Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book I/Chapter 6

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Chapter VI.—About the Time of Christ, in accordance with Prophecy, the Rulers who had governed the Jewish Nation in Regular Succession from the Days of Antiquity came to an End, and Herod, the First Foreigner, Became King.

1. When Herod,[1] the first ruler of foreign blood, became King, the prophecy of Moses received its fulfillment, according to which there should “not be wanting a prince of Judah, nor a ruler from his loins, until he come for whom it is reserved.”[2] The latter, he also shows, was to be the expectation of the nations.[3]

2. This prediction remained unfulfilled so long as it was permitted them to live under rulers from their own nation, that is, from the time of Moses to the reign of Augustus. Under the latter, Herod, the first foreigner, was given the Kingdom of the Jews by the Romans. As Josephus relates,[4] he was an Idumean[5] on his father’s side and an Arabian on his mother’s. But Africanus,[6] who was also no common writer, says that they who were more accurately informed about him report that he was a son of Antipater, and that the latter was the son of a certain Herod of Ascalon,[7] one of the so-called servants[8] of the temple of Apollo.

3. This Antipater, having been taken a prisoner while a boy by Idumean robbers, lived with them, because his father, being a poor man, was unable to pay a ransom for him. Growing up in their practices he was afterward befriended by Hyrcanus,[9] the high priest of the Jews. A son of his was that Herod who lived in the times of our Saviour.[10]

4. When the Kingdom of the Jews had devolved upon such a man the expectation of the nations was, according to prophecy, already at the door. For with him their princes and governors, who had ruled in regular succession from the time of Moses came to an end.

5. Before their captivity and their transportation to Babylon they were ruled by Saul first and then by David, and before the kings leaders governed them who were called Judges, and who came after Moses and his successor Jesus.

6. After their return from Babylon they continued to have without interruption an aristocratic form of government, with an oligarchy. For the priests had the direction of affairs until Pompey, the Roman general, took Jerusalem by force, and defiled the holy places by entering the very innermost sanctuary of the temple.[11] Aristobulus,[12] who, by the right of ancient succession, had been up to that time both king and high priest, he sent with his children in chains to Rome; and gave to Hyrcanus, brother of Aristobulus, the high priesthood, while the whole nation of the Jews was made tributary to the Romans from that time.[13]

7. But Hyrcanus, who was the last of the regular line of high priests, was very soon afterward taken prisoner by the Parthians,[14] and Herod, the first foreigner, as I have already said, was made King of the Jewish nation by the Roman senate and by Augustus.

8. Under him Christ appeared in bodily shape, and the expected Salvation of the nations and their calling followed in accordance with prophecy.[15] From this time the princes and rulers of Judah, I mean of the Jewish nation, came to an end, and as a natural consequence the order of the high priesthood, which from ancient times had proceeded regularly in closest succession from generation to generation, was immediately thrown into confusion.[16]

9. Of these things Josephus is also a witness,[17] who shows that when Herod was made King by the Romans he no longer appointed the high priests from the ancient line, but gave the honor to certain obscure persons. A course similar to that of Herod in the appointment of the priests was pursued by his son Archelaus,[18] and after him by the Romans, who took the government into their own hands.[19]

10. The same writer shows[20] that Herod was the first that locked up the sacred garment of the high priest under his own seal and refused to permit the high priests to keep it for themselves. The same course was followed by Archelaus after him, and after Archelaus by the Romans.

11. These things have been recorded by us in order to show that another prophecy has been fulfilled in the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ. For the Scripture, in the book of Daniel,[21] having expressly mentioned a certain number of weeks until the coming of Christ, of which we have treated in other books,[22] most clearly prophesies, that after the completion of those weeks the unction among the Jews should totally perish. And this, it has been clearly shown, was fulfilled at the time of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. This has been necessarily premised by us as a proof of the correctness of the time.


  1. Herod the Great, son of Antipater, an Idumean, who had been appointed procurator of Judea by Cæsar in b.c. 47. Herod was made governor of Galilee at the same time, and king of Judea by the Roman Senate in b.c. 40.
  2. Gen. xlix. 10. The LXX., which Eusebius quotes here, according to his custom, is in the present instance somewhat different from the Hebrew.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Eusebius refers here to Ant. XIV. 1. 3 and 7. 3. According to Josephus, Herod’s father was Antipater, and his mother Cypros, an Arabian woman of noble birth.
  5. The Idumeans or Edomites were the descendants of Esau, and inhabited the Sinaitic peninsula south of the Dead Sea. Their principal city and stronghold was the famous rock city, Petra. They were constant enemies of the Jews, refused them free passage through their land (Num. xx. 20); were conquered by Saul and David, but again regained their independence, until they were finally completely subjugated by John Hyrcanus, who left them in possession of their land, but compelled them to undergo circumcision, and adopt the Jewish law. Compare Josephus, Ant. XIII. 9. 1; XV. 7. 9; B. J. IV. 5. 5.
  6. On Africanus, see Bk. VI. chap. 31. This account is given by Africanus in his epistle to Aristides, quoted by Eusebius in the next chapter. Africanus states there (§11) that the account, as he gives it, was handed down by the relatives of the Lord. But the tradition, whether much older than Africanus or not, is certainly incorrect. We learn from Josephus (Ant. XIV. 2), who is the best witness upon this subject, that Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, was the son of another Antipater, or Antipas, an Idumean who had been made governor of Idumea by the Jewish king Alexander Jannæus (of the Maccabæan family). In Ant. XVI. 11 Josephus informs us that a report had been invented by friends and flatterers of Herod that he was descended from Jewish ancestors. The report originated with Nicolai Damasceni, a writer of the time of the Herods. The tradition preserved here by Africanus had its origin, evidently, in a desire to degrade Herod by representing him as descended from a slave.
  7. Ascalon, one of the five cities of the Philistines (mentioned frequently in the Old Testament), lay upon the Mediterranean Sea, between Gaza and Joppa. It was beautified by Herod (although not belonging to his dominions), and after his death became the residence of his sister Salome. It was a prominent place in the Middle Ages, but is now in ruins. Of this Herod of Ascalon nothing is known. Possibly no such man existed.
  8. ἱερόδουλος, “a temple-slave.”
  9. Hyrcanus II., eldest son of the King Alexander Jannæus of the Maccabæan family, became high priest upon the death of his father, in 78 b.c.; and upon the death of his mother, in 69 b.c., ascended the throne. He gave up his kingdom afterward (66 b.c.) to his younger brother, Aristobulus; but under the influence of Antipater the Idumean endeavored to regain it, and after a long war with his brother, was re-established in power by Pompey, in 63 b.c., but merely as high priest and governor, not with the title of king. He retained his position until 40 b.c., when he was driven out by his nephew Antigonus. He was murdered in 30 b.c., by command of Herod the Great, who had married his grand-daughter Mariamne. He was throughout a weak man, and while in power was completely under the influence of his minister, Antipater.
  10. Herod the Great.
  11. In 63 b.c., when Pompey’s curiosity led him to penetrate into the Holy of Holies. He was much impressed, however, by its simplicity, and went away without disturbing its treasures, wondering at a religion which had no visible God.
  12. Aristobulus II., younger brother of Hyrcanus, a much abler and more energetic man, assumed the kingdom by an arrangement with his brother in 66 b.c. (see note 9, above). In 63 b.c. he was deposed, and carried to Rome by Pompey. He died about 48 b.c. Eusebius is hardly correct in saying that Aristobulus was king and high priest by regular succession, as his elder brother Hyrcanus was the true heir, and he had assumed the power only because of his superior ability.
  13. The real independence of the Jews practically ceased at this time. For three years only, from 40 to 37 b.c., while Antigonus, son of Aristobulus and nephew of Hyrcanus, was in power, Jerusalem was independent of Rome, but was soon retaken by Herod the Great and remained from that time on in more or less complete subjection, either as a dependent kingdom or as a province.
  14. 40 b.c., when Antigonus, by the aid of the Parthians took Jerusalem and established himself as king there, until conquered by Herod in 37 b.c. Hyrcanus returned to Jerusalem in 36 b.c., but was no longer high priest.
  15. Compare Isa. ix. 2; xlii. 6; xlix. 6, etc.
  16. Eusebius’ statement is perfectly correct. The high priestly lineage had been kept with great scrupulousness until Hyrcanus II., the last of the regular succession. (His grandson Aristobulus, however, was high priest for a year under Herod, but was then slain by him.) Afterward the high priest was appointed and changed at pleasure by the secular ruler. Herod the Great first established the practice of removing a high priest during his lifetime; and under him there were no less than six different ones.
  17. Josephus, Ant. XX. 8.
  18. Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great by Malthace, a Samaritan woman, and younger brother of Herod Antipas. Upon the death of his father, b.c. 4, he succeeded to the government of Idumea, Samaria, and Judea, with the title of Ethnarch.
  19. After the death of Archelaus (a.d. 7), Judea was made a Roman province, and ruled by procurators until Herod Agrippa I. came into power in 37 a.d. (see below, Bk. II. chap. 4, note 3). The changes in the high priesthood during the most of this time were very rapid, one after another being appointed and removed according to the fancy of the procurator, or of the governor of Syria, who held the power of appointment most of the time. There were no fewer than nineteen high priests between the death of Archelaus and the fall of Jerusalem.
  20. Josephus, Ant. XV. 11. 4.
  21. Dan. ix. 26.
  22. It is commonly assumed that Eusebius refers here to the Dem. Evang. VIII. 2 sq., where the prophecies of Daniel are discussed at length. But, as Lightfoot remarks, the reference is just as well satisfied by the Eclogæ Proph. III. 45. We cannot, in fact, decide which work is meant.