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Verse 45

Matthew 27:45. Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour From mid-day till three in the afternoon with us, (see note on Matthew 20:1,) there was darkness over all the land Or, over all the earth, as the original expression, επι πασαν την γην , is more literally rendered in the Vulgate, and understood by many learned men; “the sun being darkened,” says Grotius, “as Luke informs us, not by the interposition of the moon, which was then full, nor by a cloud spread over the face of the sky, but in some way unknown to mankind.” It is true, the same expression sometimes evidently signifies only all the land, as Luke 4:25, where it is so translated. It seems, however, highly probable, if the darkness did not extend to the whole earth, or, to speak more properly, to the whole hemisphere, (it being night in the opposite one,) it extended to all the neighbouring countries. “This extraordinary alteration in the face of nature was peculiarly proper,” says Dr. Macknight, “while the Sun of righteousness was withdrawing his beams from the land of Israel, and from the world, not only because it was a miraculous testimony borne by God himself to his innocence, but also because it was a fit emblem of his departure, and its effects, at least till his light shone out anew with additional splendour, in the ministry of the apostles. The darkness which now covered Judea, together with the neighbouring countries, beginning about noon and continuing till Jesus expired, was not the effect of an ordinary eclipse of the sun; for that can never happen except when the moon is about the change, whereas now it was full moon; not to mention that total darknesses occasioned by eclipses of the sun never continue above twelve or fifteen minutes. Wherefore it must have been produced by the divine power, in a manner we are not able to explain.” The Christian writers, in their most ancient apologies to the heathen, while they affirm that, as it was full moon at the passover, when Christ was crucified, no such eclipse could happen by the course of nature; “they observe, also, that it was taken notice of as a prodigy by the heathen themselves. To this purpose, we have still remaining the words of Phlegon, the astronomer and freedman of Adrian, cited by Origen, ( Contra Cels., p. 83,) at a time when his book was in the hands of the public. That heathen author, in treating of the fourth year of the 202d Olympiad, which is supposed to be the year in which our Lord was crucified, tells us, ‘That the greatest eclipse of the sun which was ever known happened then; for the day was so turned into night, that the stars in the heavens were seen.’ If Phlegon, as Christians generally suppose, is speaking of the darkness which accompanied our Lord’s crucifixion, it was not circumscribed within the land of Judea, but must have been universal. This many learned men have believed, particularly Huet, Grotius, Gusset, Reland, and Alphen.” Tertullian ( Apol., cap. 21.) says that this prodigious darkening of the sun was recorded in the Roman archives; for, says he, “at the same moment, about noontide, the day was withdrawn; and they, who knew not that this was foretold concerning Christ, thought it was an eclipse.” And Eusebius, in his Chronicle, at the eighteenth year of Tiberius, says, “Christ suffered this year, in which time we find in other commentaries of the heathen, these words: ‘There was a defection of the sun: Bithynia was shaken with an earthquake; and many houses fell down in the city of Nice.’” And then he proceeds to the testimony of Phlegon. See Whitby.

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