Joseph and Benjamin: A Series of Letters on
The Controversy Between Jews and Christians:
Comprising the Most Important Doctrines Of the Christian Religion

Joseph Samuel C. F. Frey
1841

"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."

 

Preface

Dear Reader,

As you may probably have seen my narrative, or history of my own life, several editions of which have been published both in England and in this country, I shall not say any thing respecting myself except what may be necessary as a key to the following letters. In the year 1771 I was born in Germany, of Jewish parents, and brought up in the strict observance of all the religious ceremonies of my forefathers. I was early educated for the office of Rabbi, which I sustained afterward, together with the office of Reader in the synagogue, &c. for seven years. At the age of 25, being convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, I left my father's house and kindred, and publicly professed the Christian religion. In 1799 I devoted myself to the work of a missionary, and commenced the preparatory studies in the missionary seminary at Berlin, Prussia, and pursued it afterwards more fully in England. In 1805 I commenced my missionary labors in London, and continued the same until 1816, when I removed with my family to this country, where I became the pastor of a congregation in the city of New York. In 1823 I resigned my pastoral charge, and engaged as agent for the "American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews" until 1828. Since that period I have spent much of my time in traveling and preaching the glorious Gospel of the blessed God through the greater part of the United States. Thus far the Lord has brought me on, and I can truly say goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, for which I desire to bless his holy name.

The substance of the following letters constituted my lectures to my Jewish brethren in London, and many of them I have preached in several cities in Great Britain, in the city of New York, and Charleston, S. C. &c. and to the praise of Him "from whom cometh every good gift," I can say, upon good evidence, that they have met with general approbation, and frequently solicited for publication. For the last twenty years I have revised and enlarged these lectures repeatedly, and carefully compared them with the sacred Scriptures, with the writings of our ancient and modern Rabbins, and with the most approved works of Christian divines; and believe them to contain the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and Savior.

Now I am old and grey-headed, and cannot expect to have many more days to labor in the vineyard of my Lord, I have endeavored to prepare them for the press to the best of my poor abilities, and now humbly submit them to the public, that after I shall be dead, and gone to rest with my fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, I may yet, by these letters, teach transgressors the way of salvation through the once crucified, and now exalted, Redeemer, and confirm believers in the all-important truth, that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah, the Son of the living God.

With respect to the style and composition of this work, I am perfectly aware that the critic will find many imperfections, but hope the candid reader will please to bear in mind that the English is not my native tongue; and ever since I commenced speaking it, I have been actively and constantly engaged in the work of the Lord, which has not left me as much time as I could have wished to attend more strictly to the rules of rhetoric, and therefore humbly request the reader to attend more to the matter than to the style and composition of the following letters.

One object which I have constantly kept in view is, to show that the fundamental doctrines of our holy religion are neither "cunningly devised fables," nor "the inventions of modern priestcraft," but that they have been revealed in the Old Testament, and believed by the ancient people of God, and have been taught by Christ and his apostles in the New Testament, only in a fuller and clearer manner.

I have addressed these letters to Benjamin, my own brother, merely as a representative of all my Jewish brethren, concerning whom I can adopt the language of the great apostle of the Gentiles, if not as feelingly, yet I trust as sincerely, in declaring, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart, (for I did wish that myself were accursed from Christ,)(1)

1. Perhaps few passages have been considered more difficult to be understood than this. But the mind of the apostle may be easily known; 1. if the second and third verses are read without the clause "for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ"; 2dly. let the original word Euchomen, the imperfect middle voice, be translated I did wish, instead of I "could," i.e. before my conversion; 3dly. let this sentence be read in a parenthesis, as a reason why Paul felt and expressed greater sympathy for his brethren then any other of the apostles did. As if he had said, "they never hated Christ as I did; for before my conversion I was as bad as my unbelieving brethren are. For like them I did wish myself accursed from Christ; i.e. I abhorred the idea of believing in him, or as being considered one of his disciples; and therefore, by sad experience, I can sympathize with them more than others." He who has just been rescued from a dangerous fit of sickness feels more for a sick person than he who never knew what sickness means. Hence even the Son of God himself needed to be tempted and tried, that he might be able to succor them that are tempted.

for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Rom 9:1-5). Neither are these letters written for the Jews only, but also for Christians of every denomination. The variety of truth contained in them is made so plain, and is in itself so interesting and important, that I hope the work will prove exceedingly useful as a companion in Bible classes, a text book to candidates for the Gospel ministry, and a complete system of divinity for pious families.

Firmly believing that "Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God alone can give the increase," and that "it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord," I earnestly pray that the Lord in infinite mercy may make the truths contained in the following letters "the wisdom and the power of God unto salvation to every" reader, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

The Author
Brooklyn, New York, March 1835

 


Macintosh, Printer, Great New Street, London.

This work is most affectionately and warmly commended in Reviews, both in America and in this country; from a great number the following are selected:—

"We have read these volumes with pleasing surprise; for we expected something calculated to convince the Jew, and we found a fund of matter equally suitable to Jew and Gentile. In a series of letters addressed to his brother Benjamin, the author (who was once a Jewish Rabbi) has explained and defended the Christian religion, and its various doctrines, with considerable ability. We do not hesitate to pronounce the work to be a complete and valuable body of sound divinity, exactly suited to the wants of the present day. Free from the bigotry of party, and compressing, in a small compass, the substance of many folios; enriched with much that can only be obtained from a learned Hebrew: this work commends itself as no ordinary production. Parents who would prepare their children to meet the attacks of infidels, by storing their minds with systematic theology, should put 'Joseph and Benjamin' into their hands, and often read it in their families. Sabbath-school teachers, and members of Bible classes, who wish to excel, will here find the information they need. Ministers, whose opportunities for study have been but slender, will find this work a most important requisite; and all who would be ready to give a reason for the faith they profess, and the hope they indulge, may here be supplied with unanswerable arguments. The style is familiar, pleasing, and intelligible, and the second volume is accompanied by copious indexes. Mr. Frey's former works were valuable, but this is the most important production of his pen; and we hope and expect that the immense labour he has employed, will receive the reward of a very extensive circulation."—The American Baptist.

"These volumes remind us of the transparent theological works of the Puritans and Nonconformists, and of the unalloyed gold which persons who delve in those Evangelical mines will obtain as the remuneration for their labour.

"The topics are elucidated with much interest, clearness, and force. Mr. Frey has introduced his Rabbinical learning with considerable effect, to exhibit the conformity between the opinions of the ancient Jews and the most profoundly erudite Christians upon some of the abstruse points of 'divine philosophy.'

"These volumes comprise a great variety of most important matters, and so various in subject, that a perfect analysis would comprise an abridgment of the whole work. We cannot omit to mention, however, that the third and fourth letters in the first part, respecting the 'evidence of divine revelation'; the several letters adverting to 'the fall of man'; the illustrations in the third part of the predictions concerning the Messiah; and the character of Jesus, as Prophet, Priest, and Sacrifice, are to us very refreshing displays of sound Christian theology. Few modern volumes, we think, can be named which contain more sterling Evangelical truth in a similar compass, and more edifying in their tendency and effect, with less of human errors.

"These volumes of 'Joseph and Benjamin' we conscientiously recommend, as a useful companion for Bible classes, a valuable text-book to candidates for the ministry, and an excellent system of divinity."—Protestant Vindicator

From the Rev. John Campbell
Kingsland, April 21, 1837

My dear Sir,—As you have desired my opinion of the letters between "Joseph and Benjamin," on the controversy between Jews and Christians, I can say, that they appear to me to be the result of much thought, labour and research, especially into Rabbinical writings.

They also furnish information, very important for Christians to know, upon the matters at issue, between Jews and Christians, on the sentiments entertained by Jewish rabbis in different ages, of the promises and prophecies concerning Messiah; a species of knowledge possessed by few Christians of the present day; therefore, well worthy of their attentive perusal.

For the sake of the numerous Jews on the Continent of Europe, a compressed or abridged translation of these volumes is highly desirable, and I have no doubt but many Christians here and in other countries would contribute, in order to enable you to circulate many of them gratis among your Jewish brethren.

 

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