Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume II/City of God/Book XVIII/Chapter 45
Chapter 45.—That the Jews Ceased to Have Prophets After the Rebuilding of the Temple, and from that Time Until the Birth of Christ Were Afflicted with Continual Adversity, to Prove that the Building of Another Temple Had Been Promised by Prophetic Voices.
The Jewish nation no doubt became worse after it ceased to have prophets, just at the very time when, on the rebuilding of the temple after the captivity in Babylon, it hoped to become better. For so, indeed, did that car
nal people understand what was foretold by Haggai the prophet, saying, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former.” Now, that this is said of the new testament, he showed a little above, where he says, evidently promising Christ, “And I will move all nations, and the desired One shall come to all nations.” In this passage the Septuagint translators giving another sense more suitable to the body than the Head, that is, to the Church than to Christ, have said by prophetic authority, “The things shall come that are chosen of the Lord from all nations,” that is, men, of whom Jesus saith in the Gospel, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” For by such chosen ones of the nations there is built, through the new testament, with living stones, a house of God far more glorious than that temple was which was constructed by king Solomon, and rebuilt after the captivity. For this reason, then, that nation had no prophets from that time, but was afflicted with many plagues by kings of alien race, and by the Romans themselves, lest they should fancy that this prophecy of Haggai was fulfilled by that rebuilding of the temple.
For not long after, on the arrival of Alexander, it was subdued, when, although there was no pillaging, because they dared not resist him, and thus, being very easily subdued, received him peaceably, yet the glory of that house was not so great as it was when under the free power of their own kings. Alexander, indeed, offered up sacrifices in the temple of God, not as a convert to His worship in true piety, but thinking, with impious folly, that He was to be worshipped along with false gods. Then Ptolemy son of Lagus, whom I have already mentioned, after Alexander’s death carried them captive into Egypt. His successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, most benevolently dismissed them; and by him it was brought about, as I have narrated a little before, that we should have the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. Then they were crushed by the wars which are explained in the books of the Maccabees. Afterward they were taken captive by Ptolemy king of Alexandria, who was called Epiphanes. Then Antiochus king of Syria compelled them by many and most grievous evils to worship idols, and filled the temple itself with the sacrilegious superstitions of the Gentiles. Yet their most vigorous leader Judas, who is also called Maccabæus, after beating the generals of Antiochus, cleansed it from all that defilement of idolatry.
But not long after, one Alcimus, although an alien from the sacerdotal tribe, was, through ambition, made pontiff, which was an impious thing. After almost fifty years, during which they never had peace, although they prospered in some affairs, Aristobulus first assumed the diadem among them, and was made both king and pontiff. Before that, indeed, from the time of their return from the Babylonish captivity and the rebuilding of the temple, they had not kings, but generals or principes. Although a king himself may be called a prince, from his principality in governing, and a leader, because he leads the army, but it does not follow that all who are princes and leaders may also be called kings, as that Aristobulus was. He was succeeded by Alexander, also both king and pontiff, who is reported to have reigned over them cruelly. After him his wife Alexandra was queen of the Jews, and from her time downwards more grievous evils pursued them; for this Alexandra’s sons, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, when contending with each other for the kingdom, called in the Roman forces against the nation of Israel. For Hyrcanus asked assistance from them against his brother. At that time Rome had already subdued Africa and Greece, and ruled extensively in other parts of the world also, and yet, as if unable to bear her own weight, had, in a manner, broken herself by her own size. For indeed she had come to grave domestic seditions, and from that to social wars, and by and by to civil wars, and had enfeebled and worn herself out so much, that the changed state of the republic, in which she should be governed by kings, was now imminent. Pompey then, a most illustrious prince of the Roman people, having entered Judea with an army, took the city, threw open the temple, not with the devotion of a suppliant, but with the authority of a conqueror, and went, not reverently, but profanely, into the holy of holies, where it was lawful for none but the pontiff to enter. Having established Hyrcanus in the pontificate, and set Antipater over the subjugated nation as guardian or procurator, as they were then called, he led Aristobulus with him bound. From that time the Jews also began to be Roman tributaries. Afterward Cassius plundered the very temple. Then after a few years it was their desert to have Herod, a king of foreign birth, in whose reign Christ was born. For the time had now come signified by the prophetic Spirit through the mouth of the patriarch Jacob, when he says, “There shall not be lacking a prince out of Judah, nor a teacher from his loins, until He shall come for whom it is reserved; and He is the
expectation of the nations.” There lacked not therefore a Jewish prince of the Jews until that Herod, who was the first king of a foreign race received by them. Therefore it was now the time when He should come for whom that was reserved which is promised in the New Testament, that He should be the expectation of the nations. But it was not possible that the nations should expect He would come, as we see they did, to do judgment in the splendor of power, unless they should first believe in Him when He came to suffer judgment in the humility of patience.
- Hag. ii. 9.
- Hag. ii. 7.
- Matt. xxii. 14.
- Gen. xlix. 10.