THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY.
ON THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
What think ye of the Christ? Whose Son is He? Matthew 22:42.
It requires little consideration to convince us that the question which we propose to discuss in the present course of Lectures, is, from the religious point of view, of supreme interest and importance. In truth, it concerns no less than the very origin of Christianity. Passing beyond the modifications and development which contact with the varied culture of many nations or outward events have effected in the course of these eighteen centuries; passing also through the obscurity around the early age of Christianity, due to insufficient or inexact records, we can happily reach clearer light. We know the period of the rise of Christianity, and, as it seems to me, we can better understand its connection with that which preceded its birth than with that which followed it, and surrounded its infancy. Accordingly, it is in this manner that we here propose to study its origin: inquiring into its connection with that which had gone before, and of which it is the outcome, rather than treading our uncertain steps through the intricate mazes of often dubious tradition and apparently conflicting evidence up to the circumstances of its birth. Thus, the great question before us is this: Christianity, whence is it? The answer will in measure also decide that other: Christianity, what is it, divine or human; a revelation from heaven, or the outcome of determining circumstances? And its issue: is it the Church Universal, or only a new school of thought?
The difference to which we have referred as regards the mode of conducting our inquiry into the origin of Christianity, is the necessary sequence of the standpoint which we occupy in it, and connected with the results which we have in view. From earliest times the historical Church has traced its origin to that which had preceded it. Accordingly it has declared that Christianity was not indeed the counterpart, but the unfolding and the fulfilment of the Old Testament, and it has claimed that the Church was the true Israel of God. It has regarded the whole history of Israel as big with the promise of the world's salvation, and its institutions and promises as pointing to the establishment of a universal kingdom of God upon earth by means of the Messiah. Hence it has set forth, in no hesitating language, that there is unity, continuity, and progress in the teaching of the Old Testament, and that all in it is prophetic1
of the Christ. As against this view, which admittedly is both grand in its conception and logically consistent in its application, a certain school of modern criticism has followed a different mode of inquiry into the origin of the Church, and reached almost opposite results. Seeking to track the stream upwards, it has been declared that Christianity, as at present we know it, has been shaped by the circumstances, the people, and the culture with which on its introduction it was brought into contact; that its origins were very simple, and due to natural, local and temporary causes; in fact, that it is the result of a gradual accretion of different elements, all historically explicable, around a small and not very important nucleus of facts.
1. I am here using the term in the ordinary sense, not in that which will be explained in the sequel.
The theory just indicated has, it must be confessed, many attractions. It promises to destroy or supersede the miraculous by tracing to the operation of ordinary causes what otherwise would seem due to direct Divine agency, finding for it what is called 'a rational explanation,' that is, one level with our ordinary perceptions. And the contention is the more important since the Church view of the origin of Christianity implies, if correct, also unquestionable inferences about the Divine character of the Old Testament. Moreover, the new view is in seeming accordance with the general spirit of modern investigation, which everywhere discards preconceived purpose and unity of design, and explains that which is by the gradual operation of inherent forces, adapting themselves under the influence of surrounding circumstances. Lastly, it has the advantage of being set forth by writers not only of acknowledged learning, but of exceeding skill in pleading their case. By the weight of their authority, they too often set forth as undoubted results of critical research what others, even of their own school, have called in question, and which therefore, on any theory, cannot be grounded on indubitable or even clear evidence. Still more frequently, wide-reaching conclusions have been reared on what, after all, is a very narrow basis of facts; most weighty considerations on the other side being either overlooked or ignored. In this manner it has become possible to construct a wholly new theory of the genesis of the Old and New Testament which presents the attraction of unity and consistency, is capable of removing all difficulties, whether real or suggested, and, in fact, is devised to meet them. But strange as it may seem, it is this very facility of explaining and arranging everything which awakens our doubt and suspicion. In real life things do not move in precisely straight or rectangular lines, nor yet with the order and regularity of a tale. Many and varied influences are always at work, and the theory which professes precisely to fit, and exactly to explain, all phenomena though they had to be reconstructed for the purpose, resembles rather the invention of a speculator than the observed course of history.2
2. It is exceedingly interesting to me to find that a distinguished critic belonging to a very different school (Professor Noldeke) has similarly expressed his objection to the new arrangement of the Pentateuch, proposed by Wellhausen. He denies any 'development along a straight line.' ('In der gesetzlichen Litteratur ist keine geradlinige Entwickelung zu erkennen.') Comp. Herzog, Real-Encyckl., 2nd edition, vol. 11. p. 444.
Happily we shall avoid in our present inquiry all speculation, whether critical or metaphysical, seeking to answer what in the first place is an historical question by means of historical investigation. As a preliminary step, we purpose in the present Lecture to make it clear that the New Testament really points back to the Old. To put it more precisely: we hold that Christianity in its origin appealed to an existing state of expectancy, which was the outcome of a previous development; and further, that those ideas and hopes of which it professed to be the fulfilment had not first sprung up in the immediately preceding periodthat is, in the centuries between the return from the Babylonish exile and the Birth of Christbut stretched back through the whole course of Old Testament teaching.
If we were to view the introduction of Christianity into Palestine, and its spread throughout the heathen world, as an isolated fact, it would seem simply and absolutely inexplicable. For it cannot be conceived that One should have arisen and claimed to be the Messiah; appealed in confirmation to Moses and the prophets; professed to institute a kingdom of God upon earth; and in so doing gained the ear of the multitude and gathered devoted disciples; that, moreover, the temporal and spiritual rulers of Israel should have entered into controversy with Him, not as to the foundation, but merely as to the justice of His claims: and yet that all this should have represented an entirely new movement. We would at least have expected some reference to this circumstance. In thus describing in general outline what Christ professed, did, and experienced, I am not asserting what even the most negative criticism will deny. For even if we were to eliminate from our Synoptic Gospels any part that is called in question by the most extreme criticism, and banish the fourth Gospel to the end of the second century, regarding it as a tissue of ecclesiastical symbolismsufficient would still remain to establish this position, that Christ professed to be the Old Testament Messiah and to bring the Kingdom of God; that He gathered adherents; and that the justice of His claims was resisted by the Jewish authorities; while at the same time the fact of a Messiahship, and the expectation of a Kingdom of God, were never called in question. I am warranted in going a step farther and saying, that the unquestioned facts in the Gospel history not only imply the existence of Messianic ideas and expectations, but their depth and intenseness. Only such a state of feeling could explain how One Who taught such evidently unwelcome doctrine was so widely listened to and followed. And the argument as to this Messianic expectancy at the time would only become stronger in measure as we denied the claims of Jesus. For, if even the minimum of such ideas had been a noveltyif no Messianic expectations existed at the timesurely the maximum as formulated by Jesus, and so opposed to Jewish prejudices, could never have been asserted.
All this seems almost self-evident. Yet, to make sure of our position, let me here remind you of what may be termed the most superficial, as certainly they are the least questionable, facts in the Gospel history. Surely, the crowds which from all parts of the country, and from all classes of society, flocked to the preparatory preaching of the Baptist, and submitted to the rite which he introduced, as not only the New Testament but Josephus attests, at least indicate that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God had wakened an echo throughout the land. And again, as we watch the multitudes which everywhere followed the preaching of Jesus; remember how they would fain have proclaimed Him King; and how even at the close of His ministry they greeted Him with Hosannas at His entry into Jerusalem, and this in face of the danger threatening them in such a movement from the presence of one so anti-Jewish and so suspicious as Pilate, we cannot but feel convinced not only of the existence, but of the intenseness, of the Messianic hope among the people at large.
It is, indeed, true that all such ideas and hopes are influenced, at least in their intensity and expression, by the circumstances of the time. They gain in depth and earnestness in proportion to the national abasement and suffering. Never did the Messianic hopes of the inspired Prophets rise higher; never was their faith wider in its range, or brighter in its glow; never their utterance of it more passionately assured, than when Israel had sunk to the lowest stage of outward depression. Because the conviction of the prophets and of Israel was so unshakably firm as regarded the glorious future, therefore it was that in such times they most deeply felt and most earnestly expressed the need of fleeing into the strong refuge of a certain future, the realising expectancy of which put a song into their mouth in the night time. So also was it in the long centuries of disappointment, and of apparently increasing unlikelihood that the Hope of Israel should ever become a Reality, that the Apocalyptic visions of the Pseudepigraphic writers gained in vividness and realism of colouring. Similarly, the most pathetically expectant elegies of mediæval Rabbinism date from the times of persecution. In truth it scarcely seems exaggeration to say, that throughout the history of Israel we can trace the times of bitterest sorrows by their brightest Messianic expectations, as if that golden harvest waved richest where the ploughshare had drawn the furrows deepest, and the precious seed been watered by blood and tears. And so the Talmud connects the coming of the Messiah with the time of bitterest woes, when Galilee would be laid waste, and the very mangers turned into coffins, when war and famine had desolated the land, and all righteousness and truth disappeared.3
Similarly, the mystic Midrash4
3. Sanhedrin 97a.
sees in the dove in the clefts of the rocks, to whom comes the call, 'Let me hear thy voice,' a picture of Israel as, fleeing before the hawk, it descries, in the rock-cleft, a serpent, and in agony of fear and distress beats its wings and raises piteous cries, which presently bring it the help and deliverance of its Lord. But this intensification of the Messianic hope in times when national glory seemed farthest removed, is only another evidence of the universality and depth of the Messianic hope. And if final proof were required of its existence, it is surely to be found in the circumstance that such hopes were independent of Jesus of Nazareth; that they equally attached themselves to false Messiahs, of whom not less than about sixty are mentioned, and who, despite the absurdity of their pretensions, carried after them such large numbers of the people; and, in the case of so clumsy an impostor as Bar Kokhba, even some of the leading Rabbis, kindling fanaticism to the extent of a conflict which severely tasked the resources of imperial Rome. Nay, is it not so that this hope has survived eighteen centuries, not only of bitter persecution, but of chilling disappointment? Though disowned by the nerveless rationalism of modern Jews, it kindles up in every service of the Synagogue; it flings its many-coloured light over every product of Rabbinic literature; and as year by year each family of the banished gathers around the Paschal table, the memorial of Israel's birth-night and first deliverance, it still rises in the impassioned plaintive cry of mingled sorrow and longing which rings into the desolate silence of these many centuries: 'This year herenext year in Jerusalem!'
4. On Song 2:14.
A hope so wide-reaching, so intense and enduring cannot, I submit, have been the outcome of one particular phase in the history of the people. Its roots must have struck far deeper than one period of the nation's life; it must be the innermost meaning of their history, the final expression of that long course of teaching in the Law and in the Prophets which, all unconsciously to themselves, has become the very life-blood of Israel's faith.
But on a point of such importance we are not left to general inferences. Even at this preliminary stage of our inquiry, we can appeal to unquestionable evidence that the ideas and hopes which Jesus of Nazareth professed to realise did not arise at His period, nor yet close to it. More than this, we are prepared to show grounds for maintaining that the great Messianic expectation did not originate in the period between the close of the Old Testament Canon and the Birth of Christ. In such case the plain inference would be, that it must be traced up to the Old Testament itself, in the course of whose teaching we must seek its origin, growth, and gradual development.
In regard to the first point just referred to, it may, I think, be fairly argued, that if the idea of the Messiah and His kingdom had originated in the period of Christ, if indeed it had been new, the teaching of Jesus would have either reflected this, at least in its main features, or else indicated and vindicated the fact and the grounds of divergence from the past. In this respect it is most significant, that while Christ so emphatically accentuated the differences between His own and the teaching of the Pharisees, as regarded the most important matters of the Law, He never referred to any such as subsisting between His own and the Messianic ideas of his contemporariesat least, in their general conception. On the contrary, all implies that, so far from these Messianic expectations first emerging at or near that period, they had been long existing, and indeed had lost their definiteness in a more vague and general expectancy which assumed the colouring of the times. A similar inference comes to us from a consideration of the preparatory Messianic announcement by the Baptist, the questions which it elicited, and the indefinite form of his answers. It represents a very strong but a general expectancy, rather than such definite expectations as one would associate with their recent origination. On the other hand, it is quite evident that Jesus of Nazareth, as He is presented to us in the Gospel history, did not meet the special form which the Messianic thinking of His contemporaries had taken, when called upon to assume a concrete form in accordance with the general direction of the time. For not only did they reject His teaching, denounce Him as an impostor, and crucify Him as a blasphemer, but even His own disciples and followers neither anticipated nor fully understood, in many respects even misunderstood, His doctrine, were utterly unprepared for His death, and had no expectation of His resurrection. In other words, each of the three great elements in His history came as a surprise upon them.
Whatever outward agreement may therefore be traced between the sayings of Christ and contemporary thought, this at least is quite evident, that He did not embody the precise Messianic ideal of His time. And here we must observe an important distinction. In one sense Jesus Christ certainly was a man of His time: He spoke the language of His time, and He addressed Himself by word and deed to the men, the ideas, and the circumstances of His time. Had it been otherwise, He would not have been an historical personage, nor could He have been a true Christ. The more closely therefore we trace the features of His time in His words and actions, in the people introduced on the stage of the Gospel history, and in the general mise en scène, the more clearly do we prove the general historical truthfulness of the narrativethat it is true to the time. But in another and higher sense Jesus Christ was not the man of His time, spake not, acted not, aimed not, as they; and hence the great body of the people rejected, denounced, and crucified, while even His own so often misunderstood and were surprised by Him.
What has just been stated naturally leads to the last point in our present inquiry. It has been shown that the Messianic idea could not have originated in the time of Jesus Christ, nor presumably in that immediately preceding. But between the time of Jesus Christ and the close of the Old Testament Canonor, to avoid controversy, let us say the time of Ezraroughly speaking, four and a half centuries intervened. Could it be that the great hope of Israel had sprung up during any part of the troubled history of that period? Without at present entering into detailed examination, sufficient reasons can be shown to make this the most unlikely hypothesis. For,
First. It is impossible to believe that such a hope could have newly sprung up without leaving at least some mark of its origin, and some trace of its growth in the history and literature of the time. Whatever darkness may rest on certain aspects in the development of thought and religion at that period, especially at the beginning of it, or on such questions as the institution of the so-called 'Great Synagogue,' or the influence and development of the new direction of external legalism, or of the national and anti-Grecian party, yet all these tendencies are marked in the history and literature of that period. And it seems unthinkable that the one great, the all-dominant idea in the religion of Israel, the hope of a Jewish Messiah-King, who would bear rule over a world converted to God, should have originated without one trace of its birth and gradual development. But as a matter of fact there is not in the history, nor yet in the literature of that period any appearance of a small commencement, a growth, or a gradual development of the Messianic idea, such as would be requisite on the theory in question. On the other hand, it deserves special notice that such a development is very clearly traceable throughout the Canon of the Old Testament, and that pari passu with the progress of Israel's history. It is needless to say that this tells its own most important lesson, both as regards the internal unity of the Old Testament and the origin and development of the Messianic idea. But at present we are only so far concerned with it as to mark that no such progression appears either in Apocryphal, Pseudepigraphic, Alexandrian, or Rabbinic literature. In some respects, indeed, there is retrogression rather than progression in this matter, and this not only in the writings of Philo, where the Messianic idea is, so to speak, sublimated into generalities, but in the Apocrypha, where it is only obscurely referred to. But alike in the one case and in the other, not only is its existence implied, but a previous fuller development of it.
As regards Rabbinic literature, it is universally known that any references to the great Messianic hope of Israel occurring in its pages appear in the most developed form. The only question, therefore, can be in reference to that special kind of literature which bears the name of Pseudepigraphic Writings,5
and which may in general be described as Apocalyptic in character. Naturally we expect to find the Messianic hope most fully expressed in such works. But although we mark variety and addition of detail in the various books, there is no trace of any development in the underlying conception of the Messiah and His kingdom. As a crucial instance we may here refer to the Book of Daniel, the authorship and date of which are in controversy. According to the testimony of the Church, the Book of Danielor at least the greater portion of itdates from the time of the Exile; according to a large section of modern critics, from about that of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). In the one case it would belong to the Biblical, in the other to the Pseudepigraphic writings. We have our own decided convictions on this point. But for the present argument it matters not which of the two views is the correct one. Clearly in the Book of Daniel we have the idea of the Messiah and His kingdom in its full development. If the Book of Daniel belongs to the Canon, then the idea must have existed fully developed in Biblical times; if, on the contrary, it should be regarded as the earliest of the Pseudepigraphic writings, it affords undoubted evidence that the Messianic idea did not gradually develop, but existed in its fullest form in the earliest literary monument of that class. But we can go back farther than this. For,
5. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, in contradistinction to the Apocrypha, are a series of spurious writings mostly professing to be derived from Old Testament personages or else dealing with Old Testament events, but all of them Apocalyptic, though in varying measure, and bearing distinctly, though in different degree, on the Messianic Kingdom. For their fuller characterisation and enumeration, see Lecture 10.
Secondly. If the Messianic hope had sprung up during or immediately after the exile, we should scarcely have expected it to cluster round the House of David, nor to centre in the 'Son of David.' For nothing is more marked than the decadence and almost disappearance of the House of David in that period. A national hope of this kind could scarcely have sprung up when the royalty of David was not only matter of the past, but when its restoration was comparatively so little thought of or desired, that the descendants of the Davidic house seem in great measure to have become lost in the mass of the people. And the argument becomes all the stronger as we notice how, with the lapse of time, the Davidic line became increasingly an historical remembrance or a theological idea, rather than a present power or reality. Throughout the Old Testament Davidic descent is always the most prominent element in all Messianic pictures, while in later writings it recedes into the background, as something in the long past which must be brought forth anew. In this respect, also, it is characteristic that the name 'Son of David' was the most distinctive title claimed by, and given to Jesus, while in the case of all spurious Messianic movements this occupied only a subordinate, if any, place.
Thirdly. We may press the argument yet one step farther, and express a strong doubt whether, if this hope had originated in the post exilian period, it would have connected itself with any distinctly monarchic aspirations. The general genius of Judaism is against it, and throughout the whole post-exilian history and literature there is certainly not a trace of any wish for the restoration of the old, or the establishment of any new monarchy. This silence is of itself significant. On the other hand, we have on at least three critical occasionsin the time of Pompey, during the governorship of Gabinius (about 66 B.C.), and after the death of Herodthe distinct expression of objections to monarchical rule and of preference for an oligarchy as conformable to ancient traditions.6
And if it be supposed that such objections mainly applied to the Herodian house, the attentive student of that period cannot fail to observe that the rapid change of public opinion in regard to the Maccabees from that of unbounded popular enthusiasm to the extreme of general hatred may be dated from their permanent assumption of the royal along with the high-priestly dignity. But, be this as it may, the Davidic house and royalty at any rate may be said to have disappeared from the horizon of practical politics.
6. Jos. Ant. 14.3.2.; comp. 14.5.4.; War, 2.6.2.
It were, indeed, an interesting speculation for which the elements are not wholly wanting, to inquire to what kind of personality the Messianic hope would have attached itself if it had first originated in the post-exilian period. Certainly not to a scion of the Davidic house, probably not to any king. The Messiah would have been a conqueror. This was a political necessity, and in accordance with national thought and ambition, not to speak of the hope of the realisation of a grand contrast between Israel's past and their future. The Messiah would certainly have been a proud and avenging conqueror, whose rule of the conquered would have been anything but that of peace, liberty, and happiness to them. But he would have been a conqueror with whose administration the office of a Chief Rabbi would have strangely blended. He would have been first a Rabbi, then a conqueror, and then again a Rabbi; or his conquests would have been dictated and shaped by the requirements of Rabbinism, and applied and utilised in its service.
We remember that, according to the latest theory which, at least for the present, finds most favour on the Continent, if not among ourselves, the largest and most important part of the Pentateuch, embracing, roughly speaking, the sections from Exodus 25 to Numbers 36, dates from after the Babylonish exile. As containing the great body of the ritual laws and ceremonial observances, it is called the 'Priest-Codex,' and it is supposed to have been introduced by the influence of the priesthood, and to mark in many respects an entirely new departure in, and transformation of, the old Israelitish religion.7
If the priesthood had such power as to bring in a wholly new document, which initiated a new direction, and if they could gain for it the recognition, ever afterwards unquestioned, of forming the fundamental part of the ancient legislation and religion of Israela supposition sufficiently exacting, and which would seem to require the weightiest proofswe are surely warranted in expecting that some mark of this tendency should have appeared in that Messianic idea which formed the great hope of the people, if it had originated at that time. If they were able to transform the past in the interest of the present, would they not have exercised the same influence as regards the future?
7. The Pentateuch question is discussed in subsequent Lectures.
But here, as on so many other points, the theory in question signally fails. The priestly element, which is said to have transformed the Pentateuch legislation, does not appear as in any way connected with the ideal goal of Israelexcept from the Christian, theological point of view of the ideal Priesthood of Christ. This, surely, is a very strange phenomenon which demands an explanation, whatever view may be taken of the origin of the Messianic idea. If it originated in strictly Old Testament times, those who could introduce the Priest-Codex into the Mosaic legislation would have had no difficulty in finding a place for the expression of their views in connection with the grand hope of Israel's religion; and if it originated in the exilian or immediately post-exilian period, these views could scarcely have failed to impress themselves upon it.
But, truth to say, this is only one of the historical difficulties of the theory about the late origin of the Priest-Codex. The great objection to it is, that, while it explains certain phenomena in the past religious history of Israelat least, as these are presented by the advocates of the theoryit not only leaves unaccounted for, but seems inconsistent with, the whole subsequent religious development. And the more carefully the grounds are examined in detail on which the late origin of the 'Priest-Codex' is inferred, the more incompatible with the undoubted facts of the subsequent history will the conclusions be found. Not the origin of the idea of an exclusive central place of worship, but the institution of synagogues everywhere; not drawing together, but expansion, and provision for the 'dispersed,' who not only were, but, it must have been felt, would remainat any rate, to Messianic timesthe majority of the people; not privileges and rights for the priesthood, whom the whole history shows to have been as an order an uninfluential minority, shorn even of some of its ancient prerogativesin short, not Sacerdotalism but Rabbinism: such was the outcome of the exilian and post-exilian period. And although this transformation was in the first place necessarily carried out by the priests and Levites, there can be no doubt that, even in the case of Ezra, the title 'priest' falls into the background behind that of 'scribe' (Ezra 7; Nehemiah 8), and that his activity and tendency have been rightly indicated when he is designated as 'the father of all the Mishnic doctors.'8
8. Otho, Lex. Rabb., p. 173.
But, here we return from our digression: Rabbinism, which is the true outcome of the post-exilian period, is, in its inmost tendency, not only anti-monarchical and anti-sacerdotal, but, strange as it may sound, even anti-Messianic. The Rabbis found Messianism, just as they found the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifices; and they adopted it. They were patriotic and imaginative, and their Haggadists, preachers, and mystics elaborated the idea with every detail which legend, an unrestrained Eastern fancy, or national pride, could suggest. But when we pass beneath the surface, we find that Rabbinism does not well know what to make of this doctrine; that it is a foreign element in it, which may be added to, but will not amalgamate with, the system. The latter is a hard and dry logical development of the Law to its utmost sequences. Beyond the four corners of its reasoning, Rabbinism acknowledges no authority whatever, on earthbe it priestly or royalor in heaven. And when Rabbi Eliezer appealed, and that successfully, in favour of his doctrines to the Voice from Heaven (the so-called Bath Qol), the assembled Rabbis were not silenced by it, but declared that, since the Law had been given on Mount Sinai, it was 'not in heaven' (Deut 30:12); to which, therefore, no appeal could be made. Apart from its somewhat profane witticism, this answer meant that there was finality about the Law as interpreted by the Rabbis by which even the Almighty Himself was bound.
It certainly affords evidence, were such needed, that Rabbinism recognised no authority, not even that of an audible voice from heaven, outside its own hard and dry logic. The only place which the Messianic doctrine could hold in such a system was, that it furnished hope of a temporal deliverance, or even of the national supremacy of Israel, which would make Rabbinism dominant; or else that it opened the prospect of a new law. And this essential antagonism between the Messianic idea as embodied by Christ, and Rabbinism, explains the life and death contest which from His first manifestation ensued between Jesus of Nazareth and the leaders of His people.
Briefly to sum up the conclusions to which the foregoing reasoning points: Christianity in its origin appealed to a great Messianic expectancy, the source and spring of which must be sought not in the post-exilian period, but is found in the Old Testament itself. The whole Old Testament is prophetic. Its special predictions form only a part, although an organic part, of the prophetic Scriptures; and all prophecy points to the Kingdom of God and to the Messiah as its King. The narrow boundaries of Judah and Israel were to be enlarged so as to embrace all men, and one King would reign in righteousness over a ransomed world that would offer to Him its homage of praise and service. All that had marred the moral harmony of earth would be removed; the universal Fatherhood of God would become the birthright of redeemed, pardoned, regenerated humanity; and all this blessing would centre in, and flow from, the Person of the Messiah.
Such at least is the promise of the Old Testament which the New Testament declares to have been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. And if it were not so, then surely can it never more be fulfilled. For not even the most fanatic Jew would venture to assert, that out of the Synagogue could now come to our world a King reigning in righteousness, a Son of David, a Branch of Jesse; and that the present Synagogue would so enlarge itself as to embrace in its bosom all nations of the earth. And thus, unless the old hope of the kingdom has been realised in Christianity, it can never be realised at all. Then also is the Old Testament itself false in its inmost principle, and false the hope of humanity which it bears.
Or otherwise, if it be maintained that ours is not the true meaning of these prophecies, but that they pointed to a great Jewish King and a great Israelitish kingdom, to which all nations were to become subjectthen, in such case, the Old Testamentthat is, if we take it as seriously meaning what it sayswould not be of God. If it had only flattered Jewish national pride; if it had held out only the wretched prospect of a victorious Jewish King, not one in righteousness and peace; if, instead of the universal Fatherhood of God in Christ, it had only spoken of the universal dominion of Israel over menthen would it not have brought good news, and be neither Divine nor yet true. And so it still is, that the New Testament without the Old, and the Old Testament without the New, is not possible. Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet. And so we all feel it, when in our Christian services we not only sing the Psalter and read the Old Testament, as of present application but speak of Abraham as 'our forefather.' To compare the colourless, declamatory and unspiritual ancient Accadian or Babylonian hymnology with the Psalms seems, even from the literary, much more from the religious point of view, utterly impossible. Conceive our highest spiritual aspirations and our best services expressing themselves in the language of these compositions, or of any possible development of them! No, the Old Testament element could not in this nineteenth century have kept its place in our theology and our worship, otherwise than by an inherent fitness; because the New Testament is the organic development and completion of the Old.
NOTE. In connection with what has been said above about the gradual fading out of religious thought as attaching to the Davidic line, we mark the manner in which it is referred to in the 'Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' (Ecclus.). Generally, its praise falls far below that of the Aaronic line. But, specifically, we notice that in Ecclus. 45:25 we read that the Divine promise to David is 'the inheritance of the King from son to son only,' while that of Aaron is 'to his seed'that is, as we understand it: the direct Davidic line having probably become extinguished with Zerubbabel, the promise to David is now declared to have only applied to his direct line: 'from son to son only,' while that to Aaron extended in any line: 'to his seed,' generally. (See Geiger in vol. 12 of the Zeitschr. d. deutsch. Morgenländ. Gesellsch., p. 540).
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