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To the pursuit and discovery of truth, fashionable modes of thinking, and the prejudices of hoftile parties, have ever been unfavourable. This remark is fatally exemplified in the history of the Pagans, Jews, and Christians. The Pagans censured the Jews because their sacred rites and national laws were diverse from all people : and the Jews hated the Pagans, whom they very uncharitably pronounced the profane and accurfed out-casts from the divine favour. One grievous consequence of predominant degeneracy, among the heathen tribes, was the loss of primeval tradition ; and then vain imaginations supplied the want of true history. Generations and reigns, multiplied at pleasure, suggested the notion of enormous antiquity. This was the prevailing foible of the gentile empires, about the time when the oracles of history and prophecy ceased among the Hebrews, which was the era, or dawn of alphabetical composition, over the wide domains of paganism : and that foible had become both extrava. gant and epidemical, in the age, when the MedoPersian Empire fell.
WHEN the Alexandrian interpreters set about their version of the Mofaical volumes, the Egyptians had previously claimed, by immemorial prescription, an origin of 36,000 years prior to Cambyses; nay Cicero teports, that they boasted of celestial observations during the lapse of 470,000 years *. Those interpreters, considering their kingdom as one of the oldest
* De Divin. l. 1.
in the world, wished to impart to the Hebrews, whose religion they professed, a small moiety of the reputation derived from antiquity; and in the manner already set forth, enlarged the times prior to Abraham, by the addition of 15 fi&titious centuries. This is one instance of fashionable opinions, in their unhappy influence to mificad the minds of men. Other examples are in reserve.
11. A FORMER hint must here be repeated. Thofe Hellenist Jews, who had been instructed in the religion of Mofes, and with it in the language of Greece, were generally unacquainted with that in which the Pentateuch, and subsequent volumes of the sacred canon, had been composed. They therefore could not discover the frauds of the translators, in amplifying the years of the patriarchal genealogies. Not incongruous with reason or probability is the surmise, that some individuals, at least, of those Helleniss, or that multitudes of their descendants, embraced the gospel. Such proselytes from Judaism to Christianity, doubtless continued as ignorant as before, of the primitive Mofaical chronology ; and to the writings of Moses and the Prophets, as then extant in the Greek tongue, were they referred for the things concerning the character of Christ. Bo it not supposed, that Jesus or his apostles appeared in that age to give the fantion to any one scheme of Chronology. Much more august were the objects of their commission. Besides, the true chronological numbers, entire and unvitiated, were then, as now, estant in the Hebrew Pentateuch, the sole and supreme
standard for computation in every age. The faćt here principally intended is the force of early discipline, and of immemorial prescription, on the minds of individuals, fects, and successive generations.
It remains to consider the hostile spirit of fa&tion, in its baneful tendency to pervert the human judgement.
Of the Christian Fathers a very great majority was better acquainted with the Greek, than the Hebrew Bible, and moft probably the incredulous Jews of Palestine, in the first century of our era. During the "currency of that one century, it may be presumed, the controversy was first broached, concerning the time fore-ordained for the appearance of the Mefliah : and the tradition already mentioned seems to have been common to both parties ;-that the vith millenary of the world was the proper date ; and, by the Greek computation, the then current century was about the center, or intermediate point, of that age, A. M. 5500.
PRESSED with this perplexing difficulty, the Rabbis of that time, who were best acquainted with the Hebrew notations, betook themselves to the study of the original, and first discovered the profane disingenuity of the Alexandrian interpreters. Thus furnished with well-tempered weapons from the Sacred Armory, these Rabbis might, as they very probably did, argue with the Christians, that in perfect harmony with the genuine Chronology of the world, as stated by Moses, 2000 years were then to elapse before the appearance of the Messiah. Both parties misunderstood the SCRIPTURES to which they severally appealed. The Jews erred in deferring
the advent of their Prince, to the end of the vith millenary, and the Christians, in adding 15 nominal centuries to the then age of the world. The natural effect of such remonftrances would have been conviction on both sides. But the Jews continued incredulous, and the Christians falsely charged their antagonists with the facrilegious guilt of mutilating their chronology, to elude the characters of time which defined the advent of the Mefliah.
12. JACKSON, with our other modern patrons of the Greek chronology, refers to certain records, where it is affirmed, that the Jews kept a yearly festival in honour of the old Greek version, and in pious thankfulness for so great a blessing ; but that about A. D. 130, they not only declared it to be full of errors, and forbade the reading of it; but also kept a folemn Fast on the 8th day of Tebeth, in order to curse the memory ofits being then made *.
On the authority of Philo, a contemporary writer, it is but equitable to admit the fact; because it is not rendered doubtful by contradictory evidence; but the assigned reason, favouring so strongly of calumny and of virulence, may justly merit reprobation. Inveterate prejudice steels the heart, so as to obstruct and defeat the operations of sweet humanity, to violate all the regards due to that inviolable, that awful, that sacred thing, TRUTH; and to arm the hand, that organ of skill, power, and mercy, with the bloody weapons of persecution.
• Kennicott, Differt. ii. p. 366.
May it not be presumed, with every signature of truth, that the Jews, yet declared enemies to the doctrine of the cross, convinced that the Alexandrine version of the Pentateuch (from certain sinister motives had been wrested to a partial conformity with the licentious computations of paganism) had detected the gross prejudices of the unprincipled translators, in favour of an incredibly remote antiquity; and, in consequence of a discovery, at once so unexpected and important, employed Aquila to prepare a Greek version less repugnant to the original. That translation was published, and, in process of time, two more by Theodotion and Symmachus, (all within the space of 70 years, ending A. D. 200), in which the genealogical numbers agree in quantity with the Hebrew texts.
“ It is remarkable, that Eusebius Emisenus who flourished about A. D.
340, mentions Symmachus, (and not Aquila or Theodotion), as always putting 100 years Less, in the ancient generations, agreeably to the Hebrew ; so that if the Hebrew chronology was (were] contracted, it was probably done in the interval between Theodotion and Symmachus." The above assertion of Eusebius is given by Montfaucon in his Prelimin. Dissert. p. 54 *.
13. This assertion of Eusebius Emisenus, though approved by Montfaucon and Kennicott, no less merits rejection, than the flander raised by the Christian Fathers against the Jews of the second century, that they mutilated the genealogical notations in their Pen
* Kennicott, ii. 369.