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
51. JESUS CALLS HIMSELF THE SON OF GOD.(John 10:33-36) "The Jews answered him, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?"
Compare Psalm 82:6, 7 "I said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High. Nevertheless ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes."
444] Our Rabbi devotes much space to the consideration of these passages, but we venture to think that he misunderstands both the Psalm and the purport of Christ's argument.
(1) The Psalm. R. Isaac says, rightly in our opinion, that the Psalm is directed against the judges of Israel who judged unrighteous judgment. But he goes on to state that the word "gods" in reality means angels, and that the saying means: I have reckoned you like the angels, because of your connexion with them in having a soul which is from on high (cf. R. Isaac's argument in Chapter 96, par 570), but seeing that you are drawn after the lower part of your nature, you shall not have continuance like them, but shall die like ordinary men.
The Rabbi's zeal, however, against the Christians has misled him. The point of the position of the judge in ancient Israel is that he represented God to the people, so that in not a few passages there is doubt whether we ought to translate 'elohim by "God" or "judge" (Exo 21:6, 22:8; Judges 5:8). It is to this fact that God refers when He addresses the rulers of Israel: "I said, Ye are gods," I allowed you, that is to say, to be called by this name because you enjoy the position and work which in its fulness belongs only to Me, that of judging between man and man. I called you gods, in other words, sons of the Most High, as sharing in His prerogatives, but, in consequence of your misbehaviour, you shall die like ordinary folk, and fall, as he falls who after being in a high place is utterly abased. The question of the relation of the judges to angels does not enter into the subject.
445] (2) We are now in a position to understand the argument of our Lord. In paragraphs 441-443, when we considered verse 30 of this 10th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, we saw that He claimed to be one with the Father, one, not in what we call personality (for as a "person" He is distinct from Him), but in essence and true being. The Jews at the time saw what He intended, and called His language blasphemy. To this He answers that Scripture itself (He calls the Psalms "Law" in accordance with Rabbinic custom*) uses the word "gods" of Israelites summoned to exercise a specially holy function. The Jews, therefore, cannot blame Him for employing the same word of Himself, when He, who had been set apart by the Father and sent by Him into the world, calls Himself the Son of God. If an ordinary judge could be called "God," how much more could He?* See Bacher, Terminologie, 1905, i. 197 and ii, 231446] At first sight it looks as though the Lord were trying to defend His usage of the term only upon principles which are accepted by every learned Jew, for they are illustrated by almost every page of Halachic and Haggadic literature, but seem to our more prosaic Western minds to be too much akin to verbal quiddities. Yet underlying our Lord's reference there is a truth which appeals to us more strongly. The judges could not receive the name of "God" unless there were something in them which corresponded in reality to Him. That correspondence, however, was very small indeed when compared with the correspondence between Christ and His Father. Christ's claim, it is true, is enormous. He affirms that before He came into the world He had been set apart for this special work in the world, and sent into the world to carry it out. It does not seem possible to water His language down to any lower sense. He claims pre-existence, and with it express consecration and mission from the Father, and, on the strength of this claim, He urges that He cannot be blamed for calling Himself the Son of God. He does not, it will be observed, actually repeat His previous claim to unity with the Father (v 30), but He does say that He stands in so unique a relation to Him that He is His Son, both His representative to the world and the concentration of His activity.
447] No doubt this will seem as shocking to Jews now as it did when the words were first spoken, until they turn to Jesus, but this is not the fault of the Evangelist, as R. Isaac asserts. Neither St. John nor the Lord Jesus misinterprets the words of the Psalm. These are quoted with full regard to their historical meaning, and in complete accordance with Rabbinic principles. Further, as we Christians maintain, our Lord and the Evangelist show true insight into the thought underlying God's language to the rulers of Israel: "I said, Ye are gods."
52. THE SON IS ONE WITH THE FATHER.(John 10:38, 14:11, 20, 17:21-23) John 10:38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him...14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake...14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you...17:21-23 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Chapter 52
448] Our Rabbi is fond of repeating himself, and therefore gives us once again his arguments against the unity of the Father and the Son. But we have more compassion on our readers, and therefore think it enough to refer to what has been said on Matthew 10:40, at Chapter 14, paragrapsh 339 sq.
53. ALL THINGS WERE GIVEN BY THE FATHER TO THE SON.(John 13:3, 16:15; Matt 28:18) John 13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;..16:15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you...Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Chapter 53
449] Here again R. Isaac reproduces the arguments which he used before, quoting certain passages from the Gospels, which, as he wrongly supposes, contradict these sayings. It does not seem necessary to do more than ask our readers to look once again at paragraphs 379 sq. They may also find it well to turn to our examination of Chapter 50 (par 441-443).
54. A NEW COMMANDMENT.(John 13:34) "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." Chapter 54
450] Yet we read in Leviticus 19:18: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself"; and these words are actually quoted by Christ in Matthew 19:19 and 22:39. How, then, can He say that it is new?
This question has been discussed fully in paragraphs 325-332, on Matthew 5:44 (Chapter 11). Further, J. Z. Lichtenstein, in his commentary on our present verse, points out that R. Aqiba's decision was that in cases of emergency a man's own life must come before that of his companion. See T. B. Baba Mezia, 62a: "Thy life precedes the life of thy companion, for this is the meaning of Leviticus 25:36: That thy brother may live with thee." Although Aqiba's verdict met with opposition, it became the accepted principle. Compared with such an opinion, our Lord's command, enforced as it was by His own example of giving His life for others (John 15:12, 13: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"), was indeed new.
55. JESUS AND GOD.(John 17:3) "This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thon didst send, even Jesus Christ."
Compare 1 Timothy 1:17 "Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
451] Once more the objection is raised by our learned Jew that Jesus does not call Himself God, and that St. Paul distinguishes Him from God. We have, however, replied to this so often that it is sufficient to refer our readers to paragraph 439, and to the references there given. Briefly it may be said that the Jewish objection is very largely due to failure to understand the meaning of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.
56. JUDAS AND THE SOLDIERS.(John 18:1-6) "When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." Chapter 56
452] In John 18:1-6 we read that Judas led the soldiers who came to take Jesus; that when they appeared Jesus asked them whom they sought; and on their replying, "Jesus of Nazareth," He said to them, "I am he." "And Judas also, which betrayed him, was standing with them. When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." In the Synoptic Gospels, on the other hand (Matt 26:47-49; Mark 14:43-45; Luke 22:47), Judas gave a sign to the soldiers by kissing Jesus, and they took Him.
To a reader of history, and, we venture to say, much more to a writer of history, it seems absurd to argue from these verbal differences that the narrative is untrustworthy. Differences in unimportant details are rather the proof, not the denial, that the testimony of witnesses is true (cf. par 298). Here both sets of persons testify to the all-important point that Judas was guide to them that took Jesus. Whether he actually did, or did not, carry out his proposal to kiss His Master as a sign to the soldiers, matters very little. According to John, our Lord seems to have forestalled him, and to have made the kiss which followed only an act of hypocrisy towards Himself, and no longer also a sign to the soldiers. Why blame the Synoptic Gospels for not stating this at length? It is to be feared that Jews treat the New Testament with wilful injustice. They do not accord to it the same measure of reverent study, of historical common sense, which they pay to the Old Testament. Yet every Jew will grant that when two passages of the Law speak of the same thing, one passage may be fuller than the other, without either being wrong. What says R. Nehemiah in T. J. Rosh haShanah, III. 5 (58d)? "The words of the Law are poor in one place and rich in another." So, too, we find, in Bemidbar R., Chapter 19, towards the end (on Num 21:21) "All the words of the Law need each other; for what one closes, another opens." See also Tanchuma on the same passage, ed. Buber, p. 129. If this be granted to the Law, why refuse it to the Gospel?
57. THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS THE DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWISH KINGDOM.(John 19:15) "The chief priests answered. We have no king but Cæsar." Chapter 57
Cæsar therefore, says R. Isaac, was already their ruler, before Jesus was crucified, so that the argument of the Christians that the Jews lost their kingdom only after, and because of, the crucifixion, is mistaken.
453] Here we have yet another example of the way in which our Rabbi misunderstands the Christian argument. We must distinguish plainly between what Christians do say and what they do not. It is perfectly true to write as I have done in paragraph 78: "Herod the Great died about the very year that the Lord Jesus was born, and since that date the Jews have never had a king to reign over them as a united nation." But no Christian ever says that the Jews ceased to have a king because they crucified Jesus. What they do say is that the Jews by their treatment of Jesus brought about their destruction as a nation dwelling in Palestine. Is this so very wrong? Is it either inaccurate or unjustifiable? If it is, Christians err in company which every other Jew than R. Isaac will consider sufficiently good to warrant the Christian statement, that of the great Maimonides himself. See his Hilkoth Melakim, xi. 4 (Yad, Amsterdam, 1702, iv., p. 307): "He who thought he would be the Messiah and was slain by the Sanhedrin . . . caused Israel to be destroyed by the sword, and their remnant to be scattered."
This statement we Christians most heartily accept. For to our minds it is clear that if the Jews had but received the teaching of the Lord Jesus they would have remained in peace, paying to Caesar his due (Matt 22:21; Rom 13:1), and therefore giving the Romans no excuse for rooting them out, and, in consequence, would, long, long since, have experienced the full delights of the Messianic age. But the teaching of Jesus was for them, as for most men to-day, whether Jews or Gentiles, at once too high and too humbling, and so, refusing the full revelation of God's nature and God's love, they took their own way, and reaped the natural product of their selfishness in an awful harvest. See further, paragraphs 77-80.
58. MY GOD AND YOUR GOD.(John 20:17) "Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God." Chapter 58
454] The words show, according to our Rabbi, that Jesus confesses that he is not God, and that he is only Son of God in the same sense in which all Israelites are God's sons, as it says in Deuteronomy 14:1: "Sons are ye to the LORD your God."
How it is that Jesus distinguishes Himself from the Father we have already shown repeatedly. See above on paragraph 439. Observe also the exact wording of our Lord's language here. He carefully does not say "our Father" or "our God," but "My Father and your Father," "My God and your God." He leaves room, that is to say, for a difference in His own relation to God and the Father from that which the disciples held. The sentence, in other words, is fully compatible with the Christian doctrine of the supreme sonship of Christ, and the comparative sonship of believers.
455] Lastly, may one word be added with regard to the teaching of the passage as a whole? Mary Magdalene, when she recognized Jesus after this His resurrection from the dead, fell at His feet saying, "Rabboni!" and, as it appears, was clinging to them. But Jesus saith to her: "Do not stay clinging to Me thus; there is more for thee than this. I am ascending to the Father; then thou shalt have perfect communion and fellowship." Even at that moment of blissful thankfulness at His resurrection, Jesus would draw her thoughts away from the earthly and visible to the unseen, with its promise of intercourse closer than she then enjoyed. The ascended Christ is nearer to believers than He could ever have been on earth. If Christ were reigning as king in Palestine, He would not be as nigh to His servants as He is now, when He is seated in glory.
59. THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM.(Acts 1:6, 7) "They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority." Chapter 59
456] Upon this passage R. Isaac makes three remarks. First, the restoration of the kingdom of Israel will yet take place. Secondly, Jesus does not say that He will restore the kingdom, and therefore confesses that He was not the Messiah. Thirdly, it is plainly impossible, according to the words of Jesus, to know when the end of this exile will come.
457] As to the Rabbi's first statement we answer: Certainly; but why say so? Although some Christians deny that the kingdom of Israel will be restored, those who are better instructed do not.
It is convenient to reply to the two last arguments together, although they have already been dealt with briefly in paragraph 98.
The Rabbi's process of reasoning is very curious, for Jesus does not say that He will not restore the kingdom, but only that His disciples must not expect a definite answer to their inquisitive question. It is plain, in spite of the Rabbi's opinion to the contrary, that since Jesus does not refuse the claim on their part that He can restore the kingdom, He considers Himself the Messiah, by whose hands the kingdom will be established. The Restoration is in the future; Jesus, who still lives, and enjoys already power far more widely exercised than when He was on earth, will one day bring it about.
458] But when this will be we know not, neither are we to inquire into the date too particularly. For to do so has ever been a temptation to many. When the pressure of calamity has been felt severely, then the hearts of the Lord's servants have cried out in their agony, "How long, O Lord, how long?" And they have set themselves to study the signs of the times, and to calculate the year of the fulfilment of their hopes. No one will blame this, if it be kept within bounds. But only too often they have overpassed the limits of prayerful trust, and have allowed themselves to fix a short period of ten or twenty years, or even of one year, in which the Lord is to perform His promises. All such calculations are rightly blamed by the thoughtful, whether they be Jews or Christians.
60. GAMALIEL.(Acts 5:34-39) "Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." Chapter 60
459] This passage has already been fully discussed in paragraphs 81-83.
61. ABRAHAM AND TERAH.(Acts 7:4) "Then came he [Abraham] out of the land of the Chaldæans, and dwelt in Haran; and from thence, when his father [Terah] was dead, God removed him into this land." Chapter 61
460] What a treasure this seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is to opponents of Christianity, especially to those who have only a superficial acquaintance either with our holy religion, or with the Jewish manners and methods of the time in which it was written! There are so many statements in the chapter which contradict, or seem to contradict, the plain narrative of the Old Testament, and it is very easy indeed to draw attention to these and to point out the ignorance of a writer who could make such errors! Many Jews have fallen into the trap, and our friend R. Isaac among them. In saying this, it is not implied that there are no real, or perhaps even insoluble, difficulties contained in this chapter. What is meant is that these are not inconsistent with deep knowledge of the Scriptures on the part of St. Stephen, or of the writer of the Acts, upon whom the responsibility must be laid. For we cannot imagine that he would have recorded gross errors if he had known them to be such. Thus Stephen may almost be left out of sight as we consider this chapter. The writer of the Acts, whom, with most modern scholars, we assume to have been St. Luke, must bear the brunt of any attacks that are made.
461] In the present case, it is asserted that he betrays ignorance of the Bible by saying that Abraham left Haran after the death of his father. Now such ignorance is so gross that in the case of the writer of the Acts it is not very probable. For, if we may judge from those many examples to which we can apply accurate tests, St. Luke was a very careful historian, and therefore it is not likely that he did not know the very elements of Old Testament history. Now it is plain that if, according to Genesis 11:26, Terah was seventy years old when Abraham was born,* and (Gen 12:4) seventy-five more years had passed when Abraham left Haran, Terah was then only a hundred and forty-five years old. But we are told in the very same passage (11:32) that Terah was two hundred and five years old when he died. It is therefore evident to a mere child that Abraham left Haran not after the death of Terah, but sixty years before.* The verse, however, is interpreted otherwise by some writers, who find themselves able to argue that Abraham is mentioned first only because of his importance, and was really far the youngest, being sixty years younger than Haran the eldest. See R. Biscoe's thoughtful Boyle Lectures on The History of the Acts of the Holy Apostles (delivered in 1736-1738, and his arguments there against the Chizzuk Emunah (edition 1840, pp, 384 sqq.)).462] How, then, do we account for the statement of which complaint is made? Let us consider the effect of the sum in arithmetic which has just been made. Terah had come up from Ur of the Chaldees, accompanied only by Abraham, Lot and Sarah (Gen 11:31) and Lot and Sarah went with Abraham to the land of Israel. Abraham, that is to say, left his father alone in Haran, although he was already an old man of a hundred and forty-five years of age. In other words, as the Rabbis themselves point out, he was guilty of an act of filial impiety. The Jews indeed attempt to defend him from this charge by saying that God expressly told him that he was to disregard the fifth commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother," although no one else was to disregard it. But it is not God's way to give positive orders which override principles already accepted as binding by those to whom His orders are addressed. If indeed it be urged on the contrary that Abraham was told by God to slay his son, it may be pointed out that Abraham evidently did not know that such an action was contrary to the will of God (for doubtless he saw it often done by religious parents among the heathen round him), and also that the issue of that charge showed that it was never God's intention that it should be carried out. But here Abraham goes forth, leaving Terah in his old age. There is more, however, to be said than this. The Jews do not shrink from accusing God Himself of fraud and deceit. He is depicted as being well aware of Abraham's neglect of the primary duty of caring for his father, a duty even more esteemed by the ancients than it is to-day, and as taking means to prevent the Gentiles perceiving this dereliction of duty, by causing the death of Terah to be mentioned out of its proper place, viz. before the departure of Abraham for Canaan. A method of reading the Scriptures which accuses both Abraham of impiety and God of deceit must be viewed with suspicion. It is not likely that Abraham would have left Terah in his old age.
463] In any case it is unscholarly to accuse the writer of the Acts of ignorance, when we find one of the most learned of all Jews making precisely the same remark. Philo, it is true, was not orthodox if judged by the modern standard of orthodoxy, but every one is aware that he was a man of immense learning. He says (De Migratione Abraham, 32, Mangey I. 463 and 464): "Abraham moved from the land of Chaldaea and dwelt in Haran. But after his father died there he removed from that place also, so that he now had forsaken two places." Philo, in other words, deliberately rejects the elementary calculation that Terah lived long after Abraham left him, and says that he died first. What was Philo's reason? This is indicated by the way in which he proceeds to develop the subject. For by his later statements in Chapters 34, 36, p. 466, he regards Terah's death as typical of the condition of Haran, and implies that those who seek Canaan must first leave the place of death.
Does not this suggest to us a possible reason for the statement in the Acts, which at first sight is so extraordinary? Stephen, the Hellenist, speaking of the change which was brought about by Christ's teaching, may have had some such an idea as that of his great contemporary Philo of Alexandria, that the old and unrenewed life ends in death, and again, that only by means of spiritual death can we go forward into our promised land of rest.
It is, therefore, not unreasonable to ask our readers at least to give the writer of the Acts the benefit of the doubt. It is unscholarly to accuse him of ignorance unless we are prepared to accuse Philo also of ignorance, which is absurd. It is much more probable that St. Stephen first, and after him the writer of the Acts, to whom the Pauline thought of life through spiritual death must have been very well known, deliberately adopted that version of the relation of Abraham's departure to Terah's death which enabled them, and the more thoughtful of their hearers, to learn a spiritual lesson of such far-reaching importance.
464] Postscript.It is no part of the present writer's duty to explain the numbers given in Genesis. The writer of the Acts has been accused of ignorance, and it has been shown that the accusation is extremely improbable, and a reason has been suggested why he made his statement. He took a different view of the verses in Genesis from that which is now received in Jewish circles. Whether at the same time he accepted one or other of the systems of chronology which differ from that which is incorporated in the Massoretic text is a further question into which there is no occasion to enter. In any case it is well known that the dates contained in the Hebrew Bible are not so universally received among scholars as the other parts of it.
62. THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM.(Acts 7:7) "And the nation to which they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God; and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place ." Chapter 62
465] "Lo, thou seest from this verse also," writes R. Isaac, "that the apostles of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament were not well acquainted with the Law and the Prophets, for the verse does not run thus in the Law, but as follows (Gen 15:14): And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. But this writer, for lack of knowledge, changed the half of this verse for the half of another, and wrote: And after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place. But he took this from what God said to Moses in Exodus 3:12, When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain."
466] Truly a Daniel come to judgment! R. Isaac writes like a babe, who has never read a page of Jewish literature. For even allowing for the moment that he is right in his assertion that the second half of Stephen's sentence is taken from the Book of Exodus, what does it matter? Nothing is commoner in Jewish writings than to join quotations from different parts of Scripture together as if they came from one and the same place. It is only to be expected that Stephen, as a Jew, should do as other Jews do.
467] Whether, however, R. Isaac is right in saying that the second half is taken from Exodus is a wholly different matter. The careful reader of the passage in Genesis will hardly agree with him. For what do we find? That in Genesis 15:16, in the very same utterance as verse 14, God promises to Abraham "and in the fourth generation they shall come hither again." Bearing this in mind, does it not seem probable that, after all, Stephen is but giving the true sense of the passage in Genesis, having only shortened it a little? No Jewish scholar is likely to find fault with him for shortening a quotation, for it is in full accordance with the principle laid down in Pesachim, 3b: "Rab Huna said that R. Jehudah said in the name of R. Meir: A man should always teach his pupil the shortest way."
Further, it is doubtful if a single Jewish writer of ancient times can be found who is punctilious about the exact accuracy of his quotations from Scripture. What does R. Joshua haLevi say (after 1467 A.D.) in his Halikoth 'Olam, II. 2? "The method of traditional teaching is to shorten the passages of Scripture, and it does not bring them forward as they are." Thus, for example, a Mishna-teacher of the school of R. Ishmael quotes: "and the priest shall come again, and the priest shall come in," as though one sentence followed the other, whereas in reality they are separated by four verses (Lev 14:39, 44). Makkoth, 13b. In fact, R. Isaac's objection to this part of Nepheri's speech is frivolous and ignorant.** The curious reader will find several other examples of the same kind in Surenhusius, Biblos Katallages, 1713, pp. 45 sq. Let him consult also Strack, Prolegomena Critica, 1873, pp. 65 sq., from which the reference to R. Joshua haLevi is taken.
63. THE NUMBER OF THOSE WHO WENT DOWN TO EGYPT.(Acts 7:14) "And Joseph sent, and called to him Jacob his father, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls." Chapter 63
468] We read, however, in Genesis 46:27: "All the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten." What a gross error! Stephen says seventy-five, Genesis seventy! But it is plain that before we accuse Stephen of a mistake we must be sure that he means exactly the same thing as the writer of Genesis. In fact, however, it is not easy to understand the figures of the latter. As they stand they are not consistent with themselves. For we read in verse 26 that there were sixty-six persons, and in verse 27 that there were two more, and then that the total was seventy, a curious piece of addition. That, however, the numbers of those mentioned in verses 15 (33), 18 (16), 22 (14), 25 (7) do make up seventy in all is plain, so that we are not concerned to dispute the general result, viz. that Genesis says seventy and Stephen seventy-five.
469] How, then, did Stephen arrive at his number? He took it bodily from the early Jewish translation of Genesis called the Septuagint This adds in verse 20 five more persons not mentioned in the Hebrew, who were grandsons and great-grandsons of Joseph, thus bringing up the total to seventy-five. The discrepancy, therefore, between Genesis and Stephen is more apparent than real.
Let us, however, not fail to notice the exactness of St. Luke. He had already told us that Stephen was a Hellenist, a Jew, that is to say, whose mother-tongue was Greek, who therefore of course used the Græco-Jewish translation, called the Septuagint. What would Jewish and other critics have said if St. Luke had made Stephen quote the Hebrew form and not the Septuagint when the latter differs from the former? Would they not then have argued, very fairly, that as St. Luke spoke of a man who knew no Hebrew preferring it to the translation which he had used from boyhood, and such an inconsistency was extremely improbable, no doubt the whole narrative was false, and due only to the imagination of an ignorant story-teller? We, however, see here an undesigned coincidence, according to which a Judæo-Greek quotes from a Judæo-Greek version, even when that version disagrees in some small point with the received Hebrew text, and our belief in the accuracy with which St. Luke reproduces the information he had received is strongly confirmed.
Chapter 63 continued.(Acts 7:15, 16) "And Jacob went down into Egypt; and he died, himself and our fathers; and they were carried over unto Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem."470] Three objections have been brought against these verses; let us consider them one by one.
I. Some have thought that Stephen says that Jacob himself was buried at Shechem. If so, the Proto-martyr, in spite of the learning attributed to him, must have been more ignorant than a child of four or five years of age. Luke, too, in recording the utterance, must have presumed upon the ignorance of his readers. Are either of these presuppositions probable if they are considered dispassionately? But, as the true text of the passage shows, Stephen does not say that Jacob was buried in Shechem. He states the simple fact that Jacob died and our Fathers, and adds that these were carried up and buried there, without including Jacob. It is indeed possible to translate the phrase grammatically so as to include him, but we are not justified in preferring the loose construction to the strict, or, if we do adopt it, to forget that St. Stephen and St. Luke had a right to assume the presence of common sense in those who heard, and in those who read, their words. This objection is trivial.
471] 2. The next difficulty is of a wholly different kind, and requires consideration. According to verse 16 not only Joseph, but also his brothers, were carried up from Egypt and buried in Shechem. R. Isaac, however, tells us roundly that they were buried in Egypt. Were they? How does he know this? He is depending solely on the silence of Scripture, for we are told there absolutely nothing whatever about the matter. Tradition says they were not buried in Egypt, and though R. Isaac as a Karaite cares nothing whatever for tradition, when it contradicts his theories, he does not represent the bulk of his fellow Jews in this respect. The Book of Jubilees (between 150 and 100 B.C.) tells us that "the children of Israel brought forth all the bones of the children of Jacob save the bones of Joseph, and they buried them in" Machpelah (chap 46). The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (written between 135 and 100 B.C.) informs us that the sons of Simeon "laid him in a wooden coffin, to take up his bones to Hebron; and they took them up secretly" (Simeon, chap 8). So again the sons of Levi "laid him in a coffin, and afterwards they buried him in Hebron, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Levi, chap 19). So of Gad, five years after he died "they carried him up to Hebron, and laid him with his fathers" (Gad, chap 8). So also we read of Benjamin in particular, and his brethren in general, that they "brought up the bones of their fathers secretly during the Canaanitish war, and they buried them in Hebron, by the feet of their fathers" (Benj., chap 12). Similarly Josephus, surely a man not ignorant of Jewish tradition, writes: "At length Joseph's brethren also die, after living happily in Egypt. And after some time their descendants and children took up their bodies and buried them in Hebron" (Antt., II. 8, 2, 199). The Mekilta on Exodus 13:19 says the same: "Whence do we know that they took up with them also the bones of the rest of the Patriarchs? Because it is said; hence 'with you,'" attaching, that is to say, the tradition either to the words "with you" or to the numerical value of the word translated "hence," viz. twelve. Rashi on the same verse in Exodus answers the question by the former of the two alternatives. Lastly we are told in T. B. Sota, 7b, that Judah's bones were carried about in the wilderness.
From all this evidence it is plain that Stephen had abundance of Jewish tradition at his back when he said that the Fathers were carried up out of Egypt, the main contention of R. Isaac, that he knew nothing of that about which he was talking, being thus disproved.
472] Our readers, however, will doubtless have observed that the tradition quoted above speaks of burial at Hebron, not at Shechem. This is a matter of less importance, but it must be remembered that we are expressly told in Scripture that one of Jacob's sons, viz. Joseph, was, buried at Shechem. It is therefore possible that Stephen was thinking chiefly of him. It is, again, possible that the well-known Samaritan tradition that all the sons were buried at Shechem existed in Stephen's time, and that, on the whole, he thought it more accurate than the tale that they were taken to Hebron. In any case our readers will have come to the conclusion, we hope, that Stephen and Luke cannot be accused either of mere ignorance or of devising fables out of their own head.
473] 3. The third objection is much the most serious of the three, and cannot he met very satisfactorily at present. "The tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver of the sons of Hamor in Shechem!" Every one knows that it was Jacob, not Abraham, who bought land in Shechem from Hamor (Gen 33:19; Joshua 24:32). Abraham bought his ground in Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite (Gen 23:16). What is the explanation of this strange divergence? Ignorance, sheer ignorance, says the man in the street, including, alas, R. Isaac. But it would be very difficult to find any scholar of to-day, be he Jew or Christian, who would give such an answer now. Stephen's speech, and Luke's whole book, are too full of accurate knowledge for it to be at all probable that either of them made so childish an error as verbally here seems plain.
474] What, then, is the cause of the statement? No one quite knows, but in all probability there has been condensation so great as to become obscurity. Clearly only a very short account of the speech has been preserved, and the notes of it are doubtless intended to be more of the nature of memoranda than an accurate transcript. In all such cases of compressed reporting mistakes very easily occur. The most plausible of specific suggestions is perhaps that of J. Z. Lichtenstein, in his Chizzuk Emunath Emeth and also his Commentary, to the effect that Stephen really said "the tomb that he [Jacob] bought, like Abraham, for," etc., the point being that Stephen was comparing the two Patriarchs. Such a comparison is found in the Breshith R. chapter 79, on Genesis 33:19, and the Midrash ha-Gadol (Schechter) on the same passage, where the three purchases, Abraham's of Machpelah, David's of the Temple Mount, and Jacob of Joseph's burying-place, are mentioned as the three spots in the Holy Land which indubitably belonged of old to Israel. It may well be that Stephen had in his mind a comparison of this kind, when he was endeavouring to show his hearers the method of God in leading His people about from place to place, and in giving them at first but little foothold in the land which afterwards was to be theirs. At most it was but two tombs! The question suggested by the remarks of Aben Ezra and Ramban on Genesis 33:19, why Jacob bought land, and that of Kimchi on Joshua 24:32, why Joseph was buried at Shechem, find a common solution, if Jacob, as Stephen says, like Abraham his grandfather, bought the plot of ground for a family tomb.
64. DAMASCUS OR BABYLON.(Acts 7:43) "And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of the god Rephan, the figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon."
(Amos 5:26, 27) "Yea, ye have borne Siccuth your king and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus."
475] R. Isaac remarks here: "You see that the author writes quite differently from the words of the prophet." What if he does? Would the Rabbi have an Alexandrian Jew like Stephen quote the Hebrew Bible like a Jew of Palestine? Imagine what he would have said then! He would have been the very first to accuse the historian of fraud and deceit. But probably the learned critic forgot, when he spoke so sharply, that the Septuagint was a translation written by Jews for Jews, and that Jews, not Christians, must bear the blame of any mistakes made.
476] There is no need, indeed, to minimize the differences of the two passages quoted above. Those in the first part of Acts 7:43 and in Amos 5:26 have only a philological interest. We may assume, however, that the Hebrew is right, and the Septuagint wrong but that is not Stephen's fault; it is the fault of Jews who lived long before him. The only variation in the quotation which appears to have been made by Stephen himself is the phrase, "beyond Babylon," instead of "beyond Damascus," doubtless because it was a short way of saying that the Jews were in fact carried to Babylon, and beyond. Surely in principle it is precisely the same as the use of al-tiqri, so well known to every Jewish scholar.** See Glossary.
65. SIMON MAGUS.(Acts 8:9-11) "But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries." Chapter 65
477] On the account of Simon Magus given in the Acts our Rabbi remarks that he finds in a Polish work called the Great Old Chronicle* that Simon performed many miracles by the aid of magic, and that therefore he was worshipped as a god. So, the Rabbi concludes, was it with Jesus. The Rabbi further illustrates his theory by the incident at Malta recorded in Acts 28:6, when the islanders said St. Paul must be a god because he shook off the viper from his hand and was uninjured. The last comparison is of little weight. For the chance remark of the uneducated barbarian produced no belief in the divinity of the Apostle. Nor is there much point in the comparison between Simon Magus and our Lord. What force has the Great Old Chronicle, written a thousand years or more after the events, as a witness to the truth of Simon's doings? And even if it were true that Simon wrought miracles by magic, how does this afford proof that Jesus wrought them by the same method? Besides, is the moral difference between the two to go for nothing? Do Jews really intend to place a charlatan like Simon on the same level as Him who has been the means of raising whole nations to the highest position in the scale of ethics? Is it thinkable that the beneficent effect of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth has been due to fraud and magic? We Christians appeal confidently to the moral sense of every fair-minded and cultivated Jew, and ask if it is possible that good fruit can grow out of an evil tree? If not, it is time to have done with such unsavoury comparisons, and to recognize the unique grandeur of Jesus of Nazareth.*** This, the Kronika polska, to which R. Isaac refers also in his Preamble to Part 1. (par 5), was published at Cracow, 1564, and was the first historical work in Polish. Its author was Martin Bielski, a Protestant.
** If there were any reason for identifying the Simon of Cyprus mentioned in the common text of Josephus (Antt., XX. vii. 2, sect 142) as persuading Drusilla to leave her husband, and marry Felix, with Simon Magus, the argument would be even stronger, but there is no evidence to warrant the identification, and for Simon Niese reads Atomus.
66. ALL FOODS MADE CLEAN.(Acts 10:11-16) "And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven." Chapter 66
478] On Acts 10:11-16, the vision to St. Peter of the sheet filled with all manner of beasts, R. Isaac refers to 11:5-10, 1 Corinthians 10:25, and Mark 7:15, and says that he has already considered the subject of eating unclean food in Part 1, Chapter 15, and Part 2, Chapter 18 (see also par 418 sq.). Very well; so have we at the same places. Here it is sufficient to point out that in reality the main object of the vision was not to inform St. Peter that he might eat certain food, but to tell him not to think persons unclean if they happened to be Gentiles and not Jews. He was to dare to accompany the messengers who would soon come to him from Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and, on his return with them, tell him freely of the way of salvation in Christ. He went, and admitted Cornelius to full religious privileges. It is probable that Jews are still far from having attained to such liberty of thought and kindliness as here were inculcated. On the other hand, many a Gentile needs to be reminded that Jews, after all, do not deserve to be treated with contempt. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus bids us all, whether of Jewish or of Gentile blood, receive every man freely in the name of Christ.
67. THE LENGTH OF THE REIGN OF KING SAUL.(Acts 13:21) "And afterward they asked for a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years." Chapter 67
479] Our Rabbi has a long note on this verse, to the effect that Saul did not reign so long as is here stated, in fact, not more than ten years at the outside. He may be right; the question is of little importance, and it may be confessed at once that so much obscurity hangs over the length of Saul's reign, that no one can make any positive assertion regarding it. For it is nowhere clearly stated in the Old Testament. Hence different opinions on the subject have always been held. Josephus, for example, in Antiquities, VI. xiv. 9, section 378, says the same as St. Paul, affirming that "Saul reigned during Samuel's life eighteen years, and after his death twenty-two* years." But in X. viii. 4, section 143, he says only twenty years, though referring, as it seems, to the whole period of his reign. R. Isaac depends much on the curious verse, 1 Samuel 13:1, the text of which is very doubtful. We shall be wise if we defer coming to any conclusion upon the question of the length of Saul's reign until we possess more information about it.* Some manuscripts read "two."
68. THE SECOND PSALM.(Psa 2) "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."
480] To read the long disquisition in the Chizzuk Emunah (long for it, we mean, for we grant that the learned author is always concise) one would suppose that no thoughtful Jew ever interpreted the Psalm of King Messiah. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Psalm has been referred by Jews to Messiah over and over again. Such an exposition is Jewish, thoroughly Jewish.
In proof of this assertion, which may appear strange to not a few readers, whether Jews or Christians, it may be well to recall some statements in Jewish works, and it will perhaps be more convenient if we take them in what may be called the reverse order, mentioning first the later, and afterwards the earlier, witnesses. Both we and our readers want only to discover the truth, and when we have seen it, to obey its behests.
481] What does Kimchi say in the thirteenth century? He himself thinks that it refers to David, but he is candid enough to let us know in his comment on the twelfth verse, that "our teachers interpreted this Psalm of the Messiah."* That is a general statement, but if we wish to see the kind of way in which they did so, the manner in which they explained verse after verse of the Psalm in reference to Messiah, we need only turn to the pages of the Yalqut, chapter 621, written, as it seems, in the same thirteenth century: "R. Huna said in the name of R. Idi, In three parts were the punishments divided: one for King Messiah, and when His hour cometh the Holy One, blessed be He, saith, I must make a new covenant with Him, and so He saith, To-day have I begotten thee "(v 7).** Again, on verse 9: "Thou wilt bruise them with a rod of iron; this is Messiah ben Joseph."**** ויש מפרשים זה המזמור על גוג ומגוג. והמשיח הוא מלך המשיח482] Maimonides himself says much the same in his introduction to Sanhedrm, c. 10: "The prophets and the saints have longed for the days of the Messiah, and great has been their desire towards him, for there will be with him the gathering together of the righteous and the administration of good, and wisdom, and royal righteousness, with the abundance of his uprightness and the spread of his wisdom, and his approach to God, as it is said: The Lord said unto me, Thou art my son, to-day have I begotten thee."* Maimonides plainly believes that the second Psalm concerns the Messiah.
פרשו רבותינו זכרם לברכה בבלי ברכות זב
** רבי הזנא בשם רבי אידי בשלשה חלקים נחלקו הײסורין אחד למלך
המשיח וכד תיתי לו שעתיה אומר הקב״ה עלי לכרות לו ברית חדשה
וכה״א אני היום ילדתיך
*** תרועם בשבט ברול וה משיה בן יוספ
v. 8, Ask of me, etc., is also explained in the Yalqut in the same way as in Midrash Tehillim, vide infra.* התאװ הנביאים והחסידים ימות המשיח ורבתה תשוקתם אליו לםה483] Aben Ezra (twelfth century) is of opinion that a poet composed it either with reference to David or to the Messiah. He does not, that is to say, regard the Messianic interpretation as at all impossible, although he himself does not adopt it.* Saadiah, not Saadiah haGaon, as once was supposed, but a writer of perhaps the twelfth century, says in his commentary on Daniel 7:14, which is printed in most Rabbinic Bibles: "And there was given him dominion. For God would give him dominion and royal power, as it is written in the second Psalm, Yet have I set my King."** Rashi (eleventh century) tells us frankly: "Our teachers interpreted the subject of this Psalm with reference to King Messiah, but according to its plain meaning it will be right to expound it of David himself, according to what is said in 2 Samuel 5:17 sqq.: When the Philistines heard that Israel had anointed David to be king over them, the Philistines gathered their hosts, but fell at his hands."
שיהיה בו מקבוץ הצדיקים והנהגת הטובה והחכמה וצדק המלך ורוב
יושרו והפלגת חכמתו וקרבותו אל האלהים כמו שנאמר ה׳ אמר אלי
בני אתה אני היום ילדתיך* הנכון בעיני כי זה המזמור חברו אחד מהמשוררים על דוד ביום484] It is hardly necessary to remind the learned reader that the Midrash Tehillim (eleventh century at latest) interprets the Psalm of Messiah. At the seventh verse the same saying is found which has already been quoted from the Yalqut. At the eighth verse we find the following: "R. Jochanan said, There were three to whom the Holy One said: Ask, and these are they: Solomon, and Ahaz, and King Messiah. . . . King Messiah, for it is said, Ask of Me and I will give thee." Not much earlier, say in the early part of the ninth century of our era, the Pirqe d R. Eliezer, chapter 28, interprets the Psalm of Messiah, for we find there that "all the nations will be gathered together to fight with the Son of David, as it is said: The kings of the earth set themselves," etc. (v. 1). In the same way the Breshith Rabba (of about the sixth century, chapter 44, about a third of the way through) quotes the eighth verse, "Ask of Me," in reference to King Messiah, in the same words that have been cited from the Midrash Tehillim (see also par. 481).
המשחו על כן כתוב אני היום ילדתיך או על המשיח
** ולה יהיב שולטן שיתן ולו שולטנות ומלבות כבתוב ואני נסכתי מלבי
485] So we come to the Talmud, which, after all, is the great source from which all later writers drew. In T. B. Berakoth, 7b, it is assumed that Psalm 2:1 refers to the war of Gog and Magog, i.e. to Messianic times. T. B. Sukkah, 52a, also understands the Psalm to refer to Messiah: "Our Rabbis have taught us in a Mishna with reference to Messiah [ben David], who is about to be revealed quickly [in our days], that the Holy One, blessed be He, saith to him, Ask [of Me something, and I will give] thee, for it is said, I will declare the decree [etc., To-day have I begotten thee]. Ask of Me and I will give thee nations for thine inheritance."** The words in brackets are omitted in the Munich MS., but do not affect the argument.486] We have now traced as far back as the Talmud the reference of this Psalm to the Messiah and His time by Jewish writers. There are, however, earlier witnesses to it in other Jewish works, which have not come down to us in Hebrew or Aramaic. The latest of these is the book called the Second, or Fourth, of Esdras, which is assigned by its latest editor, Canon G. H. Box, to a date not later than 120 A.D. The use in it of the phrase, "my Son the Messiah" (vii. 28, 29), or simply, "my Son" (xiii. 32, 37, 52, and xiv. 9), can hardly be due to any other influence than that of the second Psalm. The writer, that is to say, believed that our Psalm referred to the Messiah. But we may go back earlier, before the time of Christianity, and we still find the same reference in an undoubtedly Jewish writing, the Psalms of Solomon, written between 70 and 40 B.C. In xvii. 23, 26 the author says: "Behold, O LORD, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David ... as potter's vessels with a rod of iron shall he break in pieces all their substance."* We can hardly doubt that this is taken from verse 9 of our Psalm. So also in xviii. 8 the phrase, "the rod of chastening of the LORD's anointed" is due to the first verse. Last, and perhaps earliest of all, are two passages in the Book of Enoch (about the beginning of the first century B.C.), where in lii. 3, 4 we find the phrase, "His Anointed," used of the Son of man, and in cv. 2 the sentence spoken by God: "For I and My Son will be united with them for ever in the paths of uprightness." Both these expressions are doubtless derived from our Psalm, indicating that the Messianic interpretation of it was accepted by the author of this ancient book.* Ryle and James' translation.487] Our readers will not, we trust, misunderstand the object with which these many quotations have been adduced. They do not prove that the Psalm is Messianic, but they do show that it is folly to pretend that such an interpretation is not thoroughly Jewish. From the thirteenth century of our era, to as far back as the first or second century B.C., many Jews, and probably the majority of them, understood it to refer to Messiah. Any Jew, therefore, to-day, who sees in it a prophecy of the Son of David is but walking in the footsteps of his great predecessors.
488] Many, however, will reply, that although undoubtedly this is an ancient Jewish interpretation, yet it must not be regarded as expressing the literal meaning and primary reference of the Psalm, but only as an application. Now, if this were the case that the reference of the Psalm to the Messiah was not intended by its original author, but was only an adaptation of its language no thoughtful student of the New Testament would be in the least disturbed. Another example would be added to the long list of similar adaptations in the New Testament; that is all. But is it true that the plain and literal meaning of the Psalm favours a primary reference to David or to any other ordinary king? Many writers say so; but is it true?
489] Of course there are allusions to David and the things of David; no ode in honour of the Messiah could very well omit them. The "hill of Zion" was David's city, which he conquered, and where he dwelt. The nations did "rage" against him. He was the "anointed" of the Lord. More than that, God did give him a special promise of sonship. But could he ever expect "the uttermost parts of the earth" to be his possession? However much he asked, had he any right to think, or was a courtier justified in saying it of him, that he would "break them with a rod of iron," and "dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel"? Were the kings, the judges of the earth, to kiss him in humble obedience, lest they should "perish in the way"? After all is said and done, David and his successors on the throne were but petty princelings compared with the great monarchs of their time, much more with those of our own day. The countries in which their law ran, the population over whom they claimed dominion, were minute in comparison with the empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, of Alexander, and of Rome, much more with that of Great Britain. If you do insist upon the literal meaning of the Psalm, insist upon it, and see whither it carries you, far, far beyond the tiny dominion of David and Solomon, to the utmost confines of the whole round world. Such a ruler was ever the Hope of Israel. It is more in accordance with the wording of the Psalm to think that its author had such a world-wide King in view.
490] "The Messiah is the speaker, and the whole Psalm is composed in his name," writes Wellhausen in the Polychrome Bible, as quoted by Canon Box on The Ezra-Apocalypse (1912, p. lvi.), and although Wellhausen is not especially a friend of the Jews, yet he certainly is not prejudiced in favour of orthodox Christian teaching. So also Prof. Driver, perhaps the most careful of all recent Hebrew scholars, inclines to the opinion that the Psalm is ideal, and descriptive of the great coming Messianic King (Studies in the Psalms, 1915, pp. 69-71).
491] Whether indeed the author, in his delineation of the Messianic King, intended to convey the full Christian doctrine of His origin and nature, is an entirely different matter, and not to be answered offhand. The tendency of the modern scholarship in which most of us have been brought up is to deny more than a very slight knowledge of the future to those devout souls whom the LORD honoured with the breath of His inspiration. In any case, the quotations from the Old Testament by the writers of the New do not at all imply the belief that they of olden time had accurate knowledge of the details of those events which they foretold. They did not produce, as it were, photographs of persons before they lived, much less cinematographic films of the incidents of their careers. Outlines, more or less shadowy; promises, burgeoning with Divine fruitage; ideas held in solution, but crystallizing into form and substance in due course; these were the staple of their visions. The New Testament writers, on the other hand, had to do with facts. They were in front of them, before their eyes. There was no escaping their influence. And as those holy men, pious, God-fearing Jews, considered these strange facts, they could not but recall to their mind sayings and incidents related in their sacred Book, the principles of which threw light on the events they now beheld, and they quoted words accordingly.
492] Can we be surprised that at least two of these writers, if not three, saw in the words of this Psalm, which they, with other Jews, had long been accustomed to regard as Messianic, a description of Him whom they found to be their Saviour, the true Messiah, and that they quoted its language in reference to Him? But observe exactly how the words of the seventh verse are used by St. Paul in our passage, Acts 13:32 sq.: "We bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, how that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." St. Paul, it will be noticed, is not referring to the Psalm in proof of our Lord's Eternal Sonship. That is another question altogether. He quotes it in relation to our Lord's resurrection. Just as the original author of the Psalm found in the proclamation of the kingship of Messiah the proof of His Sonship, so St. Paul finds the same proof in Christ's resurrection. This, not the Eternal Generation, is the subject of which St. Paul is speaking. The resurrection, says he, shows the Sonship of Christ. The argument is similar to that of Romans 1:4: "Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead." For although the Apostle there writes directly of the general resurrection rather than of Christ's own, this is because he considers Christ's as the first-fruits. That Christ rose, and thus brought about the final resurrection of all, was the solemn declaration and proof that He was God's Son.** This seems to be the meaning of Hebrews 5:5 also.493] Even in Hebrews 1:5, 6 there is no direct claim to the Eternal Generation of the Second Person in the Trinity. The writer does but insist that He is called Son, and for this reason is higher than the highest angel, who is not so called. "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? . . . Let all the angels of God worship him." That this is consistent with the highest possible Christian doctrine of the Divine nature of the Son, His eternal Sonship in the Blessed Trinity, is evident. But it is equally evident to the unprejudiced reader that the writer did not intend his quotations from the Old Testament to do more than express the reality of His Sonship in a way higher than the highest of angels could claim. What this involved was perhaps not understood at first. It was real, it was supreme, it was far truer sonship than anything attributed to man, or Jew, or Jewish nation, or the whole hierarchy of angelic ministrants, but more was not said by the author of the Epistle, perhaps because he felt that more was not required. But human thought, in touch with things Divine, could not rest until it had reasoned out the truth that He who was so much was no less than the very embodiment of God, "the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His essential being," Son in the highest, fullest, most complete, and perfect meaning of the word, the Second Person in the Eternal Trinity, Himself very and eternal God.** It is hardly necessary to do more than mention two arguments adduced by R. Isaac against referring this Psalm to Christ. One is that He never ruled anywhere, and therefore has not been king. The reader will find this absurd objection refuted in paragraphs 15, 27, 79. The second is that to the Divine Son the Father could not say, "Ask of Me"; but this overlooks the fact that according to the Christian faith the Messiah was fully man as well as perfect God, and therefore could pray to His Father in heaven, as indeed we find Jesus praying again and again. That Messiah was expected to pray, see the quotation given above from T. B. Sukkah.
69. "TO SEE CORRUPTION."(Acts 13:35) "He saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption." So also 2:27.
(Psa 16:10) "For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption."
494] It will be observed that the English Revised Version of the Psalm agrees with the form in which the verse is quoted both by St. Paul in Acts 13 and by St. Peter in Acts 2. But the argument of R. Isaac of Troki is that in each case the translation is wrong, for the word rendered "corruption" (שחת) more naturally means the "pit," and to prove his case he adduces such clear passages as Psalm 94:13, with Proverbs 26:27 and Psalm 7:15. Shachath, he says, is certainly "pit" there, and it is only proper to explain it as "pit" here. It is but a synonym for "Sheol," the underworld. The Apostles, then, he implies, are mistaken in their attempt to deduce from the Psalm evidence that the Messiah's body was not to suffer corruption. Besides, David was speaking not of Messiah at all, but of himself.
495] Now, on the whole, it is probable that our Rabbi is right in saying that shachath in the sixteenth Psalm does not mean "corruption," but "pit," either as designating the grave in general, or possibly as a lower place within the boundaries of Sheol.
Yet this is not certain. For, if it were, we should not find so first-rate a scholar as Konig, in his Hebrew Lexicon (1910), translating it here not by "Grube" (pit), but by "Verderben, Vernichtung" (destruction, annihilation), and adducing in support of his translation several passages, in particular Psalm 55:23: "the pit of destruction" (be'er shachath), where the second word shachath can hardly be another word for "pit." The Psalmist there, it would seem, speaks of a pit which ensures the destruction of those who are thrown into it. It is, therefore, not impossible, after all, that in our Psalm the early Jewish Greek translation, which we call the Septuagint, was right in rendering the word in Psalms 16:10; 55:23, by diaphthora, the same word which we find in Acts 13:35 and 2:27.
496] It may, however, be argued, especially by those who are unacquainted with the Jewish mind, that even this does not justify the meaning of "corruption" evidently presupposed by St. Peter and St. Paul, for the usage of diaphthora points to the rendering "destruction" rather than "corruption." That is quite true, and if we had to do only with Gentile thought nothing more could be said. But the Apostles were not Gentiles but Jews, and must not be judged by a Gentile standard. What Jew is there, especially what learned Jew is there, steeped in Jewish methods of exposition, who, when he is enlarging some point in his exhortation, will hesitate to deduce from a mere word, by its etymology, or its spelling, or something else either closely or remotely connected with it, a proof for his argument? For he is well aware, all the time, that, as it is adduced by a Jew and addressed to Jews, the gist of his remark will be appreciated, while force of a kind which it was never intended to possess will not be attributed to it. A Karaite like R. Isaac, or a merely Western scholar, may think such a method strange; but not a typical Jew, speaking to Jews. The Apostles do but lay stress on the derivation (as distinct from the usage) of the word diaphthora (which, by derivation, is essentially "corruption"), and no student of the Talmudim or Midrashim can be in the least surprised at their doing so. The Apostles were Jewish to the backbone.
497] But surely, it may be said, they spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, and not Greek! Possibly, though we may be pretty certain that St. Paul, when he was preaching in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:35), used Greek, for that alone would be understood by the majority of his hearers. But it may be granted that St. Peter, when he addressed the multitude at Jerusalem (2:27), may have spoken to them in Aramaic. Even this, however, is far from certain, for, with the numbers present from foreign lands (2:9-11), Greek would have been the language most generally understood. But even if it be allowed that the Apostles spoke in Aramaic or Hebrew, could they not have used the same form of argument, speaking, as already stated, as Jews to Jews, and therefore employing methods to which they and their audience were accustomed? Is it quite so impossible a thought that Jews could have taken this sixteenth Psalm to refer to the corruption of the body after death? Listen to what the Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 16:9, says: "Therefore my heart is glad: in the words of the Law. And my glory rejoiceth: in King Messiah, who is about to come forth from me; for it is said (Isa 4:5), 'For over all the glory [shall be spread] a canopy.' My flesh also shall dwell in safety; after death. R. Isaac said: This teaches us that the worm and the maggot did not prevail over him."* It is evident that the compiler of the Midrash explained shachath not as "the pit," but as "destruction," and, if "flesh" be taken strictly, even as "corruption."* לכן שמח לבי בדברי תורה . ויגל כבודי במלך המשיח שעתיד498] To sum up, then, what we have said. Whatever may be the original meaning of the Psalm, the Apostles were quite within their rights, as Jews speaking to Jews, to illustrate their doctrine of the resurrection of the Lord's body by this passage. We ourselves may not, and probably cannot, see in it a direct prophecy of that great event. Certainly we do not believe the fact because of the words of the Psalm. But the quotations confirm the thoroughly Jewish character of the New Testament, which ought, therefore, to commend itself to all Jewish readers.
לצאת ממני שנאמר כי על כל כבוד חופה . אף בשרי ישכון לבטח
לאחר מיתה . אמר רבי יצחק מלמד שלא שלט בו רמה ותולעה
70. THE YOKE OF THE LAW.(Acts 15:10, 11) "Now therefore why tempt ye God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they." Chapter 70
499] Our Rabbi brings forward two objections to these words of St. Peter, the first being that in Matthew 19:18 our Lord Himself bids the young rich man keep the commandments; and the second that He then tells him to give the whole of his property to the poor, thus showing, asserts the Rabbi, that the Gospel is a heavier yoke than the Law. For whereas the Law tells us to give away one-tenth of what we get, the Gospel charges us to bestow all. Similarly, says our opponent, Jesus' command to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29) is harder than the demands of the Law.
We have already shown the fallacy of the Rabbi's arguments, due to a misunderstanding of the special nature of the case in Matthew 19, and of the far-reaching character of true love to God and man in Luke 6. It is, therefore, unnecessary to trouble the reader again. See paragraphs 349-355, 415-417.
71. THE REMNANT OF EDOM.(Acts 15:17) "That the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord."
(Amos 9:12) "That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the nations, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this."
500] Yes, the verbal difference is plain. No one denies it. Edom is read as 'adam, and yirshu as yidrshu. If, however, we may consider that Amos is interested chiefly in the spiritual, not the physical, conquest of the heathen by Israel (as surely we may), then the substance of the old Jewish translation into Greek (the Septuagint) used by St. James, is much the same as the Hebrew. In any case the variation is more of antiquarian than of practical interest. R. Isaac's curious statement that the original does not say that God's name is to be called on the converted heathen, but on Israel, cannot seriously be defended. It is preposterous to translate the relative in this passage by "because."
72. FORBIDDEN FOODS.(Acts 15:20, 29) "But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood...That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well." Chapter 72
501] R. Isaac returns once more to his charge that modern Christians do not observe the Apostolic Decree. So much has been said in reply to him on Part 1, Chapter 15 (parr. 152-159), and also on Part 2, Chapter 18 (par. 348), that it is not necessary to trouble the reader again.
73. THE MOTHER OF TIMOTHY.(Acts 16:1) "Timothy the son of a Jewess which believed; but his father was a Greek." Chapter 73
502] Our Rabbi argues that she was an immodest woman, seeing that she was united to an uncircumcised Greek.
What if R. Isaac is right? In that case the Law will not have saved her from sin, but she is converted to a true knowledge of God by the power of the Gospel and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is, however, no sufficient reason for the Rabbi's charge. Timothy had known the Scriptures from his childhood, and an ungodly mother would not have taught him thus (2 Tim 3:15).
74. THE CIRCUMCISION OF TIMOTHY.(Acts 16:3) "Him [Timothy] would Paul have to go forth with him; and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those parts: for they all knew that his father was a Greek." Chapter 74
503] Many readers are astonished at the circumcision of Timothy when they bear in mind the stiff attitude which St. Paul took up towards circumcision. The difficulty, therefore, which R. Isaac felt is quite natural, and deserved to be brought forward. When the Apostle writes: "I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law" (Gal 5:2, 3), how can he circumcise Timothy? And, if both St. Paul and Timothy were circumcised, why did they not both keep all the commandments of the Law?
504] Yet although the verbal difficulty is great, it is met by the common proverb that circumstances alter cases. For when St. Paul wrote thus to the Galatians, he was inveighing against the belief of persons who thought that there was no salvation for them unless they were circumcised, or, at the least, that they could never rise to any high standard of religious life unless they were thus joined outwardly and visibly to the ancient community of Israel. To all such St. Paul says that circumcision as a means of salvation is worse than useless, yes, that it absolutely cuts off persons from Christ. Salvation by Christ and salvation by works are self-contradictory terms; one excludes the other. St. Paul did not get his young convert circumcised in the hope that it would be a help to Timothy's salvation. It was, as we are expressly told, "because of the Jews." How could Timothy enter the synagogues, in places where he was known, and perhaps take part in preaching or expounding, as his master did, when at any time it was possible for him to be turned out, on the ground that he was an uncircumcised Gentile? St. Paul himself, we must remember, was not ashamed of becoming like a Jew, that he might gain the Jews (1 Cor 9:20); why should his disciple do otherwise? It was, then, no question of Timothy's circumcision being a means of salvation. "God forbid," they would both have said. Nor, therefore, of their being bound to follow it up by observing the various commands of the whole Law, as Jews still endeavour to do, if they are to attain to righteousness. Circumcision in Timothy's case was purely a matter of convenience, so that he might have unimpeded intercourse with men of his own nation, and win some of them for his dear Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,
75. THE JAILOR'S QUESTION.(Acts 16:30, 31) "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they [Paul and Silas] said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house." Chapter 75
505] Our friend argues that this is contrary to the answer given by Christ to the rich man in Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20-22 sq. The error of the Rabbi's argument has been shown in paragraphs 290, 352-355.
76. ST. PAUL CALLED A GOD BY THE IGNORANT HEATHEN.(Acts 28:6) "Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god." Chapter 76
506] It is sufficient to refer the courteous reader to what has been said in paragraph 477.
77. DEATH FROM ADAM TO MOSES.(Rom 5:14) "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." Chapter 77
507] This has been fully discussed in paragraphs 126-130.
78. LO-AMMI.(Rom 9:24-26) "Us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles , as he saith also in Hosea, I will call that my people, which was not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall be, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called sons of the living God."
(Hosea 2:23 ) "And I will sow her unto me in the earth [or, "the land"]; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."
(Hosea 1:6) "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel."
(Hosea 1:9) "Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God."
(Hosea 2:1 [1:11]) "Say ye to your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah."
508] "Behold, thou seest, attentive reader, how Paul blinds the eyes of the uncircumcised, and of all the simple fools who are enticed to follow him, by these words, which would appear to teach that the Gentiles were called of old by the name Lo-ammi, and by the name Lo-ruhamah, and that afterwards they would be called by the name Ammi, and by the name Ruhamah. But he who examines the Book of Hosea 1 and 2 will understand that he referred only to the people of Israel, for they, when they turned away from following the LORD, were called Lo-ammi and Lo-ruhamah, but when they return unto Him shall be called sons of the living God, and Ruhamah." Thus far R. Isaac.
509] How the Rabbi must have laughed in his sleeve, as he tried to throw dust in the eyes of his intelligent readers! For if they were really intelligent they would grant what he says, and yet acquit the Apostle of any attempt to deceive his followers. For, indeed, there is no doubt that the Prophet did refer only to Israel; not, however, as R. Isaac appears to have thought, to all Israel, including the Jews strictly so called, but to Israel as contrasted with Judah, to Ephraim, the Ten Tribes, who were the objects of Hosea's address.
But let that pass; it is agreed that Hosea had not Gentiles, but Israelites, in mind.
510] Yet R. Isaac, as a good scholar, ought to have been well aware that to quote the passage of Gentiles was a thoroughly Jewish proceeding. Karaite though he was, he knew his Talmud, and could use it when occasion offered. He ought, then, to have remembered that in T. B. Pesachim, 87b, R. Eliezer [ben Hyrcanos], in proof of the proposition that in the hour of the LORD's anger He remembereth mercy, says: "The LORD sent Israel into captivity among the nations only that proselytes might be added to them: for it is written: And I will sow her to me in the land (Hosea 2:23, Heb. 25). And a man sows a seah only to gather many cors [one cor contains thirty seahs]. Then R. Jochanan proves the same truth from the verse: And I will have mercy on her upon whom I had not had mercy."* Rashi's comment on R. Jochanan's quotation is: "They who were not my people clave to them, and became my people."*** ואמר ר״א לא הגלה הקב״ה את ישראל לבין האומות אלא כדי שיתוספוThus we have Rashi in the eleventh century, and RR. Eliezer and Jochanan in the end of the first century, explaining passages in Hosea as referring to the conversion of Gentiles, and yet St. Paul is blamed for quoting the same passages in the same way in the middle of the first century, only some thirty years earlier than the sages whose words are recorded in the Talmud. Why blame the Christian Jew, St. Paul, for doing what two non-Christian Jews, almost contemporary with him, did with impunity?
עליהם גרים שנ׳ וזרעתיה לי בארץ כלום אדם זורע סאה אלא להכניס
במה כורין ור׳ יוחנן אמר מהבה ורחמתי את לא רוחמה
** ואמרתי ללא עמי עמי אתה אולם שלא היו מעמי דבקו בהם ויהי לי לעם
Once more I appeal to my learned and intelligent readers to accept the New Testament as giving a thoroughly Jewish description of the relation of the Old Testament to the New, and of the fulness of spiritual teaching and application that the Old Testament contains for those who are steeped in Jewish lore, and whose eyes are opened to appreciate the work of the Spirit of God.
79. THE STONE OF STUMBLING.(Rom 9:32, 33) "They stumbled at the stone of stumbling; even as it is written. Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence; and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame."
(Isa 28:16) "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."
(Isa 8:14) "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel."
Similarly Romans 10:11 "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame."
(1 Peter 2:6) "Because it is contained in scripture, Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame."
511] Our friend does not state very clearly what it is to which he objects in the quotations made by St. Paul, and afterwards by St. Peter, from the Book of Isaiah. To be sure, he tells us that St. Paul has mixed up two passages, but no one who is acquainted with Jewish writings can find fault with the Apostle for that. Nothing is commoner, and St. Paul, as a Jew, was doubtless accustomed to do so from his youth.
Is, then, the blame due to the fact that the quotations are not made with that verbal exactness which modern readers desiderate? It is quite true that they are not textually accurate, and even bear traces of connexion with the ancient Jewish-Greek Version made in Alexandria. But Jews have never shown much care in meticulous precision of verbal quotation. What, then, is R. Isaac's difficulty? Presumably it is due to his discovery, and the discovery is so easy that even a child could have made it, that the Prophet was not speaking directly of the Messiah. And yet the Apostle quoted his words as descriptive of the Lord Jesus Christ!
512] Yet what did the Prophet mean by this Stone which was at once so precious and a stone of stumbling? A great English scholar, Dr. Hort, writing on 1 Peter 2:6, says: "By the stone Isaiah probably meant the Divine king or kingdom of Israel founded in David, the true strength and bond of the nation, resting securely on the promise of Jehovah and alone capable of holding together the elements of the people in opposition to the forces tending to draw them asunder." It may, however, be still more probable that Isaiah had in mind the revelation of God, culminating in His temple on Mount Zion, which, if received aright, was indeed a sanctuary, but, rejected, became a cause of stumbling and ruin. For this is always so. Every truth taught by God is a test to those to whom it comes; if they accept it they receive blessing with it; if they reject it, they suffer. Whichever interpretation of the Prophet's words be right, can any Christian, who holds that the full and perfect revelation of God was made on Mount Zion in the person of Jesus Christ, be blamed for saying that the Prophet's language describes the two-fold effect of such a revelation? What is more natural? What more justifiable? Jesus became a sanctuary to some, and to others, alas, a stone of stumbling. The Apostles did but show their insight into the true meaning of the Prophet's language, far-reaching as it is.
513] It may be noted that a glimpse of the purport of Isaiah's words seems to be found in T. B. Sanhedrin, 38a: "The Son of David does not come until the two Houses of Israel have perished, namely the Head of the Captivity in Babylon and the Patriarch in the land of Israel, as it is said, And He shall be for a sanctuary," etc. (Isa 8:14). The passage is obscure, but it appears to mean that Messiah is to be both a sanctuary and also a cause of harm and destruction.
514] Similarly we find Bechai on Exodus 14:31 (p. 92) referring Isaiah 28:16 to the Messiah. The whole passage is worth quoting as a typical illustration of the use of the Old Testament Scriptures by Jewish writers: "'Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD': Faith (Emunah) in the coming of the Redeemer, for this is a great cornerstone in the Law. For it is written: Behold I lay in Zion, etc. (Isa 28:16), and every one who believeth has much merit. That is what is said of Abraham, who was the root of faith (Emunah), 'and He believed in the LORD, and He counted it to him for righteousness' (Gen 15:6). And behold he meriteth to attain to Gan Eden, for it is said, 'Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth Emunim may enter in' (Isa 26:2). And he merited to attain to the life of the world to come, for it is said, 'but the righteous shall live by his Emunah' (Hab 2:4)."
80. NEITHER UP TO HEAVEN NOR DOWN TO THE ABYSS.(Rom 10:6-9) "But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus. Say not in thy heart. Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down) or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy month, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
(Deut 30:11-14) "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it. Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
515] The courteous reader will not fail to make the observation that the Apostle does not even introduce the words as a direct quotation from Scripture, although it is very evident that he makes use of a Scriptural passage. But after saying, "Moses writeth" (v 5), he adds in contrast: "But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus." He means that the Christian heart which has experienced the righteousness which Christ gives says to one who is hesitating to accept the Lord Jesus as his Saviour: Raise no difficulty, for there is none. It is not a matter of going up to heaven, as though there were any need to bring Messiah downHe is come, without any activity or effort on your part! Neither is it a matter of going down into the abyss, the place of departed spirits, as though Christ were still there, weak and helpless. Nay, He has risen! And this without your aid or exertion. What is required from you is different altogether. The positive teaching of the Christian is: Salvation is close at hand for you to accept. It is a matter only of mouth and heart. And this is the Gospel which we preach. For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (acknowledging Him as your supreme Lord and Master), and believe in your heart I do not say that He came to earth, or even that He died, but that He was raised triumphant over sin and death, then thou shalt be saved.
St. Paul's argument, every reader will notice, is a beautiful application of certain words and phrases found in Deuteronomy. The Apostle does not profess to quote them literally, and much less to claim that he is representing the original meaning intended by Moses.
516] Yet our friend R. Isaac of Troki objects to his use of them, an objection which is amazing on the part of so learned a man! For he must surely have forgotten that such an application of passages in the Bible to themes other than their primary intent is one of the most ordinary and common methods employed among Jews of all ages to illustrate their sermons and give point to their exhortations.
Did he not remember that this very passage of Deuteronomy is quoted with a far from literal interpretation of its original meaning in T. B. Erubin, 55a (compare also the Yalqut in loco)? "Rabba said, It is not in heaven: that is, It [the Law] will not be found with him who exalts his mind upon it [or, within himself] like the heavens, and it will not be found with him who extends his knowledge upon it [or, within himself] like the sea. R. Jochanan used to say: Not in heaven means: It will not be found with the conceited. And 'it is not beyond the sea' means: It will not be found with pedlars or travelling merchants."* So, somewhat similarly, a writer also quoted in the Yalqut tells us that the passage means that "The Torah is not to be found with astrologers, whose faith is in the heavens." Perhaps I may be allowed to add one further example showing how far the Jewish mind is able to go in its usage of Scripture phrases. In the Baal hatturim (by Jacob ben Asher, died 1340) on the passage it is pointed out that the initial letters of the Hebrew words for "Who shall go up for us to heaven" form that all-important word, "Circumcision," and the final letters the word for LORD, showing that none shall ascend near the LORD except he be circumcised. Yet R. Isaac implies that St. Paul, here and elsewhere, shows ignorance of Scripture, because he does not quote it in its primary meaning!
517] R. Isaac's own interpretation of the passage in Deuteronomy is that the commandment there mentioned is that of repentance, which had been urged in the previous verse. In this he follows Seforno and Nachmanides. He says that Moses intends to show us the greatness of the command to repent, together with the easiness of fulfilling it; saying that while things esteemed precious are usually very hard to attain, repentance is not, for it is very near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, to do it. Thus repentance depends on confession of mouth and sorrow of heart, as the intelligent know.
518] The Rabbi's explanation is not impossible, but the more probable reference of the sacred writer is to obedience to the Lord generally, as made known to us in His Law. "The commandment meant," says Driver in his well-known commentary on the passage, "as Deuteronomy 11:22, 19:9 show, is devotion to Jehovah, with the obligations which it involves, especially obedience to the moral and religious demands made by Him of His worshippers: It is not too difficult for thee, neither is it far off. It is nothing abstruse or incomprehensible, like the complicated structure of the human frame (Psa 139:6; cf. 131:1; Prov 30:18); it is nothing recondite, which can be reached only by laborious and protracted study."
519] It is probable that Driver's interpretation is right. But if R. Isaac's were, there is one point which he has overlooked. For it does not seem unfair to remind him (as others have already done, e.g. Lichtenstein in his Chizzuk Emunath Emeth) that repentance towards God is joined by Hosea (3:5) with repentance towards David their king. In other words, repentance towards God implies for its fulness sorrow at the rejection of God's manifested will, and acceptance of this when it is perceived. For just as to Hosea the repentance of the Ten Tribes involved also their acceptance of David and his line, so the repentance of Israel to-day will include the acceptance of the rejected Messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of David.
81. THE DELIVERER OUT OF ZION.(Rom 11:26) "And so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written. There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."
(Isa 59:20) "And a redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob."
520] R. Isaac blames the Apostle for completely misquoting the words of the Prophet. He implies that the quotation is not only verbally wrong, but that it does not give the right sense at all.
To be quite frank, St. Paul's words are difficult, and the whole of the explanation of them is yet to be discovered. But I hope that after our previous investigation of several of St. Paul's quotations during the course of these studies, my readers will join with me in believing that either wilful corruption or crass ignorance on the part of the disciple of Gamaliel is incredible.
There are two or three points to be borne in mind. First, St. Paul's words very nearly correspond to the Septuagint Version, that is, to the old Jewish rendering which he found in almost universal use in his time, especially among such non-Palestinian Jews as formed part of the recipients of this Epistle to the believers in Rome. This will not quite clear up the difference between St. Paul's words and those of the Hebrew, for the Septuagint has "on account of Zion" and not "out of Zion," but the phrases are much more alike in the Greek than they are in the English, and it is not impossible that St. Paul's form may be the more original of the two. In any case the difference between these two terms is of no great importance.
521] Secondly, the accuracy of the Hebrew text is not above suspicion. For many critics think that where the Massoretic text has "unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob," the older and better text is preserved in the Septuagint, "He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." For, after all, no one in these days thinks that the text preferred and stereotyped by the Massoretes in the eighth to the tenth centuries of our era is to be regarded as immaculate. That this is not the case has been proved over and over again. It is, therefore, not too much to ask our readers at least to suspend judgment before condemning St. Paul, until scholars are agreed what were the actual words which the Prophet wrote. Further, let us not forget that if the Apostle errs in finding a verb at this place, he has the support of the Targum for his error. For this runs: "to bring back the rebelliousnesses of the House of Jacob to the Law." But in fact, the Hebrew and the Septuagint, St. Paul and the Targum, agree in the general sense of the passage, which is that the coming of the Messiah, His final and full coming, shall be contemporary with the removal of sin in Jacob. In this hope and blessed expectation, Christians and Jews are one.
82. SATAN UNDER OUR FEET.(Rom 16:20) "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
(1 Thess 2:18) "Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us."
522] Romans 16:20, with 1 Thessalonians 2:18. See the discussion of this in Part 1, Chapter 12, paragraph 131 sq.
83. THE INCESTUOUS MAN AT CORINTH.(1 Cor 5:1) "It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father's wife." Chapter 83
523] Whence was it, asks R. Isaac, that the Apostle derived his knowledge that such an action was a grievous sin, save from the Law of Moses? He condemned the man therefore out of the Law, although he has said elsewhere that Christians are free from the Law. It is plain, then, our Rabbi proceeds to argue, that Christians are, after all, not free from the commandments which are written in the Law. Jesus, therefore, did not redeem them from the curses of the Law, as the Apostle supposed when he was writing Galatians 3:13.
524] It is passing strange that so learned a man as R. Isaac can make such an assumption and frame such an argument, which would almost demand the pardon of my readers for its introduction, were we not engaged in studying the objections raised in the Chizzuk Emunah against Christianity in the order in which they are presented.
For why should the Law of Moses have been the only source whence St. Paul derived his knowledge that such an act was wrong? On the contrary, it is plain, from the fact that he says the Gentiles did not commit it, that he presupposes such knowledge in the world generally, quite apart from any revelation contained in the Law of Moses. He recognizes the existence of the moral law among the Gentiles. The Rabbi's assumption, then, is demonstrably false. St. Paul may well have condemned the man out of the moral law accepted by Jew and Gentile alike, and seems, in fact, to have done so.
525] Further, where does St. Paul say, or imply, that Christians need not observe the moral law, whether it is contained in the Law of Moses or not?* So far is he from doing this, that, if any one will but take the trouble to read the New Testament for himself, he will see that the Apostle urges his readers again and again to avoid sin in every form, and to strive after the utmost possible purity and holiness in every relation of life. Oh, for a little common sense in our controversy one with another! A little of it would have saved our opponent from supposing for a moment that Christians are taught that they are free from the commandments of the Law in any such sense as that they are not obliged to keep all that tend to holiness and purity. Such a supposition mistakes altogether the meaning of Christianity, whether taught by St. Paul or by any other writer in the New Testament.* Even so learned, and so modern, a Jew as Dr. K. Kohler can allow himself to say: "Paul's opposition to the law includes the moral law, and even the Decalogue" (Jewish Theology, systematically and historically considered, 1918, p. 437), but Dr. Kohler's book, admirable though it is for Judaism, shows abysmal ignorance of Christianity.Similarly the Rabbi's use of Galatians 3:13 is equally mistaken, but it will be better to defer our consideration of that passage until we deal with it fully in its proper place, paragraphs 537-544.
Meantime, I may perhaps be allowed to refer to what I have said on the Permanence of the Law, in paragraphs 173-179, and on Christians and Good Works, in paragraphs 290 sq., 355, 551.
84. CHRISTIANS ARE TO JUDGE ANGELS.(1 Cor 6:3) "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Chapter 84
526] The absurdity of this is plain, says R. Isaac, for, in the first place, the very greatest of the Prophets had fear of the angels, and, in the next, how could Paul judge between them, seeing that they are not material so that they can sin and come into judgment?
As for the greatest of the Prophets being afraid of them, why should he not be, so long as he was in mortal flesh? But will he be hereafter, when he himself is clad in the glory of the resurrection robe? There is no reason to suppose so.
527] With regard to the second objection, here indeed is absurdity! For the Rabbi has forgotten, as he would readily enough confess, that the angels did in fact sin. For what else are Satan, and Samael, and a host of others, but fallen angels, who not only have sinned themselves, but even tempt human beings to sin? And shall not man be able to judge such? For no one, so far as I am aware, supposes that men will be the final and supreme judges of such evil doers, but they can and will be assessors of the Divine tribunal, confirming the verdict of the omnipotent and all-righteous God, by their assent to the justice of His decree.
528] Besides, our Rabbi has surely overlooked the statements of Jewish scholars that hereafter the righteous among men are to be superior even to the angels who have never sinned. R. Jochanan says in T. B. Sanhedrin, 93a; "The righteous rank above the angels of service."* See also Midrash Tehillim on Psalm 103:20. R. Isaac ought to be more careful in his statements.* Cf. also The Ascension of Isaiah, ix. 38, 39 (in this part a Jewish-Christian's writings perhaps of the first century A.D.): "It is given to thee to see God, and on thy account power is given to the angel who is with thee."
85. PERSUADING JEWS TO BECOME CHRISTIANS.(1 Cor 7:18-20) "Was any man called being uncircumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Hath any been called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called."
(Gal 5:3) "Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
529] It is asserted that these verses form a reproof to Christians because they endeavour to win the Jews to accept Christianity.
The fact, however, is very different, as I am sure the intelligent readers of these pages will readily perceive. For St. Paul had in his mind quite other circumstances than those imagined by the Rabbi. In his Epistle to the Corinthians he is not thinking of Jews at all, but of Jews who had already become Christians. There were two parties in the Church of Corinth, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, and these were continually endeavouring to persuade each other that their own condition was the better. The Apostle would make peace, and he therefore reminds them both that the all-important thing was faith on the Lord Jesus, with the earnest life that ought to characterize it. If this existed, nothing else mattered very much. In the Epistle to the Galatians, on the other hand, St. Paul is dealing with a more serious case. Certain Christians of Jewish birth were going round the Churches, persuading believers of Gentile origin that it was necessary for them to be circumcised. He therefore warns his readers most solemnly against any such doctrine. Gentile believers had already found full liberty in Christ, and to yield to these persuasions would involve much more than the bare act of circumcision, even bondage under the whole Law of Moses. For a believer in Christ to be circumcised would imply that he had made up his mind to be saved by the works of the Law, instead of by Christ, that he had in fact fallen away from Christ altogether.
530] We may add that if St. Paul had meant what the Rabbi thinks he meant, opposition to the opinion that Jews ought to be won over to the faith of Christ, he would have contradicted his own efforts to win them, and even the experience of his own conversion. No one had been a stricter and more orthodox Jew than St. Paul, and yet he had given up much, that he might accept the Lord Jesus as his Saviour. Would it have been natural that one who felt that he owed everything in life, all that made existence here worth living, to the Lord Jesus, should have urged his readers not to endeavour to lead other Jews to the same blessing which he had found so precious to his own soul? Of course St. Paul would have been strongly opposed to the use of any unfair influence, much more any downright compulsion, in order to get Jews to be baptized. But with this every right-minded Christian agrees. We believe in religious liberty, more sincerely perhaps than do Jews. For indeed we fear, that in places where they have much power, as in Palestine, New York, and even in the East of London, they employ no little pressure and unfair compulsion to prevent members of their race from listening to the words of the Gospel. We Christians acknowledge with shame that Jews have suffered much from persecution in the past. But we cannot help seeing signs that they themselves are beginning to persecute Christians (only Jewish Christians, so far) in the present. We sometimes wonder whether Jews, notwithstanding the terrible lessons they have received, have even yet learned the elements of toleration in the modern and Christian sense. It is easy for the few and the down-trodden to be tolerant; the test comes when they are many and strong. Then is seen the presence, or the absence, of humble and sincere faith in the God of righteousness and love.
86. ACCURACY IN NUMBERS.(1 Cor 10:8) "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand."
(Num 25:29) "And those that died by the plague were twenty and four thousand?"
531] The discrepancy is plain; the Pentateuch says twenty-four, St. Paul twenty-three. Of course explanations have been given. One is that only twenty-three thousand died of the plague, and the rest were slain judicially by Moses (see Num 25:4). But we are expressly told in verse 9 that twenty-four thousand "died by the plague." Another way of getting out of the difficulty is to lay stress on the phrase, "in one day," and thus to suggest that although twenty-three thousand died on one day, the rest died on the preceding or following days. But it is useless to deceive ourselves with quibbles such as these. The number as it stands is an error, and we possess no means of explaining it. Yet suppose St. Paul did make a mistake in a number, of what possible importance is it? No one to-day imagines that any single writer of either the Old or the New Testament was necessarily preserved from mistakes in trivial matters. We Christians, at any rate, are quite willing to grant that the Apostle may have made an error. Yet, after conceding this, we may not forget another possibility. For knowing what we do know of the Apostle's methods in referring to Scripture we may reasonably suspect that there was a Jewish tradition bearing on the point, and existing in his time, which has not come down to us. On the whole this is the most probable solution of the difficulty, but the whole question is of infinitesimal importance.
87. VICTORY OVER DEATH.(1 Cor 15:54, 55) "Then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"
(Isa 25:8) "He hath swallowed up death for ever."
(Hosea 13:14) "O death, where are thy plagues? O grave, where is thy destruction?"
532] Our Rabbi says that St. Paul alters the words of the prophecy, in order to bring biblical assistance to his false faith, for the saying he quotes comes nowhere in the Prophets; and there are only the two passages in Isaiah and Hosea, given above.
The precise nature of R. Isaac's objection is not very clearly stated, but apparently he does not find fault with St. Paul for quoting two separate passages as one (for then he would be obliged to blame most Jewish writers for doing the same thing) but for quoting inaccurately, either in language or in sense or in both. We must, then, consider each quotation separately.
533] In Isaiah 25:8, we find: "He hath swallowed up death for ever" (בלע המות לנצח), which St. Paul quotes in the form: "Death is swallowed up in victory," the only difference of any importance being the words "in victory." Scholars to-day would not so translate the original, for the meaning thus assigned to נצח is post-biblical, but the Apostle cannot be seriously blamed for his translation when it is also that of Aquila, the typical Jewish translator. If R. Aqiba's pupil could render the phrase "in victory," we can hardly blame Gamaliel's for doing so as well. There is not, we may notice, any further question in this passage of the accuracy of the general sense presupposed by the Apostle, viz. that the final work of the Messiah is to destroy death and its power. This in fact is accepted in the Midrashim as a self-evident truth. See Shmoth R., chapter 30, on Exodus 21:1, speaking of Pharez: "For the Messiah will come from him, and in His days the LORD will cause death to be swallowed up, as it is written: He hath swallowed up death for ever." Thus, as the language of St. Paul's quotation is sufficiently near to the original, and the general sense in which the passage is quoted is not impugned, his use of the passage may be considered justified.
534] The case of his employment of Hosea 13:14 is more complicated. In the first place, the meaning of the words in the original is far from certain. The word translated "where" is found only three times, once in the tenth, and twice in the fourteenth verse of this chapter. Many scholars, especially those of earlier days, render it by "I will be," but the majority to-day agree with those mentioned by Aben Ezra, who took it to mean "where"
אהי . יש אומרים כי אהי כמו איה
So, again, the word translated by St. Paul as "thy victory" means in the original either "thy words," i.e. thy cause in the law-court, or even thy words of triumph at success, or, and more probably, "thy plagues." The literal rendering, therefore, of the passage may well be, "Where are thy plagues, O death? Where is thy sting [or, thy pestilence], O grave?" If so, the form employed by St. Paul is indeed a paraphrase, but is not inaccurate.
535] But what of the sense? Is the Apostle right in using it as he does? This is more doubtful. Recall the context in Hosea: "Shall I ransom them [for the sentence is to be taken as a question] from the power of the grave? Shall I redeem them from death? Where are thy plagues, O death? Where is thy pestilence, O grave? Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." The Lord is warning His people! He is summoning death and the grave to put forth all their powers, for He will not repent of His judgment upon those who have grievously sinned against Him. Yet the Apostle quotes this sentence as describing Messiah's supreme victory over death and the grave! But as a good Jew, accustomed to Talmudic methods, why should he not? The language fitted his thought, and the verse may well have been used in Jewish hymns long before his time to illustrate the same idea. Besides, in any case, the thought of Hosea presupposes that the LORD is the supreme master of death, and bids death and the grave act as His servants to perform His work. Thus the language of Hosea is glorious, setting, as it does, even death itself under the feet of the living God. St. Paul, intentionally or unintentionally, helps us to realize this by his method of quotation. Death shall not have the final victory, but it and Sheol shall be altogether overcome.
88. JAMES THE LORD'S BROTHER.(Gal 1:19) "But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." Chapter 88
536] The statement that James believed on the Lord Jesus is thought to be contrary to John 7:5.
What of it? If St. Paul was referring to the same time in the life of St. James as that to which the Evangelists alluded, there would be reason in the Rabbi's objection. But he is speaking of a much later period, when St. James had long since accepted the Lord Jesus whole-heartedly, and had become one of the leading Christians in Jerusalem. What is there so extraordinary in this? The history of St. Paul himself ought to prevent any surprise at so great a change. On the fact of the early incredulity of St. James, see paragraphs 385-390, 401, 432.
89. THE MESSIAH ACCURSED!(Gal 3:13) "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Chapter 89
537] No one can be surprised that this verse comes as a shock to every Jewish reader, for it causes every Christian the more pain and grief the more he understands it. The writer of the Chizzuk Emunah has much to say, and that not of a favourable kind.
538] In the first place, he argues that it is impossible for people to be redeemed from the curses (sic) of the Law, except by keeping its commands. Jesus, on the other hand, abolished these (so at least His followers assert), and therefore He has done nothing to redeem men from it. But the learned Rabbi here fails to grasp the sense of the word "redeem," although it is not uncommon in the Law itself. Surely he has forgotten that it is used in Exodus 13:13, and elsewhere, of the redemption of an eldest son by a sum of money. Death was the boy's portion; what part did he himself take in fulfilling the commandments of the Law? Another paid the redemption money for him, and by that ransom he was delivered. So is it with Christ! He has redeemed us from the curse of death brought upon us by the Law.
539] Even if so, would the Rabbi add, that does not set men free from obeying the Law. But who said it did? The Hebrew boy was not redeemed that he might grow up careless of the divine commands and neglectful of God. Far from it. His redemption was but the beginning of a life devoted to the LORD. So with the true believer. Not in spite of his redemption, but because of it, he desires to carry out the will of God, and to perform the commandments of the Law in their truest and highest sense. He is delivered from its curse that he may keep it the more (see paragraphs 160-165).
540] Secondly, the Rabbi would persuade us that the claims of the Law lie only upon the children of Israel, and not on the Gentiles. These, he says, are free from its curses apart from any redemption, even as they have no share in its blessings. In fact, no argument is more common than this on the lips of Jews when they are disputing with Christians. And it is to be feared that none is less true.
For, after all, every educated person in these days is acquainted with the fact that the Law as it stands is drawn largely from Gentile sources, and therefore that much of it was binding on Gentiles before it had a claim on Jews. It was not given to Moses on Sinai as something brand new brought straight down from the heavenly world without any previous contact with earth. Whatever might have been thought in the Middle Ages, no Jew, I am persuaded, believes this to-day. The Law, as we possess it, has incorporated much of what was known to Gentiles centuries before the time of Moses, as is apparent from the study of the Code of Khammurabi (Amraphel), the contemporary of Abraham. The special glory of the Law of Moses is not its absolute originality, but rather its masterly selection of the better portions of Gentile laws, and its enforcement of duties set in their highest form, and founded on the most solid basis. Thus, because there is so much in the Law which is common ground to Gentiles and Jews, the former may be condemned by it as much as the latter.
541] It may, however, be said that the Gentiles never acknowledged the Law, and therefore cannot be said to be bound by it, so as to incur its blame or forfeit its blessings. What! Is there no truth at all in the famous Haggada that the Law was offered to all the nations in turn before the Jews, but that they one and all refused it? I, at least, have too much respect for the earnest exponents of Judaism to believe that they told idle tales as mere catch-pieces for their serious exhortations. Occasionally, no doubt, they may have done so, but in general there was a deep truth underlying their paradoxes and Oriental hyperboles. I should be untrue to all my teachers if I had not learned at least this much from them. What, then, is the verity underlying the form of this Haggada? Is it not this, that all the Gentile nations refused the Law, not indeed formally, as the tale portrays them to us, but in heart and deed? The great principles of the Law were known to them of old, long, long before the Exodus, and they would not follow them, but refused to the supreme God the homage of their hearts.
542] But does a man escape a moral duty, as the Rabbi then would appear to suppose, by refusing to undertake it, or even by unwillingness to listen to the statement of what it is? The reply is obvious. By so doing he becomes doubly guilty. If so, then Gentiles, as well as Jews, stand condemned if they do not keep the Law; and Gentiles, as well as Jews, need redemption from its curse.
543] Thirdly, complaint is made that the Apostle does not quote the passage from Deuteronomy 21:23 accurately, but has left out the words "of God": "He that is hanged is accursed of God." We have, however, so often seen the worthlessness of such complaints about inaccuracy of quotation, that it hardly seems to be worth while to spend more time in considering them. Yet it is possible that in this case the Rabbi meant to imply that he preferred another mode of explaining the text. For some Jewish scholars, as, for example, Rashi, think that Moses' words should be translated: "He that is hanged is an insult to God." Cf. Mishna Sanhedrin, vi. 4 end. But Nachmanides shows that, however interesting this may be as a Drash, the simple meaning is that he that is hanged is accursed by God. If so, St. Paul loses nothing of the sense by omitting the word "God"; for who can curse with any effect, but He?
544] Fourthly, by a sorry jest, quite unworthy of the solemnity of the occasion, R. Isaac shows that he misunderstands the subject. For the Apostle, in using so strong an expression about the Messiah, desires to point out to us the awfulness of the experience through which He passed. Now, for the first and last time in the whole of His existence, the Messiah knew the full meaning and force of sin. Sin was, in a sense, upon Him. He sacrificed Himself to the very uttermost, even to the extent of bearing sin. It rested, in some awful and inexplicable way, on Him who was in Himself sinless, that by thus accepting the burden of sin He might release us from it. He was the victim on whom the sins of the world were laid, and by whose sacrifice righteousness was satisfied. If so, then surely upon that holy sacrifice, as upon the scapegoat in olden time, the curse of God rested, though but for a moment. Almost at once the separation from Him who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" passed away, and He was able to commit Himself to His Father's keeping in perfect peace (Luke 23:46). See further the remarks on Matthew 27:46, in paragraphs 376-378.
90. ABRAHAM'S SEED.(Gal 3:16) "Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Chapter 90
545] R. Isaac here repeats the arguments that he had used in Part 1, Chapter 13, and ordinarily it would have been sufficient to refer the reader to what has been said in answer to him there, viz. in paragraphs 137-143. But Prof. Driver was good enough to call my attention to an article written by him upon this passage in the Expositor for January, 1889, in which he adopted an explanation proposed by Abr. Geiger, and afterwards accepted by Delitzsch. It is to the effect that we find in the Mishna and the Targum of Onkelos derivatives of the root זרע, which must be translated "seeds," and mean successive generations of men. So in the Mishna Sanhedrin, iv. 5 (11), "In the case of a murderer his own blood, and the blood of his seeds (זרעיותיו), are assigned to him to the end of the world. For so we find in the case of Cain, . . . 'The bloods of thy brother cry unto me from the ground.' The text does not say 'blood,' but 'bloods'; i.e. Abel's own blood, and the blood of his seeds (זרעיותיו)." Similarly in the Targum of Onkelos on Genesis 4:10, "The blood of the seeds (זרעין), which were destined to spring from thy brother."
Hence it is probable that to St. Paul the use of the plural of substantives formed from the root זרע, in the sense of successive generations of men, seemed to be nothing extraordinary, and, regardless of the usage of the Hebrew Bible, he therefore calls attention to the fact that the actual wording of the passage in Genesis 22:18 excluded, strictly speaking, the performance of the promise in successive generations of Israelites, and required its fulfilment in one generation, which was summed up in Christ.
This explanation is so interesting, as coming ultimately from so famous a Jewish writer as Abr. Geiger, and recommended by two such distinguished Gentile scholars as Driver and Delitzsch, that it is certain all the readers of this work will like to have it before them. Personally, however, I still prefer the explanation that was given in paragraphs 137-143.
91. GIFTS AMONG MEN.(Eph 4:8) "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts imto men."
(Psa 68:18 ) "Thou hast ascended on high, thou has led thy captivity captive; thou hast received gifts among men."
546] Here again, says R. Isaac, Paul wrote the very contrary of what the Psalmist said, King David of blessed memory, in order to adduce some support for his faith. For the Psalmist did not write: "Thou hast given gifts to men," but "Thou hast received gifts among men."
Alas! why would R. Isaac insist on writing as if he were an ignorant Gentile, instead of bringing forth his treasures of Jewish lore like the trained scholar that he was? For it is hardly credible that any one acquainted with Jewish literature should find fault with the Apostle for his Midrashic use of this Psalm. Such a use of this very verse was a commonplace among Jewish writers from early times, and every Jewish controversialist ought to say so frankly. The Targum will make this plain: "Thou, namely Moses the Prophet, didst go up to the firmament; Thou didst lead captivity captive, i.e. thou didst teach the things of the Law; Thou didst give them gifts, even to the sons of men."
Rashi is equally clear in expounding the passage of Moses: "Thou hast gone up. The leader of his people, Moses the son of Amram, came on high. Thou hast led captivity captive, i.e. the Law. And thou didst receive gifts, i.e. from those above, even to give them to the sons of man."
The Babylonian Talmud, too, refers to the verse in much the same manner. See Sabbath, 88b, 89a. Moses goes up to heaven to receive the Law, but the angels object, that, after God has hidden it for nine hundred and seventy-four generations before the creation of the world, He should now seek to give it to flesh and blood. Eventually there is said to Moses, "Thou hast gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts b'adam, i.e. as a reward because they called thee Adam." The Apostle's exposition is grave compared with this!
The Metzudoth David, on the other hand, interprets it of Israel. "Thou hast gone up on high. And with all this, thou Israel hast gone up on high! He means, thy hand is raised on high to prevail against them, to receive the Law. And thou didst bring it captive out of the hand of the angels, and thou didst receive it for gifts, that it should be found among the sons of man, and not among the angels above."
547] It is true, no doubt, that none of these passages is earlier than St. Paul, but they show the way in which the verse was used by Jews, and it is hard to understand why non-Christian Jews may quote it so, and Christian Jews may not. But it may be replied that the Targum, the Talmud, Rashi, and the late Metzudoth David never intended to give a literal explanation, but only to afford their readers some homiletical pleasure and spiritual delight. Quite so. Did St. Paul intend to do otherwise? There is not a shadow of reason to suppose so. He, a Jew, quotes like a Jew, loving to find spiritual applications. Treat him fairly as you would any other Jew; he asks no more.
But Jews apply it to Moses or Israel, he to Jesus! Why not? His application is at least as legitimate as theirs. And it was but natural that, as a Christian Jew, he should quote the verse to illustrate the heavenward journey, and the life-giving influence, of Him, who, as Christians hold, has returned to the glory of His Father, in the heights above. Non-Christian Jews applied the verse to the giving of the Law; a Christian Jew to the giving of the Spirit. Why should he not?
92. YOU AND GOD.(1 Thess 2:10) "Ye are witnesses, and God also." Chapter 92
548] "See how Paul stumbles in his language, and how confused his thoughts are, in a simple matter in which the majority of ordinary Christians would beware of stumbling! For he puts the creatures in front of the Creator! He ought to have said: God is witness, and also ye! ... Paul's pride is brought down, and his shame exposed in the eyes of all, great and small alike!"
It is sufficient to reply that the Apostle was writing a letter, not a carefully prepared theological treatise, and that having written: "Ye are witnesses," he adds as a kind of afterthought: "Yes, and God is also." In fact, it is the very greatness of God that makes St. Paul mention Him as a climax to his previous assertion. Ye, after all, are nothing, God is supreme! Is this to belittle God? Besides, let the Rabbi blame Isaiah, who in 59:2 writes: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God." The charge is absurd.
93. ST. JAMES AND ST. PAUL.(James 2:24) "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith."
(Gal 2:16) "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, save through faith in Jesus Christ."
(Rom 3:20) "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight."
549] The Apostles do not agree, cries our Rabbi. St. James requires works, like Deuteronomy 6:25; St. Paul does not.
Far be it from me to deny that the verbal disagreement between the two Apostles has caused great searching of heart among Christians, but personally I cannot help thinking that the answer to the difficulty lies in the fact that they were addressing different kinds of people.
550] Is it not possible that two non-Christian Jewish teachers might differ as much verbally? One might insist, when speaking to those Jews, not so very few after all, who are inclined to think that because they have been circumcised all will necessarily be well with them at the last: Beware, be not so forgetful of your duties; you must, if you are to enter the courts of heaven, do your best to keep God's commandments. Yet if he were addressing people who said that it was quite unimportant what faith they followed if only their lives were straight, he might say: Nay, faith in the true God you must have, if you are to share the privileges that He gives to His servants.
So it may well have been that St. James was writing to persons who thought a bare acceptance of the Messiahship of Jesus was enough, and he says: Nay, it is not; you must show your faith by your works. On the other hand, St. Paul, as we know, was inveighing against those who would persuade Gentile believers that they must accept and practise the requirements of the Jewish Law, and he tells them plainly that a real and living faith on Christ and His redeeming work was all that was required.
551] That St. Paul could, and did, insist on the need of works by every professing Christian has been touched upon in paragraphs 179, 290, sq. To the references there given may be added Acts 26:20: "That they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance"; and Titus 3:8: "These things I will that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works." Further, in Galatians 5:6, St. Paul combines the two truths taught by himself and St. James, when he speaks of "faith working through love."
As for Deuteronomy 6:25: "It shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us." I ask, Who will and can do it? Let the reader look into his own heart and life, and he will find all so full of failure that he will thankfully accept the merit won for him by Christ, the self-sacrifice of Messiah for his need.
94. THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
552] This is a part of the New Testament in which Christian people take great delight, both for its spirituality, and for the insight into Old Testament truths which it displays. But our Rabbi adduces two objections against it: first, that its authorship is unknown; secondly, that its canonicity is uncertain.
553] Let us consider first the question of authorship. Far from me be it to attempt to prove who it was that wrote it. Briefly speaking, R. Isaac is quite right when he says that no one knows this. It was indeed thought at the end of the second century of our era that the Epistle was written by St. Paul, and this has been the favourite theory with the unlearned in all ages since, but it is given up by scholars. Neither out of all the many names proposed is there one which secures even a majority of votes among thinking people.
What of this? Is it of any real importance? No doubt, we should all like to know who was the author of so great an Epistle, but if we cannot tell, does that injure the value of its contents? Jews as well as Christians would be in a poor way if it were necessary in all cases to know the names of the authors of their sacred books. Will any Jew of learning be good enough to tell us who wrote the books of Joshua, of Judges, of Kings, or most of the Psalms, or Job, or Ecclesiastes, or Chronicles, to say nothing of those many portions of other books, the traditional authorship of which is more than doubtful in these days of critical scholarship? The value of a book to us lies in its appeal to our soul, not in its authorship. Every thoughtful Jew, I am sure, will agree with me in this.
554] Secondly, it is said that there are doubts about the canonicity of the Epistle. Yes, while it seems to have always been accepted in Alexandria, and was known and esteemed at Rome by Clement of Rome in the end of the first century, and in North Africa by Tertullian in the end of the second, it was not generally received as canonical in the West until the middle of the fourth. But have there never been any doubts about some of the books now contained in the Hebrew Bible? What of Proverbs, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs? Jews cannot throw stones at Christians in respect of canonicity any more than in that of authorship.
555] But let us be quite clear and candid. A man may reject the Epistle to the Hebrews because he thinks it is uncanonical and unworthy to be included in the canon of the New Testament writings. What of it? Does he thereby imperil his own salvation? Certainly not. We have no right whatever to say so. The Epistle to the Hebrews is not even one of the most important treatises in the New Testament, and if a man does not choose to use it, he does not incur any great and awful penalty. But, to my mind, he does show this, that he has a very slight acquaintance with the historical circumstances in which the New Testament writings were composed, and has a very poor sense of what does, and what does not, reveal God to his soul. The nearer a man is to Christ, and the more knowledge he possesses of the Old Testament, and of the method of its interpretation current during the first century, so much the more gladly will he study the Epistle to the Hebrews. Who it was wrote it, I know not, but the author was some one deeply versed in the things of God. Let that suffice for the devout student, be he Jew or Christian.
95a. THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST.Hebrews 1:5, and Psalm 2:7. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Chapter 95
556] The use of this Psalm has been fully discussed in Chapter 68, paragraphs 480-493, with reference to Acts 13:33.
95b. THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST, cont.(Heb 1:5) "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son."557] R. Isaac informs us that the use of this passage by the author of our Epistle is a mistake, for in the first place God spoke the words to David in reference to Solomon, not the Messiah, and, secondly, they cannot refer to Jesus, because the statement follows that "if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men," and Christians believe that Jesus never sinned at all, and thus, on their own showing, the passage cannot relate to Him.
(2 Sam 7:14) "I will be his father, and he shall be my son."
558] Now let us grant at once that God's words to David referred directly, not to the Messiah, but to David's descendants generally, and, as Kimchi puts it, "to the whole seed of David, not to Solomon only." The promise was to David's descendants, even though they might, and sometimes did, require punishment for their sins.
Yet no one, probably, will deny that this glorious promise did, in fact, form a fresh starting-point for the even more glorious hope of the coming of the Messiah. It affected the whole trend of Messianic prophecy. It suggested the everlasting continuance of David's house, the descent from him of the King who should be more than a second David, and the dignity of the Divine Sonship promised to this mighty Ruler. This seems also to be the thought of Psalm 89:27-37
, where the description is too great to suit any merely mortal king of David's line.
27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. 28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. 29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. 30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; 31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; 32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. 33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. 34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. 35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. 36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37 It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
559] So again in the Psalms of Solomon, xvii. 5 (4), 23 (21): "Thou, O Lord, didst choose David to be king over Israel, and didst swear unto him touching his seed for ever, that his kingdom should not fail before Thee. . . . Behold, O LORD, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, in the time which thou, O God, knowest, that he may reign over Israel thy servant."* And in the second century of the Christian era we find Trypho, the learned Jew with whom Justin Martyr held his discussion, appealing to this passage in 2 Samuel in support of his belief that the Messiah will be a son of David (Dialogue with Trypho, chap. 68).* Ryle and James' translation.560] But even if it were not the case that this passage in the historical books is recognized by Jews as pointing forward to the Messiah, on the ground that it referred at first to all those descendants of David who should sit upon his throne, yet surely to a Christian who was assured that of all David's seed there was none who approached Jesus the Messiah, it was allowable to use the words spoken by God to David, and to take them as descriptive of the attitude and relation in which God had promised to stand towards him. Never, writes the author of this Epistle, did God give to angels so glorious a promise as this which He gave to David's seed, chief of whom confessedly is the Messiah; why, then, do some suppose that there are any angels greater than Messiah, and pray to them rather than to Him? Angels cannot claim to stand in that peculiar relation of sonship to God which Scripture attributes to David's great descendant, the Messiah! Quite apart from any question as to who the Messiah is, whether Jesus of Nazareth or not, Jews can hardly help accepting the validity of this argument adduced in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
95c. ANGELS WORSHIP THE MESSIAH.(Heb 1:6) "And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him."561] The courteous reader will not fail to observe certain points of interest about the words of the Epistle which might escape the glance of the hurried critic. In the first place, the Messiah is called the firstborn. No Jew, of course, can be surprised at this, for the title is given Him in purely Jewish writings. So, for example, in Shmoth R., chapter 19, we read, on Exodus 13:2: "Sanctify to me all the firstborn. R. Nathan saith, the LORD saith to Moses, As I made Jacob firstborn, for it is said 'Israel is my son, my firstborn' (Exo 4:22), so do I make king Messiah firstborn, for it is said 'I also will make him my firstborn' (Psa 89:27)."*
(Psa 97:7) "Worship him, all ye gods."* קדש לי כל בכור ר׳ נתן אומר אומר הקב״ה למשה כשם שעשיתי562] Secondly, if the best commentators upon the Epistle are to be any guide to us, the reference is to the Messiah when He shall come hereafter to judge the world, not to His first coming in the Incarnation. The author says: "When He again bringeth." He regards the Messiah, that is to say, as carrying out the Last Judgment. Now it will be remembered by all Jews who are well acquainted with the history of their nation that this is not primarily a Christian, but a Jewish belief. The Book of Enoch was not written by a Christian, but by a Jew. And the author of it says repeatedly that the Judgment will be executed, not by God as such, but by the Son of man. Christians have but identified that Son of man with the Messiah, an identification perhaps not made earlier than Christianity.
יעקב בכור שנא׳ בני בכורי ישראל כך אני עושה למלך המשיח בכור
שנא׳ אף אני בכור אתנהו
563] Thirdly, we have already seen in paragraphs 333-337 that the use of that term, "the Son of man," by a Jewish writer (and it is very similar to the term "the Man" in another Jewish book, 4 Esdras), suggests that it was chosen as a short and convenient expression for the great truth hinted at in Ezekiel 1
, the famous vision of the Merkaba, which so few Jews dare to study. For one reason why that vision was granted to the Prophet was surely this, to remind him that in God Himself there is the quality of man. The Charioteer was as a man. So it may well be that the future Judgment will be carried out by, if we may say so, those attributes of God which He shares in common with humanity, summed up for the author of the Book of Enoch in the title of "the Son of man," and expressed for us Christians in the name of Him who has taken human nature, Jesus the Messiah.
1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. 6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. 7 And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. 8 And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. 9 Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. 10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. 13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. 14 And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. 18 As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. 19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. 22 And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. 23 And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. 24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. 25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. 27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. 28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
If so, the author of our Epistle surely cannot be blamed for referring a passage in the Psalms which speaks directly of supernatural powers worshipping God, to Him who unites in Himself the human attributes inherent in the Deity, and has undergone the temptations and the trials of mankind. The human character of God as revealed to Ezekiel became visible to men generally in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, by whom God will judge the world. Regard the Christian doctrine as we may, the Christian author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was quite within his rights in his application of the Psalm. A thoughtful Jew, who had never heard of Jesus, might well have made the same application of it to the Messiah.
95d. "THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOR EVER AND EVER."Hebrews 1:8 from Psalm 45:6.564] Our friend says that the translation quoted by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is wrong, and should be: "Thy throne is the throne of God for ever and ever," which is, we may notice, the rendering of the margin of the Revised Version of the Psalm. Further, he says it means that the throne was an eternal one; and in summing up the passage he tells us that the Psalm was spoken of Messiah, whom God will establish, of the seed of David; also that he will be king over all Israel, and that there will be no intermission to his kingdom, the throne being for ever; for he will reign, and his son, and his son's son after him for ever.
(Heb 1:8; Psa 45:6) Heb 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom...Psa 45:6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
565] It is clear from this that the controversy between the Rabbi and ourselves concerning the use of the forty-fifth Psalm is narrowed down to a very small issue, for he believes that it was written of the Messiah, as we ourselves do, and the only difference between us is whether or not the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was justified in quoting the verse in the manner he does. Both he and R. Isaac interpret the Psalm of Messiah; that the former also thinks that the Messiah is Jesus has nothing to do with the immediate question.
566] The Rabbi says the writer is wrong in his use of the Psalm, because he quotes the verse in the form, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Yet if he did, the Rabbi must blame not him, but rather the Jewish translator of the Septuagint, who gives exactly the same rendering. If the Greek words in the Epistle to the Hebrews are addressed to the Messiah as God, so they must also be addressed in the Greek translation made by the seventy Jews, and we may fairly ask: why should the Christian Jew be blamed for doing what the Alexandrian Jew did with impunity. But, frankly speaking, it is not at all certain that either the Septuagint or the author of the Epistle meant this. The former found in the Hebrew the word "God" following immediately upon the term "Thy throne," and imitated the Hebrew, perhaps without caring to decide what was the inner meaning of the latter. Then, in his turn, the Christian writer, finding that the Jewish-Greek translation which he used had so convenient an expression for his purpose, may have adopted it as it stood, without troubling to compare it with the Hebrew, or, if he did so compare it, have been content to leave it in the same difficult, but poetic, form which the Psalmist himself wrote.
567] In the interests of truth, however, it is necessary to point out that whether or not the rendering "O God" is right, it is in no way required for the argument of the writer of the Epistle. "It is commonly supposed," says Bishop Westcott in his commentary on the Epistle, "that the force of the quotation lies in the divine title, which, as it is held, is applied to the Son. It seems, however, from the whole form of the argument to lie rather in the description which is given of the Son's office and endowment. The angels are subject to constant change, He has a dominion for ever and ever; they work through material powers, He the Incarnate Son fulfils a moral sovereignty and is crowned with unique joy....In whatever way, then, the words be taken, the quotation establishes the conclusion which the writer wishes to draw as to the essential difference of the Son and the angels. Indeed it might appear to many that the direct application of the divine Name to the Son would obscure the thought."
568] Thus we are not justified in finding in the words a certain and direct "proof" of the divinity of Jesus, for the writer to the Hebrews did not quote them with this object, but we have every right to insist on the fact that the Psalmist contemplates the coming of a King who shall be deemed superior by God to all other beings in the created world. The author of the Epistle believed Jesus to be this King, the Messiah, and therefore he naturally and rightly says that the promise was fulfilled in Him.
95e. "THOU HAST LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND HATED INIQUITY; THEREFORE GOD, THY GOD, HATH ANOINTED THEE WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE THY FELLOWS."So Hebrews 1:9 and Psalm 45:7.569] This passage is a continuation of the former, and is only worth mentioning because R. Isaac makes the mistake of saying that the writer of the Epistle understood the first word "God" to be in the vocative, and thus to be a direct title of the Messiah. But the Rabbi must have been led astray, perhaps by the Polish version which he used, for there is no hint of this in the Greek. He has made a mistake, and no more need be said.
(Heb 1:9; Psa 45:7) Heb 1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows...Psa 45:7 Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
96. THE EIGHTH PSALM.(Heb 2:6-9) "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he subjected all things unto him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour." See Psalm 8:4-6. Chapter 96
570] The explanation of the Psalm given us by R. Isaac is that it speaks of man in general, who is less than angels* because he has a body,** and yet receives such honour from God, by virtue of the soul, that God has made him rule over the animal world. But is not this a bathos? Does not the Psalm in reality suggest to us something more? Had not the Psalmist in mind the moral greatness of men, whose very children are the means of God's power being recognized (Psalm 8)? Man indeed is a little less than angels, yet he is given honour and glory; and the phrase points to a wide vista of influence and power, in which the dominion over the beasts and birds and fishes is but a foretaste of that supremacy over "all things" which is verbally stated by the Psalmist.* Whether Elohim here should be translated "angels" is of no immediate importance. R. Isaac accepts the rendering of the New Testament and Jewish writers generally, and I think rightly. But most moderns translate it by "God."571] If so, it will be observed that the writer to the Hebrews is not so far wrong. Man is to be exalted, and his argument is that we see One Man exalted already. He was made lower than the angels, but, because He suffered death, He has been raised far above them, crowned with glory and honour. He is, therefore, in such a position that angels must worship Him, as the author already wrote in the first chapter. Thus R. Isaac's further difficulty that here Christ is said to be less than the angels, whereas there He had been described as superior to them, falls to the ground.
** Yet why is the possession of a body necessarily a mark of inferiority? Does not such a suggestion smack of Manichaeism?
572] But it may be objected that if we thus explain the passage as a tribute to the hope of the eighth Psalm by its fulfilment in the case of one Person already, how is it a proof of Christ's divinity? But who ever said it was a proof of this? Certainly not the writer of the Epistle. For he does not adduce the Psalm as a proof of Christ's divinity, or indeed as a proof of anything in the modern sense of the word "proof." He was, quite evidently, a Jewish- Christian, accustomed to turn to the sacred Scriptures to illustrate, and thus to confirm, everything he wrote (for they were permeated, as he believed, through and through with the power of God), and, convinced as he was that Jesus was the Messiah, passage after passage of Scripture came into his mind, bearing upon the subject from every possible point of view. He was a Jew, and he wrote like a Jew, for whom Scripture was like Moses' bush, all on fire with the presence of God, and if he was writing about the character of Messiah, or His nature, or His position and work, and recalled words of Scripture which suited his thought, he (like every other Jew quoted in Talmudic writings) would not hesitate to use them for his purpose. Scripture for Jews of old had such wide and manifold applications as to suit every truth. Let the Jews, then, judge the writer of the Epistle by Jewish standards. In all probability he never supposed that the author of the Psalm consciously referred to Messiah (whatever he thought the Divine Author who inspired him might Himself have intended), but he did see that it held out the promise of a greatness for Man which is yet to be, and also that already One Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, has attained to that greatness. You may deny the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiahthat is another matter altogetherbut you cannot blame the writer of the Epistle for the way in which he quotes Scripture, if only you deal out to him the same measure of justice that you allow to other Jews.
97. THE NEW COVENANT.(Heb 8:8) "For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:"
(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:"
573] See Part 1, Chapter 29; paragraphs 230-233.
98. "A BODY DIDST THOU PREPARE FOR ME."(Heb 10:5-7) "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst thou prepare for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure; then said I, Lo, I am come (in the roll of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God."
(Psa 40:6, 7) "Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I am come; in the roll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, my God."
574] The general meaning of this portion of the Psalm is plain. The Psalmist, conscious of deliverance from some extreme danger, perhaps a very serious illness, comes before the LORD to offer more than mere sacrifices, even himself, for complete obedience to the will of God. For his ears, he says, have been framed for that very purpose, that they may hear the commands that God may choose to give him, and that he may carry them out to the full. This is substantially what R. Isaac says, and he is right.
575] But the Jews of Alexandria did not translate "Mine ears hast Thou opened," but paraphrased, "A body didst Thou prepare for me." Why they did so is not clear, but in all probability they were moved by the desire to make the meaning of the Psalmist plainer than ever, and to leave no loophole for the reader to escape from the clear duty of consecrating himself to God wholly and entirely. They wished him to understand that God formed not his ears only, but all his body, with every one of its members, that he might hear, see, think, and perform the will of God with all his powers. If so, we must say that this old Jewish rendering is certainly interesting, and is only so far wrong that it ceases to be a literal translation, and becomes a paraphrase. But this is very common elsewhere, both in the Septuagint and in the Targums. No blame can be attached to the Alexandrian translators on this score.** It is possible, but improbable, that the Greek word for "body" is due to a mere mistake, the misreading of the word for "ears" by some copyist. But how the common Greek text arose is of no importance to us, for in any case it represents the thought of the Hebrew.576] Now comes the Jewish-Christian, who is writing his hortatory letter to the Hebrews, i.e. members of the same race and the same faith as himself, but presumably dwellers in Palestine, or even Jerusalem. He has heard that they are inclined to waver in the simplicity of their faith, and he desires to strengthen and encourage them by every means in his power. He therefore directs them once more to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they and he believe. He has now reached the point when he is speaking of the coming of the Messiah into the world, and is describing the spirit and aim with which He leaves the abodes of bliss. The Messiah, he says, would thus address His Father in heaven. I come down to earth, not to perform any mere external sacrifices, good though these are in themselves, but to carry out Thy will in its entirety. Therefore hast Thou framed my ears, nay, a whole body hast Thou prepared for me, that I may carry out Thy will to the uttermost. The writer employs the phraseology of the Alexandrian Jews, and we cannot blame him.
577] But the Psalmist did not intend to refer to the Messiah, you say! No, I suppose that he did not. What of that? Surely the Christian may use the words of Him! There they stand in a Jewish version, ready to hand, and after all they do exactly express the work of the Messiah as the Christian understands it. If the Psalmist, David or whoever else it was, could dare to say that he himself put aside all thought of sacrifices in comparison with the blessed privilege of doing the will of God, how much more could He say it who came down to earth for men's salvation, that He might fully accomplish that will!
578] For, if we consider the passage closely, the use of it by the writer to the Hebrews is not merely verbal, and depends on no mere quibble of Jewish exegesis. The sentence states a great truth; that external sacrifices are insufficient, and that the accomplishment of the will of God, in one's character and life, is everything. Ordinary men, alas, fail to do this; but Messiah succeeds: "His power to do the will of God corresponded with His purpose to do it" (Bishop Westcott). And because He fulfilled it, therefore salvation was procured for every one who will put his trust in Him. Thus the believer, looking to the finished work of Christ, gladly applies to Him the Psalmist's words, and cares little whether he quotes from the Hebrew, and speaks of "ears," or from the paraphrase of the Alexandrian Jews, and says: "A body didst Thou prepare for me."
99. THE OMISSION OF DAN IN REVELATION 7:5-8.(Rev 7:5-8) "Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand." Chapter 99
579] R. Isaac is very severe on the fact that the writer of the Revelation of St. John omits the name of Dan from his list of the Jewish Christians who were sealed out of the Twelve Tribes, and adds the name of Manasseh instead. But this is a misstatement. For the writer is not enumerating the sons of Jacob as such, but those who were sealed out of every Tribe. He is plainly thinking of the Twelve Tribes in their geographical distribution. But among these he includes the tribe of Levi, and is therefore bound to omit one of the others, if he is not to go beyond the number twelve. He thus has not omitted Dan, and put Manasseh instead, but he has inserted Levi, and omitted Dan. It is well to be accurate about such matters.
580] But even so there is a difficulty. What made the author omit Dan, rather than any other of the twelve?
Now here we must remember that this author is not alone in omitting a name, or names, from what looks at first sight like a complete enumeration of the Twelve Tribes. For Moses does the same in Deuteronomy 33. He inserts Levi, and leaves out Simeon. Did he do so, pray, because he was an ignorant person, careless even of so ordinary a piece of information as the proper names of the twelve sons of Jacob? For that is the accusation which R. Isaac ventures to make against the writer of the Revelation, well-acquainted though he shows himself to be with Jewish matters elsewhere. Surely the accusation of ignorance is preposterous in either case. Similarly with the writer of 1 Chronicles 2:3-chap 8. He enumerates the Tribes, and omits Dan* and Zebulon! Why does he? That I cannot say, neither is it our present business to inquire. But it is not likely to have been through that crass ignorance of the A B C of Judaism, which some attribute so lightly to the writers of the New Testament.* In 1 Chronicles 7:12, חשם בני אחר may have been originally חשים בני דן (cf. Gen 46:23), in which case אחר may have been inserted because the MS. was illegible. Or possibly אחר was used as a convenient mode of designating a person with whom there were unfavourable associations; cf. אחר as the equivalent of Elisha ben Abuyah. The margins of the Authorized and Revised Versions would read Ahiram (Num 26:38).581] Yet, after all, if, as we have seen, the author of the Revelation mentions Levi, and therefore has to omit one of the others, why does he choose Dan? The reason is not far to seek. The Tribe of Dan had made a bad name for itself, for its unfaithfulness to God. Look at the Targum of Jerusalem I (the so-called Targum of Jonathan) on Exodus 17:8: "Amalek killed men of the house of Dan, for the Cloud did not hide them because of the strange worship that there was among them."
Or recall Bemidbar R. on Numbers 2:25, "On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan." "The North. Thence comes darkness into the world. But what has this to do with Dan? Because it brought darkness into the world by idolatry. For Jeroboam made two calves of gold. And idolatry is darkness; for it is said (Isa 29:15), 'and their works are in the dark.' And Jeroboam went round over all Israel, and they would not receive his teaching, save the Tribe of Dan, for it is said (1 Kings 12:28 sq.), 'Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold . . . and he set the one in Dan.' Therefore the Holy One commanded that Dan should be encamped on the north."
A Jewish writer earlier than the translator of the Targum, or the compiler of the Midrash, is even more severe. For writing in the first century B.C. he roundly accuses the Tribe of Dan of open apostacy in the days to come. See the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: Dan v. 4-6: "I know that in the last days ye shall depart from the Lord . . . and whensoever ye depart from the Lord, ye shall walk in all evil and work the abominations of the Gentiles. . . . For I have read in the book of Enoch the righteous, that your prince is Satan."
582] This last clause comes very near to the opinion of some of the Christian Fathers that Antichrist was to appear from the Tribe of Dan,* but there is no certain evidence that the Jews themselves thought this, however likely it may seem after the passages already quoted. For these at least show that Dan was in bad odour in Jewish circles, and that therefore an early Jewish-Christian writer, like the author of the Revelation, might readily share the same opinion, and, when he had to leave out one of the Twelve Tribes, in consequence of his insertion of Levi, might easily select Dan. His action is quite in accordance with what we know of Jewish thought at the time.* So Hippolytus, Charist and Antichrist, chap 14. See also Irenaeus, v. 30, 2.583] With regard to the objection brought forward by R. Isaac against the mention of Manasseh, we have already shown that this is due to a mistake. But, in any case, even if he were right in supposing that the writer of the Revelation desired to name the sons of Jacob, and not the Twelve Tribes geographically considered, then, as he did not care to include Dan, Manasseh was the name that lay next to hand. For Ephraim was always so identified with Joseph in later years that it would have been absurd to name him as well as Joseph (v 8). Therefore Manasseh, as the only other grandson of Jacob of whom we know anything, would naturally be mentioned. But it is not necessary to labour this point.
100. ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION.(Rev 22:18 sq.) "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:" Chapter 100
584] In this last paragraph of his whole book, as in the last of his First Part, R. Isaac blames Christians for adding to their Law, and also for subtracting from it. On the general question it is sufficient to refer my honoured readers to what has been said on Part 1, Chapter 50, paragraphs 292-294. He further specifies in particular the observance of the Sunday, with reference to which it will be enough to refer to paragraphs 166-171; and he also speaks of the Dietary laws, for which paragraphs 152-159 may be consulted.
We have thus come to the end of the Rabbi's work, and our task is done. But before bidding farewell to my readers, I should like to make a few final remarks as a kind of general survey.
585] What are the chief lessons that we have learned from the study of the Chizzuk Emunah?
1. Few of the writings of the New Testament are elaborate and scholarly disquisitions; the majority of them being rather the rapid outcome of thoughts of men in close touch with God, who desired to encourage their readers in their faith on Christ.
586] 2. None was written primarily to convince those who do not believe upon Him. None, in other words, is a treatise on Christian evidences. We must not expect, therefore, to find in any book of the New Testament direct and formal arguments that Jesus is the Messiah, much less that He is divine. The only writing of which this could be said with any truth is the Gospel according to St. John, and even this was addressed to Christians, and not to those who were ignorant of the faith.
587] 3. We must allow to the writers of the New Testament the same liberty of exposition that we grant to other Jewish writers. The latter used Midrashic methods; the former also. It is perfectly true that many of the passages of the Old Testament quoted by the writers of the New cannot be adduced as direct "proofs," in the modern sense of the word, of the facts and doctrines with which the New Testament writers connect them. But these never intended their quotations to be interpreted rigidly. They quoted the Old Testament with the same freedom as did their Jewish contemporaries, and we have no right to expect anything else from them.
588] 4. We have, I trust, also learned that both the Old Testament and the New are writings marked by a much higher standard of spirituality than anything outside them, and that we are able to appreciate them just so far as our own hearts are attuned to know and understand spiritual things, and no further.
589] 5. But it may be asked: Why, if the Old Testament is so good, do we need the addition of the New? Because, in fact, the New is higher than the Old. I do not mean that its ethical demands are higher, absolutely and in themselves, but it is higher in that it presents to us a Life lived in perfect accordance with these demands, and describes to us the power that He still confers on His followers from His home above.
590] 6. For we must continually bear in mind what the Christian doctrine of the Incarnate Christ really is, through ignorance or forgetfulness of which R. Isaac, like so many other Jews, often goes astray in his verdict upon Christianity. For he frequently assumes that statements to the effect that our Lord was hungry, tired, suffering, etc., show that He was not divine. But the essence of Christian teaching is that unless He was liable to human feeling and human pain He would not have been man. In other words, Christian doctrine insists that when we speak of the Son of God being Incarnate, we mean that He was completely human in every particular except sin, and completely divine, though the exercise and the exhibition of His Divine power were limited by the conditions of His "complete humanity." For it is evident that He would not have passed through the experience of men at all if He had employed omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence. These in their actual use He put off during the time of His manhood upon earth. For, after all, they belong, I suppose, to the outer circle of the Divine nature, if we dare put it thus, not to its very essence. To thinking people of to-day they count for infinitely less than love. And this the Incarnate Son retained and exhibited to the uttermost, in all the actions of His life, down to His death upon the cross.
591] Let me add a few words to my Jewish readers in particular. You will, I think, acknowledge that I have made it my first aim throughout to be scrupulously fair and above-board. Indeed it always seems absurd when one who writes on religious subjects hides wilfully and of purpose anything which in fact belongs to them so closely that the withholding of it will give a false impression of the whole. No one wants a temporary victory in the cause of truth. We desire to win men, men themselves, not their mere acknowledgment that our arguments are better than theirs. It would never be of advantage either to you or to me if I were to draw unfair inferences or make a faulty exegesis, though, of course, in spite of all efforts, error creeps in here as elsewhere. Further, never have I intentionally said a word that can irritate you, much less one that is calculated to increase ill-feeling between Jews and Gentiles. Neither race can afford to throw stones at the other, but it would ill become a writer on religion to increase the heap of missiles.
592] Also a few words to my Gentile readers. Occasionally, I fear, you may have felt disappointed that I have not accepted those interpretations of passages which, on the surface, appear to you to be most natural. But it is precisely because Jewish arguments and modes of thought are often so different from our own that it has been necessary to examine these Jewish writings of the New Testament with greater care than they sometimes receive. The Apostles were Jewish Christians, and regarded the Old Testament and its prophecies with Jewish minds, and we must beware of reading into their expressions more than they themselves intended them to convey.
593] In any case, may we all, Jews and Gentiles, readers and writer alike, remember that controversy in itself, and as such, is painful and unedifying. For intellectual subtlety alone never yet won a heart to God, and never built up a character in likeness to Him. We want to know by ever deeper experience the true nature of prayer, and of blessed communion with God, the final revelation of Whom, as we Christians believe, has been made in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of man, and the Son of God.
594] Finally, may we all, both readers and unworthy writer, meet hereafter in bliss, singing the song of thanksgiving for redemption from the Egypt of sin, and from the fiery trials of this ungodly world, standing upon the crystal sea before the throne of God, and saying: "Great and marvellous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages. Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest" (Rev 15:3, 4). And "Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev 1:5, 6).אכן חלינו הוא נשא ׃
לכן אחלק לו וברבים ׃
ובאו ורננו במרום ציון ׃
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