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The Age of Christ at the Crucifixion.

knowledge already acquired, and render us incapable, through scepticism, of making any rapid progress in those things which are yet to be learned. If this proposition be true in general matters, it is indeed more obviously so in things relating to religion, the more essential parts of which are mere objects of faith; and to endeavour to establish which by the evidence of our senses is highly improper, as tending to place the articles of our belief upon insecure and unstable foundations. They," said Dryden, "who would prove religion by reason, do but weaken the cause which they endeavour to support-it is to take away the pillars from our faith, and prop it with a twig." There are, however, in religion many questions, more particularly as to dates and times, which form fair subjects for investigation, and these have been sifted with all the skill and learning that humanity has ever been able to bring to the task. Upon many of these points the opinion of men has long been made up, and he acts most unwisely who, without proper consideration, or upon slight grounds, endeavours to subvert these received and commonly admitted opinions. Mankind are not apt to distinguish between questions of vital importance and mere matters of speculation, and when a long entertained opinion is suddenly shaken by the ingenious argument or subtle sophistry of an able disputant, they are too ready to conclude, that other matters which have received from them an implicit belief rest upon no better foundations, and may be as easily subverted.

These reflections have been called forth by the recent perusal of a tract, in which attempt is made to prove that the age of Jesus Christ, at the time of the Crucifixion, was not 33 years, as we have been taught to believe; but that in fact our Saviour was 52 years of age at the time he suffered. The author of this pamphlet is stated to be John Bellamy, author of "The New Translation of the Bible from the Hebrew Text;" "The History of all Religions;" "The AntiDeist," &c. The question here agitated is one of those upon which Christians have long been agreed; the common opinion can be traced back (according to the account of Mr. Bellamy) to the fourth century, and has since that time been handed down


from father to son almost without in

quiry; surely then it is not too much to insist, that before any thing, upon which antiquity has thus unquestionably set its seal, and which has acquired strength from the consent of so many generations, is attempted to be overturned, grounds of error, as "clear as proofs in Holy Writ," should be made out, and he who wishes to promulgate a new opinion, should be required to shew the incorrectness of the former one, with an almost mathematical accuracy. Whether Mr. Bellamy has done this or not, let us now proceed to inquire; first premising, that Mr. B. states he has appealed only to the present translation of the Scriptures in support of this argument.

This subject acquires an additional interest and importance from its connexion with the prophecy of the 70 weeks of Daniel, the accomplishment of which forms one of the most convincing proofs of the truth of Christianity and the inspiration of the Sacred writings. The prophecy itself runs thus- Seventy weeks are determined on thy people, and thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off." Daniel ix. 24, 25, 26. Upon the foundation of this prophecy the whole of Mr. Bellamy's theory rests: in support of it he produces, as far as I can collect, seven propositions, each of which will be considered in its turn.

First. He endeavours to establish that Jesus Christ was to appear at the end of 62 weeks from the going forth of the commandment mentioned in the prophecy.

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"Christians and Jews," says Mr. Bellamy, are agreed that the 70 weeks signify 490 years; that is, in the prophetic language of Scripture, a year for a day.' "This being admitted, it

appears that in the prophecy there are three very clear divisions of the


The Age of Christ at the Crucifixion.

70 weeks; viz. seven weeks or 49 years, and 62 weeks or 434 years, and the consequently remaining one week or seven years; the whole commencing" from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem." With regard to the first division, the seven weeks, that is usually considered as the time which was occupied in rebuilding Jerusalem, and perfecting the Jewish constitution ; after the expiration of this term, 62 weeks were to elapse before the appearance of the Messiah; and after these 62 weeks, and as appears from verse 27 in the midst of the last week (that is in three years and a half after the conclusion of the 69 weeks) the Messiah was to be cut off. This then appears plain, that after (49 years and 434 years, i.e.) 483 years from the going forth of the commandment, the Messiah was to appear, and at the expiration of three years and a half from his appearance was to be cut off. In this manner it has been usual to con

sider that the prophecy has been fulfilled; but Mr. Bellamy, in opposition to the plain reading of the original, wishes to displace the divisions of the 70 weeks, and endeavours in this first proposition to shew, that the 62 weeks, which in the original are so evidently and distinctly placed after the seven weeks, should be transposed and reckoned before them. It would naturally be supposed that some shew of argument should be produced in support of this transposition, and that a change so important would not be adopted without grave and serious reasons; but Mr. B. seems to consider such trouble wholly unnecessary, and at once effects it as it were by slight of hand. He performs the trick thus-" Agreeably to the positive declaration of the prophecy, the advent of the Messiah was to take place 434 years from that time, when the commandment went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem; Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be sixty and two weeks."-So far Mr. Bellamy; now it will be evident, upon reference to the prophecy as it stands in the Old Testament, and as previously stated, that the words seven weeks and," which ought to have been inserted immediately before sixty and two weeks (or as it is in the


text, threescore and two weeks), are wholly omitted, and that thereby the sense and letter of the prophecy are made to bend to Mr. Bellamy's forced and erroneous construction. Is this then his manner of proving that the world was in ignorance until he arose *. Is this his mode of appealing to the present translation of the Scriptures? How faithfully he has transcribed their very words, and how honestly he has preserved their purity!

He next proceeds upon the basis of this palpable error, to assign a place for the seven weeks which he had thus dispossessed from their original station. "It follows," he says, "that the second division of the 70 weeks, 7 weeks or 49 years, was to commence when Messiah made his advent, at the expiration of the 62 weeks, or 434 years." Thus, then, in the space of a few short sentences, has Mr. Bellamy altered the whole meaning of the prophecy, and by a stratagem more worthy the hero of a pantomime, than the grave expounder of a passage of Scripture, rendered it subservient to the opinion which he proceeds more fully to detail. The fabrick which he raises upon this disjointed foundation, is evidently the work of the same architect'; the cause is carried on by proofs as convincing and as candid as the artifice by which, in its outset, it is supported; and although we may feel but little doubt as to its issue, let us proceed to examine the other evidence he adduces.

His third point is to make a date for the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, which he does thus. The Jews returned from the Babylonish captivity, A. C. 536, in the first year of the reign of Cyrus, who governed altogether 28 years. Ahasuerus, his successor, reigned seven years; Darius, who succeeded him, 36; and that his successor Artaxerxes reigned 31 years, we have authority in Scripture. Mr. B. adds all these several reigns together, and their sum, 102, being deducted from A. C. 536, the time of the return of the Jews, there remain 434 A.C.; which answering to the length of the 62 weeks, he therefore concludes


I was the commencement of the interval when the commandment went forth to rebuild the city and the wall of Jerusalem; and the end of that period, the time decreed when Christ was to

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The Age of Christ at the Crucifixion.

make his appearance in the world." Why Mr. Bellamy thinks this was such commencement, he does not deign to inform us; and, although I cannot see any reason for concluding it to have been so, I cannot see any for determining that it was not so. The 70 weeks were to commence when the commandment went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem; the simple question therefore is, did such commandment go forth in the 31st of Artaxerxes? To which it may be answered,-Unquestionably it did not. The last commandment granted to the Jews was in the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes, and not in the 31st. (Nehem. ii.) Artaxerxes reigned 40 years, and Mr. B. might with equal justice have chosen the 39th or 40th, as the 31st; for the simple circumstance stated by Nehemiah, that he waited upon the King in the 32d year of his reign, thereby determining that he reigned 31 full years, can never be a sufficient or indeed any ground for concluding that it was in that year the commandment went forth; more especially since it is previously stated that the commandment to assist Nehemiah in rebuilding Jerusalem, was issued in the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes.

Fourth. He now reverts to the seven weeks which he had before treated with so much contumely, and his reasoning upon this head is so evident and conclusive, that I will allow him to explain the matter in his own words: "It must also appear," he says, "that the seven weeks, or 49 years, do not make any part of that period, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild the city; berause it is said, From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks." Need I add one word to the above? The seven weeks do not form any part of the time from the going forth of the commandment, because it is expressly stated that they do. An argument so singular, so novel, and so forcible, will always find its due weight, and upon the strength of its own merits I am content to leave it, a striking instance of Mr. Bellamy's ingenuity.

Fifth. Having thus, as he seems to think, brought the 62 weeks down to our Saviour's birth, and reckoned the


seven weeks as that part of our Saviour's life which passed before his public ministry (which therefore did not commence until he was 49 years of age), he produces a supposition, to account for the delay, and to explain the manner in which he spent the early part of his life; which is, that as Jesus came to fulfil all righteousness, so" it must be allowed that he fulfilled that part of the Mosaic dispensation which commands those who are chosen to officiate in the ministry from 30 years old to 50." Numerous inferences might be drawn from the nature of our Lord's mission, and numerous arguments might be adduced to prove how unnecessary such a service was; but I shall confine myself to one, which I think will render it evident that no such service could by possibility have been performed. The regulations of the service of the Temple are so fully set forth in the books of the Old Testament, that few persons who are at all acquainted with the contents of that Holy Volume, can be ignorant of the manner in which they were conducted. I need, therefore, hardly state that the services of the Temple, not only those of the Ministry, but even the most menial, in fact all the Ecclesiastical duties (except those of the Priesthood) were performed by the Levites, who were set apart "for the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation." Neither," says the inspired writer, "must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the Tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin and die; but the Levites shall do the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation." And if this was so,if the Levites alone were to perform these services, and it was expressly forbidden to the children of Israel even to come nigh to the Tabernacle; then Jesus Christ, whose reputed father was not of the tribe of Levi, could not be chosen to officiate in the ministry,-could not spend 19 years in the preparatory services of the altar; and Mr. Bellamy's fanciful theory is untrue, and in fact impossible.


Sixth. Mr. Bellamy now remembers that there is a passage in St. Luke, which in a very great degree interferes with his speculations, and his next object is to get rid of that. The passage referred to is in Luke iii. 23; after having in the preceding verse described the commencement of St. John's preaching,


The Age of Christ at the Crucifixion.


preaching, in the 15th year of the must appear that had he been but 30 reign of Tiberius Cæsar, and the man- years of age, a remark of this kind ner of the baptism of our Saviour, the would have been absurd." When we Evangelist concludes: "And Jesus consider the occasion of this remark himself began to be about 30 years of (vide John viii. 57), when we bear in Now if Jesus was about 30 age." mind that it was most probably made years of age, in the 15th year of Tibe- by persons who had no other means of rius, how could he be 524 at his cru- judging of the age of our Saviour than cifixion, which took place in the 18th from his personal appearance, and that year of that Prince's reign? Mr. Bel- the life of misery and anxiety which lamy explains it thus. When Augus- the Son of Man led whilst upon earth, tus was advanced in years, and found having seldom "where to lay his himself incapable of taking so active a head," would naturally make a great part in the administration of public impression upon his mortal frame, and affairs as he had formerly done, he as- induce a premature appearance of age; sociated Tiberius within the govern--when we consider also, that the age ment of the empire; and Mr. Bellamy of 50 is here introduced comparatively, contends that the 15th year here menand as between two periods of time, at tioned, has reference to this joint do- an immense distance from one another: minion, and not to the reign of Tibe- and again, that it was not necessary for rius, as usually reckoned from the the Jews to be particular as to the age time when he became sole Emperor. of our Saviour (which is here introIn support of this argument, he pro- duced only by way of argument), but duces authorities from several antient merely to mention a time sufficiently authors, all of whom mention the well- far beyond his real age to prevent the known fact of the admission of Tibe- possibility of contradiction; I say, rius to the government; but there is that when we consider all these things, no occasion to have recourse to them; it is not too much to conclude, that no the absolute impossibility of this sup- argument ought or can be deduced position can be clearly demonstrated from this remark which can at all affrom another source. Pontius Pilate fect the matter in question. was Procurator of Judea for 10 years, and was put out a short time previous to the death of Tiberius, that Emperor having died before Pilate could arrive at Rome, to answer some charges which had been preferred against him for mal-administration. (Joseph. Antiq. l. 18, c. 4. sec. 2.) Tiberius reigned 22 years sole Emperor, and as Pilate was appointed about 10 years before his death, the appointment must have taken place in the 12th year of his reign. Now Scripture gives evidence (Luke iii. 1.) that the commencement of the preaching of John the Baptist, and this 15th year of Tiberius, when St. Luke declares that Jesus began to be about 30 years of age, happened when "Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea;" which renders it very clear that Mr. Bellamy's argument is incorrect; since the 15th year of the sole reign of Tiberius is the only one that can be referred to, as having taken place during the government of Pontius Pilate.

Seventh. From all the above arguments Mr. Bellamy concludes, that when Christ was crucified he was 52 years old; and says, "this is corroborated by the Jews, who said, Thou art not yet 50 years old;' for it

Eighth. The concluding authority which Mr. Bellamy produces in favour of his proposition, is Irenæus, who it seems has declared "that Christ was about 50 years old at his crucifixion." Irenæus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John; he therefore had only the authority of hearsay for what he states: and when the unavoidable inaccuracies which are engendered by that mode of communication are coupled with the looseness and want of exactness which are observable in most of the antient writers; when we remember also that the primitive Christians knew so little of the true time of the birth of Christ, of his baptism, and of his death, that they were generally mistaken several years in every one of those particulars, little notice I think ought to be taken of this casual remark, especially if it be found to be in contradiction (as I shall shortly prove it is) to the more weighty authorities upon the question. But I will put it upon a higher ground, and ask whether Irenæus, who declares what his master may have related that the Apostle said, is to be believed in preference to the written testimony of those Apostles themselves?


The Age of Christ at the Crucifixion.


themselves? And I do contend, that if Jesus Christ was fifty years old at the time of the crucifixion, not only we, but also the Apostles themselves, are in error; or else, that the accounts of the life of Christ, which have been transmitted to us by those Apostles, are awkward and blundering fabrications. That this is so will appear from the following statements. Jesus was born in the reign of Herod, King of Judea (Matt. ii. 1). Very shortly after his birth, the murder of the children of Bethlem took place by order of the same Herod ; it appears from Josephus (Antiq. b. 17, c. 18, s. 1), that a few days before this Herod's death, in a fit of frenzy, he ordered his son Antipater to be slain; and it also appears that the news of Antipater's death, and also of the murder of the children at Bethlehem, was brought to the Roman Court at one time, in fact were confounded as one occurrence; and Antipater was thought to have been slain amongst the young children; which sufficiently proves that both these circumstances happened very nearly at the same time. Herod died in the latter end of the 4710th year of the Julian period, and the death of his son and the murder of the innocents happened a few days before that time; therefore the birth of Christ must have occurred within about a month before Herod's death, certainly in the same year. The crucifixion took place in the 18th year of Tiberius, and in the year of the Julian period 4744. If, then, Christ was born A. P. J. 4710, and was crucified A. P. J. 4744, it fol


Mr. Bellamy has produced in support of this novel opinion, and I hope have sufficiently shown that none of them can be considered to have any weight. I will not say that I am surprised that such an opinion should have been published; since, in an age like the present, in which knowledge is so generally diffused, and in a country like this, wherein the people have a free and unrestricted access to the Holy Scriptures, it cannot appear remarkable that bold and startling theories should be multiplied; more especially at the present time, when many search rather to find objections than to discover truth, and eagerly seize any argument, however slight, that may tend to weaken our faith in long-received opinions. I must, however, confess, that when I found Mr. Bellamy's name to this Tract, and when I looked into it, and saw the display of his Hebrew learning, which he does not refrain from making even upon this occasion, I did expect to have heard arguments more solid, and authorities more convincing. I did not think to have found him commencing with garbled and manufactured extracts from the Holy Volume, and bringing forward illustrations, the falseness of which the knowledge of a school-boy is more than sufficient to detect.

In fine, I expected argument where I have found assertion, and looked for proof where I have discovered palpable and glaring incorrectness. Yours, &c.


J. B.

Jan. 4. lows, that at the time of his death hebook-hunter, the late Rev. John HAT and indefatigable was in his 34th year; which entirely confirms the common opinion, and renders it utterly impossible that the assertion of Irenæus can be the fact, if the account of St. Matthew be correct. Upon this ground, then, I am perfectly willing to leave it, satisfied as I am, that no person will hesitate whether to credit the hearsay of Irenæus, or the testimony of that book which has "God for its author, truth for its matter, and salvation for its end."

I have now, I believe, noticed all the authorities and assertions which

* Cum audisset Augustus inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes Rex Judæorum intra bimatum jussit interfici filium quoque ejus occisum, ait, Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium. Saturnal. 1. 2, c. 4.

Brand, could doubtless have furnished an amusing history of the manner in which his vast collection had been fattened by stall-feeding. He himself was not so fattened. To such a narrative, I could add a mighty pretty supplement, having not only picked up at stalls very cheap books, of which I was in search, but with still greater advantages, many excellent works, of which I had never heard, and probably should never have known at all, but for that mode of discovery. A slight inspection satisfied me of their nature and utility, and a further acquaintance has generally shown that I was right; and frequently that I had even under-rated them in my first hasty estimate. Were 1 to go over my


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