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and slain by stoning. But the most striking admission on the part of the Jewish historian is, that when Pilate, instigated by the principal men among the Jews, had decreed that he who was the Christ should be crucified, those who had loved him from the beginning did not forsake him. He appeared to them alive the third day after his death, as the inspired prophets had foretold. The famous name of Christians taken from him, and the sect, are still in being
Tacitus, in his History, lib. v. cap. 2–9., retails so many crude and contradictory stories relating to the original of Jerusalem, that one cannot but wonder his good sense did not revolt from such absurdities. For instance, he took the African Ethiopians under Cepheus, who are known to have been blacks, for the parents of the Jews, known to have been whites. Whenever he comes nearest to the truth, he gives a disguised version of Josephus. As thus: - "David first cast the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, and called it by his own name. Under our forefather Abraham it was called Solyma. Some say that after that time, Homer mentions it by that name of Solyma. Now the whole time from the warfare under Joshua our general, against the Canaanites, and from that war in which he overcame them and distributed the land
among the Hebrews, this whole time was five hundred and fifteen years.”—Joseph. Antiq. lib. vii. cap. 3. sect. 3.
Alii, Judæorum initia, Solymos, carminibus Homeri celebratam gentem, conditam urbem Hierosolyma nomine suo fecisse. Plurimi auctores consentiunt, orta per Ægyptum tabe, quæ corpora foedaret, Regem Bocchorim, adito Hammonis oraculo, remedium petentem, purgare Regnum et
id genus hominum, ut invisum Deis, alias in terras avehere jussum.”-Tacitus, History of the Jews, lib. v. cap. 2, 3. This latter doctrine is very different from that of Josephus, who truly observes on this occasion, that the gods are not angry at the imperfections of bodies, but at wicked practices. Tacitus represents Moses to have credit given to him, as Duci cælesti. He therefore admits at least a profession on the part of Moses, that he received his laws from God. He relates, that Moses discovered a plentiful vein of water for the Jews. This he probably took from Josephus, who represents the relief as a miracle, Antiq. lib. iii. cap. 1. sect. 7. But if Tacitus suppresses one miracle, he substitutes another: for he states, that six hundred thousand men, to which number the Jews amounted, travelled above two hundred miles in six days, over the deserts of Arabia, and conquered Judea on the seventh.
The Israelites were to be kept separate from the idolatrous nations by circumcision and other ceremonies. This Tacitus represents as esteeming whatever is sacred among the Romans to be profane, and establishing what in other nations is unlawful and impure. The veneration said to have been paid in the Temple to the image of an ass, is refuted by Tacitus himself in the very next section : "
“Igitur nulla simulacra urbibus suis, nedum templis, sinunt.” Again, on occasion of Pompey's entry into the temple, after the conquest of Jerusalem :-“Inde vulgatum, nulla intus De- . um effigie vacuam sedem et inania arcana.” That the ox, worshipped in Egypt for the god Apis, was slain as a victim by the Jews, is a mere random guess, in the spirit of heathenism. He says, they 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
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 seen. 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