in these places to the sub-
ject, and one of them, who knew Jesus
personally, positively affirms that he vraa
burn in another plaoe/

* .Mary appears to havo been the
mother of several children, sons and
daughters, younger than Jesus. Foui
sons are named, and daughters are al-
luded to in Matthew xiii. 55, and Mark
vi. ;;.



were shepherds watching their flocks in one of the pasture grounds,
which may still be seen near Bethlehem.* To them appeared

. . >ffi, ifc a; ft fo jift r.41 111* E.'CTW


a vision, and they believed that God told them not to fear, that

there was born that day, in the city of David,

ep cr ) j eg w | 10 wag t ] lc A no j n i;ed Lord, the Messiah.

angels. ' '

That they might be assured, it was told them that

they should find him in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger,
one of those exterior stalls usually attached to caravanserais. Im-
mediately there burst upon the ears of the shepherds a chorus
sung by multitudes of voices, saying, " Glory to God in the highest,
on earth peace, good will to men."

If it be inquired how this statement came into history, the
answer is, that it is probable that Luke, when he came to writing
the biography of his Master, ma le diligent search "for all he
could find of the earl}' life of Jesus, and in that search received
from the lips of one of the shepherds his simple account of the
transaction. This sounds like the narrative of an eye-witness.
It may not have literal accuracy, but it has been noticed how re-
markably free it is from all materialism, how very pure and ele-
vated is the statement of the transaction. It occurred as any well-
balanced mind might reasonably suppose it would, if the Great
father ever made any such communication to men.

The shepherds went to Bethlehem and found the place, the
mother and the babe. Then they made known what they had
heard in the plain, and returned rejoicing.

* About a mile east of Bethlehem I lage of the Shepherds,
there is a little village called the Vil- J


Luke asserts that Mary's child was circumcised, according to

the Levitical law, on the eighth day, and received

.1 r -t Circumcision of

the name 01 Jesus. t


The Mosaic law required the presentation to the
Lord of every first-born male, but allowed children to be redeemed
from exclusive devotion to religious pursuits by
the payment of five shekels, which is about thirty . u ,
American gold dollars. See Levit. xii. 24 ; Num-
bers xviii. 15, 16. At the same time the parents were to offer a
sacrifice of a pair of turtle-doves or young pigeons. (Leviticus
xii. 8.) In this service consisted the legal purification of the
mother. The rich offered a lamb; the poor gave pigeons. Mary
had only doves to bring.

If this history had been written by an impostor he would have
given a different turn to the story. These sacrifices imply sin.
If Jesus be that Holy One from the birth, why were these offer-
ings made? The straightforwardness of the story gives a gen-
eral air of truthfulness to the whole narrative. There is no myth
here. Mythical narratives elevate. This depresses. It places
Jesus in the race of sinners. A writer of myths, as Neander
suirirests, would have brought in an angel to hinder Mary from
submitting her child to a ceremony so unworthy his dignity.

But here there appears strikingly that mingling of humiliation

and glory which marks all the main passages of the life of Jesus.

Amid the general spiritual declension of the

x . ■ . , , ,.,,, , , , Simeon and Anna.

Jews there existed a little band, not perhaps con-

nociated so as to be called a society, but well known to one
another, of those who made careful culture of the spiritual life,
and who were waiting for some special revelation of mercy from
Almighty God. Among these w r ere two aged people, named
Simeon and Anna, who looked earnestly for the coming of the
Consoler of Israel. Simeon had received what be believed a
divine intimation that he should not die before he had semi Je-
hovah's Anointed. Moved by special spiritual impulse lie came;
into the temple the very day of Mary's purification, which was forty
days alter the circumcision of the child. There was something
in the babe which responded to the cry of the soul of Simeon.
In him he recognized the long-looked lor Redeemer, ami taking
the child in his arms he broke into that rapture which the ( Ihris-
tian ( Jhurch has preserved under the aame of the Nunc I '< littia :



" Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy
word : for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before
the face of all the peoples ; a light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of
Thy people Israel." (Luke ii. 29-32.)

Although Jesus never recognized Joseph as his father, Luke
speaks of Joseph and Mary together as the parents of Jesus, as
they naturally would generally be taken to be, and says that this
display of rapture, upon the part of Simeon, caused Joseph and
Mary to marvel. Although Mary knew of Jesus's miraculous
birth, each new wonder would impress her with fresh awe. Per-
ceiving this, Simeon said to Mary, " Behold, this is set for the
fall and rising again of many in Israel ; and for a sign to be
spoken against ; and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul
also, that out of many hearts evil thoughts may be revealed."

In the words of Simeon we discover a feeling very much in
advance of the general state of the Jewish mind. They display
a softness, a hopefulness, and a liberality to which the hard Jew-
ish heart of his day was generally a stranger. It contains the
idea of development through struggle, a spread beyond the limits
of Judaism, and a final triumph, which, while it should break up
the exclusiveness of that ancient faith, should bestow upon it a
greater glory than any of its anterior traditions.

There was also one Anna, " a prophetess," daughter of Pha
nuel, of the tribe of Asher. In early womanhood she had mar
ried. After seven years her husband died. She had been more
than fifty years a widow, and had devoted herself to the tem-
ple-service, not departing from the house of God, whom she
served night and day with fasting and prayers. Coming in at
this moment she joined Simeon's thanksgiving, and reported the
case "to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." *

* Schieiermacher's conjecture that the i minutely described than Simeon, while
narrative came indirectly from Anna Simeon's words are reported and her's
Beems plausible, seeing that she is more | are not.



In the course of tlie year following the birth of Jesus, there
arrived in Jerusalem a company of men described as the "Wise
men from the East." (Matt. ii. 1.) Who were they ?

Matthew calls them /xdyoi. By this name Magi the Greeks
denoted the priests of Persia, just as we now speak of the Brah-
mins of India. The Magi may have been a tribe,

as Herodotus says thev were. To them among , , a ","".'
T , . J . " - . . T & of the Magi.

the Persians, as to the Levites among the Jews,

were intrusted all the public matters of religion. Their chiefs
educated the prince ; they were royal counsellors and judges; they
kept sacred traditions, and were thought to be able in various ways
to divine the future, especially by watching the stars and by in-
terpreting dreams.

In the Roman Empire their name was generally assumed by
magicians. The bad character of this class is clear from a decree
of the Senate, which banished them from Pome in the year L6.
Matthew used the term in its original, in its national and honor-
able sense. This is certain from Herod's honorable treatment of
these Magi. For in the whole world there were only two classes
of men who would have been at all sab- in coining to the capital
of so jealous and bloody a tyrant with the question, " Where is ho
that is born King of the Jews?" even though, as was the case with
these Magi, they were understood to be seeking not for a spiritual,
but for a temporal lord ; these two classes were citizens of Rome
and subjects of the Parthian Kings, ami it would have been well
that even such should have had more than a common claim to
the protection of their governments.

The Parthiana, a small but warlike tribe, had gotten the upper

hand in Persia. They were haughty and fierce, and bo wielded

the military power of that country as to make it drea led even by


(he Romans. Herod's kingdom was exposed to their sudden
inroads, and in his youth he had fled before them from Jerusalem.
Against their anger his dependence even on the Roman power was
no sufficient protection. In Babylonia, which was then a province
of the Parthian Empire, was the city of Ctesiphon, on the river
Tigris, one of several of the Parthian capitals. If these pilgrims
came from Ctesiphon under a safe-conduct from the Parthian
king, or were Magi of his court, Herod would not have dared
to touch a hair of their heads, and would have been driven to
some such policy as that to which he did resort. His treat-
ment of them, especially his calling together the Sanhedrim, a
body of men who in their sacerdotal and learned character much
resembled them, proves that these Magi were men of very high
rank, though they were not kings, as they were commonly held to
be in the Middle Ages. This tradition seems to have grown very
naturally out of their reception at Herod's court ; and it was
probably right in making them three in number, for this seems
to be indicated by their presents to the infant Jesus.

These Magi are described in our version as from " the East,"
and it is said they were in the East when they saw the Star. In
the original the Greek word is the same in both places, but with
such a difference in its form as would make the difference made in
English by prefixing to the former the word far, which thus means
the Far East. In some of the later Books of Hebrew Scripture
Babylonia is called the East, and Persia lies next beyond it and in
the same line. History, geography, and Hebrew usage leave no
reasonable doubt that these strangers were Persians, and saw the
Star in Babylonia, then a Persian province.

Zoroaster, the famous Persian teacher of religion, who may have
lived as far back as 1500 years before Christ, or not far from the
time of Moses, was no idolater, and in the Bible the Persians are
not classed with the heathen. Cyrus, the founder of the Persian
Empire, was predicted by Isaiah (xliv. 24 ; xlv. 1-6) ; by him the
Temple of God in Jerusalem, which had been burned by the king
of Babylon, was ordered to be rebuilt ; and in his proclamation to
that effect (Neh. i. 1-2) he acknowledges the God of the Persians
and of the Hebrews to be the same Lord God of Heaven. Daniel
was high in honor with this king ; and the Magi had an idea of a
Sosiosh, or Redeemer, to come, that in certain respects was strik-
ingly like his. From the time of Cyrus there were ever many



Jews in ilie Persian or Parthian country, and many things per
taining to the Hebrew religion must have been well known to
some of the Magi.

But how did they come by their idea of the Star ? It was the
universal belief of their times that the stars controlled the fates
of men. The science that professed to look into their influences
was called Astrology, and the Magi were astrologers. An ancient
prophet, who was of the East, and who was not a Jew, had foretold
a Jewish Messiah in the remarkable prediction, " There shall come
a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel "
(Numb. xxiv. 17), words then understood as foretelling that a new
star would shine at his birth. In all Syria there was in their time
an expectation that this personage would soon appear, which must
have been common also to the Jews in the East and in the
Far East. Within that very century, this belief, as Suetonius
and Tacitus* state, had much to do with the uprising of
the Jews against the Romans, in which Jerusalem perished.
That which is further required to explain why they were so
sure they saw the Star of the King of the Jews is furnished by
a discovery of Kepler. He traced back the orbits of the
planets, and found that near the time of the birth of Jesus cer-
tain of the planets were in positions of great import in astrology ;
Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction; that is, were very close:
to each other, and were in such a place in the zodiac that the like
happens but once in S00 years; and there were other astrological
signs, all giving the idea that some great event was to come to
pass in Judaea, as Kepler says, " according to the rules of Chaldean
art as existing even till his own time." The new star therefore
seemed to them the Star of the King of the Jews; and it serins
providential that Kepler enables us to see how the Magi came
scientifically to this opinion, for the silence of the Bible as to any-
thing supernatural in this proves it was not revealed to them.

The conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn occurred twice, in the
Spring and in the autumn of the same year, and some have thought
the Magi saw the earlier one when they were in the East, the later
one when they left Jerusalem, and that it was in the direction of

* Sn< /o/iiu.i Rays : " Percrelmerat Ori-
ent* toto vetiu tt oonatant opinio, ease
in futis, ut eo tempore Jodsea pxofeoti

rerum potirciitur." TadtilMBAJB'. " 1'lu-

ribus persuasio inerat, antdqnis
dotum Liberia, oontineri, ipso tempore
Core ut valeaoerel I >rien •. profectique
Judaea rerum potixentur."



Herod and the

Bethlehem, and so acted as a guide to them. But it is neither
manly nor honest thus to evade the astronomical difficulties of
their guidance hy the star. It does not suit the words of Mat-
thew, who says it was a star, and that it went hefore them ; and
the latest astronomical researches, while they prove the accuracy
of Kepler's discovery, prove that this conjunction was not in such
a direction from Jerusalem that it could in any way have been
a guide to Bethlehem.*

Upon arriving in Jerusalem the Magi seem to have gone at once
to the king's palace. At any rate, Herod learned that they were
present in the city, and ascertained the object of
their coming. "With his usual craftiness he called
together the Sanhedrim to learn where, according
to the sacred books of the Hebrews, the Messiah should be born.
They recited to him the well-known prophecy in Mi call (v. 2)
pointing to Bethlehem. Calling the Magi to him, Herod care-
fully inquired the time at which the remarkable "star" had made
its appearance. Then he directed them to go forthwith to Beth-
lehem and ascertain exactly all the facts in the case and report to
him, pretending that he was equally desirous to pay due deference
to the royal infant.

The Magi resumed their journey, still beholding the luminous
appearance in the heavens, until they reached Bethlehem, where,
of course, in so small a village, they had no difficulty in ascer-
taining the place where the infant Jesus actually was, as the star
indicated somehow the very spot. They worshipped him, and
opened their treasures; and, according to oriental etiquette, pre-
sented him costly gifts — gold and frankincense and myrrh.

* There is not room in a work like
this to enter into details, for the reasons
on which every statement is based and
from which every conclusion is drawn.
Dr. Francis W. Upham's book, "The
Wise Men : Who they were and how
they came to Jerusalem," New York,
1871, is the first successful attempt
that I have seen to clear up this' pil-
grimage. After reading it, I cancelled
what I had before written on the
subject. Besides solving what hereto-
fore has been a mystery, this book gives
new ideas and facts as to the history

of our religion in the early ages of the
world, which are of great value to the
people as well as to scholars, and espe-
cially so in their bearings on the dis-
cussions of these times. I cordially
concur with Dr. Tayler Lewis in saying :
"Whoever reads this book must a<
quire a new interest in the study of
the Scriptures. There is hardly a page
in which we are not startled by some-
thing strikingly original, while at the
same time leaving on the mind an im-
pression of its profound truth."



Flight into Egypt.

That night they dreamed. And in their dreams they were
warned not to return to Herod. They were believers in visions.
They hearkened to this. Instead of going back to Jerusalem
they returned to their own country, by some other way, probably
going south of the Dead Sea.

The night after the departure of the Magi, Joseph dreamed a
dream, in which he saw an angel, who said to him, " Arise, and
take the young child and his mother, and flee
into Egypt, and be thei*e until I bring you word ;
for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." Joseph
obeyed the warning, and conveyed the mother and child to
Egypt. This country was the most convenient refuge for them,
being easy of access, politically disconnected from Judaea, and
inhabited by many Jews, who had been long settled in the

Tradition makes Joseph's route by way of Hebron, Gaza, and
the desert, and there could have been no more direct course.
They still point out at Hebron a spot where the family encamped
for the night. Not far from Heliopolis, on the way towards
Cairo, is the village Metariyeh, where it is said Joseph made his
sojourn while in Egypt, which is probable, because of the many

* Matthew cites this as a fulfilment
of the saying in Hosea xi. 1, "And
called my son out of Egypt." But the
saying in Hosea has, to a modern reader,
no reference to the Mess'iah whatever,
and is not prophetical, but is a mere
statement of a fact in early Jewish his-
tory. The explanation seems to be
that it was the habit of the Hebrew
mind to refer everything to the Messiah,
to make every past event somehow typical
of him, and that Matthew was familiar
with the fact that before the coming
Jesus the Jews believed, from this of
, that the Messiah was to repeat
in his history what had occurred in the
history of his people. With this knowl-
edge Matthew naturally cited this verse
of Hosea.

A similar accommodation occurs in
Matt ii. 18: "In Rama waa there a
voice heard, Rachel weeping for hex

children," etc., quoted from Jeremiah
xxxi. 15, where it was applied to cir-
cumstances connected with the Baby-
lonish captivity. Dean Alford says ;
" We must seek an explanation in the
acknowledged system of prophetic inter-
pretation among the Jews, still extant
in their rabbinical books, and now sanc-
tioned to us by New Testament usage ;
at the same time remembering, for our
caution, how little even now we under-
stand of the full bearing of prophetical
words and acts. None of the expres-
sions of this prophecy must be closely
and literally pressed. The link
nection seems to be Rachel's sepulchre,
which (Gen. XXXV. 19) was ' in the way

tn Bethlehem,' and perhaps from that
circumstance the inhabitants of the
place were called Jur children.''' (Alford'a
Greek Test., in loco.)



Jews who resided at that time in Heliopolis. But there is no
historic certainty in this.

The nearness of Bethlehem to Jerusalem allowed Herod to
inform himself promptly of the movements of the Magi. When
he ascertained that they had eluded him he was
B ti l h lb exceedingly angry, and sent and slew all the male
children in Bethlehem " from two years old and
under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired
of the Wise Men."

This great crime is consistent with the character of the man
lie had ascended the throne through blood ; in blood he had sus-
tained himself; he had murdered his wife and three sons
through the suspicion of jealousy ; and he had arranged that the
principal men of the Jewish nation should be slaughtered at his
death, that the people might have some occasion to mourn, as lie
foreknew what a joy of relief they would feel at the death of
their tyrant. He was suffering the pain of a horrible and incur-
able disease, loving life yet looking for speedy death. He was
just in the condition to commit this outrage.

That Josephus does not mention this circumstance is nothing
to the purpose. Josephus did not know everything. Josephus
did not tell all he knew. So many and great were the outrageous
crimes committed by Herod that, even if this came to the knowl-
edge of Josephus, it might not have occurred to him to mention it.
It did not specially bear on anything he had in hand, and he had
told enough of Herod's history to depict the character of the wretch
of whom the Emperor Augustus is reported to have said, "Herodis
mallim jwrcus esse quamfilius: " " I would rather be Herod's hog
than Herod's son." There is every probability in the history, and
nothing against it.* And Matthew is as good historical author-
ity as any other ancient writer, and better than Josephus. f He
has a reason for mentioning this circumstance, and he states what

* Unless you say that it is too horri-
ble to be believed : but why ? Herod
murdered his wife Mariamne, and his
three sons, Alexander, Aristobulus, and
Antipater, the latter just before his own
death — perhaps about the time of the
Bethlehem massacre. If he killed his
own family, would he feel any com-
punction at killing some of the children

of the hated inhabitants of an obscure
Jewish village ?

f Lichtenstein suggests that Josephus
would purposely avoid everything that
drew attention to the Messianic hopes
of his people : Lardner that he could
not have mentioned this case without
giving the Christian cause a great ad



consists with the well-known character of the man of whom it is

How man}' children fell we cannot now know. Voltaire, who
was always ready to adopt any calculations which would tend to
throw discredit on the history in the New Testament, supposes,
according to an old Gentile tradition, that the number would he
14,000! nearly three times as many as the largest assigned popula-
tion of Bethlehem. Sepp supposed the number of inhabitants tc
have been about 5,000, and this would make the number of chil-
dren of the specified age to be about ninety. Townsend makes
the number of inhabitants at 2,000 ; the number of slain children
would then be about fifty. Some have said fifteen. No one

Upon the death of Herod Joseph had another dream, in which
he saw an angel who told him to return to his native land with
Mary and the child, as his enemies were now
dead. Joseph obeyed immediately. He seems
to have naturally supposed that David's city was
the place where David's son should be reared,
and so prepared to return to Bethlehem. But upon reaching the
confines of Judaea, he learned that Archclaus had succeeded to
the throne of his father Herod, lie knew that this prince had
inherited his father's cruelty and contempt of holy things, and so
lie was afraid to return to Bethlehem, which was within the ter-
ritories "I' Arehelaus. Joseph having again been warned in a
dream to go to Galilee, which was under the dominion of the
mild Antipas, seems to have made a detour, travelling east of the
Jordan, within the territory of Herod Philip, until he came to be
opposite Galilee, which he entered, and, proceeding to Nazareth,
settled his family in that city. Jesns thus became confounded

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 5 of 77)