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Tacitus directly copies the testimony of Josephus concerning Christ and the Christians, given under the head of Titus. The fidelity, love of truth, and learning of Josephus are every where conspicuous; so that he may safely be trusted as an authority, not only on subjects immediately connected with the Jews, but on the affairs of foreigners.
He is also a very entertaining historian, on subjects not immediately connected with the interests of religion. Of this the History of Herod will furnish an example.
Cassius, on his flight from Rome, obtained possession of Syria, and checked the career of the Parthians, who had made incursions upon it after their victory over Crassus.
As he came back to Tyre, he went up into Judea also, and fell upon Taricheæ. He soon took it, and carried about thirty thousand Jews into captivity. He slew Pitholaus, who succeeded Aristobulus in his seditious practices, and that by the persuasion of Antipater who had great interest with him. Antipater was also in great repute with the Idumeans. Out of that nation he married a woman of high birth among the Arabians, by name Cypras, not Cypris, the Greek name for Venus, as some critics propose to read. By her he had four sons, Phasael, and Herod, afterwards king; Joseph, and Pheroras; and a daughter, named Salome. Hyrcanus the second received the appointment of highpriest from Cæsar. As he was of an inactive temper, Antipater, as procurator of Judea, made his eldest son Phasael governor of Jerusalem, and of the adjoining places, but committed Galilee to his next son Herod, when he was about twentyfive years of age, as he must have been, if Herod's
age be rightly stated as seventy, at his death, fortyfour years afterwards. His courage was soon signalised. Finding that one Hezekias, a captain of banditti, was over-running the neighbouring parts of Syria, he seized and slew him, with a great number of his band. This procured him the affection of the Syrians, who were anxious to be delivered from this scourge. They sang songs to his praise, in their villages and cities, for having procured them peace and security in their possessions. Thus he became known to Sextus Cæsar, a relation of Julius, and was made president of Syria. His brother Phasael grew jealous of all this, and determined to rival Herod's popularity in his own government of Jerusalem. But his emulation took an honourable turn; for he ingratiated himself with the inhabitants, and managed their business judiciously, without abusing his authority. In the mean time, it became known that Antipater had sent money, which he had prevailed on Hyrcanus to furnish, as a present to his imperial friends at Rome from himself. The chief men among the Jews were angry at this, and began to be afraid of Herod's boldness and violence, and its termination in actual tyranny. They went to Hyrcanus, and accused Antipater publicly, reproaching the high-priest for his indifference. They pointed out that Antipater and his sons had already usurped the government, and left nothing but the name of king to Hyrcanus. They cautioned him against wilful blindness, or a time-serving hope of avoiding danger by affected carelessness. Antipater and his offspring, who had been his stewards, were become his masters. Herod had slain Hezekias and his party, and thereby had trangressed the abstain altogether from the flesh of swine ; and gives as a reason, that an animal, subject to the same leprous disease which infected their whole nation, is not deemed proper food. Now it is very unlikely that they should have perpetuated by an ordinance the memorial of an epidemic calamity, which must have rendered them odious to strangers, and subjected them to general scorn.
The Jews had originally but one solemn fast in the year; the day of expiation. The frequent fastings of the modern Pharisees probably led Tacitus to represent them so differently. So unleavened bread was used only at the Passover. He represents it as in general use.
Tacitus seems either not to know, what any Jew or any Christian could have told, or for some reason to dissemble his knowledge, that the seventh day and the seventh year of rest were instituted, to commemorate the rest of the Sabbath, .after six days of creation. It is a most uncandid hypothesis, that the seventh year is devoted to repose, in consequence of their natural propensity to sloth. He seems never to have heard of their jubilee.
The disbelievers in real miracles are often entrapped into suppositions, which involve the belief of false or absurd ones. Suspecting that the sluggishness of the Jews may not sufficiently account for the Sabbatic institution, he gives the opinion of some antiquaries, that it was a ceremony in honour of Saturn. Now it happens, that the Greek and Roman denomination of Saturn's day for the seventh was not of very ancient standing : so that the Jews must, in the days of Moses, or long before, have prophetically anticipated that particular division of the week, before it took place : for it is very unlikely
that they should ever have heard of Saturn, either as a planet or as a god, till they adopted the idolatries of the neighbouring nations. That the sun, moon, or stars exercise any influence over human affairs, was not a Jewish, but a heathen opinion. Neither Jews nor Christians were allowed to meddle with astrology. Tacitus seems to have engaged deeply in it. He acknowledges the antiquity of Moses, and of his Jewish establishment. Many of the heathens were disinclined to own this. But he charges him with corrupt and impure institutions, without specifying them. He also accuses the Jews of nourishing a sullen hatred to the rest of mankind; but Josephus proves, that though his peculiar people, they considered God as the universal father. Tacitus indeed often commends them where they are faulty, and falsifies their merits. Some of the learned consider circumcision as derived from the Egyptians; but we know from the book of Genesis, that it was a token of the covenant. In one passage, Tacitus tells us, that they forget their parents, their brethren, and their children; in another, that their fidelity and kindness to one another are unalterable. How are these contradictions to be reconciled, unless he mean that the interests of the nearest kindred were not to interfere with implicit obedience to the divine command, as in the great instance of Abraham's sacrifice? Entire resignation is indeed the leading principle both of Jewish and Christian piety.
The custom of burying, instead of burning the dead, which Tacitus traces to the Egyptians, prevailed among the Hebrews, as early as the days of Abraham, long before the Israelites went into Egypt.
Tacitus, however, makes ample concessions to the piety of the Jewish nation, in the worship of one God, of infinite power, seen only with the mind's eye, and in the absolute condemnation of all idolatry, and every attempt to give a representation of the Deity, wrought into the human form with perishable materials. On this ground, he says, they refused to introduce the statues of the Cæsars into their temple. These important admissions were to be derived only from Josephus, and it is plain that Tacitus borrowed all that is valuable in his portrait of the Jews from him. Hence also he probably took the fact that there was a vine wrought in gold in the front of their temple. From this, he says, some have inferred, that Bacchus was the object of their adoration. He admits, however, that the Jewish forms of worship have no conformity with the rites of Bacchus. The vine is indeed mentioned by Josephus as a magnificent ornament: but no mention is made either by him, or in any part of the Bible, of what Tacitus asserts, that the Jewish priests were crowned with ivy.
The chorography of Judea comes in naturally in Josephus, before Vespasian's first campaign. Tacitus seems to have formed his short abridgment from it. Both authors mention the richness and fertility of the soil: but Tacitus, not very con. sistently with that quality, says that rain is seldom
His account of Jordan, of its fountains derived from Mount Libanus, of the two lakes it runs through, and of its stoppage by the third, agrees in all points with Josephus. The last of these lakes he vaguely states to resemble a sea. Josephus gives its measurement; 580 furlongs long, 150 broad. Strabo says, that a man could