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Pilate's administration, the fifteenth year of the associate government of Tiberius, and the twelfth of his sole reign.
II. That our Lord's ministry began with his baptism, in the fifteenth year of the associate government, and the twelfth year of the sole reign of Tiberius; and was ended by his crucifixion, in the nineteenth year of that associate government, and in the fifteenth year of his sole reign.
III. That our Lord was exactly thirty-three years and three months old at the time of his passion.
IV. That the annunciation of his birth by the angel Gabriel probably took place in the very same month in which Augustus shut the temple of Janus the third time, in token of universal
peace. V. That our Lord's birth most probably took place on the day in which it is now celebrated; and that the confusion and apparent uncertainty with regard to this subject arises principally from the neglect of direct testimony, and from uncertain and even contradictory computations.
VI. That the year of his birth preceded the common Christian æra six years, having taken place in the 747th year of Rome, the year silently adopted by the French Benedictines in their learned work on the Art of Verifying Dates.
When it is recollected that the present work is strictly and truly written from original evidence, unbiassed by theory, and untrammeled by any previous investigation of modern writers, the fact that its results should be in such perfect harmony in various points with some of the most learned and laborious of modern computations, affords internal evidence of its truth, and is in itself a sufficient recommendation to public favour.
In saying that it has been written from original evidence, the author must except the calendar of Julius Cæsar, and that of the ancient Church, in the third chapter of the First Part, which he took from Blondel's “ Calendrier Romain.” On communicating this calendar, after it was in print, to a learned English friend, various objections were
, raised to the sixth column, in which the rising and setting of constellations and single stars are mentioned as occurring on certain days. It was further objected, that “Sirius” is never used for the constellation, but only for the brightest star in it; and that Sirius and the Pleiades rise and set every day, but heliacally only at one particular time. On the whole, the calendar has been pronounced to be a patchwork from Greek, Egyptian, and Chaldean fragments; showing plainly, if it be Cæsar's calendar, that the Romans had no science of their own. And it has been earnestly recommended that the author should add a note upon the subject, if it be only to shelter himself from the imputation of ignorance. But to this he has been averse, for many
, That the sixth column is of Roman origin, is evident from the notices it contains of the festivals of the Roman religion, and the dates of political events, many of which relate to the reign of Augustus Cæsar, and do not come down later. They were added, therefore, after the formation of the calendar, and before the reign of Tiberius. This affords strong internal evidence that the calendar is genuine; and the question whether the Romans were or were not correct, has no special bearing upon the author's purpose. His argument does not depend upon the accuracy or inaccuracy of astronomical terms. For the benefit of the English reader, a literal translation is given, first, from the French of Blondel, who was no mean astronomer, and, secondly, from the Latin of Petavius, who has given the same calendar in substance as gathered from Ovid, Columella, and other Latin writers. Of what consequence is it whether oritur and occidit are translated "rises” and “sets,” or “ascends" and "descends”? The latter may be more consistent with astronomical accuracy, in relation to those stars which never sink below the horizon, but the purpose for which the calendar is inserted in the following work is not thereby affected. As far as the astronomical notices in the sixth column are concerned, that purpose was merely to show that the ancients were too observant of the movements of the heavenly bodies, to depart very materially from the true length of the tropical year. But the great use of the calendar, for which it was principally inserted in this work, is of a much higher and more useful nature. It exhibits, first, the origin of the Sunday from the nundinal series of letters; and, secondly, the pains taken by the ancients in arranging the golden numbers, so as to calculate the lunations of any given year. By the calendar of the ancient Church, the reader will be able to find the approximate new and full moons at any epoch of the Julian period. On account of the præcession of the equinoxes, it will be only an approximation; but even this will greatly assist his labours, if he wishes to arrive at astronomical accuracy. Any year of the Julian period divided by 19, will give him the golden number, and opposite to that number the new moon of each month, and the number of lunations in the given year. The same may be done by Cæsar's calendar, if it be examined by Cæsar's cycle. His reformation of the calendar having taken place 45 solid years before the common Christian æra, that number being added to any year of Christ, until the change of the Gregorian calendar, and divided by 19, will give the golden number according to Cæsar's arrangement. Opposite to that number is the day of the new
A difference of from one to two days will invariably be found between that and the Nicene computation; but this, it is believed, only shows the progress which astronomical science had made between Cæsar's time and the fourth century after Christ.
Other suggestions have been made by English friends, principally with a view of meeting objections which may arise from the celebrity of modern writers, whose computations or conjectures differ from the results obtained in the following pages. But to meet objections is always an odious as well as an endless task; and the author can only repeat here in less quaint language, what he has elsewhere said, that if truth be established, error will fall of itself.* He venerates, for example, the labours and the name of Niebuhr; but that great historian, in his remarks on the Roman computation of time, has committed mistakes; principally from relying too implicitly upon the confident assertions of Scaliger, and neglecting in some cases his own canon, of always examining the original sources of evidence. This canon the author of the present work has endeavoured always to follow; grateful for the aid of profound thinkers and clear writers, but never willing “jurare in verba magistri.”
Owing to his retired situation, he had not had the advantage of consulting Mr. Clinton's admirable "Fasti Hellenici,” till he arrived in London; and, during his residence there, the most learned “ Ordo Sæclorum” of Mr. Browne was published. Both, however, have adopted the faulty arrangement of the Consular Chronology, probably from considering it as definitively settled; and so far they differ from the present work. With this exception, the author has been happy to find a great deal of harmony between their inductions and his own; and it is very satisfying to perceive so many points of agreement among writers in
* Allusion is here made to a note relating to Pagi, the learned commentator on Baronius. The concluding paragraph of that note is in bad taste, and the author intended to have cancelled it ; but in the baste with which a part of the work has been sent to press, he found to his mortification that it was printed before his correction was received.
distant countries who are simultaneously pursuing like objects of inquiry. Mr. Greswell's learned and laborious work the author has had no opportunity to examine; but if Mr. Browne's judgment of it be correct, the method pursued is the very reverse of that which has here been followed.
It may here be proper to remark, that the author's anxiety to give his quotations accurately, has led to some apparent unsteadiness, and even contradiction in spelling, especially proper names. In his own writing he has endeavoured to preserve correctness and uniformity; sometimes, however, variations have occurred from inadvertence; and sometimes where common usage is unsteady, one or the other practice has been indifferently followed.
In order to render the present work more useful, the plan of a new harmony of the Gospels, the result of preceding proofs and calculations, and a synoptical table of the hundred years from the birth of Augustus to the death of Tiberius, have been added as the concluding chapters of the Second Part. According to the arrangements recommended in the first, the reader may easily arrange for himself the Evangelical history; and the last he will find of great use, if he keeps it before him, and at every step of his progress refers to it as he reads, whenever dates are mentioned, and the course of history is pursued.
The author cannot close his preface without acknowledging, as he does most gratefully, the uniform kindness and encouragement which he has received, both in England and America, in the prosecution of his laborious work. His thanks are more especially due to the Rev. H. H. Norris of Hackney, his earliest English friend ; the Rev. T. Bowdler; the Rev. T. H. Horne; the Rev. W. Palmer, the well known author of the Origenes Liturgicæ, and other learned works; the Rev. W. Scott, of Christ Church, Hox