Bookshelf/ Vol.I / Vol. IV. Part VI. Contents. Chapter I. 1. 2. 3. II. 1. 2. 3. III. 1. 2. 3. IV. 1. 2. V. 1. 2. Appendix I. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. II. 1a. 1b. 2a. 2b. 2c. 3. 4. III 1. 2a. 2b.




THE question often and often recurs to my mind; Is there really reason for supposing, as many do, that the Lord’s second coming is not probably very far off: - that coming at the brightness of which, according to the concurrent prophecies of Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John, [2] the Man of Sin, or Antichrist, is to be destroyed and Christ’s own glorious kingdom to supervene?

And, in answer to this question, when I retrace the prophetic evidence on which such expectations have been grounded, it appears to me certainly very strong and consistent. Yet, notwithstanding, I must confess to experiencing the greatest difficulty when I try to realize the fact. In part this may arise from the evident want of sympathy in the feeling on the part of men in general, and even of Christian men: in part to the great differences of opinion among prophetic students, respecting much of that prophetic evidence which to my own judgment appears the strongest of all to the point in question, and most convincing. But, doubtless, yet more the surpassing great and wonderful nature of the event to be expected, excites and strengthens my instinctive skepticism on the matter. “Can it really be the fact,” I say again and again to myself, “that that glorious consummation is probably near at hand, for which the whole creation has been groaning and travailing ever since the fall?” So that the present generation, or the next following, may see it?

But is skepticism reasonable on these accounts? May I not so fall under somewhat of the same condemnation for unbelief with them of whom St. Peter tells us, asking in the latter day, “Where is the promise of his coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were since the beginning of the creation?” [3] It becomes me, surely, well to take heed against this. And, in order to satisfy my mind as to the truth on this great question, and to direct and confirm my faith, as well as that of others who find themselves stumbling at similar doubts and difficulties, I know not what I can do better than what the present Essay proposes: - viz. to turn their thoughts, and my own, to that æra and event in the world’s past history, which beyond all others offers the nearest parallel to that which we look for in the coming future, - I mean the æra and event of Christ’s first coming: and to compare the prophetic evidence which in those earlier times led the Jews very correctly, as well as generally, to suppose it near at hand, with that which leads not a few in our own day to look for Christ’s second coming as now not very far distant; consideration being had of the objections and difficulties, as well as of the evidence, in the one case and in the other. A fairer standard of comparison cannot, I think, be imagined; nor one better fitted to guide the judgment aright, amidst the conflicting opinions of these latter times.


It is to be remembered, then, as a fact notorious in history, and one moreover very remarkable, that expectations of Messiah’s speedy coming and manifestation were wide spread among the Jews, both in Palestine and elsewhere, near about those times when Jesus of Nazareth lived and died, in the reigns of the Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius.

Evidence of this abounds in the contemporary Gospel narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and we must well take heed that our familiarity with it do not cause us to overlook, or to forget, the very remarkable nature of the fact.

Thus about the time of Jesus Christ’s birth, in the 27th year of the sole reign of Augustus, [4] we read of Simeon, that “he was a just man and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel;” [5] the last a well-known Hebraic phrase among the Jews for the Messiah; [6] and of Anna the prophetess, that she spoke of the child Jesus in the temple, “to all those that were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.” [7] Nor as regards the angelic revelation made to Zechariah about a son to be born to him in his old age, who was to be Messiah’s immediate forerunner, or that which was made to the Virgin Mary about Messiah’s own birth into this world, do we find any wonderment expressed in reference to the declared imminence of his coming; whatever wonderment, and in Zachariah’s case unbelief, there might have been respecting other points in the statements of the revealing Angel. The same, pretty much, as regards the shepherds at Bethlehem, when it was told them by the leader of the angelic choir, “Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Messiah the Lord.” And, when the wise men came to Jerusalem shortly after, under some supernatural guidance, to make inquiry after one just born, who was in fact, they affirmed, no other than the great predicted King of the Jews, Messiah, we read that all Jerusalem, both priests and people, was stirred from its depths at the news and the inquiry: not, clearly, as if they considered it a suggestion absurd or incredible; but rather, as may be inferred from the priest’s answer to Herod about the destined place of Messiah’s birth, (and mark hence that it was an actual incarnation of Messiah in true human flesh which they then expected,) because it was one on which the general expectation was intensely alive and excited. - Such was at that time the general state of expectancy, as depicted in the Gospel narratives.

And, passing on with them from this epoch to one some 30 years later, corresponding with the 15th year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, [8] when in the land of Judæa John the Baptist began his public ministry; the fact of the same general expectancy of Messiah’s manifestation at that time, on the part of the Jewish people, is stated or implied in the sacred history just as strikingly. Thus, concerning John, we read how all the people mused in their hearts whether he were the Christ or not; and, moreover, how they sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem expressly to question him on the subject. [9] The same shortly after, in the history of the ministry of Jesus himself. “We have found the Messiah,” said Andrew to Peter, after converse with Jesus [10] And Nathanael, on hearing from him those words of supernatural knowledge about himself, “When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee,” addressed him not as a mere prophet, but as Israel’s Divine expected King of Israel.” [11] After this, and as the wonderful drama of the life of Jesus was advancing, we read again and again of the Jews speculating and asking questions, on the disputed fact of his being the very Messiah. “How long makest thou us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” [12] “And some said, This is the Christ. But others said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? So there was a division among the people because of him.” [13] - And as among the Jews, so too among the Samaritans. “We know that the Messiah cometh,” said the woman of Sychem. And her townsmen’s ready acknowledgement of Jesus shortly after, in that character, showed that the time then present was that at which they were quite pre-disposed to expect his coming. [14]

And this further is to be well observed, especially, because of its being an index, as we shall hereafter see, to the source of the expectation, that it seems to have been always in connection with the introduction on this earth of some kingdom, called the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven, that Messiah was looked for. John the Baptist spoke language that was evidently familiar to the Jewish mind, when he preached that “the kingdom of heaven was at hand:” and it was with the same language that Jesus himself opened his ministry; as also the 70 disciples whom he sent forth to preach in his name. [15] The question was asked him afterwards by the Pharisees, as St. Luke tells us, [16] “when the kingdom of heaven should come.” But this not as respecting an event which in their opinion might be far distant. For we read shortly after, in the same Evangelist, that Jesus Christ spoke a parable in correction of the expectation then generally prevalent, “that the kingdom of God would immediately appear;” [17] that is, appear (as was evidently meant) in the glory of its triumphant establishment.

The expectation of Messiah continued rife and strong among the Jews, after their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth’s claims to the Messiahship, down to the Jewish war, some 30 or 40 years later, and consequent destruction of Jerusalem. It was this evidently which led them so readily to give credence to the pretensions of one and another false Christ that rose up in the interim; [18] this too which armed them in fine with such desperate fanaticism of confidence and courage in their war against the Romans. So Josephus, their national historian, expressly tells us. “What did most encourage them to the war was an oracle, ambiguous indeed, but which was nevertheless found in the sacred books, that about that time some one from their country should obtain the empire of the world. This they understood to belong to themselves, and many of their wise men were mistaken in their judgment of it.” [19] The same fact is mentioned in their notices of the breaking out of the Jewish war by the Roman historian Tacitus and Suetonius. Says the former; “The persuasion was entertained by very many (i.e. of the Jews), that in the ancient books of the priests it was predicted that at that very time the East would prevail, and that some one going forth from Judaea would gain the empire of the world.” [20] Suetonius adds, that “the rumor was an old and abiding one, and that it prevailed throughout the whole East.” [21]

Let me, ere passing onward to trace this expectation to its source, add an illustration of the fact of the expectation from the writings of the greatest of the Roman poets, in the reign of Augustus; - a quarter where, a priori, one might least have expected to find it. I allude to Virgil’s famous 4th Eclogue. It is inscribed, as its title imports, to a Roman nobleman named Pollio, and makes reference to the year of his consulship, B.C. 40, [22] as one marked by the birth of a child of most extraordinary and felicitous destinies. He speaks of him in glowing prophetic stain, as of heavenly origin, and born to be the introducer of the world’s final golden age, so as had long previously been foretold by the Cumæan Sibyl: [23] - a golden age which was to have its dawn and partial beginnings with his childhood, but only to come to its perfectness as he rose into manhood. [24] He goes on to describe how that then would be the reign of universal justice and universal peace; wars rage no longer, the lions and the flocks feed together, and the venomous serpent no more exist: how that the uncultivated earth would then bring forth abundance; human toil be no more needed, and corn and wine and oil grow spontaneously: - moreover, that men would then live life of heroes; heaven and earth be reunited, as in primeval times; and men and gods again mix in intercourse together. [25]

There can be little doubt, I think, that the child intended by Virgil was Marcellus, son to Claudius and Octavia, Augustus’ sister; [26] whose birth occurred in Pollio’s consulship, just after the peace of Brundusium between Augustus and Antony; and who, on marriage, at the age of 18, to Augustus’ daughter Julia, was destined to be Augustus’ successor in the empire; a destiny the realization of which was only prevented by his sudden and premature death shortly afterwards. For we know the high expectations entertained of him by the Roman people; especially from those exquisite lines of funeral eulogy on him, written soon after his death by Virgil, in the 6th Book of the Æneid. [27] And probably the various, and in some points rather difficult, chronological conditions of the Eclogue will be found best satisfied by supposing it to have been composed by Virgil after Marcellus had been adopted by Augustus, and when all those fond expectations were entertained respecting him; the reference to the child’s birth, and to Pollio’s year of consulship, being by a not very uncommon poetic license retrospective. [28] - But, however, this may be, what at present concerns us is the fact of Virgil’s having sung of the destined coming of the world’s golden age within some 20 or 30 years from the date of Pollio’s consulship, as the subject of one of the Cumæan Sibyl’s prophecies, and this in strains singularly similar to those of Isaiah, respecting the blessings of the reign of Messiah. And, as we know that about those times multitudinous verses were widely circulated and read at Rome as the Sibyl’s which were in fact of Eastern, and many of Hebrew, origin, [29] there seems reason in Bishop Lowth’s opinion that it is to such an original that we are to refer this prophecy: and that consequently we may regard it as an echo of the expectation of Messiah, and Messiah’s blessed kingdom, then prevalent in Judæa and the far East; though reproduced by Virgil in Roman form, and with the intermixture of courtly flattery to the family of Augustus.

2. And now then I revert to the question, Whence may we suppose that the Jews’ expectation of Messiah and Messiah’s kingdom about this time came to prevail? - And in a general way it is obvious alike from what we read in the Gospel narratives, and from the agreeing testimonies of Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius, that it arose from prophecies in the Jews’ sacred books; [30] i. e. as compared, of course, with the existing signs of the times. Nor can we well err in chiefly referring it to Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks; that in the same prophet, respecting the four great mundane empires, figured in the quadripartite image seen by Nebuchadnezzar; and further, the more ancient prediction respecting Shiloh’s coming delivered by the patriarch Jacob.

I ought not indeed here wholly to omit notice of the famous tradition, as it is called, of the house of Elias, founded on a typical view of the six days of creation, and seventh of rest, as related in the Book of Genesis: to the effect that the world was to be 2000 years before the law; (the law; and then 2000 under Messiah, prior to the sabbatism of the 7th millennary. [31] For Elias is said to have been a Rabbi, that lived shortly before the time of Jesus Christ. And it is likely that this notion, whether the type were at all really intended or not, may have had a certain influence, when the 2000 years from Abraham were in the Jewish chronology drawing to a close, to increase expectation in the minds of some at least amongst the Jews, on the subject of the probably speedy coming of Messiah. [32]

But doubtless far more influential to this effect, and with better reason, were the three direct inspired prophecies that I have just before particularized.

Thus first, and specially, as to the seventy weeks’ prophecy in Daniel. “Seventy weeks” (or hebdomads) said the angel Gabriel, “are determined upon thy people to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to anoint the most holy.” But measured from that epoch or event? “Know that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, shall be 7 hebdomads and 62 hebdomads: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after 62 hebdomads shall Messiah be cut off, though not for himself . . . And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one hebdomad; and in the midst of the hebdomad (or in the half part, the last half part, of the hebdomad) he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease.”

Now, without entering very particularly into the details of this prophecy, thus much seemed clear enough as to its purport: - that, measured from some notable decree for the Jews’ restoration from Babylon, and Jerusalem’s rebuilding, (and we all know there would elapse respectively unto Messiah’s manifestation and the term of his earthly ministry; these being hebdomads of years apparently, (whether in imitation of Ezekiel’s year-day precedent, [33] or otherwise,) because 70 times 7 days would seem far too small a space of time for all that was predicated as to take place within its range. Accordingly, when the periods of 69 times and 70 times 7, i.e. of 481 or 490 years, measured from Cyrus’ decree for the Jews’ restoration from Babylon (the earliest of all such decrees) , were now about to reach their endings, then, and on this account, learned Jews seem to have begun to think it time for looking and lifting up their heads, in expectancy of Messiah’s manifestation. And, when nothing then happened in Judæa correspondingly, they would naturally measure from Darius’s decree of similar purport to that of Cyrus, but some seventeen or eighteen years later: - and, when disappointment again ensued, then from one or other of the 60 or 70 years still later decrees of the 7th and 20th of Artaxerxes; the former, I doubt not, the decree really intended in the prediction. [34] For it is to be observed that, with all the numeral definiteness of the prophecy, there was yet, from the circumstance of its various possible commencing dates, a considerable range of time within which expectation might doubtingly speculate.

In proof that it was very mainly from calculation of Daniel’s 400 years’ prophetic period that that strong expectancy of Messiah arose among the Jews which was shown at the time spoken of, I might refer to what the Talmud reports, as a tradition of the olden times, that “in Daniel is-delivered to us the end of Messiah,” i.e. as R. Jarchi interprets the phrase, the time when Messiah ought to appear. [35] Yet more this will appear, I think, from the fact that in such historic records as we have of the Jews in times somewhat preceding the earliest possible epoch of the 69 and 70 hebdomads; for example, the Maccabean Books, which carry down that history from about 174 to 135 B.C., no such lively expectation of Messiah’s speedy coming is at all discernible. I pray the reader to run through those books (the First Book of Maccabees more especially, as being the most authentic) with the special object of noting the state of Jewish feeling there indicated on the point referred to. [36] It will be well worth his while to do so. - On the other hand, so soon as 490 years had elapsed from Cyrus’s decree, so soon, as before said, the expectation seems to have begun. We are told by Grotius [37] of a learned Rabbi, named Nehemiah, who lived 50 years before Jesus Christ, or near about the time of the expiration of 490 years calculated from the decree of Cyrus; by whom it was declared that the time fixed by Daniel for Messiah could hardly go beyond 50 years further. [38] And we have seen from the Gospel histories, alike at the birth of Jesus Christ, and to the end of the 30 or 35 years of his subsequent life, how general, strong , and continuous was then the Jews’ expectation of the Messiah; all which period was comprehended, as is evident, between the end of the 490 years, as measured from the 1st of Darius, and that from the 7th of Artaxerxes. - If the same feeling of expectation continued after their rejection of Jesus Christ’s claims to the Messiahship, this might have seemed for a while warranted on the ground of this same prophecy, by measuring from the fourth and latest of the Persian king’s decrees for Jerusalem’s restoration, that of the 20th of Artaxerxes, the same that was signalized by Nehemiah’s return. Nor is it inconsistent with my hypothesis, or to be wondered at, that it should have remained yet later, even down to the Jewish war and destruction of Jerusalem, considering the Jews’ unwillingness to abandon their long fondly cherished hopes of a Messiah, who in his here predicted character of Prince and King would lead them on to triumph and dominion, especially against their Roman oppressors. And this indeed the rather, as the two other prophecies that I have referred to, compared with the signs of the times, might have seemed still to favor such expectancy.

For, as regarded the one, viz. Daniel’s prefigurative image of the four great empires, thus much was clear from it: - that it was whilst under the fourth, or last empire of iron, that the image was to be broken to shivers by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands: itself evidently an emblem of Messiah’s kingdom; and which was thereupon to become a great mountain, and to fill the whole earth. Now who in those times, that was at all acquainted with history, could doubt but that the Roman Empire was the fourth empire; it being that which had taken the supremacy from the Greeks, as the Greeks had taken it from the Persians, and they from the Babylonians; which Babylonians, and their then reigning king, the Angel declared to be the head of gold? And well indeed did the very iron of the symbol suit the Romans, so as it had suited no other conquering people; and, as such, was adopted in a manner by the Roman poets themselves for a national emblem. [39] No doubt the prophetic symbol represented the fourth empire as a ten-divided state, correspondingly with the image’s ten toes of mixed iron and clay, at the time of the stone’s smashing it to pieces. But might not some such division occur any day to the Roman Empire, even though for the present united under Augustus’ rule, from some great internal or external revolution?

And then, further, as to that ancient prediction by Jacob, that “the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh came,” it might well serve to strengthen the expectation. For Shiloh was expounded in the Targum of Onkelos, and by Jonathan Ben Uzziel, [40] and other Rabbis of the age pretty consistently to be the Messiah. And, though it might seem difficult absolutely and precisely to fix the time when the power of the sceptre and the law departed from Judah, yet was it evident that from the time of the domination of Herod and Idumæan, Augustus’ protégé, [41] and during the subsequent encroachments by Roman procurators’ on the independent rule of High Priest and Sanhedrim, there was more and more an approximation to the state so described in Jacob’s prophecy; and consequently a sign that, according to it, Messiah must either have come ere the end of Augustus’ reign, or at that time not be very far off. [42] It is to be observed that the two prophecies last referred to well harmonized together, from the circumstance that it was the fourth or Roman Empire that not other nations’ freedom alone, but also Judah's self-governing power of the sceptre and the law was taken away. And hence indeed that bitter feeling of the Jews against the Romans, which quickened their general interest in the prophecies referred to; and longing for the Messiah, in whom they erroneously expected to find their earthly triumphant chief and avenger.

On the whole so rotted, it appears, was this expectation among the Jews of the first and second centuries, and as derived from their Scripture prophecies, that after rejecting Jesus of Nazareth, and when no one else came that could really support his pretensions to the Messiahship, they fell into two opinions: - either that the Messiah had come, but was concealed, so as we find it stated in the Targum on Mic. 4; or else that the time of his coming had been deferred on account of their sins. Both of these opinions will be found hinted in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho in the second century. [43]

3. But let not the reader think that the Jews were altogether unanimous in this expectancy of a personal Messiah, or this interpretation of the prophecies. Objections and objectors we have reason to suppose there were even then, on various grounds, and with various counterviews, to each and every particular of the above-mentioned prophetic evidence; and difficulties too raised against one and another of the prophetic arguments, such as were hard sometimes to answer.

Thus, first, as regarded Jacob’s prophecy, (for Elias’ tradition would hardly be much insisted on,) besides those Rabbis who affirmed that the sceptre had departed from Judah on Herod the Great’s supersession of the Maccabees and Sanhedrim, it was open to others to argue, and not without much plausibility, that the sceptre had departed from Judah long previously, at the time of the Babylonish captivity, however it might have been restored afterwards: and that the circumstance of no Messiah, in the highest sense of the word, having come previous to that overthrow of its self-government, nor indeed previous to Herod’s supersession of the Sanhedrim, was sufficient to weaken all argument for expecting Messiah’s speedy coming on the establishment of Augustus’ or Tiberious’ dominion over Judæa, drawn from that prophecy by Jacob.

Again, as regarded Daniel’s prefigurative image of the four empires, a question might have been raised whether it was so certain that the fourth empire prefigured was the Roman: seeing that this could hardly but be the same with the fourth empire figured in the vision of the four wild beasts; and that then the fourth empire would seem to be that of the Seleucidæ, if, as many Jews thought, the little horn out of it, that domineered over the ten horns, was a symbol of the blaspheming tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes. [44] In which case all argument for speedy expectation of the Messiah after the establishment of Roman domination over the Jews, drawn from this prophecy, would also be a delusion; and indeed doubt thrown on the Messianic exposition itself of the symbol of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands. Nowhere was learning more cultivated by the Jews of the first century than in the Jewish Alexandrian school. And Philo, the most famous of the Rabbis of that rationalistic school, taught that all such prophecy should be understood allegorically, and a golden age looked for in the general ascendancy of Jewish ideas, and the Jewish religion; independent of the coming of any such heaven-sent personal king and saviour. [45]

Yet again as regarded Daniel’s seventy weeks’ prophecy, various and many may be supposed to have been the objections made by certain of the learned Jews against the exposition generally received among the people at the opening of the Christian æra; especially when urged a little later by the apostles and early disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

A Jewish Scripture literalist might tauntingly have asked for some precedent in the sacred Hebrew Books, where the word Shabua used by itself, and without any genitive of specific measure of time following, was meant of a septenary [or century] of years, or any other than a septenary of days. [46] And, in the confessed want of this, he might have denounced the year-day principle, whereby alone it could be made a prophecy of 490 years from Cyrus, or Artaxerxes, to Messiah: and sought some solution of it as a prophecy of 490 days; whether in Jewish anointed chief’s, like Ezra and Nehemiah, of the distant past; or in the indefinite possibilities of some new Jewish captivity, and new royal decrees for the captivity’s return in the distant future. [47] In which exception against the year value, generally attached to the hebdomads, the Jewish objector might have been joined by some casually intervening Roman philosopher; - “Why but to suit a purpose is the prophecy construed of years, nor days?” [48] - Another, of a different school, might have argued with later Jews [49] for septenaries [or centuries] of Jubilees; so putting off the time for Messiah’s first coming to a future far distant date: and yet another have urged that the prophetic numbers were simply symbolic; the sevenfold multiples of septenaries in Daniel being only meant to signify a sacred but indefinite number. - While Rabbis fresh from the Pharisaist school of Hillel [50] might have protested against all appeal to profane heathen learning, and all the intricate chronological calculations based on it, in order to make out the fulfillment of the prophetic period (even though admitted to be 490 years) as reaching from Artaxerxes’ decree to Tiberius. [51] “Ought not a devout Scripture student entirely unacquainted with the details of profane history, or the vicissitudes of political and ecclesiastical affairs, during the five or six preceding centuries, to be expected to understand Scripture prophecy, in so far as it concerned Messiah in his relations to Israel, equally with the most learned?” [52]

And what as to skeptical critics of the Sadducean school? How might they, before Jesus Christ’s birth, have noted sarcastically the proved failure of calculations of the prophetic period, as made first from Cyrus’ decree, and then from that of Darius, as its commencing epoch; no Messiah have appeared at the end of 490 years, so calculated! Whence an inference as to the folly of all such calculations, whatever the ephemeral popularity of the expositors propounding them; and the anticipated necessity, when calculations from the 7th of Artaxerxes should have been similarly falsified by the event, of a new exposition, reckoning from some later decree, for the silly believers in such comments. Moreover, even after Jesus Christ’s coming, and the fulfillment in him of the prophecy in respect of its chronological period, measured from the 7th Artaxerxes, they might have pointed sneeringly to the differences of the calculations made by Christian writers, in order to suit its application to Jesus of Nazareth; [53] and, with a view to giving greater effect to their sarcasm, have drawn out tables, like our modern Tyson, exhibiting to the eye those multitudinous differences. “Would it not be better, instead of such fanciful and mutually inconsistent calculations, to wait till Elijah come, before urging on the people Messiah’s first coming as imminent or fulfilled? That is, till Elijah the great prophet of Ahab’s time comes in person, as predicted by the prophet Malachi? For as to any such spiritualizing sense as that by which the Christians made the prophecy to have been fulfilled in John the Baptist, as being a man of Elijah’s spirit and character, it was but an explaining away of Scripture, and mere subterfuge.”


So, I say, might the Jewish objectors, one and another, have argued against the more generally received meaning of those prophecies on which the expectancy of Messiah by the Jews of the time of Augustus and Tiberius was mainly founded. And probably, had I lived at that time, the objections would not have been without their influence to deaden my own expectation. - But much more, I suspect, would such skeptical tendency have fixed itself in my mind from the marvelous nature of the fact which I was called to look for; it being nothing less than the incarnation of Jehovah Himself, the ETERNAL SELF-EXISTENT ONE, in the whole history of the world, but in itself astounding, even so as to seem to faith itself all but incredible. - And this the rather because of the total want of thought and interest about it on the part of mankind in general; alike among the rich and poor, the statesmen, merchants, military men, philosophers, in every part of the great Roman Empire, Judæa alone excepted. Mark, for instance, in Rome itself, the metropolis of the empire, the absorption of all that rushing tide of population in the common earthly pursuits and interests of life; alike at the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and afterwards during the whole progress of his eventful life in the Judæan province! Listen to their eager talk about the politics, pleasures, or commerce of the day, the games of the circus, the monthly dole of bread to the citizens, the every-day fresh tales of vice and scandal, the rising or falling of the markets, the news from the frontier camps, whether of victory or disaster; anything, everything, but what was then passing in Judæa. Is it possible, I might then have thought within myself, that in a world so utterly thoughtless, and indifferent to the mighty fact, the Creator God can either be just on the point of becoming incarnate, or else already born into and ministering in it, in fulfillment of the grand work of man’s redemption, as predicted in the old Hebrew prophecies? - Yes! though the groans of all nature without me, and the groans of my own soul within me, in its conscious and sad sense of separation from its Maker, might have been felt as absolutely crying out for the coming of the promised Redeemer, again to reconcile together fallen man and God, yet! do I suspect that skepticism, under all these wrong influences, would have sorely battled against the better feelings of faith at that eventful epoch, and not only have shut my mind against all realizing expectancy of Him prior to His coming, but, even after it, except through a miracle of God’s interposing and enlightening grace, have prevented my recognition of him in the humble form of Jesus of Nazareth.

But, however that might have been, and whatever the indifference of the world in general, and the counter-speculations and many objections of skeptical or philosophizing Jewish Rabbis, yet did the prophecies about Messiah’s first coming in human form have their fulfillment, in respect of the time of that great event, as well as of all else: albeit not so clearly or definitely as absolutely to exclude all controversy, or difference of opinion, on that point. As the sceptre was passing out of the hand of Judah into that of the great fourth or Roman Empire, and as the 490 years of Daniel, measured from the decree of the seventh of Artaxerxes, whereby first the Jewish restored remnant from Babylon was reconstituted into a nation, were advancing near towards their term, - just, I say, at that time Jesus, the true Messiah, was born into our world. And, when the period of 490 years, so calculated, had actually reached its completion, in that self-same month of April, as well as in that self-same year, according to the most authentic historic evidence, [54] Jesus Christ, after about some four years of public ministry, expired on the cross at Golgotha: thereby completing the work of redemption for which he had come into the world; fulfilling, and so abrogating, the types of the Jewish ceremonial law; making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in for all that should believe on him, just as Daniel had predicted he would, everlasting righteousness.

[1] This Paper was drawn up originally, and delivered in the Hanover Square Rooms as a Lecture, at the request of a London Prophetic Association.

[2] Dan. vii. 11-13, 2 Thess. ii. 8, Rev. xix. 11-20.

[3] 2 Peter iii. 4.

[4] Dated from the defeat of Antony at Actium, see Note 2593 below.

[5] Luke ii. 25

[6] So, says Whitby ad loc., the Targum on Isaiah iv. 3.

[7] Luke ii. 38.

[8] Luke iii. 1. He seems in this to have dated from Tiberius’ association in the Empire with Augustus, which was two years before Augustus’ death, and the beginning of Tiberius’ sole reign. See the authorities in my Warburton Lectures, Appendix, p. 458.

[9] Luke iii. 15; John i. 19.

[10] John i. 41.

[11] Ib. 49.

[12] Ib. 24.

[13] Ib. vii. 41, 43: also verse 26.

[14] John iv. 25, 29, 42.

[15] Matt. iii. 2; iv. 17; x. 7, &c.

[16] Luke xvii. 20.

[17] Luke xix. 11.

[18] See Josephus on this point.

[19] [Editor; Again, I have had great difficulty reading Elliott’s reproduction as the Greek lettering is almost unreadable.] Joseph. de Bel. vi. 5. 4. O de eparan autuv malieta pron ton pulemen hn cphsmuv amfebolov dmoiwv en toiv iepoiv eurhmenov grammadin, wv kata tun kairou ekeinon apo tnv cwpav tiv autwn upxei thv ukkamenhv.

[20] Pluribus persuasio inerat untiquis sacerdotum literis contineri eo ipso tempore fore ut valesceret Oriens, profectique Judaea rerum potirentur.” Tacit. Hist. v. 13.

[21] “Percrebuarat Oriente toto vetus et constans opinio esse in fatis ut co tempore Judaea profecti rerum potirentur.” Suet. in Vespas, c. 4.

[22] i.e. 40 years before the vulgar Christian aera. Jesus Christ’s actual birth, as is well known, may be proved to have been 4 years before it.

[23] The poem opens thus: -

                                 Ultima Cumæi venit jam earminis ætas:

                                 Magnus ab integro sæelorum nascitur ordo,

                                 Jam redit et Virgo; redeunt Saturnia regna;

                                 Jam nova progenies coelo demittitur alto,

                                 Tu modo nascenti puero, quo ferres primum

                                 Desinet, ac toto surget gens aurea mundo,

                                     Casta cave Lucina.

[24] . . . ubi jam firmata virum to fecerit ætas.

Hence the poet speaks of the necessity of his own life being prolonged to old age, in order to his participation in the coming golden age, v. 54.

[25]                          Ille Deûm vitam accipiet, divisque videbit

                             Permixtos heroas, et ipse videbitur illis.

[26] So Heyne and other commentators.

[27]                          Si quà fata aspera rumpas

                             Tu Marecellus eris.

[28] Various things predicated of the child’s youth and early manhood might seem sufficiently accordant with certain events in the correspondent part of Augustus’ reign, allowing for the adornment of a poet’s and a courtier’s fancy. The particular Eclogues may have been inserted in the long previously published book of Virgil’s Eclogues, on a new edition of the book.

[29] It is mentioned among the reforming acts of Augustus, on entering upon the office of Pontifex Maximus, B.C. 12, that he caused multitudes of prophetic books to be collected, which were then widely circulated and read at Rome, and excited much vain hope or fear in the minds of the people respecting the coming future; and had most of them burnt, to the number of 2000 volumes; reserving those only which bore the names of some of the Sibyls as their authors. Suetonius in Octav. c. 31.

Now the Sibylline verses then known at Rome had been chiefly collected at Erythræ in Ionia, by order of the Senate, in the year B.C. 83; after the burning of the Capital, and the old books then kept there, in the civil wars of Sylla and Marius. Thus they had almost altogether an Eastern origin. See on this, Prideaux, Part ii. B. 9.

It is observed by Heyne in his Preface to the Eclogue, that we are not to wonder at the similarity of much that we find in it to the sacred Hebrew prophecies; seeing that “in magno illo Sibyllinorum oraculorum numero multa esse debuisse à Syris et Judæis hominibus propagata.”

[30] See the citations, p. 337, suprà.

[31] See the citation from the Gemara in Mede’s Works, B. iv. Ep. 22.

[32] So the ancient Universal History, Vol. x. p. 459, Note 3.

[33] Ezek. iv. 5, 6. See on this my Horæ Apocalypticæ, Vol. iii. p. 268 (5th edition).

[34] The dates of the four decrees were B.C. 530, 510, 457, and 411 respectively.

[35] So the article on Messiah in Kitto’s Biblical Cyclopædia.

[36] 1 Macc. xiv. 41, says that in gratitude to Simon, brother of Judas Maccabeus, they appointed him their governor and High Priest for ever; (i.e. himself and his posterity; Lowth on Zech. vi. 13;) until there should arise a faithful prophet, or till the faithful prophet should arise; meaning the Messias. Lowth.

[37] De Ver. Christ. Rel. v. 14. - “In Jesum tempus (sc. of the 70 weeks) tam bene convenit, at magister Hebræus Hehumias, qui annis quinquaginta cum præcessit, apertè jam tum dexerit non posse ultra cos quinquaginta annos protrabi tempus Messiah a Daniele significatum.” - One cannot but regret with Le Clere that Grotius did not give his authority for this statement. But both his well-known extensive and accurate learning, and the fact of his having made Jewish religious opinions and writings a special subject of investigation, as he himself tells us at the opening of his book i. l, furnish a guarantee to us of its trustworthiness.

[38] It was shortly after this, viz. B.C. 40, that the birth of Octavia’s son Marcellus occurred: to whose youth and riper manhood, as I have before stated, the so-called Sibyl had assigned the world’s coming golden age.

[39] Ataue omnis Latio quæ seervit purpura ferre. So Lucan vii. 228.

[40] Jonathan Ben Uzziel is generally said to have been one of the most distinguished of the eighty disciples of Hillel, and Onkelos another: Hillel himself being grand-father to Gamaliel at whose feet sat Saul of Tarsus. This fixes the date to a short time before Jesus Christ’s birth.

[41] In Kitto’s article on Messiah it is stated that, on Herod the Idumæan setting aside the Maccabees and the Sanhedrim, the Jews were said to have shaved their heads, put on sackcloth, and cried, “Woe to us, because the sceptre is departed from Judah, and a law-giver from between his feet.” - It is added that other later Jews date the fulfillment of that predicted fact not till the time when Vespasian and Titus destroyed Jerusalem.

[42] Let me refer on this point to Mede’s eighth discourse, the subject of which is this prophecy of Jacob.

[43] Whitby remarks on this in the General Preface to his New Testament Commentary.

[44] See the diverse interpretations of this prophecy of Dan. vii in Pole’s Synopals. And compare Dr. S. R. Maitland’s doubts (strange doubts surely) as to the fourth empire figured being the Roman.

[45] See Neander’s Church History (Clark’s Edition), Vol. i. pp. 88, 89, on Philo’s views on this matter; also pp. 78, 79, about Philo generally.

[46] Besides the instances of this chapter of Daniel, on which the question arises, there are some 19 passages in other parts of Scripture where the noun is used either in its singular or other forms, and always in the sense of a hebdomad of days. See the Paper on this point by the Rev. C. J. Elliott, in my Vol. iii. pp. 604 to 608.

[47] So, even now, Drs. Todd and Burgh.

[48] Says Gibbon, in a Note near the conclusion of his fifteenth chapter: - “If the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks had been alleged to a Roman philosopher, would he not have replied in the words of Cicero, ‘Quæ tandem ista auguratio est, annorum potius quàm aut mensium aut dierum?’”

[49] See Pole’s Synopsis on Dan. ix. p. 155.

[50] Hillel is said to have been the grandfather of Gamaliel, at whose feet sate Paul of Tarsus.

[51] See a statement and descussion of all the various opinions and calculations on this point in Pole’s Synopsis, Vol. iii. col. 1537 to 1550.

[52] I have here used the language of the writer of Plain Papers on Prophecy: a volume lately published, on the futurist scheme of prophetic exposition.

[53] See Pole’s Synopsis, ubi suprà

[54] On this let me refer to the notice of the subject in the Appendix to my volume of Warburton Lectures.