Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book I/Chapter 5
Chapter V.—The Time of his Appearance among Men.
1. And now, after this necessary introduction to our proposed history of the Church, we can enter, so to speak, upon our journey, beginning with the appearance of our Saviour in the flesh. And we invoke God, the Father of the Word, and him, of whom we have been speaking, Jesus Christ himself our Saviour and Lord, the heavenly Word of God, as our aid and fellow-laborer in the narration of the truth.
2. It was in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the death of Antony and Cleopatra, with whom the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt came to an end, that our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, according to the prophecies which had been uttered concerning him. His birth took place during the first census, while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.
3. Flavius Josephus, the most celebrated of Hebrew historians, also mentions this census, which was taken during Cyrenius’ term of office. In the same connection he gives an account of the uprising of the Galileans, which took place at that time, of which also Luke, among our writers, has made mention in the Acts, in the following words: “After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away a multitude after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.”
4. The above-mentioned author, in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities, in agreement with these words, adds the following, which we quote exactly: “Cyrenius, a member of the senate, one who had held other offices and had passed through them all to the consulship, a man also of great dignity in other respects, came to Syria with a small retinue, being sent by Cæsar to be a judge of the nation and to make an assessment of their property.”
5. And after a little he says: “But Judas, a Gaulonite, from a city called Gamala, taking with him Sadduchus, a Pharisee, urged the people to revolt, both of them saying that the taxation meant nothing else than downright slavery, and exhorting the nation to defend their liberty.”
6. And in the second book of his History of the Jewish War, he writes as follows concerning the same man: “At this time a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, persuaded his countrymen to revolt, declaring that they were cowards if they submitted to pay tribute to the Romans, and if they endured, besides God, masters who were mortal.” These things are recorded by Josephus.
- Eusebius here makes the reign of Augustus begin with the death of Julius Cæsar (as Josephus does in chap. 9, §1, below), and he puts the birth of Christ therefore into the year 752 U.C. (2 b.c.), which agrees with Clement of Alexandria’s Strom. I. (who gives the twenty-eighth year after the conquest of Egypt as the birth-year of Christ), with Epiphanius, Hær. LI. 22, and Orosius, Hist. I. 1. Eusebius gives the same date also in his Chron. (ed. Schœne, II. p. 144). Irenæus, III. 25, and Tertullian, Adv. Jud. 8, on the other hand, give the forty-first year of Augustus, 751 U.C. (3 b.c.). But all these dates are certainly too late. The true year of Christ’s birth has always been a matter of dispute. But it must have occurred before the death of Herod, which took place in the spring of 750 U.C. (4 b.c.). The most widely accepted opinion is that Christ was born late in the year 5, or early in the year 4 b.c., though some scholars put the date back as far as 7 b.c. The time of the year is also uncertain, the date commonly accepted in the occident (Dec. 25th) having nothing older than a fourth century tradition in its favor. The date accepted by the Greek Church (Jan. 6th) rests upon a somewhat older tradition, but neither day has any claim to reliability. For a full and excellent discussion of this subject, see the essay of Andrews in his Life of our Lord, pp. 1–22. See, also, Schaff’s Church Hist. I. p. 98 sq.
- Micah v. 2.
- Cf. Luke ii. 2 Quirinius is the original Latin form of the name of which Luke gives the Greek form κυρήνιος or Cyrenius (which is the form given also by Eusebius). The statement of Luke presents a chronological difficulty which has not yet been completely solved. Quirinius we know to have been made governor of Syria in a.d. 6; and under him occurred a census or enrollment mentioned by Josephus, Ant. XVII. 13. 5, and XVIII. 1. 1. This is undoubtedly the same as that referred to in Acts v. 37. But this took place some ten years after the birth of Christ, and cannot therefore be connected with that event. Many explanations have been offered to account for the difficulty, but since the discovery of Zumpt, the problem has been much simplified. He, as also Mommsen, has proved that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria, the first time from b.c. 4 (autumn) to b.c. 1. But as Christ must have been born before the spring of b.c. 4, the governorship of Quirinius is still a little too late. A solution of the question is thus approached, however, though not all the difficulties are yet removed. Upon this question, see especially A. M. Zumpt, Das Geburtsjahr Christi (Leipzig, 1869), and compare Schaff’s Church Hist., I. 121–125, for a condensed but excellent account of the whole matter, and for the literature of the subject.
- Eusebius here identifies the census mentioned by Josephus (Ant. XVIII. 1. 1) and referred to in Acts v. 37, with the one mentioned in Luke ii. 2; but this is an obvious error, as an interval of ten years separated the two. Valesius considers it all one census, and hence regards Eusebius as correct in his statement; but this is very improbable. Jachmann (in Illgen’s Zeitschrift f. hist. Theologie, 1839, II. p. 35 sq.), according to his custom, charges Eusebius with willful deception and perversion of the facts. But such a charge is utterly without warrant. Eusebius, in cases where we can control his statements, can be shown to have been always conscientious. Moreover, in his Chron. (ed. Schoene II. p. 144) he identifies the two censuses in the same way. But his Chronicles were written some years before his History, and he cannot have had any object to deceive in them such as Jachmann assumes that he had in his History. It is plain that Eusebius has simply made a blunder, a thing not at all surprising when we remember how frequent his chronological errors are. He is guilty of an inexcusable piece of carelessness, but nothing worse. It was natural to connect the two censuses mentioned as taking place under the same governor, though a little closer attention to the facts would have shown him the discrepancy in date, which he simply overlooked.
- The New Testament (Textus Rec.) reads λαὸν ἱκανόν, with which Laemmer agrees in his edition of Eusebius. Two mss., followed by Stephanus and Valesius, and by the English and German translators, read λαὸν πολύν. All the other mss., and editors, as well as Rufinus, read λαόν alone.
- Acts v. 37.
- Josephus, Ant. XVIII. 1. 1. Upon Josephus and his works, see below, Bk. III. c. 9.
- Judas the Gaulonite. In Acts v. 37, and in Josephus, B. J. II. 8. 1 (quoted just below), and 17.8, and in Ant. XVIII. 1. 6 and XX. 5. 2, he is called Judas of Galilee. But in the present section Josephus gives the fullest and most accurate account of him. Gaulonitis lay east of the Jordan, opposite Galilee. Judas of Galilee was probably his common designation, given to him either because his revolt took rise in Galilee, or because Galilee was used as a general term for the north country. He was evidently a man of position and great personal influence, and drew vast numbers to his standard, denouncing, in the name of religion, the payment of tribute to Rome and all submission to a foreign yoke. The revolt spread very rapidly, and the whole country was thrown into excitement and disorder; but the Romans proved too strong for him, and he soon perished, and his followers were dispersed, though many of them continued active until the final destruction of the city. The influence of Judas was so great and lasted so long that Josephus (Ant. XVIII. 1. 1 and 6) calls the tendency represented by him the “fourth philosophy of the Jews,” ranking it with Pharisaism, Sadduceeism, and Essenism. The distinguishing characteristic of this “fourth philosophy” or sect was its love of freedom. For an excellent account of Judas and his revolt, see Ewald’s Geshichte des Volkes Israel, V. p. 16 sq.
- Greek, Σ€δδοχον; Rufinus, Sadduchum. He, too, must have been a man of influence and position. Later in the same paragraph he is made by Josephus a joint founder with Judas of the “fourth philosophy,” but in §6 of the same chapter, where the author of it is referred to, Judas alone is mentioned.
- Josephus, B. J. II. 8. 1.