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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

AT the time that Herod was king, who was the first foreigner that reigned over the Jewish people, the prophecy recorded by Moses received its fulfilment, viz. “That a prince should not fail of Judah, nor a ruler from his loins, until he should come for whom it is reserved: the expectation of nations.” The prediction was evidently not accomplished as long as they were at liberty to have their own native rulers, which continued from the time of Moses down to the reign of Augustus. Under him Herod was the first foreigner that obtained the government of the Jews; since, as Josephus has written, he was an Idumean by the father’s side, and an Arabian by the mother’s. But, as Africanus, who is also no common writer, says, “They who have written more accurately respecting him, say that he was the son of Antipater, and that the latter was the son of a certain Herod of Ascalon, one of those called the ministers of the temple of Apollo, in that city.” This Antipater, when a boy, having been taken prisoner by some Idumean robbers, lived with them, because his father, being a poor man, was unable to pay his ransom. Thus growing up in their practices, he was afterwards befriended by Hyrcanus the high priest of the Jews. His son was that Herod who flourished in the times of our Saviour. The government of the Jews, therefore, having devolved on such a man, the expectation of the nations was now at hand, according to prophecy, because with him terminated the regular succession of governors and princes, from the time of Moses. For before their captivity and their transfer to Babylon, they were first governed by Saul and David as their kings; and before the kings, the government was administered by magistrates called judges, who came after Moses and his successor Joshua. After the return from the captivity of Babylon, they continued to retain the aristocratical form of government, together with an oligarchy. The high priests had then the direction of affairs, until Pompey, the proconsular general of the Romans, took Jerusalem by force of arms, and denied the sacred places, entering the sanctuary of the temple. Aristobulus, who had been both king and high priest by regular succession until then, was sent with his children in chains to Rome, and the priesthood was given to his brother Hyrcanus, whilst the whole nation of the Jews was made tributary to the Romans from that time.

But Hyrcanus, who was the last of the high priests by succession, having been soon after taken prisoner by the Parthians, Herod, as I said before, had the government of the Jews conferred upon him by the senate of Rome and the emperor Augustus. About this time, the advent of Christ being nigh at hand, the expected salvation of the nations received its fulfilment, and was followed by the calling of the Gentiles, according to prophetic declarations. From this time also, the princes and rulers of Judah, i. e. of the Jewish nation, ceasing, by a natural consequence, the priesthood, which had descended from a series of ancestors in the closest succession of kindred, was immediately thrown into confusion. Of this you have the evidence of Josephus; who shows that when Herod was appointed king by the Romans, he no longer nominated the chief priests from the ancient lineage, but conferred the honour upon certain obscure individuals. A course similar to that of Herod in the appointment of the high priest, was pursued by Archelaus, his son; and next by the Romans, who, after him, took the government of the Jews into their own hands. The same Josephus shows that Herod was the first that locked up the sacred vesture of the high priest, and having secured it under his own private seal, no longer permitted the high priests to have it at their disposal. The same thing was done by Archelaus his successor, as also by the Romans. It may suffice, then, to have said thus much, in proof of another prophecy, which has terminated in the appearance of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Most clearly indeed does the book of Daniel, expressly embracing a number of certain weeks until the government of Christ, concerning which we have treated in another work, predict that after the termination of these, the sacred unction amongst the Jews should be totally abolished. And this is evidently proved to have been fulfilled at the time of our Saviour’s birth. Let this be sufficient, however, as a necessary preliminary, to establish the truth in reference to the times.








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