Two that sit together and are occupied in the words of
Torah have the Shekinah in their midst, for it is said,
"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to
another; and the Lord listened and heard, and a book
of remembrance was written before Him, for those
who feared the Lord and thought upon His name."
Pirkei Avot 3:2/Malachi 3:16
THE presentation of the truth of Christianity to those who do not accept it changes from age to age, in accordance with the fresh knowledge of it attained by Christians, and with alterations in the mind and attitude of those to whom they would present it. No defence therefore is required for attempting to restate the evidences of our religion.
But in doing so it is necessary to define the standpoint from which such an attempt is made, and to distinguish those to whom in particular it is addressed.
They who are on the extreme "left" of Judaism not only reject the Oral Law and the greater part of the Prayer Book, but also regard the Hebrew Scriptures as little more than a collection of fables, and think that miracles were never performed, and that prayer can expect no answer. In fact, they are only so far Jews as to observe circumcision, because it is a national sign, and to hope much from "the Mission of Israel" in its proclamation of Monotheism, and are not very far removed from the position of Unitarians. For them many recent and most excellent books on the Evidences of revealed religion, and especially of Christianity, already exist.
But the Orthodox Jews, who form the large majority of the Jews (say ten millions out of the eleven and a half), are in a very different case. They accept, more or less, the Oral Law, the Prayer Book, and, as the foundation of all, the Law of Moses, with, as they hold, the less fully inspired books of the Former and Latter Prophets and the Holy Writings. These books of Scripture are for them the final court of appeal, however much certain Talmudic sayings appear to the less educated of Jews, or even to the less instructed of Gentiles, to place the Oral above the Written Law. For these, it is true, many books in defence of Christianity have been written (of which Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho is the earliest that has come down to us in a fairly complete form), but none, so far as I am aware, of recent date, and of comprehensive character. It is then for Orthodox Jews, diverse though they are in degrees of western culture and of Jewish practice, that the following pages are written.
The plan of the whole work is as follows. In this, the first volume, the arguments of R. Isaac of Troki, in the First Part of his Chizzuk Emunah ("Strengthening of Faith"), are examined, generally in the order in which he adduces them. In the second volume, God willing, the Second Part of the same book, dealing with the New Testament, will be discussed. And in the third volume other difficulties will be considered which are not contained in either part of the Chizzuk Emunah.
The reasons why this restatement of Christian Evidences for Jewish people has taken its present form are: first, the author of the Chizzuk Emunah collected all the difficulties he could find, and combined them into one handy volume; secondly, being a Karaite his standard of appeal was much more definitely the Hebrew Scriptures than any treatise written by a Rabbinic Jew could have been; and, lastly, although a few of his arguments are rather grotesque, and have lost much of their weight with most Jews of the present time, the greater number are still considered valid, and are reproduced almost daily. It is in fact almost impossible to take up a Jewish paper, or religious book, without recognizing on nearly every page one or other of the arguments adduced in R. Isaac's famous work.
The outlook from which the following pages are written is, speaking generally, conservative. The author cannot indeed hope that his explanations of scriptural passages will commend themselves in every case to all his readers. Where the accepted Jewish opinion, as seen in its standard authorities, has seemed to him to be right against that of many, or even most, Christian writers, he has not hesitated to say so. For his one aim has been to set before his readers arguments for Christianity from the point of view of sound modern scholarship as well as of faithful membership of the Church of England.
For the Church of England teaches that the one and only source of Christian doctrine is Holy Scripture, in both the Old and the New Testaments: "Whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation" (Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Article vi.). Hence attention has been called again and again in the following pages to the mistake made by R. Isaac of Troki in supposing that certain practices or doctrines are a part of Christianity, although they are not contained in either the Old Testament or the New. This is the more important in that most Jews have lived, and still do live, under very imperfect forms of our holy religion, and can hardly be blamed for identifying them with Christianity itself.
The writer has been obliged to work independently, and has not been able to derive any great assistance from other books or pamphlets dealing directly with the subject under consideration. Yet he would be ungrateful indeed if he did not acknowledge his indebtedness to Gousset's elaborate answer in Latin to the Chizzuk Emunah (Amsterdam, 1712), lent him by the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews; J. Z. Lichtenstein's reply to the Second Part only, printed in Hebrew of almost microscopic characters, a copy of which was lent him by Prof. Strack (חזוק אמונת אמת, Leipzig, no date, but 1879); and Pastor Carl Becker's reply to the First Part, in German manuscript (1873), lent by Pastor Bieling, of the Berlin Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. From these he has gleaned many suggestions in details. He has also received much encouragement from Dr. W. O. E. Oesterley, Secretary of the Parochial Missions to the Jews, the Rev. H. Heathcote, Secretary of the East London Fund for the Jews, the Rev. C. T. Lipshytz of the Barbican Mission to the Jews, and, last but not least, the Rev. A. Bernstein, Editor of the Yiddish paper Qol M'basser, in which the greater part of this volume originally appeared.
English quotations from the Bible are generally taken from the Revised Version, unless there is some reason for the employment of a more literal translation. Where the numbering of chapter or verse differs in the English Versions from that in the Hebrew, the first reference is to the former, and the second, in brackets, to the latter.
Some passages of the Old Testament, which are quoted in the New, are considered in the second volume, and some, no doubt, which are nowhere adduced by R. Isaac, will be found in the third volume.
The addition of a Glossary for non-Jewish readers, and of Indices, will, it is hoped, be of service.
A. L. W.
November 3Oth, 1910.
R. ISAAC OF TROKI AND THE Chizzuk Emunah*
1] When in the end of the 14th century the Lithuanian Grand Duke Witold settled, as we are told,** in Lithuania some Karaites from the Crimea, placing some of them in the city of Troki not far from Wilna, he can hardly have supposed that the new comers would add considerably to the fame of that city. Yet it is probable that the greater part of those who have ever heard of Troki owe their knowledge of its existence to the fact that one of the descendants (as may be presumed) of those Karaites, and himself a Karaite, wrote a book which has become famous among all Jews, and among all those who take much interest in the welfare of Jews. For that the author of the famous Chizzuk Emunah was R. Isaac b. Abraham of Troki, and a Karaite, may be regarded as certain.* The Hebrew text used is that of D. Deutsch, published with a German translation, second edition, Sohrau, 1873. Geiger's essay, valuable for its information about the sources used by R. Isaac, published originally in 1853, has been reprinted in his Nachgelassene Schriften, 1876, pp. 178 sqq.It was first published by the German scholar J. C. Wagenseil, with other Jewish anti-Christian writings, in his Tela Ignea Satanae, 1681. Wagenseil tells us in his preface that while paying a flying visit from Spain to the little town of Ceuta on the North African coast, he so interested the Jews there by what he told them of their brethren in Europe, that not only did they give him in return information about their own affairs, but one of them also made him a present of a manuscript of the Chizzuk Emunah (previously quite unknown to him) with words of high commendation of it. Scholars long supposed that R. Isaac belonged to Cracow, and was a strict Rabbanite, but later investigations have shown that both these suppositions were wrong. He quotes indeed Rabbinic authorities not infrequently, but he no doubt does this after the spirit of an earlier Karaite teacher, Nissi b. Noah, a Persian of the eleventh century, who said that it was obligatory on the Karaites to study early Rabbinic literature, as the larger part of their teaching was based upon the true national tradition.* And if further the question be asked why, as it seems, Isaac never quotes Karaite authorities, the answer is presumably that, as he wished to put a book into the hands of Jews of all kinds and classes, he could attain his object better by omitting all reference to those writers whom the bulk of Jews would refuse to accept.
** Jewish Encyclopedia, vii. 444. xii. p. 263.* Jewish Encyclopedia, vii. p. 442.What else we know of Isaac may be put into very few words. He was born in 1533 and died in 1594. He was the pupil of a Karaite writer of repute, Zephaniah b. Mordecai, and it is said that he composed a few "liturgical hymns and compendiums of the religious laws in Aaron ben Elijah's 'Gan Eden.'" He had also some knowledge of Latin.** Jewish Encyclopedia, vii. p. 444. xii. pp. 265. sq.Poland at that time was in even a greater ferment than were most countries in the sixteenth century. It had become the common receptacle for all sorts and conditions of religious enthusiasts; turbulent or original spirits that found no congenial home elsewhere. Every branch and sect of the Christian Church found liberty of speech in Poland, and obtained more or less following. It was inevitable that Jews also should be exposed to controversy, and it was typical of the time and place (would that it were more typical of every time and place!) that they were able to argue for their faith openly without fear of consequences.
Hence it is no great matter for wonder that Isaac tells us that he had frequent discussions with persons of every faith and rank, and that he had kept some records of these discussions.
Upon the basis of these notes he arranged his book, referring to them not infrequently, and incorporating them as need occurred. His book was finished (save part of the list of contents) only the year before he died (i.e., in 1593), he giving it in charge to his pupil Joseph b. Mordecai (Malinowski), also of Troki, who added a preface of his own and a more complete list of contents, without, as it seems, actually printing the work.
2] It is confessedly a famous book, but the date at which it was written makes us pause and ask ourselves whether it is worth reading in these days. Much water has flowed under the bridge since 1593. Is it the case that Jews can still depend upon it for a defence of Judaism against Christianity, and can still venture to use it for an arsenal of weapons whereby to attack Christianity? Or is it not altogether too old-fashioned a book, too wholly out of date, for either Jews to use or Christians to reckon with?
Of course in many ways this is the case. It is old-fashioned; it is out of date. But not altogether. Many of its arguments are in fact very well suited to the Jewish mode of thought existing to-day, and many, it must be confessed, are well worth the consideration of Christians.
It is indeed not original. There is hardly a trace of originality in it. But this makes it none the worse for Jews, who are more accustomed to look to the repetition of ancient teaching than to the enunciation of new truths, and has in fact tended towards its permanence. For what was original three hundred years ago must long since have ceased to present any charm in that respect to-day, and the absence of any claim to originality has no doubt helped to secure its better preservation and respect among so conservative a race of religious thinkers as the Jewish nation.
But its charm lies in its clearness and its comprehensiveness. It is absolutely clear. There is very seldom any doubt at all what the author means. He was in no sense a great man. But to write a summary of other people's thoughts, and record them in a clear and convenient form, does not require greatness as we understand the term. He thinks clearly, knowing his own mind, and he expresses his thoughts clearly. Also he is comprehensive; he has gathered his material as widely as possible, and has collected together all the arguments in favour of Judaism and against Christianity that he can find. He has too, in the second part of his treatise, gone through the New Testament writings seriatim, dealing with each point that arises there. Hence his work has always been a very convenient storehouse from which weapons may be picked with ease, to meet the arguments adduced by Christians, or to confirm the wavering faith of a member of the Jewish community. That Jews have found such a work useful to them from their point of view is not surprising.
3] Yet it is not too much to say that the Chizzuk Emunah shows but a very superficial acquaintance with Christianity. Jews think that by using it they are using arguments against Christianity which are sound and good. But in reality this is far from being the case. R. Isaac evidently had some acquaintance with the various sects and forms of Christianity, but he never seems to have grasped its real character and teaching, and is often (so at least it seems to me) very unfair in his reasoning.
Do I hear a Jew say in his heart, That does not matter if the end is reached, freedom from the snares of a false religion? Nay, my Brother. It can never be well for our soul's life to make use of the help of a lie. And if R. Isaac all unwittingly (that I fully grant, for he seems to have been a perfectly honest man at heart, however unfair he was in some of his arguments) let himself adduce reasons that will not hold the light of candid and fair examination to-day, our souls suffer if we are deceived by him. For it may be that if he is wrong on some points he is wrong also in others. And it may even be that if he gives a wrong impression, because he himself is wrongly informed, about either the New Testament or the Lord Jesus, he turns away from fuller light souls that otherwise would perceive it.
The various errors into which R. Isaac falls will appear in detail as we proceed. Suffice it now to say that they centre round the following subjects:(1). He forgets, or is not aware, that the New Testament was written by Jews, and must be judged in its arguments by Jewish methods. R. Isaac argues as though he thought that the New Testament was written, for example, by a learned and logical Pole of his own time. In other words R. Isaac fails to judge the New Testament by the same standard as that which he would apply to the writers of the Talmud.Faults, you say, these of the time when R. Isaac wrote! Yes, undoubtedly to a great extent. And so far he himself is not to be blamed. But the strange thing is that he still holds the ears of so many; that so many of his readers still fail to see that his book is far behind the time in numberless respects, and thus shut their eyes to Jesus as He is portrayed in the New Testament, to Jesus as He really is.
(2). He misunderstands the Christian doctrine about Jesus. He forgets, whenever at least he can score a point by doing so, that Jesus was not only God but also man, with a manhood perfect and complete in every respect.
(3). He fails to see the attractiveness of the character of Jesus, and confines his argument much too exclusively to the relation that Jesus holds in word and work to the prophecies of Messiah contained in the Old Testament.
4] May I call the attention of all those who read these pages to an excellent saying that R. Isaac himself quotes from "the greatest of philosophers"?"If Socrates and Plato are dear to us the Truth is dearer still."*Let us then act on this. We love wise men and their writings, heathen or Jews, but we love the Truth very much more, and are determined to follow it at all costs. I myself shall try to carry out this principle. I hope to be absolutely candid, and shall not hesitate to say when the arguments of the Chizzuk Emunah appear to me to be right (and they often are right); and again, on the other hand, I shall endeavour to show where and why they are wrong, and only ask the reader to weigh fairly, and without prejudice, such arguments as may be adduced. We both want the Truth, and nothing less than all the Truth. May the One God whom Jews and Christians serve guide us into it.* By "the greatest of philosophers," R. Isaac certainly means Aristotle. The saying, however, is a proverb found in various forms, and is doubtless derived ultimately from only a misunderstanding of Aristotle (Ethics, i. vi. i.).
PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS TO CHRISTIANITY
1. ITS RELATION TO HEATHENISM.
R. Isaac's Preamble (ההצעה)
5] BEFORE beginning his book R. Isaac writes a short Preamble, in which he places from the very first the whole of Christian teaching under a cloud. He gives such a tone to all his book that any Jew who reads it will say, It is of course quite useless studying Christianity at all after what this learned Rabbi says here, for he has shown the absurdity of it at once. R. Isaac is in fact like those lawyers who, while professing to plead in a case, begin by raising a demurrer that the case itself ought never to have been brought forward, because there is a fatal flaw in the whole of it. Yet we must not blame R. Isaac overmuch. He is quite above board in stating that his purpose is not to consider the truth of Christianity, but only to shew that it is utterly and entirely wrong. Only let no reader of the Chizzuk Emunah come to it with the impression that he is beginning the study of Christianity under an unprejudiced and scrupulously fair guide. Intentionally or not, and we think unintentionally, R. Isaac is very far from being that.
The Preamble is likely to make every Jewish reader have a deeper prejudice against Christianity than ever.
For R. Isaac says that he could not understand how Christians could believe doctrines so contrary to reason until he read in a certain Polish Chronicle* some account of the beliefs of the heathen before the birth of Jesus. He read, for example, that the heathen believed that one god was born from a virgin; that another was born from a virgin's head; that a king killed his own son, and cooked him, and set him before the gods to eat; that they however refused to eat him, but restored him to life; and many other nonsensical tales like the nonsensical tales that are now found in the writings of the Christian faith.* Afterwards in this Preamble R. Isaac speaks of this as "the Great Chronicle which is printed in Polish." See further in paragraph 477.Does R. Isaac really think for a moment that the doctrines of Christianity have any common ground with the filthy stories of Greek and Roman mythology?
Further, having made this unseemly remark, he explains the phenomenon at which he wonders by saying that as Christians had been accustomed from their childhood to hear such tales they came to regard Christian doctrines as natural, "For habit is second nature."
But in saying this he seems to forget who it was that composed the books contained in the New Testament. He implies that these were written by Christians who had been heathen. But every one knows, unlearned and scholars alike, that out of all the writers of the New Testament, not more than one, St. Luke (and even in his case there is room for doubt), can possibly have been a Gentile by birth. All of them, save one, were Jews, and apparently as strict Jews as ever R. Isaac himself was. They had, that is to say, no more been accustomed to hear heathen tales than had R. Isaac. They had all been trained carefully in the Jewish faith, and been taught, as it seems, in deeply religious homes, and, if they came to believe on Jesus, it was because their hearts could not resist Him, as they recognized in Him the Saviour of their souls.
6] Perhaps, however, some may feel that it is not necessary to point out this blunder on the part of R. Isaac; he is dead and gone, why recall his errors? It certainly would not be worth noticing if a thought did not lie at the back of it which still hinders Jews in their examination of Christianity. It is urged by many Jews (quite without reason, as I myself believe), that some Christian doctrines have been derived from heathenism, and it is urged that these doctrines are therefore not true.
(1). Let us take the last point first. What right have we to say that because a doctrine has been derived from heathenism it is therefore not true? Have we ever thought how many of the practices and laws and even doctrines of the Jews themselves would stand if this were the case? What, for example, of the customs on New Moons? They are not mentioned in the Bible. But these, it may be urged, are mere details. What then even of circumcision itself? Oh, it is said, that was given to Abraham by God! Certainly, but not before it had been practised by heathen. Long before Abraham's time circumcision had been a common practice among the heathen. But, a Jew will say, our circumcision is not like heathen circumcision; there are details of difference. I know well enough that there are details of difference now. But there is no evidence that these details are anything more than plans of human devising to differentiate Jewish from heathen circumcision. Circumcision as such is a heathen practice. Again, take the Jewish Law. No educated man to-day is ignorant of the fact that long before the time of Moses, and the coming of the children of Israel to Mount Sinai, many of its laws were in existence. I refer in particular to the great Code made by Khammurabi, who is almost certainly to be identified with the Amraphel mentioned in Genesis 14. His Code, which dates therefore at least as early as the time of Abraham, long before the Exodus, contains many of the laws that were given at Mount Sinai. In origin therefore they were heathen. But they are none the less true because of that. So with the doctrine of Angels. It existed in some form long before the books of the Bible were written, and in its present developed form is to be traced much more to heathen sources than to the Bible. And yet some Jews turn round and say that doctrines taken from heathenism are ipso facto to be rejected!
It is very hard to escape from the notion that God, the One Holy God whom Jews and Christians worship, is only the God of the Jews, and not also the God of the whole earth. He has indeed been the God of the Jews in a very special sense, far be it from me to deny it; but He is also the God of the whole world. He has from time to time taught even the heathen some truths, and if He has guided either Jews or Christians to take over some of these truths from the heathen, it is not very fitting that either Christians or Jews should turn round and say, Lord, we will have nothing to do with these, because they come from the heathen. If Jews were to do this to their own faith, and to their own Books, they would lose a very great deal of what they now rightly hold sacred.
7] (2). But is it true that Christian doctrines have been derived, indirectly at least, from heathen sources?
I am not concerned to attempt to defend all so-called Christian doctrines, much less all Christian practices, for there are several doctrines and practices against which we who are members of the Church of England most heartily protest. I am concerned only with those practices and doctrines which are upheld in the New Testament. Neither shall I attempt to discuss in detail now any one such doctrine or practice. I ask the reader at present to notice only the great outstanding points of difference between the practices and doctrines of heathen religions and those of Christianity, i.e., of the New Testament. For, as we must remind ourselves again and again, it is not a question of the Christianity of England or of Russia or of Germany or of America, but of the New Testament that is before us.
There are two great differences easy to be remembered. First, the teaching of Christianity is always moral, while Heathenism pays very little regard to morals. Even Socrates, the greatest of the ancients, defended practices utterly and abominably immoral. But the teaching of Christianity, the Christianity of the New Testament, is in every case moral and pure. Jews, speaking generally, will acknowledge this. Even in spite of all that they have, alas, suffered at the hands of Christians, they know that the actions of their persecutors have been wholly against the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Heathenism is very often utterly irrational and contrary to reason. But I have myself never yet heard of a single Christian doctrine contained in the New Testament (I am not thinking of strange additions to Christian doctrine made in later ages) that is not both consistent with the purest reason and the most advanced thought and philosophy, and at the same time based upon the Old Testament. Jewish readers will smile at this. I can only ask them now to withhold their judgment until we have considered more questions together. For I entreat them not to be turned away from the study of the New Testament, i.e., the study of the Lord Jesus, by prima facie difficulties in Christian doctrines.
2. SUPPOSED PROOFS THAT JESUS OF NAZARETH CANNOT BE THE PROMISED MESSIAH.
a. His GENEALOGY. Part 1.45; Part 2.1.
8] R. Isaac begins his Treatise by saying that he will postpone to the Second Part his objections to the use made in the New Testament of the Prophecies found in the Old, but he has several weighty proofs that Jesus of Nazareth was not Messiah at all.
The first of these refers to His Genealogy, according to which, R. Isaac says, first, Jesus Himself was not a descendant of David, for He was not, according to Christian teaching, the son of Joseph, and we know nothing of Mary's ancestry; and secondly, even if He were the son of Joseph the Genealogy of the latter is most uncertain, for the two witnesses to it, Matthew and Luke, contradict each other. In Part 2.1 R. Isaac returns to the same subject, and repeats, with some enlargement, the same objections, so that it is convenient for us to consider both passages together.
9] (1). Let us take the second objection first, the untrustworthiness of the evidence for the genealogy of Joseph.
R. Isaac finds three difficulties:A. According to Matthew, Joseph's father is Jacob and his line comes down through Solomon; according to Luke, Joseph's father is Eli and his line comes down through Nathan the son of David.10] (i). Now candidly, I do not think much of the difficulties raised in B and C. Indeed, if the truth must be told, they seem to me to be more fit for a Gentile than a learned Rabbi. Has R. Isaac never heard of mnemonics and Midrash? Has he never noticed that Matthew divides his series into three times fourteen, presumably for the sake of memory, and that fourteen equals by Gematria דוד (David), while three is the number of the letters themselves in that word?* But, if Matthew purposely arranged his names thus, was it not almost necessary that he should leave some names out? "What!" it is said, "in a Genealogy?" Yes, even so. Does not Ezra leave out names in a Genealogy? See Ezra 7:1-5 where the names from Amariah to Johanan, six in all, are omitted; compare 1 Chronicles 6:7-11. (=Heb. 5:33-37). The learned Dr. Schechter, now President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, is a wiser man than R. Isaac, when he says (Jewish Quarterly Review, xii. April, 1900, p. 418): "the impression conveyed to the Rabbinic student by the perusal of the New Testament is in many parts like that gained by reading an old Rabbinic homily." And then he goes on to remark upon the thoroughly Rabbinic character of the Genealogy contained in Matthew. Compare also Pirqe Aboth, 5.2 and 3, where we are told, first, that there are ten generations from Adam to Noah, where Adam is included, and, secondly, that there are ten from Noah to Abraham, where Noah is excluded. Mere exactness in numerals easily gives way in Jewish writings to mnemonics and hortatory instruction. No really learned Jew will dream of blaming the Genealogy in the First Gospel for this.
B. According to Matthew there were forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus; according to Luke fifty-six.
C. Matthew makes an evident error (טעות מפורסמת) in saying that Joram begat Uzziah, for he thus omits Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah (cf. 1 Chr. 3:11, 12).* See also The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, pp. 260-265.11] (ii). His first difficulty (A) with regard to the genealogy of Joseph is however more worthy of consideration.
[JCR - Ezra 7:1-5 Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
1 Chronicles 6:7-14 Meraioth begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub, And Ahitub begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Ahimaaz, And Ahimaaz begat Azariah, and Azariah begat Johanan, And Johanan begat Azariah, (he it is that executed the priest's office in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem:) And Azariah begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub, And Ahitub begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Shallum, And Shallum begat Hilkiah, and Hilkiah begat Azariah, And Azariah begat Seraiah, and Seraiah begat Jehozadak,
For more info please see, The Genealogies of the Bible: A Neglected Subject by Arthur Custance.
Tractate Avot (Pirke Avot) - "Sayings of the Fathers"
MISHNA B. Ten generations were there from Adam to Noah, to show how great was His long-suffering; for all the generations were provoking him, till He brought the deluge upon them.
MISHNA C. Ten generations were there from Noah to Abraham, to show how great was His long-suffering; for all the generations were provoking Him till Abraham our father came, and received the reward of them all.
Biblical Genealogy: 1. Adam, 2. Seth, 3. Enos, 4. Kenan, 5. Mahaalel, 6. Jared, 7. Enoch, 8. Methusaleh, 9. Lamech, 10. Noah, 11. Shem, 12. Arpachshad, 13. Shelah, 14. Eber, 15. Peleg, 16. Reu, 17. Serug, 18. Nahor, 19. Terah, 20. Abram]
(a). I freely grant that the difficulty cannot be got over by saying that Luke's form is not the genealogy of Joseph, but of Mary. For Luke gives not a trace of a hint that this is the case. We may assume that both are Joseph's.
(b). I grant also that all such explanations as the following are extremely improbable: (1) Jews of rank had more than one name. (2) The two sons of Matthan were Jacob the elder and Eli the younger; Joseph was the son of Jacob, and Mary the only child of Eli; then by marriage with his cousin Mary, Joseph becomes Eli's son as well as Jacob's. This explanation is ingenious in that it both explains the two genealogies as Joseph's, and yet shows that in fact Luke's is also that of Mary. But it is quite too ingenious to be admitted without proof.* (3) Jacob died without children, and Eli marrying his widow, according to Jewish usage, became by her the father of Joseph, who hence would be called Jacob's son, that the elder brother's line might not die out. This too seems to be highly conjectural.* John Lightfoot's supposition that the notice in T. J. Chagigah, ii. 2. (77 d.) of Miriam the daughter of Eli refers to the mother of the Lord Jesus seems to be quite unwarranted.(c). But there is one other explanation which is possible, and, in view of the statements made, even probable: vis., that Luke gives the true descent through private persons, and Matthew the line of succession of heirship, largely through kings. In favour of this explanation is the fact that he places Jehoiachin, who, as he very well knew from Jeremiah 22:30, was to have no child of his own worthy of the name, among the ancestors of the Messiah.
The result therefore of our consideration of this first question as to the Genealogies is that they both refer to Joseph, and that there is no sufficient reason to doubt the general trustworthiness of them both, each in its own way.
12] (2). We now come to the further and still more important question as to the Davidic origin of Jesus if the two genealogies are those of Joseph, it being presupposed that according to the Christian belief He was born of the Virgin Mary alone.
(i). I grant that there is no clear and definite statement in the New Testament that Mary was descended from David.
(a). Yet there are several passages in the New Testament which point to this belief. In Luke 1:32 the angel who addresses Mary at the Annunciation tells her that God shall give unto her son "the throne of his father David," and in verse 69 Zacharias says that God "hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David." So too in Acts 2:30 St. Peter speaks of God swearing to David that "of the fruit of his loins He would set one upon his throne," and applies this promise to Jesus. St. Paul's evidence is most convincing of all. He, as a learned Jew, knew perfectly well that the Messiah was to be of David's line, yet, though after his conversion he mingled much with Christians who had known the Lord Jesus in the flesh, he never shows the slightest hesitancy in attributing to him Davidic descent. He writes for example in Romans 1:3 of Jesus "who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh." Besides, we have numerous examples in the Gospels of Jesus being addressed as Son of David, and nowhere is there the least hint of any objection being raised against His claim to Messiahship on the ground that He was not of David's line.
(b). But while it is true that the New Testament may just leave room for doubt as to the origin of Mary herself, the Christians of the next generation had no doubt at all. In other words they who had seen Apostles (and others who had known Jesus in the flesh) accepted the Davidic origin of Mary as a fact. See in particular Ignatius (A.D. 110), who says (To the Ephesians, 18, 2), "For our God Jesus the Christ was conceived of Mary according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David and of the Holy Ghost."
There is therefore every probability, according to the evidence before us, that Mary, as well as Joseph, was descended from David.** The Ascension of Isaiah, xi. 2. (probably first cent. AD), speaks of Mary's descent from David.13] (ii). It must however be borne in mind that the question is not of such vital importance as at first sight it might seem to be. Imagine what Jews would have said, and certainly a learned Rabbi like R. Isaac would have caught up the cry at once, if the genealogy of Mary had been given in the N. T. and not that of Joseph. "We do not reckon a genealogy by the mother! You have produced no proof at all that he was descended from David! You ought to have produced the genealogy of Joseph if the evidence was to weigh with us who are acquainted with Jewish customs! We say, "The father's family is called family; the mother's is not" (T.B. Baba Bathra, 109b).
There was therefore no special object in giving the genealogy of Mary, though she was of David's line.
(iii). The fact is that according to every human law Jesus was reckoned legally as Joseph's son. No other father could be found or was known.** Indeed we may say in all truth that no fatherhood of any kind, human or Divine, produced in Mary the birth of Jesus. Jesus Himself, according to the teaching of the New Testament, took human nature in her, she being strictly a virgin.Listen to the words of one who of all Gentiles living is perhaps the most learned in matters of this kind:"The descent from David is attested by the evangelists with regard to Joseph only, and not Mary, in accordance with the view that descent on the mother's side does not carry with it any right of succession, and that her husband's recognition of Mary's supernatural child conferred upon it the legal rights of his son. Lichtenstein* recalls the fact in this connexion that all property acquired by a spouse becomes uniformly the possession of the husband according to Kethuboth 6.1, and that in the case of any question as to one's origin, common opinion was, in point of law, the decisive consideration (T.B. Kidd. 8oa).** Nevertheless, neither of these points touches the right of succession. The criterion for this, according to Baba-Bathra, 8.6 [T. B. Baba-Bathra, 134a] is whether the father is willing to recognise anyone as his son. A case such as that of Jesus was, of course, not anticipated by the law; but if no other human fatherhood was alleged, then the child must have been regarded as bestowed by God upon the house of Joseph, for a betrothed woman, according to Israelitish law, already occupied the same status as a wife. The divine will, in the case of this birth, conferred upon the child its own right of succession, which, once Joseph recognised it, would not have been disputed even by a Jewish judge."***The conclusion then at which we arrive with regard to this difficult subject is that, although it is true that we have no direct evidence as to the Davidic origin of Mary, R. Isaac does not deal with the question accurately, for the balance of probability is very greatly in favour of her being a descendant of David; also that in any case, according to Jewish law, Jesus himself must be pronounced to be a descendant of David.* Hebrew Commentary on Mark and Luke, 1896, 13 a sq.
** D. Deutsch rightly rejects this argument in his edition of the Chizzuk Emunah, 1873, pp. 426 sq. (A.L.W.).
*** Dalman, Words of Jesus, xii. 2, pp. 319 sqq.
b. THE ACTIONS OF JESUS.
CHAPTER 1 CONTINUED; COMPARE PART 2.13 AND 21.
14] The first of the learned Rabbi's grave difficulties, namely that concerning the Genealogy of our Lord Jesus, was, as we have seen, a very real difficulty, and well worthy of being raised. It was a perfectly fair objection to make, even though we could not find that it was ultimately valid. But this his second difficulty is of a very different character. He solemnly affirms (for there is no sign that he means it other than seriously, even if joking were at all in place in the discussion of so solemn a subject) that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because of His own description of His work. First, He says that He came to bring not peace but a sword, and divisions in families (Matt 10:34, 35); whereas we read of the true Messiah, "He shall speak peace unto the nations" (Zech 9:10), and "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks" (Isa 2:4); and again we find that in the true Messiah's time Elijah the prophet "shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children" (Mal 4:6). Secondly, He says (Matt 20:28), "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister"; whereas of the true Messiah we read (Psa 72:11), "All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him"; and (Zech 9:10), "His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth"; and (Dan 7:27), "All dominions shall serve and obey Him."
It is, I repeat, very hard for a Christian Englishman to think that these objections have been made seriously, but, as there is no reason to doubt this, we must take them into consideration.
15] (1). Let us consider the second objection first.
To R. Isaac it seems unworthy of Messiah that He should serve. What! Is it not a graceful and most king-like action for a king sometimes to serve? I do not suppose that R. Isaac was able to read English, learned man though he was, but he had plenty of histories in Polish or German which might have told him about our own Edward the Black Prince, who died in 1376. Did the Prince think it a disgrace to wait upon the French King whom he had made a prisoner? Did he not then, or at some other time, take as his motto the words Ich Dien, "I serve"? And does not the Prince of Wales to this very day have them for his own, even though he stands next to the King of England, Emperor of India and of the Britains across the sea? How can the fact that Jesus says that He serves invalidate His position as king? For is not Jesus king? What is a king but one who rules? And does He not rule over men to a most extraordinary degree? Was there ever one born of woman to whom men in all ages since His coming, and in all countries where His name has been proclaimed, have yielded and are yielding such willing homage? See also paragraphs 27, 79.
What has been the reason? Is it not this in no slight measure, that when He was on earth He was always ready to do His very uttermost for the bodies and souls of others, willing to serve them to the extremest limit of His power?
16] (2). R. Isaac's other objection is that Jesus said that He had come to bring not peace but a sword.
What does the Rabbi mean by this objection? Does he seriously suppose that Jesus came to make men fight? If he did he would be as amusing, or as irritating, if you prefer it, as those critics of the Talmud who take everything au pied de la lettre, and forget that hyperbolical and figurative language is natural to one born in the East. Surely R. Isaac knows that Jesus expressly says that He left His disciples peace: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful" (John 14:27). Again, in John 16:33 He says: "These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." And not only does He promise His disciples peace in their hearts, but He also urges them to do everything in their power to bring about peace with others. What else is the effect of His command that they should love one another, and that they should love their enemies? To read R. Isaac's words it might be supposed that Jesus was a firebrand urging His followers to strife and war. Whereas everyone who reads the New Testament knows that the very reverse was the case.
17] What then did Jesus really mean when He said that He came to send a sword? Surely it is not so very difficult to understand His parable. Does it not mean thisI speak as to wise menthat His doctrine would have, as its immediate effect, a separating power; that whenever a person accepted Jesus and His words, and took Him as his Saviour and endeavoured to carry out His commands, he would become different from others round him, and they would necessarily feel that he was different, and would act accordingly?
18] Does not the experience of all who read these pages bear out what I say? Have you ever known a Jew become a Christian? If so, what has been the effect upon his family? He says that he himself still loves his family. But do they still love him? I dare say they do, but they show their love in a very strange way. For is it not the case that they feel deeply the estrangement that his conversion to Christianity has brought about, and even in many cases refuse to have anything more to do with him? Have you never heard of a Jewish mother refusing to see her son who has become a Christian? Have you never heard of a Jewish father turning such a son out of his house? Have you never heard of a whole Jewish family mourning for a baptized member, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, as though dead, and never mentioning even the name of the one who has been baptized, save with a shudder?
I do not ask whether such an action of the father, the mother, the family, is right or wrong. I desire only to point out that whenever members of a family do this they are unconsciously fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus, and helping to prove the truth of His sayings, that He came to bring a sword and to divide households.
19] But someone will say: How can such a separation, such a sword (to keep up the imagery employed by Jesus), be consistent with the idea of Messiah, who, as we read in Isaiah 9:6, was to be "Prince of Peace"? Let us imagine for a moment what the effect would be if a perfectly holy Messiah were to come into the world. Would not the revelation of so much goodness and holiness necessarily make a division among those to whom He came? Would it not necessarily distinguish people into higher and lower; into those who gladly and thankfully try to follow Him, and those to whom, at first, the immediate change in the life of such followers appears as something exceedingly curious, and condemnatory of their own unchanged behaviour? Do we not read in the Bible that the coming of God Himself is to produce just such an effect? For in Isaiah 65:6-10 (to take but one passage), you will see that the manifestation of God has this very result. Some are marked out as those who oppose Him, and others as those who are His. In other words, the revelation of God Himself produces division, brings (in Jesus imagery) not peace, but a sword. If Jesus was the Messiah it is hard to understand how His appearance could fail to produce just such a separation as He said it would produce, and as, in fact, we see it does produce.
20] But if the question be raised whether the coming of Jesus has upon the whole made for peace or war, there is no doubt what the answer must be. Everyone will admit that in spite of all the faults of His followers (and alas, they have been many) the general result of the coming of Jesus has been to diminish war, and the horrors of war. It will be acknowledged that Christian nations have gradually been learning to desire peace, and to try to bring about peace between nation and nation. The teaching of Jesus has always made for peace, in spite of opposition stirred up by evil passions. In other words, we must confess that R. Isaac has taken one of Jesus sayings out of its proper surroundings, and has not tried to understand its real meaning.
c. THE TIME OF THE COMING OF MESSIAH.
CHAPTER 1 CONTINUED
21] R. Isaac argues that the time when Jesus came does not correspond with that in which, according to the prophets, the true Messiah appears.
He says first that the Prophets affirm that Messiah shall come באחרית הימים (b'acharit hayamim, "auf die spatesten Tage," "in the last days," as Deutsch translates, fully in accord with R. Isaac's views), and that therefore Jesus cannot be the true Messiah. To prove his point he quotes Isaiah 2:2, Ezekiel 38:8 (where however the phrase is not באחרית הימים but באחרית השנים), Hosea 3:5, and Daniel 2:28. As however this last passage would prove too much for his purpose, for strictly it indicates the whole of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he says that it really refers only to verse 44, the kingdom which shall never be destroyed. We consider verse 44 in paragraphs 25-30, but it does not contain באחרית הימים or its Aramaic equivalent, and therefore does not in all fairness belong to our immediate discussion.
22] With regard to the Rabbi's contention that these passages show that Jesus cannot be the true Messiah because they say that the latter will come באחרית הימים, observe:
(1). Of the four passages three contain no reference to Messiah Himself at all. It is only in Hosea 3:5 that He is spoken of ("David their king"), and even there, many commentators find no reference to Him. But personally I think that R. Isaac is right in understanding "David" there to mean Messiah. In the three other passages however the time indeed is Messianic, but if Messiah Himself is not mentioned we have no right to regard this as a mere accident, but rather to see if there be not a hidden meaning in this omission. May not the omission of all mention of Messiah, in these passages that speak of the Messianic time, have been purposely made in order to hint to us that the time spoken of is not so strictly limited to the actual period of Messiah's appearance as the Rabbi thinks?
23] (2). R. Isaac appears to assume that the phrase באחרית הימים means "in the very latest days," "in the end of the days," in such a sense that there is no time to come after. But is this the Scriptural meaning of the phrase? How is it used in the very first passage where it occurs, in Genesis 49:1? Does it mean there, as R. Isaac would pretend it always means, "in the very end of time," after which there is to be no more? This is impossible. It does not there even mean "in a time that continues to the end of all things." For the history of Jacob's children which the Patriarch unfolds to them in the following verses has long since come to an end, so far as regards the character and separate history of each tribe. The passage shows clearly enough what the phrase properly does signify, viz, the latter part of any specific time. It may in itself be a long time or a short time; it may also be short or long in comparison with that part which has preceded it, but it is only the after as contrasted with the former part. Thus אחרית is used of the latter part of Job's life (42:12), and lasts 140 years, in contrast to the earlier part of his life, before his terrible sufferings came upon him.
Here then we see the true meaning of the phrase in the utterances of the Prophets. It affirms that in a period of time which is later than that in which they were actually prophesying, Messiah shall appear, or the Messianic work and influences shall take effect. But the phrase does not contain the slightest hint that time shall cease to be, immediately that Messiah has come, or that a long period of time may not elapse between the inauguration of the Messianic period and the final establishment of all things upon a Messianic basis.
This objection, therefore, brought by R. Isaac against the Lord Jesus (a merely verbal one at best), seems to be invalid.
24] (3). Probably, however, he did not desire to lay so much stress upon this verbal argument itself as upon the presence or absence of the signs and tokens that are to be the outcome of the true Messiah's advent. For he next proceeds to deal with these in detail, considering them formally under a fresh head. But here, unfortunately, the Rabbi loses some of his usual clearness of argument. For he considers them in two separate lists, and repeats himself not a little. His first list is in Chapter 1, and his second in Chapter 6, and several of the items occur in both lists. His reason for this treatment of them is that in Chapter 1 he argues that because these signs have not taken place, therefore Jesus cannot be the true Messiah, and in Chapter 6 that the Captivity of the Jews is to last until Messiah has brought about all these signs, and therefore the Messiah cannot come until the end of the present Captivity. But his arguments run so much into one another, and there is so much in common between the two lists, that I shall consider them together.
d. THE SIGNS OF THE COMING OF MESSIAH.
1. ONE KINGDOM AND ONE KING.
Chapter 1.4.a, compare Chapter 6, #11.
25] R. Isaac argues that when the true Messiah comes there is to be one Kingdom and one King, viz, Messiah, and he quotes Daniel 2:44. "And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." He says that now, on the contrary, we see many kingdoms, each with its own laws, and each with its own king, and therefore it is plain that Jesus is not the true Messiah.
26] (1). To us Christians however this does not seem a very strong argument. For the mere fact of many kingdoms existing is quite compatible with their all acknowledging the sovereignty of one over-lord, and, besides, there is nothing in the text to show that such a oneness of rule (even if intended in such a sense as to exclude altogether the existence of other kingdoms) was to be the immediate result of the establishment of this kingdom. I ask whether it is God's usual method to bring about great changes, especially changes in the social fabric of mankind, by one act immediate in its effects? Look at all past history. "The mills of God grind slowly," and therefore they "grind exceeding small." The fact that an universal kingdom is not visible to the naked eye proves little or nothing against the claims of Jesus to be the true Messiah.
27] (2). But may it not be the case that such a supreme kingdom has already begun? In paragraph 15 it was pointed out that the kingship of Jesus is something very real indeed, if by kingship we mean actual rule over the hearts and lives of men, for never has a person received such homage and obedience as Jesus Christ is now receiving. His kingship is acknowledged by no less than five hundred millions of the human race. See also paragraphs 15, 79.
Further, His kingdom is growing in extent every day. Fresh lands are being won to Jesus Christ. His heralds are going into all countries proclaiming Him as King, and where they go men are acknowledging the justice of the proclamation and yielding obedience. All Europe has long ago submitted; all North America, Australia, and most of the Islands in the Southern Seas, have acknowledged Him. India, China, and large parts of Africa, are now in the very act of learning to bend the knee to Him. See also paragraph 31.
His rule too is becoming more powerful where He is acknowledged. In other words, His laws are permeating civilisation. Slowly, I grant, for it is only natural that men should perceive but gradually the meaning of ordinances which they accept, and little by little understand the ways in which these are intended to mould their lives.
28] (3). A Jew may answer: "This that you say is all very well, but is beside the point. I expect to see a visible King and a visible Kingdom." But may he not be in error in thinking that all the time a king reigns he must be visible? Consider the analogy of ordinary beings. Is it necessary that a king should always be visible to his subjects? On by far the greater part of his dominions King Edward VII. never set foot as king. But did this take away from the reality of his rule over, for example, India, Canada, Australia? There is no need for a king to be visible in order for him to rule. Jews of course consider Jesus to be a dead man. We do not. We hold that He is alive; that He ascended up into glory at the right hand of the Father; and it is not in the least surprising to us that we cannot see Him now, even though He is reigning as King all the time, yes and ruling more than mortal man as such ever ruled.
29] (4). Yet it does not follow that because our King is now invisible He will always remain so. It may well be the case that a long time of preparation is required before it is fitting for Him to appear, but we Christians expect His coming, and many think that He will in some sense rule visibly upon the earth, for a period to be measured by human time. Whether this will be so or not, I cannot say. But He will certainly appear, reigning in glory. We hope for this complete fulfilment of the idea of a King, and base our hope partly upon such Old Testament promises as R. Isaac brings forward, and still more upon the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and upon what He has already done towards the fulfilment of His promises.
30] (5). Consider His words briefly.
(i). He claimed to be King. Speaking of Himself in a parable He says, "Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father," &c. (Matt 25:34). Again, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight"; and when Pilate asks Him if He is a king, He acknowledges that this is the case (John 18:36, 37). Similarly, in the vision given to His favourite disciple St. John, He is seen with His name written upon Him, "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16).
(ii). He spoke of His kingdom in three relations: (a) He says that it has come: "If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (Matt 12:28); "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Luke 10:9). (b) He describes it by parables as increasing. Recall to mind only one of His parables, that of the mustard seed, where He says "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which. ..when it is grown,... becometh a tree" (Matt 13:31, 32). (c) He says that one day hereafter it will come in its fulness: "I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto Me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29, 30). So also: "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory" (Matt 25:31). Hence it is that we Christians pray every day the words "Thy Kingdom come," and, as we pray them, think not only of Christ's kingdom now spreading over the whole earth, but also of that glorious day when He shall return, with those who sleep in Jesus, to be worshipped and obeyed by all.
2. ONE RELIGION AND THAT THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL.
Chapter 1.4.b, cf. Chapter 6, #6, 7, 8, 10 and Chapter 44.
31] R. Isaac affirms that when the true Messiah comes there is to be but one religion in the world and this the religion of Israel, and he quotes several passages from Scripture in support of his contention, to the more important of which we shall presently refer.
(1). I ask however, first, whether it is not a curious thing that at the present rate of increase there will be in a few centuries only one religion acknowledged in the world. Christianity is spreading so fast, so very much faster than any other religion,* that we are already in measurable distance of seeing part, at least, of the Rabbi's statement actually carried out. It is not of course surprising that this fact did not strike the Rabbi himself. For he lived in days long before the extraordinary missionary activity (extraordinary, I mean, as compared with the work done in the more immediately preceding centuries) that has marked the last hundred years. To R. Isaac Christian missions were things of the past, and things of the unknown future. He knew little of them from history, and could have no knowledge of the development that they would begin to make some two hundred years after his death. But now every reading man can acquaint himself with the spread of Christianity, and it is great and wonderful. There is, I repeat, every sign that the religion of Jesus Christ will, in a few centuries more, have spread over the whole world, and, as we have already seen in paragraph 26, the gradual accomplishment of God's purpose is more in accordance with His methods than a sudden change. He is actually bringing about before our very eyes, and more quickly than at any previous time in history, one of the texts quoted by R. Isaac, Isaiah 45:23, "Unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear."* I am not forgetful of the fact that Mohammedanism has wrested certain lands in nearer Asia and northern Africa from Christianity, nor that it threatens to spread faster in middle Africa at the present moment. The demands that it makes upon the conscience and the life are so much lower that no surprise can be felt at its gaining a temporary victory in some quarters.32] (2). But R. Isaac urges that the one religion which is to prevail must be the religion of Israel, and he quotes Zechariah 8:23: "Ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
Certainly! That is the very thing that has happened, and is still happening. For there is no denying the fact that Christianity came from men of Israel, or that every one of the writers of the New Testament, with the possible exception of St. Luke, was a Jew. It is to Jewish teaching that men come when they learn of Christianity.
33] (3). But R. Isaac objects that Zechariah 14:16, and Isaiah 66:23, speak of the Nations coming up to Jerusalem to worship, and keeping the feasts there.
I am not sure that there would be nothing at all in the argument if I were to reply that, in fact, a good many Gentile Christians do go to Jerusalem even now on a kind of religious pilgrimage, and that there are many signs that, with the increasing improvement in communication, even far larger numbers of Gentile Christians will go there in the future than in the present. But I would rather ask whether the outer covering of religion is of such supreme, such final, importance? Is it not, in reality, the spirit of Judaism that is the all-important thing? We see this even in the Judaism of to-day, much more, surely, in the Judaism of the Prophets. We all accept, I feel certain, the ancient saying that "a Jew is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly." Surely, in other words, it is the religion of Israel that is now spreading so much, when Christians believe and practise the great truths contained in the Old Testament.
34] (4). Of course R. Isaac does not agree to this, for he quotes triumphantly Zechariah 14:9: "And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall the LORD be one, and His name one." Yet this is in the completest possible agreement with our teaching. For we hold that when Jesus is acknowledged over the whole earth, then indeed will the LORD be king in a way in which He has never yet been, for Jesus' teaching was ever of His Father in heaven, and of the complete obedience that men ought to render to Him. It must not be forgotten that the New Testament distinctly says that "when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28). Further, the statement that He is one and His name one is exactly in accordance with our Faith. We acknowledge no difference in essence between Jesus and the LORD, so completely Divine is Jesus. This statement touches, I know, on deep and difficult questions, which must find a place in our enquiry later on. They do not properly come under treatment here. It must suffice here to point forward to later paragraphs (e.g. 105-125), and to affirm once more the conviction of the Christian that R. Isaac's objection to the Messiahship of Jesus, on the ground that the true Messiah brings in One Religion and this the Religion of Israel, is virtually pointless, in view of the facts that the Religion of Jesus is spreading so fast, and that this Religion is due to Israel.
3. THE ABOLITION OF IDOLS.
Chapter 1.4.c, cf. Chapter 6, #9
35] R. Isaac argues next that when the true Messiah appears the idols of the heathen are to be utterly abolished, and he quotes in favour of his statement several passages, of which perhaps the most important is Isaiah 2:18: "And the idols shall utterly pass away."
Yet is not this the very thing that Christianity is bringing about to a marvellous degree? Judaism as such has done little or nothing towards the abolition of idols. For reasons into which we need not now enter, Jews have not thought it well to try to propagate their religion directly, and have left missionary work to Christians. But where Christians go idols flee. Look around. Where are the gods of Europe and their accompanying idols? The idols of Rome and Greece used to be numbered by thousands. When, for example, a famous Jew visited Athens in the middle of the first century of the Christian era, "his spirit was provoked within him, as he beheld the city full of idols" (Acts 17:16), and Athens was little more than typical of the state of every town in Europe at that time. Britain, to look still nearer home, had its idols, though not, as it would seem, of so permanent a character. Where are they now? Look away to the distant Isles of the Southern Seas. Had any of us visited them a hundred years ago he would have been exceedingly fortunate to have escaped alive, instead of being dragged before some horrid image of a false god, slain before it as a propitiatory offering, and his body consumed in a sacrificial feast. But now! It is now comparatively difficult to find an island upon which a man cannot land in safety, and hear in part of it Christian hymns to the Lord Jesus, and it is difficult to discover any of the idols which but a few years ago were worshipped so openly and so enthusiastically.
Do you answer that there are still many thousands of idols of false gods remaining in the world, as, for example, in India, in China, in Japan, in Africa? Of course there are. But it is unnecessary to repeat once more that God's methods are to bring about results slowly. Upon that I have already spoken.
No! as we look around, and see how idols have disappeared from many countries, and how they are disappearing from others just in proportion as Christianity itself is spreading, is it not only fair to say that the argument which the Rabbi adduces is in reality an argument not against but for our Lord Jesus Christ? It is due to the followers of Jesus that the idols of the false gods are disappearing, and, humanly speaking, in a few centuries will all be gone.
36] It may however be replied that Mohammedanism has a similar effect. I gladly acknowledge the help of Mohammedanism in this matter. But I am not afraid that any thoughtful Jew will put Mohammedanism into serious competition with Christianity. Jews are far too keen on ethical purity, and on progress in every direction, to think the teaching of Mohammed worthy to be compared with the life of Jesus. R. Isaac however does not touch in this passage upon this point, and I need not therefore further allude to it. Where the teaching of Jesus comes the idols of the false gods are abolished, and the prophecies of the Old Testament are surely, in this respect, being fulfilled in Jesus.
4. FREEDOM FROM SIN.
Chapter 1.4.d, cf. Chapter 6, #14
37] R. Isaac's next argument against the Messiahship of our Lord Jesus is that when the true Messiah comes there will be no sins committed in the world, especially among the people of Israel.
We can all sympathize with the longing of R. Isaac for the coming of that day when we shall be free from sin. Sin does so spoil our own lives, and those of our friends, that we cannot help longing with an intense desire for the time when we shall all wholly escape from it. The Lord of His mercy deepen in us this desire, and enable us to obtain as much of that freedom as is possible even now!
It is however to be remarked that in Chapter 6, #14 R. Isaac modifies his statement to the extent of saying that he expects the coming of the true Messiah to set men free from sins, "except sins committed by chance" (בײא במקרה). But that is a very serious difference. For either the Rabbi identifies "chance" sins with merely physical impurities, the sinfulness of which we in these days hardly acknowledge, or he is not contemplating the absolute, but only the comparative, abolition of sin when the true Messiah comes. If the latter is really his meaning it would not be difficult to show that the coming of Jesus has at the least reduced sins to a large extent, so far as regards their grosser forms. But in truth, I suppose, the Rabbi only intends to say that at the coming of the true Messiah the set of men's minds will be for good, and no longer for evil. Let us then examine his words.
38] (1). He says that this will be the case in the world generally. But of the seven different passages that he quotes only one touches upon this point, viz., Jeremiah 3:17, where we are told that the nations shall be gathered to Jerusalem in the name of the Lord, and shall no more walk in the obstinacy of their evil heart.
But this is no more than to say that the nations will have the religion of Israel, a subject with which we have already dealt. I shall not therefore say more about this passage so far as regards the Gentiles.
39] But it does claim our attention for what it says as regards the Jews, and it may fairly be considered with the next passage quoted by R. Isaac, namely Jeremiah 50:20, "The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found."
These are beautiful promises, and I do not wonder that they appeal to R. Isaac. He would be hard-hearted indeed who was not moved by them. But what, strictly speaking, have they to do with the coming of Messiah? They do not mention Him. Neither are they necessarily even Messianic, so far as anything in the context shows. What they say is that when Israel repents, then this good thing will happen to it. That surely is just what we Christians say. We too are expecting the time to come when Israel will repent. For then Israel will receive unnumbered blessings, both spiritual and material, and their conversion to God will so influence the Gentile nations that these in their turn will receive blessing. But, alas, why does not Israel repent now, and enjoy these blessings and procure them for others?
40] (2). Deuteronomy 30:6 is also quoted by R. Isaac: "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live." But where is the reference to the time of Messiah here? The verse is speaking of the time of Israel's repentance, and there is nothing in it to show whether this takes place before Messiah comes, or when He comes, or long after He has come.
41] (3). R. Isaac also quotes Isaiah 60:21: "Thy people also shall be all righteous." That is exactly what the New Testament says (see Rom 11:26), "So all Israel shall be saved." He quotes also Zephaniah 3:13: "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies." But what is there here about Messiah, unless R. Isaac is writing as a Christian and sees in the 15th verse ("The king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee.") a reference to the Messiah of the Christians? But I fear that the Rabbi was not prepared to recognise in these words a reference to the Messiah at all, though we Christians would welcome such an interpretation.
42] (4). Then he quotes Ezekiel 36:25-27, that glorious promise of the sprinkling of clean water and the giving of a new heart and a new spirit, and then 37:23, 24, where the prophet says: "neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And my servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgements, and observe my statutes, and do them."
Yes, here indeed is Messiah mentioned, I grant it gladly. But how does it help R. Isaac's argument? The words suit admirably the Christian position, that a time will come when Israel will repent and turn to God and Messiah, and once more live in full communion with God. But there is not a hint that their repentance will be synchronous with the appearance of Messiah, and therefore it proves nothing for R. Isaac's opinion.
43] (5). How comes it that R. Isaac quotes this, and the other similar passages, when most of us find them so curiously outside the subject under discussion? I imagine that there are at least two reasons. First, he was writing in a day when most Christian expositors of Scripture explained, or rather explained away, the frequent references in the Old Testament to the glorious future of the Jews, as though they referred to the Christian Church. It is very easy for Christian commentators to fall into this habit, especially if they have been accustomed to Jewish modes of interpreting the Scriptures midrashically. But to do so does grave injustice to the proper meaning of the inspired word, and prevents a right understanding of the future history of the Jewish nation, to which the words indubitably refer in their primary significance. In consequence of this pernicious Christian custom of R. Isaac's day he thinks it necessary to adduce texts that certainly refer to blessings to be enjoyed by Israel in the future. But to the mind of most thoughtful Christians to-day there is no question as to this. We agree with R. Isaac so far. But we desire to point out to him their equally primary meaning that this blessing is to be Israel's only when it repents.
44] (6). Secondly, the Rabbi cannot imagine it possible that the true Messiah can come to Israel and be rejected. But why not? What is there against the possibility of this? Let us examine our own experience. What do we find in our own hearts, or in what we see around us? Suppose, only suppose, that God were to make a perfectly full revelation of His goodness and holiness, and offer this to us and our neighbours? Are we so very sure that we and they would be attracted by it, and thankfully receive it? Is there no possibility that we should each say in our heart of hearts: "This is more than I want; if I accept this I shall be obliged to give up certain sins, to remodel my opinions on many parts of religion, to accept a much lower place for myself in the judgment of those around me? "Or if we ourselves are, by God's mercy, so inclined to God and the things of God that we can have no doubt about ourselves, are we so sure about our neighbours? And if not of our neighbours, can we be sure about those who lived some nineteen hundred years ago? Is it not possible, to say the least, that they, having no better hearts than we have, may have been so taken up with the things of this world as to reject the true Messiah? R. Isaac evidently holds this to be impossible. But wherein does the impossibility consist? Would you expect anything better from the accursed brood of Annas, High Priest in the days of Jesus of Nazareth? You remember what is said in Pesachim, 57a (Munich MS.). "Woe! for the house of Annas! woe! for their curses! woe! for their serpent-like hissings!"* No reader of Talmud or of Jewish history can be surprised that the High Priests did not acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth if He was only half so good as the Gospels declare Him to be. They could have nothing in common with holiness. But what if the Divine saying, "Like people, like priest" (Hosea 4:9) were true of that time? Would not then the rejection of a really holy person be a matter of course, and the holier he were the more certain and thorough would be his rejection! Surely, we can hardly escape facing the possibility that if God did give a supreme revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ the men of the time would reject it. A few, as we know, did turn to Him in meekness of heart. These repented, and found, as they affirmed, the Messiah. Can it be that they were right, and it was, after all, their repentance that opened the eyes of their heart to recognise Jesus as Messiah? If so, what would be the result of a wide-spread repentance to-day?* For this phrase cf. Aboth, ii. 10 (14).
5. GOG AND MAGOG.
Chapter 1.4.e, cf. Chapter 6 #2 and #12
45] Another sign which R. Isaac affirms is closely connected with the coming of the true Messiah is the destruction of Gog and Magog with their hosts (Eze 38 and 39; Zech 14:1-3, 12-15; Isa 66:19), and the cessation of wars ever after (Isa 2:4; Eze 39:9, 10; Hosea 2:18 ; Zech 9:10; Micah 4:3).
I am not concerned to examine each of these various passages in order to see whether the Rabbi's quotation of them is always justified by their proper meaning. I am content to assume that he is right. For, strictly speaking, we Christians have no quarrel with him upon this subject. If he believes in this great war, between the forces of evil and those of good, that is to take place in days still future, so also do we. Our holy Book itself tells us that this is to be the case. In Revelation 20:7-9 we find it stated that "Satan... shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And," adds the Seer in his vision, "they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city." They perish, and after this final attack all war ceases, and there is peace.
It is indeed true that we Christians, of the present time at least, are not altogether prepared to say whether that great war will be wholly literal (i.e., solely between bodily presences arrayed in material armour), or rather spiritual, against the forces of evil as such, armed with weapons all the more deadly because they can pass into the very mind and heart. Such a battle, between spiritual foes, a war between evil powers and good powers, would be a far more awful thing than any such material fight as the Rabbi himself seems to contemplate. But whether the war is literal or solely spiritual seems to us Christians to be a very secondary question. We leave this for the future to unravel. In any case, according to Christian belief, there comes after it the full and final manifestation of Messiah's kingdom. We are ready to grant the position of R. Isaac generally, the only difference between him and us being that he thinks it impossible that the Messiah can have already come without at once taking upon Himself this war. But, as we have said before, so now we say again, our interpretation of what God considers the flight of time in its relation to the various events in the Messianic work and progress is so uncertain, so moulded by the brevity of our own lives, that we are not justified in saying that the fact that two or three thousand years may elapse between one act performed by Messiah and another is any hindrance to the two acts being described in Scripture as virtually concurrent. Prophecy, being the message of God conditioned by human modes of thought, must, surely, often place close together two events, which in fact are separated by a long time in history. To a traveller in Switzerland two peaks of a mountain range often seem to be very near to each other, whereas in truth they are separated by many weary miles.
We both then, Christians and Jews, are expecting a great war in the future, when Messiah shall triumph fully and finally over His enemies.
46] But each one of us ought to ask himself whether, if such a war were to begin at once, he would be found fighting upon the right side. For I assume that every one of us is not satisfied with the expectation of the coming of a mere worldly Ruler, in earthly pomp and glory. Each of us is looking for a rule wherein dwelleth righteousness, whence every thought of evil, and every desire of unrighteous gain, are utterly banished. But would this suit us? I ask this in all seriousness. How should we like so perfect a kingdom? Should we find ourselves really enjoying it, or a little conscious that we have not been preparing for so perfectly good a state? On which side should we each be? If He came now, and suddenly bade us fight upon the side upon which we had been fighting when He came, which side would that be? Do you say, "Certainly upon the side of Messiah"? Why so? His side must be that of the good. Are our lives so decided now that we are sure we should at once be found upon His side? Does any reader answer "I am a Jew, and therefore sure to be upon the right side in the great battle between the forces of good and evil described as the war against Gog and Magog"? Alas, have even Jews always been on the side of right and goodness? Were the majority of those who were alive when a very perfect Person, according to the admission of almost all Jews of our own time, came into their midst, decidedly ready to uphold Him against fraud and trickery and open violence? That very holy Person was rejected by many, because, as it seems, His demands for holiness were greater than they could bear. Are we quite sure that if such a demand were made upon us now we should respond to it properly?
We can see, if we will, what in fact our own answer would be. If we do really desire what is good above everything else; if we do hate sin and everything approaching sin; if we are endeavouring to spread and encourage the knowledge of God by our words and actions, filled with an intense desire for His glory, even though we are conscious that in many things we all offend, then we may confidently expect that a fuller unveiling of God to our souls will find us responsive to His light, and we may humbly hope that He will not only deepen in us the longing after Him, but will satisfy that longing with increasing power to find Him. May it be so with each of us. May the Lord be very gracious to us, and fit us for that day when He shall reign in righteousness, and triumph gloriously.
6. WILD BEASTS.
Chapter 1.4.f, cf. Chapter 6, #13
47] R. Isaac next argues that Messiah cannot have come already because it is said that in His days Wild Beasts shall not injure domestic animals or men, and he adduces in favour of this Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25; Ezekiel 34:25 and 28; Hosea 2:18 (20).
(1). Now to an Englishman this objection against the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus seems so curious that he is hardly able to sympathise with it, or to realise the force that it evidently has for minds like that of R. Isaac. For we English have been taught to regard the mention of beasts in these passages either as mere details in a picture of general happiness which are not intended to be pressed, or as merely figurative. In favour of this latter interpretation we can claim no less a person than Maimonides (Hilkoth Melakim xii. 1): (Amsterdam Edition 1702. iv. 307) "Let no one imagine that in the days of Messiah anything in the course of Nature will be altered, or that there will be any new thing in Creation. The course of the world will go on as before. Isaiah's words, 'And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid' (11:6) are a parable and figure of speech, and the meaning is that Israel will dwell safely among the more wicked of the nations of the world, who are compared to the wolf and the leopard, as in Jeremiah 5:6, for they shall all turn to the true religion, and shall not plunder or destroy, but eat lawful food quietly in Israel, for it is said, 'And the lion shall eat straw like the ox' (Isa 11:7). And so all similar statements with regard to Messiah are parables, and in the days of King Messiah all shall know the exact meaning of each parable and what each signified."
If Maimonides is right, and his interpretation appears to be very sensible (cf. also Saadiah's Emunoth w'Deoth, viii. 19, ed. Furst), then in so far as the coming of Jesus of Nazareth has tended to diminish war, &c., and to gather the nations into one religion (on both of which topics we have already spoken), so far does R. Isaac's objection fail.
48] (2). If, however, we are to understand the term "wild beasts "literally, as many Jewish teachers suppose, and if also the matter is of real importance, I would ask you to consider the curious fact that in proportion as Jesus is accepted as Messiah wild beasts do, in fact, cease to do harm.
Among the heathen it is evidently not so. A Hindu, for example, speaks with the greatest respect of his majesty the tiger, and will not injure him in any way unless he is obliged to do so. A Mohammedan again will do but little. His feeling of fatalism is far too strong. If a tiger injures any of his friends, or carries off his wife or his child, he says Kismet, and regards the accident as the result of an inscrutable and unavoidable fate. But with Christians it is far otherwise. Christians see in wild beasts the ever present possibility of injury to men and to harmless animals, and a serious hindrance to the development of a country. And Christians, with their deep conviction that it is their duty in the name of God to bring a country to its greatest possible perfection, and to secure by all means in their power the safety of every man, woman and child dwelling in it, do their best to prevent the possibility of wild beasts injuring other more useful creatures, and especially human beings. Wild beasts do cease to injure wherever Christianity spreads. The fact cannot be denied. May there not be a very real connexion between this fact and these prophecies?** Another argument is contained in paragraphs 51, 56, sqq.
7. IN ISRAEL ALL TROUBLES ARE TO CEASE, AND LIVES TO BE LONG AND HAPPY.
Chapter 1.4.g, cf. Chapter 6, #15
49] R. Isaac next argues that when Messiah comes those who live in the land of Israel are to have no troubles or sorrows, but will live long and happy lives, and he quotes in support of his argument Isaiah 65:16 and 19-22. But R. Isaac ought to have pointed out, what is very often pointed out both in Scripture and in the sayings of the rabbis, viz.: that all God's promises are conditional. No one can expect this blessed state of things to take place in Israel if Israel refuses to acknowledge the Messiah when He comes. We have seen that such a refusal on Israel's part is not impossible. We Christians believe that it is a fact, and that therefore this difficulty of R. Isaac's is no difficulty.
8. THE SHEKINAH is TO RETURN TO ISRAEL, AND THERE is TO BE MUCH PROPHECY, WISDOM, AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
Chapter 1.4.h, cf. Chapter 6, #16
50] We here come to something of greater interest and of more importance. R. Isaac says that in the time of King Messiah the Shekinah is to return again to Israel as at the first, and Prophecy, Wisdom, and Knowledge shall be great among the people of Israel, as it is written in Ezekiel 37:26-28, and in several other passages of Scripture, which he quotes at length. Among them may be mentioned Joel 2:27, 28, 3:17, 21 (Hebrew numbering 3:1, 4:17, 21).
(1). Now it is no part of my duty in these pages to investigate the Jewish doctrine of the Shekinah. A good deal has been written upon the subject, and a good deal yet remains to be written. The term is used to express the Presence of God among men, occasionally under the visible light in the Holy of Holies (see R. Isaac, Chapter 6, #18), but more often in a less defined way. So, for example, in Aboth, iii. 3, "Two that sit together and are occupied in words of Thorah have the Shekinah among them."
It is in this latter sense, as it seems, that R. Isaac uses the term here. He means that in the days of Messiah the Presence of God will be very near, and will manifest itself particularly in abundance of Prophecy, Wisdom, and Knowledge, presumably Knowledge of God.
(2). But here is a remarkable thing. We Christians entirely agree with the learned Rabbi as to this. We say with him that in the days of Messiah there must be a special Presence of God, and an abundant outpouring of the spirit of prophecy and of wisdom and of the knowledge of God, and that among the Jews. But where we differ from him is in further saying that this blessed promise has already been largely fulfilled, and is on its way to complete fulfilment.
51] (i). For, in the first place, we must again remind him that in arguing against Christianity he is not at liberty to pick out this or that doctrine, and to forget, when he is attacking them, that there are other doctrines supplementary to them. In this way any religion, and any doctrine of arelgon, can be triumphantly proved to be absurd. R. Isaac may not, as in the case in point, forget tat we Christians hold, at least as strongly as do Jews, that Messiah is yet to come. We believe that He came, but we believe also that He is to come again. Hence a great many of the Rabbi's arguments against our holy faith appear to us to be one-sided and unfair. In this case we also, as well as he, are expecting, when Messiah returns, a great manifestation of the Presence of God, and an abundant outpouring of spiritual gifts. Yet we also hold that the prophecy has been already fulfilled in a most remarkable degree.
52] (ii). In what way do we all expect to see the Presence of God? It is not the same thing as a bright light; that we have already noticed. We do not expect, again, to see anything special with our natural eyes. At least, if it were God's will that we should do so, we would say that this was not necessary to the idea of the Presence of God. We expect to know that He is very near, in quite a different way from that in which we know anything with our mortal eyes. For we all recognize that God is a spirit, and has neither form nor fashion of any kind. How do we expect then to recognize the near Presence of God? I suppose chiefly in the perception of an awful holiness, in the realization that a Love, a Righteousness, is near, before Whom we feel ourselves unworthy to stand, and in Whose Presence we feel utterly abashed. We have indeed already seen that this does not necessarily imply that even with this awful perception of Holiness, and Love, and Righteousness, we submit ourselves to Him, and follow where He leads. There can be no compulsion, even towards good, exercised upon us by God, if we are to remain the free creatures that He has made us. The fear of God, say the Wise, is the one thing that is not determined by God. (Berakoth 33b)
53] (iii). But, I ask, how is God to make us feel His presence in Holiness, and Love, and Righteousness? Presumably only through our senses in some way. And would it not be at least a possible way for God to do this if He were to give His Presence in a special degree to one person, and then, through the life and actions of that person, were to show what Holiness, and Love, and Righteousness really could be? Of course you see the trend of my remarks. But I do not want you to think for one minute that the Presence of God could manifest itself very thoroughly by, so to speak, joining Itself to a sinful man. A man, as we know men, would be an extremely imperfect medium for such a manifestation of God's Presence. But what if something utterly different were done? What if, instead of the Presence of God joining Itself to a man, It were to take the constituent parts of human nature body, soul, and spirit, including, of course, the will and the ability to suffer and then to show by the life of this perfect representative of human nature what the Presence of God could produce; what Holiness meant amid a world of sinners; what Love meant, not sparing itself in any degree if only others might be helped; what Righteousness meant in the observance of all the will of God? Do you not think that by this means God might make such a revelation to men of what He really desired of us (of what, in other words, He really is in His inmost being as regards Holiness, Love, and Righteousness), as to bring about, among those who accepted this revelation of Himself, a complete change of thought and life, and to enable them to receive from Him power for Prophecy, Wisdom, and the Knowledge of Him?
This is indeed but an unworthy description of the Presence of God with man, for who am I that I should declare to you the marvels of His Presence, ineffable as they must be? But I hope that my description is at least better than R. Isaac's mere parody of what Christianity isa parody of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. It is a subject which will very frequently come before us, for the Rabbi is never tired of holding up to ridicule the Christian belief in the Lord Jesus, while in reality he is only exposing his own ignorance of what Christian belief is.
I ask again whether you can imagine a higher and better form by which the Presence of God can manifest Itself than that of clothing Itself, if I may use such an expression, with human nature, nature that had never sinned and possessed no trace of sin, and shining through this human nature in a life of Holiness, Love, and Righteousness? Such a manifestation we Christians affirm to have taken place in Jesus the Christ. The Shekinah, we affirm, was to be seen in Him. (See also paragraphs 245-250).
54] (3). Lastly, a few words on Prophecy, Wisdom, and the Knowledge of God. It will hardly, I think, be disputed by those who attribute any historical worth at all to the New Testament that the time of the Lord Jesus was marked by these gifts. Many Jews of that time possessed them in a very remarkable degree, and one, in answer to enemies, actually quoted one of R. Isaac's passages to explain what this phenomenon meant: "This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:16. sqq. from Joel 2:28, 29, Hebrew numbering 3:1, 2). The experience of those days was wonderful. But it was hardly more wonderful than the experience that has often been repeated. For the perception of the near Presence of God in Christ has frequently produced the same kind of spiritual results. When Christ is accepted the Holy Spirit often pours out upon the soul not only an intense desire to serve Him, but also ability to speak for Him, and to show forth His marvellous love; or gives a deep insight into the things of God; or leads to deep knowledge of God; and, we must remember, in not a few cases these results go far beyond what we might have expected from the mental position of the convert. Is it not wonderful how spiritual are the prayers of many a Chinese Christian; and how earnestly a Uganda convert will plead for the spread of the Gospel; and how a poor cottager in England, with almost nothing of this world's joys, will rejoice in God and thank Him for innumerable mercies? No Jew living would grudge that such wonderful results should be poured out upon the Gentiles, and that, as we Christians believe, the prophecy of Joel should be fulfilled before his eyes? For it is just the same whenever a Jew turns to the Lord Jesus. He too then receives spiritual insight, and is surprised at his former state of ignorance of the Lord Jesus. He, like those Jews of nineteen hundred years ago who ventured to trust in Jesus, finds that what God has promised He is able also to perform. Every believer in Jesus, be he Jew or be he Gentile, finds that Jesus is the very Presence of God, and in Him receives spiritual gifts, sometimes of Prophecy, sometimes of Wisdom, sometimes of Knowledge.
9. THE MOUNT OF OLIVES is TO BE DIVIDED IN HALF.
Chapter 6, #3
55] We have now examined all the signs that R. Isaac adduces in Chapter 1 as proofs that Messiah has not yet come, and have referred to those parts of Chapter 6 where he mentions them again for practically the same purpose (see paragraph 24). But in Chapter 6 he brings forward certain additional signs to prove his contention, and it will be convenient to deal with these at once. To avoid, however, unnecessary length of discussion here, we shall postpone (a) to paragraphs 86 sqq. the subject of the Restoration of the Jews to Palestine, together with the accompanying destruction of Christians and Mohammedans; (b) to paragraphs 99 sqq. the subject of the Restoration of the Ten Tribes; and (c) to paragraphs 269 sqq. the subject of the coming of Elijah foretold by the prophet Malachi.
56] In Zechariah 14:4, 5, we read, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains." This is confessedly a curious and interesting passage, but it is not very easy to see what it exactly means. R. Isaac understands it in the most literal sense: that the Mount of Olives shall actually be divided in half. But evidently he does not take the whole verse literally. For, if so, what does he understand by "his feet"? Whose are the feet here mentioned? Certainly they are the LORD'S, for the preceding verse has said, "Then shall the LORD go forth," &c. Let R. Isaac be consistent, and acknowledge that "the feet" of the LORD are really feet, and mean therefore the feet of Him who is both man and God. In this case Christians will not quarrel with him, and will say that if the whole passage is to be understood in a literal sense, its fulfilment will take place at a late period in the Messianic time.
But we are far from wishing to press the learned Rabbi on this point. For to our mind the whole passage is a description of the result of the coming of the LORD, expressed figuratively. There is not even anything directly to say that "the LORD" here refers to the Messiah. It probably does not, and rather describes in parabolic terms the coming of God to avenge His people.
But if the cleaving of the Mount of Olives is figurative, what does it mean? Kimchi says that it indicates the cleaving of the Nations who have come against Jerusalem, and their falling hither and thither.
Others think it means that the difficulty is broken down which stood in the way of the Jews escaping from Jerusalem when it is besieged. But I do not know that I am called upon to decide what exactly the figure is intended to represent. We shall know some day. In any case it is exceedingly precarious to base the argument that Messiah has not yet come on the fact that the Mount of Olives is still standing intact. If the cleavage be literal it can well take place at the Second Coming of Christ; if it be spiritual or metaphorical cadit quæstio.
10. THE DIVIDING AND DRYING UP OF THE RIVER OF EGYPT, AND OF THE RlVER EUPHRATES, FOR ISRAEL TO PASS THROUGH.
Chapter 6, #4
57] We will accept R. Isaac's paraphrase of Isaiah 11:15, 16, even though it be verbally inexact (he seems to understand והחרים as though it were והחריב). But we would again ask whether this passage stands in any contradiction to the Christian religion? For if it be understood literally, then, once more, its fulfilment can very well take place in the future, when the Lord Jesus returns; and if it be understood metaphorically, it is of course fully consistent with Christian teaching.
Is it not probable that the great event of the redemption of Israel from Egypt, by bringing them through the Red Sea, would be used to express in figurative language the marvellous way in which God would redeem Israel out of all lands? Is it not also probable that Isaiah, writing long before the Babylonian Captivity, would use language which had a primary fulfilment in the return from Babylon? Many interpreters have even understood the expression here, "He...shall smite it (Euphrates) into seven streams, and cause men to march over dryshod," to refer to "the drying up of the Euphrates, which Cyrus diverted into the enlarged reservoir of Sepharvaim, so that the water fell to a foot in depth, and one could go over dryshod on foot (Herod, i. 189). This made it possible both for the conquerors to cross and the exiles to issue forth from the prison of the imperial city, girt as it was with both natural and artificial lines of water, xi. 15" (Delitzsch on Isa 44:27). But, in view of what the Inscriptions tell us about the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, this interpretation is very doubtful. It is safer to understand the passage to refer to the removal of hindrances to the return of the Jews to their own land, without attempting to define as yet the precise form that this will take.
We Christians therefore cannot attribute much weight to this difficulty adduced by R. Isaac.
11. THE LIFE-GIVING STREAM.
Chapter 6, #5
58] R. Isaac next urges that when Messiah comes there must issue from the Temple at Jerusalem a spring of living water, of which half shall turn to the eastern sea, and half to the western, on the banks of which trees shall produce their fruit every month, as it says in Ezekiel 47:1-12
, Zechariah 14:8, Joel 3:18 (Hebrew numbering 4:18).
1 Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. 2 Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. 3 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. 5 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. 6 And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. 7 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. 9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. 10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. 11 But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt. 12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
(1). Now I believe that here again I may fairly urge much the same argument as I urged in the two preceding cases, that if the Prophets speak of a literal stream of water issuing from the Temple, this prophecy may be fulfilled in the future, when Christ returns. But I do not care to dwell on this interpretation.
(2). For why should we suppose that the Prophets are here speaking of material things? I know that the Talmud under stands these passages literally (T. B. Sanhedrin 100a), but no Jew of any education accepts the verdict of one or two of the many speakers in the Talmud, as decisive in a question of exegesis, and of literal as contrasted with spiritual meaning. If it were a question of Halakah it would be different, but there is no Halakah here. On this matter the Talmud is of no weight at all.
59] (3). The book of Zechariah itself can teach us how to understand the description. At least it is significant that shortly before 14:8 mention has been made of a spring opened in Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (13:1). Does the Rabbi think that a stream of literal water is of much use in taking away sin and uncleanness? Will he not agree with me in saying that undoubtedly the prophet is there thinking of a stream which washes the soul clean, and therefore must itself be spiritual and not material? But if in the thirteenth chapter the prophet is thinking of a spiritual stream, is it not at least very probable that in this fourteenth chapter he is thinking of a spiritual stream also? And if this is the thought in these chapters in Zechariah, is it not probable that it is the same in both Ezekiel and Joel? Are we for ever to be so hampered by our crass western ideas as to be unable to rise to the finer imaginations and more poetical heights of those who have always lived in eastern lands? Is the Bible for ever to be so understood as though its writers did not love to employ trope after trope, parable after parable?
60] (4). Consider too how beautiful and significant such a figure is. You remember how Jeremiah (6:7) compares Jerusalem to a cistern, "As a cistern keepeth her waters cool, so she keepeth her wickedness cool."* May it not have been in contrast to this that the other Prophets speak of a fountain of fresh spring water issuing from her, spreading not wickedness but spiritual life? Or, again, we know that, for an eastern town, Jerusalem was well supplied with water, so that in all its sieges we never hear that it suffered from thirst, and yet that outside it the stream, very small indeed in size, ran through severe wildernesses down to the Dead Sea.** What so suggestive to a thoughtful and spiritual-minded man? Would he not say to himself, as he looked forward to the Word of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem, "Now indeed the spiritual waters that we enjoy are limited to ourselves, as these streams and streamlets that water only Jerusalem and its immediate suburbs, but then, in those days, her spiritual life shall flow out from her far and wide, and all nations shall be blessed through her teaching"? Is not this a far more glorious, and far more probable, interpretation of this marvellous life-giving stream than any literal body of material water could ever be?**** See R.V. margin.61] (5). Let us then assume that the picture is of the spread of spiritual blessings beginning at Jerusalem, and let us join in thanking God that it has already begun to flow. It is not as if Christians claimed to be independent of Jews. Far from it. All the spiritual life that we possess has come to us through the Jews. From them the stream of life has flowed out. Why grudge it flowing on till it reached our shores? Nay, I am sure that Jews do not. For there is nothing inconsistent with their position, if they rejoice that to us Gentiles the stream of religious life has spread. Yet do they, in fact, thank God for this? Do they consciously thank God for the wonderful way in which He is still directing the course of this river of life ever to fresh lands and districts? I wish that I could think that they do. For then they would be daily thanking God for the signs of His life-giving grace among us Gentiles, and would be daily learning more of His ways in His government of the world and in His revelation of Himself.
** See especially Pusey on the passage in Joel.
*** So the newly discovered Odes of Solomon (dating as it seems from about 100 A.D.): "For there went forth a stream and became a river great and broad; for it flooded and broke up everything and it brought [water] to the Temple: and the restrainers of the children of men were not able to restrain it, nor the arts of those whose business it is to restrain waters; for it spread over the face of the whole earth, and filled everything: and all the thirsty upon earth were given to drink of it; and thirst was relieved and quenched: for from the Most High the draught was given" (Odes of Solomon, 6, ed. Rendel Harris, 1909).
If it be urged that the prophet "pictures a fountain in Jerusalem, providing a continuous supply of water for the removal of all [ceremonial] impurity from the people," it may be replied that such a physical stream would be nothing new.
12. THE NEW TEMPLE, AND THE NEW DIVISION OF PALESTINE.
Chapter 6, #18 and #19
62] R. Isaac mentions next among the prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled those in Ezekiel 40-48, which speak of the building of a new Temple, when the Jews are restored, and the Division of the land. The latter is a comparatively unimportant subject, and it is so dependent upon the building of the Temple that we shall consider the two subjects as one.
But what shall we say of these chapters generally? If every Jewish commentator were sure of the meaning of them, the task would not be so difficult; or if Christian commentators were at all agreed, the task would be comparatively easy. But now! When no single writer, either Jewish or Christian, is able to say for certain what their precise meaning isunless of course he be one of those excellent and enviable persons who know everythingit is extremely hard to be quite sure how best to deal with the Rabbi's difficulty.
But let us look at the matter. Fourteen years have passed away since the city of Jerusalem was given over into the hands of her enemies, and the fair-speaking promises of her false prophets were exposed (Eze 40:1). During that time Ezekiel has been faithfully continuing his work of encouraging his fellow-exiles to remain true to God and to the words of His law. He has handed on to them the Lord's assurance that He will not leave His people in captivity for ever, but will one day restore them to the land of their fathers. But now he is bidden clothe his message of consolation in fairer and more glorious colours. He sees in vision a new temple arise, and hears ordinances given affecting both it and those who are to care for it. The vision is confessedly great and glorious, but the details are often curious, and sometimes not quite what we should have expected from a priest like Ezekiel. Two things at least are clear, which in fact all expositors of this difficult part of the Bible will be ready to acknowledge, that the thought of holiness runs through all the vision and its enactments, and that the holiness is to be such as will permeate every part of the national life. Whatever interpretation we give to Ezekiel's vision of the Temple, and of the division of the land, we must confess that he looks forward to a time when holiness shall become the ruling principle of the nation of Israel.
63] But what does the vision mean?
(1). We are all aware that the system of interpretation fashionable at the present day, acquiesced in not only by many Christian theologians, but also by many who deservedly stand high among Jews for their learning and religion, is that Ezekiel knew nothing of the greater part of the Pentateuch (all that part in fact which describes the Tabernacle and the ordinances closely connected with it and the Priesthood), for the simple reason that it did not as yet exist. They go on to say that Ezekiel thought much about Solomon's Temple, and longed earnestly for its restoration, when the Jews should have returned to their own land, and that he desired it to be hedged round, both literally and figuratively, in such a way as to increase the holiness of the people. When indeed the people returned to Palestine, they were able only to make a Temple which corresponded in some little degree with the one that he proposed. But his vision was not wasted. Far from it. It became the starting point for a description of a service of God even more ideal than it was itself, in which the vision was thrown backwards instead of forwards, and the people were told in so many words that plans and ordinances, either identical or at least similar, had been seen and heard by Moses in the Mount, and had been carried out by him into material and real existence. Yet in fact, say these theologians, the Tabernacle never existed, and the description of it was but a pious adumbration of the way in which, when the narrative was spiritually understood, the LORD intended His people to have all their lives, secular and religious, interwoven with holiness.
Of course, if this interpretation of the Temple described by Ezekiel is right, the Rabbi's arguments, that such a Temple must be actually built before Messianic times, fall to the ground. But speaking for myself, and I should suppose for most of my readers, I find it very hard indeed to believe that such an interpretation can be true. A parable on so large a scale as this would be, a parable which has been misunderstood for sober fact during a period, ex hypothesi, of some two thousand five hundred years, has no parallel in history. I cannot believe that Ezekiel's Temple is a mere programme of legal enactments carried out partially in the Return, much less that it is a parable which served as an introduction to that greater parable of the Mosaic Tabernacle.
64] (2). Is Ezekiel's Temple then merely a prophecy of the Christian Church, or, to put it otherwise, a poetic idealisation of great truths which are already finding their fulfilment in Christianity? Not a few Christian interpreters, both in the past and in the present, have thought so. The Temple in this case, of course, does not mean a literal Temple, but the Society of Christian people, which towers up above all other forms of religion, and is the direct outcome of the earlier faith of the Jews. If this interpretation of the prophecy be accepted, it is again clear that R. Isaac's objection falls to the ground.
65] (3). But what if, after all, there be some measure of truth in his opinion that in the future there will be a Temple, imposing in size and majestic in external worship, set up in Palestine? It is well to remember that this opinion has been held by very many Christians, and is not at all inconsistent with Christianity. It must be confessed that it is quite possible that a Temple answering in some degree to that presupposed by R. Isaac may yet be built.
Even so, however, there are grave difficulties in accepting all that R. Isaac seems to see in it. Let us suppose that the Temple will be built. Will not a very different kind of worship be found there from that which was rendered in the days of the Monarchy, or after the return under Zerubbabel and under Ezra? What of the sacrifices? I know indeed that the majority of Jews to-day still repeat in the Synagogue services the prayer that the Temple may be rebuilt and the sacrifices restored. But is it likely that even if the Temple be rebuilt the sacrifices will be restored? Is not a feeling spreading day by day that the time for animal sacrifices has gone by, that they were very well in the days of man's comparative ignorance as an expression of duty towards God, and of the sacrifice of the heart that He requires, but are worse than useless now? Is it not true that even Jews have been influenced, and are being influenced in ever increasing measure, by the Christian doctrine that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin? For men's prayers and praises are worth far more in the sight of God than any sacrifices.
66] (4). But suppose that some such glorious building be built in Jerusalem by the Jews after they have recognized the Messiahship of Jesus. Suppose it, I say, only suppose it! The time within which Ezekiel's Temple is to be built is nowhere stated, and the date at which it is to be built will, according to this supposition, altogether fall within the Messianic period. For there is no hint that it is to be built immediately after the coming of Messiah. Suppose it be a Christian building that is here shown in vision to Ezekiel? "What," say you," with its slaughter houses and arrangements for the offering of material sacrifices?" This is hardly a difficulty. For Ezekiel naturally was bound by the ideas of his own time. But Jews and Christians alike have gone past those ideas now. If it be the Lord's will that such a great Christian Temple some day be built in Palestine, with all the wealth and beauty, both in material and worship, that wealthy members of the house of Israel can lavish upon it, will this be a wholly unnatural fulfilment of the vision unfolded to Ezekiel? For consider the glory that it would mean for Israel! Picture to yourselves a building surpassing St. Peter's in Rome for fame and beauty, in which rise daily from Jewish lips hymns to God and His Anointed, a building built and maintained by a restored Israel which has repented of its sin! But as you gaze you see not only Jews worshipping there! It is the scene of spiritual worship by all portions of the Christian Church, who come to do honour to the God of the Jews in the Jews own land. In that blessed time the Christian Church will itself be purified from its sins and inconsistencies, and be glad to worship at the ancient centre of its faith. What if, when the true religion of the Jewish nation has spread over the whole earth, each nation gladly sends its representatives to worship at Jerusalem, to show forth there the praises of God for His mercies vouchsafed in the Lord Jesus? The Lord hasten it in His time!
13. THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
Chapter 6, #20
67] Another proof adduced by R. Isaac, in evidence of his belief that the Messianic promises have not yet begun to be fulfilled, is that the Resurrection of the dead has not yet taken place. In support of his claim he quotes Deuteronomy 32:39, and Isaiah 26:19, and Daniel 12:2. I am not going to quarrel with the learned Rabbi for his use of his texts, even though there is not a little to be said in favour of the opinion that neither of the two first passages really refers to the subject of the resurrection, save perhaps by way of allusion. I am content to share with him the full belief in the resurrection of the dead.
68] Yet when we examine the matter further, it seems that the Rabbi looks forward to a very different kind of resurrection of the dead from that which the majority of Christians are expecting. For I suppose that by the resurrection of the dead most Christians understand the resurrection at the last day, when the end of the world shall have come, and the newly risen shall depart at once to everlasting happiness or woe. But it is probable that the Rabbi means something very different. Indeed, if he meant what we mean, his argument would be somewhat useless. It would be in effect evidently the last day has not yet come, for we are still on earth, therefore Messiah has not yet come. But this would be to mistake the Rabbi's opinions.
69] (1). These may be learned from the famous work of Saadiah, entitled Emunoth w'deoth, which gives a very clear account of the more important beliefs of the Jews. It was indeed written in the 10th century, but orthodox Jews have always virtually accepted it as giving a true summary of the creed of Judaism if we may dare use such a word as "creed" without incurring the reproach of purists, who, looking to the letter rather than the spirit, tell us that Judaism has never been bound by the shackles of a creed. There is however little doubt that R. Isaac would have professed himself quite ready to abide by what Saadiah tells us of the resurrection of the dead. To put his statement briefly, the resurrection is something quite different from participation in the existence of the future world. It means that in the Messianic time all the righteous and repentant are to rise again (i.e., practically all Jews, because "nearly all of them will repent before their death") and will live again on earth. They will be recognized by those who are still alive; the blind, and others who have died with some deformity, being raised blind, &c., and being afterwards restored to sight, &c., by a special miracle. They will live the same kind of life that they lived before, eating and drinking (Chap. vii. 14-16, edn. Furst). Saadiah indeed does not touch on the question whether these risen men and women will marry, as well as live in other respects like ordinary human beings. But R. Berachya Ha Nakdan, in the 12th century, is very explicit. For he says the man who had two wives in his ordinary earthly life will, in this new resurrection-life on earth, probably have only the wife of his youth (Masref, chap. 13, ed. Gollancz, p. 320). It is not impossible that it was some such gross materialism as this which on the one hand led to the objection of the Sadducees against the doctrine of the Resurrection, and on the other drew forth the spiritual answer of the Lord Jesus, "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven" (Matta 22:30).
70] (2). R. Isaac evidently expects that the righteous will rise before the wicked and will continue to live on earth, and represents in his opinion the statements of many other Jews. But in itself, and so far, this is not necessarily opposed to the belief of Christians, at least when it is shorn of its grosser features. There always have been many Christians, among others Justin Martyr and Tertullian, who have believed in what is called the First Resurrection as literally as R. Isaac himself.
It is no doubt a difficult subject from the Christian point of view, for we Christians are apt to give undue weight, it may be, to the spiritual side of Scripture. Hence it is not surprising that a great teacher like Augustine should have considered that the First Resurrection is but "the spiritual awakening which began to work in mankind after the coming of Christ, i.e , the resurrection in its mystical aspect; and that the millennium of Revelation 20 is the period from that awakening onwards" (See Chancellor E. H. Bernard in Hastings Bible Dict. iv. 236). Of course if this interpretation be right, R. Isaac's objection is valueless, nay it would even act against himself, for a resurrection in a very real sense would be already past. But we should be sorry to insist that this spiritual interpretation is right.
71] (3). Personally, we are inclined to believe that there will be two resurrections from the deadthe first, that of the righteous; the second, that of all. But there does not seem to be sufficient evidence that between the two any appreciable interval of time will elapse. Even if this were the caseeven if a period, answering, as we measure time, to a thousand years, were to elapse between the First Resurrection and the Secondwhat weight would this fact add to the Rabbi's arguments? In not one of the texts that he quotes is there any close connexion indicated between the resurrection of the dead and the coming of the Messiah, much less any hint that the resurrection is to take place directly He appears. Again, we must insist upon the fact that we Christians are looking for the coming of Messiah at least as earnestly and as strongly as do the Jews. Nay, more; we venture to affirm that in these days, when so many Jews are leaving the faith of their fathers for philosophical ambiguities, Christians expect the coming of Messiah a great deal more firmly and wistfully than Jews. The Messiah is to us a great reality. We do not weaken the conception of Him to mean only a Messianic time, as do so many Jews; though we do expect the Messianic time as much as they. But we expect Him who once came down to earth, and lived and moved among us as Man (being Man in the very fullest sense, though also God), to return to us in glory. Then His saints who now sleep in their graves will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and afterwardsbe the time long or shortall the dead shall arise, and the Judgment be set, and the books be opened. God grant, my dear friends, that you who read, and I who write, may be accounted worthy to rise in that First Resurrection!
JEWS AND CHRISTIANS AS THE OBJECTS OF GOD's AFFECTION
1. THE ASSERTED REJECTION OF ISRAEL AND THE CHOICE OF CHRISTIANS.
72] In this section R. Isaac charges Christians with the assertion that God rejected Israel because they disbelieved and crucified His Messiah, but that He chose the Christians and let Messiah suffer for their salvation because they received Him and believed on Him. He then argues that this assertion is untrue, because, before the coming of Jesus, the Christian nations were confessedly heathen, and, after He came, not only did they not believe upon Him at once, but they in fact persecuted His apostles and followers, as may be seen from many historical examples. He also adds that there are still many Christians who practise heathen rites, worshipping serpents, trees, stones, fire, in accordance with their old heathen customs, and also many who still have idols in their churches, especially idols of bread (פסילי הלחם), all this being diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus. Christians also, he says, generally disobey the New Testament in their use of foods and their neglect of the Sabbath. Therefore it cannot be asserted with any truth that Christians have been chosen because they have received and obeyed the teaching of Jesus.
73] (1). Now I freely grant that in the main contention of this section R. Isaac is right. It is certainly absurd for any Christian to argue that God chose Christians because of their goodness, and it is hard to think that any Christian could have brought forward such an argument unless he had given undue weight to human merit. But no Christian man can argue (at least in any agreement with the New Testament) that his own good deeds, or even his own faith in Christ, secured God's choice of him, or again that the good actions of his nation, or of Christian nations generally, secured God's choice of them. The New Testament tells us clearly that men are not chosen for their good deeds, and if not men, then not nations.
74] But this is not the reason why R. Isaac rejects the assertion of his opponent; he endeavours to prove his opinion by the evil actions of Christian nations. Now I am not careful to answer him in this matter, for though I should be sorry indeed to say that he is accurate in all his details (in some he makes gross mistakes), yet his statement of the facts generally is sufficiently true for the purpose. The Gentile nations which have become Christian were of course at first heathen, and did in fact bitterly persecute the followers of Jesus. But what then? Were the heathen nations so much to blame even for this as were the Jews for their similar action, who after the long and special preparation by God that they had received, the long-standing and intimate knowledge of His teaching that they possessed, yet rejected (as many of them now confess) the holiest example of human life that the world has ever seen? For the Jews thus to sin against the highest teaching of their moral nature was tenfold worse than for the Gentiles to sin against their comparative ignorance.
75] (2). It is however possible that R. Isaac misunderstood the argument of his Christian opponent. It is possible that the Christian meant to say only that the prosperity in worldly things of Christian nations (including their civilization) is due to their reception of Jesus Christ; that because they listened to the New Testament (as a whole) they made progress even in the things of this world; that, in other words, God blessed them in temporal things because they served Him in spiritual things. If this is the real meaning of the Christian's argument, I doubt whether even R. Isaac could have found much fault with it. For it is little more than a truism in view of the facts of history past and present. Whatever we may think to be the reason, the fact stands good, that it is only Christian nations that have made progress in civilization and material prosperity. Those nations that have remained heathen, or have become only Mohammedan, have made hardly any progress at all.* Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, on the other hand, has invariably produced energy in all directions of human life, and the development of all human powers.* Japan is so far an exception in that she has deliberately adopted the external results of Christian civilization.76] (3). But R. Isaac makes much of the disobedience of Christians to the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament. He uses, in fact, the statement of his Christian opponent as a peg whereon to hang his attack on Christianity for its disregard of things that are contrary, the Rabbi holds, to the right worship of the living God.
(i). May I first of all be allowed to remind you once again that I hold no brief for the Christians of our own or of any other day? If at any time Christians act contrary to the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His apostles, so far they are wrong. It is the Lord Jesus to whom I would that my readers should be attracted; it is His teaching, His teaching too as interpreted by His apostles in the New Testament, to which I would they should yield obedience. The followers of the Lord Jesus have never yet been free from faults, and never will be, I suppose, until His return; but Jesus is perfect "His mouth is most sweet: Yea, He is altogether lovely" (Song 5:16), and again, "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips" (Psa 45:2)and the object of these pages is ultimately to draw both writer and readers nearer to Him.
(ii). Therefore I confess that there is much to be said for the Rabbi's attacks on Christians. But yet he ought not to be so ready to confuse heathen sects, or, if you will, semi-heathen sects, with Christians who deserve the name. I have however no word in defence of the heathenism that still cleaves to some professed Christians, any more than I should expect an earnest Jew to defend such heathen superstitions as the Evil Eye, the wearing of amulets, &c., still current among some Jews.
(iii). Neither again have I a word in defence of the worship of idols in Christian churches, or, in particular, of the worship of the Host, the consecrated bread of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We who are members of the Church of England have specifically rejected all such errors, and though, alas, it is true that large portions of the Christian Church still accept them, such Christians hardly attempt to defend their action from the teaching of the Lord Jesus and of the New Testament. And if these practices cannot be defended thus, as they cannot, they fall out of the range of our discussion, as I have already stated.
(iv). Lastly, the Rabbi's difficulties about Food and the Sabbath are, I confess, difficulties which he may quite fairly and properly adduce. But he himself deals with them at length further on in his book, and it is only fitting that I should imitate him, and leave the discussion of these two subjects for later pages (see paragraphs 152-159 and 166-171).
2. THE REASON WHY THE JEWS HAVE NOT A KING.
77] R. Isaac informs us that a Greek once argued with him that the Jews no longer had a king of their own race over them because they rejected Jesus their true King; and that he had replied that it was indeed true that their many sins had deprived them of a king, but this deprivation took place as far back as the time of Nebuchadnezzar, four hundred years before the birth of Jesus; further, that Jesus was never a king at all; and lastly, that Christians were not really in a position to say anything, first, because the Roman kings who put Jesus to death remained to that day, and, secondly, because many Christian nations, including that of Greece to which his interlocutor belonged, had themselves lost their own kings and were under the sway of Mohammedan rulers.One system of Jewish Chronology reduced the usual computation of 206 years for the period of Greek domination to 34 years, and this seems to have been (roughly) that which R. Isaac followed. See G. Margoliouth's argument with reference to the Sadducean Christians of Damascus in the Expositor, Dec., 1911, pp. 503-507; also the Jewish Encyclopedia, iv. 70.R. Isaac is evidently very well pleased with his answer, but it appears to me to be singularly weak.
78] (1). I say little about R. Isaac's chronology, for he is never strong in history, but it seems a pity that he should parade his ignorance. For it is not by any mere slip of the pen that he allows only four instead of six hundred years to the period between Nebuchadnezzar and the birth of the Lord Jesus, for he repeats the date in Chapter 14. But apart from this his argument is poor. Granting, of course, that the kingdom in its independent form (though in fact it had hardly been independent for at least a hundred years before Nebuchadnezzar's time), ceased with the capture of king Zedekiah and the accompanying destruction of Jerusalem, yet the learned Rabbi ought not to have omitted all mention of the Hasmonaean kings after the Maccabean revolt. Neither ought he to have omitted all mention of the famous king Herod the Great, for, although he was of Edomite stock, yet the Jews, by their leading representatives, accepted him as their king. But Herod the Great died about the very year that the Lord Jesus was born, and since that date the Jews have never had a king to reign over them as a united nation.
The coincidence is very remarkable, to say the least, and is to be reckoned with by all Jews who wish to understand the reasons for their present state of national degradation.
79] (2). R. Isaac however raises a demurrer to the effect that at any rate Jesus never was a king. He asks in a tone of triumph, Who made Jesus king, and Where did He rule?
(i). Who made Jesus king? R. Isaac means that no man or body of men formally acknowledged Him as an earthly ruler, leading Him in solemn state to a material throne, crowning His temples with a crown of gold, and anointing Him with sacred oil. Be it so; we do not deny it. But even R. Isaac will grant that Messiah was to be a king. But where can he find in the Old Testament, in so many words, that a man, or a body of men, would one day formally anoint and crown and enthrone Him? If he can find no such statement, why does he attempt to browbeat us Christians by insisting on so carnal and material a view of coronation? Or perhaps the Rabbi would point us to the second Psalm, and say that the sixth verse speaks of God setting His king Messiah on the holy hill of Zion, for this would be fully in accord with the interpretations of ancient Rabbis. But to this the answer would be, that, if it is God that so appoints Messiah, we dare not say that God is tied to any visible inauguration of His reign. Directly we have to consider the way in which God will perform any predicted action, we are at once confronted with the possibility that He may act only in a spiritual way, without directly employing the material methods that we commonly associate with the particular act. To put it otherwise, God's inauguration of the Messianic kingdom need not be with blare of trumpets and human processions, but in a purely spiritual manner.
(ii). Where then did Jesus rule? asks R. Isaac. Alas, I reply, has R. Isaac here condescended to quibble? For to us Christians it appears to be a matter of very slight importance whether Jesus did or did not reign over a particular portion of this earth's surface. Material kingship is, to our minds, of almost no importance at all compared with kingship over men's hearts and lives. And surely the Rabbi will not deny that Jesus held and holds this? But those who have read the earlier pages of this work will doubtless remember that I have dealt already with this question (paragraphs 15, 27). It is unnecessary to discuss it here also. One who is King over men's hearts and consciences, and has His subjects, as even R. Isaac will confess, in all parts of the inhabited world, is far more truly a King than ever was David or even Solomon.
80] (3). We now come to the Rabbi's appeal to History, that God is not on the side of the Christians.
(i). He argues that the Roman king killed Jesus, and yet the Roman kingdom has lasted until now. As for the extremely interesting and important question who, whether Romans or Jews, were really responsible for the death of Jesus, I do not propose raising any discussion now. The subject will come up in a later volume. But it is really little short of absurd on the part of the Rabbi to argue that the Roman kingdom had lasted until his own day, the very end of the sixteenth century. Rome was sacked by Alaric in 410; the Western Roman Empire perished in 476, and the Eastern shared its fate in 1453 A.D. It is of course true that a so-called Holy Roman Empire existed from 962 to 1806 A.D., but this was a German Empire, and had little more than the name in common with Rome. Rome as a sovereign State perished in the fifth century, punished, we Christians would say, for its failure to obey ordinary precepts of God's Law, whether Jewish, Christian, or natural, and receiving the due reward of its deeds.
(ii). R. Isaac also says that Christians cannot in all fairness accuse the Jews of losing their kingdom through lack of faith in Jesus, because even many Christian nations have no king of their own race, but are in bondage to Mohammedan rulers. I venture to think that this is a different thing altogether. Where will the Rabbi find in the Scriptures that Gentile Christians are to have a king of their own race over them? But with the Jews this is expressly the case. Promise after promise was given to the Jews that they should always have a king, and that a king of David's line. It is therefore a very serious matter for the Jews if this promise has not been fulfilled. But let him notice what exactly the Christian argument is. We Christians do not say that the Jews have no king of their own race, but that although they possess Him they do not acknowledge Him; and that because they do not acknowledge Him therefore their present condition as a nation is so miserable. We affirm, upon, as we believe, the strength of many prophecies, both in the Old Testament and in the New, that when the Jews turn to God in true contrition of soul, and acknowledge Jesus as their King, they will then regain a position of independence among the nations of the earth, inheriting the land promised to Abraham. We believe, I say, that the acceptance of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, as their King, will be rewarded by temporal and national, and, blessed be God, even spiritual eminence.
For God is wont to link, though by no means inseparably, temporal with spiritual blessings. And this may well suggest an answer to the Rabbi's difficulty that Mohammedan nations have sometimes triumphed over, and in many cases have long ruled over, professedly Christian nations. For in the Mohammedan conquests thoughtful readers of history, whether they be Jewish or Christian, perceive the all-ruling hand of God. Christians, whether individuals or nations, who leave the simplicity of their faith, who add manifold errors of doctrine and practice to the simple teaching of the New Testament, are often punished for their sin. The New Testament itself proclaims this. We Christians acknowledge that as God dealt with Jews, correcting them for unfaithfulness, so does He deal with us. But in both cases repentance for sin brings restoration to favour. Would indeed that both Christians and Jews acted on this principle.
3. THE PERMANENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.
81] R. Isaac tells us that a certain nobleman who was a Lutheran by religion urged in argument with him one day the need of due attention to the words of R. Gamaliel as quoted in Acts 5:38, 39. For he there bids the Council "Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown: but if it is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God." The Lutheran bids R. Isaac notice that the Christian religion has lasted very many hundreds of years, and consider whether it be not therefore true.
R. Isaac says that he replied that this saying of R. Gamaliel was not accepted as true by the Jews, and that, in any case, it was not spoken by him as a prophet (for he was no prophet), but was only a remark based upon his experience of false leaders. R. Isaac also says very plausibly that mere length of time is no criterion of truth. For otherwise the palm must be given to idolatry, which has lasted many more ages than Christianity. Even Mohammedanism, if duration of time were alone taken into consideration, would also be proved true. He proceeds to argue that false religions are permitted to continue in order that the fools who accept them may one day give account, and he says also that idol-worship will not cease until the true Messiah comes.For Gamaliel's saying compare Aboth v. 20 (24): "Every dispute (or, perhaps, secession) which is for the glory of God shall at last be established, and that which is not for the glory of God shall not be." See Chwolson, Das letzte Passamahl Christi, pp. 96 sq.With this last point I have already dealt (paragraphs 35, 36), and I shall therefore confine my remarks to the chief thought of this section.
R. Isaac's reply, I say, is plausible. But he hardly goes to the root of the matter.
82] (1). Observe that it is of extremely little importance whether the saying attributed to R. Gamaliel is authentic or not. There does not appear to be any valid reason for rejecting it, and it agrees with what we know of the shrewd but kindly character attributed to him in the Talmud.* In any case the saying is remarkable, and suggests thought.* It is sometimes difficult to know whether the sayings there reported under his name refer to R. Gamaliel the elder or to his grandson, but this hardly affects our present discussion.83] (2). Observe also that the argument of R. Gamaliel, to call it by his name for convenience sake, was never intended to be conclusive. It was the prudent advice of a lawyer to do nothing rashly, but to wait and see what God's providence should determine. Yet surely it is not wrong for us Christians to urge this argument with superlatively increased force now. No one can deny that God's providence has been on the side of Christianity, or that His providence has been exerted in behalf of Christianity in a very different manner from that in which it was shown in the case of Heathenism and of Mohammedanism. Had idol-worship any opposition? We have no reason to suppose so. Did Mohammedanism use the same peaceful weapons that the Christians of the first four centuries employed when they were conquering the Roman world for their Master? We all know that Mohammed himself enforced his religion at the point of the sword, and that his followers always imitated his example. R. Isaac surely forgets the poverty and lowly origin of the first preachers of the Gospel, the countless persecutions they endured, and their faithfulness under distresses of all kinds, when he ventures to compare the success of idol-worship and of Mohammedanism with that of the religion of Jesus. Its triumph in spite of so many obstacles, by the use of only spiritual weapons, raises a presumption in its favour that is wholly absent from those false religions with which he compares it.
It is true, of course, that mere length of time in the existence of a religion proves little or nothing in its favour; so far R. Isaac is right. But he is wrong in hiding the fact that Christianity prevailed by the use of only ethical and moral means, notwithstanding the bitter and unscrupulous opposition of powerful adversaries. Would indeed that Christians were able to say that in later times they had always maintained the purity of their early methods!
4. THE HUMILIATION OF THE JEWS.
84] The same Lutheran nobleman said to R. Isaac: When you served God you prospered, but since you sinned all dominion is taken from you, and has passed over to other nations. Your present humiliation is a proof of your evil deeds, and of the imperfection of your faith.
R. Isaac replied: The argument is wholly untrue, because in this world the wicked often prosper and the righteous are in misery; Nebuchadnezzar, for example, and Alexander ruled over the whole world, but no one would assert that the religions professed by them were true. Witness too, he says, the present prosperity of Mohammedans, and their dominion over a great part of the world. No! Scripture says, "Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper" (Jer 12:1)? and "Whom the Lord loveth He reproveth" (Prov 3:12).
At first sight R. Isaac's answer would seem to be complete, for, moreover, not only does the Old Testament, followed by the New, insist upon the loving correction inflicted by the Lord upon His true servants, but also, as D. Deutsch points out in his notes to the Chizzuk Emunah, Christ warned His followers to expect poverty and misery, and Himself died upon the Cross. Christians therefore, it is argued, ought to be the very last persons to say that distress in this world is a proof of wrongness of faith.
85] Yet two considerations must not be overlooked.
(1). The history of nations, and our experience of the lives of individuals, tend to show convincingly that upon the whole God does so determine life that earthly prosperity follows a faith which is true in itself and has a real effect on its adherents; that if there is trial it is only for a short time, after which the success and prosperity of those who have been tried is more conspicuous than ever. Hence it is to be expected that if Judaism is the truest of all faiths, and is faithfully observed, its followers will be in greater earthly prosperity, generally speaking, than others. But this is not the case. It is therefore not unreasonable to think that Judaism, in so far as it differs from Christianity, is not as true as it.
(2). Earthly prosperity is distinctly promised in Scripture to the Jews if they are faithful to God, and, on the other hand, Jews are distinctly warned in Scripture that if they are unfaithful to God terrible calamities will come upon them. See, for example, Deuteronomy 28. But to non-Jews no such general promises and warnings are given. In other words, earthly prosperity is not so closely bound up with non-Jews by the promises and warnings recorded in Holy Writ as it is with Jews. It seems therefore to be only reasonable that Jews should ask themselves what is the causefor cause there must bewhy the warnings have been fulfilled upon them, if, as they assert, they have on the whole been faithful to God.
The argument of the Lutheran nobleman is not to be so lightly dismissed as R. Isaac supposes.
5. THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NATIONS.
Chapters 6 and 17
86] A Christian scholar said to R. Isaac that he could find in the Prophets no reference to the present Captivity of the Jews under Rome, and to the Restoration from it, and that therefore there was no need for Messiah to come hereafter (as the Jews supposed), seeing that all the promises connected with Him had been already fulfilled in the time of the second Temple.
R. Isaac replied that it was no wonder that a Gentile could not find such prophecies, for God "sheweth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel" (Psa 147:19).
R. Isaac then adduced passages from the Prophets referring to (1) this strange present captivity, in which one nation is scattered to the ends of the earth; (2) the continuance of the Jews in this captivity for a very long time, even until "the end of the days"; (3) their redemption from it; (4) the fall of Rome and other Gentile kingdoms, including the Mohammedan; and, lastly, many details that must be fulfilled before Messiah comes.
We have already considered these details, and now turn to say something upon the other subjects.
87] (1). The prophecies of the present Captivity. We agree with R. Isaac in this, that the Old Testament contains such statements (though he may be wrong in some of the particular passages that he adduces), and therefore we have no need to discuss the matter here.
88] (2). We have already examined the meaning of the phrase "in the end of the days," and shown that R. Isaac does not understand it correctly (paragraphs 21-24).
89] (3). The Restoration of the Jews from this Captivity. R. Isaac speaks as though in defending this belief he were attacking Christianity. But let him attack Christianity as it is, not as he thinks it is. This is important here. For Christians have always believed in two comings of Messiah, and are, for the most part, ready to accept with the Rabbi the belief that many things prophesied of the times of Messiah are yet to take place. Thus a large number of Christians (probably the majority in these days) believe in the Restoration of the Jews as much as do the Jews themselves. We are indeed looking forward to it with no little intensity of expectation. For to our minds the Restoration of the Jews to Palestine is closely bound up with that event for which we daily hope, for which we daily pray, the return of our Master, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that, if we are wise, we do not pretend to know the order of the scenes in the great drama to be enacted when He returns, but, so far as we can understand His own words and the words of the Prophets, His Coming and the Restoration of the Jews to their own land are bound closely together. If the Jews return to Palestine first the Lord Jesus will return soon after; if the Lord Jesus comes first He will hasten their return thither. In any case the Rabbi is not justified in using the truth of the future restoration of the Jews as a rod wherewith to smite Christians of to-day.
90] (4). He however goes further than this and connects the restoration of the Jews with the destruction of the Gentile nations, in particular with that of Christians and Mohammedans.
(i). He finds the connexion of these two subjects partly in Numbers 24:17 to 19, 24. (cf. also Obad 21 and Eze 25:14), where he sees not only the triumph of Israel but also the overthrow of the other nations, especially Rome, which, as he believes, is intended by the terms "Edom" and "Kittim" (cf. Dan 11:30). For Rome he also quotes Obadiah 18 and Isaiah 34:5, 6, 8. For the Mohammedans he quotes not only Joel 3:19, where, according to him, Egypt means Ishmael, on the strength of Genesis 16:1 and 21:21, but also Isaiah 66:17. He says that this last passage refers to both Rome and the Mohammedans, so that it is perhaps worth while to quote it here at length: "They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves to go unto the gardens, behind one in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse; they shall come to an end together, saith the LORD."
On this the Rabbi remarks that the phrase "they that sanctify themselves and purify themselves" means the Mohammedans, who are always cleansing themselves externally (he refers to their ceremonial washing before prayer), while they allow themselves unclean things; and "eating swine's flesh" refers to Edom, i.e., the Christians.
(ii). Now we have no objection, in one sense, to the belief that hereafter those who refuse to obey God shall be destroyed. Both the Old and the New Testament speak of this judgment in plain terms. But we fail to see that R. Isaac has the right to see in Scripture any indication that the Mohammedans and Christians, as such, are expressly included among these evil nations. His discovery of Mohammedans in Isaiah 66:17 and Joel 3:19, rests on so far-fetched a method of interpretation that it may safely be disregarded by every thoughtful student of to-day.
91] (iii). Is he any better off in his discovery of the mention of Christians? No doubt he can find many passages in the Old Testament that foretell the destruction of Edom. Well and good: Edom has been destroyed. But he identifies Edom with Rome, i.e., with Christians. How does he arrive at this equation? His process of thought appears to have been some what as follows: In the first place, he thinks that Christians have their headquarters at Rome, so that Rome may fairly be taken to represent them. But even if it were true in the Rabbi's days (as it was not) that Christians had their headquarters at Rome, it certainly is not the case now. One would suppose that the Rabbi, living though he did in Poland, had never heard of the Greek Church, which would warmly, and rightly, have repudiated the notion that it had received its Christianity from Rome. But in these days, after the great development of the English-speaking races, who, generally speaking, owe and give no allegiance to Rome, it is plainly absurd to say that Christianity is represented by it.
92] Secondly, there are ancient tales, which R. Isaac repeats as though he believed them, to the effect that the founders of Rome came from Edom, and again that the founders of Christianity were Edomites who went to Rome. But no scholar of the present day, either Jew or Gentile, believes these tales for a moment. They are in fact quite worthless for historical purposes.
93] Thirdly, he found the frequent use of the word "Edom" in Rabbinic literature to represent "Rome." R. Isaac had been accustomed to this from his earliest youth, and he doubtless regarded the usage as a proof of the identity of meaning. But anyone can see how the usage arose. It was not convenient in either imperial or papal times for Jews openly to teach or write that Rome would perish, and they therefore substituted another word for it, the connotation of which was well known to their readers, though not to the uninitiated. Sometimes they spoke of Rome as Babylon (see reff. in Zunz, Lit. der synag. Poesie, pp. 100 sq.; cf. 1 Peter 5:13), when they were thinking of the power and glory of the empire; but sometimes, and much more often in papal times, simply as Edom (cf. Buxtorf Lex. loc. V.).* For the substitution was so neat. They had only to presuppose (in Obad 8 for example) an al-tiqri of "d" (ד) to "r" (ר), and "Edom" became practically "Rome." But we do not base dogmas on Haggadoth, as Jews will be the first to acknowledge, and if this is all the evidence that R. Isaac has (and it seems to be all) for finding references to the destruction of Christians within the writings of the prophets his argument is worth nothing.* See additional references in Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, 1909, pp. 99 sqq.To put the matter otherwise. His appeal to the statements of the prophets that Christians are to be destroyed in the future rests on mere fancy, and a misapprehension of the use of the word "Edom" by earlier Jewish writers. There is, in fact, no indication in the Old Testament that either Mohammedan or Christian nations, as such, are included amongst those adversaries of the truth who are doomed to perish.
6. THE LENGTH OF THE PRESENT EXILE.
94] It is strange how, as the years roll on, difficulties that troubled our fathers lose their force for us. Few Christians of to-day, for example, would bring forward the argument in favour of Christianity that is adduced in this chapter of R. Isaac's book, and, if they were to do so, few Jews would answer it in R. Isaac's manner. Many of the arguments on either side are in fact antiquated. Yet, as we shall see, there underlies the discussion something that is at the very core of the differences between Jew and Christian.
(1). Christians are represented as saying (and there is no reason to suppose that the Jew was not reproducing arguments often addressed to him) that while the Egyptian Captivity lasted four hundred, and the Babylonian seventy years, this present exile has already lasted more than fifteen hundred, or, in fact, now more than eighteen hundred years. Also that the date of the end of those captivities was made known beforehand to Abraham and to Jeremiah, but no date has been assigned to this. The reason of this, say the Christians, is doubtless because it has no end, because God does not purpose restoring the nation of Israel to His favour once again. Leviticus 26:38, say the Christians, will certainly be fulfilled: "Ye shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up." Lastly, say the Christians, even Reason teaches the hopelessness of the expectation of the Jews, for if God has not delivered them in fifteen (eighteen) hundred years, He is very unlikely ever to do so.
(2). The Rabbi evidently feels the force of this argument more than we should to-day. Our ideas of God's time in His management of the world are much enlarged (cf. paragraph 26). He therefore thinks it his duty to state at length his reasons why the dates were made known to Abraham and to Jeremiah. The former was told because it was advisable for his own faith, and that of his descendants in Egypt, that they should not be too impatient. R. Isaac also makes an elaborate calculation by which he shows that, notwithstanding the date fixed for the Egyptian captivity, its years were actually exceeded by thirty (Exo 12:40), because of the sinfulness of the Israelites in Egypt. Again, Jeremiah was told of seventy years, because in this way Israel was informed that a definite sin, that of neglecting the sabbatical years, had to be worked off by the seventy years of exile.
95] But why is it that no date has been assigned to this present exile? Here the answer of the Rabbi is so important that I must quote it in its entirety. "This exile," he says "has been decreed to atone for the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which Israel sinned from the day of their entrance into the Land until they came into captivity. For iniquities are a grievous uncleanness for the souls of sinners, and separate between them and God, and they need washing and purification by the many strokes and cruelties done to them during the long time of their captivity. For in the Captivity of Babylon they were not cleansed properly. Only the sin of not keeping the years of release in Palestine was atoned for. But the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, e.g., immorality, idolatry, bloodshed, &c., were not atoned for in the Captivity of Babylon, because of the shortness of the time, therefore Divine wisdom decreed that Israel should come into this captivity, and that they should stay in it a very long time, until the end of the days, to receive their punishment, to destroy the transgression of idolatry, to annihilate the sin of immorality, and to atone for the iniquity of blood shed, as it is said in Ezekiel 22:15 and Lamentations 4:22."
"But in Babylon," he continues, "not only were their iniquities not effaced (except their sin about the years of release), but they sinned still more. Therefore they were obliged to go into captivity again to atone for all iniquities and sins. For after our iniquities are atoned for, and our uncleanness effaced by the chastisements of this bitter and hard captivity, then we shall no more sin, and then Deuteronomy 30:6 will be fulfilled: The LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, &c. So also Ezekiel 36:26, 27 will be fulfilled: A new heart, &c.; and similarly with other prophecies. Further, in that God determined to prolong the days of this captivity for the abundance of our iniquities, transgressions, and sins, and that the complete and perfect redemption from it depends upon our repentances, His wisdom determined to hide the date of the future redemption even from the Prophets (Deut 32:34), and not even Daniel was allowed to know it (12:9). For the knowledge of the distance of the time would have been a hindrance and would have brought harm. Jews in this exile would be tempted to despair, and to break off the yoke of the law, as indeed has happened to many."
Further, "Our redemption from this captivity depends on complete repentance (see Deut 30:16), and repentance depends upon our own choice and will. Therefore it is not possible to set a fixed time, seeing that we are able to shorten the time of the end if we turn to Him with all our heart in perfect repentance. For God's knowledge of the time does not do away with the freedom of our will."
96] (3). How much good there is in what the Rabbi writes! As Christians read his expressions of longing for the repentance of the Jewish nation, and still more as they read the fervent utterances of the Jewish heart in the cries contained in the Hebrew Prayer Book, they are moved to their very depths, and join earnestly in the prayers for the outpouring of God's divine gift of true repentance upon His chosen people.
And yet they cannot but think that they see at least part of the reason why this Repentance so long desired is so long withheld, as they read upon the very same page the reason for the length of this captivity, which the Rabbi has recorded, and the authors of the Synagogue Prayers have also made their own.
What is the reason adduced by R. Isaac for the long continuance of the present exile? What but that Israel may atone for its sins committed in Palestine by suffering and persecution? See how the natural pride of the human heart makes itself known! The sufferings of the Jews are to work out their atonement! Where did the Rabbi learn this? Not from Scripture. Nor from Reason. How is it possible for suffering, endured, if you will, for thousands of years, to make up for a single sin, much less for sins committed, as the Rabbi says, during all the time that Israel was in Palestine? It is astonishing to find that Jews have so little due perception of the love of God. They talk about it, and appear to assume it, and then think that God is not to be propitiated unless a man suffer, on behalf of himself or another. A Jew will say, "I have sinned, therefore I must suffer for my sin, and, when I have suffered long enough for it, then God will forgive me." Or else he will say, "I have sinned, and at any rate some one else must suffer for me, and when he has suffered long enough then God will forgive me." All such reasoning is abhorrent to Scripture, and to Reason also. It is altogether too much akin to the thought of him who supposes that the LORD is pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil; who wishes to give his firstborn for his transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul (Micah 6:7.). No! the way of pardon lies in the humble acceptance of the Lord's love.
97] But possibly some Jewish reader may be thinking in his inmost heart: "Surely Christians are always insisting on the value of the sufferings and death of another man for them!" No; that is not the case. No Christian believes that the death of any man, however good and holy, is of the least value in securing salvation. Christians hold that the very Presence of God gave Himself up, by taking human nature, to be a self-sacrifice for human sin, and, whatever may be the difficulties of this belief, it is at all events very different indeed from a belief that the suffering of a man as such can at all atone for sinyes, utterly opposed to it and contradictory. The Jew makes much of man; the Christian makes much of the Presence of God. There is all the difference in the world between the two conceptions.
98] (4). Lastly, I must mention one or two matters of less importance, (i). The Rabbi is doubtless right when he declines to accept the use made of Leviticus 26:38 by the Christians whom he quotes at the beginning of this chapter. He is right in saying that that passage is no valid argument for the destruction of the Jews during this present exile, (ii). He is also doubtless right in refusing to see that the length of time that has elapsed is of any weight at all. But I wonder that he did not insist on the remarkable fact of the preservation of the Jews during all these centuries. It would be extraordinary indeed if, after preserving the Jews through untold hardships during all this time, God were to allow them to perish, without fulfilling His gracious promises towards them. It is incredible that He who has done so much should not do more. (iii). Finally, in the course of his argument, the Rabbi makes an objection against the Lord Jesus which I must not altogether pass by, lest it be thought that there is no answer to give to him. He quotes Acts 1:6, and, after pointing out that the Apostles expected the establishment of the Kingdom (which no one denies, though perhaps there may be a difference of opinion as to the nature of the Kingdom expected), urges that the answer of Jesus shows that He was not the Messiah, for He did not say that He was the one who would establish it, but said that God alone knew the end of this exile. A strange explanation indeed! It is all bound up with that primary error of the Rabbi, which we have so repeatedly pointed out, that when Messiah comes He must do everything at once. For if one does but assume that Jesus is the Messiah, His answer contains no difficulty at all. It is but reminding the Apostles that they must not expect to have everything revealed to them; that God's purposes are to be worked out in their own time, and are not to be subjected to human curiosity. It would be well for many of us, whether Jews or Christians, if we took the warning of that passage to heart.
7. THE RETURN OF THE TWELVE TRIBES TO THE HOLY LAND.
99] In this section the Christian is represented as expressing his astonishment that the Jews can expect to return to Palestine and receive the Land as once more divided among the Twelve Tribes, when they do not even know to what Tribe they severally belong.
(1). R.Isaac answers:
(i). There is no difficulty in the case of the Ten Tribes who were carried away by Shalmaneser (had he lived in these days the Rabbi would have known it was Sargon, and praised the accuracy of Scripture, which only tells us that it was "the king of Assyria," 2 Kings 18:11) to Chalah and Chabor, for they still dwell in one place, and all know their own tribes, as may be learned from the descriptions of those who have seen them, and from the narrative of Benjamin of Tudela.
(ii). There is also no great difficulty in the case of the two Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. For all the Jews who are now scattered among Christian and Mohammedan nations belong to one or other of these two tribes (most no doubt belong to Judah), with the addition of a few Levites and descendants of Aaron, both of whom are known, as in fact are those who are of the line of David. It is indeed true, says R. Isaac, that at present the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin are so mixed that whether a Jew belongs to Benjamin or Judah no one knows, but this is a point which will be made clear by Elijah when he returns. For he will separate the members of the two tribes. The Rabbi adds that even the proselytes shall then know to which tribe they really belong. For it is said in Ezekiel 47:23, "And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth (or the proselyte is proselyte), there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the LORD God."
100] (2). In earlier paragraphs I have already stated my complete willingness to accept the belief in a future Return of the Jews to the Holy Land. Not only is this by far the simplest explanation of the many prophecies that apparently proclaim it, but the fact of the preservation of the Jews as a separate people during these nineteen centuries, in spite of the greatest trials and, alas, the bitterest persecutions, is most easily explained by the existence of a reason in the counsels of God connected with some great work in the future which they shall yet perform. We all indeed know that their preservation enables them to be a standing witness to the world of the general truth of the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New, yet this alone would not appear to be cause sufficient for so unique a miracle as their preservation. On the other hand, grant that the Bible demands, if it be fairly interpreted, that the Jews have yet a future before them in proclaiming the Kingdom of Goda future connected in some way, as it would appear, with their Restoration to Palestineand then it is not at all surprising that God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, continues to preserve them until the time is ripe for the accomplishment of their special task.
I grant then to the full that the Jews will yet be restored to their own land.
101] But how we are to understand the details by which that restoration is described by the Prophets is a wholly different matter. For example, in this very question of the division of the Land to each Tribe, it is extremely perilous to make any dogmatic statement. Personally, I think that the literal fulfilment is very improbable (with the curious parallelograms described in Ezekiel 45, reminding the modern reader of a map of the back blocks in Canada in 1910), but in any case the question is of no importance for our present subject. It is no part of my task to decide what is the exact meaning of prophecies that deal with the future of the Jews, especially in their details. Both Jews and Christians agree or differ, as the case may be, with regard to the interpretation of such problems, which are probably insoluble with our present knowledge, and therefore the problems are not such as really enter into our discussion. But I cannot help adding that if the division of the Land to each Tribe requires, as the Rabbi says, such a strange miracle as the return of Elijah to inform any Jew of his lineage, the improbability of the literal interpretation is greatly increased. For the subject of the return of Elijah see paragraphs 269-275.
102] Similarly, the return of the Ten Tribes, is a question that is more curious than important in our present discussion. I should probably not have touched upon it at all if R. Isaac had not already said in Chapter 6 that the fact that the Ten Tribes have not returned is an argument against the truth of the belief that Messiah has already come.
In one respect we know much more about the Ten Tribes than the Rabbi knew. We know now that they do not exist as such, distinct and separate. Eldad the Danite in the ninth century, by adding real Haggadic knowledge to a very fertile imagination, was able to describe in detail the manners and customs of the Ten Tribes in Abyssinia or Ethiopia; Benjamin of Tudela again in the twelfth century recounted at length the tales told him by a certain R. Moses about the Ten Tribes in Samarcand; Prester John about the same time spoke of them in India, recounting from far older sources how "a river which comes from paradise, passes between us and the great country of the mighty Daniel, King of the Jews. This river flows all the week days, but remains quiet on the sabbath day";* but we in this twentieth century, to whom there is no longer any part of the surface of the earth unknown, except the South Pole, know that in no country whatever, however far from civilisation it may be, do the Ten Tribes dwell. The "travellers tales" have been proved to be false; the Ten Tribes as such do not exist.* Neubauer, "Where are the Ten Tribes? " (Jewish Quarterly Review, i. p. 192).It is indeed possible that they may have been ancestors of certain nations or tribes possessing features or customs like those of the Jews, as for example the Afghans, but even this is highly conjectural, and proof there is none. If there were, we should not find (as we do find) that almost every nation existing at the present day has been thought to represent the Ten Tribes.* Even the British nation is no exception, but the presuppositions of this strange theory, and the arguments by which it is supported, come hardly within the bounds of sober criticism.* A convenient summary may be found in the Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. "Tribes, Lost Ten."103] There are, in short, only two theories about the Ten Tribes which seem to deserve consideration. First, out of those who remained in Palestine some attached themselves to the Jews, while, in spite of the silence of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, some at least of the others returned with the Two Tribes. In favour of this opinion is the mention in St. Luke 2:36 of a certain Anna the daughter of Phanuel, belonging to the tribe of Asher; also, as it seems, a person from the tribe of Dan, and another from the tribe of Zebulun, are mentioned in T. B. Pesachim 4a (in the Munich MS.). If this theory is adopted we may perhaps say that the union of the Ten Tribes with the Two has already taken place.
Secondly, the Ten Tribes are so merged in the Gentiles as to be quite unrecognizable by any means yet at our disposal. In this case it may be assumed that the prophecies of their return as distinct and separate tribes are not to be understood literally. In either case, the Rabbi's objection to the belief that Messiah has come, based upon the fact that the Ten Tribes have not returned, is untenable.
104] I may conclude with quoting Neubauer's words at the end of his illuminating articles in the first volume of the Jewish Quarterly Review (p. 422): "Where are the Ten Tribes? We can only answer, Nowhere. Neither in Africa nor in India, China, Persia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, or Bokhara. We have said [p. 15] that a great part of them remained in Palestine, partly mixing with the Samaritans and partly amalgamating with those who returned from the Captivity of Babylon. With them many came also from the cities of the Medes, and many, no doubt, adhered to the Jewish religion which was continued in Mesopotamia during the period of the Second Temple. As to the prophetical promise that they will be gathered together in the Messianic time, we follow R. Akiba, who said that they will never return. Why should we be more orthodox than the great R. Akiba?"** R. Aqiba's opinion is recorded in the Mishna, Sanhedrin 10:3 (6).
A CONSIDERATION OF CERTAIN PASSAGES IN THE LAW
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IN UNITY.(Gen 1:1, 26) 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth...26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Chapters 9 and 10
[JCR - For more info, please see another one of our online books:
Plurality in the Godhead or How Can Three Be One? Rabbi Tzvi Nassi (CWH Pauli) (1863)]
105] R. Isaac tells us at the end of the eighth section of his work that he will now begin to discuss the Christian interpretation of various passages in the Bible which are adduced by Christians in confirmation of their opinions. Therefore in Chapter 9 he considers the first verse of Genesis, and in Chapter 10 he considers the 26th verse of the same chapter. But as in these two sections he is in reality dealing with the whole question of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, it will be well for us to imitate him.On the subject of the Trinity in Unity, compare The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, Lect. 9.But let me say at the outset, that if it were not that the Rabbi has brought forward this subject so early in his book I should not myself have done so. For it seems to me that it is unreasonable to expect a Jew to understand, in any satisfactory degree, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. Jews are ready enough to tell us Christians that no Christian can understand Judaism. We, with at least equal right, may retort that no Jew as such is able to understand Christianity. For the doctrine of the Trinity is not a doctrine independent of others, but rather is the final result and apex, or, to change the figure slightly, the connecting arch, of all Christian truths. They lead up to it; they do not start from it. This will become more clear at the end of our consideration of the subject. Sufficient to say now that if a person regards the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity as mere theory he will fail to understand either it or the reasons for its formation, and that the necessity for it will be appreciated only by him who approaches it from the standpoint of his own personal need.
We shall first consider R. Isaac's attacks upon the doctrine, and then state briefly why we Christians accept it.
106] (1). R. Isaac argues that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity has no support either in Genesis 1:1 or in Genesis 1:26.
(i). Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created." All know that the plural form Elohim is here found with the singular verb bara, and that although there are a few cases where Elohim is found with a plural verb or adjective, yet the singular is the regular construction when Elohim is used of the one true God. Christians, however, have often urged that this is due to the existence of more than one "Person" in the Godhead. R. Isaac argues, on the contrary, that it is only an example of the Plural of Majesty, like the royal "We" in English and other languages. Whether, however, this "Plural of Majesty," in the strict sense, exists in Hebrew is more than doubtful, and, if that explanation of the meaning of the plural were all that could be adduced against the Christian interpretation, the latter would hold the day. But essentially the Rabbi is right. The plural of intensity (e.g. מישרים "uprightness"; see many other examples in Gesenius-Kautzsch, Hebrew Grammar, chap. 124. e.) is very common, and the plural Elohim is best explained as an indication of the fulness of power and might contained in God. It is, at any rate, impossible to see in Genesis 1 any proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. So far the Rabbi is right.
107] (ii). Genesis 1:26, "And God said, Let us make man in our image." Similarly in this case Christian controversialists have often claimed (compare even the Epistle of Barnabas Chap. 5, written between 70 and 137 A.D.) that the words were addressed by the Father to another "Person" in the Trinity. But there is nothing in the context to suggest this. The Rabbi may be right in his assertion that the words were addressed to the Angels that ever surround the throne of God, and necessarily take the deepest interest in all that He does. At the same time it is strange that God should associate Himself in work with angels, upon, as it would seem, terms of equality; and indeed the supposition is contrary to Isaiah 40:14, "with whom took He counsel?" and 44:24, "I am the LORD, that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth; who is with Me?" Possibly, as in the former case, the plural indicates the fulness of power and might in the Godhead. Yet, after all, if the doctrine of the Trinity is true, the phrase does fit in exceedingly well with it. The verse cannot be adduced as a proof of it, but it is strange that in the very beginning of the Bible two passages occur which strikingly illustrate it.
108] (2). R. Isaac also asserts that the Old Testament altogether contradicts the Christian belief in the Trinity. For, he says, "Scripture is opposed to the belief in more than one God." Of course it is. Who denies it? We grant this quite as heartily as does the Rabbi. But this is a very different thing indeed from opposition to the Christian doctrine of the three-fold personality in the one Godhead. Scripture contradicts in the strongest possible language all belief in the duality or the plurality of Gods. The heathen might say, for example, that there is one God of light and another of darkness; one of good, another of evil. But it stands written in the Book of Isaiah (45:6, 7), "I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things." And it stands written even more plainly in Deuteronomy 32:39, "I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me." But, as I have already said, Christians accept these statements as heartily as does R. Isaac himself. There is no Christian believer who says that there is more than one God. On the contrary, every Christian believes in one God, and in one God only, accepting with all his heart and soul the words signed by every clergyman in the Church of England, "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible." Out of all the many texts of Scripture which R. Isaac quotes there is not one which insists upon the supreme truth of the Unity of God more strongly than do these words. But neither they, nor any of his passages, touch the question whether there be, or be not, that ineffable plurality in the One Godhead, which for want of a better name we call the Trinity.
109] (3). R. Isaac also affirms that Reason itself is opposed to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. So far from this being the case we shall see further on in our consideration of this subject that Reason itself demands the doctrine. But meantime let us see what the Rabbi says under this heading. He knows his Maimonides and uses his arguments well. He also combines an attack on the doctrine of the Incarnation with that of the Trinity. He is not to be blamed for this. For it is only through the Incarnation that men have come to perceive the Trinity. In other words, the essential Trinity, God in Himself, in His three-fold Personality, is only known to men through His action upon men, culminating, as Christians hold, in the Incarnation. It was therefore a true instinct that led the Rabbi to connect the two doctrines, separate though they might appear to be at first sight.
110] (i). He denies that the One God can be compounded of two or more parts. If He is, he says, He does not come up to the highest idea of unity that human intelligence requires. If indeed by "compounded" the Rabbi means compounded of distinct parts, we Christians agree with him. There are, as I have said, no parts in God. If, on the other hand, he means that, as an abstract principle, the idea of a bare Monad, containing in Himself nothing answering to the idea of the Trinity, is in itself a finer and more philosophical conception than the Christian belief, he is begging the question. We have no experience of a bare monad of any kind in Nature, and our Reason does not in any way compel us to a belief in its existence. So far from this, as we shall see, Reason itself is against such a doctrine. Of course if Christians held that One is Three and Three are One they might well be accused of believing a statement contrary to reason, and D. Deutsch would be right in his foolish remark, "If three can be one, so can a hundred" (Konnen drei eins sein, so auch hundert, Chizzuk Emunah, p. 361), and would be right in his ensuing deduction that we are thus brought to belief in polytheism. But I cannot believe that any thoughtful Jew really supposes that this is Christian doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity is an extremely philosophical conception, which is only parodied by saying that it means that three are one and one is three. To misinterpret a statement and then to laugh at it may be good controversy, but it is very poor honesty.
111] (ii). The Rabbi also affirms that it is unphilosophical to believe in the Incarnation, for we cannot believe in a being who is compounded both of divinity and flesh, and also we cannot imagine God becoming incarnate. Yet we may point out that human thought is advancing more and more to the position that God comes into the closest possible contact with the creatures that He has made; that He has not that horror of matter which R. Isaac's words imply; and that if He were to manifest Himself in a supreme degree under the limitations of human life (supposing that great ethical and moral results could best be brought about by His doing so), this would be in accordance with what we know of Him in other ways. The Incarnation does not presuppose, as the Rabbi fancies, change in God (if it did, it would indeed be incredible), but only a more complete manifestation of Himself than He has already shown in Nature. The Incarnation, if it be a fact, is indeed a stupendous fact, but it is not, as R. Isaac says, contrary to Reason and Philosophy. It is rather the top stone to the slowly mounting edifice of the manifestation of God. God had shown Himself in the physical life, but far more stupendously in the moral life, and when the time came He showed Himself, as Christians believe, in the same sphere but more completely, when His very Presence came down and lived out all the requirements of His moral law, exhibiting in human nature a perfect example of a life that fulfilled all its demands. Is this in reality contrary either to our experience of God and His work, or to our highest and most philosophical conception of Him? I think not.
112] (4). Rabbi Isaac also affirms that the New Testament itself often contradicts the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We shall later consider more fully the teaching of the New Testament upon this subject, but it is fitting that even here we should not altogether pass by the passages adduced by the Rabbi to prove his point.
113] (i). He quotes St. Matthew 12:32 (with the parallel passages St. Mark 3:28, 29, and St. Luke 12:10) where our Lord says: "Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come." The Rabbi argues that these words show that the Holy Spirit and the Son are not One, therefore the Three are not One. Yet we Christians have never said that the Son and the Spirit are One in such a sense as to obliterate all distinctions between them, as the Rabbi assumes. Next, he argues that the words show that Jesus is the Son of man, and not God. I presume that he means that if Jesus were God then an offence against Himself would be as great as that against the Holy Spirit. But this is a misinterpretation of the passage. If the Christian belief in the Incarnation is true, the passage means something very different, and is not hard to understand. Jesus is speaking of Himself as the Son of man, i.e., is speaking about the human side of His existence. And He says that it is a much smaller sin to speak against Himself as man than to deny the all-powerful and holy work of God the Holy Spirit in the world, as the Pharisees had just been doing, when they refused to recognize goodness and holiness, and attributed the expulsion of demons to Satan himself. The Rabbi, like only too many controversialists, takes the passage out of its context, and makes it say what it was never intended to say.
114] (ii). He also quotes St. Mark 13:32 (parallel passage St. Matt 24:36): "Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." The Rabbi urges that this shows, first, that the Son and the Father are not One (to which we would reply as above), and, next, that the Son is not God, because He does not know the future. Yes, we grant that Jesus says that His knowledge is limited. What of that, according to Christian doctrine? For if, as we Christians hold, Jesus was perfect man as well as perfect God, must He not, as man, have been ignorant of many things? Elsewhere in the New Testament He is said to know all things (St. John 16:30).* So He both knew all things, and was ignorant of some things! Yes, as God He knew all things, as man He did not. Why should not this be so, if the Christian doctrine be true? The Rabbi has failed to prove his point that this passage of the New Testament is contrary to Christian teaching. Observe further, that the Rabbi ought, surely, to have avoided quoting this passage, for in it Jesus places Himself above the angels. Who then is He? And what can that Person be who is above them? Scripture knows of no being above the angels but God Himself. The very passage that the Rabbi adduces against the Divinity of Jesus testifies to it.* Compare St. Matthew 11:27, "all things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him."115] (iii). R. Isaac further says that the New Testament contains no clear proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, especially in that Jesus never calls Himself God, but regards Himself as the messenger of God, and as man, and bids His disciples pray not to Himself but to the Father. But we have just seen that He implies He is God, and no Christian denies that He was God's messenger, much less that He was man. In fact the Rabbi never seems to understand that according to Christians Jesus was a true man. It is therefore useless of him to tell us that Jesus calls Himself man. Of course He did. Why should He not, if, as we Christians hold, He was man? But it is said that in the Lord's Prayer He bids His disciples pray not to Himself, but to "Our Father." Why not, according to the Christian doctrine? For we Christians usually address our prayers to the Father, pleading to be heard for the merit of Jesus Christ the Son. When he gave this prayer to His disciples He was walking among them. He did not want their hearts to be tied to the visible. He wanted them to look up to His Father in heaven with much more simplicity and faith. Whatever He Himself was, even if, according to the Christian belief, He was true God all the time, it was surely more natural and fitting for Him to direct their hearts to the invisible than to Himself. His claims, recorded in other passages of the New Testament, as we shall presently see, were quite sufficient to lead them to a true understanding of His own Divine nature.
116] (5). The Rabbi also urges the fact that there have always been among Christians opponents of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus and the Trinity in Unity, and that in his own day there were still such opponents. Had the Rabbi lived until our time he could have said the same. But what of this? Does any orthodox Jew care for the errors of a Boethus or an Elisha ben Abuyah, or for the fancies of Moses de Leon or Sabbathai Zebi, or even for the heresy of the Baalshem? All truths have their opponents, and the fact that there is opposition to them proves absolutely nothing. There are still persons who say that the earth is flat, and there are still blind men who cannot see the sun. But the sun still shines, and the earth is round, in spite of their failure of vision or their incredulity. This last argument of the Rabbi is worthless.
117] (6). It would not, however, be treating those many Jews whom R. Isaac represents with that courtesy which is due to them if I did not attempt to place before them, very briefly indeed, some of the reasons why we Christians accept the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. "In Unity," I repeat. For the Unity of God is the most fundamental of all the Christian doctrines. "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD" is the foundation of our Christian faith. God forbid that anything we say or believe should conflict with that. We Christians humbly believe that our faith in the Trinity is fully consistent with our faith in the Unity, yes, and is, as we shall see, a necessary deduction from it.
118] (i). In the first place it seems to us that the Old Testament itself requires it. I quite agree with the Rabbi that the Old Testament does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity in so many words, and also that some of the separate texts upon which Christians have been accustomed to lean for the support of their doctrine are frail and broken reeds. Yet even these, as we have seen, fit in well with the doctrine, and there are other considerations to which I must refer. I can only refer to them shortly, and in a summary way here, for most, if not all, of them will recur at different times in our study of the Rabbi's book.
119] (a). Is not the Scriptural teaching about Angels very curious if God is the bare Monad that the Jews affirm? How is it that when the Angel of the LORD is mentioned there is often so much doubt whether the words are those of the angel in his own person, or of the angel as messenger reciting God's message, or of God Himself and not the angel? I am well aware that in each case it may be argued that the difference between God and the Angel is clearly defined, yet, notwithstanding all subtleties in refining away language, there still remains an impression upon our minds that there is something unique in the relation of the Angel of the LORD to the LORD Himself. The Angel of His Presence, as He is sometimes called, suggests to every Christian reader a strange similarity to Him who, as Christians hold, took human flesh and lived among us. In other words, the Old Testament in this particular is readily susceptible of a Christian interpretation.
120] (b). Similarly the doctrine of the divinity of Messiah, though perhaps not to be proved with mathematical certainty from isolated passages of Scripture, is, to say the least, easily to be seen in many. I refer in particular to Isaiah 9:6 (5), where he is called "Mighty God, Everlasting Father."
True that in this passage He is not distinguished from the first Person in the Trinity with the precision that belongs to Christian times. But He is described as "everlasting" and as "God." The terms are often explained away, and the passage will come before us again (parr. 195 sq.); but it is singular how easily it fits in with Christian truth. Other passages which resemble this in directness of teaching are Jeremiah 23:6 and Micah 5:2 (1). I grant that they cannot convince a man who is not convinced already. But they do confirm his opinion if it is already derived from elsewhere. Probably we have no right to demand more.
121] It is the same with regard to the divinity of the Holy Ghost. Look at Isaiah 63:9-14. Is it not at least remarkable that the phrases "His Holy Spirit" and "the Spirit of the LORD" are there used as equivalent, as it seems, to "the Angel of His Presence"? Is there not, in fact, a suggestion that there is something personal about the Spirit, and that He is in the truest sense Divine? Observe again, I say, that this cannot be proved mathematically. The impression that this and the other passages quoted leave upon the mind will be different in different cases. But if the Jews are right in saying that God is a bare Monad it is very strange indeed that Scripture should have used such language as would suggest, when the due time came, a plurality in the Godhead.
It cannot, however, be too often repeated that Christians do not base their belief in the doctrine of the Trinity upon the statements of the Old Testament We say only that the Old Testament contains not a word that is opposed to this doctrine, and that its language is best satisfied if that doctrine is true. We base our belief in the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity upon other grounds.
122] (ii). Reason itself suggests to us such a doctrine as the Trinity in Unity. Let me here quote the eloquent words of the present Bishop of Birmingham, Dr. Gore: "The reasons which lead us to believe in God at all, lead us to think of Him as an eternal and spiritual being. Now the life of spirit, the highest life we know, is made up of the action of will and reason and love. In God then, we imagine, is a perfect and eternal life, of will and reason and love. But must not this be a life of relationships? Most surely love is only conceivable as a personal relationship of a lover and a loved. If God is eternal love, there must be an eternal object for His love. Again, the life of reason is a relationship of the subject which thinks to the object thought, and an eternally perfect mind postulates an eternal object for its contemplation. Once more, the life of will means the passage of will into effect: there is no satisfaction to will except in production; an eternally living and satisfied will postulates an eternally adequate product. Thus it is that our upward-soaring trains of thought lead us to postulate over against God in His eternal being, also an eternal expression of that being, which shall be both an object to His thought and a satisfaction to His will and a repose to His love, and this is St. John's doctrine of the Logos, the eternal expression of God's being in fellowship with Himself: 'The Word was with God, and the Word was God'" (The Incarnation of the Son of God, 1898, pp. 134 sq.).
Or consider the thoughtful words of another recent writer:
"A person is primarily and essentially a self-conscious subject; and if we are to think of God as personal, He too must be, metaphysically speaking, a subject. But a subject means a subject of experience, one who undergoes experience, or for whom experience exists, and therefore implies as his correlative an object or objects of experience. And the metaphysician is compelled to ask, what can this object be, in the case of God? For if we suppose the universe to be this object, we must either regard God as dependent for His realisation upon something which is other than Himself; and, in that case, His absoluteness vanishes: He ceases to be God: or we must view the universe as a mode of Himself, in a way that leads to Pantheism, in which personality is lost. We are driven, therefore, to the conclusion that, if there be an absolute, eternal subject, He must have a correspondingly absolute object, an eternal experience, if His proper absoluteness is to be maintained" (J. R. Illingworth, The Doctrine of the Trinity, apologetically considered, 1907, pp. 136 sq.).
123] (iii.) The Lord Jesus Christ, in whose every act there was no trace of sin, and in whose words no untruth has ever been detected, claimed to be Divine. R. Isaac has adduced certain passages in which He spoke of being man. Be it so. We have dealt with these already. He was undoubtedly man. But He also claimed to be God. For what did He claim? To forgive sins (Mark 2:9, 10); to be lord even of the sabbath (Mark 2:28); to come hereafter in the glory of His Father (Mark 8:38); to be the only Son of the Divine Owner of the Vineyard (Mark 12:27); to be the recipient of all things from the Father, for "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him" (Matt 11:27); and again, "All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt 28:18, 19), Christ thus putting, as you will observe, Himself and the Holy Spirit on an equality with the Father. Further, the fourth Gospel is permeated through and through with His claims to Divinity, as, for example, where He says "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58), or again "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30). It is hardly possible for any one who reads the New Testament to doubt that Jesus claimed to be divine, even if he is not prepared to accept the theory that the New Testament was inspired. If he takes it up only as a book of ordinary history, the fact of Jesus' claim is clear.** I am aware that some writers are of opinion that the words and assertions mentioned in this paragraph were only put into the mouth of Jesus by His followers and were not spoken by Him, for it is impossible (they say) that any man, even Jesus, can have made so high a claim. But this is prejudice in the strictest sense of the word, not criticism.We Christians then accept the doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus, the all-important step to the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, largely upon the evidence of the words of Jesus Himself. His character and His mental sobriety are above suspicion, and His words agree with what we have already seen to be the dictates of our Reason.
124] (iv). The doctrine of the Trinity in Unity contained in the Gospels is confirmed by the teaching of the rest of the New Testament. I repeat that I do not care whether or not you regard the Book as inspired. I am content if you regard it as ordinarily trustworthy. What does it tell us about the belief of those who were alive during the time that Jesus lived on earth, and wrote to their friends within, say, five and twenty, or thirty, years after His death, not a long period for any middle aged man to throw back his memory? What, above all, does St. Paul say in the earliest of his Epistles, written only some twenty-one years after the Crucifixion? "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" are his opening words. "Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus," are found in the ninth and tenth verses of the first chapter. The whole Epistle is in the same strain, placing the Lord Jesus on an equality with the Father. Or look at the end of his second Epistle to the Corinthians, written some twenty-five years after the crucifixion: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." How do you account for these statements? The man who wrote them was once as strict and orthodox a Jew as any who does me the honour to read this book. Yes, he was as strict a monotheist, with a perfect hatred of anything like the worship of more than one God. Had he given up his monotheism? God forbid! But he was only one out of many Jewish believers in the Messiahship of Jesus. Did these other believers oppose and contradict his belief in the Divinity of Jesus? There is not a sign of any such opposition. He was opposed bitterly enough on other points, but, so far as our evidence goes, never on this point. All the many Jews who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah acknowledged also His Divinity. Later on, I grant, there was a sect of Jewish Christians who denied it, but there was no such denial among the early believers. These, who ought to have known Jesus best, and ought to have had the most accurate acquaintance with His teaching, were (so far as our evidence goes), firmly convinced that He was God in the highest sense, and placed Him on an equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It was, I fully grant, an amazing thing for Jews to believe. But they could not help themselves. The facts of Jesus' life, and the plain meaning of His words, were too clear for them to do otherwise.
We in these days who study history cannot but give weight to their opinion, backed up as it was by their readiness to endure all things out of love for Jesus, who (as they wrote) had loved them, and given Himself for them.
125] (v). This leads me to speak of the last reason for our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity with which I shall trouble you. It satisfies the ethical sense. This, as is apparent from history, knows nothing of a love on God's part which is able to forgive sins without an offering. Of course in the vast majority of cases the belief in the need for such an offering has taken strange forms quite unworthy of the living God, not the least strange being the common notion that something which we do can satisfy the justice of an angry God. But man's ethical sense has always required an offering of some kind. Is our ethical sense wrong? Is the opinion that, after all, God can forgive out of His own love without any punishment of sin, or satisfaction in some form, really right? Neither you nor I can think so. Love standing alone, apart from principles of righteousness and justice, seems to you and me to be unworthy of the name of Love, to be a mere invertebrate parody of the Holy God. Love and Righteousness must be inseparable. If so, an offering must be made, and since sin is in itself an eternal thing (for a man's sin is no mere breaking of a rule, independent in itself, but something affecting his whole relation to the living God), it would seem that the offering on behalf of it must be eternal also. In other words, no man can offer it. He who makes it must be the very Presence of God Himself, able to bridge over the chasm between God and man.
But if the Saviour must be Divine, then we are brought rapidly to the full doctrine of the Trinity in the one Godhead.
Thus not Reason alone, but Practical Need also, together with the study of the life and words of the Lord Jesus, and of the belief in Him held by the Apostles, together with the fact that such a doctrine fits in remarkably with the teaching of the Old Testament, lead us to accept with all our hearts the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, and in accepting it to adore, crying "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts"; "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by His blood; to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
2. THE FALL AND ITS EFFECT.
(Gen 2, 3)
126] R. Isaac is not at his best in this section. He shows indeed much learning and much acquaintance with Christian thought of a kind, and many of his details are undoubtedly right, as, for example, where he shows the folly of those Christian controversialists who identify Sheol (Hades) with Gehenna, but he does not arrange his matter clearly and his argument as a whole leaves a very confused and blurred impression. He no doubt intends to attack the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, but he states the consequences of it in their most extreme, not to say bizarre, form. For instance, knowing Christianity chiefly under the form of Roman Catholicism, he speaks of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the effect of original sin upon the Old Testament saints as though this were the doctrine of all Christians, and even then he does not state it correctly. For he says that we Christians believe that these saints went to Gehenna until Christ came and released them. But even the Romanists do not say that they went to Gehenna, but to the Limbus Patrum, a place between hell and purgatory. Protestants, as for example members of the Church of England, believe in no such place or state. We affirm that the Old Testament saints were saved even as we ourselves, by living faith on God, and that their salvation was procured by Christ, the effect of His death being attributed to them beforehand. Our Thirty-Nine Articles say: "Both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises." So also St. Paul speaks of "the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God" (Rom 3:25).
The chief points in the Rabbi's argument appear to be the following.
127] (1). The effect of the Fall was much less than Christians think. They often argue that the words, "Thou shalt surely die" (מות תמות) Genesis 2:17, imply death of soul as well as death of body. He answers: Not death of soul but only physical death, and probably physical trials and illnesses, if indeed the extra word מות means anything additional, and is not only a common grammatical expression. Here R. Isaac's Karaitism may be plainly seen. For if he had been a Rabbinic Jew he would hardly have hesitated to allow that the additional word must have some additional meaning. R. Akiba put his stamp on all Rabbinic exegesis far too firmly to admit of any doubt being expressed about that. But of course, as a mere matter of grammar, R. Isaac is right. In strict exegesis according to grammatical rules מות only intensifies the certainty of death.
He grants however that by Adam's action the lust of the flesh was increased in Adam and his seed, yet he still refuses to allow that it brought death to the soul. He says indeed (if I understand him aright) that the action as such brought death of soul to Adam and Eve, for an evil action in itself means death; but he appeals to Ezekiel 18:20 for his belief that a person can bring death upon his own soul only, and cannot bring it upon another. He forgets that Ezekiel's words were intended to summon to fresh courage those Jews who were becoming disheartened by the pressure of that other truth stated clearly in Scripture, viz., that God visits the sins of fathers upon their children. He forgets too that the race of men is so entirely one and united that it must share in the effect of its great progenitor's action. The solidarity of the human race is however more clearly perceived by us to-day than was the case in the Rabbi's time.
128] (2). He says that even before the giving of the Law it was possible to live a holy life. For Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, conformed to the will of God. Adam's sin, he argues, did not in any case affect them with death of soul, for Enoch "was not, for God took him." They were delivered also even from bodily sorrows, for Noah was to comfort his father from the curse laid upon the ground. Abraham too enjoyed such special privileges that he was given circumcision, whereby to diminish the lust of the flesh that had been increased, as we saw, by Adam's sin. He and other Old Testament saints were saved with an everlasting salvation by their own merit, and they did not need any other merit than their own to save their souls, as Christians imagine. But, in saying this, he forgets that these early fathers nowhere show any sign of such a thought of their own righteousness as the Rabbi here supposes, and that Moses is far from attributing it to them. Moses expressly writes, not that Abraham obeyed God and thus stored up merit for his own salvation (much less for the salvation of others also, as too many Jews think), but that Abraham "believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen 15:6). This is not Judaism, but Christianity.
Further the Rabbi urges that in no case can Christ's death be of any effect in removing the harm brought by the Fall, for "one sin cannot be atoned for by a greater sin, viz., the slaying of the body of their God." But he forgets that the same deed may be a sin on the part of those who perform it, and a glorious act of self-sacrifice on the part of the sufferer. If it were otherwise, where would be the meritoriousness of the sufferings of the Jews themselves, according to common Jewish teaching? Their sufferings are, from one point of view, the sins of the Gentiles, though they may be the outcome of self-sacrifice on their own part. The Rabbi can hardly have considered the meaning of his words. The sin of crucifying Jesus cannot militate against the nobility of His death (see also par 289).
129] (3). While R. Isaac affirms that even before the giving of the Law men were able to live holy lives, he further claims that the effect of the Fall was altogether counteracted by the Law itself.
(i). There are commands in the Law which expressly meet the words of condemnation in Genesis 2 and 3. For example, Leviticus 18:5 ("Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgements: which if a man do, he shall live in them") meets Genesis 2:17 ("In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"). Again Leviticus 26:3, 4 ("If ye walk in my statutes...the land shall yield her increase") meets Genesis 3:18 ("Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee"). For the Rabbi harps again and again on the thought that the true tree of life, of which Adam and Eve were not allowed to partake after the Fall, was restored to them in the Law, quoting for his purpose Proverbs 3:18, "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her." But this is only a pretty Drash, certainly not the P'shat of the passage, which is not speaking of the Law as such, but of the Wisdom of God revealed in all His word and work.
(ii). He even claims that St. Paul himself bears out his statement that the effect of the Fall lasted only until the Law. He quotes Romans 5:14 to prove his point. But here the Rabbi unexpectedly becomes extremely interesting. For he ventures upon the ground of Textual Criticism. There is in this passage a well known various reading. The usual text, supported by all the Greek manuscripts except three late "cursives," and by nearly all the Greek fathers, is "Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression." But the Rabbi, following Pseudo-Ambrose, and also, though he knows it not, Origen himself (in two or three places), leaves out the word "not." He thus makes St. Paul say that Death as the effect of the Fall was only upon those who imitated Adam by expressly disobeying God; whereas the other and common reading makes him say that it was also on all who were born, apart from their committing actual sin. This last reading we must accept, for there is no reason to suppose that all the old manuscripts are wrong, and the very few and late manuscripts and Origen are right. The fact is that St. Paul feels strongly that the Law has brought death, not life, and he adds that so great was the effect of Adam's sin that even before the Law came, death reigned, even on those who might have been thought to be free from it. St. Paul, that is to say, in reality is arguing in a sense precisely the opposite to that which the Rabbi attributes to him. He is showing the terrible effect of the Fall.
130] (4). But I cannot leave this subject without indicating very briefly indeed why we Christians believe that the sin of Adam has affected all his descendants so deeply that they may be said to have suffered death of soul in consequence. The Jew, as we know, does not hesitate to say, in his daily morning prayer, "My God, the soul which Thou hast placed in me is pure" (T. B. Berakoth, 60b),* but the cry of the Psalmist is very different: "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psa 51:5 ): meaning that from his very birth, before he knew how to do wrong or right, and even before birth, he possessed an evil bias towards sin. Where then is the purity which Jews so readily claim? Surely "Unclean! Unclean!" much more truly expresses the feelings of every man who looks at his fallen nature in the same way as did the Psalmist. Can we imagine it otherwise? Can we, who live in this age, when the awful power of heredity is so frequently brought before us, imagine that the first act of the human pair committed consciously in opposition to the will of God should not both place them out of communion with Him, and exercise an enormous influence for evil upon all their children? The Rabbi grants that the lust of the flesh was increased, and yet does not seem to realise what his admission involves. It can surely mean nothing less than that every individual person born afterwards stands in an abnormal relation to God, and therefore is out of communion with Him. But to be out of communion with God is to be separated from the source of Life, and to be in death. The Christian himself says no more than this. For more cannot be said.* See also Singer, Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p. 5, and other references in the Jewish Encyclopedia, xi. 473.Whether the Law restored all who accepted it to their right relation to God is another matter. Rabbi Isaac says that it did. The Psalmist would not agree with him, for he prays, "Enter not into judgement with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psa 143:2). The Law itself only says that those who perform it shall live by it, and no one has ever yet heard of any one who kept it perfectly, save One alone, with Whom even His enemies could find no fault.
No! The evil tendency, which implies a wrong relation to God, marks us all, and we need a miracle to be performed in each of us before that wrong relation, and that evil tendency, are overcome. The Law cannot do this. It must be the work of the Holy Spirit of God.
3. THE SEED OF THE WOMAN.(Gen 3:15) "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel" Chapter 12
131] R. Isaac tells us that Christians believe that this verse refers to Jesus, who was to kill Satan, i.e., the being who is the cause of sin. The Rabbi raises the objection that if this were so then believers in Jesus would not sin, but they confessedly do; and also that if Satan were slain he could not have caused, as he did, the deaths of Jesus and the Apostles; further, that even St. Paul says that Satan is not slain, for in Romans 16:20 he writes, "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly," and in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, "We would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us." It is therefore a mistaken supposition on the part of Christians that the verse means that Jesus has put Satan to death.
132] Now in the first place I am glad to see that Rabbi Isaac acknowledges the existence of Satan. For to-day very many Jews are far from saying this. They are too apt to suppose that Satan is a mere figment of the imagination, without any real existence. But R. Isaac takes his stand on Scripture, and he is wise in so doing.
But, secondly, the Rabbi's argument as a whole is not very impressive. The difficulties that he raises are trivial, and are rather a play upon words than sober argument. For Christians never say, never have supposed, that Satan is killed. They believe that Christ gave him his death-blow by His own death and resurrection, but did not entirely destroy him; the final "death" of Satan will take place only hereafter. They hold also, in contradiction to the Rabbi's travesty of their opinions, that if Satan bruised the heel of Jesus this was not after his own "death," but before, at the cross. Thus, too, it is evident that it is quite possible for St. Paul to speak consistently of hindrances still brought about by Satan, and also of the final "bruising" of him as lying in the future.
But the real interest of the subject lies, not in the consideration of the Rabbi's somewhat weak arguments, but in the question whether the passage refers to a personal Deliverer from Satan and his power, and whether Jesus of Nazareth is that Deliverer. Let us consider these two points. And may the Lord of His mercy give us a right judgment as we do so.
133] (1). What is the real meaning of Genesis 3:15?
(i). Some suppose that it speaks only of the perpetual hatred that there is between men and snakes. That the enmity exists no one denies. Men naturally, unless their mind is perverted by some strange religious motive, or moved by an unusual love of science, kill a snake whenever they see it. We find something loathsome in snakes, and we also fear their bite. But it argues a strange ignorance of early religious thought and of the motives that led men to incorporate such an incident as that of Genesis 3 in their holy writings, to think that their aim was only to mention, or even to account for, this natural enmity. Early religion never occupied itself with material objects, no, not even with snakes, as such, but with them as representing spiritual powers behind them. Primitive man was intensely religious, but never seems to have worshipped a single stock, or stone, or animal, or star, for itself and itself alone, but as being the representative, and generally the embodiment, of some spiritual power. To see in Genesis 3:15 a description and prophecy of the undying hatred of men for snakes, and presumably vice versa, is inconsistent with our present knowledge of the religion of primitive man.
134] (ii). A second interpretation has much more in its favour, and may indeed be right. It is that the words tell us of a long struggle between man and temptation to sin, and of his ultimate victory, notwithstanding the damage that he receives from his awful foe. For "the poisonous serpent, with its glistening, rainbow colours, its tortuous windings, its duplicity and its bewitching gaze,"* is a fitting representation of the devil, with his manifold wiles, and subtle temptations. But "as the serpent pierces with its poison-fang the heel that crushes it, so man, in spite of painful wounds, must grapple with temptation. But the struggle will end in victory. Man will plant his foot on the venomous head of the serpent, temptation, and crush it to death."*** Orelli, Old Testament Prophecy, 1885, p. 88.Yet it must be observed that with this second interpretation the reference to Jesus is by no means excluded. For even if the promise is to man generally, yet it is quite possible that there may be One man who is the leader of his race in the battle, and the first and final instrument in the defeat of Satan. And in this connexion it may not be out of place to notice that it is not merely the head of the serpent's seed that is to be smitten, but the head of the serpent itself "it shall bruise thy head." It is in accordance with this view of the matter that in this passage the Targum of Jerusalem I. (Pseudo-Jonathan) says, "When the sons of the woman keep the commandments of the Law they shall be ready to smite thee on thy head, and when they leave the commandments of the Law thou shalt be ready to smite them on their heels, but for them there shall be healing, and for thee there shall not be healing, and they (the sons of the woman) will make agree ment (or "peace") in the end of the days of King Messiah."*
** Schultz, Old Testament Theology, 1892, ii. p. 345.* The last clause is expressed more fully in the Targum of Jerusalem II. (Fragment-Targum): "But they (the sons of the woman) will make agreement, one with another, in the end, in the close of the end of the days, of the days of King Messiah."
The text of both Targums is taken from Dalman, Aramaische Dialektproben 1896, p. 6, based on the best manuscripts. For the meaning here assigned to שפיותא see Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, etc., 1903, sub verbo; also Dalman, Aramaisch-neuhebraisckes Handworterbuch, 1901. For עקבא see Levy, Chaldaisches Worterbuch, 1868, and Jastrow. Observe that both the Targums play on the words תשופנו and עקב. I should add that my friend and neighbour, Mr. G. H. Box, while agreeing with the above interpretation of Targ. Jer. II., thinks that this itself is an attempt to force the older Targum Jer. I. from its proper meaning, which is: "But they (the sons of the woman) shall effect a crushing with the heel in the days of King Messiah," i.e., the curse shall be annulled, the heel (no longer a vulnerable part which the serpent may bruise) shall then tread on and crush the serpent. For this translation of שפיותא see Dalman, Aramaische Dialektproben, 1896, and Buxtorf, Lexicon, 1640, col. 2493, "facere conculcationem in calcaneo in diebus regis Messiae."
135] (iii). Yet perhaps there is more to be said for the old Christian interpretation of the verse that it refers directly to the work of Messiahthan is sometimes thought. We must ask ourselves what meaning was attributed to it when it was written down as Holy Scripture. Many scholars say that this was in the latter part of the Exile. If this date be accepted, then it would be at a time when indisputably the doctrine of the coming of Messiah* was known and accepted by all religious Jews, and therefore readers would naturally have seen in it a promise of His coming.* Whether the word "Messiah" was used so early to designate specifically the expected Deliverer is an entirely different thing, into the discussion of which I do not enter.But if Moses wrote down these words, the same inference would be true. Merodach was the great God of the Babylonians in the time of Abraham, and he was worshipped as the destroyer of Tiamat the great world-serpent. Now if, as is quite possible, the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 came down to Moses through Abraham, it is at least likely that Abraham was accustomed to see in it a prophecy of One to come who should be greater than Merodach, in that He would destroy the serpent that was far greater than the legendary world-serpent, as being the principle of evil and sin in the world. Further, we may assume that, if Abraham believed this, the belief would be handed on to his descendants, including Moses. I grant indeed that it cannot be proved as yet that Abraham and his successors were influenced in this point by the Babylonian worship of Merodach, but evidence is tending that way.
If Abraham thus looked forward to a personal Messiah (compare St. John 8:56), and if Moses shared his hope, we should indeed expect to find a trace of this doctrine of a personal Redeemer, who was to appear in the future, else where in the Pentateuch. So, I venture to think, we do, notably in Genesis 49:10, as we shall see when we come to the consideration of that passage.
On the whole then it is quite possible that that interpretation is right which sees in Genesis 3:15 a promise of the coming of One who shall slay the great representative of sin, while receiving in Himself slight damage of some kind. There is to be war between Satan and Messiah, but Messiah is to be victorious.
136] (2). We can consider only very briefly the next question, whether Jesus of Nazareth does correspond to the hope of the coming Deliverer.
(i). Every believer in Jesus says so, whatever his interpretation of this verse may be. His experience, and the experience of all true believers in Jesus, is that He has not only set the sinner free from guilt, but also is daily giving him a good measure of success against the power of sin. He does not say that Jesus has set him free from the power of sin altogether. That is not, at any rate, his actual experience, even though he is ready to confess that the power of sin over him would be greatly diminished if he placed his affection wholly on Jesus, and trusted Him more completely with his daily life. But the believer has found so much already in Jesus that he is quite prepared to trust Him for the future and to expect that the complete deliverance from sin, the complete subjugation of Satan, will certainly take place at the last day, in accordance with the promises contained in the New Testament.
(ii). For the death and life of Jesus do correspond strangely with the words of our passage. Jesus was bruised in His heel, figuratively speaking, when He was put to death upon the Cross, and knew in some very awful sense (far beyond the comprehension of people like ourselves, who have been accustomed to the presence of sin within us) the power of sin to separate from His Father. But He rose triumphant from the grave, thus giving a fatal blow to Death, and to sin, the sting of death. R. Isaac no doubt would reply that he did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. This is another question, and indeed, if the Jewish denial of Jesus' resurrection were true, Jesus would not fulfil the idea of the Deliverer mentioned in Genesis 3:15, for He would be bruised not in the heel, but in the head. But if Jesus never rose we Christians would not think it worth while to discuss Christianity with the Rabbi at all. For Christianity without the resurrection of Jesus is not Christianity in the historical sense of the word. Christianity as it has existed for nineteen hundred years is based on the resurrection of Jesus. We shall be quite prepared to discuss later the subject of Jesus' resurrection. But, according to the testimony of believers from the very earliest times, Jesus, the Christian Jesus, by His death and resurrection won the battle over death, and sin, and the devil, for Himself and for all who believe on Him, although the complete victory, when sin shall have lost all power, and death have yielded up its captives, and the devil have been destroyed, will take place in the future, at the Return of Messiah in glory. Jesus of Nazareth, we believe, does correspond to the promise of Genesis 3:15.
4. THE SEED OF ABRAHAM, AND THE BLESSINGS THROUGH IT.(Gen 22:18) "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: because thou hast obeyed my voice" Chapter 13. Part 2 Chapter 90
137] R. Isaac begins this section by saying that Christians see in this passage a reference not to any of the seed of Abraham, but to Jesus only, for He is the most important part of the seed of Abraham. In Jesus alone therefore is the promise fulfilled, and by Him alone are all nations blessed, because by Him they come to the knowledge of God, and to their soul's salvation.
The Rabbi replies to this argument by saying that Christians always disregard the context in their arguments from prophecy, and accordingly do so here. For the preceding verse shows that God was thinking of the whole race of Abraham, and not of any particular person in it. Further, as the Rabbi states at length, the promise was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, showing that as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were themselves the means of winning some Gentiles to the true knowledge of God, so would their descendants be. Indeed, Scripture frequently says that only through the people of Israel shall Gentiles come to know God, and in fact individual Gentiles have thus come to know Him.
It is hard to realize to-day the intellectual state of many of the Christians with whom R. Isaac held his discussions. Their simplicity must have been great, their ignorance greater. But surely R. Isaac, as a reader of books, ought to have arrived at a truer conception of what learned Christians believed. The only reason that suggests itself for his treatment of the subject is that he wrote his book for Jews who mixed with unlearned Christians, and that he wished to arm them against all possible objections and misbeliefs.
Let us consider, first, the true meaning and fulfilment of the passage, and, secondly, the alleged Christian explanation that it refers to Jesus only.
138] (1). The meaning of the verse and its fulfilment. We may fully accept the Rabbi's argument that the word "seed" refers to the seed of Abraham generally. There is nothing in the verse or the context to suggest anything else. The verse means, that is to say, that the Gentiles are to be blessed, or bless themselves (the exact translation is of no importance for our present purpose), in the seed of Abraham, i.e., in the nation that sprang from Abraham.
But at this point, and not before, Jewish and Christian scholars differ.
139] (i). R. Isaac and other Jewish scholars say that the Gentiles are blessed in Jews as Jews are at present, i.e., in Jews as anti-Christians; in Jews, whether Karaites, as R. Isaac, or in Talmudic Jews as the bulk of Jews, or even in Reform Jews; in Jews as the upholders of what we mean to-day by Judaism, whatever precise form that may now take. The Rabbi, in other words, insists on the present mission of Judaism (to put his language into modern terms), that "mission of Israel" which provides so much material for oratory and seems to have so little power for work. For, speaking candidly, the so-called mission of Israel has very little to show for itself. Jews, as Jews, are doing almost nothing to spread the knowledge of the true God among the Gentiles.
It cannot be affirmed too often, or too strongly, that Jews are worthy of all admiration for their perseverance, their temperance, and, in the majority of cases, their faithfulness to their creed. But, just as it is not their religion which is the cause of anti-semitism, but their success in business and their ostentation, so also it is not their religion which influences Gentiles for good, but certain qualities of their character. Jews are always saying that the Gentiles are, and are to be, blessed in and by Judaism. We can only reply that we can see no traces of this blessing as yet, and cannot find any reason either in Scripture, or in the probabilities of the case, to expect it in the future.
140] (ii). Yet the Gentile world owes all to Jews. This we acknowledge gladly. Gentiles have accepted the God of the Jews and the Book of the Jews, and profess to have accepted also the spiritual side of the religion of the Jews. Prophecy, that is to say, is already being fulfilled; Gentiles are already being blessed in large numbers in and by the Jews. But the Jews who have brought this blessing are those few Jews who were born about the first year of the Christian era. Gentiles have been led to a faith in the true God not by anti-Christian, but by Christian, Jews. They have, it is true, become blessed in the seed of Abraham, but it has been through the efforts and assistance of those members of the seed of Abraham who themselves believed on Christ, not of those who have systematically opposed Him. We do not attempt to deny that God's words to Abraham have had, and are having, a glorious fulfilment, but the fulfilment is to be seen in the way in which the great truths given to the Jews in the Old Testament have been made known to the Gentiles by the Founder of Christianity and His disciples. It is Judaism as seen in the Christian Church, not Judaism as seen in the Jewish synagogue, through which the Gentile world has come to know God, and to bless itself in the seed of Abraham.
141] (2). It is however alleged that Christians understand the verse to refer only to Jesus, and to be fulfilled only in Him. What R. Isaac no doubt means is that St. Paul seems to say so in Galatians 3:16: "Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." In Part II, Chapter 90 the Rabbi deals with this passage, and, by saying that the Hebrew word for seed (זרע) is used in the singular to express descendants or progeny as a whole, thinks he has entirely vanquished St. Paul.
142] What a convenient thing it is to be a Karaite! One can then so easily ignore the ways of Rabbinism, i.e., the methods of using Scripture that are adopted by the greater part of learned Jews. I say unhesitatingly that, in spite of all that has been said above, St. Paul's language is quite defensible from the standpoint of Jewish learning, and quite intelligible if we only grant that St. Paul was a learned Jew.
For example, suppose a friend asked you to consider the full force of the word דמי (literally "bloods") in Genesis 4:10, saying that the plural certainly had a special meaning, either Abel's own blood and that of his descendants, or Abel's blood dashed on the trees and on the stones. Would you tell him that דמי ("bloods") is regularly used in Hebrew to express blood shed by violence, and that his argument of a special meaning in Genesis 4:10 is absurd, and only due to ignorance of the Hebrew language and of Jewish learning? He would reply that it was not his own argument at all, but that of the Mishna in Sanhedrin 4.5 (=T. B. Sanhedrin 37a), and that the author of the Mishna might be credited with a knowledge of Hebrew, and with the ability to quote the Old Testament in a Jewish way. Or again, your friend might turn to Deuteronomy 25:2 and argue that certain lessons were to be learned from רשעה ("wickedness") standing there in the singular and not in the plural. Would you reply with a sneer that this word is always found in the singular, and that therefore it is unscholarly, and the mark only of an ignoramus, to argue that it has a special meaning there? Most assuredly you would not, for, if you had any spark of Hebrew learning, you would know that such an argument derived from the use of the singular is thoroughly Jewish, and that this example is taken from T. B. Kethuboth 37a. No one supposes that the scholars of the Mishna or the Gemara thought that these were the literal and simple meanings of דמי ("blood") or רשעה ("wickedness") in those passages. They only saw in the use of these terms further meanings, not altogether unintentional on God's part.* So also with St. Paul. He knew as well as any of us what was the literal and simple meaning of Genesis 22:18, but he wished to call attention to the fact that God has not caused a plural word to be recorded, as for example בנים ("children"), but זרע ("seed"). He means that there is something in the selection of a word used only in the singular (i.e., of human progeny) which, speaking midrashically, not only excludes Ishmael but even suggests that all Abraham's descendants may be summed up in one Person, even the Messiah, in whom all are to be blessed.* See Surenhusius, Biblos Catallages, pp. 85 sq.It is, of course, an argument that does not appeal to us who live in this twentieth century of universal knowledge, but it was, as we have seen, just such an argument as learned Jews were fond of using, and it did appeal to Jews if they were learned; nay, it does appeal to Jews even to-day if they are learned only with strictly Jewish learning, and have not received the benefits of western culture. It is, to put it briefly, not a P'shat, but a D'rash, and must be treated as such.
We however content ourselves with the P'shat, the literal meaning, however much we may admire the ingenuity of Rabbinically trained Jews like the authors of the Mishna and of the Gemara, and St. Paul. To say that "seed "in Genesis 22:18 refers to Jesus is a pretty D'rash, but no Christian scholar believes it to be more.
143] The literal meaning of the passage is sufficient. But we say also that history tells that the promise of Genesis 22:18 has been fulfilled in Jesus to a degree incomparably outweighing its fulfilment in any other way; and that through the Lord Jesus masses of Gentiles (not merely individuals here and there) have been brought to the knowledge of the one true God. We claim therefore that, as a historical fact, Jesus alone has brought about the fulfilment of the verse, and that Jesus alone is so far the fulfilment of the whole expectation of the Old Testament that through Him, and Him alone, the Gentiles are being brought to God. In a word, the Old Testament belongs now more to Christians, Gentile and Jewish, than to Jews.
5. SHILOH.(Gen 49:10) "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be." Chapter 14
144] A very famous passage, frequently adduced by Christians in controversy with Jews, although it is hard to see why so much stress should have been laid upon it by either side. The cause is probably that controversialists are apt to read more into passages than legitimately may be found there, or else to deny the real contents of a passage if these are against them. But may both writer and readers of these pages be always kept from forcing the Word of God to mean either less or more than it properly does mean.** For the various interpretations of this verse see the elaborate monograph by Adolf Posnanski, Schiloh, ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Messiaslehre, Erster Teil, die Auslegung von Genesis 49:10 im Altertume bis zu Ende des Mittelalters, Leipzig, 1904.In the short space at our disposal we shall not attempt to follow the Rabbi's arguments step by step. It would be impossible to do so, without making a very much longer study of the subject than is here possible. The more so, as, after giving the opinions of other Rabbis as if they were right, he ends with stating what are really his own. To these last we shall return. Now we consider the passage itself.
In T. B. Beraktoh, 57a, Genesis 49:11 is applied to Messiah.
145] (1). Observe that the general meaning of it is to show the superiority of the tribe of Judah, by means of its ruler, over the other tribes, and, as it seems (though this is not so certain), over other peoples. For doubtless the strange word יקהת, found elsewhere only in Proverbs 30:17, really means "obedience," in accordance both with Hebrew tradition, and the cognate roots in Arabic and Assyrian. Further, the verse says that this succession of rulers is never to fail until the great ruler appears. For I assume that the words שבט and מחקק are parallel expressions, and I cannot see that it is of any importance for our present purpose whether מחקק be translated "ruler" or "ruler's staff."
The verse seems to say plainly that a great ruler is to come, and that until he is come Judah shall be supreme. There may be, nay, there are, differences of opinion about details, but with very few, not (I confess) unimportant, exceptions (see below), Jews and Christians alike agree in this general interpretation of the verse. They differ as to who this ruler is.
146] But, before going any further, one common Christian argument must be ruled out of court. The Rabbi, of course, so rules it, and we have no hesitation in saying that he is right. It is impossible to lay such stress on "until" as to say that it precludes the superiority of Judah after the Ruler has come. Also, it is impossible to prove historically that Judah was superior until the coming of Christ, and then ceased to have superiority. No doubt it is true that the nation of the Jews ceased to have a local habitation soon after His coming, but Jews have not perished, and, above all, the superiority of the tribe of Judah has not ceased. From the days of David until the Exile Judah was supreme (for the Schism of the Northern Kingdom was but an interlude), and after the Exile it was the tribe of Judah into which the other tribes were merged, and which carried on the succession. It has been the same from the destruction of the second temple onwards; the Jews of to-day are, to all intents and purposes, the tribe of Judah. Of a truth, whether we are Jewish or Christian expositors, we must confess that the prophecy has had a wonderful fulfilment; Judah has proved to be superior to all his brethren.
147] (2). What, however, is the exact meaning of "Shiloh?"
(i). We all know that some writers, among them two Christian scholars, whom all of us, whether Jews or Christians, reverence both for their Jewish learning and their deep love for the Jews, Professor Franz Delitzsch and Professor Strack, believe that the right translation is "until he come to Shiloh," i.e,, Judah is to be supreme until Canaan is taken by the twelve tribes. Delitzsch's words are: "Jacob promises to Judah the leadership of the tribes of his people as an inalienable right, won through his lion-like courage, until, on his coming to Shiloh, his dominion of the tribes should be enlarged to a dominion over the world" (Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession, 1891, chap. 9). In this case Shiloh will have been chosen for mention because it became the spot where the tabernacle was set up. But we have extremely little evidence that Judah took at all a prominent place so early as that; and it is quite certain that for the greater part of the time of the Judges it was far in the background, not in the front, or it could not have been passed over in the Song of Deborah.
148] (ii). I shall now, therefore, assume that "Shiloh" has some direct reference to the Ruler. This, and this alone, is in accordance with Jewish tradition, even though that tradition differs as to the way in which the reference is made.
(a). Onkelos translates "until Messiah comes, whose is the kingdom."
The Targum of Jerusalem II. (Fragment-Targum), "until the time when the King Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom belongeth."
The Targum of Jerusalem I. (Pseudo-Jonathan) translates "until the time when the King Messiah, the youngest of his sons, shall come."
So too in a list of names given to Messiah in T. B. Sanhedrin 98b, the school of R. Shelah, a Rabbi of the third century, says, "Shiloh is his name, as it is said, Until Shiloh come."
149] (3). But how do they get the meaning of Messiah from the word itself? The key is probably to be found in Ezekiel 21:27 (Heb. 21:32), "Until he come whose right it is."
So in fact some of the manuscripts of the Septuagint translate our verse, while others read "Until that which is his shall come," meaning, apparently, that Judah shall be supreme until he gets that which really belongs to him. In either case the relative is expressed by ש and לה stands for לו. Probably Ezekiel referred directly to our passage, and understood it to mean that Judah should be supreme until He should come to whom all rightly belongs, and that to Him should "the obedience of the peoples be."
150] (c). R. Isaac, however, gives another explanation. He follows Kimchi, and, as we have seen, the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, in connecting "Shiloh" with שליה, Deuteronomy 28:57, understanding it to mean "the youngest son." He then says, first, that it refers to David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse, and afterwards that it refers to Messiah Himself, "who shall arise from David's seed in the end of the days." This explanation is very improbable, but that is of no matter for our present purpose. What is really important is that R. Isaac, like nearly all Jewish scholars, sees in the word a direct reference to Messiah, not indeed as His title, but as descriptive in some way of His position or His work. This is what I said at the beginning, that Jews and Christians alike are agreed, with very few exceptions, that the passage refers to the coming of a great Ruler, whom, for the sake of brevity, we may call the Messiah.
151] (3). The only dispute is whether Jesus is the Messiah, the Shiloh, or whether we must look for another. It resolves itself, in other words, into the great question, which in reality this text does nothing to solve, whether Messiah has or has not come. We Christians do not say that He has come because we think that this text says that He has. Our reasons are quite independent of it. There is one fact with which men must reckon. A Person of the line of David has appeared, to whom peoples are obedient in a most extraordinary degree. Is He not Messiah?
But we strongly urge all our readers not to be satisfied with discussing the prophecies of the Old Testament. Read the life and history of Jesus of Nazareth for yourselves. See what sort of a person He was. Then, when you have read all that you can about Him in the New Testament (for nowhere else is there more than the merest trace of tradition, so that everything outside the New Testament is practically worthless for learning of Him), then, I say, turn back to your Old Testament, and see if its words do not wonderfully confirm the portraiture of Jesus. Learn to know Jesus, first, as He is described in the New Testament, and then you will have no difficulty in seeing Him portrayed also in the Writings, the Prophets, and the Law itself.
6.. THE DIETARY LAWS.
(Deut 14:3, 4, and elsewhere)
Chapters 15, 49, 50, Part 2, Chapter 72
152] Christians, as we all know, claim liberty to eat and drink whatever they like. They are restricted only by considerations of health, or of effect on others, or of self-discipline. To this liberty of ours R. Isaac of Troki raises several objections.[JCR - This is not true of all Christians.](1). In the course of his argument he mentions one which is so important that, if it is granted, there is no need of further discussion, viz., that if a command is plainly given in the Law no subsequent statement, for example in the Gospels, can overthrow it. But, notwithstanding its importance, it is not an objection to which all Jews would give their assent. At least in the past all Jews have not assented to it. For some have acknowledged that when Messiah comes He will give a new Law. "The Law which man learns in this world is vanity compared with the Law of Messiah" (Midrash Qoheleth on Eccles 11:8).
So also Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 146:7, says: "The LORD looseth the prisoners or the forbidden. What is this? Some say that every beast which was made unclean in this world the LORD, blessed be He, makes clean in the world to come."
Therefore the idea of alteration of the Law is not contradictory to the fundamental belief of strict Jews. If Messiah and His times have come, then change in the Law may be expected. Thus the objection really becomes the primary question whether or not Jesus is the Messiah.
153] (2). Another argument urged by the Rabbi is more curious than profound. It is that God forbade certain foods to the Israelites because His people were too precious to eat such common and low things as were allowed to Gentiles. For it is said in Leviticus 11:8, "they are unclean unto you," i.e., to you only. So that, he proceeds to argue, if these things are allowed to Christians, it is because Christians are inferior to Jews. Well, well, let the Rabbi have his joke; a saving sense of humour lightens up many a weary page. But the Rabbi can hardly have intended his words to be taken seriously in view of the appeals in the New Testament to Christians to live holy lives, and the way in which they are told that except their righteousness exceeds that of the leading religionists among the Jews they will in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). God, speaking through Jesus Christ, expects greater holiness from Christians than ever He demanded of Jews through Moses.
154 ] (3). The Rabbi spends some little time in attacking our Lord's saying recorded in Matthew 15:11 (parallel passage Mark 7:15): "Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man." He asserts that the statement is altogether mistaken. For unclean food does defile the body, and not the body alone, but also the soul. For Scripture says: "Neither shall ye defile yourselves," literally "your souls" (Lev 11:44).
But do these words bear out what the Rabbi implies? Can food as such really defile? Is it not the fact that God saw everything which He had made, and behold it was very good? And can a very good thing in itself defile? Yet, "lest ye defile your souls!" Yes, nothing is easier. For if a man breaks the commandment of God in order to please himself he most certainly defiles his soul, and even his whole personality, for this term better expresses the meaning of the Hebrew. However good a food may be in itself, it may not be partaken of with impunity, if God has forbidden it. Christian teaching fully accepts this, and goes indeed even further than this, when it says that "He that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). But this, we Christians hold, takes us into a sphere of ethical morality much higher than that from which the Rabbi draws his weapons.** R. Isaac uses one argument here and in Part II, Chap. 18, which seems hardly worth mentioning, but is still used even by intelligent Jews. It is to the effect that our Lord's saying: "Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man," is contradicted by the fact that too much strong drink will do this, as in the case of Noah and Lot. But such an argument rests on forgetfulness of the occasion of our Lord's words. He was showing the error of insisting on ceremonial washing, and of the scrupulous care taken to prevent the eating of certain foods. The childish questions of whether lawful foods could be eaten to excess, and whether greediness in food was sinful and produced evil effects, were not before Him. Every thoughtful and unbiassed person knows what He would have said in reply to these.
155] Suppose however that God were so to order the affairs of this world that the reasons for which He forbade certain foods (and surely He must have had reasons for doing so, whether they are discoverable by us or not) ceased to be; that there were such alterations in the conditions and circumstances of His followers as to make such prohibitions no longer necessary, or in some cases render their observation impossible; may we not then consider that the prohibitions have been abrogated by the providence of God? What kind of reasons come under consideration? Maimonides in his Moreh Nebukim, 3.48, asks why God gave these prohibitions. He answers that all, or nearly all, of the forbidden foods are unhealthy, and also that other rules were probably due to the fact that the things forbidden formed part of some heathen cultus; and investigators of our own day have added very largely to the examples that he gives of this kind of reason. He also points out that in any case the discipline of self-denial was most valuable in forming the character of the Israelitish nation. Do all these reasons hold good now? In so far as the forbidden foods are unhealthy no one wants to eat them. But all connexion of them with heathen rites has long ago ceased, just as Christians of the Anglo-Saxon race no longer need to have horse-flesh forbidden as food on the ground that, as horses are sacred to Odin, the chief god of Scandinavian mythology, the eating of them is a participation in heathenism. There is to-day no danger of either Jew or Gentile being drawn back into heathenism by eating any of the animals forbidden in the Law. Lastly, as regards abstinence from them being a means of discipline, we surely ought to have learned after all these years that materials upon which to discipline ourselves surround us on all sides. The discipline of abstinence from food may be needed for some natures, but hardly belongs to that higher state of spiritual life to which Christians as such are called. Even if there are, as undoubtedly there are, survivals of this insistence upon abstinence from food still remaining in the customs and regulations of the Christian Church, these do not pretend to justify themselves upon commands expressed in the New Testament, but are to be regarded as the advice of those who have found them helpful to their own souls. Fasting in Lent, for example, is not actually binding upon the Christian, however useful experience shows it to be in many cases. Self-discipline indeed is binding during Lent and always, for only through it can we maintain communion with God, but it has no necessary connexion with abstinence from food.
156] (4). There is no occasion to do more than mention the reference of the Rabbi to Zechariah 9:7, a passage which in reality only says that in the time to come heathen sacrificial feasts shall cease, but which is forced by him to mean that Gentiles shall cease to eat unclean foods.
157] (5). Naturally however R. Isaac makes much of the letter of the Apostolic Council held in A.D. 49 at Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15:1-35
. It will be remembered that the Christian Church was then agitated by the demand that Gentile converts should be compelled to be circumcised, and to keep the Law. Some of the many Jewish believers in Jesus (for there were many) urged it. They could not bear the idea of Gentiles coming in to receive equal privileges with themselves unless they first became Jews, by being circumcised and living under the claims of the Jewish Law. But the Council decided absolutely against these Pharisaic Christians, and said so in a letter that they sent forth. Yet at the end of it they said that the Gentile Christians should, because of the Jews, keep themselves from four specified things, meats offered to idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood.
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. 30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. 33 And after they had tarried there a space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. 34 Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. 35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
The passage is difficult; I fully acknowledge it. Yet there are some considerations which must not be overlooked, for they certainly modify the prima facie view of the matter.
The whole tone of the letter is to set the Gentile converts free, without requiring them to be bound by the Law. It would be strange if, after all, the Council laid upon them a binding regulation, which should half undo their declaration of Christian liberty. Probably therefore they never intended their statement to be a command binding upon their readers. That this view of the matter is right, appears not only from a consideration of the letter generally, but also from St. Paul's position. He had had to fight hard at the Council for his converts, fearing lest, as he puts it, they should be brought into bondage. Yet he cordially accepted the letter. Also, writing to the Corinthians some eight years later, he insists very strongly on Christian liberty as regards foods: "What soever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience sake; for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If one of them that believe not biddeth you to a feast, and ye are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake" (1 Cor 10:25-27). Here St. Paul leaves it open to a Christian to eat, if he likes, things that may have been offered to idols, and things strangled, and even flesh containing blood. It seems impossible that he should have written like this if he had understood the Council to mean that their letter was binding on believers with the force of a law.
158] Above all it must be remembered that the items mentioned in that letter of the Council are not derived from the Law of Moses as such. They are earlier. They therefore cannot supply an argument for the observance of the Law, to which in fact the Rabbi wishes to bring us. "These four precepts "writes Dr. Hort, perhaps the most learned of recent English theologians, "were meant as concrete indications of pure and true religion, not of Judaism in the exclusive sense. There was a real risk that Gentile converts admitted freely into full communion without having to submit to a painful and in many eyes disgraceful rite, as Jewish proselytes had, might misinterpret and misuse their liberty...There was much to be said for laying this emphatic stress on certain well-chosen abstinences or restraints held to have a close connexion with purity of religion, and they were none the worse for being coincident with hallowed Jewish laws or traditions, though this was not the source of their authority. It was a clear gain that their agreement with the inherited moral associations of Jews should make the whole arrangement more acceptable to the Jewish party in the Church, since they were not of a nature to suggest any kind of obligation on Gentile converts to obey any part of the Mosaic Law. They were no doubt biblical,- but they were of pre-Mosaic origin" (Judaistic Christianity, 1894, p. 71.
159] Thus the regulations of Acts 15:20, 29 were advisory, not compulsory, and were given, no doubt, in view of the immediate circumstances of those for whom they were first written, not for Christians of every time and every place. Hence they were not contrary to the words of the Master, when He affirmed that it is not what enters into the mouth that in itself defiles, but the evil thoughts and plans and words that come out of it. We are right in our claim to freedom from the bondage of the Dietary Laws.
7. THE LAW: ITS DEMANDS AND ITS PERMANENCE.
160] The Law (and the Old Testament generally) does not limit its doctrine of rewards and punishments to the body and to this life. R. Isaac's arguments in Chapter 18 are quite sound, considered as a whole. Would that all Jews and Christians were as free from Sadducaic tendencies as he!
a. ITS DEMANDS GENERALLY.(Deut 27:26) "Cursed is he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them."
(Gal 3:10) "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them."
161] (1). In the verses that precede this passage from Deuteronomy various sins, some open, others secret, have been named, and after each the people have been told to say "Amen" to the curse pronounced. Here Moses sums up all these and any other enactments, whether positive or negative, contained in either Deuteronomy or the whole Law, and says that if a man does not give effect to each so as to fulfil it, he is cursed. It is self-understood that only such commandments are included as are presented to him to observe. R. Isaac, that is to say, is of course right in presupposing that those laws, for example, which can be performed only in the land of Palestine are not expected of Jews who live elsewhere, and that these are therefore not to be considered "cursed" because they do not perform them. It is also, of course, self-understood that repentance of any transgression of these laws may lead to the abolition of the curse, though, as we have already seen in paragraph 125, there is no reason to think that repentance possesses in itself any real remedy against the curse. Thus the verse means that the Law if disobeyed brings a curse on him who disobeys it.
R. Isaac, however, puts a gloss upon this statement. He urges that no man is perfect, and that every man sins sometimes, and that therefore the verse cannot be meant absolutely; that in reality it means that if a man does not purpose keeping a certain law, then, and only then, he is cursed (unless he repent), and the Rabbi strains the Hebrew to make it fit in with his gloss. But in vain. For the word translated "confirmeth "(קום in the Hiphil) nowhere means "to purpose keeping," but, when employed in a metaphorical sense at all suitable to this passage, "to carry out," "to give effect to," a word or command or promise; compare Genesis 26:3, Leviticus 26:9, 1 Samuel 15:11, 13.
St. Paul therefore, in the passage quoted above, rightly takes the passage in its simple and plain meaning (legitimately adding "all" from Deut 6:25, 28:1), and he argues from it that every one who has failed lies under a curse, whether he be Jew or Gentile (see below).
162] (2). How are we to account for the grave difference between the two interpretations of the passage, that of the Rabbi, and that of St. Paul? It is due to the way in which each regards the Law. It is not, as has been argued, that R. Isaac has a high, and St. Paul a low, conception of it. It is not, again, that St. Paul thinks that the Law was given in anger, and the Rabbi thinks that it was given in love. The difference lies deeper. The Rabbi regards the Law as a collection of separate items, St. Paul regards it as a whole. The Rabbi thinks that a man is saved by his performance of a number of individual laws, and, if this opinion is right, then indeed his gloss upon our passage in Deuteronomy is necessarily right also. But if the Law is to be regarded as St. Paul regards it, not as a collection of laws, whether ceremonial or moral, but as a whole, as a revelation of God to man, and a revelation of what God expects man to be (so that even though a man is only a Gentile he does, when he knows the Law, incur the responsibility of knowing it), then St. Paul's interpretation is not too strong. The Law by the vastness and depth of its vision of God, and by the awfulness of the claim that it makes on man, brings every man under failure to keep it, and therefore under the curse that attaches to that failure.See The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, pp. 194-205.163] This explains that attitude of St. Paul to the Law which Jewish writers find so extraordinary. He claims (the claim is allowed by all) to have been trained in the best Rabbinical learning of his time, and yet he regards the Law in a way that is as far distant from the Rabbinical way of regarding it as pole is from pole. For the Rabbis, as Jewish writers are never tired of telling us (though the fact is patent to every one who has read any of the Talmudic or the Rabbinical writings), rejoiced not only in the Law as such, but also in each new law which they could discover to be contained in the Law, and in each opportunity of observing any law that came before them. For by keeping it there was an increase of merit. "Therefore it was," says R. Isaac in this section, "that Moses our Teacher was desiring and longing to enter into the Holy Land, that by means of keeping the commands which could only be kept there he should attain to a higher position in the world to come."
"The more the merrier," writes Mr. Claude Montefiore, "is the Rabbinic attitude towards the number of legal enactments. Because God loved Israel, therefore He gave them so many commands. From a lower point of view these commands were the means by which the Jew could earn rewardthe reward of the future life. From the higher point of view they were the ornaments of Israel, his crown of glory, his links of union and communion with the God who gave them" (Jewish Quarterly Review, Jan, 1901, pp. 189, sq.).
A still later writer, Dr. Moritz Gudemann, of Vienna, after quoting some remarkable ancient and modern examples of this joy even in the accidental observance of an enactment in the Law, continues as follows: "What to the superficial critic appears as fear of offending against the Law, as busying oneself with minutiae, as a belittling of the religious spirit, or as a legalistic treatment of religion, for such is the representation in Christian writingsthis, when looked at in a right light, is rather a deep plunge of love into the word of God, which brings up thence ever new pearls, by which to be sure, the subtlety of one's thought enhances the joy of the Mitzvah" (Judische Apologetick, 19-6, p. 193).
164] St. Paul on the contrary says that the Law brought him death! "I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom 7:9). While the Rabbis look at the Law as a bundle of laws by which to acquire merit, St. Paul looks at it as the one great demand made upon him, as the one great revelation of holiness required from him by God, and through it he is convinced of sin. He speaks in the spirit of the Psalmists, when they say: "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (130:3); "And enter not into judgement with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" (143:2).So Maimonides speaks of one who "hastens after the commandments" (רודף אחר מצות), Hilkoth Tephillah, vi. 1.165] It may, however, be urged that God has no right to expect such holiness from us sinners. But may it not be the case that He wants to bring home to us the fact that we are sinners; and that He desires to reveal to us more of the extent of our moral weakness than we usually perceive; that He wishes to disclose to our shrinking eyes somewhat of the ravages made in our nature by sin, in order that by this we may be brought nearer to Himself? Most certainly the Law was given in love, as R. Isaac insists, but we contend also that it was given that we might pass through the process of self-condemnation and thus come to the enjoyment of God's love. Love was its motive, and Love its aim; but the aim could be attained only by man knowing his need of God.
Is not, in reality, St. Paul's view of the Law infinitely higher than that of R. Isaac, which represents, we fear only too truly, that of the majority of Jews to-day? The Rabbi lowers the Law by bringing it down to meet the possibilities of present human nature. St. Paul exalts the Law and makes it honourable, in order that through it man may be humbled, and may exalt God and look to Him and His grace alone. This, and nothing less, is what St. Paul means when he writes, "I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God" (Gal 2:19). The effect of the Law is to humble us in the dust, and to make us flee to the God whom the Law reveals, for there is none other than He.
b. SABBATH OR SUNDAY.
166] R. Isaac speaks of the Sabbath as one of the details in which Christians do not keep the Law, and it is convenient to deal with this one question here before passing on to the wider subject of this chapter in the Chizzuk Emunah, the permanence of the Law generally.
(1). He says that Jesus kept the Sabbath. Certainly He did. But the Rabbi might have added that He did not keep it in the manner in which the more religious Jews of His day kept it. In fact He directly set His followers free from the painful observance of it, defending them when they plucked ears of corn as they passed through a corn-field on a Sabbath, and rubbed them in their hands and ate them (Mark 2:23-28). On Sabbath too He healed the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:15), and also a woman who had been bent double for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17). He said on one or other of these occasions that it is lawful to do kind actions on the Sabbath, that man is superior to the Sabbath, and that the Son of Man is lord of it.
167] I know full well that modern writers claim that these words of Jesus were but echoes of older Rabbinic sayings. If so it is strange indeed that the Rabbis of His time evidently did not think so, and were enraged with Him both for what He said and for what He did. Besides, the Rabbis into whose mouth these utterances upon the Sabbath are put by the compilers of the Mishna and the Talmudic writings lived some time after Jesus (e.g. R. Simeon b. Menasya, c. 180 A.D., quoted in the Mechilta on Exo 31:13*), and it is therefore more in accordance with historical probability that they borrowed from Him than He from sources of which we know nothing.* R. Simeon b. Menasya explains Exodus 31:14, "It is holy unto you," by "Unto you is the sabbath delivered, and not you unto the sabbath."168] (2). The Rabbi also says that the Lord's Disciples observed the Sabbath. No doubt they did, for they attended the synagogue services on a sabbath in the different towns which they visited (Acts 13:14 and often). But the point is that they also observed the first day of the week, the day we call the Lord's day or Sunday. Take for example Revelation 1:10, written probably about 90 A.D., but perhaps as early as about 65 A.D., where the author says: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day."** It is just possible that by "the Lord's day" is here meant the great day of the Lord's appearing hereafter, with which some of the visions in the Revelation are certainly concerned. But the nearly contemporary use of the term (see further on in the text) makes the reference to Sunday almost certain.Again, in Acts 20:7, of an event that took place about 56 A.D., the author writes: "Upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, &c.," a hint that the first day of the week was specially observed for religious observances. And in 1 Corinthians 16:2, written a year or so earlier, say in 55 A.D., we find St. Paul giving the direction: "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." This suggests a certain solemnity, to say the least, about the first day in the week, making it suitable for so religious an act as setting aside money for the Lord's people.
169] (3). Thus for a time, as it seems, both Sabbath and Sunday were observed, especially by Jewish Christians. But it may be doubted whether Gentile Christians ever observed the Sabbath as a day of special devotion. It must be remembered that they as heathen had not been accustomed to have any fixed day in the week as a day of rest. It is therefore probable that on first becoming Christians they could not, even if they wished to do so, set aside either Sabbath or Sunday for this purpose. But there was nothing to prevent their regarding one day in the week as especially suitable for assembling for prayers and other religious observances, and the day which they did so observe appears to have been not Sabbath but Sunday. Thus we read in the Didache (? 110 A.D.): "Being gathered together on the Lord's day of the Lord, break bread and observe the Holy Communion, confessing beforehand your sins, that your offering may be pure."
So Ignatius writes at about the same time, "No longer keeping the Sabbath, but living according to the Lord's Day, in which too our life sprang up by Him and His death" (Ad Magnes. ix.).
So also Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, writing about 175 A.D. says, "To-day, therefore, we spent the Lord's holy day" (quoted by Eusebius, Church History, iv. 23.).
And the Talmud itself implies that very soon after this, say about 200 A.D., the first day of the week was recognized as the special day held sacred by Christians.** See Deutsch's learned notes on Aboda Zara 6a. and 7b. in his edition of the Chizzuk Emunah, 1873, p. 386.170] It is thus plain that by the end of the second century, and without any express rule or law having been laid down either by the Apostles or by any secular power, Christians observed Sunday and had gradually ceased to observe Sabbath. The laws of Constantine (321 A.D.) ordering rest from work upon Sunday, and of the Emperor Leo 469 A.D., extending this rest to all forms of work, were only the natural result of the religious observance of the day, when persons came into power who were able to make such laws for a Christian State.
171] (4). How came it about that so much honour was paid to the first day of the week? It was evidently considered to be a more important day than the Sabbath. For the claim of the Sabbath was so strong that only a still stronger claim on the part of the Sunday could displace it. Why was this? There can be only one answer. Christians believed that something had happened upon it which was of overwhelming importance. Why should it be called the Lord's day, and consecrated especially to Him, unless something had occurred to make it ever memorable in connexion with Him? In other words, those early Christians observed it for the same reason for which we observe it now, that on it they believed that Jesus rose from the dead. Christians were convinced the Lord Jesus Christ rose upon that day; they were determined to observe the day at all costs, even if its observance did displace that of the Sabbath.[JCR - Not all Christians believe the Sabbath was displaced.]172] (5). Here, however, comes the question How could they, nevertheless, think of neglecting the command of the Law to keep the Sabbath? This is the wider question of this chapter in the Chizzuk Emunah, to which we now turn.
c. THE PERMANENCE OF THE LAW.
Chapter 19 continued, Chapter 49 & Part 2, 10.
173] R. Isaac and all other Jews are amazed that we Christians do not observe the Law of Moses. Why do we not observe it, or rather, why do we not observe the laws contained in it?
(1). Briefly, because Christianity is the very opposite, the very antithesis, of laws; because to Christians the Law is abolished as a collection of laws, and this in all its parts, ceremonial and moral alike, in so far as they are laws. This will seem strange to many Jews. They will suppose, for example, that the reason why we do not steal is because the eighth commandment says, "Thou shalt not steal." But it is not so. The reason why we do not steal is not because we are told not to do so, but because stealing is contrary to the character of God, and to the first principle of love to God and man. In the same way all laws as such in the Law, including those commanding the observance of the Sabbath, are swept away for those who believe in Christ. Hence we Christians do not acknowledge that the Law of Moses is binding upon us in any of its parts considered as laws.
174] (2). R. Isaac however has many objections to bring forward.
(i). Jesus said that He came to establish the Law (Matt 5:17, 18). Of course He did, in its true character and aim. Jesus would have been no true Prophet of God if He had done otherwise. For it must not be supposed for a moment that His work was only negative. Not only did His words lay the axe at the root of the dietary laws (Mark 7:14-19, see par. 154), and also free men from over-scrupulous observance of the Sabbath (see par. 166), but He brought out higher meanings in the Law than had ever been perceived before, both in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5
) and in His other teaching, as, for example, in His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousnessí sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is Godís throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
). He thus "glorified the Law and made it honourable" beyond what had ever before been done. This He did, it will be observed, without adding to it, as the Talmud in the true text of Sabbath 116b affirms He said: "Not to take from the Law of Moses am I come, but to add to the Law of Moses am I come." His object, in other words, was not to set the Law aside, much less to ignore it, but to establish it in its full and true meaning; as Bishop Martensen writes: "How can He say that not a tittle shall pass from the Law, since the development of the Church shows that the ceremonial law, that the whole Mosaic dispensation, has been annihilated by the influences proceeding from Christ? We answer: He has fulfilled the Law, whilst He has released it from the temporary forms in which its eternal validity was confined; He has unfolded its spiritual essence, its inward perfection. Not even a tittle of the ceremonial law has passed away, if we regard the Mosaic Law as a whole; for the ideas which form its basis, as the distinction between the unclean and the clean, are confirmed by Christ, and contained in the law of holiness which He teaches men" (Christian Ethics: General, chap. 125).
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
175] (ii). St. Paul, says the Rabbi, often urged his converts to keep certain of the laws of Moses. No doubt. But to keep them as laws because they were parts of the Law of Moses? Assuredly not. St. Paul realized to the full that Christian people are expected to be the holiest men and women upon earth, and therefore he could not but urge them to be holy in word and deed, and remind them that those who walked in the sins of the heathen, which were contrary to the known will of God as expressed in the Old Testament, had no share in the kingdom of heaven. A great teacher of morals like St. Paul could not fail to urge his converts to keep those great expressions of the will of God in which the laws of morality are conveniently summed up.
176] (iii). But, says the Rabbi again, the Law itself states that it is permanent, and is to be obeyed by all Jews and all who have joined themselves to the Jews, as Christians have. Here, too, I might satisfy myself with replying that Christ Himself taught the permanence of the Law, in the true sense of "permanence," as I have already done. But there is more to be said.
177] (a). Can it be that the Rabbi, a Karaite, was having a sly hit at Rabbinism when he speaks of the permanence of the Law? In any case it is certain that he must often have felt sore at the way in which Rabbinic Jews treated the Law. For they have never found the Law of Moses, in the sense in which R. Isaac used the term, sufficient for them. To R. Isaac the Oral Law was an abomination, tending, as it did, to supplement, and even explain away, the written Law which alone he accepted. He, as a Karaite, clung to the letter of the Law, and would never, for example, have admitted that interpretation of Qorban, by which money dedicated only in form to God became free from use for one's own parents, an interpretation scathingly rebuked by Jesus. Nor surely could he, as a Karaite, have allowed the Prosbul, by which the collection of debts over a Sabbatical Year was permitted in spite of the plain utterance of the written law on the subject (Deut 15:1-3). The fact is that Rabbinic Jews have altered the Mosaic Law immensely. I am not blaming them; I am only pointing out that it is only by exceeding subtlety that many of the practices of Rabbinic, and therefore of most modern, Jews, can be brought within the four corners of the written Torah. Rabbinic Jews have no right to complain if some go further than they in following not the letter of the Law of Moses, but its spirit.
178] (b). The passages quoted by the Rabbi were doubtless necessary for the time when they were written. It would have been disastrous to true religion if the Jews had cast off the shell of ceremonies, and the legal habit, before something better had been presented to them. But the end and object of the revelation of God is to make men holier and better, more like Himself, and there are signs that even the writers of the Old Testament looked forward to a time when the externals of Judaism should be of quite secondary importance. Consider the words of Jeremiah (3:16, 17), "In those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD; neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done (or made) any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem."
Jeremiah seems to contemplate a time when religion will be a heart-religion, independent of ceremonies and laws. This Christianity is. When accepted in the heart (not otherwise) it becomes a new law, but a law of wholly different kind from that of precepts and separate rules. (See further parr. 222-231 sq).
179] (iv). For thus we come to a fourth objection adduced by the Rabbi. He quotes triumphantly a saying of a Socinian that Jesus never gave a new Law. Assuredly He did not, in the sense in which the Rabbi uses the word "Law."
(a). The many laws of Moses press heavily. But heavier still is the moral claim of the Law of Moses as a whole. Heaviest of all is the moral claim of the life of Jesus, as a revelation of what man can be. Yes, sinners we are when tested by the laws of Moses; greater sinners when tested by the Law as a whole; greater sinners still when tested by the life of Jesus. Yet from all this pressure and weight did Jesus the Christ set us free, because by faith we are united to Him the Risen and Ascended Lord.
(b). Is this to destroy the Law? Is it not rather to bring it into full power and effect? St. Paul was right when he said (Rom 3:31), "Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law." "The Gospel," says a writer of growing reputation, "is the power to fulfil the Law,"* by the royal law of nearness to Christ and union with Him. This is the "law of Christ" mentioned by St. Paul in Galatians 6:2; not one laid down by Him in precept upon precept, and line upon line, fit only for babes in spiritual things; but one learned in union with Him, the law of love to God and man, a law not reducible to rules in black and white, but understood by His servants, who have ventured their all not on a Law but on a Person, and have found not even "Christianity," but Christ.* Du Bose, The Gospel according to St. Paul, 1907, p. 25.
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