THE MESSIANIC IDEA IN THE LATER STAGES
OF ISRAEL’S HISTORY: THE APOCRYPHA AND
THEIR RELATION TO THE PAST AND THE FUTURE.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king,
and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image,
and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the
children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their
king, and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
Hosea 3:4, 5.
From the consideration of Prophecy and of its teaching, and from the vindication of its place in the Old Testament Canon, we proceed to follow the history of the Messianic idea in Israel after the strictly prophetic period. And as regards the condition of Israel during one part, or the great hope set before them in the other part, of this period, a more accurate prophetic description could not have been given than that by Hosea (3:4,5).
We have reached the age of the Exile. The last notes of the old prophetic voices followed the wanderers into their banishment; the last glow of the torch which they had held aloft threw, amidst the encircling gloom, its fitful light on the future. But soon it was extinguished, and silence and darkness fall upon the scene. For a brief time this was once more brokenand yet scarcely brokenat the time of the return of the exiles into Palestine. Broken: for we have such prophetic utterances as those of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi,1
the redaction of certain portions of the Old Testament canon, and the beginning and groundwork of such historical, didactic,2
1. These are only mentioned as instances, and no attempt is here made to indicate the compass of the post-exilian Biblical prophetic writings.
and prophetic works, as, with later additions and insertions, may have been edited at a subsequent period. And yet we say that the silence and darkness were scarcely interrupted; for(1) The whole tone and style of the post-exilian period differs from that of the pre-exilian. A comparison of the prophecies of Malachi, for example, with some of those of the earlier prophets will impress us that we are no longer in the golden age of prophetism. In this I am not referring to their prophetic character, nor to the inspiration of their writings. My remarks apply to the formthe human mediathrough which the Divine Revelation was communicated. And further, while I do not feel called upon here to express an opinion as to the precise date of the groundwork, or of the final redaction, of those historical, didactic, and prophetic writings to which I have referred, it seems to me that they must date either from the end of the exilian or the beginning of the post-exilian period; or else, from a much later timethe close of the Persian, and the beginning of the Macedono-Grecian period, about the end of the fourth century before Christ. For, from the purely literary point of view, and thinking of their writers, we would expect such a renewal of religious literature only in a period of general religious revival and enthusiasm, such as at the return from the Exile; or else in one of rejuvenescence, such as that which marked and followed the accession of Alexander the Greatthat Napoleon of the ancient world, whose conquests re-formed and transformed not only the political, but the social and intellectual condition of the world. But there are, to my mind, conclusive grounds against the later date of any integral part of the Old Testament canon.3
2. For the same reason as that indicated in the previous note, only a general indication of the literature is given, without specifying the books, or parts of books, which I have in view.
But whether or not the final redaction of such works as Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiahnot to speak of others, such as Esther, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastesbelong to the earlier period, or to the Alexandrian, it is at least remarkable, that the first known revival of Jewish religious literatureI mean the earliest of the Apocryphadates from the period soon after Alexander the Great.
3. I would here mention, not only the difference in tone of the Apocrypha, but their exclusion from the Canon, especially that of The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, not to speak of the consensus of tradition.
We may here be allowed a brief digression, if such it be, to note three, to me at least, deeply interesting inferences. The oldest book among the Palestinian Apocrypha is ‘The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach’ (Ecclesiasticus). This, whether, according to my view of it, we place its compositionnot its translation into Greek, which was laterat the end of the third century before Christ, or, according to that of others, regard it as a century younger. It is, as already stated, Palestinian. But about the same time (somewhere about 280) we place the beginning of the Greek (LXX) version of the Old Testamentthat of the Pentateuch. This translation would, in the nature of things, be speedily followed by that of the other portions of the Canon, existing at the time, and which, in the prologue to Ecclesiasticus, are already distinguished as ‘the Law, and the Prophets, and the other books of our fathers’ (the Hagiographa). Such speedy further version is also otherwise likely. We know that in the second, and, most probably, even in the third century before Christ, there was considerable literary activity among the Jews of Alexandria. Not less than six names of Jewish writers, with notices or extracts of their works, are preserved,4
all of them, whether historical or poetic, connected with religious subjects. In such circumstances it is not credible that the translation into Greek of the historical, poetic, and prophetic portions of Scripture should have been neglected. And when we turn to the Book of Sirach we find that its language is borrowed in places, not only from that of the Pentateuch version of the LXX, but from their rendering of the Books of Proverbs, of Jeremiah, and of Isaiah. We might go even a step further, and call attention to certain peculiarities in the Greek rendering of Sirach.5
4. For the names of these writers, the character of their works, and translations from them, I take leave to refer to my History of the Jewish Nation, pp. 370-372.
For the use of any one marked peculiarity, evidently derived from the LXX rendering, on the part of one so capable of writing Greek as the Son of Sirach, not only implies the existence of this LXX version, but leads up to the supposition of its recent introduction. Now, if we suppose the younger Sirach to have arrived in Alexandria some time after 247 B.C., there would remain, roughly speaking, about half a century after the LXX version of the Pentateuch (about 280 B.C.) for the translation of the other parts of the Canon. And, as before stated, the existence of a religious Jewish literature in Alexandria about the end of the third century before Christ seems necessarily to imply a previous translation of the portions of the Canon then existing. We have dwelt at such length on this point, not only from its intrinsic interest, but for its obvious important bearing on questions connected with the Old Testament Canon. We hasten to add that, about a century after the ‘Wisdom of Sirach,’ the earliest Palestinian Apocryphon, we have (somewhere about 150 B.C.) the earliest preserved Alexandrian Apocryphon, the Book of Wisdom. Alike the original composition of the Book of Sirach (between 310 and 291 B.C.) and the fact of the Alexandrian Pentateuch version (about 280 B.C.)not to speak of later worksimpress us with the conviction that they could not have stood isolated. By this I mean, that they cannot have been the first outburst of a religious literature after a long period of silence. They must have been immediately preceded in Palestine by a revival of religious literary activity. The most cursory reading of Ecclesiasticus will convince that this is not a first religious book. It expresses, so to speak, not a fresh and primitive, but a developed religious state of a certain character. Aphorisms of this kind are, so to speak, the sediment, or else the precipitate, of a religious development. It seems therefore inherently not unlikely, that the redaction, not the composition, of the latest Old Testament literature may date from the revival at the beginning of the Alexandrian period.
5. Comp. especially Ecclus, 48:18 with the LXX of Isa 37:8; also Ecclus. 48:24 with Isa 40:1.
I have said only the redaction, and this leads me to my second inference. For if we compare the oldest Palestinian Apocryphonthe Book of Sirachor the spirit that underlies the LXX version of the Pentateuch, with what are the youngest portions of the Old Testament, say with the prophecies of Daniel,or, to place side by side works that are kindred, such as The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach and the Book of Proverbs or Ecclesiasteswe instinctively feel, that there is a great gap between thema difference not only of degree but of kind. From this we again argue, that the youngest Old Testament literature cannot, so far as its groundwork is concerned, date from the period of the revival of Jewish religious literature, although its redaction may. But in that case even this groundwork of the youngest portions of the Old Testament must date from the beginning of the post-exilian period. During the interval between it and the Alexandrian period there was nothing in the political situation to rouse intellectual activity, nothing in the social, to encourage it, nothing in the religious, to be reflected in itno outstanding event, no outstanding personality, with which to connect it. On that period rest silence and darkness. We may call it the formative age, corresponding to that of infancy and childhood in the life of the individual, when, so to speak, the physical basis was laid for the life of the nation.
Yet a third remark seems here in place. From the period succeeding the return from the Exilewhich, so far as regards the form of Old Testament literature, we would designate as its silver, if not iron ageto the Alexandrian period, roughly speaking, about a century intervened. This interval, which can scarcely be said to have a history, in the true sense, nor, so far as we have certain evidence, a literature of its own, was, as just stated, the formative period of the nation in its new circumstances. Its certain outcome, as apparent in the next period, was something quite different from what had preceded it in, what may be called, Old Testament times. In religious literature its outcome was the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigraphic writings; in religion and life, that new direction which, in distinction to that of the Old Testament, is best characterised as Judaism, which in its full development we know as Traditionalism and Rabbinism. And yet, in, or near to, a period, the outcome of which is admittedly so different, a certain school of critics would have us place a large portion of the legislation, and of the historical and didactic, if not the prophetic writings of the Old Testament!
But we must turn aside from the many and interesting questions which here occur, and limit our remarks to these three points: (1) What bearing had the period beginning with the Exile on the great Messianic hope? (2) What monuments of it are left to us as its outcome, especially in Apocryphal literature? And (3) What influence did this literature produce on the people in regard to their spiritual training?
1. What bearing had the period beginning with the Exile on the great Messianic hope? It seems a defective, if not a false, view of it to regard the Babylonish exile as simply a Divine punishment for the sins, especially the idolatry, of Israel. I venture to assert that there is nothing merely negative, or exclusively punitive, in the Divine dealings in history, especially in what bears on the Kingdom of God. Every step taken is also a step in advance, even though, in making it, something had to be put down and crushed. It was not otherwise with the Babylonian exile. Assuredly, one aspect of it was punitive of Israel’s sin. But that, by which this punishment was effected, also brought Israel a step nearer the goal of its world-mission. In the first great period of its national history Israel had, so to speak, been gathered into a religious unity by the Law. Its watchword had been holiness, or God-separation; its high-point, the priesthood; its character, a symbolism, that ultimately bore reference to the Messiah and His kingdom. In the second period of its history Israel had been under special and constant Divine teaching. Its watchword had been the great hope of the future, or spiritual conquest for God; its high-point, prophetism; its character and object, the formation of spiritual conceptions, with ultimate outlook on the Messiah and His kingdom. And if in the first period Israel was constituted with reference to its great typical object, and, in the second, it was brought within view-point of the nations of the world, as indicating its spiritual mission and goal-pointit was placed in the third and last period in actual contact with them. That period ran to some extent parallel with the previous one, which had begun with the establishment of monarchy in Israel. For, the idea of the kingdom of God could scarcely have been realised without an historical basis in the kingdom of Israel, and the very defects and failures of it, as well as its contests with the kingdoms of this world, would the more clearly point to an ideal reality, set before its view in the grand hope of a universal kingdom of God. But with the deportation to Babylon that stage had not only ended, but was completed. It was now no longer Israel within view of the kingdoms of the world, and in sight of its object and mission; but Israel amidst the kingdoms of the world, where it could best learn what was the meaning of a universal world-kingdom of God. If Israel had been faithful to its mission, it would have widened to embrace the kingdoms of the world. Israel unfaithful to it, was merged in them, subdued by them. Yet even so, it also fulfilled, in its punishment, its missionin dying gave up its pearlbringing mankind a step nearer to the truer realisation of the kingdom of God in its world-wide bearing.
Yet here also Israel had failed. It was the beginning of its last fatal failure. Not only did Israel not understand its mission; but it had not heart for it. In the first of the three periodsthat of the Law, holiness, priesthood, and symbolismIsrael had failed through a bare externalism. In the second of the periodsthat of teaching, prophetism, and the prospect of conquest of the world for GodIsrael had failed, on the one hand, through apostasy to heathenism, and on the other, through national pride, selfishness, and vain-glory. And in the third and final period of completion, Israel utterly and finally failedmisunderstood the teaching of God, and perverted its mission: failed, even in its repentance of past sins, which was not godly sorrow that needeth not to be repented of, but the sorrow of the world which worketh death. Israel’s final apostasy in the time of Christ began not at His appearance; this, was only the logical outcome of all that had preceded. And Israel’s final rejection also began not with the subjection to Rome, still less with the burning of the City and Temple, but with the return from the Exile.
When Israel went into Babylon, it was once more like the going into Egypt. The return to Palestine was another Exodus. But, oh, how different from the first! That had been marked by the glowing religion of the Old Testament; this, by what we know as Judaism. Israel returned from the Exile not as Israel, but as the Jews; such as history has ever since presented them. They expanded not to the full meaning of their mission in relation to the world; they shrivelled, and became mummified into the narrowest particularism, alike mental, national, and religious. Israel was baptised in the wilderness unto Moses to a new and promising spiritual life; it was ossified in the Exile to a religion of Pharisaism, exclusiveness, and national isolation and pride. No wonder that new forms had to be created for the Divine Spirit, and that no longer Palestinianism but Hellenism became the great factor and connecting link between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Thus the old fig-tree withered at its roots. The Diaspora, rather than the Palestinian minority, became the missionaries of the world; Hellenist thought, culture, and modes of presentation, not Pharisaism or Rabbinism, became the medium through which the kingdoms of the world were to be made the Kingdom of God. And so we can in some measure understand the meaning of the Diaspora, and of that large and ever-widening circle of Hellenist thought, as well as its mission in the world.
2. I have spoken of Israel as emerging on the other side the Babylonian flood, not as Israel, but as the Jews. And of this their later literature bears ample evidence. We have here to reckon with three different tendencies. We notice, first, the working of the old spirit, which in due time would appear as traditionalism and Rabbinism. This means reaction. Next, we have the new spirit, which in due time would appear as Hellenism. This means renewal and re-formation. Lastly, we have the ideal spirit, which, grasping the great hope of the future and of the Messianic Kingdom, would in due time appear either as Jewish Nationalismin the great Nationalist party (or in close connection with it)or else, as a pure Apocalypticism. But as yet these three tendencies lay in great measure unseparated in the chaos over which the spirit of the future was broodingwaiting till outward events would differentiate them.
Two centuries had passed since the return from Babylon. At the end of them we find ourselves suddenly in the midst of a new-born activity in religious literature. We have suggested this, as possibly the period of the final redactionnot compositionof some, though perhaps not of all, the youngest portions in the Old Testament Canon. The new literature springs forth in Palestine, but chiefly in Alexandria. It is debased in literary character, chiefly imitative of the Old Testament writings, and, as we would naturally have expected, of the youngest portions among them, so that one might almost infer the comparative lateness of an Old Testament book from its imitation by one or more of the Apocrypha. Briefly to characterise them from this point of view: 1st (III) Esdras is mainly a compilation from 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah; 2nd (IV) Esdras must not come into account, as it really belongs to the Pseudepigraphic writings. Tobit reads almost like a Judaic and apocryphal counterpart of the story of Job, not unmixed with others. Judith contains reminiscences of Deborah, Jael, and even Ruth, but seems modelled on the Book of Esther. The additions to the Book of Esther connect themselves with that work. The Wisdom of Solomon seems to me, in the conception of its ideas, often to present a counterpart to the Book of Jobonly that in the one case the philosophy is Eastern and Jehovistic, in the other Western and Grecian. At the same time it also presents, in many of its leading elements, a Grecian development of the two great Solomonic books. The Book of Sirach is connected chiefly with that of Proverbs, but also with Ecclesiastes. Baruch, together with the Epistle of Jeremy, connect themselves with Lamentations, and partially also with Daniel; the Song of the Three Children, and the stories of Susanna, and of Bel and the Dragon, are connected with Daniel; the Prayer of Manasses with Chronicles. The First Book of the Maccabees reminds us more of Nehemiah than of Ezra. The Second Book of the Maccabees is chiefly an epitome of a larger work by one, Jason of Cyrene. It is Alexandrian, as 1st Maccabees is Palestinian and Hebrew. It must be understood that our remarks refer to the cast and tone, not to the contents of these books. In regard to the former, they seem counterparts, or else continuations, of the later portions of the Old Testament Canon. But, in thought and direction, the differences between them and any parts of the Old Testament are so numerous and great, as to afford indirect evidence of the canonicity of the latter. Indeed, one of the earliest Apocrypha expressly laments the absence of Prophets and of Inspiration.6
6. 1 Mac. 4:46; 9:27; 14:41.
The collection of Apocrypha, as we have it in our English Version, is not only ill translated in many parts, but ill thrown together, being arranged neither according to country, contents, nor age. Their number is really only thirteen, and our collection both contains what should not, and omits what should, have a place in it. Such portions as the Song of the Three Children, the History of Susanna, and that of the Destruction of Bel and of the Dragon, are really only an apocryphal addition to the Greek version of the Book of Daniel. As regards country orperhaps more accuratelylanguage, the Apocrypha should be arranged into Palestinian and Alexandrian. The former comprise the Hebrew original, of which our present Book of Sirach is a translation, Judith, the First Part of Baruch,7
the First Book of Maccabees, and, to judge by its contents, perhaps Tobit. I have enumerated them, chiefly, in the probable order of their composition, although considerable doubt attaches to the subject, especially as regards the age of Baruch and of Tobit. But it deserves notice, and it confirms the views previously expressed, that all these books date after the national revival to which we have referred: the Book of Sirach, as I believe, from after the Alexandrian age; the rest probably from the Maccabean periodthe 1st of Maccabees from the beginning of the first century before Christ. As to the others, nothing certain can be predicated. Baruch and Tobit breathe the spirit of later Judaism, although as yet in a more free form than when traditionalism had finally laid its yoke upon the people. With the exception of the books just mentioned, the other Apocrypha were written in Greek. The oldest of them seems the Book of Wisdom, which dates about a century, or probably a century and a half, before Christ. It implies a considerably advanced state of intellectual life preceding it. In truth, it forms an advanced post on the road of that Hellenism which may generally be characterised as the attempt to reconcile the Old Testament with Greek thought. From this there was only a further stepboth easy and natural: to seek to combine what had been shown to be harmonious.
7. Ch. 1-3:8. A very striking parallelism has been noted between Baruch and the Pseudepigraphic Psalter of Solomon.
To complete this brief review of the Apocryphal writings, it seems appropriate to group them, not only according to country and age, but according to their contents. The task is, however, one of extreme difficulty. Generally speaking, they might, indeed, be distinguished as historical (or pseudo-historical), didactic, and pseudo-prophetic, or rather parenetic, since their object was, under prophetic pretension, to convey admonition or consolation, always with marked reference to the circumstances of the time, the condition of heathenism, and the relation of Israel to it. This anti-heathen element is a very marked characteristic of the Apocrypha, which, variously applied, might serve the purposes of controversy, of apologetics, of confirmation in the faith, of proselytism, and even of Messianic anticipation. More important still is what we gather from the Apocrypha to have been the doctrinal views prevalent at the time.
A brief reference to the differences between them and the Old Testament may here be in place.8
To begin with: a very marked distinction is made between such writings and the canonical, which are not only designated, in the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus, as ‘the Law, the Prophets, and the other books of the fathers,’ but for which exclusively inspiration is claimed. Quite in accordance with this is the exceptional manner in which Biblical writers and Biblical works are referred to,9
8. See the full and clear analysis in the Introduction to Dr. Bissell's Comment. on the Apocrypha, pp. 43-49.
or quoted. Thus the Apocrypha themselves mark their line of separation from the canonical books. And this is the more noteworthy, that the Book of Sirach is often quoted in Rabbinic writings in a manner similar to that in which citations are made from canonical books. The distinction in favour of the Old Testament is fully vindicated, the more closely we examine the teaching of the Apocrypha. The presentation of the Divine Being is no longer as in the Old Testament. Sometimes it is Grecian in its form, as chiefly in the Book of Wisdom, and, in minor degree, in some portions of Ecclesiasticus; in other books, as in Judith and Baruch, it is Judaic, narrow, and nationalistic; while in Tobit we have almost the later Rabbinic view of the propitiation of God by alms. Similar remarks apply to the presentation of the doctrines of Creation and of Providence. As regards the doctrine of Angels, the Apocrypha have much more developed teaching, which in the case of Tobit descends to the low level of superstition.
9. Comp. here Ecclus. 24:23-27; 48:24; 49:2,4,7,10; 1 Macc. 12:9; 2 Macc. 2:13; 6:23; 1 Esdr. 1:28; 6:1; Bar. 2:21.
As might be expected, both Grecianism and Hebrewism appear even more markedly in what such books as Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus have to tell us of man. The pre-existence of the soul, and its fall and degradation through its connection with the body, are taught side by side with a reluctant and almost solitary reference to the fall of man as presented in the Bible. But of the doctrine of original sin, as fully expressed in the New Testament, the Apocrypha, as Rabbinism, have nothing to tell us. In regard to moral duties, the tone of the Book of Proverbs is now absolutely secularised. A respectable religiosity and a sort of common-sense decency take the place of fervour of love and entireness of devotion. Reward in this life, or at most either in the Messianic world or in the life to come, are the leading motives; externalism of work, rather than deep inward spiritual views, characterises the righteousness described. By the side of this we find in the Apocrypha of Grecian cast (Wisdom and partly Ecclesiasticus) a classification of the virtues after the philosophic model; while the Judaic Apocrypha (Judith and Tobit) represent on many points a low standard, not only in the story of Judith, but generally in regard to the relation between man and God. In Ecclesiasticus we find throughout a twofold, somewhat incompatible, direction: the Hellenistic by the side of the Judaic. This strange eclecticism may have been due to the original author of the book, or, as seems more likely, been introduced by the translator.
As regards the ‘after death’ the characteristics of the Grecian Apocrypha, already noted, once more appear. Ecclesiasticus is not only less pronounced on these subjects than some of the canonical books, but is, to say the least, strangely silent on the “after death.” The Book of Wisdom, while acknowledging the immortality of the soul and the judgment, so systematically ignores the resurrection of the body as to lead to the inference of its denial. The same may even more strongly be predicated of 1st Maccabees, which, indeed, has been regarded as representing the views of the Sadducees; while 2nd Maccabees, in this respect, markedly reproduces the views of the Pharisees. In reference to the Messianic hope, we can only say that its personal aspect, as regards the Messiah, if present at all,10
recedes behind that of Israelitish, national prospects. Of these, alike in the anti-Gentile sense,11
10. Possibly, Ecclus. 47:11; more probably, 48:10,11; doubtfully, Bar. 4:22.
and in the exaltation of Israel,12
11. As in Ecclus. 36:1-10; 39:23; Bar. 4:25,31-35.
there is the fullest anticipation.
12. As in Ecclus. 36:11-17; Bar. 4:22-25;36,37; 5; comp. Tob. 13; 14: (passim).
Thus we have in the Apocryphawhich, as already stated, must be regarded as embodying the outcome of the previous perioda marked divergence, on all main points, from the lines followed in the Canonical Books of the Old Testament. The latter, as has been well remarked (Bissell), led up to the manger of Bethlehem; the Apocrypha may, as regards dogmatic views, be considered only a kind of preface to later Judaism.
The other peculiarities of the Apocrypha can only be lightly touched in this place. They are such as to interest the student, and may open up wider questions. We mark the tone of self-consciousness which Judaism assumes towards a decrepit heathenism, and this, in face of a hostile and unscrupulous political majority. There is something truly noble in this conscious superiority and defiance, when, on the eve of the coming battle, the despised, defeated minority speaks in the haughty language of assured victory. It is the Old Testament spirit, even though it be cramped in narrow, nationalistic forms. We are here thinking of much in the Palestinian Apocrypha. But this element is not wanting in any of the other Apocrypha, although naturally it least appears in those of Grecian tone. Other, and minor, points are also interesting. Thus the story of Susanna, which some writers have regarded as most strongly anti-Sadducean, is in fundamental contradiction with Rabbinic law. According to the Mishnah,13
false witnesses were to suffer the punishment of death, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Deut 19:19,21), only if an alibi could be proved against themthat they had been in another place than that where they had sworn to have witnessed the crime. But in the Book of Susanna the perjured elders are put to death simply on being convicted of false witness.14
13. Macc. 1:4. So in all other Talmudic references to the question. See Bahr, Ges. u. falsche Zeugen, pp. 29 &c.
Another interesting question is as to the alterations which, whether from misunderstanding, or in a Grecian sense, the younger Sirach may have made when translating into Greek the Hebrew work of his grandfather. Of such even a comparison with the Syriac translation of the book gives evidence;15
14. The 'Daniel come to judgment' of The Merchant of Venice is the Daniel of the Book of Susannathat is, the Biblical Daniel, although at a very early, pre-biblical, period of his life.
the latteralthough containing many needless and jejune paraphraseshaving evidently been made with a copy of the Hebrew original before the translator.
15. Comp., for example, the form of the prayer in Ecclus. 50:22-24, with that in the Syriac version, which evidently gives the Hebrew original. See Geiger, in the Zeitschr. d. deutsch. morgenl. Gesellsch. vol. 12 pp. 536 &c.
3. From these points of chiefly critical interest we turn to the third great question which we had proposed to ourselves: that of the spiritual influence which this apocryphal literature exercised upon the people. They were, indeed, Apocrypha‘Sepharim genuzim’hidden books, ‘books withdrawn’; but we have evidence that they largely circulated among the people.16
And while they were really the outcome of the development during the preceding period, they must also have truly reflected, though in part they may have helped to form, the spirit of their own time. And it is the general ‘spirit of the time’ (the Zeitgeist), which we encounter and recognise throughout this literatureas appearing in alliance with Judaism: a ‘time-spirit’ that would fain believe, it could be Jewish. In the new contact with the outer world of Grecianism, it could not be otherwise than that Grecian, philosophical or philosophising, ideas shouldperhaps sometimes unconsciouslyintrude into Jewish religious thinking. But there they would appear not as metaphysical or speculative, but rather as a rationalistic element. What we call rationalism is never philosophy; it is an attempt to pervade religion with the philosophy of what is misnamed common sense. A jejune, but popularly attractive; treatment this of the great questions of life, which are to be reduced to a kind of arithmetical problems, easily to be solved by well-known rules; an attempt to turn all things in heaven and on earth into ponderable quantities and measurable substances, to which the common Philistine standards can be appliedin utter ignorance that the spirit had long fled from the dead substances which are to be so weighed and measured. This kind of philosophic religion, or religious philosophy, strongly tinged with Eastern elementsalike the sensuous, contemplative, ironical, and blasé view of lifehad in some measure appeared in the Book of Ecclesiastesonly there as ultimately overcome by the Divine. In the Book of Ecclesiasticus we have mostly the bare prose of all this. Similarly, the rationalistic, or rationalising, tendency in religion, impregnated in Alexandria with Grecian philosophic elements, explains much in the Book of Wisdom, although this is by far the loftiest of these productions, and a long way off from such a work as the so-called Fourth Book of Maccabees. And we have enough, and more than enough, of it in the philosophico-religious platitudes of a Josephus.
16. Ecclesiasticus is often quoted in Talmudic writings; and 1 Macc., 3 Esdr., and the additions to Esther by Josephus.
It is this same ‘time-spirit’ in the Apocrypha which, according to circumstances, appears in historical, apologetic, or controversial form. It is an attempt at vindication of the Old; vindication, as regards those that are without; vindication also, as regards existing ideas, with which the Old has to be conciliated, and that, whether these ideas be Grecian or Judaic. Thus, the First Book of Maccabees, which is really historical, is also apologetic, in its long speeches and Jewish reasonings; while the object of 2nd Maccabees seems partly to be eirenical, with the view of preventing a schism between the West and Jerusalem, and partly apologetic of the Old in its Palestinian form, in such legends as about the hiding of the sacred fire, and the mode in which it was rekindled on the altar. Third (I) Esdras is certainly apologetic: the story about the intellectual contest of the three young men,17
in which Zerubbabel came out victorious, being intended not only to fill up a gap in the history, but to supply a rational motive for the decree of Darius (1 Esdr. 4:42 &c.). Similar remarks apply to the apocryphal additions to the Book of Esther. Of Ecclesiasticus and the Book of Wisdom we have already spoken. Tobit is a haggadic Midrash, conceived in the spirit of the Judaism which was assuming a definite shape. Judith is partly controversial, partly consolatory. Both Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy are parenetic, apologetic, and strongly controversial; and so are the additions to the Book of Daniel.
17. The common quotation, 'Magna est veritas, et prævalebit,' is from 3 (I) Esdr. 4:41.
We cannot pursue this inquiry farther, nor yet close it without at least stating that there was yet another, and a very powerful, element in the spirit of the time, which found expression in its literature. This element was the all-engrossing anticipation of the prophetic future, set before Israel throughout the Old Testament, but especially in the visions of Daniel. The literature to which it gave birth is represented by such of the Apocalyptic or, as they are called, Pseudepigraphic writings as have been preserved. This must form the next subject for consideration. For the present we only notice, that the spirit of the Apocrypha apparently also influenced the Pseudepigrapha. The Messianic future portrayed in their visions is Judæo-national, not universalistic. And this marks one essential difference between these Apocalyptic visions and the inspired prophecies of the Old Testament. We have observed the same in the Apocrypha, only with wider application. There the Messianic hope had quite lost its definiteness, and been transformed into a Jewish hope. The central figure in the picture of the kingdom is the Jewish nation, not the Person of the Messiah.
All this, in connection with the general religious views which, as the outcome of the past and the preparation for the future development, find their expression in the Apocrypha. The religion of the Old Testament was that of the great prophetic future; the religion and hope of the Apocrypha are of the Israelitish past, which vain- gloriously seeks in the future a realisation, commensurate to its past disappointment. The hope of the Old Testament centred in the Person of the Messiah; that of the Apocrypha, in the nation of the Jews. It is Judaism and the Synagogue with which we have henceforth to do. But not thither had the finger of prophecy pointed. Not to the Jews but to the spiritual Israel; not to the Synagogue but to the Church, belonged the inheritance of the promises and the future of the world.
Next Lecture Table of Contents
Copyright © 2006 JCR