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which was situated near the sheep market in Jerusalem. (John v. 23.) The original word translated pool, signifies also a drain: and this was actually the nature of the place; because the water used in washing the entrails of the beasts, which were intended to be offered in sacrifice at the Temple, flowed into it. Hence the opinion entertained by some superstitious Jews (for there were superstitious Jews then, as there are superstitious Gentiles now,) that this drain, or pool, contained some healing qualities. It appears from the fourth verse of this chapter, that some messenger, for this is the literal meaning of the word translated angel, went down at certain appointed times, and stirred up the water; and then whoever could get in first after the water was stirred by this messenger, was cured! Not that an angel from God ever went into this water, as some imagine; but was in all probability one of the lowest servants employed in cleaning out the Temple. This person it appears, went down at certain hours to stir it up; for which it is likely he received some trifle. The absurdity of the idea which some have entertained, that actually there were miraculous cures performed by this water, or that the sacred historians believed that there ever were such, has originated from misconceiving the meaning of the fourth verse; in which John does not give it as his opinion, or belief; but merely relates the then prevailing opinion. And as to the probability of some having been cured, we freely admit; nervous diseases are often cured by the operation of the mind, without any supernatural power what
The man cured on this occasion by Christ, had been ill thirty-eight years, (v. 5) a tolerable good proof that he laboured under no imaginary, or nervous, disease! But if this water actually possessed healing qualities,
why was not this man cured long before? We find it was those only were cared, who had strength enough to force their way through a pressing crowd to get before them all into the water; hence evidently those who could accomplish this feat, could not be very ill; hence the secret, that he only who could do this, that is get first in, after the messenger stirred the water, was cured. (v. 6, 7.) Moreover, from the account given of this place by John, we must conclude, that if angel meant à divine messenger, and that there were really miracles wrought by the water of this pool, this angel paid frequent and regular visits to it; frequent, to render the 'place so notorious as to draw together “a great multitude” of afflicted persons; and regular, by the expression “at certain seasons,” or times, so that the multitude might be regularly assembled there, and then be on the alert to run a race with their crutches &c., a struggling to get first into the water! To think that Almighty God would sanction such an exhibition, is indeed derogatory to His character; and well calculated to make infidels turn the Scriptures into ridicule! Did the Lord Jesus sanction such an opinion? No, no! He rather condemned the superstition, not only by his silence on the subject, but by His command to the cripple, “RISE, TAKE UP THY BED AND WALK!” As much as if He had said, “my power alone can heal,-arise-withdraw from this scene of superstition!"
I really regret the manner in which some Biblical Commentators have treated this subject : it appears it was too superstitious even for the notice of either of the Jewish historians, Philo, and Josephus; or of the authors of the Babylonish and Jerusalem Talmuds; none of whom say one word about the miraculous powers of this pool: which, no doubt they would have mentioned as tending to the credit of the Jew, not of the Christian. Theological writers have been too apt to make out miracles in the Bible, where the sacred narrators never intended to convey any such idea; and thus they have, unintentionally, exposed the Scriptures to the attacks and scoffs of Infidels: e. g. the swimming of the prophet's axe! See Axe. A modern traveller (M. Maundrell,) says, “that when he was at Jerusalem, he saw this pool, and some old arches now stopped up: that it was 120 paces long, 40 broad, and at least 8 deep.”
BETHLEHEM. A city in Judah, the birth-place of David, and of Christ. According to Volney, it could reckon only about 600 men capable of bearing arms. (See his Travels in Syria, vol. ii. p. 322.) The word translated “Coasts thereof,” (Matt. ii. 16,) means simply its borders, suburbs or limits. The assertion made by Voltaire that there must have been 14,000 children slain by the order of Herod, is not only ridiculous but can be proved to be impossible: the idea that a village containing only 600 men capable of bearing arms, had at any one time 14,000 male children under two years of age, is absurd! And the impossibility of the circumstance may be deduced from the fact that by this calculation more male children under two years of age are given to it, than to London or Paris; the former of which has upwards of a million and a half of inhabitants! This slaughter, in which in all probability not two dozen children were slain, is alluded to, both by Jewish and Heathen writers. As to Josephus having omitted it we need not be at all surprised, for this act would constitute a very unimportant event amongst the numerous black deeds of that monster in human shape-Herod the Great. (See Appendix, letter A, for an account of his last act and deed, as recorded by Josephus.)
Macrobius, a heathen author, mentions this massaere in the following terms:-“Augustus,” says he,“having been informed that Herod had ordered a son of his to be killed, among the male infants about two years old, whom he had put to death in Syria," said, “it is better to be Herod's hoG than to be his son!” This serves to prove how universally notorious was the murder of the children in Bethlehem, which was perpetrated by the orders of Herod. This massacre of the infants is also noticed in a rabbinical work called "Toldoth Jeshu," in the following passage: "and the king gave orders for putting to death every infant to be found in Bethlehem; and the king's messengers killed every infant according to the royal order." See Omission.
BIBLE, or "The Book," a term applied by way of eminence to that collection of sacred records which now, for convenience, are publishied in one volume, and contain a revelation of God's will. That these records were not the work of one, but of several persons; that they were not written at any one particular era or epoch of the world, but at different periods, some of them having been written hundreds of years before other parts; that they were not written in one particular country, but in several; finally, that they are not of human, but of divine origin, are facts, that can be as clearly and incontrovertibly proved and demonstrated to the intellectual senses of man, as that a book is composed of leaves, can be proved to his external or animal senses.
This book then consists essentially of,- 1st. Historical facts, faithfully, and to the best of the knowledge of the writers, recorded—2d. Divine commands and
divine communications: and 3d. Human commentaries which the writers as honest men, made, to the best of their judgment and opinion. It is therefore a most erroneous, though a very general idea, even amongst professed believers, that every word, and every sentence, in the Bible, are either divine revelation, or written by divine inspiration: and I am persuaded there is not a single circumstance which produces so much scepticism as this common error; or one, which infidels make use of, with so much success in their defence of infidelity, and in their attacks on the word of truth. The books of the old Testament were written on dried skins, stitched together, so as to constitute a roll of several hundred feet long and'about twenty inches wide, and was written in columns.
No Christian could ever imagine that the Patriarchs, the Prophets or the Apostles were at all times under the influence of the Spirit of God: indeed the Bible itself —their own confessions, (and what can be stronger,) and their own occasional conduct, prove indubitably the very
And if their actions were not at all times (as is evident) under divine influence, who can pretend to say their writings were? For example: in Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians, c. vii., the Apostle, uses the following expressions: “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment” (6)—“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord." (12) "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment (opinion,) as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord.” (25.) Again, the same apostle in his second Epistle to Timothy, c. iv. 13, says, “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” Who will say that this direction, which constitutes a part of the Bible, is a part of Divine Revelation, or written by the inspira