The Coming Prince
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Table of Contents
THE MYSTIC ERA OF THE WEEKS
THE conclusions arrived at in the preceding chapter suggest a striking parallel
between Daniel's earlier visions and the prophecy of the seventy weeks. History contains
no record of events to satisfy the predicted course of the seventieth week. The Apocalypse
was not even written when that period ought chronologically to have closed, and though
eighteen centuries have since elapsed, the restoration of the Jews seems still but
a chimera of sanguine fanatics. And be it remembered that the purpose of the prophecy
was not to amuse or interest the curious. Of necessity some mysticism must characterize
prophetic utterances, otherwise they might be "fulfilled to order" by designing
men; but once the prophecy comes side by side with the events of which it speaks,
it fails of one of its chief purposes if its relation to them be doubtful. If any
one will learn the connection between prophecy and its fulfillment, let him read
the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and compare it with the story of the Passion:
so vague and figurative that no one could have acted out the drama it foretold; but
yet so definite and clear that, once fulfilled, the simplest child can recognize
its scope and meaning. If then the event which constitutes the epoch of the seventieth
week must be as pronounced and certain as Nehemiah's commission and Messiah's death,
it is of necessity still future.
And this is precisely what the study of the seventh chapter of Daniel will have led us to expect. All Christian interpreters are agreed that between the rise of the fourth beast and the growth of the ten horns there is a gap or parenthesis in the vision; and, as already shown, that gap includes the entire period between the time of Christ and the division of the Roman earth into the ten kingdoms out of which the great persecutor of the future is to arise. This period, moreover, is admittedly unnoticed also in the other visions of the book. There is therefore a strong a priori probability that it would be overlooked in the vision of the ninth chapter.
More than this, there is not only the same reason for this mystic foreshortening in the vision of the seventy weeks, as in the other visions,  but that reason applies here with special force. The seventy weeks were meted out as the period during which Judah's blessings were deferred. In common with all prophecy, the meaning of this prophecy will be unmistakable when its ultimate fulfillment takes place, but it was necessarily conveyed in a mystical form in order to shut up the Jews to the responsibility of accepting their Messiah. St. Peter's inspired proclamation to the nation at Jerusalem, recorded in the third chapter of Acts, was in accordance with this. The Jews looked merely for a return of their national supremacy, but God's first purpose was redemption through the death of the great Sin-bearer. Now, the sacrifice had been accomplished, and St. Peter pointed to Calvary as the fulfillment of that "which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets;" and he added this testimony, "Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send the Christ, who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus." (Acts 3:19, 20, R.V.) The realization of these blessings would have been the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy, and the seventieth week might have run its course without a break. But Judah proved impenitent and obdurate, and the promised blessings were once again postponed till the close of this strange era of the Gentile dispensation.
But it may be asked, Was not the Cross of Christ the fulfillment of these blessings? A careful study of the Angel's words (Daniel 9:24) will show that not so much as one of them has been thus accomplished. The sixty-ninth week was to end with Messiah's death; the close of the seventieth week was to bring to Judah the full enjoyment of the blessings resulting from that death. Judah's transgression has yet to be restrained, and his sins to be sealed up. The day is yet future when a fountain shall be opened for the iniquity of Daniel's people, (Zechariah 13:1) and righteousness shall be ushered in for them. In what sense were vision and prophet sealed up at the death of Christ, considering that the greatest of all visions was yet to be given, (The Revelation.) and the days were still to come when the words of the prophets were to be fulfilled? (Luke 21:22) And whatever meaning is to be put upon "anointing the most holy," it is clear that Calvary was not the accomplishment of it. 
But is it consistent with fair argument or common-sense to urge that an era thus chronologically defined should be indefinitely interrupted in its course? The ready answer might be given, that if common-sense and fairness — if human judgment, is to decide the question, the only doubt must be whether the final period of the cycle, and the blessings promised at its close, be not for ever abrogated and lost by reason of the appalling guilt of that people who "killed the Prince of life." (Acts 3:15) There exists surely no presumption against supposing that the stream of prophetic time is tided back during all this interval of the apostasy of Judah. The question remains, whether any precedent for this can be discovered in the mystical chronology of Israel's history.
According to the book of Kings, Solomon began to build the temple in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt. (1 Kings 6:1) This statement, than which none could, seemingly, be more exact, has sorely puzzled chronologers. By some it has been condemned as a forgery, by others it has been dismissed as a blunder; but all have agreed in rejecting it. Moreover, Scripture itself appears to clash with it. In his sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:18-21) St. Paul epitomizes thus the chronology of this period of the history of his nation: forty years in the wilderness; 450 years under the judges, and forty years of the reign of Saul; making a total of 530 years. To which must be added the forty years of David's reign and the first three years of Solomon's; making 573 years for the very period which is described in Kings as 480 years. Can these conclusions, apparently so inconsistent, be reconciled? 
If we follow the history of Israel as detailed in the book of Judges, we shall find that for five several periods their national existence as Jehovah's people was in abeyance. In punishment for their idolatry, God gave them up again and again, and "sold them into the hands of their enemies." They became slaves to the king of Mesopotamia for eight years, to the king of Moab for eighteen years, to the king of Canaan for twenty years, to the Midianites for seven years, and finally to the Philistines for forty years.  But the sum of 8 +18+ 20+ 7+ 40 years is 93 years, and if 93 years be deducted from 573 years, the result is 480 years. It is obvious, therefore, that the 480 years of the book of Kings from the Exodus to the temple is a mystic era formed by eliminating every period during which the people were cast off by God.  If, then, this principle were intelligible to the Jew in regard to history, it was both natural and legitimate to introduce it in respect of an essentially mystic era like that of the seventy weeks.
But this conclusion does not depend upon argument however sound, or inference however just. It is indisputably proved by the testimony of Christ Himself. "What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" the disciples inquired as they gathered round the Lord on one of the last days of His ministry on earth. (Matthew 24:3) In reply he spoke of the tribulation foretold by Daniel,  and warned them that the signal of that fearful persecution was to be the precise event which marks the middle of the seventieth week, namely, the defilement of the holy place by the "abomination of desolation," — some image of himself probably, which the false prince will set up in the temple in violation of his treaty obligations to respect and defend the religion of the Jews  That this prophecy was not fulfilled by Titus is as certain as history can make it;  but Scripture itself leaves no doubt whatever on the point.
It appears from the passages already quoted, that the predicted tribulation is to last three and a half years, and to date from the violation of the treaty in the middle of the seventieth week. What is to follow is thus described by the Lord Himself in words of peculiar solemnity: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:29) That it is to the closing scenes of the dispensation this prophecy relates is here assumed.  And as these scenes are to follow immediately after a persecution, of which the era is within the seventieth week, the inference is incontestable that the events of that week belong to a time still future. 
We may conclude, then, that when wicked hands set up the cross on Calvary, and God pronounced the dread "Lo-ammi" (Romans 9:25, 26; cf. Hosea 1:9, 10) upon His people, the course of the prophetic era ceased to run. Nor will it flow on again till the autonomy of Judah is restored; and, with obvious propriety, that is held to date from the moment their readmission into the family of nations is recognized by treaty.  It will, therefore, be here assumed that the former portion of the prophetic era has run its course, but that the events of the last seven years have still to be accomplished. The last point, therefore, necessary to complete the chain of proof is to ascertain the date of "Messiah the Prince."
CHAPTER VIII. Back
"MESSIAH THE PRINCE"
JUST as we find that in certain circles people who are reputed pious are apt to
be regarded with suspicion, so it would seem that any writings which claim Divine
authority or sanction inevitably awaken distrust. But if the evangelists could gain
the same fair hearing which profane historians command; if their statements were
tested upon the same principles on which records of the past are judged by scholars,
and evidence is weighed in our courts of justice, it would be accepted as a well-established
fact of history that our Savior was born in Bethlehem, at a time when Cyrenius was
Governor of Syria, and Herod was king in Jerusalem. The narrative of the first two
chapters of St. Luke is not like an ordinary page of history which carries with it
no pledge of accuracy save that which the general credit of the writer may afford.
The evangelist is treating of facts of which he had "perfect understanding from
the very first;" (Luke 1:3) in which, moreover, his personal interest was intense,
and in respect of which a single glaring error would have prejudiced not only the
value of his book, but the success of that cause to which his life was devoted, and
with which his hopes of eternal happiness were identified.
The matter has been treated as though this reference to Cyrenius were but an incidental allusion, in respect of which an error would be of no importance; whereas, in fact, it would be absolutely vital. That the true Messiah must be born in Bethlehem was asserted by the Jew and conceded by the Christian: that the Nazarene was born in Bethlehem the Jew persistently denied. If even today he could disprove that fact, he would justify his unbelief; for if the Christ we worship was not by right of birth the heir to David's throne, He is not the Christ of prophecy. Christians soon forgot this when they had no longer to maintain their faith against the unbroken front of Judaism, but only to commend it to a heathen world. But it was not forgotten by the immediate successors of the apostles. Therefore it was that in writing to the Jews, Justin Martyr asserted with such emphasis that Christ was born during the taxing of Cyrenius, appealing to the lists of that census as to documents then extant and available for reference, to prove that though Joseph and Mary lived at Nazareth, they went up to Bethlehem to be enrolled, and that thus it came to pass the Child was born in the royal city, and not in the despised Galilean village. 
And these facts of the pedigree and birth of the Nazarene afforded almost the only ground upon which issue could be joined, where one side maintained, and the other side denied, that His Divine character and mission were established by transcendental proofs. None could question that His acts were more than human, but blindness and hate could ascribe them to Satanic power; and the sublime utterances which in every succeeding age have commanded the admiration of millions, even of those who have refused to them the deeper homage of their faith, had no charm for men thus prejudiced. But these statements about the taxing which brought the Virgin Mother up to Bethlehem, dealt with plain facts which required no moral fitness to appreciate them. That in such a matter a writer like St. Luke could be in error is utterly improbable, but that the error would remain unchallenged is absolutely incredible; and we find Justin Martyr, writing nearly a hundred years after the evangelist, appealing to the fact as one which was unquestionable. It may, therefore, be accepted as one of the most certain of the really certain things of history, that the first taxing of Cyrenius was made before the death of Herod, and that while it was proceeding Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Not many years ago this statement would have been received either with ridicule or indignation. The evangelist's mention of Cyrenius appeared to be a hopeless anachronism; as, according to undoubted history, the period of his governorship and the date of his "taxing" were nine or ten years later than the nativity. Gloated over by Strauss and others of his tribe, and dismissed by writers unnumbered either as an enigma or an error, the passage has in recent years been vindicated and explained by the labors of Dr. Zumpt of Berlin.
By a strange chance there is a break in the history of this period, for the seven or eight years beginning B.C. 4.  The list of the governors of Syria, therefore, fails us, and for the same interval P. Sulpicius Quirinus, the Cyrenius of the Greeks, disappears from history. But by a series of separate investigations and arguments, all of them independent of Scripture, Dr. Zumpt has established that Quirinus was twice governor of the province, and that his first term of office dated from the latter part of B.C. 4, when he succeeded Quinctilius Varus. The unanimity with which this conclusion has been accepted renders it unnecessary to discuss the matter here. But one remark respecting it may not be out of place. The grounds of Dr. Zumpt's conclusions may be aptly described as a chain of circumstantial evidence, and his critics are agreed that the result is reasonably certain.  To make that certainty absolute, nothing is wanting but the positive testimony of some historian of repute. If, for example, one of the lost fragments of the history of Dion Cassius were brought to light, containing the mention of Quirinus as governing the province during the last months of Herod's reign, the fact would be deemed as certain as that Augustus was emperor of Rome. A Christian writer may be pardoned if he attaches equal weight to the testimony of St. Luke. It will, therefore, be here assumed as absolutely certain that the birth of Christ took place at some date not earlier than the autumn of B.C. 4. 
The dictum of our English chronologer, than whom none more eminent or trustworthy can be appealed to, is a sufficient guarantee that this conclusion is consistent with everything that erudition can bring to bear upon the point. Fynes Clinton sums up his discussion of the matter thus. "The nativity was not more than about eighteen months before the death of Herod, nor less than five or six. The death of Herod was either in the spring of B.C. 4, or the spring of B.C. 3. The earliest possible date then for the nativity is the autumn of B.C. 6 (U. C. 748), eighteen months before the death of Herod in B.C. 4. The latest will be the of B.C. 4 (U. C. 750), about six months before his death, assumed to be in spring B.C. 3."  This opinion has weight, not only because of the writer's eminence as a chronologist, but also because his own view as to the actual date of the birth of Christ would have led him to narrow still more the limits within which it must have occurred, if his sense of fairness had permitted him to do so. Moreover, Clinton wrote in ignorance of what Zumpt has since brought to light respecting the census of Quirinus. The introduction of this new element into the consideration of the question, enables us with absolute confidence, adopting Clinton's dictum, to assign the death of Herod to the month Adar of B.C. 3, and the nativity to the autumn of B.C. 4.
That the least uncertainty should prevail respecting the time of an event of such transcendent interest to mankind is a fact of strange significance. But whatever doubt there may be as to the birth-date of the Son of God, it is due to no omission in the sacred page if equal doubt be felt as to the epoch of His ministry on earth. There is not in the whole of Scripture a more definite chronological statement than that contained in the opening verses of the third chapter of St. Luke. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness."
Now the date of Tiberius Caesar's reign is known with absolute accuracy; and his fifteenth year, reckoned from his accession, began on the 19th August, A.D. 28. And further, it is also known that during that year, so reckoned, each of the personages named in the passage, actually held the position there assigned to him. Here then, it might be supposed, no difficulty or question could arise. But the evangelist goes on to speak of the beginning of the ministry of the Lord Himself, and he mentions that "He was about thirty years of age when He began."  This statement, taken in connection with the date commonly assigned to the nativity, has been supposed to require that "the fifteenth year of Tiberius" shall be understood as referring, not to the epoch of his reign, but to an earlier date, when history testifies that certain powers were conferred on him during the two last years of Augustus. All such hypotheses, however, "are open to one overwhelming objection, viz., that the reign of Tiberius, as beginning from 19th August, A.D. 14, was as well known a date in the time of Luke, as the reign of Queen Victoria is in our own day; and no single case has ever been, or can be, produced, in which the years of Tiberius were reckoned in any other manner." 
Nor is there any inconsistency whatever between these statements of St. Luke and the date of the nativity (as fixed by the evangelist himself, under Cyrenius, in the autumn of B.C. 4; for the Lord's ministry, dating from the autumn of A.D. 28, may in fact have begun before His thirty-first year expired, and cannot have been later than a few months beyond it. The expression "about thirty years implies some such margin.  As therefore it is wholly unnecessary, it becomes wholly unjustifiable, to put a forced and special meaning on the evangelist's words; and by the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar he must have intended what all the world would assume he meant, namely, the year beginning 19th August, A.D. 28. And thus, passing out of the region of argument and controversy, we reach at last a well-ascertained date of vital importance in this inquiry.
The first Passover of the Lord's public ministry on earth is thus definitely fixed by the Gospel narrative itself, as in Nisan A.D. 29. And we are thus enabled to fix 32 A.D. as the year of the crucifixion. 
This is opposed, no doubt, to the traditions embodied in the spurious Acta Pilati so often quoted in this controversy, and in the writings of certain of the fathers, by whom the fifteenth year of Tiberius was held to be itself the date of the death of Christ; "by some, because they confounded the date of the baptism with the date of the Passion; by others, because they supposed both to have happened in one year; by others, because they transcribed from their predecessors without examination." 
An imposing array of names can be cited in support of any year from A.D. 29 to A.D. 33; but such testimony is of force only so long as no better can be found. Just as a seemingly perfect chain of circumstantial evidence crumbles before the testimony of a single witness of undoubted veracity and worth, and the united voice of half a county will not support a prescriptive right, if it be opposed to a single sheet of parchment, so the cumulative traditions of the Church, even if they were as definite and clear as in fact they are contradictory and vague, would not outweigh the proofs to which appeal has here been made.
One point more, however, claims attention. Numerous writers, some of them eminent, have discussed this question as though nothing more were needed in fixing the date of the Passion than to find a year, within certain limits, in which the paschal moon was full upon a Friday. But this betrays strange forgetfulness of the intricacies of the problem. True it is that if the system by which today the Jewish year is settled had been in force eighteen centuries ago, the whole controversy might turn upon the week date of the Passover in a given year; but on account of our ignorance of the embolismal system then in use, no weight whatever can be attached to it.  While the Jewish year was the old lunisolar year of 360 days, it is not improbable they adjusted it, as for centuries they had probably been accustomed to do in Egypt, by adding annually the "complimentary days" of which Herodotus speaks.  But it is not to be supposed that when they adopted the present form of year, they continued to correct the calendar in so primitive a manner. Their use of the metonic cycle for this purpose is comparatively modern.  And it is probable that with the lunar year they obtained also under the Seleucidae the old eight years' cycle for its adjustment. The fact that this cycle was in use among the early Christians for their paschal calculations,  raises a presumption that it was borrowed from the Jews; but we have no certain knowledge upon the subject.
Indeed, the only thing reasonably certain upon the matter is that the Passover did not fall upon the days assigned to it by writers whose calculations respecting it are made with strict astronomical accuracy,  for the Mishna affords the clearest proof that the beginning of the month was not determined by the true new moon, but by the first appearance of her disc; and though in a climate like that of Palestine this would seldom be delayed by causes which would operate in murkier latitudes, it doubtless sometimes happened "that neither sun nor stars for many days appeared."  These considerations justify the statement that in any year whatever the 15th Nisan may have fallen on a Friday. 
For example, in A.D. 32, the date of the true new moon, by which the Passover was regulated, was the night (10h 57m) of the 29th March. The ostensible date of the 1st Nisan, therefore, according to the phases, was the 31st March. It may have been delayed, however, till the 1st April; and in that case the 15th Nisan should apparently have fallen on Tuesday the 15th April. But the calendar may have been further disturbed by intercalation. According to the scheme of the eight years' cycle, the embolismal month was inserted in the third, sixth, and eighth years, and an examination of the calendars from A.D. 22 to A D. 45 will show that A.D. 32 was the third year of such a cycle. As, therefore, the difference between the solar year and the lunar is 11 days, it would amount in three years to 33 3/4 days, and the intercalation of a thirteenth month (Ve-adar) of thirty days would leave an epact still remaining of 3 3/4 days; and the "ecclesiastical moon" being that much before the real moon, the feast day would have fallen on the Friday (11th April), exactly as the narrative of the Gospels requires. 
This, moreover, would explain what, notwithstanding all the poetry indulged in about the groves and grottoes of Gethsemane, remains still a difficulty. Judas needed neither torch nor lantern to enable him to track his Master through the darkest shades and recesses of the garden, nor was it, seemingly, until he had fulfilled his base and guilty mission that the: crowd pressed in to seize their victim. And no traitor need have been suborned by the Sanhedrin to betray to them at midnight the object of their hate, were it not that they dared not take Him save by stealth.  Every torch and lamp increased the risk of rousing the sleeping millions around them, for that night all Judah was gathered to the capital to keep the Paschal feast.  If, then, the full moon were high above Jerusalem, no other light were needed to speed them on their guilty errand; but if, on the other hand, the Paschal moon were only ten or eleven days old upon that Thursday night, she would certainly have been low on the horizon, if she had not actually set, before they ventured forth. These suggestions are not made to confirm the proof already offered of the year date of the death of Christ, but merely to show how easy it is to answer objections which at first sight might seem fatal.
CHAPTER IX. Back to
THE PASCHAL SUPPER
THE trustworthiness of witnesses is tested, not by the amount of truth their evidence
contains, but by the absence of mistakes. A single glaring error may serve to discredit
testimony which seemed of the highest worth. This principle applies with peculiar
force in estimating the credibility of the Gospel narratives, and it lends an importance
that can scarcely be exaggerated to the question which arises in this controversy,
Was the betrayal in fact upon the night of the Paschal Supper? If, as is so commonly
maintained, one or all of the Evangelists were in error in a matter of fact so definite
and plain, it is idle to pretend that their writings are in any sense whatever God-breathed.
The testimony of the first three Gospels is united, that the Last Supper was eaten at the Jewish Passover. The attempt to prove that it was an anticipatory celebration, without the paschal sacrifice, though made with the best of motives, is utterly futile. "Now on the first day of unleavened bread" (St. Matthew declares),  "the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where wilt thou that we make ready for Thee to eat the Passover?" It was the proposal not of the Lord, but of the disciples, who, with the knowledge of the day and of the rites pertaining to it, turned to the Master for instructions. With yet greater definiteness St. Mark narrates that this took place on the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover. (Mark 14:12) And the language of St. Luke is, if possible, more unequivocal still:
But it is confidently asserted that the testimony of St. John is just as clear
and unambiguous that the: crucifixion took place upon the very day and, it is; sometimes
urged, at the very hour of the paschal sacrifice. Many an eminent writer may be cited
to support this view, and the controversy waged in its defense is endless. But no
plea for deference to great: names can be tolerated for a moment when the point:
at issue is the integrity of Holy Writ; and despite the erudition that has been exhausted
to prove that the Gospels are here at hopeless variance, none who have: learned to
prize them as a Divine revelation will be surprised to find that the main difficulty
depends; entirely on prevailing ignorance respecting Jewish ordinances and the law
These writers one and all. confound the Paschal Supper with the festival which followed it, and to which it lent its name. The supper was a memorial. of the redemption of the firstborn of Israel on the. night before the Exodus; the feast was the anniversary of their actual deliverance from the house of bondage. The supper was not a part of the: feast; it was morally the basis on which the feast was founded, just as the Feast of Tabernacles was based on the great sin-offering of the day of expiation which preceded it. But in the same way that the Feast of Weeks came to be commonly designated Pentecost, the feast of Unleavened Bread was popularly called the Passover.  That title was common to the supper and the feast, and included both; but the intelligent Jew would never confound the two; and if he spoke emphatically of the feast of the Passover, he would thereby mark the festival to the exclusion of the supper. 
No words can possibly express more clearly this distinction than those afforded by the Pentateuch in the final promulgation of the Law: " In the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover of the Lord; and in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast." 
Opening the thirteenth chapter of St. John in the light of this simple explanation, every difficulty vanishes. The scene is laid at the Paschal Supper, on the eve of the festival, "before the feast of the Passover;"  and after the narration or the washing of the disciples' feet, the evangelist goes on to tell of the hurried departure of Judas, explaining that, to some, the Lord's injunction to the traitor was understood to mean, "Buy what we have need of against the feast." (John 13:29) The feast day was a Sabbath, when trading was unlawful, and it would seem that the needed supply for the festival was still procurable far on in the preceding night; for another of the errors with which this controversy abounds is the assumption that the Jewish day was invariably reckoned a nukthameron, beginning in the evening. 
Such, doubtless, was the common rule, and notably in respect of the law of ceremonial cleansing. This very fact, indeed, enables us without a doubt to conclude that the Passover on account of which the Jews refused to defile themselves by entering the judgment hall, was not the Paschal Supper, for that supper was not eaten till after the hour at which such defilement would have lapsed. In the language of the law, "When the sun is down he shall be clean, and shall afterwards eat of the holy things." (Leviticus 12:7) Not so was it with the holy offerings of the feast day, which they must needs eat before the hour at which their uncleanness would have ceased.  The only question, therefore, is whether partaking of the peace offerings of the festival could properly be designated as "eating the Passover." The law of Moses itself supplies the answer: "Thou shalt sacrifice the Passover unto the Lord thy God of the flock and the herd…seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith." (Deuteronomy 16:2, 3, and compare 2 Chronicles 35:7, 8.)
If then the words of St. John are intelligible only when thus interpreted, and if when thus interpreted they are consistent with the testimony of the three first Evangelists, no element is lacking to give certainty that the events of the eighteenth chapter occurred upon the feast-day, Or if confirmation still be needed, the closing verses of this very chapter give it, for according to the custom cited, it was at the feast that the governor released a prisoner to the people (John 18:39; Compare Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6; and Luke 23:17). Fearing because of the populace to seize the Lord upon the feast-day, (Matthew 26:5; Mark 14:1, 2) the Pharisees were eager to procure His betrayal on the night of the Paschal Supper. And so it came to pass that the arraignment before Pilate took place upon the festival, as all the Evangelists declare.
But does not St. John expressly state that it was "the preparation of the Passover," and must not this necessarily mean the fourteenth of Nisan? The plain answer is, that not a single passage has been cited from writings either sacred or profane in which that day is so described; whereas among the Jews "the preparation" was the common name for the day before the Sabbath, and it is so used by all the Evangelists. And bearing this in mind, let the reader compare the fourteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter of St. John with the thirty-first and forty-second verses of the same chapter, and he will have no difficulty in rendering the words in question, "it was Passover Friday." 
But yet another statement of St. John is quoted in this controversy. "That Sabbath day was an high day," he declares, and therefore, it is urged, it must have been the 15th of Nisan. The force of this "therefore" partly depends upon overlooking the fact that all the great sacrifices to which the 15th of Nisan largely owed its distinctive solemnity, were repeated daily throughout the festival. (Numbers 28:19-24)  On this account alone that Sabbath was "an high day." But besides, it was specially distinguished as the day on which the firstfruits of the harvest were offered in the temple; for in respect of this ordinance, as in most other points of difference between the Karaite Jews, who held to the Scriptures as their only guide, and the Rabbinical Jews, who followed the traditions of the elders, the latter were entirely in the wrong.
The law enjoined that the sheaf of the firstfruits should be waved before the Lord "on the morrow after the (paschal) Sabbath," (Leviticus 23:10, 11) and from that day the seven weeks were reckoned which ended with the feast of Pentecost. But as the book of Deuteronomy expressly ordains that the weeks should be counted from the first day of the harvest, (Deuteronomy 16:9; and compare Leviticus 23:15, 16) it is evident that the morrow after the Sabbath should not be itself a Sabbath, but a working day. The true day for the ordinance, therefore, was the day of the resurrection, "the first day of the week" following the Passover,  when, according to the intention of the law, the barley harvest should begin, and the first sheaf gathered should be carried to the Holy Place and solemnly waved before Jehovah. But with the Jews all this was lost in the empty rite of offering in the temple a measure of meal prepared from corn which, in violation of the law, had been garnered days before. This rite was invariably celebrated on the 16th of Nisan; and thus synchronizing with the solemnities both of the Paschal festival and of the Sabbath, that day could not fail to be indeed "an high day." 
The argument in proof that the death of Christ was on the very day the paschal lamb was killed, has gained a fictitious interest and value from the seeming fitness of the synchronism this involves. But a closer investigation of the subject, combined with a broader view of the Mosaic types, will dissipate the force of this conclusion. The distinctive teaching of Calvinism is based on giving an exclusive place to the great sin-offering of Leviticus, in which substitution, in its most definite and narrowest sense, is essential. The Passover, on the other hand, has ever been the most popular of types. But though the other typical sacrifices are almost entirely ignored in the systems of our leading schools of theology, they have no little prominence in Scripture. The offerings which are placed first in the book of Leviticus have a large share in the theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews, — the new Testament "Leviticus," whereas the Passover is not even once referred to.  Now these Leviticus offerings  marked the feast-day, (Numbers 28:17-24) on which, according to the Gospels, "the Messiah was cut off."
And other synchronisms are not wanting, still more striking and significant. During all His ministry on earth, albeit it was spent in humiliation and reproach, no hand was ever laid upon the Blessed One, save in importunate supplication or in devout and loving service. But when at times His enemies would fain have seized Him, a mysterious hour to come was spoken of, in which their hate should be unhindered. "This is your hour, and the power of darkness," He exclaimed, as Judas and the impious companions in his guilt drew round Him in the garden. (Luke 22:53) His hour, He called it, when He thought of His mission upon earth: their hour, when in the fulfillment of that mission He found Himself within their grasp.
The agonies inflicted on Him by men have taken hold on the mind of Christendom; but beyond and above all these the mystery of the Passion is that He was forsaken and accursed of God.  In some sense, indeed, His sufferings from men were but a consequence of this; therefore His reply to Pilate, "Thou couldst have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above." If men seized and slew Him, it was because God had delivered Him up. When that destined hour had struck, the mighty Hand drew back which till then had shielded Him from outrage. His death was not the beginning, but the close of His sufferings; in truth, it was the hour of His triumph.
The midnight agony in Gethsemane was thus; the great antitype of that midnight scene in Egypt: when the destroying angel flashed through the land. And as His death was the fulfillment of His people's; deliverance, so it took place upon the anniversary of "that selfsame day that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egpyt by their armies." 
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTORY on page 1 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 2-3 on page 2 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 4-6 on page 3 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 7-9 on page 4 (this page)
CHAPTERS 10-12 on page 5 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 13-15 on page 6 ---New Window
PREFACES on page 7 ---New Window
APPENDICES on page 8 ---New Window
For more about the author, read:
Sir Robert Anderson and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel ---New Window
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