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Miller’s Works, vol. 1. Views of the Prophecies and Prophetic Chronology

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    APPENDIX

    No. I. EXTRACT FROM FERGUSON’S ASTRONOMY

    THE vulgar era of Christ’s birth was never settled till the year 527, when Dionysius Exiguus, a Roman abbot, fixed it to the end of the 4713th year of the Julian period, which was four years too late. For our Savior was born before the death of Herod, who sought to kill him as soon as he heard of his birth; and, according to the testimony of Josephus, (B.xvii.ch.8,) there was an eclipse of the moon in the time of Herod’s last illness; which eclipse appears, by our astronomical tables, to have been in the year of the Julian period 4710, March 13th, at three hours past midnight, at Jerusalem. Now, as our Savior must have been born some months before Herod’s death, since in the interval he was carried into Egypt, the latest time in which we can fix the true era of his birth, is about the end of the 4709th year of the Julian period. There is a remarkable prophecy delivered to us in the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel, which, from a certain epoch, fixes the time of restoring the state of the Jews, and of building the walls of Jerusalem, the coming of Messiah, his death, and the destruction of Jerusalem. But some parts of this prophecy (ver. 25) are so injudiciously pointed in our English translation of the Bible, that, if they be read according to those stops of pointing, they are quite unintelligible. But the learned Dr. Prideaux, by altering these stops, makes the sense plain; and, as he seems to me to have explained the whole of it better than any other author I have read on the subject, I shall set down the whole of the prophecy according as he has pointed it, to show in what manner he has divided it into four different parts.MWV1 244.1

    Ver. 24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Ver. 25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. Ver. 26. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. Ver. 27. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week, and in the midst 1It is said this should be rendered last half, instead of midst. of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.MWV1 245.1

    This commandment was given to Ezra by Artaxerxes Longimanus, in the seventh year of that king’s reign, (Ezra 7.ver.11-26.) Ezra began the work, which was afterward accomplished by Nehemiah, in which they meet with great opposition and trouble from the Samaritans and others, during the first seven weeks, or 49 years.MWV1 245.2

    From this accomplishment till the time when Christ’s messenger, John the Baptist, began to preach the kingdom of the Messiah, 62 weeks, or 434 years.MWV1 245.3

    From thence to the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, half a week, or three and a half years.MWV1 246.1

    And from thence to the death of Christ, half a week, or three and a half years; in which half week he preached and confirmed the covenant of the Gospel with many.MWV1 246.2

    In all, from the going forth of the commandment, till the death of Christ, 70 weeks, or 490 years.MWV1 246.3

    And, lastly, in a very striking manner, the prophecy foretells what should come to pass after the expiration of the 70 weeks; namely, the destruction of the city and sanctuary by the people of the prince that was to come; which were the Roman armies, under the command of Titus their prince, who came upon Jerusalem as a torrent, with their idolatrous images, which were an abomination to the Jews, and under which they marched against them, invaded their land, and besieged their holy city, and by a calamitous war brought such utter destruction upon both, that the Jews have never been able to recover themselves, even to this day.MWV1 246.4

    Now, both by the undoubted canon of Ptolemy, and the famous era of Nabonassar, the beginning of the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, (who is called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther,) is pinned down to the 4256th year of the Julian period, in which year he gave Ezra the above-mentioned ample commission; from which count 490 years to the death of Christ, and it will carry the same to the 4746th year of the Julian period.MWV1 246.5

    Our Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath; and it is plain, from Mark 15:42, and Luke 23:54, that Christ was crucified on Friday, seeing the crucifixion was on the day next before the Jewish Sabbath; and according to John 18:28, on the day that the passover was to be eaten, at least by many of the Jews.MWV1 246.6

    The Jews reckoned their months by the moon, and their years by the apparent revolution of the sun; and they ate the passover on the 14th day of the month Nisan, which was the first month of the year, reckoning from the first appearance of the new moon, which at that time of the year might be on the evening of the day next after the change, if the sky was clear. So that their 14th day of the month answers to our 15th day of the moon, on which she is full. Consequently, the passover was always kept on the day of full moon.MWV1 246.7

    And the full moon at which it was kept, was that one which happened next after the vernal equinox. For Josephus expressly says, (Antiq. B.iii.ch.10,) the passover was kept on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, according to the moon, when the sun was in Aries. And the sun always enters Aries at the instant of the vernal equinox; which, in our Savior’s time, fell on the 22nd day of March.MWV1 247.1

    The dispute among chronologers about the year of Christ’s death, is limited to four or five years at most. But as we have shown that he was crucified on the day of a paschal full moon, and on a Friday, all that we have to do, in order to ascertain the year of his death, is only to compute in which of those years there was a passover full moon on a Friday. For the full moons anticipate eleven days every year, (12 lunar months being so much short of a solar year,) and therefore once in every three years, at least, the Jews were obliged to set their passover a month farther forward than it fell by the course of the moon, on the year next before, in order to keep it at the full moon next after the equinox. Therefore there could not be two passovers on the same day of the week, within the compass of a few neighboring years. And I find by calculation, the only passover full moon that fell on a Friday, for several years before or after the disputed year of the crucifixion, was on the 3rd day of April, in the 4746th year of the Julian period, which was the 490th year after Ezra received the above-mentioned commission from Artaxerxes Longimanus, according to Ptolemy’s canon, and the year in which the Messiah was to be cut off, according to the prophecy, reckoning from the going forth of that commission or commandment: and this 490th year was the 33rd year of our Savior’s age, reckoning from the vulgar era of his birth; but the 37th, reckoning from the true era thereof.MWV1 247.2

    And when we reflect on what the Jews told him, some time before his death, (John 8:57,) “Thou art not yet fifty years old,” we must confess, that it should seem much likelier to have been said to a person near forty, than to one but just turned of thirty. And we may easily suppose, that St. Luke expressed himself only in round numbers, when he said that Christ was baptized about the 30th year of his age, when he began his public ministry; as our Savior himself did, when he said he should lie three days and three nights in the grave.MWV1 248.1

    The 4746th year of the Julian period, which we have astronomically proved to be the year of the crucifixion, was the 4th of the 202nd Olympiad; in which year, Phlegon, a heathen writer, tells us there was a most extraordinary eclipse of the sun that ever was seen. But I find by calculation, that there could be no total eclipse of the sun at Jerusalem, in a natural way, in that year. So that what Phlegon here calls an eclipse of the sun, seems to have been the great darkness for three hours at the time of our Savior’s crucifixion, as mentioned by the evangelist; a darkness altogether supernatural, as the moon was then in the side of the heavens opposite to the sun; and therefore could not possibly darken the sun to any part of the earth.MWV1 248.2

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