on Matthew 27 :45
There was darkness over all the land - I am of opinion that πασαν την γην does not mean all the world, but only the land of Judea. So the word is used Matthew 24:30; Luke 4:25, and in other places. Several eminent critics are of this opinion: Beza defends this meaning of the word, and translates the Greek, super universam Regionem over the whole Country. Besides, it is evident that the evangelists speak of things that happened in Judea, the place of their residence. It is plain enough there was a darkness in Jerusalem, and over all Judea; and probably over all the people among whom Christ had for more than three years preached the everlasting Gospel; and that this darkness was supernatural is evident from this, that it happened during the passover, which was celebrated only at the full moon, a time in which it was impossible for the sun to be eclipsed. But many suppose the darkness was over the whole world, and think there is sufficient evidence of this in ancient authors. Phlegon and Thallus, who flourished in the beginning of the second century, are supposed to speak of this. The former says: "In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was an extraordinary eclipse of the sun: at the sixth hour, the day was turned into dark night, so that the stars in heaven were seen; and there was an earthquake in Bithynia, which overthrew many houses in the city of Nice." This is the substance of what Phlegon is reputed to have said on this subject: - but
1. All the authors who quote him differ, and often very materially, in what they say was found in him.
2. Phlegon says nothing of Judea: what he says is, that in such an Olympiad, (some say the 102nd, others the 202nd), there was an eclipse in Bithynia, and an earthquake at Nice.
3. Phlegon does not say that the earthquake happened at the time of the eclipse.
4. Phlegon does not intimate that this darkness was extraordinary, or that the eclipse happened at the full of the moon, or that it lasted three hours. These circumstances could not have been omitted by him, if he had known them.
5. Phlegon speaks merely of an ordinary, though perhaps total, eclipse of the sun, and cannot mean the darkness mentioned by the evangelists.
6. Phlegon speaks of an eclipse that happened in some year of the 102nd, or 202nd Olympiad; and therefore little stress can be laid on what he says as applying to this event.
The quotation from Thallus, made by Africanus, found in the Chronicle of Syncellus, of the eighth century, is allowed by eminent critics to be of little importance. This speaks "of a darkness over all the world, and an earthquake which threw down many houses in Judea and in other parts of the earth." It may be necessary to observe, that Thallus is quoted by several of the ancient ecclesiastical writers for other matters, but never for this; and that the time in which he lived is so very uncertain, that Dr. Lardner supposes there is room to think he lived rather before than after Christ.
Dionysius the Areopagite is supposed to have mentioned this event in the most decided manner: for being at Heliopolis in Egypt, with his friend Apollophanes, when our Savior suffered, they there saw a wonderful eclipse of the sun, whereupon Dionysius said to his friend, "Either God himself suffers, or sympathizes with the sufferer." It is enough to say of this man, that all the writings attributed to him are known to be spurious, and are proved to be forgeries of the fifth or sixth century. Whoever desires to see more on this subject, may consult Dr. Lardner, (vol. vii. p. 371, ed. 1788), a man whose name should never be mentioned but with respect, notwithstanding the peculiarities of his religious creed; who has done more in the service of Divine revelation than most divines in Christendom; and who has raised a monument to the perpetuity of the Christian religion, which all the infidels in creation shall never be able to pull down or deface.
This miraculous darkness should have caused the enemies of Christ to understand that he was the light of the world, and that because they did not walk in it it was now taken away from them.
on Matthew 27 :45
Now from the sixth hour - That is, from our twelve o'clock. The Jews divided their day into twelve hours, beginning to count at sunrise.
There was darkness - This could not have been an eclipse of the sun, for the Passover was celebrated at the time of the full moon, when the moon is opposite to the sun. Luke says Luke 23:45 that "the sun was darkened," but it was not by an eclipse. The only cause of this was the interposing power of God - furnishing testimony to the dignity of the sufferer, and causing the elements to sympathize with the pains of his dying Son. It was also especially proper to furnish this testimony when the "Sun of righteousness" was withdrawing his beams for a time, and the Redeemer of men was expiring. A thick darkness, shutting out the light of day, and clothing every object with the gloom of midnight, was the appropriate drapery with which the world should be clad when the Son of God expired. This darkness was noticed by one at least of the pagan writers. Phlegon, a Roman astronomer, speaking of the 14th year of the reign of Tiberius, which is supposed to be that in which our Saviour died, says "that the greatest eclipse of the sun that was ever known happened then, for the day was so turned into night that the stars appeared."
Over all the land - That is, probably, over the whole land of Judea, and perhaps some of the adjacent countries. The extent of the darkness is not known.
The ninth hour - Until about three o'clock in the afternoon, at which time the Saviour is supposed to have died.
on Matthew 27 :45