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
A CONSIDERATION OF CERTAIN PASSAGES IN THE PROPHETS.
1. THE LAW FROM ZION.(Isa 2:3) "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."
(Isa 51:4. "A law shall go forth from me."
180] R. Isaac tells us that Christians affirm that while the Law of Moses was given from Mount Sinai these passages speak of a Law being given from Mount Zion, and therefore this is a different Law from that, and was, no doubt, the Law which was given there by the Lord Jesus Christ.
181] (1). The Rabbi answers this rather crude argument in two ways. First, he replies that he has shewn in Chapter 19 that no second Law was to be expected. We have already investigated his statement, and shewn how much truth, mixed with no little error, there is in it. Secondly, he explains these two passages in Isaiah. He says that they do not speak of another Law, but of one and the same Law, and that they mean that the teaching, or instruction, about the Law of Moses shall go forth from Mount Zion. He defends this by pointing out that although the word Torah is used, this does not always mean a Law as such, but in some cases, as, for example, in the Book of Proverbs, teaching or instruction. Thus in 1:8 we read, "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law (torah) of thy mother." And again in 4:1,2 the writer says, "Hear, my sons, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding: for I give you good doctrine; forsake ye not my law (torathi)? Thus then the passages in Isaiah mean that teaching about the Law of Moses is to proceed forth from the centre of Judaism, Jerusalem, the hill of Zion.
Further, he says, they mean more than that. This teaching is to be brought to all peoples by means of Messiah (naturally the Rabbi is thinking of a Messiah yet to come!), for "He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths" (Isa 2:3). The Rabbi urges strongly that the words refer to Messiah, for there is added, "and one shall judge among the nations." He explains this by the well-known grammatical principle that when the person is not defined separately he is defined by the verb itself. Thus, for example, in Genesis 48:1, "That one said" really means "That the sayer said," and in 48:2, "and one told" is really "and the teller told." So here, "one shall judge" means in reality "the judge, namely, King Messiah, shall judge."
Thus the Rabbi concludes that Christians are quite wrong in deducing from these two passages in Isaiah that a new Law was to be given from Mount Zion.
182] (2). Let me first of all grant freely that the Rabbi has much the better of his opponents as regards the merely verbal controversy. It is indeed absurd to think that Isaiah is prophesying that another Law will go forth from Mount Zion. I have also shewn in paragraph 179 that Jesus never gave another Law. Nothing indeed was further from His thought. It is a conception of Christianity which could only arise in a time when the nature of the religion of the Lord Jesus was beginning to be forgotten, and overlaid with notions derived in part from Rabbinic Judaism, and in part from heathenism. Jesus never came to give a new Law. He who says that He did, weighing seriously the meaning of his words, shows his misapprehension of what Christianity is.
Yet the words of the Rabbi explain why it is that we Christians so readily adduce these passages from Isaiah in support of our holy religion. R. Isaac himself says that Messiah, when He comes, shall, by His teaching, spread the Jewish Law among the nations of the world. This is just what we Christians affirm has been done, and is being done, by the Lord Jesus. We say that whereas Jews as such have done nothing, or next to nothing, to promulgate the Jewish Law among the Gentiles, Jesus and His followers have carried, and are carrying, it far and wide. To our minds, therefore, it is not unfitting to adduce these passages from Isaiah in support of our belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah.
183] (3). It is no doubt to be expected that any Jewish reader who does me the honour to study these pages will remark that, after all, Jesus of Nazareth and His followers have not spread the Jewish Law, but Christianity. I fully grant, as I have explained on earlier pages, that Jesus did not spread the Jewish Law as a collection of precepts and rules. But can it be denied that He has spread it in its most important features? Of course we Christians go much further than this, and affirm that He has spread it in all its details, if these are regarded as having a fuller and better meaning than their merely external performance. We Christians accept fully, as I have already shewn, the saying of Jesus that He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it, ensuring that not a tittle of it should perish. But I speak not now of details. Is it not the case that He has spread the Jewish Law in its chief and most essential features?
What should we all, Jews and Christians alike, say are the most important parts of the Law? Are they not thesethe Unity of God, and the duty, yes, the absolute necessity, of Love to God and man? Is not the whole Law contained in these principles? Are they not the special and unique glory of the Law as found in the Old Testament, and as confirmed and taught in the New? Is not the whole of the teaching of Jesus and of the writers of the New Testament books dependent on these truths? Are they not the very substance of their message?
184] It is possible indeed that many Jews will reply that Christian teachers do not teach the Unity of God. I cannot believe this. All the Christian teachers whom I have ever heard, all the Christian books which I have ever read, insist upon this fundamental truth. We Christians believe that we teach the Unity of God in a far more consistent and logical way than do Jews, much more than do Mohammedans. To us the Unity of God is the truth of all others that is dear to us, and we place no man, no woman, no angel, no power, in any sense on an equality with Him. It is true, of course, that in the Unity of God we believe that there are three permanent forms and modes of being, as already explained in paragraphs 105-125, but this, as it seems to us, is the only logical result of belief in One Living and Loving God; and we are of opinion that this belief is not only not contrary to the teaching of the Old Testament, but is the true and proper deduction from it. In any case it is the earnest endeavour of Christians to preach the truth that there is One God, and One God only.
185] Similarly we insist upon the need, the absolute necessity, of Love to God and to man. I read many Jewish books and papers, and I am amazed at the ignorance that is sometimes indicated with regard to Christian teaching upon this subject. Jews sometimes seem to imagine that Christianity teaches salvation by a kind of magic. Alas, some Christians do come very near to teaching this, just as there are some Jews who think that the mere performance of circumcision practically ensures the salvation of a Jew. But thoughtful Jews and thoughtful Christians, who endeavour to understand the true meaning of the religions which they profess, know well that merely external rites are powerless, unless there is something answering to them in the heart of him who performs them, or of him on whom they are performed. The thoughtful Christian insists upon the fact that there must be a heart-relation to God, a conscious attitude of reverence and love for Him. But this brings the believer into touch with God, the living God, so that it is impossible for a man to be a true believer without acquiring some of the character of God, and feeling something of the same thoughts with which He regards men. It is, in other words, impossible for a man to love God without at the same time loving men. And the nearer we come to God the more do we love Him and those who are made in His image. For to us a man is, in a very real sense, the representation of God, and, as the saying has it, "Thou hast seen thy brother; thou hast seen thy Lord!" (Tertullian, de orat. 26; cf. Resch, Agrapha, 1889, p. 296).
Is not this the essence of the Jewish religion? Is it not also the essence of Christianity? But this is the teaching spread by Jesus the Messiah from Mount Zion. Is it not the fulfilment of the words of Isaiah the prophet?
2. THE VIRGIN.(Isa 7:14) "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Chapters 21, 45. Part 2, Chapter 2
This famous passage has been, and is likely to be for some little time yet, the subject of much discussion between Jewish and Christian writers.
186] (1). It must be granted that the word translated "the Virgin" (העלמח) does not, if its etymology be considered, strictly mean "virgin," but rather, as it would appear, one sexually mature. But the etymology of a word is not decisive. The real question is: What is its usage? In this case it is impossible to show that עלמח is ever used in the Old Testament of any one not a virgin. This is the case even in Proverbs 30:19. (דרך גבר בעלמח), and much more in Song 6:8, where virgins (עלמות) are contrasted with queens and concubines. There is in fact no Hebrew word to which Jews would not have brought an objection if Christians had urged that it meant "virgin." For even if בתולה had been employed they would at once have remembered that in Genesis 24:16 a further definition was required in order to ensure the meaning of "virgin," and they would certainly have quoted Joel 1:8, "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth." We may rest easy therefore in accepting the interpretation that עלמה in usage, though not in etymology, meant "virgin." It must be remembered that the "Seventy" Jewish pre-christian translators of the passage rendered it by παρθενος.
187] (2). Did Isaiah however use it here in this sense of "virgin"? Was he not thinking of his own wife (8:3), especially as in 8:4 (as in 7:16) the limit of time for the destruction of the enemies is bound up with the early age of the child? This is hardly possible, for surely it is excluded by 8:8, where the child Immanuel of 7:14 is addressed, and the land is said to belong to him: "Thy land, O Immanuel." As Kimchi says, this cannot apply to the son of Isaiah and his prophetess-wife.
188] (3). But was it possible for Isaiah to use עלמה in this passage of a virgin? Why not? His language implies that he is thinking of a coming Redeemer. But "born of a virgin"! Who ever heard of such a thing? It is probable that Isaiah had. It was, as it seems, no new idea. The Jews were not so isolated from the rest of the world as not to come in contact with the beliefs of other nations. Scripture teems with instances in which the Jews were influenced, both for evil and for good, by the religious opinions of their neighbours, and this in all ages of Israel's history. But nations round them were, it appears, expecting the coming of a Redeemer who was to be born of a virgin. "If people had known," writes Pastor A. Jeremias of Leipzig, "the circle of ideas current in the ancient East, they would never have doubted that a son of a virgin was certainly in the mind of the author of Isaiah 7" (Babylonisches in Neuen Testament, 1905, p. 47).** ADDENDA - Pastor A. Jeremias has modified his language in the second edition of his book, and in any case he seems to refer to an astrological and heavenly Virgin, not to one on earth. There seems to be little or no evidence of the existence of a widespread belief that the expected Deliverer would be born of a human mother who was a virgin at the time of His birth. The meaning of Isaiah himself is very obscure, and it is possible after all that Matthew 1:22 is only a Christian adaptation of his phrase in accordance with Jewish methods.The evidence that he gives is indeed taken more from Egyptian sources, and from the religion of the primitive Greeks, than from the Babylonians, who would have influenced Israel more than they, but there are few persons living who are better acquainted with Eastern mythology than Pastor Jeremias, and he has probably more evidence for his statement than he has actually adduced. It seems probable therefore that Isaiah, in looking forward to the coming of a Redeemer, clothed his prophecy in language taken from current beliefs, and so made these his own.
189] (4). But how then was it a sign to Ahaz? For in some way surely it was intended that the king should himself see the result of this prophecy. I should suppose that Isaiah's words contained a higher and a lower meaning; one, which was all that Ahaz would understand, that a girl standing by, who was as yet unmarried, should, in the ordinary course of nature, bear a son within the year. It is even possible, as some have thought, that she became the wife of Ahaz. But in any case the son who was born could not be Hezekiah, as some have rather foolishly supposed, for he was already nine years old, when his father Ahaz came to the throne. Kimchi points this out plainly enough.
That may have been what we may call the lower sense of the prophecy. But to Isaiah himself, looking forward as he did to higher things, not shrinking even from adapting the language of the current belief that the coming Redeemer would be fed on the Divine food of butter and honey*to him, I say, the words meant far more, and implied the coming of One who should not only redeem mankind, but also be born of a virgin.* See Gressmann, Der Ursprung der Israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie, 1905, pp. 211 sq., 291.One thing is clear. We cannot limit the meaning of the words of an inspired prophet like Isaiah to the understanding of a dense unspiritual person like Ahaz. It must not be forgotten also that Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah, takes up the thought in the fifth chapter of his prophecy, and expands it still more clearly, as we shall see when we come to consider his words.
190] (5). Can we wonder that the writer of the first Gospel used our passage (Matt 1:22)? If he accepted on quite other grounds the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, was it not only natural that he should see in that fact the fulfilment of the ancient Hope which was incorporated in the Book of Isaiah? He did not, it will be observed, take it from Gentile sources. There it was, and there it is, contained in the books sacred to every Jew. He, who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and who knew that Jesus was, in fact, born of a virgin, did, in quoting our verse, but claim the fulfilment of the Hope, which, whatever its final sources (and God is God of the world as well as of the Jewish nation), was for him enshrined in what we call the Old Testament. The Jewish leaders and teachers in the eighth century B.C. appeared to have expected such a Redeemer. St. Matthew in the first century A.D. acclaimed the fulfilment of their expectation. Granting that the fact about Jesus was as he believed, was he not right in doing so?
191] (6). In Part II, Chapter 3. R. Isaac objects that Jesus is never called by the name "Immanuel" in the New Testament. But to make an objection of this kind is surely only to trifle with the subject, in a way unworthy of a thoughtful and candid mind. Jesus is, as a matter of fact, often called Immanuel in Christian parlance, and, whether He is called by this name or not, the word ("God with us") does correspond exactly to the nature and personality of Jesus according to the evidence of the New Testament, the only evidence which we possess.
3. THE CHILD IN ISAIAH 9:6, 7 (Heb. 5, 6).
Chapter 21 continued.
192] (i). Aben Ezra says: "Some say that פלא יועץ אל גבור אבי עד are the names of God, and the name of the Child is שר שלום, but the right opinion to my mind is that all are the names of the Child."
This, which also is the opinion of all modern scholars, makes it unnecessary to discuss R. Isaac's strange construction: "And He who is the Wonder-Counsellor, El-Gibbor, Father of Eternity, called the Child the Prince of Peace." For this, though found in the Targum and some well-known Rabbinic commentaries, and not absolutely impossible in itself, probably would never have occurred to any one unless he were trying to escape the pressure of Christian arguments. We shall therefore assume that all the titles are descriptive of the Child.
193] (2). But who is the Child?
(i). The Rabbis say, with one voice, as it seems, that he is Hezekiah, and by some little straining of the titles they make them fit in with events in his life. But it is strange that the Child should be Hezekiah, for, as we have already seen, he was nine years old already when his father Ahaz came to the throne, and our verses plainly describe joy at the birth of one yet unborn when the prophet wrote. No, the Child cannot be Hezekiah.
(ii). Who is he? Is he perhaps Zerubbabel? Poor Zerubbabel! For he is one of those convenient people of whom we know almost nothing, and to whom therefore we can attribute anything we please. But if the prophet did mean Zerubbabel his words were singularly ill chosen, for Zerubbabel did not accomplish much more than lead the first caravan of returning exiles home to Jerusalem, and play a rather dilatory part in rebuilding the Temple. There are no such incidents in his life as will warrant us in referring to him the titles descriptive of this Child.
(iii). Who then is He? Surely the Messiah. So the Targum (משיחא דשלמא יסגי עלנא ביומוהי). And so the alternative explanation of R. Isaac himself. It is the Messiah who is to be the Wonder-Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
194] (3). R. Isaac however argues that if the passage refers to Messiah it cannot refer to Jesus.
(i). פלא יועץ * How could Jesus be termed Wonder-Counsellor, when His own disciple Judas brought His counsel to nothing and betrayed Him? Truly a deep argument! It had been more just if the Rabbi had recalled the fact that Jesus knew of Judas' treachery before it took place (Matt 26:24), and had stated that Jesus therefore included even His betrayal by Judas in His far-reaching plan. If Jesus' death was necessary, as He said it was, for the accomplishment of the purpose for which He lived, it is hard to see how the fact that He was brought to His death by another shows, as the Rabbi asserts, that His plan was frustrated. See further paragraph 289.* One of the most recent and suggestive investigations into the meaning of this and the following terms is to be found in Dr. W. O. E. Oesterley's Evolution of the Messianic Idea, 1908, pp. 212-226.
195] (ii). אל גבור R. Isaac says that this phrase could not be used of one slain, as Jesus was. Why not, in whatever sense the words be understood? If they mean "Mighty Hero," has not Jesus shown Himself so? Are the actions of any one else so lauded as His? Is the self-sacrifice of any hero so admired as that of Jesus? Or what if they do mean "Mighty God"? Luzzatto was so impressed with the fact that they must mean this that he twisted all the titles into one long name of Messiah descriptive of God's dealings with Him: "The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, counsels wondrously." But this was because Luzzatto thought "Mighty God" was too high a title for Messiah. Probably here again it was the pressure of Christian interpretation that drove him to this unnatural explanation. In any case it does not appear that any scholar of note has followed him. Rather "Mighty God" is, and, if a right translation, was intended to be, a paradox when used of the Messiah whose birth has just been mentioned. Yet if it is true of Messiah surely it may well be true of Jesus, I mean the Jesus of the New Testament, who answers most truly of all persons to such an appellation, for His whole life and death and triumph over death correspond to the deepest moral and ethical conceptions of what a Messiah-God would be and would do.
196] (iii). אבי עד How can "Everlasting Father" be a title of Jesus, when He was slain before He had attained half the allotted span of human life? I grant freely that the argument is true enough if the Jewish opinion of Jesus is right, that He was a mere man and died as such. But it is of no weight at all against the Jesus of the New Testament, who died and rose again. Of course every one knows that for some years a wholly different translation was much in vogue: "Father of booty." But עד is used very rarely in this meaning, but often in that of "eternity," and, moreover, very few recent scholars accept an interpretation which is so contrary to the spirit of the other attributes of the Child. There can be but little doubt that it describes the protective and fatherly care exercised by the Child over the people committed to Him, and states that this care will continue for ever. A more beautiful picture of the work and character of Messiah it would be hard to find, and it sums up with extraordinary fulness the work attributed to the Jesus of the New Testament.
197] (iv). שר שלום The Prince of Peace! When Jesus Himself said that He came not to send peace, but a sword! The Rabbi loves to harp on this, just as his successors do still. We have however already dealt with this rather foolish argument in paragraphs 14-20. Here it is enough, first, to quote that other saying of Jesus found in John 14:27: "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"; secondly, to point out that even His enemies confess that if His precepts are followed they will bring peace; thirdly, that Jesus, according to Christian teaching, brought about peace between God and the sinner. Thus the title fully suits the Jesus of the New Testament, the only Jesus whom we know.
198] (v). R. Isaac objects to our laying stress on the phrase "of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end," though it is plain how extraordinarily well this suits the Christian doctrine of Messiah, for he says that it is a hyperbolical description of the reign of an earthly king. But it is evident how hard pressed the Rabbi feels himself to be. He can take language literally enough when he chooses, as may be seen from the very next clause. For he goes on to say that "the throne of David" is not metaphorical but literal, and he pictures Messiah as sitting one day on David's material throne governing a realm of this world. Perhaps the prophet did use these words in a more literal sense than that in which Christians generally understand them, for he was obliged to use terms and thoughts current in his time; but even so they suit the Lord Jesus, who, as the great descendant of David (see parr. 8-13), has succeeded, not merely in a metaphorical but in a real sense, to David's power, increased a thousand fold.
Yes, we Christians are right in seeing in the Child of Isaiah 9 the Messiah, and in believing that Jesus of Nazareth, as He is described in the New Testament, corresponds to the picture of Messiah drawn in the Child and in the titles that are given to Him.
4. THE SERVANT. Isaiah 52:13-53:12.*(Isa 52:13-53:12) Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.* The student of Jewish interpretation of this passage will find almost complete materials in Pusey, Neubauer and Driver's The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah according to the Jewish Interpreters. Texts and Translations, 1876, 1877.
[JCR - For more info, please see another one of our online books:
An Exposition of Isaiah 53, David Baron (1922)]
199] Every truly Christian reader feels humbled as he reads this portion of Scripture, because he sees in it a description of his Saviour, and the cost of his redemption; almost every Jew is likely to feel lifted up, because he sees in it a description of the value of Israel to the nations of the world, and of his own sufferings as a means of peace and prosperity to Gentiles. There is thus a fundamental difference in the two interpretations of this chapter, answering to the fundamental difference that there is between Judaism and Christianity, the one a religion which magnifies human efforts, the other one which makes humiliation of soul necessary to true exaltation.
The Rabbi's arguments are of two kinds: first, those which are intended to show that the wording of the chapter is inapplicable to Jesus, and, secondly, those which are intended to show that they directly refer to the nation of Israel. We propose to consider first the former class of arguments, and secondly the latter, afterwards examining briefly the doctrine of a suffering Messiah.
200] (1). R. Isaac and others urge that the language of this chapter does not correspond with what we know of Jesus.
(i). God speaks throughout it of "My servant." But how can Jesus (if he is God Himself, as Christians assert) be called a servant? We reply, Why not? What Christians affirm on the strength of the New Testament is that Jesus, though very God, took also the nature of man, and as man could of course be servant.
(ii). No, replies R. Isaac, that will not do at all, because I have already shown in Chapter 10 that according to Jesus' own words He was not God. If so, the Rabbi ought not to raise any objection to the application of the term "servant" to Him. But we do not for a moment grant the truth of his argument. For we, on the other hand, have shown in paragraphs 113, 114, convincingly to our own mind, that the terms employed by Jesus (to which the Rabbi refers) are quite consistent with knowledge on His part that He was God, and also with other terms used by Him which expressly claim this. The Jesus described in the New Testament, the Jesus for whom men have laid down their lives, the Jesus in whose name Christians have lived, is man in the fullest sense, as well as also God in the fullest sense.** A recent writer curiously misunderstands Christianity when he speaks of Christians believing in a "semi-human saviour," and can allow himself to write of the Christian doctrine of the Atonement "that one god should have died an ignominious death to appease the implacable fury of another god." We can only reply that it would be well to learn what Christianity does teach before speaking so inaccurately about it. We have never heard of any Christians who believe in a saviour who is half man and half God, nor, in modern times, of any who regard Jesus as one God appeasing the wrath of the Father, another God. To say this is a mere parody of Christianity and of the teaching of the New Testament. The Christian conception of Jesus is of One who is fully and wholly man, and yet fully and wholly God, and of His atonement as involving no manner of contradiction between what we (in our poverty of diction to express eternal truths) call the two Persons in the one Godhead.201] (iii). "He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high." This, it is urged, cannot be true of Jesus, for He was condemned to death, and died like one of the lowest of the people. Once again, the description may not suit the Rabbi's idea of what Jesus was, but confessedly it does suit the representation of Him found in the New Testament, the only one with which our discussion is concerned. For, according to this, Jesus is now indeed exalted, and is seated at the right hand of God.
202] (iv). "He shall see his seed" (יראה זרע). This phrase is more difficult. The Rabbi urges that זרע always means children of the flesh, not spiritual children, such as disciples and followers, and that as Jesus had no children the phrase contradicts the New Testament description of Him. Yet in Genesis 3:15, God says to the serpent: "thy seed" (זרעך), and we have already seen in paragraph 133 that the verse can hardly refer to a literal serpent and its brood. It is much more likely that God's words refer to the old serpent, the Devil, and his followers, i.e., that זרע is used not of natural but of spiritual offspring. Besides, may not we Christians argue fairly that the word זרע is really on a par with other words of similar import, such as ,ילד ,בכור ,בנים which are undoubtedly used in a spiritual sense in the Bible,* and that therefore even if we cannot point to any parallel usage of this very word we may still take it so here? Further, we must not forget that post-Biblical Jewish teachers did not find that difficulty in using זרע in the spiritual sense which R. Isaac finds. R. Aqiba, for example, interprets the phrase in Ecclesiaste 11:6, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand," by "If thou hadst disciples in thy youth get disciples also in thy old age" (Bereshith R. chap. 61, on Gen 25:1). And R. Judan b. Shalom explains the promise to Abraham, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called," by "Whosoever believes in two worlds shall be called thy seed, but whosoever does not believe in two worlds shall not be called thy seed" (Bereshith R. chap. 53 on Gen 21:12). If then we find the word זרע used by post-Biblical writers in the sense of spiritual seed, and if we find that this rests on at least some firm support in the Bible, we cannot affirm that in itself the word is contradictory to what we know of Jesus, who has indeed had multitudes of sons and daughters in the faith.* e.g. Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:20.203] (v). Connected with this is the difficulty felt by the Rabbi in the next clause: "He shall prolong his days." It is urged, first, that this term cannot refer to Jesus as God because it would be no mark of triumph to God that He should prolong days, seeing that He necessarily lives for ever; and secondly, that if we apply it to Jesus as man, then also it does not hold good, for Jesus died at the early age of thirty-three. How then on either consideration does Jesus satisfy this promise? To the second part of the objection it may fairly be answered that what is here said of the Servant is expressly placed by the prophet after, and not before, His death. He is said in the eighth and ninth verses to have been put to death, and this tenth verse says that if He offers atonement with His own life He shall prolong His days and see seed. The Servant is described as living after death and prolonging His days. Is there any contradiction here to the New Testament picture of Jesus?
If we turn to the first part of the objection; that if the term "He shall prolong his days" is applied to Jesus as God it becomes meaningless, we see that this also rests upon a misunderstanding of Christian teaching. Jesus, according to us Christians, is not merely God as such, but God who has become incarnate and has thus placed Himself in some sense under the limitations of time and space. As such, as God incarnate, He can receive the reward of His self-sacrifice by obtaining in a special sense length of days, not being overcome by the mortal combat to which He subjected Himself, but triumphing over it, and prolonging His days as God incarnate for ever and ever. R. Isaac does not understand the meaning of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.
204] (vi). "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong." How does this suit Jesus? Who are "the great" and "the strong"? Let the Rabbi himself supply the answer. For later in this section he says that "the great" are the prophets. If so, Jesus may assuredly take His place among them, for no prophet has had so many followers as He. "The strong" too, he says, are the nations. But according to the New Testament, the only authority on Jesus whom we can recognize, it is precisely the nations who in the time to come will carry their wealth into His kingdom (Rev 21:26), sharing, as it were, their spoil with Him.
205] (vii). Lastly, there are the words, "He made intercessions for the transgressors."
The Rabbi asks: to whom, when He was Himself God? Once more I repeat that, at any rate, this forms no contradiction to the New Testament, the point which we are now considering. Jesus is pictured there again and again as praying to His Father in heaven, and interceding for men. For as the Incarnate One He can pray to His Father in heaven for everything He needs. Nay, more than that, the truly Christian idea of Jesus is that of one who never exercises His divine power for Himself, but rather lives day by day, both physically and spiritually, as one who is dependent on His Father. This may seem strange to a Jew, and no doubt it does, but it is clear that he may not turn round and argue that because the Servant in Isaiah 52, 53 prays to God he is therefore acting unlike Jesus. The Jew would do well to face the question of the extraordinarily close correspondence between the language of the prophet and the description of Jesus given in the New Testament.
206] (2). R. Isaac and others urge that this chapter refers directly to the Nation of Israel. This indeed was the reply given so far back as the time of Origen in the third century by a Jew with whom he conversed,* and it is certainly made to-day by ninety-nine Jews out of every hundred. This is not surprising. Not only is it a very easy solution of the difficulties surrounding the existence of the Jewish nation, but it falls in with the self-complacency, which, latent in every man, is developed in none more strongly than in a Jew. He never fails to reckon himself the object of the Lord's favour, and to expect that God will work great things through his means.* c. Celsum, i. 55. I cannot recall another example for several centuries.There are too some arguments for it derived from the passage itself which are attractive at first sight.
207] (i). Appeal is made to the very forms of some of the words. In the eighth verse we read: "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" (מפשע עמי נגע למו). It is said that למו is really a plural form, and should therefore be translated "were they stricken"; or that, at the very least, the servant is not to be regarded as a single individual, but rather as containing within himself several units; that, in fact, although the servant is spoken of in the singular throughout the chapter, yet here the true thought of the Prophet is seen, for he cannot help using a term that implies plurality.
So it is said, but the fact that in Phoenician, which is almost identical with Hebrew, the suffix for the third person singular ends in ם makes the argument doubtful. Besides, we find in the Bible, and even in the very part of it containing our chapter (the second half of the Book of Isaiah) a passage (Isa 44:15) where the word occurs in the singular: "he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto" (ויסגד למו).
208] (ii). But it is further urged that even though there be nothing decisive in the chapter itself, when considered by itself, the phrase "the Servant of the LORD" has already been used several times in this Book to designate the nation, and that therefore it must be used here in the same sense.
I grant that in many places the phrase "My Servant" refers to the nation, e.g., 41:8, 9. But in some places this is not the case. Consider 42:1-6, where the Servant is said to be "for a covenant of the people," as well as "for a light of the Gentiles," and 49:5-8, where the Servant is plainly distinguished from the nation of Israel whom He is to raise up and restore, and to whom He is to be made "a covenant of the people." The nation cannot be said to be its own covenant. 209] (iii). How are the Sufferings explained by Jews who understand the chapter to refer to the Nation, or even to a part of the Nation, the true Israel?
That all Jewish writers emphasize the importance of these sufferings goes without saying. Yet only comparatively few writers allow themselves to accept the full meaning of the Prophet's language. Most whittle away the force of his words, and refuse to give the full weight to the sufferings that these describe. Let me speak first of the few and then turn to the many.
(a). Aben Ezra says that the sufferings mean that "the sins which the Gentiles ought to have borne Israel has borne" (on v 12). And Rashi says, "Israel has been chastised in order that all the nations should be atoned for by Israel's chastisements" (on v 4). It will be observed that in these quotations there is at least this fact recognized, that the sufferings endured by the Servant of the LORD are described by the Prophet as vicarious. But Scripture nowhere else mentions such a doctrine with regard to the sufferings of Israel. Its language is rather that of Amos, when he writes: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities" (3:2).
210] (b). Most Jewish teachers however do not consider the sufferings as strictly vicarious, but regard them in much the same manner as Christians regard the sufferings of St. Paul, necessary means whereby he was able to accomplish his task of preaching the knowledge of God to others. "To enable Israel," says Deutsch, "to accomplish its mission, the Infinite Wisdom found it good to scatter it in the whole world, and to let it suffer there. It is just in suffering that Israel takes courage, and holds fast to God and His teaching. The nations, in whose midst it suffers, are through it becoming acquainted with the true knowledge of God and the teaching of Revelation, and turn to these ever more and more. Consequently, strictly speaking, Israel suffers only through and for the sins of the Gentiles, namely, to make them free from sin in order to be able to bring them true salvation and healing from delusion and error.....vv. 4, 5 mean that Israel must suffer because we Gentiles are sinners, in order to fulfil his mission with reference to us" (Chizzuk Emunah, 1873, Anmerkungen p. 397).
As we read such remarks do we not feel that, however truly they may express some of the terms of this chapter, if these stood alone, yet they come very far short of the intention expressed by its language as a whole? It is all very well to say the Prophet means only to speak of suffering endured in the process of bringing God's message to a world, or even to the ungodly of one's own nation, but the terms are far too strong for us to water them down like this. Consider, for example, "Surely our sickness He hath borne, and as for our sins He carried them." For few would venture to imitate a respected Jewish writer, who translates: "Surely he hath borne griefs caused by us, and carried sorrows caused by us (Dr. Michael Friedlander, The Jewish Religion, 1891, p. 224); a rendering which appears to be completely opposed to the plain meaning of the words, and to be merely the result of controversial exigencies.
211] (iv). Lastly, have we any right to attribute to the Jewish nation such meekness in the face of persecution as is here described? Dr. Kohut could bring himself to write of the Jews: "We have suffered much and murmured less; the annals of history teem with the atrocious crimes of cruel Torquemadas, but fail to reproach us with even a breath of remonstrance... We whispered sweetly of our wrongs, not imprecations of revenge, but hope-fraught hymns of glad release" (Discussions on Isaiah 52-13-53:12, 1893, pp. 3 sq). But meekness is not, and never has been, a characteristic of Jews, and they have not hesitated to call down the vengeance of God upon their enemies in their private or their public devotions. So for example in the Service for the Festival of the Dedication: "When Thou shalt have prepared a slaughter of the blaspheming foe, I will complete with song and psalm the dedication of thy altar" (Authorised Daily Prayer Book, 1892, p. 275), and, at the end of the same piece, though omitted by Dr. Singer: "Lay bare Thy holy arm, and bring the time of salvation near. Take vengeance for the blood of Thy servants from the wicked nation" (Seder Derek ha Chajjim, Vienna, 1877, ii., p. 96b).
212] Nor do we ever see in the history of the Jewish nation that its energy in propagating the faith has brought upon it suffering. Can a single example, we ask the question in all sincerity, be shown of persecution being brought upon the Jews because of their earnestness in endeavouring to spread the knowledge of the true God? Jews, of course, have often borne martyrdom because they would not sacrifice their own faith at the bidding of so-called Christians. But it is almost impossible to find any occasions in their history since the rise of Christianity when they made even any serious endeavour to spread the knowledge of God among others. Their temper and purposes have been utterly different from those of the Servant of the Lord described for us here. If the Prophet intended his picture to be that of the Nation of Israel, either as a whole, or in any large part, he has certainly drawn it very badly.
I doubt not then that the Prophet in this chapter describes a personal Messiah as making atonement for others through His sufferings.
213] (3). A suffering Messiah! This seems to many Jews, I am well aware, a contradiction in terms. The ordinary Jewish conception of Messiah is that He is a king, triumphant in worldly power, and leading the Jewish nation on to victory over its enemies. What connexion has He with suffering?
214] (i). Yet Jews do connect suffering with Messiah.
(a). We all know that Messiah ben Joseph will (to quote Prof. Buttenweiser in the Jewish Encyclopedia, viii. pp. 5 1 1 sq.) "gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, re-establish the Temple-worship and set up his own dominion. Thereupon Armilus, according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to the other, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah b. Joseph, and slay him. His corpse, according to one group, will lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; according to the other, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah b. David comes and resurrects him." Into the origin of this strange notion of a Messiah b. Joseph this is not the place to enter. It may have been connected with the fate of Barcochba in the second century. But observe that Messiah b. Joseph dies.
215] (b). It is not so with Messiah b. David. He does not die, but He does suffer. Even Messiah b. David does not attain His heritage without suffering. Let me quote the Pesiqta Rabbathi (Lector Friedmann's edition, Vienna, 1880, p. 159b): "'Righteous and having salvation' (Zech 9:9). This is Messiah, who justifies His punishment for Israel, when they laugh at Him as He sits in prison. Therefore He is called Righteous. But why having salvation? Because He justifies His punishment for them, and says to them: Are ye not all My sons? But ye shall be saved by the mercy of the Holy One, blessed be He. Meek and riding upon an ass. This is Messiah. Why meek? Because He endured affliction all those years in prison, and the transgressors in Israel laughed at Him......Through the merit of Messiah, the Holy One, blessed be He, is a shield over them, and leadeth them by a right way and redeemeth them, for it is said: 'with weeping shall they come,' &c. (Jer 31:9)."*See also other passages in Dalman, Der leidende und der sterbende Messias, 1888, pp. 35-39.It is therefore plain that the connexion of Messiah with suffering is not so contradictory to Jewish teaching as is often supposed.
216] (ii). The reason, as may be inferred from the passage from the Pesiqta Rabbathi, is that Jews see a close connexion between suffering and merit. A man, they think, can win merit sufficient for his own salvation, and more than sufficient. He can have enough left over to be a benefit to others. Jews therefore are prepared to accept the statement that Messiah by His suffering can acquire enough merit for others. Hence R. Elijah de Vidas (1575 A.D.) is able even to say that Isaiah 53:5 means: "Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself."** Pusey, Neubauer and Driver, Isa. 53, Translations, p. 386. Texts, p. 331. On the mistake of referring this part of Elijah de Vidas' words to the Tanna d'Be Elijahu see Dalman loc. cit. p. 70.217] (iii). The doctrine therefore of a Messiah who by His suffering procures the salvation of men is not in itself opposed to Jewish thought. And yet I venture to think that the Jewish form of it is absolutely opposed to true morality and true religion. For the Christian doctrine of a suffering Messiah is the very antithesis to it. The Jewish doctrine is that a man acquires merit by suffering, and that this merit is enough for the whole world, yet nothing can be more opposed to the teaching of the New Testament than this. It is abhorrent to the teaching of the New Testament to think that any man, whoever he is, can ever do more than it is his duty to do, and so can lay up a store of merit available for other people. If some Christians think this possible, it is because they do not weigh the words of their Holy Book, which says, "Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10).
218] (iv). What then is the Christian Doctrine of a suffering Messiah? Let us put aside all preconceived notions of difficulties, all prejudices either for or against Christianity. Let us ask ourselves whether self-sacrifice is not greater and nobler in proportion to the worth and the position of him who makes it. Let us go on to ask whether the highest conceivable notion of self-sacrifice is not that of the self-sacrifice of God, supposing that such a thing be possible for Him. But that it is possible would appear to be implied in the very fact that His nature is love itself. It would be strange and monstrous indeed if He had given to His creatures the possibility of doing the very noblest thing of which we can conceive, the possibility of self-sacrifice, and were Himself incapable of it. Love must from its very nature, one would suppose, be capable of sacrificing itself for the object upon which it bestows its affection. So we may with certainty affirm that the Eternal, blessed be He, can sacrifice Himself. Of the form and the way in which He would do so, if He were to do so, we, with our ignorance of the Divine nature, could not expect to be able to form any a priori opinion. It would be for Him, in His unfathomable wisdom and His ineffable love, to determine that.
But I would ask you to consider this: supposing that He, His very Presence, were to take human nature, and live as man, is it not probable, in the first place, that His life would be such a life as the life of Jesus of Nazareth described for us in the New Testament? Can you form a nobler conception of the life of God upon earth than the life of Jesus? And is it not probable, in the second place, that the Ideal Servant (for we cannot suppose that, if the very Presence of God took human nature, He would take any position of less moral worth than that of an ideal servant, the very culminating point of ethical superiority) would experience something like the treatment which the prophet says the Ideal Servant received? God in human nature would be treated (alas, there is no doubt about it) in much the same way as the Servant was treated in the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
We Christians affirm that this was the case. We say that the very Presence of God did take human nature in Jesus of Nazareth, and that He was treated as Isaiah 53 describes. The Section in the Book of Isaiah does not suit, as we have seen, the Nation of Israel, and does suit Jesus of Nazareth. If Jesus was indeed God we should expect that He would receive no other treatment than that which He did receive. A suffering Messiah who by His sufferings obtains salvation for men is a strictly moral and ethical conception only if He be Divine, and a Divine Messiah must suffer.
5. UNCLEANNESS OF HEART.(Isa 64:6 (5). "For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." Chapter 23
219] A Christian said to R. Isaac of Troki: No one is sinless; even your righteous men (much more your sinners) cannot satisfy God's requirements, as this passage shews; how therefore can you draw near to God, and obtain salvation and release from exile, seeing that you are rejected like an unclean thing?
The Rabbi replied: Yes, your premisses are true, but your conclusion false; our salvation does not depend upon ourselves, but on God's promise. He will save us from this captivity, and forgive us, for His name's sake, not our own deserts. Thus our salvation does not depend, as you suppose, upon our own righteousness.
(1). Pausing here for a moment, we grant freely that the Rabbi has the best of the argument, and confess that the Christian who discussed the matter with him, had, like many another nominal Christian, fallen into legalistic ways of looking at salvation. In fact, here the Jew is the better Christian of the two, for he gives more glory to God, having more faith in His promises.
220] (2). But when the Rabbi leaves his general remarks and proceeds to a detailed examination of the passage his exegesis becomes faulty. He says that the verse refers to so-called good deeds done by a man for his own glory. Yet there does not appear to be any hint of this in the passage. His interpretation of the connexion of thought may indeed be right. He finds that it is: Because we are unclean in heart therefore our deeds are imperfect. But according to him the whole passage deals with the ungodly only. To us, at any rate, the confession seems to be of wider reference, and to include all, whether godly or ungodly. If so, although the deduction drawn from it by the person with whom the Rabbi was disputing is false, yet the passage does confirm the interpretation usually current among Christians, that the righteous acts even of the godly are spiritually defective. Jews sometimes believe this in word and in heart, but most Jews, as, alas, most Christians, too often forget it.
6.. RELIGION TO PERMEATE ALL LIFE.(Jer 3:16) "And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, 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 any more." Chapter 24
221] The Christian argues that Jeremiah here informs us that the Law of Moses, which was laid up by the side of the ark, was to be abolished, and not to be mentioned or remembered any more.
The Rabbi replies that this interpretation is untrue for two reasons; first, even Christians acknowledge that they ought to keep the Ten Commandments, which were placed within the ark; and secondly, the true meaning of this and the following verse is that the whole of Jerusalem will be so holy that Gentiles will not come into it, much less think of visiting the Temple and the ark.
222] (1). It will be convenient to take the latter argument first. Here again the Rabbi's exegesis is remarkable and indefensible. For verse 16b is evidently spoken by Jews, not by Gentiles, who do not appear until verse 17.* He therefore puts an intolerable strain on the words when he represents them as the utterance of Gentiles, instead of being, as they are plainly, the utterance of Jews. Yet our readers will doubtless notice that whether his exegesis is right or wrong it is irrelevant to the question at issue. For Jeremiah plainly intends his language to mean that not only the Holy of Holies, or the Temple, or the Temple precincts, are holy, but all Jerusalem. Zechariah declares that the very bells of the horses shall have inscribed upon them the words found on the High Priest's mitre, "Holy unto the LORD"; and the very "pots in the LORD's house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holy unto the LORD of hosts" (14:20, 21). So Jeremiah means that true religion will, one day, permeate the whole of life, and that not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also, will acknowledge this and live accordingly. His statement, that is to say, while deeply interesting and important, hardly touches the question of the permanence, or otherwise, of the Law, although it does not suggest that its observance is not of the primary im portance which Jews affirm (see par. 178).* The only support that the Rabbi can find for his interpretation lies in the change from the second person to the third. But this is much too common an occurrence in Hebrew to permit any weight to be laid upon it.223] (2). As for the Rabbi's first point, about the Ten Commandments, we have already shewn in paragraph 173 that Christians observe them, not because they are part of the Law of Moses, but because they are of permanent validity, whether they are contained in that Law or not. On the general question of the permanence of the Law of Moses it must suffice to refer the reader to what has been said in paragraphs 166-179.
7. A SOJOURNER IN THE LAND.(Jer 14:8) "O thou hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in the time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a sojourner in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?" Chapter 25
224] The Rabbi tells us that a Christian scholar with whom he was conversing interpreted these words of the Divine Redeemer who was to appear as a stranger in the land, a prophecy which was fulfilled in Jesus!
I have no word of defence for this interpretation. R. Isaac argues perfectly rightly from this and the next verse that Jeremiah, foreseeing famine, addresses these words to the LORD, urging that He is no stranger, but the owner of the land, and therefore will surely help. He says also, quite rightly, that the figures used imply that while a mere stranger cannot deliver another, the LORD is no stranger, but One in the midst of us; also that although even a native cannot deliver another if he himself is troubled or oppressed, the LORD is not thus; also that although even a strong man cannot deliver another if the oppressor is too strong, the LORD can never be in such a case. This chapter of the Chizzuk Emunah is an excellent example of the Rabbi's power of good and practical exegesis.
225] But how did the Christian think of such an interpretation as he puts forward? Perhaps the answer is to be found in the fact that he was a scholar, thus shewing the reality of these conversations adduced by the Rabbi. Certainly he was not a Hebrew, nor, in all probability, a Greek scholar, but if he was accustomed to read Latin commentators he might easily have met with his explanation. For it seems to be due ultimately to the translation in the Vulgate, Exspectatio, instead of Spes, Israel, with Jerome's comment: "We have sinned against Thee, and have done evil before Thee; we wait for Thy coming, Who savest Israel, not by its merit, but by Thy mercy...... Our Christian writers think that this is said of the future dispensation of Christ, that He is to be a stranger in the land, and for a little time to use its guest-house, and as a traveller and a strong man, leaving Israel, to go to the multitude of the Gentiles...... And Thy name has been invoked upon us, that we should be called Christians, therefore forsake us not, nor forget us, to whom the voices of all the prophets have sung songs of Thy future coming" (Vallarsi, iv. 939 sq.)** This application of the passage does not appear to have occurred to those writers who used the Septuagint. At least I can find no trace of it in Chrysostom or Theodoret. Neither, I think, does Augustine allude to it.
8. THE RETURN TO PALESTINE.(Jer 17:4) "And I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger which shall burn for ever." Chapter 26
226] Certain Christian scholars have argued from this verse that it is futile for the Jews to expect deliverance from the present captivity, but the Rabbi, after showing that the phrase "for ever" (עד עולם) is used in more than one sense, reminds his readers that a deliverance is clearly foretold by the Prophets. See, for example, Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 30:8; Ezekiel 39:28, 29. In this we agree with him, so that there is no need to discuss the question further. See paragraphs 86-89.
(Jer 18:7) "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it."
227] Christians, it is said, argue from this and the following verses that Jews must remember that God's promises are conditional, and that therefore seeing that, in spite of all God's repeated forgiveness of them, they have sinned time after time His promises towards them no longer hold good. The Rabbi replies that of course God's promises are conditional, and that Jews never suppose anything else; but they also remember that if they turn to God in true repentance of heart, they, notwithstanding their many sins, will receive the promises, as many prophecies state. Repentance indeed, he adds, is a great root-principle, a nail on which all hangs. Further, he says, there are also many absolute promises of the return to Palestine, in which no condition is expressly mentioned.
The Rabbi's argument as a whole appears to be perfectly valid, whatever may be thought of some of the details, and therefore there is no occasion to dwell longer upon it.
9. RACHEL WEEPING.(Jer 31:15) "Thus saith the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not."
(Matt 2:16-18) "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had carefully learned of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she would not be comforted, because they are not."
Chapter 28 and Part 2, Chapter 5
228] R. Isaac says that the context of the passage in the book of Jeremiah clearly shows that he did not mean to refer to the massacre of the Innocents by Herod, as Christians say on the strength of the passage in the first Gospel, but spoke of the captivity of the Ten Tribes (Ephraim, and indeed Manasseh, being sprung from Joseph who was the son of Rachel), for the context speaks of their return.
I quite agree with the Rabbi. No one in these days supposes for an instant that Jeremiah referred to the massacre of the Innocents.** Whether Jeremiah refers solely to the Ten Tribes, or includes the Two as well, is quite irrelevant to our subject, as also the question whether he placed Rachel's tomb in the North of Jerusalem (1 Sam 10:2), or at Bethlehem (Gen 35:19, 20, 48:7). It has been suggested that the real tomb was at Bethlehem, and that the Benjamites erected a monument in memory of their ancestress upon their own land, on a spot whence the real sepulchre could be seen.229] But to make this an objection to the quotation of the passage by St. Matthew is a mark of ignorance, if the objector be a Gentile, and of a strange forgetfulness, if the objector be a Jew.
See The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, pp. 31 sq.
It is, for example, amazing to find a recent Jewish writer against Christianity, in an attack which, I fully grant, contains some points worthy of consideration when he is dealing with Christian history, not only saying, "There is here not the slightest scope for the idea that Jeremiah prophesied thereby the slaying of the children at Bethlehem," but also adding, "nor is there any warrant for Matthew's use of the passage for his purpose." For what does the writer mean by "warrant"? He, as a Jew who makes great pretensions to Jewish learning, ought to know that it is impossible to read a page or two of the homiletical Midrashim without meeting quotation after quotation from the Scriptures adduced with just as little basis as regards their literal meaning as this quotation in the First Gospel. Does therefore any educated person, I mean of course educated in Jewish literature, who reads the Midrashim, say: "there is no warrant for the author's use of these passages for his purpose?" If he were to say so every Jewish scholar would reply: "The author adduces the passages, not from ignorance of their literal meaning, much less from any intention to deceive, but because they illustrate his subject, or have some moral teaching bearing upon it, or because they serve one or other of the hundred and one objects with which Jewish writers do quote Scripture." No one in his senses blames the authors of the Midrashim for quoting the Old Testament in Jewish ways.** Mr. W. H. Lowe (whose defection from Hebrew studies one never ceases to regret) gives a striking example in his brilliant Fragment of the Talmud Babli, Pesachim (1879, p. 69) from the Aboth d'Rabbi Nathan (ed. Schechter p. 6): "When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he was cast out, to fulfil (לקײם) Psa 49:12, 'Man abideth not in honour: he is like the beasts that perish.'"No one ought to dream of blaming the author of the First Gospel for doing likewise.* Rather, if he did not sometimes quote the Old Testament in this way, there would be a strong presumption that he was not a Jew by birth and upbringing. Jews of all people ought to be able to recognize the Jewish mode of thought in the First Gospel, and to understand that when the author was writing a homiletical account of the life of Jesus for his fellow Jewish Christians, he would naturally use the Old Testament in the very way to which he and they had been accustomed.* Especially as Rachel was, as we may say, the patron saint of Bethlehem.If R. Isaac, a Karaite, did not remember this, yet Jews of to-day should do so. To object to St. Matthew's quotation from Jeremiah 31:15 is, I repeat, the mark either of ignorance pardonable in a Gentile, or of a strange forgetfulness of Jewish methods in quoting Scripture, unpardonable in a Rabbinic Jew. So far from St. Matthew's quotation being evidence against his Gospel, it is evidence in its favour, as the work of a man wholly accustomed to view the Old Testament from a Jewish standpoint. He, a Jew, accepted Jesus as the Messiah on quite other grounds, and, having done so, loved to illustrate his faith by verbal analogies in the Old Testament. He knew that his fellow Jewish believers, taught as they had been by Rabbinic methods, would understand him; he was not concerned with Gentiles, or with the frivolous objections of Sadducees in his own time and of Karaites in the future.
10. A NEW COVENANT.(Jer 31:31) "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." Chapter 29, and Part 2, Chapter 97
230] Christians, says R. Isaac, bring forward this verse as a proof-text for their faith, asserting that Jeremiah here prophesies that God will give to the people of Israel a new Law, namely, the Gospel. R. Isaac urges in reply that this is not the case, for a covenant is not the same thing as a Law. Was not a covenant of peace given to Phinehas (Num 25:11, 12)? Yet no one supposes that he received a new Law. Did not God make a covenant with Jacob, and with Isaac, and with Abraham (Lev 26:42)? Yet no one thinks that He gave to each a separate Law. No, when God here promises to give a new covenant He means that it shall not be broken, as was the covenant made when Israel came out of Egypt, but shall be permanent, because written on men's hearts. The one Divine Law which they had long possessed shall be on their hearts and nevermore be forgotten.
231] (1), The Rabbi is quite right as far as he goes. Jeremiah certainly does not say that there shall be a new Law, and doubtless never imagined such a thing for a moment. Neither does the New Testament anywhere say that a new Law has been given. Christ, as has already been pointed out in paragraph 182, never professed to give a new Law in the sense that the books of Moses are, or contain, a Law. It is indeed well known that many Christian writers, including some of very early date, have attributed such a new Law to Christ, and have spoken of the "New Law" of Christianity in contrast to the "Old Law" of the Jews, but neither term can be found between the covers of the New Testament. Never, I repeat, in a single passage of the New Testament is the Gospel called a new Law, no, not in Hebrews 8:8, where the passage from Jeremiah 31 is quoted at length. The New Testament writers speak of a "new covenant," as does Jeremiah, and are fully aware that this is not at all the same thing as a "new Law." If Christian writers have used the term a "new Law" as applicable to Christianity, they have done so with a painful lack of precision and with disastrous effects.
For indeed, as already partly indicated by the Rabbi's words, the term "covenant" is used of more things than the inauguration of the Law at Sinai (Exo 19:5). It marks God's choice of Phinehas and his line for the priesthood (Num 25:12, 13), and of David and his line for the kingship (2 Sam 23:5, compare 7:15, 16, where however the word "covenant" does not actually occur). But its most emphatic and most frequent usage is of the choice of Abraham in the promise to him and his descendants (Gen 17:2-21
). In fact it would appear as though all the other "covenants" mentioned, including that of the Law at Sinai, were but means whereby to carry out this covenant with Abraham. Therefore was it that they were repeated, in order that God's promise to him should not fail of accomplishment. Hence if the various covenants mentioned proved to be insufficient for accomplishing the purpose that Abraham and his descendants should be blessed, and also that through them blessing should be brought to the Gentiles (Gen 22:18, see this passage explained in parr. 137-143), it was only to be expected that yet another "covenant "should be given, by which this purpose should be brought about. For Jeremiah does say that God will make a new covenant.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
232] (2). What he means by this is shown in the verses that immediately follow. He evidently does not suppose any change in the substance of the Law, but only in the manner of being able to observe it: "I will put my Law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it." Here we may note the threefold effect of this new covenant. First, instead of the Law being treated as something external, something which stands outside of men, and claims to be fulfilled by them, it will belong to their hearts, being written even there. But when it is there, it will, we may suppose, necessarily work its way thence into every detail of their lives. For what we love, we endeavour to copy. "I will put my Law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it"; and if this takes place we "shall be known and read of all men," as though we were the very epistle of God.
Secondly, there shall be a new personal relationship to God, and a knowledge of Him of a far closer kind than ever before: "I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD" (vv 33, 34).
The third effect, or rather the basis upon which this knowledge rests, is forgiveness: "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more" (v 34). Thus it is not by men's actions, i.e., by keeping the Law, that this knowledge of God is obtained, but by forgiveness on God's part of the sins of His people. The new Covenant through which the Law is written on Israel's heart, begins not with our works but with God's grace, announcing the forgiveness of sins.
Is it not in this that the difference of this New Covenant from the Old really consists, that, unlike that, it starts with forgiveness of sins; that it does not suggest the possibility of sins being forgiven only after a long course of obedience to God's commands, but proclaims that from the first God will remember sins no more, so utterly are they cast behind His back? This appears from the words of Jeremiah to be God's plan of grace. Is it effective? Has it answered its purpose? Let the history of individual persons in the Christian Church supply the answer. For it is of the very essence of St. Paul's experience and teaching, that although he was a sinner he had been saved and forgiven by God, not through works, but of grace. And this have also countless multitudes of Christians found to be true.
233] (3). In itself then this statement by Jeremiah has nothing to do with the abrogation of the Law, much less does it affirm that God will issue a new Law. It does say that by this new Covenant the Law shall be far better observed than before.
Let a man accept God's invitation of pardon, exercising personal faith upon Him, especially upon God in His fullest revelation of Himself in Christ (if this glorious message has been brought to him), and he will receive power to keep the Law. Whether he still lays phylacteries, still eats only Kosher food, still observes minute rules about the Sabbath, still, we may even add, circumcises his childrenall these things are of secondary importance. They belong, so to speak, to the machinery of acquiring godliness, and (it must be acknowledged) they are forms of machinery which again and again have proved to be hindrances rather than helps. Living union with God, especially living union with God through the knowledge of Christ, makes the Law a delight, and brings the fulfilment of God's demand for holiness infinitely nearer than under the old Covenant of the command, Do this and live.
Thus God's words through Jeremiah do not announce the coming of a new Law, but of a new principle of keeping the Law, according to which God forgives the sinner, writes the Law on his heart, brings him into a new relation to Himself, and makes Himself known to him. It is this which has been prophesied, and this which, as we Christians hold, has been fulfilled through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
11. HOLY DAYS.
234] R. Isaac tells us that Christians endeavour to prove from Hosea 2:11 (13) that the observance of holy days is to cease when Messiah comes, and that as He has come it is futile for Jews to keep them now.
I have no desire to contest the Rabbi's argument that this verse has nothing to do with the time of Messiah, but refers to the lonesome days of captivity in Babylon. On the general subject why Christians do not observe Sabbath, but keep Sunday instead, it is sufficient to refer to paragraphs 166-172.
12. THE RIGHTEOUS SOLD.
235] Amos 2:6: "They have sold the righteous for silver." Some Christians assert that this passage refers to Judas, who sold the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. R. Isaac on the contrary affirms that it refers to the courts of Micah's time, in which judges condemned one who was really in the right because of some small bribe which they received. He also contends in the same section against those who deny the future restoration of the Jews. Both parts of the Rabbi's argument are sound.
13. THE RETURN TO PALESTINE.
236] Amos 5:2: "The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise." Christians, it is said, urge that this passage shows that Israel shall never arise from captivity, and that the Jews are looking in vain for their redemption from it. The Rabbi shows clearly enough that this interpretation both of this passage and of the fact itself is quite mistaken. I heartily agree with him. On the relation of the Restoration to the time of Messiah see paragraphs 86-98.
14. BETHLEHEM, THE BIRTHPLACE OF MESSIAH.(Micah 5:2 (1)) "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Chapter 33
237] This was one of the very earliest passages in the Old Testament to be quoted in connexion with the Lord Jesus. For it was adduced by the body of Jewish teachers before whom Herod the Great laid his question where Messiah should be born (Matt 2:1-12
). More than thirty years had passed since Herod had murdered nearly all the Sanhedrin (in 37 or 36 B.C.), and those in power now would not be likely to refuse him information of so simple a kind as this, even though they longed for his death, and were only too well acquainted with his dread of a Messiah. Nothing too is more probable than that they would give this answer to Herod's question, for it is entirely in accord with the Rabbinic custom of insisting on the most literal, and most self-evident, meaning of a passage.
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.See The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, pp. 26-30.238] (1). R. Isaac however will have none of it. He affirms that the Prophet refers to Bethlehem, not as the birthplace of Messiah, but as the birthplace of David, the home of the family to which Messiah was to belong.
There is much to be said in favour of the Rabbi's contention. It is quite possible that this, rather than the other, was the meaning of the prophet Micah himself. But every Jew trained in Rabbinic lore will acknowledge that Scripture has a tendency to mean more than it meant even to its human writer, and will confess that the passage would be fulfilled best if the Messiah were not only to be of the stock of David, but also Himself to be born at Bethlehem.
This twofold correspondence took place in the case of the Lord Jesus. He was confessedly of Davidic lineage, for not only was Joseph a descendant of David, but Mary as well (see par 12). Also He was born at Bethlehem. So far then, He fully satisfies the words of Micah.
239] (2). But the Prophet says more. First, that He is to be ruler in Israel. We have already seen in paragraphs 25-30 how hard a saying this is to many Jews. For R. Isaac says that Jesus never did become a ruler, and that, on the contrary, the men of His generation ruled over Him. Yet a little thought would have shown the Rabbi that a ruler is one whom men obey, and that in the whole history of Israel there has never been a person who has had so countless a multitude of subjects, Jews and Gentiles, who have obeyed him, often to the death, as the Lord Jesus. Explain it as we may, this is a simple statement of fact, and if so it cannot be denied that the prophet's words have been wonderfully, if strangely, fulfilled.
240] (3). Secondly, Micah says: "whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" (ומוצאתיו מקדם מימי עולם). What did Micah mean by this expression so strongly duplicated? Did he mean that the stock from which Messiah was to come had its origin from ancient times, even as far back as the time of David?* If so he must have had a very poor sense of what antiquity is. For not much more than three hundred years had elapsed since the birth of David at Bethle hem. If it is argued that the time counts from David on wards, to the date, perhaps very far distant, of a future Messiah, all that can be said is that this is a most unnatural method of explaining the words, and that they seem to refer plainly to time earlier, not later, than the prophet.* Both מקדם (Neh 12:46), and ימי עולם (Amos 9:11), can in themselves refer to David's time. The combination of the two terms is found here only.Yes, says someone, they certainly are to be reckoned backwards, not forwards, but they speak of David's ancestry, which went far back, through Boaz to Pharez and Judah, and thence to Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. This explanation is at least better. Yet so also went back the lineage, the known lineage, of many a man in Micah's time. The genealogies in the Books of Chronicles are amply sufficient to prove this. It seems incredible that Micah could use of the Messiah such an expression as "whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting," if it was intended to describe an antiquity in lineage to which hundreds of others could lay claim.
Another interpretation is that the thought of a Messiah existed in the Divine mind for long ages before the appearance of Messiah. No doubt it so existed. But that does not satisfy the language here. "Goings forth" cannot mean intentions, or plans, or purposes, of going forth. It is an abuse of language to interpret the term thus. It really does look then as though the term were intended to mean that Messiah Himself existed for ages before He appeared.
241] (4). To this the Rabbi replies that, as we Christians affirm that Messiah is God, then if this term "goings forth" refers to His pre-existence, this implies that God has a beginning. Why so? Surely the term "goings forth" does not necessarily involve the conception of beginning. The sun "goes forth" (Gen 19:23; השמש יצא) morning by morning, but it does not begin to be each morning. So with Messiah. The term says nothing about the commencement of His existence, but says that He comes forth, and has come forth, "from old, from everlasting."* With this the Christian doctrine of Messiah exactly corresponds. For the Christian doctrine is that there never was a period, time, or moment when He was not God. God the Father never existed without God the Son, any more than God the Son existed without God the Father.* As we have already noted that מקדם and ימי עולם are used of time under earthly conditions, so we may note here that both מקדם (Hab 1:12) and עולם (Isa 40:28, though not, as it seems,ימי עולם) are used of God.242] (5). We need not discuss at length the rest of the Rabbi's arguments. For he is not content with discussing this verse on its own merits. He endeavours to show that the context forbids its application to the Lord Jesus, for the prophet in 4:11-5:1 (Heb. 4:11-14) speaks of the coming of Gog and Magog after the return of the Jews to their own land. We have however already examined in paragraph 45 the relation which these events hold to the coming of Messiah, and must refer our readers to that paragraph. The verses that follow are more important, and R. Isaac devotes much space to an examination of them. They are very difficult, but briefly they tell us that God will give up His people "until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth," and then Messiah shall bring peace, and drive out the foes. Of course the Rabbi interprets the woman as the nation, and the travail-pains as sufferings to be borne before the coming of the Messiah. Even if this be right we may not forget that before the time of the Lord Jesus the nation had had great suffering, in the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the subsequent Captivity, the oppression by Artaxerxes Ochus in the fourth century B.C., the persecution and desecration wrought by Antiochus Epiphanes, and the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey, with the other humiliations inflicted by the Romans.
243] Yet the juxtaposition of the travailing woman with the birth of the ideal ruler who has existed "from of old, from everlasting" suggests that the prophecy is rather to be connected with that of the Virgin in Isaiah 7 (see parr 186-191), and that Micah, like his greater contemporary, adopts as his own the hope (whencesoever derived is of no importance) that the Deliverer will be born of a virgin-mother.
In either case it is plain that on Messiah's coming there are to be full blessings for Messiah's people and land.
244] We cannot however imagine that Divine compulsion would be used in order to accomplish this. If then any Jew of to-day were to suppose the possibility of the appearance of the Messiah in the first century of the present era, and to ask himself how He would be treated if, when He appeared, He confined Himself to the noblest and highest of all forms of government, that of moral influence, and his answer were (as we feel sure would be the case) that He would receive treatment similar to that which Jesus did in fact receive, what objection could be made? For God's promises are not absolute but conditional, and based upon moral events, and if the Jews did reject Messiah they had no right to expect the same results to follow as if they had accepted Him. The blessings announced by Micah were necessarily contingent upon the reception of Him through whom the blessings were to come.
15. THE LATTER GLORY OF THIS HOUSE.(Hagg 2:9) The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. Chapter 34
245] According to R. Isaac and the Christians of his time the right translation of this verse is that of the Authorized Version: "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts." The Rabbi tells us that Christians asserted that the second House had greater glory than the first because Jesus was born in its time.
R. Isaac discusses first the meaning of "glory" in this connexion. It may be, he says, the true, i.e., the spiritual, glory, and he notes that during the second temple there was no worship of false gods. Or it may be apparent and inferior glory, i.e., gold and silver (cf. v 8), and he notes that in the time of Herod the Great the second temple received many presents of gold, &c. Or, he says, the greater glory of the latter house may refer to the greater height of the building, or even the length of its existence, when compared with that of Solomon's temple. But as (according to his computation), it lasted only ten years longer, this superiority is hardly worth notice. He decides however that the passage does not really refer to the second temple at all (including Herod's) for in the immediate context God speaks of the shaking of heaven and earth, of the coming of Gog and Magog, of the advent of the true Messiah, prefigured by Zerubbabel, and thus of the building of another temple in His day. Then, adds the Rabbi, when that temple is built, peace will be everywhere, especially in the land of Israel, and then, in that temple, will the five things lacking to the second temple, though found in the first,* be restored, so that it will be greater than the second temple. It will in fact be greater than even the first temple, for the Shekinah, which may be explained as the visible presence of God, will dwell in it not fitfully but continuously.* R. Isaac gives these as the Ark (and the Mercy-seat and Cherubim), Urim and Thummim, the Holy Spirit, the Fire from heaven, the Anointing oil. But in T. B. Yoma 21b, the locus classicus, the list is: the Ark (and the Mercy-seat and Cherubim), Fire, and the Shekinah, and the Holy Spirit, and Urim and Thummim.Lastly, the Rabbi observes that although Jesus was born during the time of the second temple, it was only near the end of its time, and, according to Christians, He brought about its destruction, and could not therefore (for so the Rabbi implies) have brought glory to it. Neither did He bring peace, as He Himself affirms.
Putting the Rabbi's arguments shortly he means to say, first, that the temple of which so much was prophesied is a temple yet in the future; and secondly, that even on the showing of the New Testament the life and teaching of Jesus do not fit in with the supposed reference of this verse to the second temple.
246] (1). Leaving for the moment all discussion of the New Testament, we venture to think that few scholars in these days will be found to give their support to the Rabbi's theory that the words in the Book of Haggai refer to a temple in the future. Haggai surely is occupied with the building that was being completed in his own time. He speaks clearly enough of "this house," and this must have been that which was before his eyes. Ah, exclaims the Rabbi, but what of the third verse of this very chapter? Does he not there distinctly use "this house" when he means the first house, i.e., the temple of Solomon? And may he not therefore say "this house" of one which was to come as well as of one which had been? No, surely not. It is one thing to identify a building raised on the same site as its predecessor with that predecessor, and quite another to project oneself in thought beyond the time when the new building shall itself have perished, and still speak of another building (which may or may not be built on the same site) as "this house." R. Isaac's interpretation seems to us, and doubtless to our readers, to be grossly unnatural.
247] (2). Here however it seems well to call attention to the fact that probably the Rabbi and the Christians of his time were both wrong in taking the word "latter" (האחרון) as an epithet of "house." In the third verse of this chapter it is quite certainly an epithet of "glory," and this is much the most natural interpretation of it here also. Thus the Revised Version translates: "The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former." Indeed we have not found any modern scholar of importance who takes it otherwise. If this be the right connexion of "latter" the Prophet is not contrasting one temple with another, but the latter, i.e., the future, glory of the temple which he saw building with the poor and meagre state in which he then saw it. Or perhaps he regards "this house" (see v 3) as one with Solomon's, and says that the latter glory of this one temple, from 520 B.C. onwards, shall be greater than its former glory from the time of Solomon to its capture by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
248] (3). Wherein then, it will be asked, is this greater glory to consist? Does it lie in the wealth which was indubitably showered down upon it in the time of the Herods? Presumably this was greater than that given to it in Solomon's time, but we cannot affirm this with any certainty. In any case this is not important, for we can hardly suppose (in spite of v 8) that the prophet had in his mind chiefly material wealth. It would be a grievous bathos, after speaking of the shaking of heaven and earth, to add that this building shall have more silver and gold in it than ever was seen there in the time of Solomon. Is he thinking then of spiritual power? This would at least be worthy of the subject, and in some sense must be intended. Yet we may fairly ask whether it was the case that the second temple was the scene of greater spiritual power than the first, or whether in the end of its days the one temple was of greater spiritual power than in the beginningapart, that is to say, from Christianity? Were, for example, the priests and high-priests of the last seventy years of the second temple superior in spiritual grace and power to Joshua the son of Josedech under whom it was built? Was there during that time, apart from Christianity, a prophet greater than Haggai, and his younger contemporary, Zechariah? We know how history answers these questions. But if we include under the greater glory the work of Christianity, which, as we may say, was begun in the second temple by the presence of Jesus and His disciples, then indeed we can see a reason for the prophet's utterance. For we recall the enormous spiritual force that Christianity has proved itself to be, Jews themselves being witness. Starting from that centre in Jerusalem, there has spread from shore to shore of the whole habitable world a force which has summoned millions of ignorant and idolatrous Gentiles to the worship of the One God, and has succeeded, though the movement is as yet only in its infancy (for what are nineteen hundred years in the purposes of God?), in bringing the laws, the customs, and even the personal habits, of vast multitudes largely under subjection to the law and will of God. Judaism as such has failed to impress the nations of the world; Christianity has succeeded to an extraordinary degree, and the beginnings of it appeared in the second temple. Truly the latter glory of that house was greater than the former.
Yet neither material wealth, nor spiritual power in the ordinary sense of the term, fully satisfies the meaning of "glory." "I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts" (v 7), and we cannot but think of some direct manifestation of the LORD Himself. What does He say in Zechariah 2:5 (9)? "I will be the glory in the midst of her." This is incomparably more than silver and gold, and more than merely spiritual power. It is the LORD's own presence, it is the manifestation of Himself. It is the Shekinah in the fullest sense of the word. But what this means we have already seen in paragraphs 50-54, to which I would refer my readers for a fuller statement of the case. I asked then whether we could imagine a higher and better form by which the Presence of God could manifest Itself than that of clothing Itself 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? I suppose that we cannot. If therefore the statements about Jesus in the New Testament are fact and not fable, the presence of Jesus in the temple will have been an important part of the fulfilment of our prophecy.
249] (4). The Rabbi however objects that some of the words of our passage, "and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts," have not been fulfilled in Jesus, urging that Jesus himself said that He did not come to send peace, but a sword (Matt 10:34). But why will the Rabbi always limit this word "peace" to its lowest possible meaning? Why suppose that the prophet thought only of the lower, because external, peace? Why should he not at least have included the highest of all kinds of peace, peace with God? If he did in this case, his words are fully in accordance with the teaching of the New Testament, for, according to that, it was at Jerusalem, though not, it is true, in the temple area itself, that the Lord Jesus obtained peace for sinful man, and brought peace, deep and abiding peace, to the hearts of those who venture themselves upon Him. Jesus has brought peace, and if ever His professed followers have not made for peace they have so far been no true followers of Him.
250] (5). Yet, after all, I cannot refrain from pointing out that even the New Testament itself suggests that the final and complete fulfilment of our passage lies still in the future. Turn to Hebrews 12:26, 27, where the writer quotes Haggai 2:6, of the last great testing of all things. This, as need hardly be said, is fully in accordance with Christian teaching. The Shekinah has come already in the person of the Lord Jesus, and will come again in all His perfection of power and beauty on the clouds of heaven, when every eye shall see Him. His people pray: Even so, come Lord Jesus.
251] Note. It is strange that the Rabbi makes no mention of the common Christian translation of (v 7), "and the desire of all nations shall come" (A.V.), and I am not in a position now to explain his omission. Let us hope that he found the Christians of his time sufficiently learned to reject so impossible a rendering. He himself explains "and they shall come with the desirable things of all nations," but perhaps the Revised Version is better, because simpler: "and the desirable things of all nations shall come."
16. "THY KING COMETH UNTO THEE."(Zech 9:9) "Rejoice greatly , O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass." Chapter 35
252] R. Isaac argues that this passage refers to the coming of Messiah in the future, when all Israel shall have returned to the Holy Land, and he adds an elaborate exposition of the context to prove his contention. He understands verses 1-8
to say that the Land will be enlarged, for it will be too small for Judah, Israel and the converts; that the Philistines will be subdued, and will no more eat unclean food, but obey the religion of Israel; that Jerusalem and the Temple will also be enlarged, and all nations will be at peace. Then comes verse 9, which indicates that these things will take place in the days of Messiah, who is נושע, i.e., saved from Gog and Magog by His righteousness. He will be meek and riding on an ass, both because of His meekness, and to show that Israel will not need horses and chariots. Verse 10 tells us that Messiah will give peace to the whole world, because He will act as arbiter over it; and verse 11, that the congregation of Israel will have been saved by the observance of circumcision in the present exile, and all Judah with Ephraim shall return and defeat Javan (Greece), which is identical with Gog and Magog, to whom Javan is brother (Gen 10:2).
1 The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD. 2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise. 3 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. 4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. 5 Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. 6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. 7 And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite. 8 And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.
Now adds the Rabbi, none of these things has taken place, therefore Jesus is not the Messiah; and he then repeats his old argument that Jesus Himself denied that He had come to give peace, or to rule.
253] (1). Leaving details for the present let us consider the passage as a whole. In Matthew 21:5 (compare John 12:15), our verse is quoted of the entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem. R. Isaac denies not only that such a reference was intended by the prophet, but also that it is even suitable, because Jesus did not fulfil the statements made in the context. Yet he cannot deny that Jesus was meek, or that He came into Jerusalem riding upon an ass, and that so far at least, the prophecy fits Him. If so (I appeal to every learned Jew to confirm my statement) St. Matthew, as a Jew accustomed to Jewish methods of quotation, may well have quoted the words for that reason and that reason only. See further on this point paragraph 229.
254] (2). Yet it may fairly be argued that the quotation is more than an adaptation of mere words, and that the greatness of Messiah, as described by the prophet in this chapter, is indeed fulfilled in our Lord Jesus. This is especially the case if we allow for the difference of the conception of glory held by the prophet from that which is held by thoughtful Jews of to-day. The prophet speaks of victories great and glorious, performed through Messiah. But, you say, Jesus of Nazareth never performed such earthly victories, never achieved such political success. Yet whose fault was that? Is there not every sign that if the Jews of the first century had as a body accepted the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, they would never have gone through the terrible experience of seeing their beloved city destroyed and their temple in flames? More than that, is there not every sign that before long the Romans would have been compelled to withdraw from Palestine, and, little by little, Palestine would have resumed the place it held for a short time under King Solomon, and have become the attraction and joy of the whole earth?
Be this as it may, all thoughtful Jews will grant that the prophet and his contemporaries thought more of earthly and political success than we do in this twentieth century. We have larger and truer notions of that in which true greatness consists. As a recent poet says:"So in compare of never-ending timeIs there a Jew living who would care for a Messiah who should astonish the world with victories such as those of Napoleon the Great, and should sweep away his foes and subdue country after country as he did? God forbid, you say, that Messiah should be such! We desire victories indeed, but they must be spiritual; for nations to be trampled down would only be abhorrent to us. Yes, you want them won over to truth, to right, to purity, to love. Would God that we Christians could show you nothing else in Christendom! But in spite of all, alas, that Christendom is, we dare to ask you if the spiritual victories of Jesus of Nazareth do not amaze you; if you are not astounded as you see the barbarians of North, South, East, and West, races which Judaism as such has never touched, submitting to the rule of Jesus? Is not such submission, in so far as it is heart-felt, infinitely superior to all the merely earthly triumphs of the greatest of human conquerors? Lift up then your heads, O ye gates of the house of Israel, and the true Victor, the King of glory, shall come in!
Less than a moment seem the years of man,
Yet aught of life outweighs the all of space,
And aught of love outruns time's endless race."
255] (3). Lastly, it is necessary to refer briefly to some details mentioned by the Rabbi.
(i). He does well in calling attention to the fact that the Messiah is to be meek, but he does not carry this thought as far as he well might do. Yet he is in fact hardly right in explaining עני 'poor' as though it were ענו 'meek.' For thus he misses something of the true meaning of the prophet. עני suggests that Messiah, when He appears, is not to be among the rich and powerful, in the usual acceptation of the terms, but to be among the poor. The reason why the prophet was led to say this may be that in his time, as often in the world's history, the upper classes showed themselves less disposed to accept the word of God, and to follow His laws, than the poor and needy. The prophet was therefore inclined to identify the poor with the pious. Similar examples of this tendency may perhaps be seen in Habakkuk 3:14, Zephaniah 3:12. In any case all our readers will not fail to remember that the Lord Jesus, though of the seed of David, was born into a family which at the time of His coming was poor in this world's goods. עני rather than ענו is but a small matter, yet one not to be overlooked.
256] (ii). Messiah enters Jerusalem riding upon an ass. The Rabbi is doubtless in the right when he tacitly accepts R. D. Kimchi's explanation to the effect that His time will be so peaceful that He will not need horses and chariots, the symbols of war. The reign of Messiah is to be marked by peace. This is a point with which we have already dealt several times, as, for example, in paragraph 249. There is therefore no need to trouble the reader with a repetition of the proofs that the Rabbi's attack completely fails.
257] (iii). So also with his argument that our Lord was not a ruler. We have repeatedly pointed out the mistake of the Rabbi about this, especially in paragraphs 25-30, 72, 239.
258] (iv). The Rabbi's explanation of נושע ("having salvation" in the English versions) requires rather more investigation. It is of course truly delightful to find him saying (par 218): "The Christians have changed the word נושע ('saved') and write instead of it מושיע ('saving') so as to deduce from it an argument in support of their faith."
For he forgets that originally this was not a Christian, but a Jewish, interpretation. It was the Septuagint, the earliest Jewish translation, that read σωζων 'saving,' or 'bringing salvation,' and he can hardly blame Christians for thinking that Jews understood their own Scriptures. Yet, as regards the meaning of the word in itself, there is little doubt but that the Rabbi is right, and that it does not mean 'bringing salvation,' 'saving' others, but rather, 'saved,' 'victorious.' But if Messiah is 'saved,' from what and by what is He saved? From His foes by His righteousness, says R. Isaac, again following Kimchi. Very well; be it so. That exactly fits in with what we know of the Lord Jesus.* For it was by His own righteousness and holiness that victory was secured for Him over the worst foes of all, sin and death. Yet observe that there is nothing about righteousness. It is only deduced from צדיק ('righteous' or 'just') in the context. It is therefore more in accord with the language of the prophet to interpret the word נושע as implying that the LORD God was with Him, and for this reason He was saved and victorious. But notice that this again exactly suits the Lord Jesus, as He is described to us in the New Testament, for God was with Him, and it was by the right hand of God that He was raised from the dead (Acts 2:33, 5:31). Surely it is worthy of consideration by every thoughtful Jew how closely the words of the prophet do fit in with the circumstances of the life, and death, and resurrection, of Jesus of Nazareth.* The early Christian Hymn, No. 8 of the Odes of Solomon, seems to refer to this passage:"And they that are saved in Him that was saved."
17. THE MARTYR.(Zech 12:10) "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me (or 'him') whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." Chapter 36
259] Our readers will at once recognize this famous and difficult passage. May He who inspired the prophet be with us as we study it together!
R. Isaac spends much time in proving that the chapter from which the verse is taken refers to events that are not already things of the past, but belong to the future. Personally I accept this, and therefore do not desire to trouble my readers with the longer part of his argument. It seems probable that both the chapter as a whole, and our verse in particular, describe things that are yet to take place. Then the house of David, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and, as appears from the following verses, all Israel, will mourn much and bitterly.
But for what reason will they mourn? This question brings us at once to a primary question, What is the right text of the verse under consideration? Did the prophet write אלי, "They shall look unto me," or did he write אליו, "they shall look unto him"? Further, in each case, what is the right translation and interpretation of the verse?
260] (1). In the editions of the Hebrew Bible in common use to-day we find אלי, without even a sign or note that there is any doubt about it. How then shall we translate the passage? The Jewish Authorities in England, if we may judge by the "Appendix to the Revised Version" issued by them in 1896, tell us to read, "And they (i.e., the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem) shall look up to me because of him whom they (i.e., the nations which come against Jerusalem) have pierced." This startling translation, for it is very startling to any Hebraist who has no controversial axe to grind, follows R. Isaac, who says the verse means that, even if one Israelite is killed by the nations in that great war of the future, the men of Israel will look up to God in prayer. But it is older than R. Isaac, it is the interpretation also of R. David Kimchi. But it is a most remarkable translation. "Because of him whom"! How is it possible to get this out of את אשר? I can understand that the את gives a certain amount of emphasis to אשר, but "because of"! What parallel passage can be adduced in favour of this? Ezekiel 36:27, answers R. Isaac, ועשיתי את אשר בחקי תלכו, understanding by this, I presume, "because ye walk in my ordinances." But this again is impossible. Without the את the clause would mean, "And I will cause that ye shall walk in my ordinances," and the את only marks more definitely this consequence as the object of the verb. So in our passage את may mark out definitely the following אשר as an object; it cannot be translated "because of."** It is true that the Septuagint has ανθ ων κατωρχησαντο ("because they have insulted me" literally, "because they have danced in triumph over me," רקדו) but the Hebrew in front of these translators was certainly corrupt. The Targum too reads ויובעון מן קדמי על די איטלטלו ("and they shall pray before me because they are driven to and fro"), but this is hardly independent of the Septuagint. Further, it is probable that underlying R. Isaac's translation is the rule of the Oral Law that every את in the Bible hints at something additional which is not expressed. But translation depends on grammar, not on what, after all, is an Haggadic subtlety.Again, this unlucky rendering, to which the heads of the Jewish community in England have betaken themselves for refuge, is shipwrecked on the verb דקרו. Does the passage read as though there were a sudden change of subject here? Must not, I do not say according to the principles of grammar, but according to the natural sequence of thought, they who "pierced" be the same as they who "look up"? That is impossible, Jews cry, we have not pierced Him unto whom we shall look. But this is the very question under discussion. I fear that this translation, both in earlier and in later times, is due to nothing more noble than a desire to meet Christian arguments which have been deduced from this passage.
If then we read אלי it does not seem possible to make any other translation than "they shall look unto me whom they have pierced." If so, how are we to understand the word "pierced"? Shall we say that it is merely figurative of the great pain and anguish caused to God by the sins of His people? This is possible, but nowhere in Scripture is דקר used with this meaning. It always, as it seems, connotes death, even if, as in Lamentations 4:9, this is the result of hunger. Death, literal death, primarily as the result of piercing, is implied in דקר. How then can this term be used of God? Can you wonder that many Christians affirm that the phrase is fully satisfied only by the Christian doctrine that God took human flesh and as man received the spear-thrust in His body? I confess that I myself shrink from this extreme literalism of interpretation. It is easier to suppose that when the prophet writes "They shall look unto me whom they have pierced and mourn for him," &c., he may have had in his mind the vision of a martyr slain by piercing, and have added that God was pierced through that martyr. In other words, the prophet may not have intended here to foreshadow the Incarnation, but to say that a time is coming when the Jewish nation will recognize its sins, and will mourn for the way in which it treated one who was a martyr for God's sake. He means that they pierced and slew that martyr, and that God felt the injury as done to Himself.* It is not necessary to point out how strikingly this is in accordance with the teaching of the New Testament. I dare to go further and say that the verse is in accordance with the beginning of sorrow felt by many of the Jewish race to-day as they regret the treatment meted out to Jesus of Nazareth.* This meets the Rabbi's objection that if we translate "me whom they have pierced" we should expect in the following clause "and mourn for me" (עלי instead of עליו).
261] (2). We must not however overlook the other reading אליו, "and they shall look unto him whom they have pierced." This is the form in which St. John quotes the passage (19:37). A recent Jewish writer, whose zeal against Christianity outruns his Hebrew scholarship, speaks of this quotation as "conveniently transforming the pronoun from the first to the third person, changing thereby entirely the sense as given by the Massoretic text." He seems to think that this is a Christian alteration! But he ought to be aware that it is found in many manuscripts of the Massoretic text, and that it is the true reading of the Talmud.** T. B. Succa 52a in the Munich MS.: הײנו דכתיב והביטו אליו את אשר דקרו.There are indeed grave doubts whether it is right, for it is so much the easier reading of the two that it can hardly have been altered save by an anti-Christian bias, which one is very loth to admit, but supposing that it is right, how shall we take it? The word את is still rather curious, and can, as before, only serve to emphasize the following אשר. But אליו undeniably suits the עליו which is found immediately after: "They shall look unto him whom they pierced, and mourn for him."
Yet even here there is a difficulty. How can they "look unto" a person whom they have already slain? I suppose that a Jew can only understand it of a martyr who rises again at the general resurrection, and is then the object of admiration, and of bitter humiliation on the part of those who ill-treated him. Be it so. We must not expect too much from any one prophet. But can you be surprised that St. John saw in the piercing of Jesus on the cross the fulfilment of the statement that a martyr was to be pierced, and says therefore (Rev 1:7), as he looks forward to the return of the Lord Jesus, "every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him"?
262] The conclusion, I think, to which we are drawn from a study of this passage is that whether אלי "unto me," or אליו "unto him," be the right text, it does, with any scholarly translation or interpretation, fit in remarkably well with Christian teaching. Perhaps some of us Christians are rather too bold in insisting that it points definitely to the divine nature of the promised Redeemer, but we are not at all too bold, but only making a simple deduction from the plain statement of Scripture, if we see in him for whom the mourning is to be made one whose martyr-death the nation will sincerely mourn. As yet in the history of the Jewish race there has been no martyr who is at all comparable to Jesus of Nazareth. Would God that the nation mourned with deep humiliation of heart for His death. For that mourning and bitter lamentation, deep and bitter as of a father for his only son, yes, for his first-born, shall be synchronous with the great deliverance of the Jewish nation from its last enemies. Victory and humiliation of soul in true repentance will take place together. The Lord hasten that day of promise for the nation of Israel!
18. THE SHEPHERD SMITTEN.(Zech 13:7) "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones." Chapter 37
263] (1). R. Isaac's exposition of this passage is singularly quaint. The shepherd, he says, is the Sultan of Turkey, and God calls him "my shepherd "because so many of the Jews, in fact three-quarters of them,and they are God's sheeplive under his rule.* God also calls the Sultan my "fellow" or "associate"** because the Sultan reckons himself as God. The prophet here speaks of a time in the future, the time of Gog and Magog, when his power shall be broken. For in Ezekiel 38:6, "the house of Togarmah" is mentioned side by side with Gog and Magog (v 2), and in Hebrew the name for Turkey is Togar (תוגר). Further, "the little ones," upon whom the LORD will also turn His hand in anger, are various kings of the "Edomites," i.e., of the Roman empire, who have some, though fewer, Jews living under them.*** Lastly, the scattering of the flock refers to the dispersal of the Jews living in different towns of Turkey and elsewhere, when they are gathered to Jerusalem from the four ends of the earth.* Rashi, writing some five hundred years earlier than R. Isaac, sees in the first "shepherd" Esau, and in the second the King of Babylon. The Targum understands both of the kings of Babylon. It is probable that "Esau" and "Babylon" alike refer to Rome.It is hardly necessary to waste much time over so fanciful an explanation of the passage. There is not the shadow of a hint that "my shepherd" and "my fellow" refer to a Gentile. The prophet's words much more naturally refer to some one of note in Israel. Equally forced is it to see in "the little ones" kings who are of less rank or importance because they have fewer Jews living under them. It is also strange to explain the scattering as dispersion from temporary homes, when ex hypothesi it is in reality the gathering of the Jews to their own home. Lastly, R. Isaac ought to have perceived that the promise of the two following verses, according to which the third part of those that are in the land shall, after great trial, come out as gold refined in a furnace, and call upon God, who will recognize them as His people, can hardly refer to others than men of the house of Israel.
** "My fellow," עמיתי, derived apparently from a root found in Assyrian meaning "united," occurs in the Bible elsewhere only in the book of Leviticus (11 times), where it always means an associate of the person addressed or spoken of, and suggests equality to him.
*** So also Rashi and Kimchi.
264] (2). What then appears to be the true meaning of the passage?
(i). I assume that it is in its right place, although many critics since the time of Ewald are of opinion that it has been transposed by some accident, and should properly follow 11:17, the prophecy against the foolish shepherd. But some scholars are too ready to move passages if they find their present context difficult, and also see a superficial resemblance somewhere else. Moreover the term "my fellow" (עמיתי) can hardly be used of a false leader.
265] (ii). Taking then the passage in the position in which it stands, what can we make of it? It will be observed that 12:10-13:6
have described the penitence of the nation of Israel, the fountain of cleansing which has been opened for them, the cessation of idol worship and of false prophecy. Immediately thereupon follows the section with which we are concerned, verses 7-9, and we may assume that these verses still refer to Israel, not to Gentiles.
10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. 2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. 3 And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. 4 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive: 5 But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth. 6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
(a). Shall we say that they describe the result of the previous section, showing how God deals with the nation when it has repented, and has proved the reality of its repentance by ridding itself of its chief sins? If so we must understand that severe punishment falls on the chief leader of the nation, i.e., the King, or the High Priest, or both, if "my shepherd" and "my fellow" represent different persons. The nation also is dispersed, and passes through a time of terrible trial. In the end however there is hope. However we may regard this interpretation in its details, it is a strange result indeed to follow the heart-moving events described in the previous verses.
(b). Again, shall we say that the passage is another aspect of the events described at some length in the preceding section? Parallels may be found for such a method on the part of prophets. But in the case before us, it is well-nigh impossible to trace at all satisfactorily such a resemblance. In fact with the exception of one item there is hardly anything in common between the two passages.
(c). But that one item which the two passages have in common is so important that it leads us to what is probably the true solution of our difficulty. The prophet takes it up, and describes both it, and the circumstances closely connected with it, from a different point of view from that taken at first. I refer to the martyr death spoken of in 12:10. We saw in paragraphs 260 sq. how, according to that verse, the people were to lament over the martyr whom they slew; here, in our verses 7-9, the prophet regards the deed from God's side, and describes the consequences that it brought upon the nation. The prophet, that is to say, takes up the incident at an earlier period than he did in the section 12:10 to 13:6, and describes that death from God's side and its more immediate results to Israel. He states God's verdict on the deed, the punishment that He inflicts for it, and, ultimately, the hope that still remains for the nation. That pierced martyr against whom the sword awoke was no one less than "my shepherd," saith the LORD of hosts, no other than "my fellow." The shepherd is smitten, those he tended are scattered, and even the little ones connected with him feel the blow. Then comes trouble on the nation of Israel. Two-thirds of it are cut off, and one-third is left for further testing even as by fire. But at last Israel will "call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The LORD is my God." So interpreted, I venture to think, the position of the prophecy is fully justified.
266] (3). If this interpretation be right I need not point out to you how closely it fits in with the facts of history, facts undeniable by any reader. Whatever we may think of Jesus of Nazareth we cannot deny that He perished as a martyr to the cause He advocated, the cause of holiness, the cause of God. But it was almost immediately after His martyr death that the awful troubles of Israel began. Jesus was smitten, His followers were scattered; even the little ones who accepted His teaching felt the blow. But what of the nation? We all know the terrible disasters of the war with Vespasian and Titus, when Jerusalem was taken and the Temple burnt, and the crowning destruction in the time of Hadrian, when Barcochba's and Aqiba's revolt was stamped out in blood and fire. Would it be too much to affirm that in Judaea, in Crete, and elsewhere during the first two centuries of our era, as many as two-thirds of the Jews perished? And what shall be said of the centuries that have elapsed since? Is it not true that the nation has been almost continuously exposed to the fire of persecution, even as God says in this passage: "I will bring the third part through the fire"? These are facts, plain facts of history, and as such are independent both of any interpretation of this prophecy, and of the relative truth of Christianity and Judaism.
267] Regarding the subject however in as unprejudiced a manner as it is possible for me to do, I cannot help thinking that when the words "Smite the shepherd," &c., are applied to the Lord Jesus in the Gospel according to St. Matthew 26:31 (see also St. Mark 14:27) they are more than a mere application. For it does seem probable (as we saw in par 262) that the martyr death of 12:10 is the death of Jesus, and this, as we have now seen, was also the smiting of "the shepherd," whom God calls "my fellow." If this be so, may not you and I hope that as the people of Israel have passed through the fire as silver and as gold, so also they may enjoy the experience stated in the end of this prophecy, that they shall call upon the LORD once more in true repentance, and that He shall hear them, and acknowledge them afresh as His?
19. "IN EVERY PLACE INCENSE IS OFFERED."(Mal 1:11) "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense is offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the LORD of hosts." Chapter 38
268] Christians, says R. Isaac, see in this verse a statement that God accepts their sacrifices and offerings. But, first, there were no Christians in Malachi's days, and, secondly, the prophet desired to recall Israel to more heart-felt worship by stating that the Gentiles in the time when he lived did really intend to worship the true God in their sacrifices, although they associated Him with creatures.
The meaning of the passage is far from certain, but probably R. Isaac is right in referring it to the time then present rather than to the future. But whether the prophet intended actual heathen, as the Rabbi supposes, or proselytes of various degrees, who had heard of the true God and consciously worshipped Him with fervour of heart, it is impossible to say. In either case the verse does not affect the subject of our discussion in these pages, the relative truth of Judaism and Christianity.
20. THE COMING OF ELIJAH.(Mal 4:5 [Heb. 3:23]) "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD come." Chapter 39
269] (1). In St. Luke 3:1, 2, we read, "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, ...... the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." The Evangelist states the date so precisely because he will mark as accurately as possible the year of this strange event, this wonderful renewal of the spirit of prophecy. The word of God had been silent for centuries; now at last He speaks again, and in such and such a year. The cry of the Baptist was heard throughout Judaea and multitudes flocked to him. Was it strange that he who bade the poor and the rich repent, who warned a king of his sin, and suffered martyrdom for his faithfulness, should by his life and words remind the people of the older prophets, especially the earlier among them, and, in particular, of him who was the most striking of them all, Elijah the Tishbite, who turned the hearts of Israel back again to the true God (1 Kings 18:37, 39)? Can we wonder that Jesus, seeing how John the Baptist prepared the way for His own preaching, said that John was Elijah, who was to come (Matt 11:14, compare 17:12, Mark 9:13)? Of course He did not mean that John was Elijah in person. He meant that he carried out the same preparative work as Elijah, which moreover Malachi in our present passage predicted that Elijah would do. The people were expecting Elijah to come before Messiah came. Jesus says that he had come, in the person of John the Baptist.
270] (2). Yet we read in St. John 1:21, that John the Baptist said that he was not Elijah! Of course. What else could he say? He was not Elijah. Ah, says R. Isaac, he prevaricated; he ought to have said, "No, I am not indeed Elijah himself, but nevertheless I claim to represent him, and I am the fulfilment of the prophecy in Malachi." But why should he have said this? Perhaps the thought that he was fulfilling the words of Malachi never occurred to him. Probably, like most Jews of his time, he expected Elijah himself to come later. And certainly, if he had spoken as the Rabbi suggests, the Pharisees would not have accepted his words. The coming of Messiah, according to their expectation, and of His forerunners (for many were looking for Enoch as well as Elijah), was of so utterly different a kind from the coming and work of Jesus that they were not likely to accept a statement by the Baptist that he was the forerunner who represented Elijah. Yet it is plain that if Jesus was the true Messiah the Baptist did a great deal of the preparatory work prophesied of Elijah in our passage. Elijah came, according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus, in the person of John the Baptist.
271] (3). It may however be said: Surely Elijah himself will come? Well, perhaps so. How does that affect our discussion? You answer: "Because if Elijah himself is to come, then Jesus cannot be the true Messiah, because Elijah has not yet come." That is what R. Isaac says. But you see what this argument implies? That Elijah comes before Messiah. I ask the evidence for this, and none is given me except our passage in Malachi, which says nothing of the kind. This says that Elijah comes before the great and dreadful day of the LORD; it does not say "before Messiah come." "Oh," you answer: "that is the same thing." Is it? We have no right to tamper with the Word of God. But you say, "We have always been taught this." I know it, but the repetition of a statement does not necessarily make it true. There is nothing whatever in the words of Malachi to prevent the coming of Messiah taking place long before the coming of the dreadful day of the LORD.
272] (4). It will be said that there is a consensus of traditions, to the effect that Elijah will come in person in days yet future. Yes, it is collected in part in Hamburger's Real-Encyclopadie fur Bibel und Talmud, and much more completely in the Jewish Encyclopedia. But all this is not Scripture, and the only passage in the Bible upon which it is based is the very verse in Malachi which we are discussing. Surely a very large pyramid has been built up on a very small apex.** Whatever may be the precise meaning of Ecclus. xlviii. 10, our Jewish friends will not include that verse in the Bible.For, if we endeavour to consider the subject dispassionately and without prejudice, have we any more right to insist on the coming of Elijah himself because of the statement in our passage, than we have to insist on the coming of David himself because of the statements in Ezekiel: "and my servant David shall be king over them... and David my servant shall be their prince for ever" (37:24, 25, cf. 34:23, 24)? Yet it has never been seriously supposed that David, the identical David the son of Jesse, will return in his own person to reign in Jerusalem. May not the Yalqut on Numbers 25:12 (chap 771) give us a hint when it writes, "R. Simeon ben Levi said, 'Phinehas is Elijah.' The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Thou hast made peace between Israel and Me in this world, even so in the world to come thou art he who shalt make peace between Me and My children, for it is said: Behold I send you Elijah the Prophet, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children."
אמר רבי שמעין בן לוי פנחם הוא אליהו. אמר ליה הקדוש ברוך הוא
אתה נתת שלום בין ישראל ובני (וביני) בעולם הזה, אף לעתיד
לבא אתה הוא שעתיד ליתן שלום ביני לבין בני שנאמר הנה אנבי וגו׳
The Yalqut adds a similar passage from the Pirqe d'R. Eliezer. Are not these words, I say, a hint that Elijah in our passage in Malachi may be understood not literally but symbolically? If however it be urged that R. Simeon ben Levi's words are only Haggada, I would ask, What else are all the many tales and beliefs about the future coming of Elijah in person? And I would also put this question: Is there any reason against believing that Malachi himself in this passage knew something of Haggada, and, accustomed as he was to speaking in parables, gave his readers credit for insight into his parabolic use of the name Elijah? If this be so, is it unnatural that one endued with so keen an insight into truth as our Lord Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, should have perceived his meaning and applied the words rightly to John the Baptist, who did so much of the work foretold of Elijah?
273] (5). It is perhaps well that I should here notice two rather curious objections made by our Rabbi.
(i). He affirms that Jesus contradicts Himself, by saying, first, that Elijah shall come, and, secondly, that he has come. The verses to which R. Isaac refers are Matthew 17:10-12, (with the parallel Mark 9:11-13). But R. Isaac misunderstood our Lord's words. Jesus accepts as true the text in Malachi, which evidently He is quoting, and then adds that John the Baptist is the fulfilment of it. He does not say that Elijah will come in the future, as the Rabbi thinks, but assuming the truth of the words of Malachi, gives their true explanation.** It is true that in Matthew 17:11 the future tense is used ("shall restore all things"), but this is part of the quotation, which our Lord applies to John. "All things" appears to be a summary of the final result of the effect of this work, the end of all controversies and disputes.274] (ii). The other objection of R. Isaac is still weaker. He says that John the Baptist denied that he was a prophet. He doubtless refers to John 1:21, where the Latin Vulgate, with the inability of the Latin tongue to indicate an article, has Propheta es tu? Et respondit: Non. And doubtless those versions which were entirely dependent on the Latin translated the words: "Art thou a prophet? And he answered No." But in the original Greek there is a definite article, and the sentence must be translated: "Art thou the Prophet? And he answered No." John, that is to say, was not asked whether he was a prophet, but whether he was the prophet, the one whom all were expecting. This, according to the belief current in New Testament times, was the Prophet whose coming Moses had predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15. This was Messiah, and John was not He. What other answer than "No" could John have given to such a question?Polish, like all the Slavonic languages, also has no article, so that R. Isaac need not have known Latin to make this mistake.275] (6). Lastly, let me call attention to the need that we all have of taking to heart the preaching of John the Baptist. This is quite independent of whatever we may think of his relation to Elijah. It is the preaching of repentance, it is the message that if we would enter into the kingdom of God we must recognize our sins and leave them. In this, and in this only, have we the true preparation for receiving Messiah, whether we be Christians or Jews. Let us each pray for deep and ever deeper conviction of sin, and a determination, ever growing more and more visible in action, to do what is right in the sight of God. So, and so only, shall we have our eyes opened to see the things of God, and to value His redemption.
A FEW PASSAGES IN THE HOLY WRITINGS.
1. PSALM 110
1 A Psalm of David. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. 4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. 7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head(Matt 22:41-45 cf Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44) "Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, What think ye of the Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet? If David then calleth him Lord, how is he his son?"
276] This passage from the first Gospel suggests several questions to every thoughtful reader, questions also in some respects different from those which presented themselves to a thinker of the end of the sixteenth century, when R. Isaac of Troki lived. It is proposed therefore to consider the subject more from the point of view of to-day than from that of four hundred years ago.See The Hebrew-Christian Messiah, pp. 270-272, 321 sq.(1). Was Jesus justified in using the name of David as the author of the Psalm?
(i). Many assert that it was written in the time of the Maccabees, in honour either of Jonathan (161 B.C.), or of Simon (143 B.C.), who secured the independence of the Jews, and drove out the Gentiles from Jerusalem, of whom we read that when "the people saw the faith of Simon, and the glory which he thought to bring unto his nation, they made him their leader and high priest" (1 Macc 14:35). A further argument is adduced that as the initial letters of the clause "Sit thou," and the three following verses, spell the name Simeon (שמען), this is an evident proof of the correctness of the theory. But there is no other example of this form of acrostic in the Bible, common though it was in later times, and if the argument were true, it is hardly likely that all traces of a tradition bearing upon it should have been lost.* Further, it must be remembered that whereas to the King in the Psalm the priesthood is also promised, the Maccabees were priests to begin with, of the family of Levi. Thus they were not even of the family of David, with whom all the hopes of royalty were bound up. Again, the magnificent promises of this Psalm would have a poor fulfilment if they were spoken of those who, after all, were only the vassals of a heathen king (see 1 Macc 13:39). Neither may it be forgotten that the existence of any Maccabean Psalms at all in the Psalter is extremely doubtful, in view of the inclusion of all the Psalms in the Septuagint, for this can hardly be later than the middle of the second century B.C., and may be a century earlier.* Dr. Driver does not think it worth while to notice this supposed acrostic in his article on the Psalm in the Expositor for March, 1910 (VII. 9. 217).
277] (ii). Many scholars are of opinion that the Psalm was composed during the Kingdom, i.e., before the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, but think, both for its language, and for the long experience that would have been required before a writer could write so thoughtfully about the king, that it cannot be placed otherwise than late during that period.* Hence, they say, it was not written by David, but was only attributed to him as found in the collection which bore his name. If so, in reply to the question whether Jesus was justified in using the name of David as its author, we may say that He was not discussing authorship, but was content to use the common belief of His time. Or it is possible that inasmuch as Jesus, according to Christian teaching, was fully man, the knowledge obtained by Him by virtue of His divinity did not extend to details unimportant for His spiritual work.* It may however be pointed out that at no time were the Israelites likely to be ignorant of what a king and a kingdom meant. Their experience in Egypt was continually supplemented by their knowledge of the state of things in neighbouring countries.278] (iii). Yet I cannot forbear asking whether there is anything in the Psalm which is really inconsistent with Davidic authorship? The eighteenth Psalm is attributed to David by all but a few critics. If we do not read Christian teaching into the 110th Psalm, is this on a much higher level than that? And, even if it is, are we not much too completely in the dark as to the extent of the culture of David's time, the education he had received, the theological thought of his surroundings, the influences brought to bear upon him in his wanderings, to be able to affirm that David could not have written it? It may at least be said that the reasons against the Davidic authorship are far from conclusive.
279] (2). It is more important to decide whether Jesus was justified in assuming, with the Pharisees to whom He was speaking, that the central figure of the Psalm was Messiah.
(i). R. Isaac of course will have none of it. He interprets the opening words as: "The LORD saith unto my Lord David." He compares the incident at Mahanaim (2 Sam 18:3), and says that God is charging David to sit in God's house, and trust in the power of His right hand (for the "right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly"), even as in Psalm 20 he prays that God will send him help from the sanctuary. As for the priesthood promised, this, says R. Isaac, was fulfilled when he bought the threshing-floor of Araunah, and offered sacrifices there. The Rabbi's explanation is rather poor, for "sitting at the right hand" is in Scripture always a position of honour, not of mere trust and of confidence in power to be exercised.* Besides, David was not really priest, even if he himself did offer as a priest at Araunah's threshing-floor, which is very doubtful. R. Isaac's interpretation does not stand any close examination.* 1 Kings 2:19, Psa 45:9, Job 30:12.280] (ii). It will indeed seem fairly plain to most people that the Psalm presents features in its description of the King which are too high for David or for any merely earthly monarch of the Davidic line. He is to sit on God's right hand of honour. He is to be a priest after the manner of the old Priest-King Melchizedek. It is then hardly credible that the Pharisees were wrong when they saw in the Psalm a description of Messiah. Modern writers however assume that David at any rate could not have looked forward to the coming of Messiah. Why not? In Genesis 3:15 (see parr 131-136), and in Genesis 49:10 (see parr 144-151), the hope of a great Deliverer in the future had been recorded, and, even if the actual writing down of such prophecies should prove to be later than the time of David, there is every probability that he was acquainted with the traditional teaching of his religion, including the hope of a Messiah. If so, he may well have composed the Psalm with direct reference to that Deliverer. With the opinion that David had of that Messiah we are not concerned. He may have regarded Him only as man, for he speaks of Him being refreshed by the water of the wady as He pursues His foes (v 7). But, as we shall see, one of the words he uses implies that he held Him in extreme reverence.
281] (3). For let us consider lastly, Why did Jesus ask this question?
Observe that two assumptions lie at the basis of it, besides, of course, the presupposition that the Psalm was inspired by God. One is that the Messiah is the son of David. This was a commonplace in our Lord's time, as it had been for centuries before. The other is that the title "my Lord," with which David addresses Messiah, implies the superiority of Messiah to David, and it is not usual to attribute superiority over oneself to one's own descendant.
Why then did Jesus ask the question? Was it to silence His opponents? Two out of the three questions they had asked Him suggested that it was no sincere love of the truth which prompted their enquiries. Did He wish to silence them once and for all? This may have had something to do with it. But His chief motive, we may say, was to make them think.
To what answer did He desire them to come? Surely that Messiah, as the great Deliverer, even though he were David's son, was nevertheless greater than David. For if this thought did but sink into their minds it would tend to raise the current conceptions about Messiah. David was much more than a man of war; he was also a man of God, a man who in a special degree was near and dear to God. But Messiah was to be greater than David.
The answer would also tend to suggest a higher conception of the nature of Messiah. If so, there would be in this suggestion illimitable possibilities. Messiah then was to be more than man! He was to have perhaps even a divine nature as well as a human! Can we wonder that early believers in Jesus applied the words of the Psalm to Jesus after His resurrection, and saw in that "sitting on the right hand" which was proclaimed of the Messiah a reference to the ascended Jesus?
282] Note. R. Isaac strangely objects to the notion of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, as though it suggested a local sitting. But he ought to have perceived that the figure, for it is only a figure, of God's right hand belongs to the Psalm, and is not due to Christian teaching. The fact that Jesus, according to Christianity, has ascended in His human nature makes no difference to the use of the figure.
2. DANIEL 7:13 AND 9:25-27.Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
Dan 9:25-27 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
283] In Chapter 41 R. Isaac discusses Daniel 7:13, "one like unto a son of man," and decides that the writer meant by it not the Messiah, but the people of Israel. On the whole it is probable that the Rabbi is right, and I therefore do not propose considering the passage. See however the second volume.In Part 2, Chapter 21, R. Isaac quotes Daniel 7:27 of Messiah. See paragraph 357.284] In Chapter 42 he fills many pages with an examination of Daniel 9:24-27, i.e., the seventy weeks, and the cutting-off of the Messiah or the Anointed one. His interpretation is very strange, for he thinks that the Messiah in verse 25 is Cyrus, and in verse 26 is, of all people, Herod Agrippa II.! Yet while it is quite certain that the Rabbi's interpretation of the verses is wrong, I cannot find any interpretation that commends itself to me. As therefore these pages are not intended to be a repertory of diverse opinions, but a sincere endeavour to state what is true, it is not necessary to trouble the reader with a discussion of the passage.
A FEW ADDITIONAL DIFFICULTIES ADDUCED BY R. ISAAC OF TROKI
1. THE APOCRYPHA.
285] Some Christians ask R. Isaac how it is that the Jews do not accept the Apocrypha. In his answer he gives his reasons, which perhaps are rather unduly harsh, but essentially right from the point of view of an English Churchman like myself. For the sixth Article of the English Church says of these books of the Apocrypha: "the Church doth read [them] for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine."
2. ONE RELIGION.
286] With Chapter 44 R. Isaac leaves the consideration of Christian arguments in favour of Christianity, and brings forward his own in favour of Judaism. But of these some have already been adduced by him, especially in Chapters 1 and 6 which therefore we need not consider again, while others have to do with the New Testament, and it will be more convenient for us to deal with these in the Second Part of R. Isaac's book. For example, in this section he affirms that in the future there is to be only one religion, the religion of Israel, not that of Christians or of Mohammedans. The reader will find his arguments considered in paragraphs 31-34.
3. QUOTATIONS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW.
287] In this section a string of Old Testament passages quoted in the New is brought forward by the Rabbi to show that the writers of the New Testament were ignorant people who quoted texts without understanding them. It would however be easy to deduce precisely the same argument, and it has been deduced, from the quotations of the Old Testament found in the Talmudic and Rabbinic writings, and the Rabbi ought at least to have perceived that the character of the quotations in the New Testament and those in the Talmud, &c., is so far alike as to testify to the employment of the same methods in making them, i.e., to testify to the thoroughly Jewish character of the New Testament.
But every one of the passages mentioned in this section is brought forward by the Rabbi also in the Second Part of his book, and seeing that, God willing, we shall go carefully through that part in the second volume of this Manual, it is better to postpone any consideration of them in detail until we meet them there.
4. THE PUNISHMENT OF NATIONS WHICH ILL-TREAT THE JEWS.
288] R. Isaac tells us that we see from experience that those nations which have ill-treated the Jews do not escape punishment from God, and he gives examples to prove his statement. Certainly. We Christians do not deny it. From the days of Pharaoh until now persecution of the Jews has injured the persecutors even more than the persecuted. Yet it must not be overlooked that the Judge of the whole world also punishes those who persecute Christians, in particular those Christians who observe most faithfully the teaching of the New Testament.
5. WAS IT THE WILL OF JESUS TO SUFFER?
Chapter 47 and Part 2, Chapters 24-26
289] R. Isaac puts a dilemma: Did the Jews ill-treat Jesus with His will or against it? If you Christians answer "with His will," then those who do the will of God ought to find favour in His eyes, in accordance with Scripture; also Jesus ought not to have been troubled, and to have prayed against the cup of suffering (Matt 26:39); also, it may be added, His cry on the cross (Matt 27:46) shows that He was not one with God, for their wills disagreed. If, on the other hand, you Christians answer "He suffered against His will," then how can He be God? And how will He who could not save Himself save His followers? He surely ought to have been greater than Moses, the skin of whose face shone so much that others, even Aaron, were afraid of him. Much more ought men to have been afraid of Jesus.
I have stated the Rabbi's argument at length, because it looks so strong, and yet is so unutterably weak.
The answer to the question is clear; Jesus did suffer willingly. Every Christian will give that answer. But does that, even if Jesus was God, justify the action of those who caused Him suffering? Let me put it another way. If God is willing that suffering shall take place, does that make suffering right? I will answer his dilemma fully when he will answer this, this very old one: Is the sin of any man committed with the will of God or against it? If he answers "with the will of God," then every sinner ought to find favour with God; if he says "against the will of God," then God is not supreme. In other words the dilemma proposed by the Rabbi is precisely the same as that of the existence of evil, and the commission of any act of sin.
Again, R. Isaac's argument is based on a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. He is ignorant that Christians affirm the absolute humanity of Jesus, although He is God. Christians hold that if His Godhead had taken away, or had absorbed, His human will, or even His natural horror of suffering, He would not have been real and complete man. Hence it was necessary that He should have a will which at one and the same time was ready to suffer, if without suffering the purpose of His coming to earth could not be accomplished, and yet dreaded all that this suffering might mean. Thus the Rabbi's questions about Matthew 26:39 and 27:46 are beside the point. Presumably however we shall consider those passages again when we come to them in the Second Part of the Rabbi's book.
Thus, as I have already hinted, the argument of this section appears to be hardly worthy of R. Isaac. He speaks in it either as a mere controversialist who is desirous of entangling his opponent, or else as one who understands neither the meaning of his own words, nor the doctrine of those whom he desires to convince. There must be mysteries in true religion, too deep for the human brain to fathom. It is our wisdom to acknowledge this, and not to allow the fact to turn us away from truth.
6. CHRISTIANS AND GOOD WORKS.
290] In this section R. Isaac continues to attack Christianity. He tells us that Christians say that Jesus did all His good works for Christians, and justified them from going down to the pit by His life and His sufferings and death. If so, he affirms, there is no need for any Christian to do any good work, and also, even if Christians do all kinds of evil, this will not so hurt them as to bring them down to hell, for Jesus has already redeemed them from it. Then the Rabbi goes on to say that, notwithstanding this, St. Paul writes that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9), i.e., that the work of Jesus does not profit the wicked. But if this is the case, then, says the Rabbi, since the wicked have no merit of their own, and are not saved by another's merit, and as the righteous have their own merit, and do not need the merit of another (as is clear from the case of the righteous before Jesus came), therefore we must say that Jesus is of no use to any one at all, and those who hope to be saved by the merit of Jesus have a vain hope. If however it be answered that Jesus came to redeem from hell those souls which go there because of the sin of Adam (original sin), I have already proved (says R. Isaac) in Chapter 11, that the souls of the righteous and the prophets do not go to hell, God forbid!, and are not punished at all for the sin of Adam.
Do you not think, my Friends who do me the honour of reading these pages, that our Rabbi might have given the writers of the New Testament credit for some consistency, and that it might have occurred to him that possibly he was misunderstanding them? The fact is that he sets up a scarecrow which he supposes is Christianity but is not, and then proceeds to knock it down.
291] When he says that it makes no difference to a believer whether he commits sin or not, he forgets that, according to the New Testament, it is impossible for a believer to continue in sin. St. Paul in Romans 6:1-4 makes this clear. If a man does continue in sin he cannot really be a believer. He may call himself one, but he has no part or lot with Jesus. Thus R. Isaac ought to have understood 1 Corinthians 6:9 aright, viz., that if men, in spite of their professed belief in Jesus, continue to sin wilfully, they ipso facto cut themselves off from Him and from the benefit of His death. The fact is that R. Isaac writes as one who is still in the meshes of the crassest form of the Jewish doctrine of merit, as though the performance of good works, as a mere performance, counted for merit. Christianity teaches that real faith in Christ must, without fail, produce union with Christ, and that union with Christ must, equally without fail, produce union in heart with Him, and hatred of sin and love of good.
As to what the Rabbi says about Original Sin, I must refer the reader to paragraphs 126-130.
7. DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE THE NEW TESTAMENT?
Chapters 49 and 50
292] In Chapter 49 our Rabbi attacks Christians on the ground that although they profess to believe in Jesus they do not believe either His words or the words of His apostles. He gives six examples to prove his statement.
Of these, the first, that Jesus does not call Himself God, but man, has been considered in paragraphs 113, 114. R. Isaac carefully omits to point out that the Apostles do speak very plainly of Him as God (par 124). The second example, that Jesus taught the permanence of the Law, has been considered in paragraphs 173-179. The third, fourth, and fifth (Matt 19:16-22; 5:39 with Luke 6:29; John 2:4) will be considered in their places in the second Volume. The sixth, forbidden Foods, has been examined already in paragraphs 152-159.
293] You Christians say, writes the Rabbi in the last section of the First Part of his book, that the New Testament is a new Law, given instead of the Law of Moses. If so you ought not to add to it, or take away from it, as is said both in the Law (Deut 4:2), and in the end of the New Testament (Rev 22:18, 19). Yet you both add and take away. And the Rabbi gives examples in support of his statement.
First, it may be replied that he has misunderstood the passage in the Revelation. This refers only to the Book of Revelation itself, not to the contents of the New Testament as a whole. Secondly, the Rabbi has again made the very serious mistake of speaking of the New Testament as a new Law. No doubt most Christians whom he met thought that it was, but there is no hint of such a thing in the New Testament itself: see paragraphs 179, 213. But if it is not a new Law we cannot speak of adding to it or subtracting from it, as the Rabbi does. This is to introduce a wholly fresh idea into the teaching of the New Testament.
294] Yet let us suppose that my demurrers do not hold good, and let us see what are the examples adduced by R. Isaac. He says that Christians subtract three commands, viz., to sell their property and give to the poor (Matt 19:21, Luke 18:22); to turn the other cheek to an opponent, etc., (Matt 5:39, 42; Luke 6:27, 30); and to abstain from forbidden foods. The first two of these will be considered in their proper place in the second Volume, and the third has already been considered in paragraphs 152 159
His examples of so-called additions are, first, the doctrine of the Trinity (on this see parr 105-125), secondly, the appellation of Jesus as God (see par 123), thirdly, the worship of images. In this last I confess that R. Isaac is right; right also in pointing out that although Christians may argue that images are made by them only for the honour of the saints, male and female, and not for prayer, yet even though this were said with truth of images made in metal, wood and stone, Christians cannot deny that they worship idols of bread, and pray to them, and say of each one of them that it is God. Alas, what can I reply to this most grievous accusation? Nothing at all, save this, that as a faithful member of the Church of England I can but deplore that sin of idolatry which she in her Articles and Prayer Book distinctly condemns, while she is fully aware that large numbers of professing Christians have fallen into it.
The Rabbi's fourth example is that Jesus never told Christians to hate the Jews and avenge His wrongs upon them, and yet they do so. Alas, yes; this has too often been the case. But the Rabbi should not confuse things that differ. Both Jews and Christians often do things that are contrary to their religion, but no wise man will blame their religion for this. It is plain that it is the duty of every Christian man to show love and kindness to the Jews; if he does not he is so far unlike Him whose disciple he professes to be. For "God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him" (1 John 4:16).
295] We have now come to the end of the First Part of the Chizzuk Emunah, and I cannot but thank Almighty God that He has allowed us to travel thus far upon the road. We have, I trust, learned something together. We have endeavoured to see the Lord Jesus as He really was when on earth, in spite of the many veils that human controversies have thrown round Him. We have attempted to get behind mere ecclesiastical Christianity, especially the Christianity of less pure and reformed branches of the Church than the Church of England; we have tried to see the meaning of many passages in the Old Testament, looking at them with eyes dimmed neither by Jewish nor Christian tradition, for we know that it is useless to shut our eyes to truth, and to scholarship based upon truth. Above all, we have endeavoured to learn something fresh about the weakness of our own nature and character, and at the same time something more of the meaning of the Gospel, that it is not a new Law, God forbid, but forgiveness, liberty and strength. Unto which knowledge and life may God, blessed be He, lead us, through His Spirit, for the sake of Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
GLOSSARYThis short Glossary, with the accompanying explanations, may be useful to some non-Jewish readers. It is not intended to be of any assistance to Jewish people.Aboth, "Fathers." A treatise of the Mishna (q.v.), with no Gemara (q.v.) attached to it. To the majority of English readers it is the most interesting of all the treatises, for it contains a large number of important ethical sayings. It may be found with an English translation in Singer's Authorised Daily Prayer Book, pp. 184 sqq. The quotations in this Manual are generally made from Dr. C. Taylor's Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 2nd edition, 1897.
Aboth d Rabbi Nathan. An enlargement of the mishna treatise Aboth, attributed to R. Nathan, a Tanna (mishna-teacher) of the 4th generation (160-220): but in its present form this treatise is post-Talmudic.
Al-tiqri, "Do not read." A phrase used in the Talmud and elsewhere when a Rabbi desired to give a midrashic (q.v.) explanation of a passage. He said "Do not read" the true text, but read something very like it, such, for example as "r" for "d" (see par 93).
The object was not, as has been fondly supposed, to throw doubt on the accuracy of the text, but only to deduce a lesson from it.
Aqiba. One of the most famous of the teachers mentioned in the Mishna (q.v.). He was born about 50 A.D. and killed by the Romans as a leader in Barcochba's revolt about 132 A.D. He insisted on the inspiration of every word, and even every letter, of Scripture.
BaalshemThe, "The Master of the Name." The founder of the sect of Chassidim. Born about 1700 in the Bukowina, died 1761 A.D. Apparently a singularly holy man, insisting more on the religious spirit than on the observance of forms of religion. He laid great stress on the Immanence of God.
According to him a really righteous man (Zaddiq) stands in a special relation to God. Hence his followers regard him as the great mediator between themselves and God. The same claim (though generally in less measure) is made by and for each leader of a group of Chassidim to-day.
See the Jewish Encyclopedia ii. 383-386; and especially Schechter, Studies in Judaism, 1896, pp. i 55.
Bereshith R(abba). An exegetical, mostly haggadic (q.v.) midrash (q.v.), on Genesis, mainly dating in its present form from about the sixth century. See Oesterley and Box, The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, 1907, pp. 81 sq.
Bible. The Hebrew Bible is arranged under the following heads: I. The Law (Torah) i.e., the five books of Moses. II. The Prophets (Nebiim): (1) Former, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings; (2) Latter, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve ("minor") Prophets. III. The Writings (Kethubim): (1) Psalms, Proverbs, Job; (2) the Five Megilloth or Rolls, viz., Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther; (3) Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, Chronicles. The Jews often refer to the Scriptures as "Law, Prophets and Writings," or as TNK, the initial letters of the Hebrew titles.
Boethus. A Sadducean priest. His son, or perhaps he himself, was made High Priest about 25 or 24 B.C. by Herod the Great. Boethusians became synonymous with Sadducees. See the Jewish Encyclopedia, iii. 284 sq.
D'rash, "explanation," of a passage rather than a book (midrash). In contrast to P'shat (q.v.) it is an explanation which is either far-fetched or, at the least, does not lie within the ordinary grammatical meaning of the passage.
Elisha ben Abuyah, also called Acher, "another." "Our Rabbis have taught, Four men went up into Paradise, and they were these, Ben Azzai, and Ben Zoma, Acher, and R. Aqiba" (T.B. Chagiga 14b). Ben Azzai gazed and died. Ben Zoma gazed and went mad. Acher "cut the plants," i.e. (as it seems) divided the Godhead. R. Aqiba alone came out unhurt. It is probable that Acher (Elisha ben Abuyah) adopted some form of Gnosticism. Some scholars are of opinion that his fault was that he disliked Pharisaism and tried to lead Jews to break its precepts. He lived from about 70 to 130 A.D. See Streane's Translation of Chagigah, 1891, pp. 83-89; also the Jewish Encyclopedia, v. pp. 138 sq.
Gematria, either "arithmetic," or "letters." There are no separate numerals in Hebrew, but each letter has a numerical value attached to it in accordance with its position in the alphabet. Hence by adding up the letters of which a word is composed it is possible to say that the whole word equals a certain number. Not only so, but by a process of reasoning which appeals only to those who accept the inspiration of Scripture in every letter, two words which are equal in numerical value may be treated as equal in meaning.
Gemara, see Talmud.
Haggada (plural Haggadoth), "declaration," "narration," "telling." A term of very wide meaning expressive of all exposition of scripture that does not deal directly with legal decision (i.e., that is not halakic, q.v.). Thus it includes almost, or quite, every other form of Biblical exegesis, and, in particular, illustrative stories. See especially Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud, 1908, pp. 5 sq.; also Oesterley and Box, Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, 1907, p. 75.
Halaka (plural Halakoth), "walk" "rule," a legal decision determining the walk of life. Contrast "Haggada." It is applied to the legal element of the oral law.
Karaite, "Reader." A name given to themselves by the followers of Anan (died between 780 and 800 A.D.), who rejected the oral traditional law taught by the Rabbis, and attempted to derive all customs and doctrine from scripture (mikqra) i.e., the Pentateuch. See Rabbanite.
Kosher, "correct," "proper." An epithet describing food ritually correct to be eaten by Jews.
Law. The Hebrew name is Torah, which however does not appear to be used of Law in the abstract, but only of "the Law." This was regarded as (1) Written, contained in the Pentateuch, though occasionally the term is used of other books of Scripture; (2) Oral, a traditional Law taught by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and handed down by him. The Oral Law had no fixed contents, but was continually being enlarged and modified (but only, as was claimed, in accordance with fixed principles guiding its evolution from the first) by successive generations of teachers. The first authoritative code of it was the Mishna (q.v.) of R. Judah ha Nasi. See also Bible.
Maimonides. A very famous Jewish writer and codifier of the oral law, born at Cordova 1135, died at Cairo 1204. His principal works are the Yad-ha-Chazaqa or Digest of the Oral Law, and the Moreh-Nebukim, a philosophical investigation of many religious subjects.
Massora, masdreth, massoretic, "tradition," "traditional." The massoretic text of the Hebrew Bible is the ordinary text, with vowel points. It represents the results of the study of the "Massoretes," the "traditionalists," who lived from the second half of the eighth century to the first half of the tenth century A.D. The most accurate edition of this text is that which is now (1910) being published by the British and Foreign Bible Society, under the editorship of Dr. C. D. Ginsburg.
Mechilta. A homiletical midrash (q.v.) on the book of Exodus (from ch. 12). In its original form belonging to the first part of the 2nd century A.D., in its present form rather later; the most important and valuable of the midrashim (q.v,).
Midrash, plural Midrashim, "explanation," "exposition." In particular the semi-homiletical explanations of different books of Scripture, e.g., the Midrash on Genesis. They are of very various ages, and generally speaking contain Haggada (q.v.) rather than Halacha (q.v.). See also D'rash. For an account of the different Midrashic works see Oesterley and Box, Religion and Worship of the Synagogue , 1907, ch. v.
Mitzvah, "commandment." Any action performed out of obedience to the will of God.
Mishna, see Talmud.
Moses de Leon. Born at Leon in Spain about 1250, died 1305 A.D. Probably the author of the present form of the Zohar, a strange Cabbalistic Midrash, which he pretended was written by R. Simeon ben Jochai, who died at Meron near Safed in Galilee about 161 A.D.
Onkelos, see Targum.
Pesiqta Rabbathi. A homiletical midrash (q.v.) on the special lessons read in the Synagogue from the Law and the Prophets. It is said to be as old as the second half of the ninth century A.D.
Pirqe Aboth, "chapters of Aboth"; see Aboth,
Pirqe d'Rabbi Eliezer "chapters of R. Eliezer." A midrashic (q.v.) narrative of the more important events recorded in the Pentateuch, attributed to R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who lived in the end of the first century A.D., but in its present form not earlier than the eighth century.
P'shat, "simple." The explanation of a passage derived solely from a study of grammatical and lexical meaning of the words in their context. Contrast D'rash.
Rabbanite. A nickname given by the Karaites (q.v.) about 800 A.D. to their adversaries the orthodox Jews, as "the partisans of authority" (see Gratz, Geschichte der Juden, 1871, v. 181. English translation 1892, iii. 136), "Rabban" ("our teacher") being a title of the president of the Sanhedrin from the time of R. Gamaliel the Elder, teacher of St. Paul.
Saadiah. Head ("Gaon") of the Rabbinic academy at Sura in Babylonia. Born 892, died 942 A.D. His book on the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma ("sepher Emunoth w'Deoth") was written in 933.
Sabbathai Zebi. Born at Smyrna 1626, died in Albania 1676. When he was twenty-two years of age he claimed to be the Messiah, at first more or less privately. In 1665 however he claimed the position openly, and multitudes of Jews believed in him, including many prominent Rabbis of the time. But after being imprisoned by the Sultan he became a Moslem in 1666, and persuaded many of his followers to imitate him. See the Jewish Encyclopedia, xi. pp. 218 225.
Shekinah, "dwelling" (in the abstract sense). A term used to express the thought of God's dwelling with men, more particularly of His Presence as in some way making Itself visible. See Oesterley and Box, The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, 1907, pp. 191 195; also C. Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 1897, pp. 43, sq.
Talmud, plural Talmudim, "study," "teaching." A summary of the oral traditional law with discussions and illustrative tales. It is in two parts: (1) the Mishna, "repetition," a comparatively short collection made about 190 A.D. by R. Jehuda ha Nasi. It is composed of many treatises known by the names of the principal subject in each. (2) The Gemara, "completion" and "learning," which takes the form of a commentary on the Mishna. Strictly speaking the word "Talmud" is used of the Gemara alone. The Gemara is two-fold: (i.) the Palestinian or Jerusalem Gemara, of the fourth and fifth centuries, containing the opinions of Jewish scholars living in Palestine, cited as T(almud) J(erushalmi). (ii.) the Babylonian Gemara, mostly of the sixth century, containing the opinions of Jewish scholars living in Babylon, cited as T(almud) B(abli). Of these an edition of the Mishna interwoven with the Babylonian Gemara is "the Talmud" par excellence. Hence quotations from a Talmudical treatise without either of the prefixes T.B., T.J., refer to the Babylonian Gemara.
Targum, plural Targumim, "translation." Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible frequently so far from literal as to be rather paraphrases.
I. On the Pentateuch: (1) Targum of Onkelos, apparently an Aramaic form of "Aquila," of the second century A.D. generally literal. (2) Targum of Jerusalem I., often called by a mistake the Targum of Jonathan. In its present form not older than the second half of the seventh century A.D. Often paraphrastic. (3) Targum of Jerusalem II., or "Fragment Targum," so called because it exists only in many pieces, often quite short. It seems to be of about the same date as the Targ. Jer. I., and is of much the same character.
II. On the Prophets (Former and Latter, see Bible). The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, because attributed to him. He was a pupil of Hillel, at the beginning of the Christian era, but the Targum in its present form is of about the fifth century A.D. It is not so literal as the Targum of Onkelos, especially in the prophecies.
III. On the Holy Writings (see Bible). The Targums on these are by many writers, of about the same date as the Targums of Jerusalem; that on Chronicles is later.
On the whole subject see especially Strack, Einleitung in das alte Testament, 1906, 84; also Oesterley and Box, The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, 1907, pp. 44 50.
T.B. see Talmud.
TJ. see Talmud.
Torah, see Law.
Yalqut, "scrip" (1 Sam 17:40), "collection." A large collection of materials from various midrashim (q.v.), many of which are no longer extant, covering the whole Hebrew Bible. It is similar in character to the patristic catenae. The Yalqut par excellence bears the name of Simeon. It is not earlier than the middle ages. Who the Simeon was is unknown.
Yiddish, Judisch, "Jewish." A language of which the basis is mediaeval High German, into which have been wrought many Hebrew words and phrases, and, in addition, not a little of the language of the country in which any Jew who uses it happens to live. Its German basis forms the real distinction from the Ladino, or Jewish-Spanish, of Levantine Jews, which is a fairly pure mediaeval Spanish, with the addition of a certain amount of Hebrew. Both forms of "Jargon" are of extreme interest philologically. The dialects of Yiddish are innumerable, their differences depending on the amount of the third ingredient, non-German and non-Hebrew words. Hence if in a company of Yiddish-speaking Jews from various parts of the world the question "What is true Yiddish?" is asked, a satisfactory answer is seldom received. Each person naturally supposes that his own form of it is the best. Mr. Leo Wiener, the chief authority on the vast Yiddish literature, says in the Jewish Encyclopedia (vii. 305), that the dialects "may be conveniently grouped in three divisions: (1) the southern, spoken in the south of Russia, in parts of Galicia, and in Roumania, and corresponding more closely to a variety of Bavarian; (2) the Polish, the dialect of Poland and parts of Lithuania and Galicia; and (3) the Lithuanian, the dialect spoken in the greater part of Lithuania, and bearing strong resemblances to the dialects of Henneberg and of parts of Saxony." There is no good dictionary of Yiddish into English, Harkavy's (New York, 1901, 1905) containing little more than the debased modern German in which many Jewish newspapers are written. The Hebrew character is always employed for Yiddish.
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