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the Lord." Here we are told that the agents in effecting this conversion were Jews of Cyrene and Cyprus ; and Josephus is express in declaring that they were foreign Jews.
The Gospel was preached at Damascus even before the conversion of Paul ; and an honourable mention is made of Ananias as one of its distinguished votaries. This was the city in which the apostle of the Gentiles began his
great commission to convert and reform the pagan world; and the result of his zeal, united with that of his brethren, is stated by Josephus.
“ The people of Damascus were eager to destroy the Jews in that city: and having from suspicion already collected and confined them in the gymnasium, they thought the attempt to put them to death would be very easy. But they dreaded their own wives, all of whom, with few exceptions, were brought under obedience to the Jewish worship. They therefore earnestly endeavoured to conceal their designs from the women: and thus they attacked the Jews, who, as being crowded in a narrow place and without arms, were in one day easily slain to the amount of ten thousand.” Jewish War, book ii. chap. 20, 2.
Christianity, when first offered to the Gentiles, must have been more favourably received by the women than by the men. The female sex had hitherto been cruelly degraded ; and the example of Jesus, and the spirit of his Gospel, had a direct tendency to raise them to their proper level in the scale of society. Besides, the path of the women, when invited to the church of Christ, was not encumbered with the rite of circumcision; which mistaken zeal, for some time, had imposed on the men, as a new
cessary condition to share the blessings of the Gospel. Nor had the female part of the heathen world the same interest with the men, in supporting the pagan religion, as not deriving from its rites the same unbounded indulgences. For these reasons they were less biassed in favour of corruption and error, and more accessible to the evidence and to the purifying influence of the new faith. These observations illustrate the above passage of Josephus, in which it is attested that all the women of Damascus, with few exceptions, were become converts to the Jewish religion. This is an extraordinary and importan fact, as it evinces in the clearest manner the early prevalence of the Gospel, the zeal of its votaries, and the finger of God in its support. We cannot but infer that among such a multitude of women, a great number of the men also had embraced it; though this is a circumstance which Josephus, from his usual brevity, has thought it fit not to mention.
3. “ And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” Dan. ix. 26. This prophecy, and others to the same effect, divided the whole Jewish nation into two parties : those who followed Christ expected, on the authority of Daniel, confirmed and rendered more definite by the predictions of their divine Master, the destruction of the Jewish state : while the other party, among whom ranked the majority of the great men of Judea, rejected the claims of Jesus, and looked for a temporal king and deliverer from the Roman yoke. The words of Josephus are explicit that he was not in the number of the latter, and must consequently rank with the former party. “But what chiefly instigated them to engage in this war was, an ambiguous prophecy found in their sacred writings, that some one of that country would govern the world. The Jews applied this prediction to themselves, and many of their wise men were hence deceived in their judgement. The oracle indeed denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. But it is impossible for men to escape the punishment that is pre-ordained, though they see it beforehand. For the Jews wantonly perverted some, and derided others, of the warnings given them; until the capture of the city, and their own ruin, evinced their madness.” Jewish War, book vi. chap. 5, 6.
To the prediction of Daniel, Josephus seems more immediately to refer, when in the passage hitherto deemed spurious he says that the death and resurrection of Jesus were foretold by the divine prophets ; for Daniel is express in declaring, that the Messiah would be cut off by his own people; and Josephus is equally explicit in asserting, that he was condemned by the great men of Judea. But what authority had he for saying that the oracle predicted the government of Vespasian who was made emperor in Judea ? This is rather implied, than affirmed in direct terms. God who foresaw the end must have appointed the means of accomplishing it; and the means appointed to destroy the Jewish state, was the authority given to Vespasian. Our Lord virtually says the same thing with Josephus: “When ye shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.” Matt. xxiv. 15. By this
is meant the Roman eagle: and if the Jewish prophet foretold that the ensign of the Roman army would be erected in the holy place, he must have comprehended the elevation of him who command
ed that army,
THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL BY EPAPHRODITUS
AND SENECA IN THE COURT OF NERO.
SUETONIUS, in his Life of Domitian, has thus written concerning Epaphroditus, a character hitherto either mistaken or overlooked, though very worthy the attention of ecclesiastical inquirers. “He (Domitian) capitally condemned Epaphroditus his secretary, because he is supposed to have assisted Nero, after the loss of his power, in destroying himself. Finally, F. Clement, his own cousin, but a man of the most despicable inertness, he, on a sudden, and upon very slight suspicion, put to death, though he had as yet hardly laid down the consulship.” Clap. 14, 19.
Dion Cassius speaks more fully of these trans. actions:
“ In the same year Domitian slew, with many others, Clement the consul, though his own cousin, and married to a woman who was also his relation. Against both these was alleged the crime of impiety, in consequence of having eagerly embraced the Jewish institutions. Of these, some were pu to death; others were deprived of their property; b ut Domitilla was only banished to Pandateria.....Epaphroditus, a freed-man of Nero, whom he had before banished, he then slew, under the charge of not having supported Nero." Lib. lxxxvii. 14.