The date of Christ's appearance

5. So now, after this necessary introduction to my proposed History of the Church, let me begin my journey with the appearance of our Saviour in the flesh, first calling on God, the Father of the Word, and Jesus Christ Himself of whom I am speaking, our Saviour, the heavenly Word of God, to be my helper and co-worker in producing a truthful record. 

It was the forty-second year of Augustus's reign, and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt,1 when our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, at the time of the first registration, while Quirinius was governor of Syria,2 in accordance with the prophecies about Him, was born in Bethlehem, in Judaea.3 This registration in Quirinius's time is mentioned also by the most famous of Hebrew historians, Flavius Josephus, who gives in addition an account of the Galilean sect which appeared on the scene at the same period, and to which our own Luke refers in the Acts:

After him came the rising of Judas the Galilean at the time of the registration. He persuaded a number of people to revolt under 


1. Augustus's reign is reckoned from the death of Julius in 44 B.C. Antony and Cleopatra died in 30 B.C. Counting these dates as the first year in accordance with 'inclusive reckoning', we arrive in each case at 3 B.C. This is too late for the birth of our Lord, which must have preceded by many months the death of Herod early in 4 B.C. and may well have been in 7 B.C. If it is remembered that Eusebius wrote centuries before the invention of the B.C. - A.D. system, when chronological exactitude was extraordinarily difficult, we shall give him credit for a very near approximation.


2. Luke ii. 2. 3. Matt. ii. I, 5-6.


his leadership; but he too perished, and all his followers were dispersed.1

This statement is supported by the historian referred to above, in Antiquities Book xviii:

Quirinius, a member of the senate who had filled the minor offices and passed through them all to become consul, and in other ways was a man of great distinction, arrived with a few officials in Syria. He had been sent by Caesar to be supreme judge of the nation and to assess the value of their property ... Judas, a Gaulonite from a city called Gamala, took Zadok, a Pharisee, with him and instigated a revolt. They alleged that the valuation would lead to nothing but complete slavery, and summoned the nation to the defence of their freedom. 2

And in the History of the Jewish War, Book 11, he writes this about the same man:

In his 3 time a Galilean named Judas tried to stir the natives to revolt, saying that they would be cowards if they submitted to paying taxes to the Romans, and after serving God accepted human masters. 4

Extinction of the native Jewish dynasty: Herod, the first foreign king

6. At this time Herod became the first foreigner to be king of the Jewish nation, fufilling the words of Moses:

There shall not be wanting a ruler from Judah, Nor a leader sprung from his loins, Until he come for whom it is reserved. 5


1. Acts v. 7: Eusebius has identified this registration (thought to have taken place in A.D. 6-7) with that of Herod's time, which an inscription places in 8 B.C.

2. Antiquities xviii, 1, 4.

3. Coponius, procurator 6-9.

4. Jewish War (Penguin Classics), p.126: Josephus is inconsistent in calling Judas both a Galilean and a Gaulonite; Gamala was east of the Sea of Tiberias.

5. Gen. xlix. 10.


Moses adds that he will be the expectation of the Gentiles. There could be no fulfilment of the prediction as long as they were free to live under rulers of their own race, beginning with Moses himself and continuing to Augustus's reign; in his time the first foreigner, Herod, was entrusted by the Romans with the government of the Jews.1 Josephus informs us that he was an Idumaean on his father's side and an Arab on his mother's; 2 but according to Africanus 3 - and he was no ordinary historian - the best authorities 4 say that Antipater, Herod's father, was son of a certain Herod of Ascalon, one of the 'temple-slaves' of Apollo. This Antipater was taken prisoner by Idumaean bandits when a small child, and remained in their hands because his father was too poor to put down his ransom. He was brought up in their ways and later befriended by Hyrcanus, the Jewish high priest. His son was the Herod of our Saviour's time.

When a man of such antecedents came to be king of the Jews, at the door already, in accordance with the prophecy, was the expectation of the Gentiles, for with him the succession from Moses of Jewish rulers and governors came to an end. Before their captivity and removal to Babylon they were ruled by kings, Saul and David being the first. Before the kings the government was in the hands of rulers known as judges, who came to the fore after Moses and his successor Joshua. After the return from Babylon they maintained continuously an aristocratic and oligarchic constitution, priests being in complete control. This lasted till Pompey, the Roman commander, arrived and besieged Jerusalem with the utmost vigour. He defiled the holy places, going right into the innermost sanctuary of the temple. 5 The man who


1. In 37 B.C. Herod displaced the last native ruler, Antigonus. Augustus was, of course, not yet reigning, but, as we have seen, Eusebius dates his reign from 44 B.C.

2. In Antiquities xiv, 16 we are told that both parents were Idumaean.

3. Julius Africanus, A.D. c. 170-243; see p. 269.

4. See p. 55.

5. 63 B.C.


had continued the succession of his ancestors till that time and was both king and high priest, Aristobulus by name, he dispatched as a prisoner to Rome together with his children. To Hyrcanus, Aristobulus's brother, he transferred the high priesthood, and he made the whole Jewish nation from then on tributary to Rome. As soon as Hyrcanus, the last to whom fell the high-priestly succession, was taken prisoner by the Parthians, 1 Herod, as I have said, was the first foreigner to be entrusted by the Roman senate and the Emperor Augustus with the Jewish nation. It was without question in his time that the advent of Christ occurred; and the expected salvation and calling of the Gentiles followed at once, in accordance with the prophecy.

As soon as the rulers and leaders from Judah - those of Jewish stock - came to an end, not surprisingly the high priesthood, which had passed in regular succession, generation by generation, was plunged into immediate confusion. For this, too, you have a reliable witness in Josephus, who informs us that when entrusted with the kingdom by the Romans Herod no longer appointed high priests of the ancient stock but assigned the office to nonentities, and that a policy similar to Herod's regarding the appointment of priests was adopted by his son Archelaus, and after him by the Romans, when they took over the government of Judaea. The same writer informs us that Herod actually locked up the sacred vestment of the high priest and kept it under his own seal, no longer permitting the high priests to have charge of it. His example was followed by his successor Archelaus, and after him by the Romans. 2

This evidence I have put forward as proof that in the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ another prophecy was fulfilled. It is perfectly clear that in Daniel Scripture specifies the exact number of weeks till the rule of Christ - I have


1. See Jewish War, pp. 41, 55. 

2. Antiquities, various passages.


dealt with the subject elsewhere 1 - and prophesies that after the completion of these weeks the anointing of Jews will be brought to an end.2 There can be no doubt that at the time of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ this prophecy was fulfilled. In order to establish the truth of the date necessary to make these prelminary points.

The alleged discrepancy in the gospels as to Christ's genealogy

7. The genealogy of Christ has been differently recorded for us in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Most people see a discrepancy in this, and through ignorance of the truth each believer has been only too eager to dilate at length on these passages. So I feel justified in reproducing an explanation of the difficulty that has come into my hands. This is to be found in a letter which Africanus, to whom I referred a little while back, wrote to Aristides on the harmony of the gospel genealogies. Having first refuted other people's theories as forced and demonstrably false, he sets out the explanation he had himself received. I will quote his actual words:

The names of the families in Israel were reckoned either by nature or by law; by nature, when there was genuine offspring to succeed; by law, when another man fathered a child in the name of a brother who had died childless. For as no clear hope of being raised from the dead had yet been given, they portrayed the promise of the future with a mortal 'raising up', in order that the name of the deceased might be preserved for all time. 3 These genealogies therefore comprise some who succeeded their actual fathers, and some who were the children of one father but were registered as children of another. Thus the memory of both was preserved - of the real and nominal fathers. Thus neither of the gospels is in error, since they take account of both nature and law. For the two families, descended from Solomon and Nathan respectively, were so interlocked by the


1. Selections from the Prophets.

2. Daniel ix. 25-6.

3. See Matt xxii. 24, where the word for 'raising up' seed is, as here, the same as is used for 'resurrecting'. The passage is quite ruined in the New English Bible.


re-marriage of childless widows 1 and the raising up' of offspring, that the same persons could rightly be regarded at different times as the children of different parents - sometimes the reputed fathers, sometimes the real. Thus both accounts are perfectly true, bringing the line down to Joseph in a manner complex perhaps but certainly accurate. What I am trying to say will become clear if I explain the interrelation of the families. If we reckon the generations from David through Solomon, we find that the third from the end is Matthan, who begot Jacob, Joseph's father; 2 if we follow Luke and reckon from David's son Nathan, the corresponding third from the end is Melchi, Joseph being the son of Heli, Melchi's son. 3 Joseph then being the subject of our study, I have to explain how each appears in the records as his father, Jacob tracing his descent from Solomon and Heli from Nathan. Before that I must explain how these two, Jacob and Heli, were brothers, and before that how their fathers, Matthan and Melchi, members of different families, are stated to have been Joseph's grandfathers. Well now, Matthan and Melchi, successive husbands of the same wife, fathered half-brothers, for the law allows a woman who has been either divorced or widowed to marry again. The wife in question, whose name is given as Estha, first married Matthan the descendant of Solomon, and bore him Jacob; then on the death of Matthan the widow married Melchi, whose line went back to Nathan, and who belonged to the same tribe, though not to the same family, and by him had a son Heli. Thus though the families were different, we shall find that Jacob and Heli had the same mother. When Heli died childless, his brother Jacob took his wife and by her became father of Joseph in the third generation. According to nature Joseph was his son - and according to reason, so that Scripture says, 'Jacob begot Joseph'; but according to law he was Heli's son; for Jacob as a good brother 'raised up' offspring to him. It follows that the genealogy in which he finds a place cannot be invalidated, though Matthew the evangelist in his account says, 'Jacob begot Joseph', whereas Luke says, 'Who was, as people imagined' - note this comment - 'the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Melchi'. 4 It was impossible to express legal descent more


1. The Greek is corrupt: this seems to be what Africanus means.

2. Matt. i. 15-16.

3. Luke iii. 23-4, 31. 

4. It is impossible to say why Africanus omits two generations.


explicitly, and never once from beginning to end did he use the word 'begot' with reference to this type of fatherhood, as he traced the line, in the reverse direction, to 'Adam, the son of God'. 1


This is not dogmatic assertion or mere guesswork: the Saviour's human relations, either in an ostentatious spirit or simply to give information, but in either case telling the truth, have handed down this tradition too. When Idumean bandits swooped on Ascalon, a city in Palestine, along with the other spoil from the temple of Apollo, which was built close to the walls, they carried away captive Antipater, the child of a certain Herod, a temple slave. As the priest was unable to put down the money for his son's ransom, Antipater was brought up in Idumean ways and later befriended by Hyrcanus, the Judean high priest. Sent to Pompey as ambassador for Hyrcanus, he secured from him the freedom of his kingdom - freedom which his brother Aristobulus had filched away. This brought high office to Antipater himself, who was given the title of superintendent of Palestine. When envy of his high office caused him to be treacherously assassinated, he was succeeded by his son Herod, who later was chosen by Antony and Augustus and by decree of the senate to be king of the Jews. His sons were Herod 2 and the other tetrarchs. This information is confirmed by the Greek historians.

But in the archives were still inscribed the Hebrew families and those descended from proselytes, e.g. Achion the Ammonite 3 and Ruth the Moabitess, and the persons of mixed blood who had fled with them from Egypt. 4 So Herod, who had no drop of Israelitish blood in his veins and was stung by the consciousness of his base origin, burnt the registers of their families, thinking that he would appear nobly born if no one else was able by reference to public documents to trace his line back to the patriarchs or proselytes, or to the 'sojourners' of mixed blood. 5 A few careful people had private records of their own, having either remembered the names or recovered them from copies, and took pride in preserving the memory of their aristocratic origin. These included the people mentioned above, known as Desposyni 6 because of their relationship to the Saviour's family. From the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba they passed through the rest of the country, expounding the


1. Luke iii. 38. 

2. Antipas.  

3. Judith v. 5 and xiv. 10.  

4. Ex. xii. 38.

5. Ex. xii. 19.

6. “The Master's People.”


genealogy discussed above, quoting from the books of Chronicles as far as they could trace it. This may or may not be the truth of the matter; but in my opinion and that of every fair-minded person no one else could give a clearer exposition, and we must content ourselves with it even if unconfirmed, as we are not in a position to suggest a better or truer one. In any case the gospel record is true.

Africanus concludes his letter as follows:

Matthan, Solomon's descendant, begot Jacob. On Matthan's death Melchi, Nathan's descendant, begot Heli by the same woman. Thus Heli and Jacob had the same mother. When Heli died childless, Jacob 'raised up' offspring to him, begetting Joseph - by nature his own son, by law Heli's. Thus Joseph was the son of both.

In tracing thus the genealogy of Joseph, Africanus has virtually proved that Mary belonged to the same tribe as her husband, in view of the fact that under the Mosaic law intermarriage between different tribes was forbidden, for the rule is that a woman must wed someone from the same town and the same clan, so that the family inheritance may not be moved from tribe to tribe.1 Let us leave it at that.



1. This paragraph is illogical and inaccurate. The genealogy does nothing to prove that Mary belonged to the same tribe as Joseph; nor does the Mosaic regulation (Num. xxxvi. 8-9) make any mention of towns or clans, or apply to any women except heiresses. If Mary was an heiress, it might be presumed that she belonged to the same tribe (Judah) as Joseph; but could we reconcile her membership of Joseph's tribe with the statements of St Luke that Elisabeth was descended from Aaron (and therefore belonged to the tribe of Levi), and that Mary was her kinswoman?

On the other hand the argument of Africanus must be treated with respect. Joseph's pedigree may not matter to us, but Christians have always been troubled, as he was, by the apparent discrepancy between the two gospel accounts, which seemed to cast doubts on the reliability of one writer or both. Nor is Africanus's solution to be ruled out. He clearly derived his information from relatives of the Holy Family, and it must be remembered that in the Near East family trees were, and still are, most carefully preserved; and that the 'raising up' of offspring to a childless brother must often have occurred.

Those who find the problem interesting will find it admirably discussed in F. W. Farrar's St Luke, Cambridge Bible. The one certainty is that the discrepancy cannot be explained away by the absurd suggestion that one genealogy is that of our Lord's mother.



Herod's plot against the children, and his terrible end

When Christ was born, in accordance with prophecy, at Bethlehem in Judaea at the time already stated, Herod was asked by the magi from the East where they could find the one who was born king of the Jews, for they had seen his star and for that reason had made this long journey in their eagerness to worship as God the child that had been born. Herod was badly shaken by the inquiry, thinking that his throne was in danger. So he consulted the teachers of the Law among the people and asked them where they expected the Christ to he born. When he heard Micah's prophecy foretelling the birth at Bethlehem he issued a single decree ordering the destruction in Bethlehem and all its neighbourhood, of the male infants, of two years and under, in accordance with the time he had found out from the magi, naturally supposing that Jesus would certainly suffer the same fate as those of his own age. However, the plot was forestalled by the removal of the Child to Egypt, as by the appearance of an angel. His parents had learnt in time what was to come. The story may be studied in the sacred gospel record. 1

In this connexion it is worth while to recall the price paid by Herod for his crime against Christ and the other babies. Instantly, without the shortest delay, divine justice overtook him while still alive, giving him a foretaste of what awaited him in the next world. This is not the place to list the ways in which he dimmed the supposed glories of his reign by the successive calamities that befell his house, the revolting murder of wife, children, and all who were bound to him by the closest ties of blood and affection. No tragic drama is as dark as their story, of which Josephus has given a full account in his Histories. 2 How, from the moment of the plot against


1. Matt. ii. i-16.

2. For the murder of Mariamme, Alexander, and Aristobulus see Jewish War, pp. 80-95.


our Saviour and the other helpless infants, a scourge wielded by the hand of God struck Herod and drove him to death, we should do well to hear from the lips of that historian. In Jewish Antiquities Book xvii he describes his terrible end in these words:

Herod's sickness grew steadily worse as God exacted punishment for his iniquities. He was consumed by a slow fire which gave no clear indication to the touch of the burning heat that added so much to his internal miseries. He had an overpowering desire for food, which it was impossible to satisfy, ulceration of the intestines with agonizing pains in the lower bowel, and a clammy transparent humour covering the feet. The abdomen was in the same miserable state, and in the genitals mortification set in, breeding worms. Breathing was constricted and only possible when sitting upright, and it was most offensive because of the heavy stench and feverish respiration. He suffered in every part convulsions that were unbearably severe. Those who practised divination and had the gift of foretelling such things declared that God was exacting a penalty from the king for his continual wickedness. 1

Such is the story as told by Josephus in the Antiquities. In Book11 2 of the Histories he give a very similar account of Herod's last days:

From then on the sickness spread through his entire body, accompanied by a variety of painful symptoms. He had a mild fever, an unbearable itching all over his body, constant pains in the lower bowel, swellings on the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen, and mortification of the genitals, producing worms; as well as difficulty in breathing, especially when lying down, and spasms in all his limbs. The diviners said that his diseases were a punishment. But though he was wrestling with so many disorders he hung on to life, hoped for recovery, and planned his own treatment. He crossed the Jordan and tried the hot baths at Callirrhoe, which empty their water into the Dead Sea - water sweet enough to drink. The doctors there decided to warm up his whole body with hot oil by lowering him into a bathful of it, but he fainted and


1. Antiquities xvii, vi, 5.

2. Book 1 in our texts.


turned up his eyes as if in a faint. 1 The noise of his attendants beating their breasts 2 brought him back to consciousness; but having no further hope of recovery he ordered the distribution of £15. 3 a head to the soldiers, and large gratuities to the officers and to his gentlemen.

By the time he arrived at Jericho on the return journey he was melancholy-mad, and in a virtual challenge to death itself he proceeded to devise a monstrous outrage. He brought together the most eminent men of every village in the whole of Judaea and had them locked up in the Hippodrome. Then he sent for his sister Salome and her husband Alexas and said: 'I know the Jews will greet my death with wild rejoicings; but I can be mourned on other people's account and make sure of a magnificent funeral if you will do as I tell you. These men under guard: as soon as I die, kill them all - let loose the soldiers amongst them; then all Judaea and every family will weep for me willy-nilly....'

Later he was so tormented by lack of food and a racking cough that his sufferings mastered him and he made an effort to anticipate his appointed end. He took an apple and asked for a knife, it being his habit to cut up apples when he ate them; then looking round to make sure there was no one to stop him he raised his hand to stab himself.

Josephus goes on to relate that just before he died Herod gave orders for the execution of yet a third of his lawful sons 4 in addition to the two already executed, and that his life was instantly broken off, to the accompaniment of agonizing pains. 5 Such was the final end of Herod: he paid a just penalty for the children he had put to death in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood in his attempt against our Saviour.

After this an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was staying in Egypt, and ordered him to leave for Judaea with the Child and His mother, informing him that those who


1. In Josephus, 'as if dead'.

2. In Josephus, 'crying aloud'.

3. The rough purchasing power of Josephus's 50 drachmas.

4. Antipater.

5. Jewish War, p. 111.


sought the death of the little Child were dead. The evangelist proceeds:

But hearing that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king, he was afraid to go there; and being warned in a dream, he withdrew into the district of Galilee.1

Pilate's date; high priests at the time of Christ's mission

9. The accession to power of Archelaus after Herod is confirmed by Josephus, who describes how in accordance with the will of Herod his father and the decision of Caesar Augustus he succeeded to the Judaean kingdom; and how after his fall from power ten years later his brothers Philip and the younger Herod, 2 together with Lysanias, continued to rule their tetrarchies. 3

In Antiquities Book xviii, 4 the same writer informs us that in the twelfth year of Tiberius, who had mounted the imperial throne after the fifty-seven-year reign of Augustus, 5 Judaea was entrusted to Pontius Pilate, and that Pilate remained there ten years, 6 almost till Tiberius's death. This clearly proves the forged character of the Memoranda so recently published, blackening our Saviour; 7 at the very start the note of time proves the dishonesty of the forgers. If they are to be believed the crime of the Saviour's Passion must be referred to Tiberius's fourth consulship, i.e. the seventh year of his reign, but at that time it is clear that Pilate was not yet in charge of Judaea, if we may accept the testimony of Josephus, who explicitly declares, in the passage already quoted, that it was in the twelfth year of his reign that Tiberius appointed Pilate procurator of Judaea.


1. Matt. ii. 19-22.

2. Antipas.

3. Jewish War, pp. in, 122, 124, 131.        

4. xviii, ii, 2, and iv, 2.

5. March 44 B.C. to August A.D. 14.

6. A.D. 26-36.

7. Not the extant Acta Pilati but a heathen forgery published c. 311.


10. In their time, when, according to the evangelist, Tiberius Caesar was in the fifteenth year of his reign and Pontius Pilate in the fourth of his governorship, and Herod, Lysanias, and Philip were tetrarchs of the rest of Judaea, 1 our Saviour and Lord, Jesus the Christ of God, beginning His mission at the age of about thirty, 2 came to John's baptism and then and there set to work preaching the gospel. Holy Scripture further tells us that He completed the whole period of His teaching when Annas and Caiaphas were high priest, 3 showing that the years covering their ministry include the whole period of His teaching. Since, then, He began His mission in the high priesthood of Annas and continued till the reign of Caiaphas, the period covered does not stretch to four complete years. For, at that time the ordinances of the Law were already obsolescent and the rule was no longer operative under which the duties of God's service were hereditary and lasted for life; the Roman governors bestowed the high priesthood first on one, then on another, and the office was held for not more than a single year. In fact, Josephus records that after Annas there were four successive high priests, Caiaphas being the last. I quote from the book of Antiquities:

Valerius Gratus, after depriving Ananus 4 of the priesthood, appointed as high priest Ishmael son of Phabi; but a little later he removed him and nominated as high priest Eleazar, son of the high priest Ananus. When a year had gone by he removed him in turn and transferred the high priesthood to Simon son of Camithus. He too remained in office no more than a year: he was succeeded by Joseph, also known as Caiaphas. 5

Thus the whole period of our Saviour's teaching is shown to be actually less than four complete years, four high priests in four years, from Annas to the appointment of Caiaphas,

1. An inaccurate paraphrase of Luke iii. I.

2. Luke iii. 23. It is plain from this sentence and the next but one that Eusebius interpreted the words correctly, as did R.V.

3. Luke iii. 2.

4. Annas.

5. Antiquities xviii, ii, 2.


having held office for a twelve month. Naturally, the gospel narrative named Caiaphas as high priest in the year in which the events of our Saviour's Passion were enacted; it also shows that the period of Christ's teaching harmonizes with the foregoing line of inquiry. 1

Not very long after the start of His preaching our Saviour and Lord called the twelve apostles, to whom alone of all His disciples He gave, as a special privilege, the name of apostles. 2 Furthermore, He appointed seventy others; these, too, He sent out two and two ahead of Him to every town or place to which He Himself intended to come. 3

Evidence regarding John the Baptist and Christ

11. Not long afterwards John the Baptist was beheaded by the younger Herod, as we learn from the inspired gospel narrative. 4 Confirmation comes from Josephus, who mentions Herodias by name and tells how though she was his brother's wife Herod married her, discarding his existing lawful wife - daughter of King Aretas of Petrea - and separating Herodias from her husband, who was still alive. For her sake, too, he put John to death and was involved in war with Aretas, whose daughter he had slighted. The war ended, as Josephus records, with a pitched battle in which Herod's


1. Eusebius's argument is by no means satisfactory. It is, of course, true that Christ's ministry lasted less than four years; few scholars would suggest that it went beyond two and a half. But Eusebius has misrepresented both Josephus, who clearly states that the four successors of Annas held office for eleven years in all, and Luke, who says not that the ministry began in the time of Annas and ended in that of Caiaphas, but that it began when Annas and Caiaphas were the high priest, i.e. when Annas was still high priest in Jewish eyes, the office being held for life, though Caiaphas had as a political expedient been appointed by the Romans to replace him. The situation was exactly the same at the end of our Lord's life, as we see from John xviii. 13-24, where the writer informs us that He was examined by Annas before being sent to Caiaphas, and within the compass of five lines refers to each as the high priest.


2. Matt, xi and Luke vi. 13.

3. Luke x. 1.

4. Mark vi. 14-29.


army was totally destroyed, the direct result of his outrageous treatment of John. The same writer acknowledges that John was a man of unimpeachable virtue, and a baptist, confirming the description of him contained in the gospel narrative. He also records the fact that Herod was deprived of his throne on account of the same woman, with whom he was driven into exile and condemned to live in Vienne, a city in Gaul. 1 The story will be found in Antiquities Book XV111 from which I quote verbatim what he has to say about John:

Some of the Jews believed that Herod's army had been destroyed by God, as a richly deserved punishment for his treatment of John who was called the Baptist. For Herod killed him, a good man who urged the Jews to train themselves in virtue, to be just to each other and pious towards God, and to come together for baptism: on one condition only would their baptism be acceptable to Him - if it was undergone not to escape the penalty of sins but to purify the body, since the soul had been already purged by righteousness. When crowds assembled, very excited on hearing his words, Herod was afraid that his extraordinary hold over the people would lead to some revolt, as they seemed prepared to do anything at his suggestion. So he thought it much better to forestall any revolutionary movement prompted by John by putting him out of the way, rather than wait for an outbreak to occur and reproach himself when it was too late. Because of Herod's suspicion John was sent in chains to Machaerus, the fortress mentioned above, and there executed. 2

After giving this account of John, in the same part of his work he goes on to speak as follows of our Saviour:

At this time appeared Jesus, a very gifted man - if indeed it is right to call him a man; for he was a worker of miracles, a teacher of such men as listened with pleasure to the truth, and he won over many of the Jews and many of Gentile origin as well. This was the Christ; and when at the instigation of our leading men he had been condemned to the cross by Pilate, those who had loved him at the first


1. According to Antiquities xviii, vii, 2, Lyons; according to Jewish War, p. 128, Spain.

2. Antiquities xviii, v, 2.


did not cease to do so; for on the third day he appeared to them alive again, the inspired prophets having foretold this and countless other wonderful things about him. Even now the group of people called Christians after him has not died out. 1

When a historian sprung from the Hebrews themselves has furnished in his own writing an almost contemporary record of John the Baptist and our Saviour too, what excuse is there left for not condemning the shameless dishonesty of those who forged the Memoranda blackening them both? And there we will leave the matter.

Our Saviour's disciples

12. The names of our Saviour's apostles are in the gospels for all to read: of the seventy disciples no list has ever been found. It is stated 2 that one of them was Barnabas, who is mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles, and notably by Paul in writing to the Galatians. 3 Another is said to have been Sosthenes, joint author with Paul of one Epistle to the Corinthians. 4 Then there is Clement's story (Outlines Book v) in which he says that Cephas - of whom Paul writes: 'When Cephas came to Antioch I withstood him to his face' 5 - was one of the seventy disciples, who happened to have the same name as Peter the Apostle. 6  [THAT  IS  SOME  MADE  UP  STORY,  THE  FLOW  OF  GALATIANS  MAKES  IT  EVIDENT  THE  PETER  TALKED  ABOUT  IS  THE  VERY  APOSTLE  PETER - Keith Hunt]. There is evidence also that Matthias, who took Judas's place in the list of apostles, and the other man honoured like him in the drawing of lots, 7 had both been called to be among the seventy. Thaddaeus,


1. Antiquities xviii, ii, 3. In defiance of the unanimous testimony of the MSS., sceptics have asserted that this famous paragraph, at least in its present form, is a Christian forgery. It is, however, defended by more recent critics, e.g. Burkitt, Harnack, and Barnes. The same problem arises with passages in The Jewish War found only in the Slavonic version. See Penguin Classics edition pp. 403-8.

2. See p. 72.

3. Gal. ii. 1, 9, 13.        

4. 1 Cor. i. 1.        

5. Gal. ii. II.

6. An absurd suggestion in view of Gal. ii. 9; no doubt Clement wished to save the face alluded to by Paul.

7. Joseph Barsabbas; Acts i. 23-6.


again, is said to have been one of them; about him a story has come to my notice which I shall very shortly recount.

In addition to the Seventy there were other disciples of the Saviour, as you would find if you considered the matter and accepted the testimony of Paul, who states that after His resurrection from the dead He was seen first by Cephas, then by the Twelve, and after them by more than five hundred brethren at once, of whom some, he says, have fallen asleep, but most remain alive at the time of writing. Next, he says, He was seen by James - one of the reputed brothers of the Lord; then, as if in addition to these there had been, on the pattern of the Twelve, a large number of apostles such as Paul himself, 1 he adds: 'Later He was seen by all the apostles.'

A story about the Prince of Edessa

13. The story about Thaddaeus is as follows: Because of His power to work miracles the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ became in every land the subject of excited talk and attracted a vast number of people in foreign lands very remote from Judaea, who came in the hope of being cured of diseases and disorders of every kind. Thus it happened that when King Abgar, the brilliantly successful monarch of the peoples of Mesopotamia, who was dying from a terrible physical disorder which no human power could heal, heard continual mention of the name of Jesus and unanimous tribute to His miracles, he sent a humble request to Him by a letter-carrier, begging for relief from his disease. Jesus did not immediately accede to his request, but honoured him with a personal letter, promising to send one of His disciples to cure his disease, and at the same time to bring salvation to him


1. An astonishing suggestion. It is plain from all accounts of the Ascension that our Lord's final appearance was to the Eleven; there is no hint of the existence of any other apostles (apart from Matthias) before the time of the missionary journeys, and it is inconceivable that Paul himself should have cheapened the title of which he was so proud.


and all his kin. In a very short time the promise was fulfilled. After His resurrection and ascent into heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, was moved by inspiration to send Thaddaeus, himself in the list of Christ's seventy disciples, 1 to Edessa as preacher and evangelist of the teaching about Christ. Through him every word of our Saviour's promise was fulfilled.

Written evidence of these things is available, taken from the Record Office at Edessa, at that time the royal capital. In the public documents there, embracing early history and also the events of Abgar's time, this record is found preserved from then till now; and the most satisfactory course is to listen to the actual letters, which I have extracted from the archives and translated word for word from the Syriac as follows:




Abgar Uchama the Toparch 2 to Jesus, who has appeared as a gracious saviour in the region of Jerusalem - greeting.

I have heard about you and about the cures you perform without drugs or herbs. If report is true, you make the blind see again and the lame walk about; you cleanse lepers, expel unclean spirits and demons, cure those suffering from chronic and painful diseases, and raise the dead. 3 When I heard all this about you, I concluded that one of two things must be true - either you are God and came down from heaven to do these things, or you are God's Son doing them. Accordingly I am writing to beg you to come to me, whatever the inconvenience, and cure the disorder from which I suffer. I may add that I understand the Jews are treating you with contempt and


1. The only Thaddaeus in the Bible was one of the Twelve, called by Luke 'Judas son of James', and by Matthew and Mark 'Thaddaeus', according to the best MSS., 'Lebbaeus' according to some others.

2. A.D. 13-50.

3. Similar to, but not identical with, the list in Matt. xi. 5 and Luke vii. 2.


desire to injure you: my city is very small, but highly esteemed, adequate for both of us.

[He wrote this letter when the heavenly light had shone on him only a little while. It is desirable also to hear the letter which Jesus sent him by the same letter-carrier. It is only a few lines long, but very impressive. Here it is. 1]


Happy are you who believed in me without having seen me!2 For it is written of me that those who have seen me will not believe in me, and that those who have not seen will believe and live.3 As to your request that I should come to you, I must complete all that I was sent to do here, and on completing it must at once be taken up to the One who sent me. When I have been taken up I will send you one of my disciples to cure your disorder and bring life to you and those with you.

To these letters is subjoined the following in Syriac:

After Jesus was taken up, Judas, also known as Thomas, sent to him as an apostle 4 Thaddaeus, one of the Seventy, who came and stayed with Tobias, son of Tobias. When his arrival was announced [and he had been made conspicuous by the wonders he performed], Abgar was told: 'An apostle has come here from Jesus, as He promised you in His letter.' Then Thaddaeus began in the power of God to cure every disease and weakness, to the astonishment of everyone. When Abgar heard of the magnificent and astonishing


1. The bracketed passages are wanting in some MSS. Possibly they were added by Eusebius to his final edition.

2. See John xx. 29. The whole letter bears a resemblance to that gospel.

3. This sentence is somewhat like Is. vi. 9.

4. The word 'apostle', meaning 'an emissary', is not used in the narrow sense, but simply to denote a person sent by Christ: the Greek word is the noun corresponding to the verb 'send', used in this sentence, in Jesus's reply, and in John passim.


things that he was doing, and especially his cures, he began to suspect that this was the one to whom Jesus referred when He wrote in His letter: 'When I have been taken up I will send you one of my disciples who will cure your disorder.' So summoning Tobias, with whom Thadckeus was staying, he said: 'I understand that a man with unusual powers has arrived and is staying in your house and is working many cures in the name of Jesus.' Tobias answered: 'Yes, sir. A man from foreign parts has arrived and is living with me, and is performing many wonders.' Abgar replied: ‘Bring him to me.’

So Tobias went to Thaddaeus and said to him: 'The Toparch Abgar has summoned me and told me to bring you to him so that you can cure him.' Thaddaeus answered: 'I will present myself, since the power of God has sent me to him.' The next day Tobias got up early and escorted Thaddaeus to Abgar. As he presented himself, with the king's grandees standing there, at the moment of his entry a wonderful vision appeared to Abgar on the face of Thaddaeus. On seeing it Abgar bowed low before the apostle, and astonishment seized all the bystanders; for they had not seen the vision, which appeared to Abgar alone. He questioned Thaddaeus.

'Are you really a disciple of Jesus the Son of God, who said to me, "I will send you one of my disciples who will cure you and give you life"?'

'You wholeheartedly believed in the One who sent me, and for that reason I was sent to you. And again, if you believe in Him, in proportion to your belief shall the prayers of your heart be granted.'

‘I believed in Him so strongly that I wanted to take an army and destroy the Jews who crucified Him, if I had not been prevented by the imperial power of Rome from doing so.’

'Our Lord has fulfilled the will of His Father: after fulfilling it He was taken up to the Father.'

‘I too have believed in Him and in His Father.'

'For that reason I lay my hand on you in His name.'

When he did this, Abgar was instantly cured of the disease and disorder from which he suffered. It surprised Abgar that the very thing he had heard about Jesus had actually happened to him through His disciple Thaddaeus, who had cured him without drugs or herbs - and not only him but also Abdus son of Abdus, who had gout. He too came, and falling at his feet found his prayer answered through the hands of Thaddaeus, and was cured. Many other fellow-citizens of theirs Thaddaeus restored to health, performing many wonders and preaching the word of God.

After this Abgar said: 'It is by the power of God that you, Thaddaeus, do these things; and we ourselves were amazed. But I have a further request to make: explain to me about the coming of Jesus and how it happened, and about His power - by what power did He do the things I have heard about?'

Thaddaeus replied: 'For the time being I shall say nothing; but as I was sent to preach the word, be good enough to assemble all your citizens tomorrow, and I will preach to them and sow in them the word of life - about the coming of Jesus and how it happened; about His mission and the purpose for which His Father sent Him; about His power and His deeds, and the mysteries He spoke in the world, and the power by which He did these things; about His new preaching; about His lowliness and humility, and how He humbled Himself and put aside and made light of His divinity, was crucified and descended into Hades, 1 and rent asunder the partition which had never been rent since time began, and raised the dead; how He descended alone, but ascended with a great multitude to His Father; and how He is seated on the right hand of God the Father with glory in the heavens; and how He will come again with power to judge the living and dead.'

So Abgar instructed his citizens to assemble at daybreak and hear the preaching of Thaddaeus. After that he ordered gold and silver to be given to him. But Thaddaeus refused them and asked, 'If we have left our own property behind, how can we accept other people's?'

All this happened in the year 340. 2


1. It is worthy of note that this phrase should occur in an early Syriac document. The doctrine can be found in a number of N.T. passages, but nowhere in these words, which appear nowhere else at such an early date. They form, of course, a clause of the Apostles' Creed, a much later document produced in the West and never yet adopted by Eastern Christendom.


2. of the Seleucid era - apparently A.D. 30, the probable year of the Ascension.



Here we may leave for the present this valuable document, literally translated from Syriac. 1



1. The authenticity of this circumstantial story presents an interesting problem. It is generally regarded as mere legend, designed to create the belief that Christianity reached Mesopotamia very early indeed. But if, as scholars tell us, there is no other evidence that missionaries arrived there till a century later, there is equally no evidence that they did not. It would, indeed, be surprising if Christianity, which spread over almost the whole Empire with such remarkable rapidity, should have been withheld from an area so near Palestine, and one where a similar dialect was spoken. Let us not forget that while Edessa is only 180 miles from Antioch, the starting-point of all Paul's journeys, Ephesus is 500, Rome over 1,000, and Spain 2,000. Moreover, as Josephus tells us (Jewish War, p. 21), there was close contact between Jerusalem and the Jewish inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia, for whom he wrote the Aramaic original of his book.

It should be noted that the original Syriac, of which we possess a copy, does not say that Jesus wrote the letter, but that He gave a verbal message to Ananias, who wrote it down. In other respects Eusebius's version is more reliable than our text of the Syriac, which has been corrupted by the copyists.